OPENING OF BLACKPOOL PIER.
Yesterday was a great gala day at Blackpool, the occasion being the opening of a promenade pier. From an early hour in the morning the trains discharged large numbers of visitors, and by noon the number of strangers would be little short of 20,000. The appearance of the town itself was as gay as any holiday could make it. Streamers, flags, & banners almost hid the thoroughfares, the shops were closed, and every one appeared to join in the day’s festivities. The pier and its immediate vicinity formed the great points of attraction. There was a greater display of bunting there than in any other part of the town, the locality was fanned by a sea breeze which in other parts of the town was too gentle to counteract the heat of a May-day sun. A more elegant structure is not to be found on the coast, and while it possesses a lightness of appearance which might at first raise doubts as to its strength in such an exposed situation, the usage it has already undergone is sufficient to justify the belief that neatness and lightness are not its only merits. About fifty yards, including the head of the pier, are still unfinished. When the whole is completed, the head of the pier will possess ample landing stages, with flights of steps and an easy incline, so that passengers may land and embark at all states of the tide. The entire superstructure rests upon iron columns fixed to the ground by means of screws. The first of these columns was raised in May, last year, and, owing to the unfavourable weather, the works progressed for a time but slowly. It was probably fortunate that this was so, for the storms which occurred in October showed that the structure was being erected at too low a level. The shareholders profiled by this salutary lesson, and in November it was determined to raise the pier three feet higher than was originally contemplated. Throughout the entire length of the pier, an ornamental casting surmounts the main girder, and this forms a good back for the sitting accommodation of promenades. Upon the main portion of the pier are erected several shelters and refreshment houses, of an octagonal shape, which are placed on side projections, and destroy the stiff and monotonous appearance which the long straight outline of the pier would otherwise present The structure is provided with lamps from end to end, and the area which is afforded for promenading purposes is little under 40,000 square feet. The plans are by Mr. Eugenius Birch, of London, and the contractors are Messrs. R. Laidlaw and Son, of Glasgow.
The ceremony of opening the pier commenced with a procession which marched through the principal streets of the town. It was headed by the Blackpool bellman, who was followed by the 19th (Manchester) Lancashire Artillery Volunteers and their Armstrong gun. A few of the Manchester Engineers followed in their wake, and they, in their turn, were followed by more artillery volunteers from Preston. The bright scarlet of the 2nd Lancashire and Rossall Rifles formed a striking contrast to the blue and silver of the artillery and the dark green of the rifle volunteers from Preston, who brought up the rear of the military portion of the procession. The remainder of the procession possessed a less warlike element than the portion just described. The Manchester city band headed a body of the shareholders of the pier, the contractors, the solicitor, the secretary, and some of the pier workmen. After the Blackburn Artillery band came the Clifton Lodge of Masons, whose blue and white napkins, supposed to be aprons, imparted a variety to the scene. Another band, the Manchester Saxhorn, added its harmony to the already over-noisy demonstration which too great a number of bands was already making. It was followed by the Local Board of Health and by a number of the clergy and inhabitants of Blackpool. Some of the Oddfellows also took part in the proceedings. In imitation, probably, of the Preston Guild demonstration, the trades of Blackpool were more or less represented. Half a dozen fresh- looking youths, in blue slops, and possessing the sharpness which is said to characterise a butcher’s boy, were readily recognised as the representatives of an important trade where a sea breeze sharpens the appetite. The painters had their place in the procession, as also had the whitesmiths and the printers. The boatmen rode in the Emily St. Pierre, and on a second little pleasure craft, mounted on strong drays, and in close proximity, came the town fire engine. The joiners, too, bad their representatives— men bearing white wands ornamented with compass and square, and knots of shavings. The blacksmiths were ensconced on a dray, zealously shoeing a blind old horse, whose famine-stricken features showed that he had seen more agreeable festivities than that in which he was a passive actor. After the representatives of the farmers, the saddlers, and the grocers, came a band, which beaded a large body of the Ancient Order of Druids. Two ferocious-looking fellows seated on horseback, and dressed in a garb which revived recollections of the gorilla and Professor Hughes’ theories, were recognised by the crowd as a couple of high priests. The bard excited equal curiosity. Enveloped in a huge shaggy skin, and seated on as mild a tempered donkey as ever paced the shore beneath, he and the gentle brute that bore him formed as sage and statuesque a couple as the part they played required. Following the Druids were two men staggering under a huge banner, whose blazoning’s resented the joiners and mechanics. The juvenile brass band of the Manchester Ragged School had the privilege of heading a large body of the local day and Sunday schools, and the donkey boys, preceded by a loquacious chimney sweep, brought up the back of the procession. The marching of the procession occupied about 2 hours, and after passing through the principal streets and round the pier it halted opposite the Clifton Arms Hotel. Mr F. Preston, the chairman of the Pier Company, said how pleasing a duty it was for him to open the undertaking which they commenced last year. They never for a moment anticipated that the town of Blackpool and the neighbourhood would so enthusiastically and generously enter into the festivities of that day as they had done. On behalf of the directors he thanked them for that flattering expression of feeling. It was not a motive of gain that induced him to take part in the erection of the Blackpool pier; it arose from the respect be held for the town, and the great benefits that that beautiful watering place had added to the pleasures and health of his family. Since their meeting last summer many whom he addressed were probably aware that Blackpool had been visited by very severe storms, so much so that at one time the safety of their undertaking was threatened. But the pier was constructed on sound mechanical calculations, and carried out by their worthy engineer and contractor— simply making use of the knowledge that science bad given them, and had already withstood two great storms with which that town had been visited in the course of the winter. He hoped that it was that day entering on a new era, and that it would outrival some of its neighbouring water places. After stating that the Board of Directors had determined to have an annual pier dressing, he concluded by announcing that the pier would hence- forward be open to the public. The crowd gave several hearty cheers, and the demonstration was increased by a salvo of artillery. A dejeuner was afterwards served in the Clifton Hotel, in which about 150 persons sat down. From the lime that the pier was opened at three o’clock, till eight o’clock, the receipts from visitors on the pier, at a charge of admission of 2d. each person, were upwards of £80.