New Brighton Tower and Buildings
In 1895 the Liverpool Member of Parliament, R. B. Houston, purchased a suitable site for another ‘Eiffel Tower’ at Rock Point in New Brighton. His New Brighton Tower and Recreation Company was registered in 1896, and initially found capital easy to raise, doubtless benefiting from public knowledge of the success of Blackpool Tower’s first seasons. Houston acquired the services of the Blackpool Tower Company’s general secretary and its architects, Maxwell and Tuke, and work on the New Brighton Tower Grounds began in July 1895. The local council delayed acceptance of plans for the Tower itself so the foundations were not laid until 1897. 3,500 men working day and night made it possible to open the incomplete Tower at Whitsun 1898. Maxwell and Tuke had designed the new Brighton Tower during 1896 and, partly as a result of the larger area available at New Brighton, were able to produce a more expansive and exciting design than Blackpool Tower, their first attempt at a pleasure dome. The New Brighton version was bigger in every way, a monstrous Gothic pile of heroic proportions. The 567 ft 6 ins high Tower was 48 ft 9 ins taller than Blackpool Tower, and the buildings surrounding its base contained the Grand Tower Theatre, seating over 3,000 people, the Ballroom (or concert hall), a billiard saloon, a small menagerie, a restaurant and a winter garden. Maxwell and Tuke clothed the entertainment buildings in hard‑wearing, red Ruabon brick with terra-cotta and stone dressings, and the plan of the buildings was octagonal, with the Tower, also built on an octagonal plan, at its centre. The roof-line of the three‑to‑four‑storey building was dramatic, as four corners of the octagon were emphasised by tall pavilions with steeply pitched roofs topped by cupolas. Apart from the decorative ironwork at the top of the Tower, none of the imagery of the New Brighton Tower was Oriental. The Ballroom, with a dance floor on which 1,000 couples could dance, was decorated in classical style in white and gold, and featured painted panels of the civic emblems of Lancashire towns. The Grand Tower Theatre was the largest theatre in England outside London, its spectacular interior located within the eight legs of the Tower.
Although the opening of the New Brighton Tower caused much excitement, the resort could not draw the necessary crowds and the Tower went into slow decline, the Ballroom becoming the most popular attraction. After lack of maintenance in the First World War, the Tower came down; demolition took nearly two years, from 1919 to 1921. The rest of the Tower Buildings remained until burnt out in 1969, and now local footballers play where Britain’s tallest building once stood. Although, as an entertainment centre it lacked the commercial success of Blackpool Tower Buildings, Maxwell and Tuke’s New Brighton Tower continued the development of the building type, a monolithic block which reserved its delights for paying customers inside.
IMPROVEMENTS AT NEW BRIGHTON - Messrs Maxwell & Tuke, architects of Manchester, have just commenced operations upon the Rock Point Estate, New Brighton, Cheshire, where it is contemplated erecting a tower and entertainment buildings. The estate consists of rather over 20 acres of wooded undulating land, and it is proposed to erect a tower and buildings in about the centre of the site and to devote the remainder of the land to recreation and pleasure grounds, among the principal of which will be a quarter mile cycle track, with running track and full-sized football ground; also accommodation for at least 30,000 spectators around the same. There will be an aquarium in an old red sandstone quarry upon the estate, together with large bowling greens, tennis lawns etc. cafes and refreshment rooms etc will be provided at various points upon the estate. [Builder 27 June 1896 Page 564]
THE NEW BRIGHTON TOWER - The New Brighton Tower and Recreation Company, Limited, purchased the Rock Point Estate, situate at New Brighton, in the county of Chester, near Liverpool, and comprising about 30 acres of land, and have erected thereon a tower with entertainment buildings around its base, a three-lap to the mile cement cycling track, a quarter-mile running track, football ground, grand stand, popular stands, etc, divers sideshows, water chute, refreshment‑rooms, band stands, kiosks, and dancing platform, all of which are shown on the block plan we reproduce, and perspective drawing of the tower and main buildings. The tower is built of mild steel, is 550 feet high above the ground, and weighs 2,249 tons. This steelwork and the whole of the ironwork and steelwork in the buildings was supplied and erected by Messrs Andrew Handyside and Company