Blackpool: Hub of Technology

Blackpool can boast a host of technological innovation, most of that innovation remains largely uncelebrated. Innovators and entrepreneurs from the beginnings of Blackpool have moved knowledge forward and capitalised on the experience of doing so.

Trams, Street Lighting & illuminations 1879

Development of practical uses for Electricity centred on Blackpool in the 1870s. Experiments by Siemens on electric ‘Traction’ just 6 years earlier, led to the beginnings of Blackpool trams. Blackpool Council, ever on the lookout for new ideas, quickly adopted this ‘Conduit Electric Tramway System’ for Blackpool’s promenade in 1885. It was the first ‘Mass Transit System’ in the world.

Street lighting too was pioneered in Blackpool. Until 1879 municipal street lighting was provided by gas, then in a flash of brilliance, the Council set aside £5000 to test 8 dynamo powered ‘Arc’ lights, six on the promenade and two on Victoria (North) Pier. The Switch on was advertised widely advertised and tens of thousands of people came to see the magnificent ‘Artificial Sunshine’, street lighting was born in Blackpool.

The famous ‘Illuminations’ followed in 1912, with a huge ‘switch on’ ceremony for a 10,000 lamp display, around Princess Parade was headed by Princess Louise, the Princess Royal. The display was so successful that the council planned a re-run of the illuminations in September of the same year, and every year since, apart from war years

The Tower

1891 saw the laying the Foundation Stone of what has become an iconic symbol of Seaside holiday, Blackpool Tower. The tower was built using cutting edge technology of the time ‘Portable Hydraulic Riveting’, pioneered on the Tower and still used Worldwide today.

The structural engineers employed to build the Tower, also invented the ‘Water Brake Dynomometer’, used in the newly built Tower Aquarium.

TVR Cars

In 1946, local boy Trevor Wilkinson established an engineering company, repairing fairground rides and motor cars in Blackpool. By 1949 Trevcar Motors (later TVR) produced its first lightweight motor car chassis.  TVR introduced a car manufacturing production system known as ‘iStream’, cutting the manufacturing processes to 25% of the size of a traditional process and using 60% less energy.

Jaguar Cars

Another local boy, William ‘Billy’ Lyons, who attended Arnold School, joined William Walmsley, a neighbour, to start small business to produce Swallow Motor Cycle Sidecars, later converting the bodies of Austin 7’s to stylish designs. Swallow changed its name to Jaguar Cars in 1935, moving away from Blackpool to Coventry to meet increasing demand.


Blackpool’s own Gledhill Engineering pioneered insulated hot water cylinders in 1965. More recently introducing ‘Lightweight’ hot water cylinders using a new ‘circumferential’ welding technology.


Technology was always at the forefront in the teaching in the college. Way back in 1947 when the Head of Engineering, R.H. Garner and Head of Catering, William Rees-Jones, worked on the technology known during the war, when RADAR Technicians noticed they could cook sausages when placing them close to the Radar transmitter. The Bakery Department decided to try and beat the record set by the Italians to produce a loaf within 2 hours. The Departments worked together to produce an oven based on those early RADAR experiences and techniques applied to the early plastics industry. The ‘Dialectric’ oven was shown at the ‘Country Comes to Town’ exhibition at Stanley Park, Blackpool. The loaves were cooked in 4 minutes! The Heads took their ‘invention’ to a number of commercial and universities, the largest, GEC suggested there would no commercial value in the project!

In the 80’s and 90’s Courtfield flourished, leading the way in contemporary cooking and preparation methods and new technology: Microwave, ‘Induction’, ‘Sous Vide’.

Blackpool and The Fylde College has recently opened its Advanced Technology Centre on the Bispham Campus. It will enhance skills in advanced engineering and manufacturing industry. In a further development. In a further development, the College and Lancashire Enterprise Partnership has established Lancashire Energy HQ in Blackpool. The new facility aims to support renewable and low-carbon energy generation, and traditional oil and gas industries.


Premium Bond’s ‘Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment’, or ‘ERNIE’, was invented by one of the original Bletchley Park code breakers in 1956. Since 1957, there have been four generations of ERNIE. With continuous advances in technology, each has become faster and smaller. If ERNIE 1 were still in use today, it would take over 100 days to complete a draw. ERNIE 4 only takes around 5 hours!

The Premium Bonds office was based in St Annes-on-Sea until it moved to a new site in Marton, Blackpool in 1978.

Sept 2017


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