The New Brighton Tower
Statistics of the Tower
The New Brighton Tower was patterned on the world-famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. It all started when a newly formed company called The New Brighton Tower and Recreation Company Limited, with a share capital of £300,000 decided to purchase the Rock Point Estate of over 20 acres. The Tower was to be 544 feet high, with Assembly Hall, Winter Gardens, Refreshment Rooms and layout with a cycle track. The Tower was to be more elegant than Blackpool's. Shares were £1 each and the Tower would be made of mild steel.
During the construction of the Tower six workmen were killed and another seriously injured either though falls or accidents. On completion the Tower was the highest building in the country. Soon after the Tower was opened a young man threw himself off the balcony to be the first suicide from the building.
Four lifts took the sightseers to the top of the structure at a cost of 6d. From there you could see for miles around including the Isle of Man, Great Orme's Head, part of the Lake District and the Welsh Mountains.
The Tower attracted a half a million people in the year.
The Tower Ballroom
The Tower Ballroom was one of the largest in the world, with a sprung floor and dance band stage. The orchestra had as many as 60 players and well over 1,000 couples could dance without over crowding, it was decorated in white and gold, with emblems of various Lancashire towns. There was a balcony, with seats to watch the dancers below and behind this was an open space where couples could learn to dance. There was also a fine Billiard Saloon with 5 billiard tables and above the Ballroom was a Monkey House and Aviary in the Elevator Hall, there was even a Shooting Gallery!
The Tower Gardens View of the Tower from the lake There were also other light orchestras which played here and at variety performances in the theatre in the afternoon. A good restaurant called "The Rock Point Castle" was situated amongst the trees, with lovely pathways to wander around. The Tower grounds had their own private Police force of 15 men to parade around and keep order.
The Tower Gardens covered something like 35 acres in all, with a large Japanese Cafe at the lakeside, where real Gondoliers had Venetian Gondolas. There was also a fountain and seal pond in the old quarry, with its rockery. Then there was a Parisian Tea Garden where one could have a cup of tea while watching the pierrots. Towards the river end, there was an outdoor dancing platform which held a thousand dancers, where the Military Band played, stating at 9 o'clock in the morning in the height of the season. Above the dance floor was a high wire for tightrope walking, without any safety net. The tightrope walker was a man by the name of James Hardy, who had a bet with another man that he could walk across the rope with a girl on his shoulders. He won his bet when he carried the barmaid from the Ferry Hotel across his back!
View of the Tower from the lake
There were also other light orchestras which played here and at variety performances in the theatre in the afternoon. A good restaurant called "The Rock Point Castle" was situated amongst the trees, with lovely pathways to wander around.
The Tower grounds had their own private Police force of 15 men to parade around and keep order.
The 'Old English Fairground'
The Old English Fairground was on a higher level which, in later years, became the motor coach park. The Himalayan Switchback Railway was a great favourite, as was the water chute, with the boats travelling down at speed into the lake. The Railway had previously been at the Brussels Exhibition. In the Lion House were 'Prince' and 'Pasha', two beautiful Cape Lions. There was also a good collection of other animals in the menagerie.
The theatre could hold 3,500 people, with the world's largest stage measuring 45 feet wide and 72 feet deep, this was the structure that had been built instead of the giant wheel that had previously been suggested.
The Athletic Ground
To the rear of the Tower Building was the fine Athletic Ground, with football pitch in the centre. It had a cycle track around it, where Cycle Championships were staged, the World Cycling Championship was held on the Tower Track in 1922 and it was claimed that the World Tandem record was set up there in July 1898. Motor bike racing was also staged on the track.
Other Attractions at the Tower
Outside was added an American Roller Skating Rink and there was a bazaar and shops. The Tower was illuminated at night with fairy lights, as were the grounds, 30,000 red, white and green around the many pathways. Admission to the ground was a shilling, which included admission to the Ballroom and Treatre.
Football at the Tower
New Brighton Tower Football Club was founded in October 1896 and battled for a place in the First Division of the Football League in the 1898/99 season. In those days there were 16 teams in the English League, which consisted of first and second divisions only.
Apart from football, the stadium was used for other sporting activities and shows. There were a number of shows held on the Athletic Grounds, such as the troop of 70 Bedouins, Arabs and Dervishes in 1901 and a show was put on by the Abyssinian Warriors in 1907.
Wild West Show
The Wild West Show had a six months season in 1908, 500 men and horses took part, including many Cowboys and Cowgirls, U.S. Artillery, crack shot rifle displays, U.S. cavalry men , Cossacks, Indian warriors, chariot drivers, acrobats and contortionists. Wild highland cattle were brought from Scotland for the cowboys to lasso as American animals were not allowed into the country.
The cowboys, when not taking part in the Show, would go down to New Brighton and shoot off their guns of a night and the police had a lot of extra work on their hands. They lassoed everything you can think of, including the pretty girls! On account of the Indians going wild with 'Fire Water', public houses in New Brighton were told not to serve them with liquor. They were a colourful sight as they prowled around Victoria Road and the promenade.
The End of the Tower
With the outbreak of the First World War the public were not allowed to go up to the top of the Tower for military reasons. In the war years the steel structure was neglected and became rusty through lack of maintenance and the cost of renovating was more than the owner could afford. The top portion of the structure commenced to be dismantled on 7th May 1919 and was completed in June 1921. The brick portion comprising of the Ballroom and Theatre remained, together with the turrets. During the Second World War the basement was used as a communal air-raid shelter.
With the deterioration of the Tower Grounds, the building fell into dis-use and slowly began to be a bit of an eyesore. The end of the Tower came when it was destroyed by fire in 1969, the fire brigade fought the flames for hours and all that was left was the shell, this was dismantled and the site was cleared. Eventually, it was grassed over and a house building company purchased the old athletic ground and stadium from the local council and build a whole new housing estate, which is called River View Park. The remainder of the ground is used by the community and has a swing park and football pitch.