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New Brighton Tower

by Denny Hunt

New Brighton Tower Postcard

Source

New Brighton Tower Postcard

On a clear day, back in 1900, standing on the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, and looking West Nor West in the direction of Liverpool, you might have been surprised to see a new landmark. Built in 1896 standing proudly on the banks of the River Mersey with it’s apex 621 feet above sea level, New Brighton Tower was the tallest steel structure in the country. On it’s completion in 1900 it was some 103ft. Taller than Blackpool Tower and patterned on the world famous Eiffel Tower which was erected for the Paris Exhibition in 1889. It was a welcome sight for ships entering Liverpool bay. The Tower cost £120,000 to build and more than a thousand tons of steel went into it’s construction.

 

 

It attracted half a million people in it’s first year. Four lifts took sightseers to the top of the tower at a cost of six old pence, a tanner, to those of us who remember such things. The tower building complex which housed the Tower Ballroom was a focal point for entertainment for both the holiday maker and day trippers. Thousands of visitors

Comment "Gary Povey, I was born in 1956 i have limited memory of the tower but it was a piece of my life that i loved. i remember having our photograph taken in the old sepia style and taking the chairlift up the tower platform as i think the tower had long gone....."

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would arrive by coach from far and wide including trips from Llandudno and Colwyn Bay, or by ferry from Liverpool, for a day on the beach or a visit to the circus or fair, rounded off with a night out in the Tower Ballroom or the Tivoli Theatre, where Lilly Langtry, ”the best artiste in Vaudeville”, starred in the opening production. I was taken there, as a young 8 or 9 year old, to see Flannegan & Allen with the famous Crazy Gang and I recall Wilson, Keppel & Betty doing their famous sand dance, shuffling along on what appeared to be sand sprinkled on paper. The atmosphere was fantastic, and the audience were loud and very enthusiastic.

 

In those days you could buy a quarter pound of boiled sweets in “Woollies” for 2 old pennies, 5 pence today was worth 12 old pennies, a shilling, then. The shop assistant would use a scoop to put the sweets on the scales until they were happy with the weight, then pour them into a paper bag. You could buy a huge 1 penny “Gobstopper” which you could suck for an hour and barely get through the first couple of colours, so you would wrap it up and put it in your pocket until later. Not very hygienic by today’s standards!

 

Anyway, getting back to the Tower, unlike Blackpool Tower, it had a lavish gothic base as if sat on top of a stately home. It remained popular until world war one when the nation stopped partying so much and the tower was shut down temporarily. Sadly, during the shut down the metalwork was neglected and became rusty, so when the war was over in 1919 it failed to be suitable for public use. Faced with a massive bill for restoring it the owners decided to pull the tower down and rely on the income from the ballroom and gardens.

 

The ballroom lasted as a top concert venue until fire gutted it in the 60s, shortly after The Beatles played there, and many years after my mother had sung there with the resident band, the early equivalent of today’s Karaoke I suppose.

 

 

The fire, the fourth that the tower had suffered, started on Saturday 5th. April 1969. The call was received at Wallasey Fire Station just after 5am in the morning, where by now I was employed as a full time Fireman. The manager and staff had left the building the night before about 8-30pm. after a routine check, the stage area was not included in their check! A police constable discovered the fire in the stage area in the west wing of the tower early next morning.

 

I arrived, on one of the first fire appliances, to find the tower burning vigorously and out of control. The Station Officer, Walter Peach, had a crew at the rear of the tower setting up to start tackling the fire when an instinct told him to evacuate that area and head up a slope to higher ground. No sooner had the crew reached the top when a huge section of the wall collapsed and crashed down on the area where they had been working. They would have undoubtedly have been crushed to death had they not moved. Walter could not say what caused him to give the life saving order, it remains a mystery to this day.

 

After the collapse, Walter sent a radio message to make pumps ten and turntable ladders two. By this time the whole of the external wall was crumbling and falling down. Another radio message was sent to make turntable ladders four. The collapse of the wall exposed the ballroom and theatre to the open air allowing flames to reach other parts of the building. Parts of the roof began to fall in. Oxygen and acetylene cylinders exploded on the fifth floor but luckily no-one was hurt in the blasts.

 

The boating lake had been drained making the provision of water difficult. More fire appliances were called to form water relays from nearby Marine Lake. A total of 25 pumps and 4 turntable ladders were used to contain the fire.

 

The Chief Officer, Ernest Buschenfeld, shouted an order, “I don’t want any heroes, let it burn”. The lives of his men were more important than bricks and mortar.

 

The once magnificent New Brighton Tower was lost forever.

