History of Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Written by joanne robitaille
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Blackpool, England, is home to a vacation spot that's been popular since the late Victorian times. It's original owner and developer, William George Bean, wanted to create "an American Style Amusement Park, the fundamental principle of which is to make adults feel like children again and to inspire gaiety of a primarily innocent character." At more than a hundred years old, Pleasure Beach is still the most visited amusement park in the United Kingdom.

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Early Years

Blackpool is a coastal town in Lancashire, England. Prior to the opening of the Blackpool Pleasure Beach, piers were constructed on the spot beginning with the North Pier in 1863. By the time W.G. Bean bought the 42-acre spot, the Central and South Piers had been built as well as Blackpool Tower. The Blackpool tramway---the world's first electric tram---had was also constructed. These amenities served as the foundation of Pleasure Beach.

1896-1920s

In 1896, William Bean bought the land that is now Blackpool Pleasure Beach and immediately began to transform it into tourist attraction. A ride that's remained popular for over a century, Sir Hiram Maxim Flying Machines, first opened in June 1904. Many other rides were added during this time, as well as a casino in 1913. In 1910, Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ltd. was formed by William Bean and John Outhwaite.

1930s to World War II

In 1929, William Bean died and his 25-year-old daughter Doris and her husband Leonard Thompson took over running Pleasure Beach. The attractions continued to expand under the care of the new managing director, but progress in construction was halted during the World War II. As the war progressed, Thompson decided to keep the attractions open all year, offering people an escape from the realities of war.

Post War Era to 2000

Britian's first monorail was built at Pleasure Beach during the 1960s. In 1976, Geoffrey Thompson became the new Managing Director when his father Leonard passed away. The 1990s saw the construction of an Edwardian shopping complex, hearkening back to Pleasure Beach's early years.

2000s Onward

Rather than slowing down or losing popularity, Blackpool's Pleasure Beach continues to attract more than 6.2 million visitors each year making it Britain's No. 1 tourist attraction. In many cases, older attractions are overhauled rather than simply tearing them down. After a fire in 2004, the popular Grand National ride was rebuilt and reopened in 2005. As of June 2010, the current managing director is Amanda Thompson (Geoffrey Thompson's daughter). Nearly as old as the Pleasure Beach herself, Doris Thompson OBE died in 2004 at the age of 101.

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