Blackpool 1750 – 1840

Blackpool is located at the west side of the Fylde, a wide plain of agricultural farmland described in 1841 as ‘flat and indifferently-cultivated land’2 Before the 19th century, it was sparsely populated, with small villages at Bispham and Poulton-le-Fylde and a scatter of smaller hamlets including Layton, Great Marton and Little Marton. There was no harbor and little commercial activity apart from farming and some handloom weaving, and the poor state of the roads provided considerable challenges to potential visitors.

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An oral tradition, apparently first recorded in 1837 by Revd  hornber, recounts how Ethart-a-Whiteside had opened the first facility for visitors almost a century earlier because his Welsh wife was an accomplished cook . The earliest contemporary reference to sea-bathing visitors occurs in June 1754 when Bishop Richard Pococke recorded tersely that At Blackpool, near the sea, are accommodations for people who come to bathe.” In 1788 William Hutton said that the only place where visitors could stay 40 years earlier was the Foxhall, and in 1824 Edward Baines claimed that Blackpool as ‘a place of fashionable resort for the recovery of health is not of more than seventy years standing, again suggesting a mid-18th-century origin.

From the early 18th century documents begin to refer to people venturing into the sea in England wherever there was convenient access. By the 1730s facilities for visitors were being provided at Scarborough, Liverpool, Margate and Brighton and within a few decades more than a dozen towns were welcoming sea bathers. Visitors were attracted to these settlements because they offered accommodation and at least rudimentary bathing facilities and
entertainments. It was only in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that new settlements began to develop for bathers on previously undeveloped stretches of coast, such as at Bognor Regis, Southport and Weston-super-Mare.

Therefore, Blackpool’s origin as a sea-bathing location in the 1750s means that it predated by decades other new resorts established on a largely undeveloped coastline, though its growth remained slow until the 19th century