Towering feat in any era

Blackpool Tower and promenade. / sea / view
Blackpool Tower and promenade. / sea / view
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HAVE you heard the one about Blackpool Tower and the sea?

Basically if the big fella ever collapsed then (as well as giving The Gazette many front pages) it would fall into the water.

All websites about The Tower tell you the 2,500 tonnes of iron and 93 tonnes of cast steel used during the construction stage are distributed in such a way it ensures a crumbling Tower would end up in the Irish sea, as opposed to destroying half the town centre.

Now considering the other week marked 121 years since the Tower’s foundation stone was laid, that is a heck of a feat.

I mean, I still struggle to construct a paper aeroplane, so how engineers designed such a clever safety feature all those years ago is marvellous. If I was wearing a hat while
 writing, I’d tip it...

But wait a minute, all is not as it seems .

It turns out all this Tower falling into the sea gubbins is nothing more than an extravagant urban myth.

I called Kate Shane, Tower Manager (what a great job that is), who checked with the engineers on my behalf and discovered the grim truth. If it falls, it will come crashing straight down.

However, this grave news cannot dampen my love of Blackpool’s most famous landmark.

It was the brainchild of former mayor John Bickerstaffe, who, blown away by the Eiffel Tower during a visit to Paris in 1889, set up a committee of businessman in order to raise funds to build a similar design in Blackpool.

Within two years, and using £2,000 of his own money, the Blackpool Tower Company Ltd had been formed, and a few months later building work began.

Imagine that now: Mayor – ‘I’ve been on holiday, seen a giant tower and I’d like to build another right here in the centre of town!’ He’d be labelled insane and ushered into early retirement.

Thank goodness then for Mr Bickerstaffe’s enthusiasm and for an age when grand projects were encouraged, for the resort without a tower is as unthinkable as Boris Johnson one day becoming Prime Minister (oh, hang on a minute...)

Rising 518ft and nine inches and a Grade One listed building, The Tower opened to the public in May 1894.

On the opening day just under 3,000 customers paid six pence for admission, another six pence for a ride to the top, and yet another sixpence for the circus. Good to know some things don’t change.

Over the years The Tower has been responsible for a shipwreck (in 1894 a Norwegian boat mistook The Tower for a lighthouse – rumours the skipper had been drinking strong whiskey were never substantiated), used as an RAF radar station during the Second World War, and painted silver as part of the Queen’s silver jubilee. In 1985, escapologist Karl Bartoni and his bride married suspended in a cage half way up The Tower.

Nowadays, of course, ideas for a structure as breathtaking and as huge as The Tower would be knocked back in an instant. With the country up to its eye-lids in recession and local council’s fortunate if they receive enough funds for loo roll, there is little room for invention and innovation.

However, Blackpool does as well as anywhere, given the circumstances.

In recent times we’ve had the Comedy Carpet (a terrific idea, I mean unless John Terry has been victim of a crunching tackle, where else does looking at the floor make you chortle?) and the weird but wonderful Brilliance structure on Birley Street.

We might not get projects on the same scale as The Tower any more, but in trying times it is reassuring to know the resort still tries its best to improve and evolve.

Just a shame that if The Tower does ever topple, we’ll all get crushed. On the upside, if you’re fine-tuning your backstroke in the sea, you’ll be safe as houses.