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The Tower Circus, Blackpool

Part of the Blackpool Tower Complex

Blackpool Theatres Index - Blackpool Theatres Article by Donald Auty

An expectant audience awaits the beginning of the show at the Blackpool Tower Circus in August 2012 - Photo M. L.

Above - An expectant audience awaits the beginning of the show at the Blackpool Tower Circus in August 2012 - Photo M. L.

 

 

The Blackpool Tower Circus is one of the two major auditoriums in the Blackpool Tower Complex, the other being the Tower Ballroom. Both were designed originally by Maxwell and Turk in 1894, but were redesigned by the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham in 1899, and are in different but equally lavish styles.

The Blackpool Tower Circus (from the original by Fortunino Matania, R.I.) - From a 1938 programme for the Winter Gardens Complex

Above - The Blackpool Tower Circus (from the original by Fortunino Matania, R.I.) - From a 1938 programme for the Winter Gardens Complex - Caption reads: -'THE WONDER CIRCUS OF THE WORLD. The Tower Circus is world-famed as the most unique and beautiful circus building in existence. Designed on the rich decorative lines of a Moroccan Sultan's palace it is the world's No. I permanent circus, and every season its arena provides a pageant of internationally famed stars who come to the Tower Circus from the four corners of the globe. It also has a ring that can be lowered in an instant to transform the arena into an artificial lake on which water spectacles of translucent beauty ore presented.'

After the redesign by Matcham the Tower Circus reopened on Monday the 4th of June 1900 and the ERA covered the event in their 2nd of June 1900 edition saying: - 'Extensive improvements have been made in the Tower Circus, Blackpool, and the result will be presented to the local public on Monday. The Tower Company called in Mr Frank Matcham, the well-known theatrical architect, who had previously served them so well in the cafe and ballroom, and the whole of the work in the circus has been carried out according to his designs.

The main foyer behind the stalls of the Blackpool Tower Circus in August 2012 - Photo M. L.The style of architecture is Moorish. In order to provide a more imposing main entrance, one of the promenade shops has been taken in. Previously, patrons of the stalls had to pass along the pit promenade to their seats, but now the stall seats are situated at the west of the circus, with a separate entrance from the front.

Right - The main foyer behind the stalls of the Blackpool Tower Circus in August 2012 - Photo M. L.

The vestibule is admirable. The columns, walls, and floor are tastefully covered with Violets, Rosata, Genoa green, Petrossa, Levanto, Cippollina, and Sicilian marbles, the variegated colours of which harmonise with the rich Oriental decorations on the walls and ceiling. Handsome painted panels are also fixed at each side of the entrances.

The sumptuous crush room is lined with canary wood, and a rich dome ceiling is brilliantly illuminated with Moorish electroliers. The ceiling of the promenade is divided into six large coves and six smaller ones, lavishly decorated with gold and colours, and shown to decided advantage by an abundance of electric light. The lower walls in the interior are fitted with richly coloured Oriental tiles...

Frank Matcham's lavish Alhambresque Style Tower Circus, Blackpool, in August 2012 - Photo M. L.

Above - Frank Matcham's lavish Alhambresque Style Tower Circus, Blackpool, in August 2012 - Photo M. L.

...The orchestra will be placed in a horseshoe arrangement over the south entrance to the arena. Considerable improvements have been effected at the Bank Hey street entrances, and in the pit and gallery exquisite paintings have been placed on the walls and ceilings. The main building is very beautiful. The centre ceiling directly over the arena is divided into eight panels, decorated with ornamental scroll work, and large enriched mouldings run from the centre circular panel. At the four corners are elegant perforated pendants, behind which are powerful electrical fans. Springing from the ceiling at each corner are large coffer arches richly ornamented with recesses, tastefully draped above. Below these are compartments supported by large escalloped fans resting on band-painted columns, which finish with terminal drops resting on marble pillars...

A Painting depicting the Blackpool Tower Circus interior during the fountain finale of 1976 - Very kindly sent in by the Artist, Terry Bunton.

Above - A Painting depicting the Blackpool Tower Circus interior during the fountain finale of 1976 - Very kindly sent in by the Artist, Terry Bunton.

...There are two private boxes, the directors' box being in the south-east and the other in the north west. The boxes are surmounted by large ornamental canopies, with enclosed perforated panels, the whole being crowned with graceful minarets. A very pretty effect is produced by an arrangement styled the Harem, over the gallery on the north side of the building. This is composed of five perforated and richly ornamented screens, behind which are fixed numerous coloured lights. The gallery front is highly decorated, and the arches between the four legs of the tower are richly adorned with 150 incandescent electric lights.' - The ERA, 2nd June 1900.

Frank Matcham's lavish Alhambresque Style Tower Circus, Blackpool, in August 2012 - Photo M. L.

Above - Frank Matcham's lavish Alhambresque Style Tower Circus, Blackpool, in August 2012 - Photo M. L.

The Tower Circus was cleverly constructed within the four giant legs of the Blackpool Tower and first opened in 1894 as a Circus space with a Hippodrome style stage ring which could be lowered to reveal a vast water tank beneath. The Tower Circus is one of only two surviving working examples of this feature today, the other being the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome.

A programme for 'Over The Rainbow' at the Blackpool Tower Circus on May 21st 1945 entitled A 'Grand Victory Show' - Kindly Donated by Pam Prior.

A programme for 'Over The Rainbow' at the Blackpool Tower Circus on May 21st 1945 entitled A 'Grand Victory Show' - Kindly Donated by Pam Prior.

Above - A programme for 'Over The Rainbow' at the Blackpool Tower Circus on May 21st 1945 entitled A 'Grand Victory Show' - Kindly Donated by Pam Prior.

A fire in the Tower Ballroom in 1956 caused considerable smoke damage to the Tower Circus but thankfully the auditorium was redecorated and reopened and remains in wonderful condition today. The Blackpool Tower Circus is a Grade I Listed Building and can accommodate some 1,600 people in its circular auditorium.

You may like to visit the Blackpool Tower Complex's own website here.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.