 

Many thanks Denny Hunt for a great set of recollections

The Tower from the Battery, New Brighton

Source

The Tower from the Battery, New Brighton

 

 

Comments

the article by jbates31 really interested me as my great uncle was freddy heywood who owned rides at the tower fair but i have not found an awful lot of info about him anywhere. i was told he bought the wall of death and he and his wife used to ride. if anyone has any more info about him please contact me, deborahdeb41 @ aol.com
Gary Povey, I was born in 1956 i have limited memory of the tower but it was a piece of my life that i loved. i remember having our photograph taken in the old sepia style and taking the chairlift up the tower platform as i think the tower had long gone. also the fairground stalls that used to surround it. yes great memories, i wish they would spend some money and replicate the great tower once more and bring back our heritage then new brighton will be great once more. P.S put the pier back as well
Hi. My wife and I were living in St.James road, and had a good view of the fire. Having had some great times in the late 50s early60s we were very upset to see it go. There is nothing in New Brighton now to compare with those great days. Ken.E
I remember New Brighton. Many Happy Memories from the early 50s. And also going to the Empress Club in the middle 70s. Anon
New Brighton Fairground. Tower Ground. 1947- 1950. Vantage point is The Ballet (Front) on the Wall of Death. Ahead is the Caterpillar, owner Ernie Brennan. Behind it to the left the Dive Bomber. To the right the Dodgem Cars, owner Freddy Heywood. Looking left a small stall ? then Ken in the Waxworks. Higher up Cyril Man with the first pub to sell Tetley ale. Looking right name forgotten big sloping ride with circular cars And very loud music. Owner Ernie Brennan. Next to it the Helter-skelter, run by Peter who also worked on the river Gig Boats. Then the steps to the ground, the other side of the steps was The Big Wheel. Then the Kentucky Derby. Owner Cyril Fletcher who also had a very popular Radio Show. Next o it a stall I think a mystic, next Freddy Heywood with small stall showing the Worlds Biggest Rat. Then Freddy again with the Ghost Train, alongside was Johnny Parker believed to be the first to sell potato crisps Them Bobby and Mrs Riders family stalls. Lakeside Café over the road The Lake the steps and the Sleeping Beauty, then entrance to The Ballroom. In the centre was the Waltza. Last but not the least was the Gallopers and Stanley Creighton, Stanley the great fixer of all things Fairground. Think I’d forgotten Ivor he who everyone called when there was any trouble. No way. Wall people = Bill Miller the owner, Jack Campbell Roach. Nobby Dare (Clark) he with the Monkey. Later Peter Catchpool and Ronny Swift who came to drive the Austin Seven but never did. And me Johnny Bates. Email = jbates31 @ tiscali.co.uk Tommy Mann with the Train and the Figure of Eight were down below as was Johnson and Humpage, George and Fred who owned the Walkie Photo sites. Phil who worked the entrance to the tower ground made more money than the Prime Minister. Then there was me and my mate(GOD forgive me I forget his name) we worked the Slipway to the Fort and the Pier. Keith Medley and Bob Bird worked higher up the prom and also the outdoor Baths. Ahh happy days.
When at junior school in the 50's/60's we used to have day trips to New Brighton, they were really good times, I always enjoyed my time there. I intend to visit again soon, possibly with my grandson, it will be the first time I have visited New Brighton for 42 years I don't expect it to be like it used to be. Shame the tower was destroyed, if only it could have been restored and preserved, but time always marches on. Anon
my mother who has recently passed away use to sing at the tower in the mid fifties, unfortunately i cant find out the name of the group, she also sang with james last at the tower before he became famous, we have been told that she cut a record anybody with any information i would be extremely grateful. my mums name was joan fitzpatrick and she lived in birkenhead :mariepiercy @ live.com
I grew up in New Brighton, my family loved it out of season, when all the visitors had gone home and we had the place to ourselves. We used to walk the length of the promenade with our dog, climb the Red Noses (like pebbles now!) and watch the sea, in all weathers. The swimming pool was open until October, and we swam after school in hail, rain and thunderstorms. In the early fifties there was a circus, next door to the Palace funfair (horrible place )with a family of Liliputans, who were the same size as ourselves, and had tiny furniture in little houses - it was magical. The owners of the horse act would let my sister and I, then aged about eight and four, take the ponies along the prom to the first couple of fields to exercise them. Such trust! I went to my first proper dance at the Riverside restaurant, above the pool cafe, my cousin Gerry Barber was the band leader and played Happy Birthday for me. Sue B
I lived in Wallasey from 1937 to 1966 when I came to Canada. I was a frequent visitor to the Tower on Fridays and Saturdays in the 50s dancing to the music of Bill Gregson's band in the days before I joined the Army, met the love of my life and ended up a husband and Dad who didn't get dancing very often. As a member of the Wallasey Police, I was part of the security for the Beatles and also the Stones. As our Superintendent of the day said, there will be no riots because of the Rolling Stones while they are in Wallasey, and sure enough the crowds were no problem. We have visited a number of times since coming to Canada and gradually Wallasey and New Brighton, have become pale shadows of their past. Funnily enough on my last visit I didn't feel any further ties to the place. No longer was it the place I grew up. and I guess "home" has become this small town in the Canadian north Bob Taylor bobtaylor @ persona.ca
Hello, i was just wondering if anybody would happen to remember my grandad, william leyland. He was a high diver in new brighton circus around 1960. I recently heard somebody on the radio speaking about the history of new brighton and he mentioned a man who used to jump though hoops of fire. this has given me the incentive to trace my family history.

