Anyone who knows Blackpool will be familiar with the modern buildings on the seafront. Madame Tussaud’s, SEA LIFE and many others. But it’s not always been like that. Let’s have a look at the changing face of Central Promenade.
Local historian Nick Moore has collected together information about all of the history of Blackpool. ‘Blackpool Chronology’ is his free to access online resource and Nick’s very kindly provided the following local history information.
The Changing Face of Central Promenade
This photo is from the Visit Fylde Coast vaults. Taken from the top of the Blackpool Tower, it dates to the early 1970’s. See the old footbridge across the promenade – and look at the boats against the beach!
We’ve put a key on the photo so that you can see which bit became which today. When old buildings are demolished today, the land is temporarily used for parking. Looking at this old photo, it was used for children’s rides in the 1970s!
- 1 – Sands Venue
- 2 – Coral Island
- 3 – Golden Mile amusements
- 4 – Bonny Street Market
- 5 – SEA LIFE and Funland
- 6 – Madame Tussauds and buildings at the corner of Chapel Street
- 7 – The old Police Station (now moved to the new Police HQ at Marton) and multi-storey car park
This old photo is just one from our collection. Take a walk down memory lane with others in our gallery of old Blackpool photos.
In the Beginning…
The section of promenade between Bonny Street and Chapel Street has seen all kinds of buildings over the years.
Way back in 1861
The bit in the middle, around Funland and Madame Tussaud’s, was originally the site of Read’s Bazaar, Market and Sea Water Baths which opened on 4 September 1861. A later 1871 advert announced that “Each Bath is in a separate apartment, and on every occasion of use, is filled with 100 Gallons of Pure Filtered Sea Water. Each Firstclass Bath is supplied with two clean towels and brushes; and each Second-class Bath with one towel. These Baths have been fitted up regardless of expense, on purpose to secure the comfort and convenience of Bathers, the Water being drawn from the Sea by Steam- power, at the rate 100,000 gallons every tide”.
Sadly, fire struck the market, only for it to be burnt out on 8 August 1877.
Read’s Baths had displayed a live whale for public viewing for three weeks in 1878 (imagine that). But that wasn’t enough to keep it open and in 1920 it too closed, to next become the Coney Island amusement centre.
Take a look at this British Pathe film of Blackpool Promenade in 1900. It looks like another world!
Entertainment in the 1900’s
Luna Park was built on the site in 1929. What would you call it? A place of entertainment?
It featured acts such as gasbreathing Abyssinians along with a guillotine that chopped off the head of a girl. And then the head answered questions! An Indian Yogi (manager Harry Kamiya), a ghost train, a snake charmer.
Another fire destroyed Luna Park on 26 August 1937, and what was left of it became the Bee Amusement Arcade, next door to then Louis Tussauds Waxworks. The last vestiges of the buildings were finally demolished in November 1967, plus other old, dilapidated Golden Mile property.
Tussaud’s and the Changing Face of Central Promenade
First known as Louis Tussauds…
Louis Tussaud was the great grandson of Madame Tussaud – he moved to Blackpool from London. Setting up his own, unique waxworks, the attraction first opened in the basement of the Hippodrome. It had just opened in the Empire Theatre building.
He soon moved into the Brunswick Café on South Beach, and in 1901 bought Walker’s Waxworks on Wellington Terrace, next door to the Brunswick. Louis then moved his own waxworks exhibition there; just north of what is now the Oasis amusement centre. In 1907, Albert Lindsay Parkinson bought the waxworks, which continued there, as Louis Tussaud (Blackpool) Limited until 1928.
Changing the Face of Central Promenade…
On 18 May 1929, the new Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks opened at 87-89 the Promenade on the Golden Mile, next door to the Huntsman Hotel.
Lindsay Parkinson had built the premises especially for the purpose, and the building originally had an Egyptian-style glazed façade by Shaws of Darwen. It was removed in 1974, when the building was extended over the forecourt. At the same time, the link with the Tussaud family was briefly re-established. For several months Bernard Tussaud became the company’s sculptor, during which time he created many new figures.
In 2002 the waxworks were badly damaged in a large local fire, although quickly restored. In 2006, a “Mirror Maze” opened inside the exhibition building. Created by Adrian Fisher, the design was after a Victorian Pier and other traditional British seaside attractions. In the maze is a history of Punch and Judy Shows, a family posing panel based on a saucy postcard, distorting mirrors, and an old fashioned bathing tent.
To become Madame Tussauds
The waxworks had been temporarily been owned by Leisure Parcs before the purchase by Blackpool Council in 2010. The attraction closed in the November. Control passed to the management of the Merlin Entertainment Group, reopening as Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks on 21st of April 2011.
Have you spotted? A stone water trough outside the Waxworks? It’s for use by the landau horses and was bequeathed by Mrs Braybrook in 1909. There’s another one on Simpson Street, dated 1895.
And here’s this part of Central Promenade as we know it today –
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SEA LIFE Centre Arrives on the Golden Mile
Blackpool Sea Life Centre opened in August 1990, on the site of the former Luna Park and the Golden Mile Centre.
It temporarily received the entire stock from the Tower Aquarium into Europe’s largest aquarium tank. The new centre could benefit from the building’s directly-pumped sea water supply from the days of Read’s Sea Water Baths.
Comedian and naturalist Bill Oddie performed the official opening on 9 August 1990. A startling new frontage to the whole building was later installed in 1999, created by Roche Design.
Did you know? The first First “Hexapus” was found off North Wales in 2008. Donated to Blackpool Sea Life Centre, Henry was the first documented octopus with only six tentacles instead of eight!
Changes Still to Come
Blackpool never stands still anyway. One of the reasons for its success over the generations is the way it continually reinvents itself.
Before the coronavirus crisis of 2020 took hold, plans were motoring along to redevelop the Central Car Park site which is behind Central Promenade. No doubt the economic impact of the pandemic will slow down the progress of the project. But it would make sense that its delivery will create some changes to this section of seafront. We’ll have to wait and see!