Early view of how Blackpool Pleasure Beach began when it began to grow, see the Flying Machine

How Blackpool Pleasure Beach Began

2021 is the 125th anniversary of your favourite theme park. In all those years, there’s an awful lot to its history! But here’s a potted version of how Blackpool Pleasure Beach began. We’ll keep coming back to this page and adding new things over time.

Many thanks to Nick Moore, author of the History of Blackpool for help with information for this article.

Join us for a walk around the perimeter of the site in 2020 to see it today…

If you’ve enjoyed this video, why don’t you subscribe to the Visit Fylde Coast YouTube channel?

Where the History of Blackpool Pleasure Beach Begins…

You might have heard the story that gypsies originally moved to the land at South Beach, where they ran fairground rides. They’d moved there for the fresh water spring, but weren’t the originators of the Pleasure Beach of today.

Original Gypsy Camp at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, 1904
Original Gypsy Camp at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

However, they were moved on in 1910 to allow for the expansion of the amusement park.

In 1895 a Yorkshire meat trader called John Outhwaite opened a steam carousel, offering rides to people.

Next, along came William George Bean who leased the land between the gypsy encampment and Outhwaite’s carousel. He opened the first amusement ride, which was a pedal bike monorail.

On 23 April 1896 WG Bean founded the Pleasure Beach Company. It was to be an “American style amusement park, where adults could feel like children again.”

In 1901 Outhwaite and Beach joined forces. In 1903 they borrowed £30,000 to buy 40 acres of land near to Star Inn.

A couple of years later, in 1905, the site is first called the Pleasure Beach. The rest, as they say, is history!

Early view of Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1909. Tuck Postcards.
Early view of Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1909. Tuck Postcards.

On the reverse of the above 1909 postcard it says: Blackpool is unique for the provision made for entertainment and enjoyment of its visitors. In addition to the Tower, Winter Gardens, Ballrooms and Palatial Halls there is the Pleasure Beach, on which are all kinds of Shows and al fresco entertainments of the most up-to-date and novel character.

And the Thompson family? Doris Thompson, grandmother of current managing director Amanda Thompson, was WG Beans daughter. Son Geoffrey Thompson, took over from his parents Leonard and Doris in 1976.

Remnants of those early days

Visitors to the Blackpool Pleasure Beach of today can still see a number of the original features and rides.

The iconic Flying Machine, near to the front entrance, opened on 1 August 1904. It’s original purpose was to raise money for Hiram Maxim to attempt to fly the measured mile. Doesn’t that sound incredible now!

Early view of Blackpool Pleasure Beach when it began to grow, see the Flying Machine
Early view of Blackpool Pleasure Beach when it began to grow, see the Flying Machine

Although the gondolas have been replaced with rockets, it’s still the original ride.

Hiram Maxim's Flying Machine
Hiram Maxim’s Flying Machine – and a big slide! Tuck Postcards

On the reverse of the above postcard it reads: The crowds of holiday-makers, the animated faces, the happy children at play upon the sands-all these make up the lure and charm of Blackpool in addition to its great natural advantages of sea and breeze and sunshine. Certainly no place in the United Kingdom is better equipped for health and pleasure-a paradise of delight for young and old.

The Velvet Coaster - part of the history of Blackpool Pleasure Beach
The Velvet Coaster in 1909 – part of the history of Blackpool Pleasure Beach

A roller skating rink was also built in 1909 but demolished in 1935 to make way for the Ice Drome which was built in 1936. That makes it the oldest purpose built ice drome in the world!

And the Ice Show? That also began in 1936, making it the world’s longest running ice show.

Postcard of the Pleasure Beach in 1922
Postcard of the Pleasure Beach in 1922

The animals went in 2 by 2…

Noah’s Ark is another iconic sight, visible just inside those famous entrance gates. It opened in April 1922 and many, many thousands of people have explored it’s walkways and hidey holes! Sadly it’s been closed since 2008.

Noah's Ark at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, 1930s
Noah’s Ark in the foreground, photo: 1930s

Did you know? That six different Noah’s Arks were built, two in the UK and the others in the USA. The only one still open is at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Take a look at this video of the Pleasure Beach in 1922 –

The Pleasure Beach was originally literally on the beach. Then in 1923 land was reclaimed to form a proper seafront.

