When you think of Blackpool, it’s hard not to imagine the piers. For anyone who grew up in the North West of England, they’re as big – if not a bigger – a part of the town than the Tower, sticks of rock, and donkey rides on the beach. When you think of the piers, though, it’s more than likely to be the North Pier that springs most immediately to mind. It is, after all, the one that’s closest to the action; despite its name, it’s only 400m away from Blackpool Tower, and as such is intimately associated with all the fun and entertainment that section of the Promenade has to offer. However, the North Pier is also the pier most famous for its traditional pursuits. Unlike the Central and South Piers, which are famous for their rides, arcades, flashing lights and other modern attractions, the North Pier is very much the classic pier experience. It’s easy to just take a stroll out into the Irish Sea, look out over the waves, and enjoy a view that would have been very similar over a hundred years ago, when the pier was first built.
Jutting out 1650 feet (or over 500m) into the sea, the North Pier is the longest of the three piers that Blackpool has to offer. While it’s dwarfed in turn by some of the country’s other pleasure piers – Southend-on-sea, for example, contains a pier that clocks in at a colossal 1.33 miles long – the North Pier captures the imagination of the British holidaymaker in ways that few others can. It’s perhaps for that reason that it was voted Pier of the Year in 2004 by the National Piers Society, 141 years after its construction in 1863, and is always a favourite with visitors to the town.
The North Pier is also very important from an architectural point of view. It was the second pier planned out by famed designer Eugenius Birch, and remains one of the oldest examples of his work that’s still being used today. However, it’s far from the same pier that Birch planned out all those years ago; in the final years of the nineteenth century, the North Pier was widened in order to fit more music venues and shops in the space provided. In the 1960s, an arcade was added, and twenty years later the jetty that had previously been at the far end of the pier was converted to a helipad. Beyond that, very few changes have been made, and the pier is considered to be a Grade II listed building.
While the South and Central Piers have a lot more to do, the North Pier has always been about sedate entertainment. As such, it’s a popular attraction for people looking to get back to an old-time sense of Blackpool; after all, not everyone is after the thrills and spills of the Pleasure Beach, and the North Pier offers a chance to engage in a little light relaxation in amongst all of the hustle and bustle of the rest of the town.