Today, it’s home to fairground rides and white knuckle thrills, but it wasn’t always like that. Have a look back to the past and into the history of Blackpool South Pier!
This wonderful clip of Blackpool Victoria Pier is part of the Mitchell and Kenyon Collection, from the British Film Institute. The voice-over explains it was filmed at Whitsuntide in May 1904. Watch the holiday makers promenading in their Sunday Best – not just to enjoy the bracing sea air, but also for the camera.
History of Blackpool South Pier
South Pier was originally known as Victoria Pier, the third of our famous piers to be built on Blackpool seafront.
Work began in 1892 and it cost £50,000 to build. It was completed ready for an opening ceremony on Good Friday, 31 March 1893.
A little while later, on 20 May, the Grand Pavilion opened at the seaward end of the Pier. You can see it on this old postcard –
Nick Moore’s History of Blackpool tells us that “The new Grand Pavilion was topped with distinctive and grand-looking minarets, and boasted the Floral Hall, holding 1,000 people. It reopened as the Victoria Cinema de Luxe on the 28th of May 1918. It was later renamed the Grand Theatre and then the Rainbow Theatre.”
This pier is 488 feet and 10 inches long, which makes it the shortest but widest of the three Blackpool piers. It was a deliberate move by the designers, to include extra space for pavilions.
An Upmarket Pier
Did you know? That back in its early days, ‘Victoria Pier’ was thought to be more ‘upmarket’ than it’s neighbours. Similar to North Pier, there wasn’t much entertainment to be found there. Rather it was a place to promenade and enjoy the views.
The present promenade at South Shore was built in 1902, so the pier entrance had to be pushed back to accommodate it. More information from Nick Moore – some years later, in 1938, a new Pavilion was built when the entrance was widened. The Victoria Pavilion was built at the pier entrance in 1911, housing 900 people to watch Pierrot shows and concerts. The Victoria Pavilion was replaced on 27 June 1938, by the Regal Theatre, seating 1,300 people.
Some years later yet more change came when, in 1963, the Regal Theatre at the entrance was turned into the Beachcomber Amusement Arcade.
Fires at South Pier
Like many other British seaside piers, Blackpool South Pier has been ravaged by fire in the past. Back to Nick Moore’s History of Blackpool –
Unlike many others, the pier survived the fire in 1958 which damaged the Grand Pavilion. By then it was used as an amusement arcade. The Grand Pavilion burned down on the night of the 17 February 1958, destroying not only the pavilion, but the shops and bars it supported. It was quickly rebuilt.
But just six years later it was destroyed by fire again on 6 February 1964, causing extensive damage to the pier itself. Fortunately the Pier itself did manage to survive even though the Pavilion didn’t.
Rising from the ashes
The owners, TH Lane’s Amusements Limited, built a new theatre (renamed the “South Pier Theatre”) within eleven weeks, at a cost of over £90,000. It opened in time for the summer season show with Joe Brown, Johnny Kidd, and the Tornados. This was followed by successful “pop” shows each year, with stars such as Gerry and the Pacemakers, Adam Faith, and Manfred Mann.
South Pier Theatre was demolished in January 1998. It was replaced by a steel roller coaster – the Crazy Mouse – and the “Adrenaline Ride Zone”. The arrival wasn’t without controversy. Because the pier wasn’t listed, no planning permission was needed to demolish the much-loved theatre in 1997. A white-knuckle ride “the Skyscreamer” was installed there, and the Laughing Donkey Family Bar sits where the theatre used to stand.
When did Victoria Pier become South Pier?
As Central Pier was the second pier to be built, it was originally called South Pier. To avoid the confusion of having two south piers, the third one to be built was originally called ‘Victoria Pier’ after Queen Victoria.
It was renamed South Pier in 1930.
South Pier Today
Now, South Pier is where you go to be flung high up into the air above the sea on the adrenaline rides!
Lots more information here, all about the current amusements, the Laughing Donkey Family Bar and more.
While you’re here…
Have a look at the homepage of the Live Blackpool website for more of the latest updates.
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