Interactive map: What Blackpool Tower Ballroom, Colin Firth, Arley Hall, Media City and the Beatles have in common and why they are key to BBC history as it marks centenary

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The historic Blackpool Tower Ballroom has marked its place in broadcasting history by featuring on the BBC’s interactive map to mark its centenary year – thanks largely to Strictly Come Dancing.

The online map, launched today (October 13) specially for the centenary, offers insight into the sites across the North West that are key to the 100-year history of the BBC – and Blackpool Tower Ballroom is in good company.

It includes iconic BBC studios, famous filming locations, key technology sites, and places linked to people who have shaped the BBC, from the filming locations of TV favourites such as Pride and Prejudice and Life on Mars to Carla Lane’s Bread and the North West’s BBC Playhouse in Hulme, the location of The Beatles’ first BBC radio recording in 1962.

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Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom originally opened as a smaller pavilion in August 1894. The one you can see today was designed by Frank Matcham, who also designed Blackpool’s Grand Theatre, and opened in 1899. In 1971 the Ballroom was listed as a Grade I building, together with the Tower’s circus and Roof Garden.

Filming Strictly Come Dancing at the Tower Ballroom in 2004Filming Strictly Come Dancing at the Tower Ballroom in 2004
Filming Strictly Come Dancing at the Tower Ballroom in 2004

But it’s not had an easy ride through history as in December 1956, the Ballroom was badly damaged by fire, during which the dance floor was destroyed, along with the restaurant below. It took two years and £500,000 to restore the Ballroom to its former glory.

The venue’s first Wurlitzer organ was installed in 1929, later being replaced by a new one in 1935. The Wurlitzer features 14 ranks, giving it a rich and vibrant sound.

The BBC series Come Dancing - aired on and off between 1950 and 1998 - was broadcast from the Tower Ballroom.and featured professional dancers competing against each other.It’s reinvention as Strictly Come Dancing relaunched in 2004 has seen the ballroom introduced to new generations.

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Filming Strictly Come Dancing at the Tower Ballroom in 2004Filming Strictly Come Dancing at the Tower Ballroom in 2004
Filming Strictly Come Dancing at the Tower Ballroom in 2004

Now Strictly Come Dancing which will return to film this year after a break during the Covid pandemic.

The show will see celebrities and their professional partners twirling around the Ballroom floor, which measures 120 feet by 102 feet and is huge even by today’s standards.

The unique sprung dance floor is made up of 30,602 separate blocks of mahogany, oak and walnut and is overlooked by over 30,000 separate blocks for spectators.

Many Strictly contestant aims to get to what is know as ‘Blackpool week’ as a minimum milestone on their Strictly journey.

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Colin Firth, Pride and PrejudiceColin Firth, Pride and Prejudice
Colin Firth, Pride and Prejudice

High above the ballroom stage, an inscription reads: “Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear”, which is from a sonnet by Shakespeare.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “This is a great opportunity to discover the influential BBC buildings and places on your doorstep. In 100 years, the BBC invented and then transformed the broadcast landscape; keeping us up to date with the latest news and making us laugh and cry with their comedy and drama programmes. It’s fascinating to see how, all over the UK, the history of the BBC exists in our historic buildings and sites.”

Heritage Minister Lord Kamall said: “From the world's first radio factory in Chelmsford to the Strictly Come Dancing Ballroom in Blackpool, the BBC has played a central role in broadcasting and our national life over the past 100 years. It's brilliant to see the many locations that played a role in the BBC's heritage recognised and celebrated on this map, while helping people learn more about their local history."

Robert Seatter, Head of BBC History, said: “In our centenary year, we are delighted to be working with national historic partners to explore the BBC’s presence right across the UK, from Poldark at Charlestown Harbour in Cornwall to DI Perez’s house in Lerwick, Shetland. Along with popular TV locations, we showcase our BBC buildings and engineering centres that have become landmarks on and off screen, entering directly into the nation’s living rooms and connecting us with the wider world.”

The Tower Ballroom (BBC Historic Archive)The Tower Ballroom (BBC Historic Archive)
The Tower Ballroom (BBC Historic Archive)

Key places of interest in the North West include:


Blackpool Tower Ballroom, Blackpool, Grade I listed.

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The stunning Blackpool Tower Ballroom is the live venue for one of the BBC’s most popular entertainment shows, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’


Arley Hall, Cheshire. Grade II* listed.

Media City, Salford, from the airMedia City, Salford, from the air
Media City, Salford, from the air

Arley Hall, with its striking red and black brickwork, is Tommy Shelby’s house in hit BBC TV drama ‘Peaky Blinders’.

Lyme Park, Cheshire Grade I listed.

Lyme Park was Mr Darcy’s house ‘Pemberley’ in the classic 1995 BBC TV adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, staring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.


Longsleddale, Cumbria. World Heritage Site.

Beautiful Longsleddale is the inspiration for Greendale, the valley where ‘Postman Pat’ delivers letters with Jess, his black and white cat.


Media City, Salford Quays

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BBC Radio 5 Live, CBBC/CBeebies, BBC Sport, BBC Breakfast and other leading teams and shows have been based at MediaCityUK since 2011.

BBC Playhouse, Hulme. Grade II listed.

The Playhouse, a BBC studio from 1955 to 1987, was the location of The Beatles’ first BBC radio recording in 1962.

Charter Street Mission, Manchester. Grade II listed.

The Charter Street Mission featured in cult BBC TV drama ‘Life on Mars’ along with other scenes around Manchester.


The schooner ‘Kathleen and May’

Britain’s last working three-mast, wooden hulled, topsail schooner, the ‘Kathleen and May’ features in the BBC drama ‘The Onedin Line’.

Elswick Street, Dingle

Elswick Street, Dingle, was home to the Boswell family in the popular BBC sit-com ‘Bread’, written by Carla Lane.