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!
South Pier was originally known as Victoria Pier, the third of our famous piers to be built on Blackpool seafront.
History of Blackpool South Pier
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 1893, the Grand Pavilion opened at the seaward end of the Pier. You can see it on this old postcard –
Thanks to Nick Moore’s History of Blackpool we know 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 of the three Blackpool piers. But it’s also the widest, a deliberate move by the designers, to include extra space for pavilions.
Whitsuntide at 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.
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.
When did Victoria Pier become South Pier?
As Central Pier was the second pier to be built, it was originally called South Pier. That’s why the third one was originally called ‘Victoria Pier’, after Queen Victoria.
It was renamed South Pier in 1930.
All change at South Pier
Like most Blackpool venues and attractions, there have been lots of changes at South Pier. They include:
- The present promenade at South Shore was built in 1902, so the pier entrance had to be pushed back to accommodate it.
- 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. 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 Today
Now, South Pier is where you go to be flung high up into the air above the sea on the adrenaline rides! Like it’s siblings further North, it also has bars, amusements and entertainment.
The next video clip was filmed on a grey day, mid-week in June 2022, just before the season was in full swing. Take a look around South Pier as it appears today.
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South Pier Theatre was demolished in January 1998. It was replaced by a steel roller coaster – the Crazy Mouse – and the “Adrenaline Ride Zone”. Their 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, and the Laughing Donkey Family Bar now sits where the theatre used to stand.
Lots more information, all about the current amusements, the Laughing Donkey Family Bar and much more.
While you’re here…
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