New Brighton Tower was a steel lattice observation tower at New Brighton in the town of Wallasey, Cheshire (now in the Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside), England. It stood 567 feet (173 m) high, and was the tallest building in Great Britain when it opened some time between 1898 and 1900. Neglected during the First World War and requiring renovation the owners could not afford, dismantling of the tower began in 1919, and the metal was sold for scrap. The building at its base, housing the Tower Ballroom, continued in use until damaged by fire in 1969.
The tower was set in large grounds, which included a boating lake, a funfair, gardens, and a sports ground. The sports ground housed, at different times, a football team, an athletics track and a motorcycle speedway track. The Beatles played at the Tower Ballroom 27 times, more than at any other venue in the United Kingdom except the Cavern Club in nearby Liverpool.
The company Maxwell and Tuke, who had designed Blackpool Tower buildings and Southport Winter Gardens, was responsible for overseeing and supervising the project, despite the deaths in 1893 of the company founders, James Maxwell and William Charles Tuke. The excavations and laying of the foundations for the tower were contracted to William Clapham of Stockport. The primary contractor for the tower was Andrew Handyside and Company, based in Derby.
The ground breaking happened on 22 June 1896, before the formation of the new company, completion of land purchase and announcement of contracts on 26 July 1896. The construction of the steel lattice tower started in July 1897 and was completed some time between 1898 and 1900, 10 years after the Blackpool Tower had been finished. The grounds were opened before then for a short period in 1897 however. New Brighton Tower was the tallest building in England, standing 567 feet (173 m) tall, and 621 feet (189 m) above sea-level. A total of 1000 tons (1,016,047 kg) of mild or low-carbon steel was used, at a cost of £120,000, in contrast to the earlier Blackpool and Eiffel towers, both constructed using wrought iron. The building below the New Brighton Tower, which was to contain the ballroom, was constructed by Peters and Sons of Rochdale. It was a four-storey red-brick building with arched windows and hexagonal, copper-domed turrets.
A series of accidents during the tower’s construction resulted in the deaths of six workmen and serious injury to another. Two of the men, Jonathan Richardson and Alexander Stewart, were killed when a crane hook snapped and a girder fell and hit the scaffold platform on which they were standing, causing them to fall to the ground. A third man, John Daly, suffered serious injuries. The other four were killed in separate incidents by falling off the tower structure. A fire on the tower at 172 feet (52 m) in 1898 resulted in the death of a fire-fighter from the New Brighton Fire Brigade. He fell 90 feet (27 m) while walking along a beam 6-inch (150 mm) wide to try and extinguish the flames.
The tower was closed in 1914 following the outbreak of the First World War, for the duration of which the steel structure was not maintained and consequently became rusty. During the war the government made unsuccessful attempts to buy the tower for its metal. Controversy still surrounds the decision to dismantle the tower after the war ended; some still believe the structure was safe and could have been repaired. Demolition began in 1919 and by 1921 only the ballroom remained. The metal was sold to scrap dealers.
On 5 April 1969 the ballroom was destroyed by fire, the cause of which is unknown. In place of the tower’s grounds, including the athletics ground and stadium, a new housing estate was built, River View Park, which has a community football pitch and swing park.
In 1997 Wirral Council made an unsuccessful bid for Millennium funding to build a new tower in New Brighton.