Blackpool Tower is also the common name for Tower Buildings – the red brick 3-storey entertainment complex at the foot of the tower. The complex contains the Tower Circus, the Tower Ballroom and an aquarium.
Usually painted dark red, the top of the structure was painted silver for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations in 1977.
The Blackpool Tower and Tower Ballroom are both Grade 1 listed buildings.
The iconic Blackpool Tower, built as an imitation of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, is possibly one of the most instantly recognisable works of civil engineering in the UK. Chris Hudson from VolkerStevin talks us through its history.
Difference the tower has made
Blackpool Tower has been a successful attraction since it opened in 1894, creating both employment and revenue for the town. The company behind the complex made £30,000 profit (about £3.5m today) after only 2 year of operation.
The entertainment complex continues to boost Blackpool’s tourist industry. The Tower Circus alone played to around 400,000 people in 2017 – employing about 50 performers and other staff.
As well as having a financial impact, the tower has become a symbol of Blackpool both in the UK and overseas.
How the work was done
Designed by architects James Maxwell and Charles Tuke – who both died before the project was finished – the Blackpool Tower is 158m high to the top of its flagpole.
Engineers used 2,533 tonnes of steel and 94 tonnes of cast iron to build the structure. The tower itself has 4 legs – each of which is made up of a further 4 legs.
Engineers braced these further 4 legs with lattice girders. A lattice girder is one where the load is carried by latticed metal – often in a criss-cross pattern.
The main legs are braced horizontally every 9m.
The tower has 2 lifts going to a floor 17m above ground. From there the main lifts carry passengers to an observation platform 146m up.
The lifts were originally designed to be operated by gas engines, each with 2 cylinders. The engines have since been replaced by electric motors.
Workers used 5 miles (8km) of cables to power the 10,000 light bulbs that illuminate the tower complex.
Theatre designer Frank Matcham created the interiors of the circus and the ballroom.
People who made it happen
- Client: John Bickerstaffe
- Architects: James Maxwell, Charles Tuke
- Structural engineers: Richard Froude, Hammerley Heenan