I hate to break it to you, Blackpudlians, but your iconic Blackpool Tower actually reigns from Manchester.
Well, Newton Heath, to be precise.
Now, this will hurt the feelings of many proud Blackpool residents because let’s face it, the Blackpool Tower – which stands at 518 feet tall, making it the 125th tallest free-standing tower in the world – is easily the most famous monument the town has to offer.
So, why exactly did it come from Manchester?
Well, the Blackpool Tower Company was actually founded by (brace yourselves) London-based Standard Contract & Debenture Corporation in 1890; they bought an aquarium on Central Promenade with the intention of building a replica of the Eiffel Tower.
Two Lancashire architects, James Maxwell and Charles Tuke, were then put to the task of designing the tower and overseeing the laying of its foundation stone.
Newton Heath-based company Heenan & Froude were then put in charge of supplying the materials and actually putting the tower together – the company began its life as the Newton Heath Iron Works in 1884; a partnership between Mr Hammersley Heenan, an engineer with the East India Railway and the Public Works Department and Richard Hurrell Froude, English engineer, hydrodynamicist and naval architect famous for being the first man to formulate reliable laws for the resistance that water offers to ships.
Anyway, the company was truly put to the test when they were appointed as structural engineers for the Blackpool Tower construction in 1892, supplying and constructing the main tower, the electric lighting and the steel front pieces for the aquariums in Manchester before transporting it to Blackpool.
It was truly a sight to behold – never before had such an architectural challenge been attempted in the town – when it was built, over 10,000 lightbulbs were used to illuminate the tower (though these have been swapped today with 25,000 eco-friendly LED lights). 2,493 tons of steel and ninety-three tons of cast iron were also used, as were 985 tons of steel and 259 tons of cast iron for the base of the tower.
On the tower’s opening day in 1894, it was the tallest building in Britain at the time and the second tallest in the whole world. Over 3,000 guests were able to enjoy the the first of many lift rides to the top of the tower – an estimated 70,000 more people from not only Blackpool but the whole country swarmed the town to catch a glimpse of the seaside town’s new addition.
At the time of its opening, tourists paid sixpence for admission, sixpence more for a ride in the lifts to the top, and a further sixpence for the circus – ah, those were the days.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing – the tower wasn’t painted properly during its first thirty years and became corroded, leading to council discussions about demolishing it. Thankfully, the tower was never brought down and, instead, the corroded steelwork was replaced and renewed between 1920 and 1924.
Following this new lease of life, Blackpool Tower enjoyed a number of monumental occasions – such as being painted silver in 1977 as part of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, having a giant model of King Kong placed on the side in 1984 and even hosting a cage-suspended wedding in 1985.
Yep, the Blackpool Tower truly has seen it all.
And as for Heenan and Froude? Well, by the end of the the First World War, they had been bought up by a Company in Worcester. Their name continued for some time but, by the mid 1930’s, they were no longer in Manchester.
Since the grand opening all those decades ago, the Blackpool Tower has become a staple part of the famous seaside town, and has enjoyed a rich and eventful history – though let’s always remember that it’s Manc born and Manc made – maybe we should rename it the Manchester Tower?
Street photographer creates incredible Mini Manchester and Blackpool nostalgia photo series
The photography series aims to encapsulate significant parts of Manchester’s history
Whether it be retro beer cans or vintage match boxes, there isn’t much that Gisela Szlatoszlavek will limit herself to to capture the spirit of the city.
While Gisela works full time as a teaching assistant, she is also a keen street photographer with a passion for documenting gentrified areas of Manchester, with her even having published That Golden Mile, a sell-out book on Blackpool street photography.
And it was a combination of these two professions that sparked the idea for her ‘Little’ series, with Gisela finding inspiration during a photography lesson.
Talking on the birth of the miniature series, which sees her create scenes using tiny models, Gisela told Proper Manchester: “The pupils were working with small figurines around the classroom, and it made me think of how well that would work out in the street.
“I started with Blackpool, and thinking of places that make the town iconic and recognisable… like the sunburned men wearing vests and local mums pushing prams.”
And being a local lass herself – she hails from Oldham – Gisela knew that Manchester and its vast history would provide the perfect backdrop for her new series.
She explained: “Everything I’ve done up to now is a nod to something special about the city, such as the Haçienda, the Manchester bee, Manchester United, and Manchester City.”
And despite the series only being a couple of months old, Gisela has countless instalments of a variety of different themes under her belt, all of which give an insight into life in both Blackpool and Manchester.
Her photographs range from trips to the football, chippy teas and seaside fun in Blackpool, and even trips to the iconic Haçienda nightclub – complete with a pair of maracas, of course.
And fans of Gisela’s work will notice a recurring retro theme, which in itself is a nod to her own passion for the 1980s: “That era was fantastic, I wish I could have taken these photos back then.
“So I wanted to try and create a lot of my series around that time period.”
A lot of the props used in the series are genuine vintage too, including retro beer cans found on eBay, cassette tapes and even match boxes from the era.
Putting together these images is no walk in the park, however, with some taking Gisela several weeks to complete from start to finish.
Every aspect of the photo – from the initial idea to the construction itself – is a painstaking process, with Gisela often spending hours at a time scouring through Google Street View to establish which spots will work the best, whether it be the aesthetics, the lighting or just for the finer details to add to the final image.
Gisela then buys the figurines online, and spends even more time hand painting them to adapt them to different scenes – for some photos, she’s even gone to the effort of making miniature outfits using a magnifying glass.
And actually taking the photos is no easier, mainly thanks to members of the public and busy traffic, which Manchester’s city centre in particular has an abundance of.
