On this day in history : 19th September 1879 – The very first Blackpool Illuminations, called ‘Artificial Sunshine’, bathe the Promenade in light, a whole month before electricity becomes generally available in London….

Image credit : Karen Fletcher via flickr

Blackpool was already an established seaside resort and was lit by gas lamps…. The council decided to invest £5,000 in experimenting with the concept of electric street lighting…. So, on the 19th of September 1879, eight Siemen’s dynamo-electric machines powered by sixteen Robey engines were used to power eight arc lamps, spaced 320 yards apart, along the Promenade…..giving a light equivalent to that of 48,000 candles…. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people travelled from across the Country to witness it….img_3870

The first form of the modern day display came about in May 1912 with a royal visit by Princess Louise to open a new section of Promenade – an electrical engineer was employed to create a display…. About 10,000 bulbs were used and the result was so impressive that the council were persuaded to repeat the performance as an after season event in the following September…. Once again, in 1913, the lights shone – but with the outbreak of WW1 darkness reigned…. It was in 1925 that the illuminations were reinstated, this time on an even more ambitious scale and their popularity grew – continuing to do so until the Second World War…. Even after the war ended rationing prevented the lights from being switched back on again – it wasn’t until 1949, after special permission from the Government to burn so much electricity, that the lights returned in all their glory….and have entertained the crowds every autumn ever since….

Image credit : Mjobling, Wikipedia project – Public domain

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