‘The Pier stands a prominent and pretty object, as the stranger approaches the beach from the railway station.’ – Porter’s Blackpool, 1866.
In 1861 Blackpool’s most prominent businessmen met at the Clifton Arms Hotel to discuss the prospect of a pier for Blackpool. The Blackpool Pier Company prospectus stated that they envisaged a ‘greater promenading space of the most invigorating kind’ for residents and visitors to enjoy the benefits of the sea air.
In 1862 they appointed pier architect Eugenius Birch to design and construct Blackpool’s first pier. Construction would take a little over a year and the Blackpool Pier was officially opened in May 1863. The notion of a pier at this time was that it should be a place to “promenade”, an extension of the sea front, and the pier was largely an open deck and just four shelters for visitors.
A landing jetty was added in 1866, and extended in 1869 to bring the pier’s length to 1410ft, which in turn allowed pleasure steamers to operate from here. The pier’s success of this led to the development of Blackpool’s second pier (today the Central Pier), which opened in 1868. In order to keep up with the competition the pier head was widened in 1874 to create space for the Indian Pavilion, inspired by the Hindu Temples in Bindrabund.
The North Pier has been impacted by two major fires, one of which resulted in the loss the original Indian Pavilion in 1921. The pavilion would be rebuilt, but following a second fire in 1938 an art-deco style theatre was built in its place. The new theatre would boast performances from Frank Randle (1939), Tommy Cooper (1957), Bruce Forsyth (1960) and Lenny Henry (1980). The nationally-loved hand-puppet, Sooty, would also perform in North Pier Theatre in 2018 whilst celebrating his 70th birthday (Sooty was purchased by Harry Corbett on the North Pier in 1948).
Blackpool North Pier remains a popular destination for residents and visitors with amusements, cafes, the Sunset Lounge, Merrie England Bar and of course the North Pier Theatre.