See how the amusements front straight onto the beach!
See how the amusements front straight onto the beach!
Rollercoasters in 1923
Rollercoasters in 1923
Pleasure Beach postcard from 1924
Pleasure Beach postcard from 1924

Visit the Pleasure Beach in 1926…

Getting Established…

We’ve seen how Blackpool Pleasure Beach began, and by the mid 1900s the site is well and truly established.

The site in 1947. Tuck Postcards
The site in 1947. Tuck Postcards
The site in 1948. Tuck Postcards
The site in 1948. Tuck Postcards

And Your Childhood?

What’s your Pleasure Beach era? Do you have fond memories of the sunny days of the 70s – or is a later decade more your thing?

Later in the history of Blackpool Please Beach - about the 1970's? Photo: Robert Leach
Later in the history of Blackpool Pleasure Beach – about the 1970’s?
Photo: Robert Leach

Here’s a video of the summers of 1977 and 78, captured by one family. This is just how we remember it!

There’s a LOT more to add to this page. Look out for the links each time we update it!

Got anything to add? Add your memories in the comments below. If you would like to add a photo, just send it in by email.

The Most Recent New Roller Coaster…

On 23 May 2018, the crowds gathered for the launch of ICON, the newest £16m roller coaster to open at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Icon - the newest roller coaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Icon – the newest roller coaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The new ride was announced back in September 2016. It’s was completed and ready to ride in Spring 2018.

Designed by one of the best roller-coaster designers in the world, and fabricated in Germany. To fit its twists and turns through, up and under existing structures, the Pleasure Beach was laser scanned to create a 3D render of exactly what’s where. In total there’s an amazing 15 interactions with existing rides.

Icon is the UK’s first double-launch rollercoaster, and uses electromagnetic propulsion to send you from 0-82 km/h – TWICE! It gives the ride the same G force as a Formula 1 racing car, and twice the velocity of a commercial airliner. 

Here at Live Blackpool we can feel travel sick just by looking at a parked bus! So it’s very unlikely that we’ll be braving Icon. Will you?

Icon Rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Have a look at these photos of it being built –

Icon rollercoaster being built at Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Icon roller-coaster being built at Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Icon roller coaster being built at Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Icon roller coaster being built at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

New Hotel at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Published 8.3.18

Blackpool Pleasure Beach has built a new hotel on the site where The Star pub stood on Ocean Boulevard.

Artists impression of the new hotel at Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Artists Impression

The completed Boulevard Hotel complements the existing Big Blue Hotel. It has 120 rooms, including 10 suites and family rooms, and business facilities. There’s meeting, conferencing and banqueting space for up to 200 delegates.

The stunning bar and restaurant and roof-top bar with views over the sea make the most of the stunning location.

The £12m of investment has created 30 new permanent jobs and 40 seasonal vacancies. 

Boulevard Hotel at Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Boulevard Hotel at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Demolition of The Star

The Star, a locally listed building, was demolished in January 2018.

Thanks to Visit Fylde Coast contributor Juliette Gregson for these photos of the demolition:

Demolition of The Star Inn at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Jan 2018. Photo: Juliette Gregson
Demolition of The Star Inn at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Jan 2018. Photo: Juliette Gregson
Demolition of The Star Inn at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Jan 2018. Photo: Juliette Gregson
Demolition of The Star Inn at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Jan 2018. Photo: Juliette Gregson

The Star Inn of today replaced an earlier Star Inn Public House. The first one was demolished in the 1920’s to facilitate a widening of the Blackpool promenade and enable improved coastal access. This 1920’s image is thanks to Nick Moore

Original 1920s Star Inn, photo Nick Moore

While you’re here…

Have a look at the homepage of the Live Blackpool website homepage for more of the latest updates.

Love the Fylde Coast? Sign up for your weekly email newsletter. Packed full of interesting things it arrives in your inbox all 52 weeks of the year.

Join us on Facebook at our Visit Fylde Coast Facebook Group

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @visitFyldeCoast

What do you think? Leave a comment

Share on

3 thoughts on “How Blackpool Pleasure Beach Began”

  1. Wow, what an amazing site. Really informative, and brought back all those old memories going there as a child in the 60’s. I really didn’t know it was originally on the beach !!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Most Recent

Recent Updates from Local Businesses

Trevors Foodservice, delivering all over the Fylde Coast

Trevors Foodservice

Trevors Foodservice is the large, back-stage business that's quietly feeding the Fylde Coast! You're sure …
Scroll to Top