Strictly Blackpool tragedies – circus act death, drowning and scaffolding fall

The Blackpool Tower is one of the most famous and easily recognised landmarks in the UK.

But one of its most notable features includes the stunning ballroom, which has become a landmark host of Strictly Come Dancing ’s BBC show.

The Victorian room features beautiful oak, mahogany and walnut wood floors and makes for a perfect setting for the show.

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The ballroom has hosted many fabulous affairs, including Take That concerts and even popped up in the background of the music video to Here With Me by The Killers.

But despite its many accolades, the famous ballroom has suffered several tragedies.

As the latest set of dancers of Strictly dancers get set to waltz across the famous floors, let’s take a look at some of the ballroom’s biggest tragedies throughout history

Wheel of Death

The famous tower is known for its amazing and long-standing circus performance.

But one act in particular, dubbed, the wheel of death, made headline when a performer sadly dies after plunging from the apparatus.

In 1994 Neville Campbell, 20, died after landing on his head during the act.

A spokesperson for Blackpool Shows and Attractions said of the incident, which continues to this day: “The Wheel Of Death is a very common circus act currently being performed at many UK touring circuses and indeed all over the world.

“It is a calculated risk and thankfully accidents are very rare. That said these fearless performers spend many years training to do these acts and live for the adrenalin and entertainment of the public.

Earlier this year an acrobat plunged to the floor in front of horrified families after falling on stage during the wheel of death.

Paramedics and community first responders rushed to the scene following the incident, with the performer thankfully only suffering minor injuries.

Deadly Drowning

It’s been 106 years since one of Blackpool's well known and quirkiest characters passed away back in 1915, at the age of 65.

James Walmsley was manager of the Blackpool Tower Aquarium, Menagerie and Aviary, and was a dedicated animal lover.

Jim had many unusual beliefs including his daily practise of taking a sip from a cupful of water from his tanks to benefit from its "medicinal properties".

One morning after disappearing, Jim was discovered with no boots, hat or coat in the filter beds below the aquarium tanks in the basement of Blackpool Tower and had drowned in 3’ 4½” of water.

The Coroner was troubled by the fact that a 5' 6" man, who was compos mentis, should not be able to climb out of water so shallow.

There had been some questions around whether Jim had intended to kill himself in this way however it was quickly ruled out by a jury after a short consultation who ruled a verdict of accidental drowning.

Mauled by Lion

in 1905 a man called William Livesey, an employee of the Tower Company, was found mauled and partially eaten by a Tower bred lioness.

Tower manager James Walmsley was called to give evidence at the man's inquest in which he stated that Livesey "had absolutely no right to be in the lions’ den."

A verdict of accidental death was ruled and although the man had been drinking in the Dunes pub that evening he was apparently far from drunk.

It's believed that Livesey may have been showing off as there were several metal gates which were opened to get into the lion's den so he very much intended to be there, thought that has never been confirmed.

It’s also said that the Albert and the Lion poem by Marriott Edgar was inspired by this story.

Scaffolding Fall

Constructed in 1893, the famous tower suffered a tragedy during its construction when a builder plunged from the scaffolding to his death.

On the 13th July of the same year, builder William Campbell was working on the tower when lost his grip and fell from his post, dying as a result of the fall.

Completion of the actual Tower itself was marked when the flagpole was lifted into position, however, the buildings weren’t finished until the following year.

There was no formal opening ceremony for this important milestone in the history of The Blackpool Tower.

But an estimated 70,000 customers paid their 6 pence, and entered to a grand concert in the Elevator Hall. Another 6 pence got them up the Tower.

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