Limited, of Derby. The tower is octagonal in form, and above the buildings surrounding, it is of framing in light lattice work, so as to lessen the wind pressure and to give a light and elegant appearance. It is capable of accommodating over 1,000 persons on the various floors at the top of the tower, and, aa designed by the architects, four electric elevators can ascend the tower at one time. Only two have been erected up to now, and they were erected by Messrs Easton, Anderson, and Goolden. In addition to these lifts there is a staircase and ladder way for workmen from the top to the bottom of the tower, and arrangements have also been made so that should any elevator get fastened the passengers can easily be transferred to one of the other elevators at any portion of the ascent. The buildings round the base are composed of red Ruabon brick, with terra-cotta and Runcorn stone dressings. In the basement are large cellars, bottling stores, and artists' dressing‑rooms. On the ground‑floor level, immediately under the centre of the tower, there is a theatre arranged on the amphitheatre form, with one of the largest stages in the kingdom, with promenade gallery. There are also refreshment‑rooms. On the mezzanine floor are the kitchens and lavatories, with large storerooms. iJn the first floor is a large octagonal dancing‑room, with stage capable of being used for variety performances, and opening out of the dancing‑room is a large refreshment‑room. Above this dancing‑room is the elevator hall, from which the ascent of the tower is commenced, which is all laid out with stalls in the form of a fancy fair, with shooting bungalows, etc., and above this again is an open promenade, from which extensive views of the surrounding country can be obtained. The entrance and exit accommodation is ample, as there are four main flights of stairs from the ground level to the top of the buildings, each 10ft. wide, with numerous stalls and landing places therein. The whole of the buildings were carried out by Messrs W A Peters and Sons, contractors, Rochdale. Lodges and offices have also been built on the estate, and the whole work was carried out at a cost of over ,200,000 within the short space of eighteen months, under the able superintendence of Mr. John Ashley as clerk of works. The architects and engineers for the whole work were Messrs Maxwell and Tuke, Corporation ‑street, Manchester.[Building News 29 December 1899 Page 873 and illustration]
TALL TOWER, NEW BRIGHTON —The New Brighton Tower has now been finished. In shape it is octagonal, standing on eight legs, the base being 150 ft. across. It is constructed of steel. Messrs. Maxwell & Tuke, architects and engineers, of Manchester. designed the structure, and the work of erection has been in the hands of Messrs Handyside, of Derby, with Mr. John Ashley as clerk of the works. The lower portion of the structure is hidden by a block of buildings, now approaching completion, and 90 ft. high from the ground. In this block will be a theatre for stage plays, with seating accommodation for 3,000 persons; above that a concert and ball room with a parquet floor laid upon springs, with promenade and outside balconies; and on the third floor is to be winter gardens, covered in with a glass dome roof. Visitors may reach the various floors in this building by any of four staircases leading from the two main entrances on the ground floor, or the ascent may be made in one of the four elevators provided. It is from the winter gardens at the top of the main buildings that visitors will commence the actual ascent of the tower. There is a staircase leading up inside the tower, but this is devoted to the use of workmen only, and for visitors there are available four elevators. Each of these elevators will carry thirty persons. All the lifts will be worked by electrical power. The tower lifts will not convey visitors to the actual summit, their landing platform being a floor 56 ft. across, at a height of 394 ft. from the ground. This platform, is closed in, but a higher point can be reached by a staircase. Twenty feet above the landing platform is a floor provided with an outer balcony, and 6ft. higher there is another open platform. Above this again are two other platforms, and then, by passing up a staircase through the inside of a dome of copper, access is gained to the Crow's Nest, 513 ft. from the earth below. [Builder 22 January 1898 page 89-90]
Reference Builder 27 June 1896 Page 564
Reference Builder 16 April 1898 Page 374
Reference Building News 29 December 1899 Page 873 and illustration
Reference Manchester City News 20 May 1899 Page 6 - extensive description
Reference Builder 22 January 1898 page 89-90
Reference Building News 28 January 1898 page 126