Building Name

The Big Wheel. Winter Gardens, Blackpool

Lancashire, England
The Blackpool Gigantic Wheel Company Limited
New Build

The first big wheel was constructed by G.W.G. Ferris for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, and was 250 feet high while another had been built for the Earl's Court Oriental Exhibition of 1895. The Directors of the Winter Gardens Company sought to build a rival attraction to the newly completed Blackpool Tower and decided upon a similar wheel.  They set up the Blackpool Gigantic Wheel Co. Ltd who contracted Walter Basset to construct a wheel similar to the one he had built at at Earl's Court.  Built at the corner of Adelaide and Coronation streets, it was opened to the public on 22 August 1896. Smaller than the London wheel, it differed from earlier wheels in that the cars were cantilevered out, giving the passengers a feeling of being suspended in space. The wheel itself was 214 feet high, and rotated every 15 minutes compared with 35 minutes for its London rival. However, the charge at Blackpool was only sixpence, compared with 1/‑ and 2/‑ in London.

The wheel was not a great success and several attempts were made to increase its popularity.  The first was to refit two cars, one as a tea room and the other as a table tennis room.  In 1898 the wheel was painted red, white and blue to attract attention.  Again this did not succeed and the wheel carried on not making much money until it took its final turn on 20th October 1928.  Dismantling by Ward Brothers of Eccles was completed by June 1929.  The cars were auctioned off for use as garden sheds and one still survived in 1976.

Mangnall & Littlewoods were named as company architects in the prospectus, they being already employed at the time on the refurbishment of the Winter Gardens. While having no involvement in the design of the wheel itself, Mangnall and Littlewood were presumably reponsible for the design of the ancillary buildings, turnstiles, etc.

EngineerWalter B Basset RN (retired),  Maudsley Son & Field Limited, engineers, London

THE BLACKPOOL BIG WHEEL. Although not complete in every particular, the large wheel at Blackpool was formally opened recently. The wheel was designed by Mr Cecil Booth.


BLACKPOOL - The gigantic wheel at Blackpool was formally set revolving on Saturday. The wheel, which was designed by Mr. Cecil Booth, has been constructed and carried through by Mr. M. R. Bassett, the same engineer who was responsible for the one at Earl’s Court, London, Mr. Nasmyth being the consulting engineer. The diameter of the wheel is 200 feet, with a periphery 10 feet deep, and, being adapted to the principle of a bicycle wheel, it has stout steel hawsers for spokes. The axle, which is a solid steel forging, 40 feet 8in. long, and 26in. in diameter, is supported by eight columns, each 3ft. square, the two sections of four columns being imbedded in lift, of concrete. The total weight of the structure is about 800 tons, and, under the superintendence of Mr. Booth, the work has been finished in about eight months, without fatality. The wheel, although only two-thirds the diameter of the original wheel at Earl’s Court, possesses the financial advantages of carrying more passengers and revolving at three times the speed. [Building News 28 August 1896 page 322]


A WHEEL OF FORTUNE - Some rather interesting particulars respecting the working of the big wheel at Blackpool were given the other day by the chairman of the Blackpool Gigantic Wheel Company, Limited, in his speech at a meeting of the company. He stated that on Monday week from three o'clock the company carried 1,726 passengers, with a result of £43 3s.; on Tuesday they carried 3,808 passengers, with a result of £95 4s.; and on Wednesday, although it was raining all day, they carried 2,975, with a result of £74 7s. 6d. (Applause.) That showed that altogether in three days, or rather two and a half days, 14 hours altogether, they carried 8,509 passengers, and made an income of £212 14s. 6d. The revolutions were made four to the hour, the passengers they had carried per hour were 608, and the amount earned per hour had been £15 3s.10d. The diameter of the wheel was 200 ft., the rate of travelling per hour was half a mile, and the amount earned per mile was £30 7s. 9.½d. [British Architect 4 September 1896 page 176]

Reference       Manchester City News 25 April 1896 Page 1
Reference       Manchester Guardian Saturday 26 April 1896 page 1
Reference       Builder 29 August 1896 Page 177
Reference       Building News 28 August 1896 page
Reference       British Architect 4 September 1896 page 176