It was like yesterday i was 10 at the time

my father cliff atherton was manager of new brighton tower appox 1960 great times !cliff atherton his son
Spooky watching that movie of the tower grounds as I was there with my dad. It was the day after the fire and the engines were still damping down. It's just how I remembered. I must of been only 6 but can still remember as it was the Sunday after the fire and my dad would of been off work.
Best time of our lives. Live in Las Vegas Nevada now. Could never forget the wonderful innocent times we lived through. My husband was in the American Air Force he was from a small town in Idaho. We were stationed all over the world and never forgot our trips on the ferry to New Brighton. Wonderful innocent days. Good memories. Sheila and Frank.
I have many memories of the tower. The bloody music kept me awake many nights as our house was virtually in the tower grounds, so there was no escape from the sound of the latest records coming from the waltzer and the bobby horses. I can see the throngs of holiday makers crowding Victoria road and the promenade, thinking how many pop bottles I could pick up to get the 1penny deposit back. The smell of the toffee apples wafting through the window used to make your mouth water coupled with all the other aromas from the hot dog stalls and Donkey track you soon felt sick! Sue from Egerton St
I left school in 1960 with no qualifications and only the joy of being free of teachers and with the World at my feet I found work in the Tower Fairground's Ghost Train, where I worked for most of the summer until I moved to more acceptable (parents viewpoint) employment in Liverpool. The time I spent in the Fairground was fantastic; we would have break periods when we would chat up the girls visiting from L/pool, Widnes, St. Helens and many other exotic places, even on occasion meeting foreign girls from Wales or Scotland; as staff we were able to ride for free on all the rides in the grounds, the Waltzer and Octopus being favourites; although the Ghost train did allow a little close contact with the newly found friend. I was there when they built the Chairlift to the Towers roof and was one of the first to ride up to the Café there. Yes the Tower and Grounds where the best learning ground for a 15 year old boy and reading about them brings back joyful memories of warm nights, new music and alcohol & drug free youthful pleasure.

We had our honeymoon in New Brighton in July 1966 Dave & Joyce in Gloucestershire

I was born and bred in New Brighton, grew up in the 50's and 60's. My family moved to Leasowe and then Moreton when I was 17, but New Brighton was the only place I could call home. I moved to Ontario Canada in 1974 with my husband a Birkenhead lad who had frequented a number of pubs in New Brighton. I've made several trips over the years, my last visit was in 2006. I always take a walk along Victoria road and along the prom. Childhood favourites were Vale park and Joytime, enjoyed many performances at the Floral Pavilion mostly pantomimes which my siblings and I frequently attended. I must say I was very saddened at my last visit on it's decline, even though it has been gradually going down hill over the years, nevertheless it still has that feeling which holds dear to my heart and many fond memories. If only the authorities could invest in it and put it back on the map where it belongs and make it a big attraction as it once was. This is my first visit to this site, I came across it by accident. I'll look forward to visiting again. regards Janet Flynn (nee Threlfall)

New Brighton Tower. In April 1969 I was working for a dredging company in Liverpool. On Easter Saturday morning one of the staff came in to my office about 08.00 and said come out & look at New Brighton Tower it is on fire. I went out and stood on the dock wall at Salisbury Dock and could see the flames. It was a rather sad occasion for me as my Wife and I had met in the Tower Ballroom on New Year's Eve 1958!

I enjoyed your write up. I was born in Wallasey in 1950 my father was then manager of the Tivoli Theatre New Brighton. I have numerous photo's of stars who performed at the Tivoli Theatre and the guest book from about 1946 to 1951 its interesting reading. But don't know who to pass it on to.

Re The comment about the Tivoli - I would be very interested in having sight of the guest book and any photos or any other mementoes of the Tivoli as not only did I dance there but my late father Fred Davies worked for many years backstage and it became quite a part of my young life. I did have a large collection of signed photos but these sadly went missing when we moved house in my late teens . If you are interested in memories of this lovely little theatre please contact me on : cherryredshoes @ ntlworld.com

I am sure that the Museum of Liverpool would be very interested in your collection. Two links below that might be helpful:-).

http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/contact.asp

http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/history/riverroom/

I grew up in Egerton Street and lived behind the Tower Grounds. i watched the Tower Grounds burn down as my father held me in his arms. I was 6. It still feels like yesterday to me.

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