She explained: “Unsurprisingly, Market Street is definitely the hardest location to work, thanks to the volume of people and things going on in the background. @giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram
“Because I have to be as low to the ground as possible, I do get members of the public coming up to me and asking what I’m doing and checking that I’m okay… Some people even think I’ve collapsed in the street!
“But most people are lovely, and are just curious and want to know what I’m doing.”
While the Little Manchester and Little Blackpool series remains as a side project for Gisela at the moment, she aims to one day collaborate with other artists, and eventually take on paid commissions.
This is only the beginning for Gisela’s Little series, so make sure to follow her official Instagram page to stay updated with her latest work.
Londoner shares his list of ‘observations’ about Manchester after spending four days here
City centre traffic, dog poo bags littering canals and Mancunian women dressing like Wim Hoff were all big talking points…
Whenever someone from the south is brave enough to venture up North, they’re usually met with a bit of a culture shock.
And this week, one Londoner fared no differently.
Taking to Reddit, the anonymous man explained that he had spent four days in Manchester and, while he described the city as ‘glorious’ and said he couldn’t wait to visit again soon, he was left with a few observations and questions.
He began by noting how ‘very small’ the city is – though he did point out that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because he was able to ‘walk everywhere’.
Beats getting the tube, doesn’t it?
However, he then pointed out how nobody moves out of the way while walking in different directions in the street (presumably Market Street…), saying it made him feel like he was ‘in the Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony video’.
Other observations included a ‘disproportionate number of great restaurants’ and a lot of ‘beautiful buildings that seem to be falling apart’.
And, in one perception that may surprise many, he gushed at how ‘very quiet’ Manchester’s city centre roads are, mainly thanks to the ‘revolutionary lack of traffic’.
He also questioned if all Mancunian women are avid followers of Wim Hoff, a Dutch motivational speaker famed for his love of running through snow and ice wearing next to nothing.
With this, he admitted that their ‘ability to sport such minimal attire in such minimal temperatures was humbling’.
And staying on the topic of Mancunian clothing, the Redditor pondered what the obsession is with suit style jackets for women, while also pointing out the ‘lack of effort from their male counterparts’.
He added: “Tight Jeans, a branded white tee and some Yeezy’s seem the standard uniform.”
However, not all of his observations were so light hearted, with him noting a blatant difference in Manchester’s racial diversity compared to that in the capital.
He wrote: “It’s very white. Having grown up in London I am used to seeing a fairly even spread of brown people. For such a metropolitan city this was the biggest surprise for me.
“I only had one instance of racial abuse. This is something that I don’t get in London.”
And he rounded up his observations with a question that many Mancunians will have asked themselves over the years: “Why are there loads of dog poo bags scattered along the canal toe paths? [sic]”
You can read the full post here.
MANCHESTER’S MOST HAUNTED: The haunting of the Town Hall
More than just council officials lurk the Town Hall’s corridors…
Manchester has had its fair share of ghostly happenings over the decades, what with its dark and grizzly industrial past.
There’s the poltergeist of Westhoughton, a ghostly Black Shuck dog lurking within Manchester Cathedral and the sinister Grey Lady of Cheetham’s School of Music.
But did you know that the city’s Town Hall has its own sinister story?
Completed in 1877, the Grade I listed building is home not only to Manchester City Council, but apparently a few ghostly residents, too.
There have been countless reports of ghost sightings within the walls of this historic building over the years, with the spirits of deceased councillors allegedly roaming the many halls and corridors.
But the most frequently seen ghost is that of a Victorian police officer who is said to have died in the late 1800s.
Rumour has it that despite his death hundreds of years ago, this ghostly bobby continues to patrol the halls of the building, scaring off countless visitors and ghost hunters in the process.
Ian Waring, a member of the Tameside-based paranormal investigations group Shadow Seekers, claims to have seen the spirit in the flesh in what he called an ‘incredibly strange and bizarre’ encounter.
It happened during one of his guided tours of the building, where he takes on the ghost hunting persona ‘Flecky Bennet’.
Ian told Mancunian Matters at the time: “I took this big gentleman around the first part of the tour in the town hall, and then he disappeared.
“He was stood in the middle of the group, but no-one saw him disappear and there was nowhere he could have gone, it was a big open area.
“The next day I explained to the town hall what had happened and they said he sounded like a police officer who died in the late 1800s.
“I looked up a photograph of him and it was definitely the man who was on the tour. It was incredibly bizarre, really strange.”
But people had been experiencing this ghostly copper decades prior – around twenty years ago, an unsuspecting electrician had been working late at night in the upper reaches of the building when he felt an eerie ‘disturbance’.
When he looked around, he found a Victorian-looking gentleman staring at him and silently smiling.
The electrician fled the scene and reported what he had seen to his foreman, who of course didn’t believe his tale. At this, the foreman instructed the terrified man to return to upper reaches to collect his tools, which he refused to do.
Eventually, the foreman went to collect the tools himself but, minutes later, returned with a look of sheer terror, having clearly experienced a firm telling off by the officer himself.
Other myths in the building include a spirit that hates the sound of whistling – anyone found to be making the noise is plunged into darkness with a few slamming doors for good measure.
Some members of staff also claim that the late Mayor of Manchester Abel Heywood haunts the the clock mechanism room, which seems appropriate considering he gave his name to the hour bell in the clock tower.
But fast forwarding to today, the Manchester Town Hall is still undergoing its extensive £328m renovation, which poises the question as to whether its ghostly inhabitants will still be there upon completion.
Though there will be only one way to find out…