Crowds of holidaymakers on the beach at Blackpool in the 1950s. In 1863, the North Pier was completed and it quickly became a main attraction for elite visitors. Central Pier was completed in 1868, with a theatre and a large open-air dance floor
At the beginning of the 19th century, Blackpool was a small village with fewer than 500 inhabitants. A century later, it offered three piers and more than 20,000 theatre seats each night – only London could match the variety of shows on offer. Here is photographer John Gay’s shot of the tower and beach from 1949.