Memory Lane: Pleasure wheel comes full circle

One of three images of Blackpool in 1927

One of three images of Blackpool in 1927

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Rumours abound that the site of the Gold Mine ride, which closed without fanfare last September, will become home to a new family-friendly attraction featuring two of Britain’s best loved animated characters, Wallace and Grommit.

For now, Pleasure Beach bosses remain tight lipped about any development, yet exactly 100 years ago this week, news of the fun park’s 1912 future crowdpuller – co-incidentally very close to where the Gold Mine later stood – practically filled the broadsheet front page of the Gazette News.

Gazette ragout dated 20/02/1912 The Rainbow Pleasure Wheel , a new idea in public amusements, is to open at Blackpool Peasure Beach.

Gazette ragout dated 20/02/1912 The Rainbow Pleasure Wheel , a new idea in public amusements, is to open at Blackpool Peasure Beach.

Hailing it as “a new invention for the amusement of the Blackpool multitudes”, the article revealed: “it is curiously called the Rainbow and the idea is as new and novel as the name.”

A large working model of the Rainbow Pleasure Wheel was on display at the Lane Ends Hotel to encourage investment in the project.

The ride was an 80ft high 16ft wide steel wheel which had two endless narrow gauge tracks running inside. Twenty passengers were seated in four large, comfortably-upholstered cars, two on each track, which then passed into a “tunnel” in absolute darkness “amid a tumult of mechanically-produced noises and thunder, weird and unearthly screams, electrically-produced lightning flashes, reminding one of Dante’s inferno, out of which the cars presently shoot again into the glorious open”.

The article added: “With a magnificent graceful swing, the cars negotiate a beautiful semi circle dip, 20ft deep and nearly 75ft long, with a whoop that will produce screams of hilarious delight.”

So basically, although the covered wheel spun around them at 15mph, displaying various scenes, the revellers themselves were convinced they were the ones on the move.

As the article put it: “Going, and yet not going. Going, always going, yet getting nowhere. Paradoxical, theoretically impossible, scientifically absurd, in defiance of all reason and natural law. The illusion first fascinates and then provokes the pleasingly puzzled passengers into fits of hilarious laughter. Certain to be a screaming success.”

THE Rainbow Wheel can be clearly seen in this 1927 image of Blackpool, while another one from the same year boasts the Giant Wheel, alongside the Winter Gardens.

Both are taken from just one of the thousands of books held in the collection at The History of Advertising Trust (HAT) archive, the largest archive of UK advertising in the world, which can be viewed at www.hatads.org.uk.

They are part of a book advertising the services of George Harrison & Sons, Printers, of Lovell Road, Leeds for the year 1927.

Barry Cox, chief executive of the Norfolk-based trust, says: “HAT’s job is to rescue material, to catalogue and preserve it to the best possible standard and to make it available to all for study and research.

“Whereas students and other non-commercial researchers can visit HAT’s search room free of charge, standard rates are charged to companies and other commercial organisations. HAT also offers a developing portfolio of online image galleries for the benefit and enjoyment of researchers and the public.

“HAT Archive houses unique collections and study resources dating from the early 1800s to the pre-sent day and we are always looking for ways to develop them and improve our services. Most of the materials at HAT have been deposited by clients into our care. These are complemented by rescued and donated archives in the permanent collection.

“HAT is archivist to many of the major governing organisations of UK brand communications. These include The Advertising Association, The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, The Direct Marketing Association, Periodical Publishers Association and The Institute of Public Relations.” says Mr Cox.

“Our story began in 1974 when a small group within the advertising industry decided its heritage needed to be preserved and that the study of UK advertising should be encouraged and subsidised. As a result The History of Advertising Trust was founded in 1976 and registered as a charity in 1978.”