Blackpool Tower Conservation

The Blackpool Tower Conservation in 2010

Years of work have transformed the look of this favourite Fylde Coast landmark. Blackpool Tower conservation was ongoing throughout the 2010’s to reveal many of it’s stunning original features. Take a look…

Who owns the Blackpool Tower today?

In 2010 Blackpool Council bought The Blackpool Tower from it’s then private owner Leisure Parc’s, the business controlled by Trevor Hemmings.

Blackpool Council spent £38.9m buying three attractions, including The Tower, the Winter Gardens and the Golden Mile. They brought operator Merlin in to look after the Tower attractions. Merlin also manages SEA LIFE and Madame Tussauds.

In 1998, leisure entrepreneur Trevor Hemmings had invested £74m on much of Blackpool seafront, including the piers, in expectation of the ‘super casino’ development.

The Restoration of Blackpool Tower

Under private ownership for many years, the fabric of Blackpool Tower had suffered the ravages of time.

It’s an old building in a very exposed place, with many tens of thousands of people passing through it each year. It hadn’t been properly maintained and in short, it was looking a little neglected.

The Blackpool Tower, around the late 1980's
The Blackpool Tower, around the late 1980’s

Being the owners of The Tower means that Blackpool Council can control how the building is used.

It’s also enabled them to restore the magnificent building to its rightful position as the town’s top attraction. Crucially, they could also unlock grant funding which private operators can’t generally access.

The conservation project included restoration of nine terracotta arches and stained glass windows to the front of the Blackpool Tower building, bringing the façade of the building back to its original design. The actual Tower itself has been conserved, repaired and repainted – from top to bottom.

Take a look at it in this video, filmed in July 2020 –

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The project cost a whopping £6m in total. It was paid for with money from various sources, including:

  • Blackpool Council,
  • the European Regional Development Fund,
  • Government’s Homes And Communities Agency and
  • the North West Development Agency.

Here’s a look back at just a little bit of the work which went on –

Six Months in, on Blackpool Tower Conservation Work

By six months in, works were well underway on the project to restore the famous arched façade.

The heritage conservation project saw the boxed in frontage removed and the sea-facing facade restored to its original design. It was part of a wider, multi-million pound investment to safeguard two of Blackpool’s biggest assets, The Tower and the Winter Gardens.

The first phase of work restored seven of the arches and the second phase a further two. After restoration and re-leading, the beautiful stained glass windows are now properly displayed for the first time in many years.

Sensitive to its history, the restoration was never intended to change how the Tower looks. Instead the intention was to preserve and restore the frontage to retain its original quality and character. We think you’ll agree that’s exactly what happened!

Conservation work begins on the stained glass windows - August 2011
Conservation work begins on the boarded in stained glass windows – August 2011
Stained glass windows on the front of Blackpool Tower. Photo taken in August 2011 before the front of the building was boarded off for restoration works to begin.
The state of the stained glass windows on the front of Blackpool Tower when first uncovered. Photo taken in August 2011.

Making Bespoke Terracotta Pieces

When you’re repairing a historical building with so many decorative features you can’t just go to the DIY store and buy a few spare parts!

Each damaged, broken or missing decorative piece has to be handmade to match the original. It’s a laborious and costly job, and explains why this kind of project takes so much time and money.

New terracotta was specially commissioned, designed and delivered throughout the first six months of the restoration. At the same time, painstaking work was going on to safeguard the original bricks that could be retained.

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New terracotta pieces for the Blackpool Tower, waiting to be fitted
New terracotta pieces for the Blackpool Tower, on site and waiting to be fitted

Damage to the building and its features had taken place through weathering, neglect and changes to the Tower front design. Sustained over many years, all the damage had to be repaired to protect one of Britain’s best loved buildings.

Some of the damage to the front of the Blackpool Tower building
Some of the damage to the front of the Blackpool Tower building
Some of the damage to the front of the Blackpool Tower building

Ongoing Repair Work

Do you remember the boarding that was around the front of the Tower for such a long time? The appearance of it changed a few times during the life of the works. It started out in a brick colour, presumably to match in with the building…

The 2011 renovation of Blackpool Tower
Front of the Blackpool Tower when restoration work started. This photo was taken in August 2011.

A facelift for the facade followed, with a brighter look in Spring 2013 when the graphics went white.

Boarded facade for the Blackpool Tower Conservation work gets a facelift. May 2013
Boarded facade for the Blackpool Tower Conservation work gets a facelift. May 2013

The building and restoration work was being done behind the panelling for both safety and aesthetic reasons. It also allowed the Tower to remain open throughout.

In the next clip from 2013 you can see this old boarding –

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Blackpool firm, F Parkinson were principal contractor while Francis Roberts Architects of Preston being responsible for the design of the repairs and restoration.

Contractors were able to save three arches worth of the old stained glass from all of nine arches. It’s been reused in the middle arches – but you can’t tell the old from the new!

The Blackpool Tower undergoing restoration. Photo - August 2013
The Blackpool Tower undergoing restoration. Photo – August 2013

Twelve Months In…

During the first year of the works the restoration on the front of the Blackpool Tower building progressed at a pace.

During the summer of 2014, work continued on the Tower itself. When the central section of stained glass arches were complete, they were unveiled for everyone to enjoy.

