to be held at The Metropole Hotel and on the famous North Pier, Blackpool

Friday 23rd - Sunday 25th April 2010

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Blackpool Pier
North Pier is the first of Blackpool's three magnificent piers. Construction started in 1862 and the pier was built for a total cost of £11,500. North Pier first opened its doors to the public on May 23 1863 with a penny (about 0.5p) as the price of admission.

Famous for its peace and tranquility with generations of visitors, Blackpool's longest pier - a total of 1410 feet - has somehow managed to survive the changing face of the British Holiday for over 100 years. While it has survived two fires in its lifetime, the main promenade still retains many of its original features.

These days, the pier has been imaginatively upgraded and is amongst the resort's finest attractions. Also known for its theatre and top-class seasonal show, its amusements, shops, restaurants and bars and North Pier is also the resort's favorite sunbathing spot.

Location: The pier's name derives from the fact that it is the northernmost of the piers and perhaps because it is close to Blackpool North railway station - it is actually located only about 400 metres to the north of Blackpool Tower which roughly represent Blackpool's midline. The sea front is particularly straight and flat and so the pier's 500-metre length simply extends at right angles to the coastline, more or less level with the promenade.

History: North Pier was officially opened on 21 May 1863 with a grand ceremony attended by over 20,000 visitors. It was the second of the fourteen piers designed by Eugenius Birch (the first being Margate Pier), and is now the oldest of the few remaining examples of his work still in use. It was also the first of Birc's piers to be built by engineering firm Richard Laidlaw and Son of Glasgow.
Although the pier was primarily for leisure rather than seafaring, a landing jetty was built at the end in incremental stages between 1864 and 1867. These works increased the pier's length to its current 500 metres. The pier company themselves made use of the jetty by operating steamboat trips to nearby destinations.

North Pier was heavily adapted during the last quarter of the nineteenth century; both the "head" of the pier (the extreme seaward end) and the connection with the shore were widened to include music performance facilities and shops. The facilities, although repaired or reconstructed as necessary, remained much the same until the 1960s when the "Merrie England Bar" and an amusement arcade were constructed at the shore end of the pier. By this point, the pier had long since ceased to have any nautical use, but the jetty section was adapted for use as a helicopter pad in the late 1980s. A small tramway was also added to ease access to the views and facilities of the pierhead.

As mentioned above, North Pier is one of the few remaining examples of Birch's classic architecture and as such it now enjoys the status of a Grade II Listed building. It was also recognised as "Pier of the Year" in 2004 by the National Piers Society.

Construction and repair: The bulk of the pier is constructed from cast iron with a wooden deck laid on top. The cast iron piles on which the structure rests were inserted using Birch's innovative screw pile process; the screw-tipped piles were simply twisted into the sand until they hit bedrock. This made construction much quicker and easier and guaranteed that the pier had a solid foundation.

However, the structure has been damaged several times since it was built. It suffered a collision in 1892 and a moored vessel (Nelson's former flagship, HMS Foudroyant, no less) further damaged the pier in 1897 when it was driven onto Blackpool Sands and wrecked by a severe storm. The pierhead theatres have been particularly susceptible to fires; the 1874 "Indian" pavilion was destroyed by fire, as was its replacement. The 1939 theatre, still in use, narrowly avoided a similar end in 1985 when the early stages of a fire were noticed in time by performer Vince Hill.
Official name North Pier
Type Pleasure Pier with Landing Jetty
Design Eugenius Birch
Construction Blackpool Pier Company
Total length 1,650ft
Opening date May 21, 1863

The North Pier is my favourite of the three piers at Blackpool. It is how I believe as a real seaside pier should be. Originally this pier was called the Blackpool Pier and it is the oldest (1863) and longest (402 metres) of the three Blackpool piers.

This is a pier to just stroll along and really enjoy the sea air. There is a small amusement arcade at the start of the pier, where there is also a coffee shop and a few other small shops.

The pier is a traditional open promenade with wooden flooring, where you can see the sea through the gaps in the planks. All of the way along the pier on either side there are seats where you can just sit and relax and watch the world go by. If you don't fancy walking to the end of the pier then you can save your legs by taking a ride on the pier tram (75p return - 50p single). Along the pier there are four small kiosks with shops and fortune tellers in them.

At the end of the pier there is the Carousel Bar and the Sun Lounge. The Sun Lounge is glass sided and has an open roof. In here you can sit in a deck chair and enjoy the playing by the resident organist, although there is a charge of £1.50 per session.

Also at the end of the pier is the North Pier Theatre. Here such artists as The Grumbleweeds and Alvin Stardust put on shows, together with a full production of supporting artists. Tickets for these shows are £12.50 each.

For me this pier epitomises what an English seaside pier should be like, plenty of seating, fresh air and good old fashioned entertainment. Let's just hope that nobody ever decides to modernise this pier

For more information and pictures, please download this interesting .pdf file
compiled by NAO Executive Officer - Gina Brannelli

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