Noah's Ark

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1436474
Date first listed:
19-Apr-2017
Statutory Address:
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Ocean Boulevard, Promenade, Blackpool, FY4 1EZ

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Ocean Boulevard, Promenade, Blackpool, FY4 1EZ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District:
Blackpool (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SD3054133429

Summary

A walk-through dark ride of 1922 designed by noted rollercoaster designer William H Strickler. It comprises a large wooden boat mounted on a rocking mechanism surrounded by a single-storey building intended to represent the top of Mt Ararat, with a pool of water surrounding the boat.

Reasons for Designation

Noah’s Ark, a walk-through dark ride of 1922 by William H Strickler, rebuilt in 1935 to the same design and with subsequent alterations, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Date and rarity: it is the oldest surviving example of this ride in the world; * Historic interest: as an important and evocative survivor of the heritage of mass entertainment, located at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the internationally significant amusement park of one of England’s foremost seaside resorts; * Survival: notwithstanding some alterations, the ark remains essentially as originally designed, and is still powered by its original rocking mechanism; * Group value: with the other listed buildings on the park, in particular Sir Hiram Maxim’s Captive Flying Machine, another early C20 ride nearby (Grade II, National Heritage List for England 1436214).

History

Blackpool Pleasure Beach is the best-known permanent amusement park in the country. Evolving through a partnership between two operators who first brought rides to this shoreline in 1894 and 1896, the Pleasure Beach has always been at the forefront in amusement technology and development, and has successfully renewed its offer over the last 110 years. However, there is no other park that still reflects so much of the history of this industry.

Noah’s Ark is one of the oldest structures on the Pleasure Beach and was first opened in 1922. Constructed by noted rollercoaster designer William Homer Strickler it is the oldest surviving example of this ride in the world, with only one other extant (at Kennywood, Pennsylvania). It was opened only three years after the first example (at Venice Pier, California). The walk-through attraction with rocking motion soon became a popular feature of the Pleasure Beach and remained so for many decades. The original ‘mountain’ included paths up to the gangway of the boat where customers entered, and corridors below the boat through which they would pass during the second half of the ride before exiting at ground level.

In line with the philosophy of successive Directors of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the ride has been continually updated and revised to keep it popular and in keeping with the prevailing design of the surrounding park. In 1935 the first major redevelopment included a rebuild of the boat, but to essentially the same design and probably reusing most of the structural timbers. The interior layout has been rearranged with modernised and renewed ‘gags’ (which typically include moving floors, optical illusions and physical effects such as blown air or water). The current ‘mountain’ dates from 1996, when the internal corridors below the boat were also altered with the ground floor area modified to incorporate a new ticket sales area and shop. The current animals also mostly date from 1996, although some are of 1960s vintage. The ride closed in 2008, but the boat still rocks daily via the original mechanism, while every entrant to the park passes through the building beneath.

Details

A walk-through amusement of 1922 designed by noted rollercoaster designer William H Strickler, with later modifications.

MATERIALS: timber and render with a mechanical rocking mechanism.

PLAN: comprising a large wooden boat mounted in a pool of water atop a roughly rectangular single-storey building representing the top of Mt Ararat.

EXTERIOR: situated between the Casino (National Heritage List for England reference 1389506) and Sir Hiram Maxim’s Captive Flying Machine (NHLE 1436214), Noah’s Ark is an architectural feature which now forms the final entrance portal for all visitors to Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Its principal elevation faces N. At ground level is a plain wall* largely taken up with modern doorways*. Above this is an overhanging, white-painted rocky roof, on which are mounted various late C20 sculptures* of animals and people. Above this, standing in a pool of water on the roof, is the Ark. This vessel is built of ship-lapped timbers and rises at both prow (to the right) and stern. A central gangplank reaches up to the deck, on which stands the large rectangular superstructure. This has a central door and windows to either side, with a small dormer window above. Various figures* stand or sit on the gunwhales and in these openings. The roof is of timber shingles, projecting over the E and W gables, and dipping in the centre, giving it a similar profile to the hull. A chimney stack rises behind the dormer.

Below the rocky roof the plain E wall* also houses a doorway*. The sloping stern of the Ark’s hull is flat and there is a small window in the gable. The rear wall is blind, with angles at both the E and W ends to allow clockwise circulation of patrons around the deck. The ground-floor wall is of the same white, rocky appearance as the roof, and blind save for maintenance access doors*; more animal sculptures* are mounted above. Below the roof the W wall* is also plain with customer doors*. The prow of the Ark is the same as its stern, but the superstructure has a very shallow lean-to glazed wheelhouse, in which stands an animated sailor*.

INTERIOR: the interior is heavily partitioned to create long winding passageways, leading downwards via different levels, with the walking pattern varying according to the installation. Various gags* are encountered along the way, such as moving floors, blowing air, soft floors and narrow entrance ways; these are enhanced during operation by sound-and-lighting fixtures*, as the interior is dark. The internal structure of the Ark is exposed and at various points the iron tie-rods that link the Ark to its rocking mechanism are also visible. At the lower levels beneath the boat, the corridors are of breeze-block construction*. The central rocking mechanism is on display behind large windows within the entrance lobby to the park, whose own interior* is devoid of historic features. The mechanism comprises several jointed timber beams mounted on structural steelwork and linked by iron tie-rods to the Ark. It is powered by an electric motor which turns a belt drive, which is geared via a chain drive to a crank which imparts the rocking motion.

* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the aforementioned items are not of special architectural or historic interest.

Sources

Books and journals
Bennett, Peter, Blackpool Pleasure Beach - A Century of Fun, (1996), 42-3
Brodie, Allan, Whitfield, Matthew, Blackpool's Seaside Heritage, (2014), 82-9
Walton, John K, Riding on Rainbows, (2007), 47-8
Other
Assessment by Prof V Toulmin, 2016

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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