As the 19th century drew to a close the popularity of Blackpool as a holiday resort knew no bounds, and by 1890 the sparse south shore was next in line for development. Work began on Blackpool’s third pier in 1892 to the design of T P Worthington, using the Worthington Screwpile System. This system utilised the jetting technique developed by men like Brunlees, whereby a pile would be driven into the seabed by the action of water passed down its centre and agitating the sand below. As the sand is disturbed the pile sinks lower until it is at the required depth when the water is switched off. The natural contraction of the disturbed sands then hold the pile firmly in place. Worthington’s method improved on this with the use of a steam-fired pump increasing the water pressure, thus sinking the piles faster. Having cost £50,000 the iron and steel South Pier (originally known as the Victoria Pier but renamed in 1930) opened a year later. On Good Friday 1893 the new South Pier was given a musical welcome by a choir, two brass bands, and a full 50-piece orchestra. The Grand Pavilion, with seating capacity for 3000 people, opened several weeks later on 20th May. This pier, though much shorter at only 492ft (149m), contained a wide variety of facilities, including 36 shops, a bandstand, an ice-cream vendor and a photograph stall. Considered very ‘up market’, Blackpool South Pier did not provide much entertainment in the early days, although a 40-piece orchestra and a select choir apparently gave superb renditions of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ during the summer season.
Holidaymakers were first introduced to the south shore in 1896 when John Outhwaite erected a famous American carousel amongst the sand dunes. He later formed a partnership with George Bean, who leased an adjacent 32-acre site for an amusement park, and the first seeds of the modern pleasure beach were sown. The south entrance of the promenade was widened in 1902 requiring the South Pier entrance to be moved back. In 1938 this entrance was widened, and the Regal Pavilion was constructed.
After the Second World War the face of Blackpool South Pier changed dramatically when two fires, in 1958 and 1964, severely damaged and then completely destroyed the Grand Pavilion. It was replaced with a more modern looking theatre that, over the years, has played host to many of the country’s most famous entertainers. In 1963 the Regal Theatre, at the entrance, was transformed into the Beachcomber Amusement Arcade.
Today the Blackpool South Pier offers every kind of modern amusement from bars and electronic arcades, to dodgem cars and thrilling rides, the latest being a ‘white knuckle’ ride that replaced the now demolished pier head theatre in 1998. The pier also provides an excellent vantage point from which to view Blackpool’s famous pleasure beach.