Throughout the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, Blackpool was a coastal hamlet in Lancashire's Hundred of Amounderness, and remained such until the mid-18th century when it became fashionable in England to travel to the coast in the summer to improve well-being. In 1781, visitors attracted to Blackpool's 7-mile (11 km) sandy beach were able to use a new private road, built by Thomas Clifton and Sir Henry Hoghton. Stagecoaches began running to Blackpool from Manchester in the same year, and from Halifax in 1782. In the early 19th century, Henry Banks and his son-in-law John Cocker erected new buildings in Blackpool such that its population grew from less than 500 in 1801 to over 2,500 in 1851. St John's Church in Blackpool was consecrated in 1821.
Blackpool rose to prominence and as a major centre of tourism in England when a railway was built in the 1840s connecting it to the industrialised regions of Northern England. The railway made it much easier and cheaper for visitors to reach Blackpool, triggering an influx of settlers, such that in 1876 Blackpool was incorporated as a borough, governed by its own town council and aldermen. In 1881, Blackpool was a booming resort with a population of 14,000 and a promenade complete with piers, fortune-tellers, public houses, trams, donkey rides, fish-and-chip shops and theatres. By 1901 the population of Blackpool was 47,000, by which time its place was cemented as "the archetypal British seaside resort". By 1951 it had grown to 147,000.
Shifts in tastes, combined with opportunities for Britons to travel overseas, affected Blackpool's status as a leading resort in the late 20th century. Nevertheless, Blackpool's urban fabric and economy remains relatively undiversified, and firmly rooted in the tourism sector, and the borough's seafront continues to attract millions of visitors every year. In addition to its sandy beaches, Blackpool's major attractions and landmarks include Blackpool Tower, Blackpool Illuminations, the Pleasure Beach, Blackpool Zoo, Sandcastle Water Park, the Winter Gardens, and the UK's only surviving first-generation tramway.
Blackpool gets its name from a historic drainage channel (possibly Spen Dyke) that ran over a peat bog, discharging discoloured water into the Irish Sea, which formed a black pool (on the other side of the sea, "Dublin" (Dubh Linn) is derived from the Irish for "black pool"). Another explanation is that the local dialect for stream was "pul" or "poole", hence "Black poole".
People originating from Blackpool are called Blackpudlians although Sandgrownians or Sandgrown'uns is sometimes used (as too for persons originating from Morecambe and Southport) or Seasiders (although this is more commonly associated with Blackpool F.C.).