Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms
Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England


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.

 Victoria Pier, showing the pavilion addedto the entrance in 1911.

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 remembered.

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.

Thousands spent

The gutted pavilion has now been replaced by a commodious bar, lock-up shops, a spacious sun lounge, cloakrooms and a boardroom and offices.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.

No dancing

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.

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.