2018 World Monuments Watch
Every summer, generations of working-class Britons used to head for Blackpool, a traditional vacation destination on the Irish Sea coast of England, and the world’s first seaside resort town for the working class. Blackpool’s piers and other attractions were the key to its growth and success. 275,000 visited the North Pier in 1863, the year of its opening, and its popularity led to the construction of two more piers by the end of the nineteenth century, using innovative engineering techniques. Today, they remain open and constitute the finest assemblage of seaside piers in the country. Recent surveys show that a walk on a pier is the most popular activity for visitors to the British seaside, including the 17 million who visit Blackpool every year. Blackpool’s primacy as a destination diminished as international travel became broadly accessible in recent decades, but the city is experiencing a rebirth thanks to new public and private investment following a carefully designed 2003 master plan.
As a coastal community, today Blackpool must contend with sea-level rise, one of the most dangerous and unavoidable impacts of global climate change. Sea-level rise is set to exacerbate the impact of storm surge caused by extreme weather events, which are themselves becoming more frequent. Current best-case scenarios still predict several feet of sea-level rise, in spite of the uncertainty involved. Even though the Blackpool waterfront was recently protected against flooding with the construction of a new, award-winning sea wall, the piers remain vulnerable, as they reach hundreds of meters into the sea. Privately owned, they are ineligible to receive public funding for rehabilitation. Through the 2018 World Monuments Watch, World Monuments Fund will work together with the Blackpool Council and the private owners of the piers to expand dialogue, explore new models for the rehabilitation of the piers, and celebrate the heritage of the world’s first working-class seaside resort.