Restored stained glass arch on the front of Blackpool Tower
Restored stained glass arch on the front of Blackpool Tower. Photo dated August 2014.

New lettering was applied to the front of the building in 2015, made by the Blackpool Illuminations team.

The Blackpool Tower with its name in lights
The Blackpool Tower with its name in lights

Painting The Blackpool Tower

What a labour of love!

From top to toe the Tower has had a good fettle! Years of old paint have been stripped off with high pressure water jets, and sections of rusted iron work replaced. The cleaned and repaired metal work is then repainted with modern, weatherproof paints in the Tower’s own traditional ‘red-lead’ colour.

The scaffolding was known locally as the ‘bandage’ because of the white sheeting that surrounded it! Parts of the steelwork were covered for eight years, since first being erected in 2008.

Lots of scaffolding on the Blackpool Tower - March 2012
Lots of scaffolding on the Blackpool Tower – March 2012
The 'bandage' moved up and down the Tower, according to works underneath. Photo - June 2015
The ‘bandage’ moved up and down the Tower, according to works underneath. Photo – June 2015

It takes seven years just to paint the Tower structure. The painters climb the 563 steps from the roof of the building to the top of the Tower to complete this epic task. No doubt Blackpool Council will be hoping that it’s a few years before re-painting has to be commissioned again!

Removal of the ‘Bandage’ on Blackpool Tower Conservation Work

Eagle eyed visitors over Easter week of 2016 saw the last poles of scaffolding finally being removed from the Blackpool Tower…

The Blackpool Tower conservation work is almost complete - the last bits of scaffolding on 30.3.16
The Blackpool Tower conservation work is almost complete – the last bits of scaffolding – on 30.3.16

On 31 March 2016 the 518 feet-high landmark was once again finally free of the ‘bandage’ that moved up and down according to restoration works underneath.

Nicola Biven was first to share a photo on the Live Blackpool Facebook page – she lives in nearby St Annes and can see the Tower from home. Her daughter, celebrating in the photo, had been really looking forward to seeing the Tower without scaffolding.

Blackpool Tower unveiled - Taken on 31.3.16 by Nicola Biven
Blackpool Tower unveiled – Taken on 31.3.16 by Nicola Biven

The works have given Blackpool Tower a really thorough refurbishment.

Foundations of Blackpool

The Blackpool Tower opened on 14 May 1894. Have you spotted this decorative foundation stone, dated 1891?

Have a look next time you’re on the promenade. Find it on the front of the building.

Commemorative Plaque on Blackpool Tower, one of many traces of Blackpool's past
Commemorative Plaque on Blackpool Tower, one of many traces of Blackpool’s past

Approximately 70,000 people entered during that first day, to see the magnificent new building. It’s modelled on the Eiffel Tower.

Apparently the Tower wasn’t built very well in the first place, and corroded quite badly. To the point that when it was about 30 years old there was talk about demolishing it. Thankfully, our ancestors decided instead to replace the metalwork, and our modern restoration follows in their footsteps.

Consider that the Tower cost £290,000 to build back in 1894 – and £6m to refurbish today. Wonder how much it would cost to build a new one from scratch in today’s money?

Decorative Features

Next time you’re around, why don’t you pop-in and wander the corridors and take in the amazing decorative features? (Obviously you have to pay to enter the attractions themselves).

Did you know? That you can go inside the Blackpool Tower building free of charge?

The first thing to greet you is these amazing mosaic designs. Find them inside the double-entrance porch of the front doors. The whole building is full of decorative features – art and social history all rolled into one.

Mosaic panels inside the front entrance of the Blackpool Tower
Mosaic panels inside the front entrance of the Blackpool Tower

Tower Heritage Work Wins Award

Published December 2016

Work to restore The Blackpool Tower’s famous arched frontage is praised with a regional planning award.

The Blackpool Tower
The Blackpool Tower

The project was commended by the North West branch of the Royal Town Planning Institute at an awards ceremony in December 2015. The commendation was for the creative way that council planners secured the highest possible standard of repairs for the Tower through their pre-application process.

The completed works not only restore the look of the Tower building, but provide it with more protection from the weathering on Blackpool’s seafront.

The heritage conservation project was part of a wider multi-million pound investment to safeguard Blackpool’s biggest assets such as the Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens.

Cllr Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We are taking a really active role in protecting Blackpool’s rich heritage.

“A big part of the Council owning vital assets like the Tower and the Winter Gardens is making sure they’re properly restored and protected, so people can enjoy them for years to come.

“I’m sure you’ll agree that it looks spectacular and I’m really pleased that work has been recognised with this commendation.”

Anything to add to this article?

We want to include your photos, memories and information – simply email what you know to jane@theRabbitPatch.co.uk for inclusion.

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2 thoughts on “The Blackpool Tower Conservation in 2010”

  1. For no clear reason I woke this morning wanting to learn about the Tower. I am rewarded here with an uplifting story of its splendid restoration. It’s great to read that so much LOCAL talent gathered together to achieve (and raise funds for) what must surely have looked almost impossible! Proper job.

    1. And a proper job it does look too Howard! Glad to hear that you enjoyed your read and found what you were looking for!

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