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

How Blackpool Pleasure Beach Began

2021 was 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 what it looks like today…

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. The gypsies were moved on in 1910, to allow the expansion of the amusement park.

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

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

Fast forward a couple of years to 1905, and 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.

There’s narrative on the reverse of the above 1909 postcard. It reads “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! The gondolas have been replaced with rocket carriages, but it’s otherwise still the original ride.

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
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 built in 1909. Later, in 1935, it was demolished to make way for the Ice Drome of 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, but nonetheless is an iconic sight at the entrance of the Park.

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

Did you know? 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 –

As you can see in this next photo, originally, the Pleasure Beach was literally on the beach. That was until 1923, when 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
Roller coasters in 1923
Pleasure Beach postcard from 1924
Pleasure Beach postcard from 1924

Visit the Pleasure Beach in 1926…

Becoming 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

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 it, but we did go along to Icon’s launch event. Will you ride it?

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

New Hotel at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The Star Inn once stood at the South of the Pleasure Beach, at the corner where the Promenade meets Clifton Drive. The one we knew replaced an earlier Star Inn Public House. The first was demolished in the 1920’s so the promenade could be widened and access improved. The following 1920’s image is thanks to Nick Moore –

Original 1920s Star Inn, photo Nick Moore

A second (locally listed) Star Inn was to be built, but in January 2018 it too was demolished. Clearing this plot made way for the luxurious Boulevard Hotel.

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 12m 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.

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

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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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 !!

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