September 19th, 1879 – Blackpool’s “Artificial Sunshine”

Today-In-History

In the north west of England off the coast of the Irish Sea lies a sea side resort town called Blackpool. The town rose to prominence as a major center of tourism in England when a railway was built in the 1840s connecting it to the industrialized regions of Northern England. The railway made it much easier and cheaper for visitors to reach Blackpool, triggering an influx of settlers, such that in 1876 Blackpool was incorporated as a borough, governed by its own town council and aldermen. In 1881 Blackpool was a booming resort with a population of 14,000 and a promenade complete with piers, fortune-tellers, public houses, trams, donkey rides, fish-and-chip shops, and theatres. Each autumn through winter, for sixty six days, the promenade is lit up with a huge display of colorful lights known as the Blackpool Illuminations.

The Blackpool Illuminations back then . . .

The Illuminations first shone in September 19th 1879 when they were described as ‘Artificial sunshine’, and consisted of just eight arc lamps which bathed the Promenade. The original event preceded Thomas Edison’s patent of the electric light bulb by twelve months. The first display similar to the modern-day displays was held in May 1912 to mark the first British Royal family visit to Blackpool when Princess Louise opened a new section of the Promenade, Princess Parade. The Promenade was decorated with what was described as “festoons of garland lamps” using about 10,000 light bulbs.

. . . Blackpool Illuminations today.

. . . Blackpool Illuminations today.

The local Chamber of trade as well as other local businesses requested Blackpool Council to stage the event in September of the same year. The subsequent event was such a success that in 1913 the council were again asked to stage the Princess Parade lights as an end of season event. With the outbreak of World War I there were no further displays until 1925 when the lights were again on display and extended to run from Manchester Square to Cocker Square. In 1932 animated tableaux were erected running along the cliffs from North Shore to Bispham, and the Illuminations were extended to its current length running from Starr Gate to Red Bank Road at Bispham. The Illuminations were ready to shine in 1939 but the outbreak of World War II again interrupted the annual display, but not long after the war came to an end the festivities returned and are still a tradition today.


PC & ISS BC Flyer 042416 680

PC & ISS BC Flyer 0424162 680

Halloween SGHR 082516

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