When William George Bean purchased a 42-acre plot of land in Blackpool in 1896, he had a vision.
He wanted to build an American-style theme park, a place “to make adults feel like children again and to inspire gaiety of a primarily innocent character.”
Alderman Bean could never have envisaged that millions of people, both young and old, would experience unbridled happiness from this fantastical idea.
Even less, that in 2021 his creation would celebrate its 125th birthday and still be bringing excitement into the lives of every person stepping through the gates to the magical wonderland that is Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
What A Rollercoaster!
The journey from the opening of Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1896 to the present day, has been an incredible ride, take a look at its history below:
1900 - 1910
We have lift off! August 1904 saw the launch of the ever-popular Sir Hiram Maxim Captive Flying Machine - the oldest continuous working amusement park ride not only in Blackpool Pleasure Beach but in Europe too.
1910 – 1920
Following the First World War, investment in the park stopped due to the difficulty in exporting rides from the United States. Despite this, profits soared and the company was one of the most prolific employers in the north-west of England.
1920 – 1930
The 1920’s saw a period of great development with the opening of Noah’s Ark and The Virginia Reel. This was followed on 23 August 1923 by the classic Big Dipper wooden rollercoaster offering holidaymakers a fast and modern ride like no other on the park. It is still in operation today.
1930 – 1940
In the 1930’s, Leonard Thompson succeeded his father-in-law to become Managing Director of Blackpool Pleasure Beach and took over the running of the park. This decade saw the introduction of many new rides including The Rollercoaster, The Pleasure Beach Express and the world-famous, twin-tracked coaster, The Grand National.
1940 – 1950
The Second World War put a temporary halt to progress at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. However, during these challenging times the park remained open enabling thousands of evacuees, services personnel and the British public to escape the reality of war.
In this decade, the park started a return to prominence with the opening of the highly regarded Wild Mouse wooden roller coaster in 1958 followed by The Derby Racer in 1959. This carousel has 56 horses, each one hand-carved at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
1960 – 1970
This decade saw a collection of much-heralded rides opening at the park. These included an enchanting trip through the Looking Glass on Alice in Wonderland; the Grand Prix; overhead Monorail; ever-popular Tea Cup ride and the world’s longest Log Flume.
1970 – 1980
Geoffrey Thompson became Managing Director in 1976 and added exciting iconic rides including the Steeplechase, opened by the racehorse Red Rum in 1977. Two years later, Europe’s first 360-degree looping coaster, the Revolution, opened to huge acclaim.
1980 – 1990
In 1988, the year the British bobsleigh team were competing in the Winter Olympics, a dazzling new ride, the Avalanche, opened and carried over one million passengers during the first year. It was the first, and as of 2020, remains the only, bobsled roller coaster in the United Kingdom.
1990 – 2000
Geoffrey Thompson’s reign saw an investment of £12 million for the world’s tallest and fastest rollercoaster at the time – the Pepsi Max Big One – which opened in 1994. At 235ft tall, The Big One changed the skyline of Blackpool’s seafront.
2000 and beyond
2000 saw the biggest investment to date of £15 million with the opening of Valhalla.
The Big Blue Hotel opened its doors in 2003 offering luxury accommodation. The 157-bedroom hotel has now established itself as one of the most popular hotels in Blackpool.
In 2004 Amanda Thompson OBE became Managing Director and invested £5m in the park with re-theming and refurbishment.
£8m was invested in 2007 with the opening of Infusion, the world’s first roller coaster suspended entirely over water.
2011 saw a six-acre area of the Pleasure Beach transformed into Nickelodeon Land.
Red Arrows Skyforce landed in 2015 allowing riders to take a 360-degree spin in the sky.
- Another first opened in 2018 – ICON the UK’s first double launch rollercoaster costing £16.25m.
- The £12m Boulevard Hotel opened in 2019 with 120 stylish rooms with views of the seafront or park, a 90-seat restaurant and state-of-the-art conference facilities.