The Tower Dungeon - and Aquarium

The Tower Dungeon – and Aquarium

Today and yesterday, The Tower Dungeon – and Aquarium – has occupied the same space on the ground floor of The Blackpool Tower. The two attractions have been entertaining visitors for well over 100 years!

Today – The Tower Dungeon – and Aquarium before it

Stand with your back to the sea and look at the front of the magnificent Blackpool Tower and you can’t miss The Tower Dungeon! It occupies the right hand corner of the ground floor, with it’s entrance at the left hand corner of the back of the building at Bank Hey Street.

Enter the attraction and follow the trail through a sequence of sets. Meet a variety of gruesome actors who bring the dark secrets of past horrors to life! Finally you’ll experience a drop ride like no other…

The Dungeon opened to the public on 1 September 2011. It’s a Lancashire version of the London Dungeon. Inside, actors perform vignettes with tales of smugglers, the plague, Pendle witches and Vikings.

We were lucky enough to be at the media preview event on 25 August 2011 to experience one of the first performances. The motley crew of characters arrive at Bank Hey Street in Blackpool town centre, banging their drums and shouting, to quickly draw a crowd. After a proclamation for the opening of the Blackpool Dungeon, the invited guests all enter the doors to be spooked and entertained in equal measure.

It’s a brilliant attraction – one that we’ve recommended many times since!

Read More: About the Dungeon and other attractions inside The Blackpool Tower

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Before the Dungeon – The Blackpool Tower Aquarium

The Blackpool Tower Aquarium was originally known as the Cocker Aquarium. Do you remember the cave-like interior of Matlock stone, mimicking Poole cavern at Buxton? It was incorporated into the ground floor of the Tower’s South Wing when it was built in 1894. You’d walk through the dark interior, marvelling at the warped view of the fish through the thickened glass.

Old postcard of the inside of the Tower Aquarium in the early 1900s
Old postcard of the inside of the Tower Aquarium in the early 1900s

It had been retained from Dr Cocker’s own Aquarium building, with both heated tropical tanks and others with more locally caught fish. The aquarium even had a hatchery on the roof.

Previously, in 1872, Doctor Cocker had created his private aquarium, menagerie and aviary in the Prince of Wales Arcade on Hygiene Terrace. Opening on 17 May 1875 at West Hey, it also ran along Bank Hey Street. In front was an amusement park with a large seal pond. This building was the real start of The Blackpool Tower complex. There’s a huge old map of the town on the wall at the Toy Museum above Brooks Collectables on Waterloo Road. See the seal pond clearly marked on the map, here it is below –

Old map of old Blackpool at Brooks Collectables Toy Museum
Old map of old Blackpool at Brooks Collectables Toy Museum. See the seal pond marked just below the large words ‘Bank Hey’

Dr Cocker had actually bought the land to sell to the Council as municipal offices but they turned him down. So he carried on regardless and built the complex for his own amusement!

The drowning of Jim Walmsley.

Jim had been general manager of Dr Cocker’s complex – he and his family lived adjacent to the aquarium and menagerie, inside the Tower for many years. He’d been instrumental in buying and housing most of the animals and birds on display. However, he tragically drowned in the salt water tanks under the aquarium on 17 June 1915.

In February 1985, and unusually for the Fylde Coast, the Tower Aquarium suffered a severe frost. It killed all the fish housed there, meaning that new stocks had to be imported from Germany.

Before it closed, the Aquarium also went by the name of ‘Undersea World’. After closure in November 2010, almost the entire stock of creatures was moved to the Sea Life Centre. It’s not far south along the promenade near Central Pier.

Blackpool Sea Life officially opened on 9 August 1990 on the site of Luna Park and the Golden Mile Centre. Comedian and naturalist Bill Oddie did the honours of opening it. At the time it was the largest aquarium tank in Europe.

Read more: About the history of The Blackpool Tower

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