Blackpool Pleasure Beach: A Century of Fun
A Preview

One hundred years ago a small funfair appeared on the sand dunes to the South of Blackpool, on the site of an old gypsy encampment. Mr WG Bean had started what was to become one of the greatest amusement parks in the world: Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

The book begins by briefly chronicling the growth of Blackpool as a seaside resort, but quickly moves on to the very beginning of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. In a remarkably short space of time, the small collection of funfair rides grew into a sizeable amusement park.

Due to the vision of WG Bean, by the time of the First World War, the Pleasure Beach was already a major attraction and many features which make it so unique today were already in place. Popular rides of the early 1900s were Hiram Maxim's Flying Machine (still there to this day), the Velvet Coaster and the River Caves.

The Pleasure Beach really flowered between 1919 and 1929, when numerous major attractions such as the Big Dipper, Noah's Ark and Virginia Reel were installed. Following Bean's death in 1929, his son in law, Leonard Thompson, took over the reigns.

It was during the Leonard Thompson years that so many of the Pleasure Beach's famous attractions were opened, including the Grand National, Fun House and Ice Drome. There were also many lesser known rides, most of which have long since disappeared. All are covered in this book, with a huge variety of photographs, both colour and black and white.

The book not only concentrates on the highs, it also looks at the lows: the War years, the burning down of the huge Indian Theatre, and the collapse of amusement parks in the USA are just a few of these. From 1976, Leonard Thompson's son, Geoffrey, took control, and these years saw the introduction of many of the park's most modern rides as Mr Thompson responded to the growth of the theme parks with attractions such as the Revolution, Avalanche and - most famously of all - the Pepsi Max Big One. It is clear from this book that Geoffrey Thompson possesses exactly the same vision as his grandfather, and it is to his credit that the park has grown and prospered over the past 25 years.

It is not possible to do justice to this book in these few short words, as it is a mix of the attention to detail, the amazing stories and anecdotes and, of course, the stunning pictures, that really lift this book above the ordinary. It took a century for a serious book to be written about Blackpool Pleasure Beach, but it was well worth the wait! Recommended.

Reviews

"This book is excellent. It has remarkable pictures from when the Pleasure Beach started in 1896, up to 1996. It shows the big attractions: the Big Dipper, Grand National, Rollercoaster, Avalanche, Revolution, Steeplechase and Space Invader. It also gives great detail to the smaller rides: Haunted Hotel, Vikingar and Flying Machines. It also shows rides that have been removed like the Tokaydo Express, Tidal Wave and Cyclone.

10/10. Excellent value, excellent pictures and quality!"

Ashley Stanworth, February 2001

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