South Pier, Blackpool
Evening Gazette, Friday, December 14th, 1962
The Tonics and the Follies
ARTHUR F. WARNER, Blackpool and Fylde historian, continues the story of the
South Pier from just before the First World War to the present day.
OVER the years, there have been many changes and improvements carried out and
the pier has had its fluctuations of fortune. The pier entrance was moved back several feet when
the Promenade was widened. In 1911, the directors built the well-remembered entrance pavilion
with accommodation for 900, where many who were later famous stars of stage and revue
entertained the crowds of Blackpool holidaymakers. Here the excellent pierrot entertainments of
Fred Walmsley and his Tonics and later Harry Korris and the Arcadian Follies will be well
In 1937, after it had echoed the laughter of holiday crowds for 26 years, the
pavilion was demolished to make room for a larger and more modern pavilion with seating for
about 1,300, known as the Regal Pavilion. It was opened by the Mayoress, Coun Mabel Quayle, on
June 27, 1938, when Harry Korris and the Arcadian Follies renewed their acquaintance with the
pier's holiday crowds. The erection of the Pavilion formed part of an extensive scheme of
alterations including a new pier entrance and the widening of a section of the pier.
Before this, however, in 1924, the company had also carried out another big
improvement scheme. The Floral Hall (now known as the Rainbow Theatre) at the westerly end of
the pier, which measured 108ft long, 75ft wide and 25ft high, was built, with seating
accommodation for about 1,000 people.
The directors at the same time also gave a lead by introducing a wind screen
placed centrally east to west along the pier to provide shelter during unfavourable weather for
patrons wishing to go to the westerly end of the pier, and considerable alterations were also
made about this time to the old Grand Pavilion.
Twice, the pier has been menaced by fire in recent years. The first occasion was
in June, 1954, when some damage was done to the Grand Pavilion, café and cloak rooms. Then, in
February, 1958, came a disastrous fire in which the Grand Pavilion, used as an amusement arcade,
and which at one time was a cinema, was gutted, with damage estimated at £100,000.
The gutted pavilion has now been replaced by a commodious bar, lock-up shops, a
spacious sun lounge, cloakrooms and a boardroom and offices. In the last few years, many
thousands of pounds have been spent on the pier and the enterprising directorate and management
are still vigorously engaged on costly improvements and renovation schemes. The Rainbow Theatre
is being modernised and redecorated, with a larger stage and improved lighting to permit the
finest season shows to be staged there. The Regal Pavilion is being transformed into a
first-class amusement centre, and the entrance to the pier is to be modernised, the total cost
of these improvements alone exceeding £15,000.
The authorised share capital of the South Shore Pier and Pavilion Company is £60,000, of which
£44,829 has been issued, and the dividend for 1961 was 7½ per cent less tax, following a dividend
the year before of 5 per cent. This followed nine years without a dividend when big sums were spent
on repairs and maintenance. The company, under its present control, has now become yet another
successful Blackpool entertainment enterprise.
Although public dancing has always been a feature on Central Pier since its
inception, Mr John Hacking, the then chairman of the South Pier, explained to the shareholders
at an annual meeting in the twenties that, on the South Pier, that form of dancing was
prohibited. The trouble was an Act of Parliament, the Pier and Harbour Orders Confirmation Act
(No 2), passed in 1891.
This confirmed provisional orders made by the Board of Trade referring to
various piers in the country, and the clause relating to the South Pier stated that "No public
or outdoor dancing of any description shall be permitted upon the pier," in breach of which the
company would be liable to a penalty.
THIS picture, taken when the 1958 South Pier fire was at its height, shows the
mass of flames as the domes of the amusement arcade, formerly the Grand Pavilion, collapsed.