Walking the boards of 125 years of history as Blackpool's Empress Ballroom gets ready to celebrate very special milestone

Hailed as the 'wonder dance floor' Blackpool was the first home of one of the world's largest spaces, the 'mecca' of ballroom accommodating 3,000 lovers of dance.

Friday, 1st January 2021, 7:00 am

Blackpool's Empress Ballroom with it's elegant balconies, glittering glass chandeliers and double vaulted ceilings has stood the test of time and today remains at the heart of the world of dance with the international Blackpool Dance Festival, world's first and most famous annual ballroom dance competition, welcoming competitors from across the globe.

And in 2021 the historic venue will turn 125 years old.

This iconic venue has welcomed all generations across the 49 metre long, 24 metre wide dance floor but has also been a venue favourite for some of the world's biggest names in music from Queen to the Stone Rose and Oasis. Not to mention the infamous ban for rockers the Rolling Stones.

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The ballroom has also been a consistent setting for many politicians through the years hosting the annual party conferences of the big three political parties in the UK, Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats,.

As the new milestone approaches, The Gazette looks back at just some of the other events this jewel in the resort has hosted.

A spokesperson for the Winter Gardens said: "The Empress Ballroom, opened in 1896 has played an integral role in Blackpool’s rise and prominence as the UK’s favourite seaside resort.

It remains the key driver in Blackpool’s economy and its significance and awareness on an international stage.

Blackpool Empress Ballroom witihin the Winter Gardens complex will turn 125 years old in 2021.

"It’s a truly historic venue that’s woven into the history of the nation. It’s a venue we couldn’t be prouder to be custodians of and have the honour to welcome the thousands of people it attracts each year to its incredibly diverse range of events."

The Empress Ballroom was designed by the architects Mangnall and Littlewood who also designed the original adjoining Opera House within the Winter Gardens complex.

It was mostly completed in the summer of 1896 when it was first opened for a short season in August that year.

The main entrance to the Ballroom was through the newly created Empress Buildings in Church Street, which led people thorough the Italian Gardens and beside the Indian Lounge, and the just completed Giant Ferris Wheel.

The venue has hosted some of the world's biggest bands from Queen to Oasis. In 2019 Radio 2 held its All Star party in the ballroom. Pictured DJs Ana Matronic, Craig Charles and Trevor Nelson

Towards the end of the First World War, in 1918, the Empress Ballroom was taken over by the Admiralty as a space to assemble Gas Envelopes for their R.33 Airship.

A year later, a restoration project was undertaken with 13 new chandeliers replacing the original fittings.

Further renovations would take place in 1934, when a new sprung floor was fitted with 10,000 strips of oak, mahogany, walnut, and greenwood, on top of 1,320 four inch springs, and covering some 12,500 foot.

"The pinnacle for ballroom dancers who descend annually from over 60 different nations across the world to step on its floor.

A historic year for the Empress Ballroom which will turn 125 years old in 2021

"The site of many famous speeches from prime ministers and presidents and a legendary venue for live music, hosting the biggest bands of the last 60-years including The Rolling Stones, Queen, Oasis and many more. A venue that has been the start of so many love stories that have lasted a lifetime.

"A mecca for darts fans, pigeon fanciers, northern soulers and magicians and one of the most prestigious award venues in the whole nation.

"The Empress Ballroom means so much to so many different people, we are incredibly proud to celebrates its 125th anniversary."

The last touring cast of Rock of Ages with Kevin Clifton strike a pose in the Empress Ballroom.
Famous chandeliers of the Empress Ballroom, Blackpool