New College of the Humanities

Blackpool's Tour de Force

A tribute to the Blackpool tower which celebrates its 100th birthday this summer.

Paris may have its Tour Eiffel, but the sister structure that celebrates its 100th birthday this summer has carved an equally important niche in social history as Britain's most famous seaside landmark.

Blackpool Tower – copied from the French prototype but opened five years later in May 1894 – has been an icon of mass culture for over a century, its 518ft structure (containing 2,500 tons of steel, 95 tons of cast iron and 5 million bricks) serving as a backdrop for everything from the famous saucy seaside postcards of McGill to the adventures of the 1940s radio soap hero, Dick Barton (who was featured in a 1947 film battling secret agents firing deadly ray guns from the Tower's pinnacle.

The Tower's construction took three years to complete and was funded by a consortium of local Victorian businessmen led by Blackpool's mayor, John Bickerstaffe (after South Coast resorts had turned down the idea) who facetiously remarked (in an urban myth assiduously spread to credulous visitors by Blackpool landladies) that the Tower was built on bales of cotton.

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