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Basalt-faced sea walls, Blackpool
Starr Gate to Cocker Square, Blackpool, Lancashire
Basalt-faced sea walls, Blackpool
associated engineer
Jeremiah Wolstenholme
John Shanks Brodie
date  1900, 1903 - 25th July 1905, Oct 1910 - Sept 1911
era  Victorian  |  category  Coast Protection  |  reference  SD304339
ICE reference number  HEW 1161
photo  Paul Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
Impressive basalt-faced sea walls run all along the central section of Blackpool's sea front. They were built in several stages and vary in height and profile. All were designed by successive Borough Surveyors and built by direct labour — men hired individually to do the work.
The first section built dates from 1900 and runs south of South Pier. It is the result of a scheme to widen The Promenade by some 18m that was approved by Parliament in 1899. The then Borough Surveyor, Jeremiah Wolstenholme, who had designed the North Shore coastal protection works, organised the construction of 219.5 metres of protective wall.
Wolstenholme was succeeded as Borough Surveyor by Brodie, who, later the same year (1900), recommended that the widening works for the rest of The Promenade increase its width by 30m instead of 18m. Parliament approved this in 1902 and work commenced at South Pier in 1902, moving north. By July 1905, 2,912 metres of wall had been completed and it stretched as far as Talbot Square at North Pier.
The work so far consisted of sea walls protecting a promenade, or pedestrian walkway, with an average width of 24m, plus a separate tramway reservation, a carriageway and footpaths. All sit on fill placed behind the walls, and so are at a much higher level than the beach. Also supplied were ornamental shelters, and steps and slades (slipways) down to the sand. Blackpool now had the finest promenade of any seaside resort in the country.
The walls are faced with basalt from the Rhineland in Germany. Cast iron railings run along the top. Around 574,00 cubic metres of sand was taken from the beach near South Pier for use as fill. Some 163,000 cubic metres of concrete was used, together with 25,400 tonnes of basalt and 160,500 square metres of asphalt and flagstone paving.
Between South Pier and Dean Street, the walls have a slope of 1 in 2, and between Dean and York Street the vertical profile is parabolic. Between York and Brunswick Street, the walls have a slope of 1 in 2 plus a large bull-nose, and between Brunswick and Hounds Hill there are boat slades with a slope of 1 in 4. From Hounds Hill to Talbot Square, the walls increase to their maximum height and have gently curved profiles, except at the beach steps, where they are vertical.
A third round of wall building commenced in October 1910, when a broad promenade was constructed around the Metropole Hotel, just north of North Pier, and continued northwards as far at the southern end of the North Shore coastal protection works of 1899. This new stretch of wall included basalt blocks brought from the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Work was completed in September 1911.
Work to replace the main section of the basalt-faced walls, between South Pier and North Pier, commenced in 2006.
The other stretch of sea wall in Blackpool runs from the northern end of the North Shore works for 347.5 metres to the then Borough boundary line. Work on it too commenced in October 1910, and it was completed in January 1911. This wall is near vertical and has a bull-nose.
Resident engineer: Henry Banks
Research: PHEW
"Blackpool Sea Coast Defence Works" by H. Banks
Transactions of the Society of Engineers, 6th December 1920
"Blackpool and some of its Municipal Works" by J.S. Brodie
Incorporated Association of Municipal & County Engineers,
Blackpool, 13th June 1908

Basalt-faced sea walls, Blackpool