The man who has bought all three of Blackpool’s landmark piers said it was good news for the resort that they were in local hands.
Showman Peter Sedgwick, who owns attractions on both piers, was speaking after closing the deal to add the Central and South Pier to the North Pier he has owned since 2011.
He and his family bought them for an undisclosed sum from Lancashire entrepreneur Trevor Hemmings’ Crown Entertainment Centres. They had put them up for sale in March for £8.1m.
Mr Sedgwick said: “We have been linked to the piers for more than 18 years with the rides, a lot of people were interested in buying them so it was something we felt we had to do.
“This is a family business, the family has been brought up on the rides we have there and the family are young enough to carry on that business. It is good for the town that they are in local ownership and we are delighted.
“We were not looking to buy them but when they went up for sale we thought we had to act to secure our businesses there.”
This is a family business, the family has been brought up on the rides we have there and the family are young enough to carry on that business. It is good for the town that they are in local ownership and we are delighted
“We are local people so the piers are going to someone who knows them and cares about the town. We have had a lot of support from local businesses and we want to support them in return.
“We are at the start of the season so we will not be making any big alterations.
“We will be going in today and the next few days to have a good look around and then we will be seeing what improvements we can make.”
He said all three piers have been surveyed and apart from the storm damage to North Pier which is now being worked on , all are in good condition considering they stand in salt water and are at the mercy of the wind and waves.
He said: “There is always ongoing maintenance and that will continue. We are doing a lot of work on North Pier at the moment and a lot of that is going on underneath where not everyone can see, but that is going well and should be completed soon.
He said the Sedgwicks own fairground rides on the south and central piers, while the amusements and the Adrenaline Zone are owned by other companies.
He said: “The concessions will carry on as normal and there are no plans to change that at this stage.
“The leisure sector has been tough over recent years but we have weathered the storm and emerged stronger for the experience. We understand that consumers want more value for money so we have worked to ensure that customers get more time and more value for every penny.”
Five-week battle to land the piers
New piers owner Peter Sedgwick revealed it had been five weeks of hard work securing the deal. He said: “I did not meet Mr Hemmings, we talked to his office but we got a message of congratulations from him today. And he has always been very good with me in our previous dealings and Barclays Bank have been fantastic working day and night to secure the deal.”
St John Stott, director at Trevor Hemmings’ Crown Entertainment Centres, said: “Peter is an experienced, long-standing leisure operator and we are delighted to have sold both The Central and South Piers to him.”
Chris Wynne, relationship director for Barclays said: “It’s great to see the pier being owned and managed by a local entrepreneur with a successful track record within the Blackpool leisure industry.”
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We’re aware of the sale of Central and South Piers and we look forward to meeting with the new owners to discuss their plans.”
More than 150 years after opening, our piers are still much-loved by all
If there was such a thing as a snobby pier, North would be it – or at least that used to be the case.
The North traditionally catered for the “better class” market, with orchestras, bands and respectable comedians appearing.
Indeed until the Sedgwick family bought it in 2011, it was the only pier that charged admission – 50p.
The oldest and longest of Blackpool’s piers, it was built during Victorian times, in 1862, by a Glasgow engineering firm.
It cost £11,740 and jutted out 1,650ft into the Irish Sea.
It was originally intended to be three feet less in height – but during a storm in October that year, the workmen busy constructing the thing were understandably alarmed when waves began lapping over the top.
A decision was hastily made to increase its height, thus keeping generations of holiday-makers much safer, and drier, ever since.
The pier’s opening ceremony in May 1863 attracted a crowd of more than 20,000 people (not bad considering the town’s population at the time was 4,000), who witnessed a procession and a cannon salute.
It was 2d to stroll along it –not cheap, the equivalent of £4.95 in today’s money.
It is a Grade II-listed building, mainly because it is the oldest surviving pier designed by the wonderfully-named Eugenius Birch, a renowned 19th century architect.
Birch was an interesting and gifted chap.
As a young lad he submitted a design for a passenger carriage to the London and Greenwich Railway company which – against convention at the time – placed the wheels beneath the carriage as opposed to the side, freeing more room for passengers. Not surprisingly he was head-hunted by a number of companies as soon as he left school aged 16 and went on to design a number of bridges, docks, harbours, an aquarium – and 14 piers, one of which was Blackpool’s.
The success of North Pier immediately led to plans for another,and before the 1860s were done, a new one opened (now known as Central), built by the same Glasgow firm.
From the start, the emphasis was on fun rather than the genteel relaxation provided by North Pier.
There were several dance halls, where young lads and lasses could strut their stuff to the popular tunes of the day, and in later years a roller-skating arena was introduced, along with fairground rides and amusement arcades.
The most striking addition came in 1990 when a 33m-high Ferris wheel opened.
Last but not least came South Pier, built three decades after the first two, in 1893, to cope with the ever-increasing number of tourists flocking to Blackpool.
It cost £50,000 and opened on Good Friday, with a choir, two brass bands and an orchestra providing the entertainment.
Though the shortest of the three piers, it was the widest and they used the space well.
It had 36 shops, a bandstand, an ice-cream vendor, photograph stall and a 3,000-capacity Grand Pavilion.
The latter was damaged by a fire in the 1950s and then completely destroyed by another blaze in 1964.
Another theatre was built but that too went in 1996, replaced by a white-knuckle ride. There are now several of these attractions on the pier, including the rather exciting-sounding Skyscreamer, a reverse bungee ride.
More than 150 years after the first opened, all the piers are still much-loved by visitors to the resort, and a source of pride for locals.
The Sedgwicks don’t just own three piers, they own a piece of Blackpool’s history.