Mystery Bullet in Bispham Tragedy!

A bright, early August day in 1944, whilst walking in Norcliffe Road, approaching Red Bank Road, Bispham,a Preston man, his wife and daughter experienced what can only be described as a one in a million happening. A strange ‘thudding’ sound and a sudden cry from Mrs Hannah Haworth, ‘Something has hit me!’. The couple were visitors and enjoying an early walk. Mrs Haworth collapsed into the arms of her husband. A local man, Mr J Blackburn rushed to help, noticing she was bleeding profusely from her left shoulder. Two others came to help. They carried her into a house on Red Bank Road.  An ambulance was called, and she was taken immediately to Victoria Hospital, where she died later that night.

Initial Police enquiries revealed little of what happened. Mr Haworth and his daughter confirmed they had felt ‘Something flash by them’ but didn’t know what. Police were quickly on the scene with a suspicion that a firearm had been used in the neighbourhood. House to house enquiries and searches revealed nothing of a firearm. Two days later a Post-mortem was held and confirmed that Mrs Haworth (55) had died from a gun-shot wound, a bullet was recovered. Analysis of the ‘303’ bullet confirmed it as being fired by a Machine Gun.

With enquiries into the mystery continuing, the Inquest into Mrs Haworth’s death was adjourned.

When the Inquest resumed, witnesses recounted aircraft activity above Bispham. A 13-year-old boy told of hearing Machine gun fire, one plane was chasing another, which was towing a target. Both were flying towards the sea. Police recorded that a similar bullet had been found at a house in Bispham, another resident had reported a bullet hole in her Bathroom. A further bullet was found behind the Tower Circus, Bank Hey Street.

The Coroner concluded the bullet that killed Mrs Haworth was fired from one of the aircraft and declared a verdict of ‘Death by misadventure’. In doing so, he said that the bullet had not been fired deliberately and that the death was an ‘Appalling tragedy’, causing great grief and distress to the family. He went on to thank the Police and Staff at the hospital.

April 2023


‘Believed shot while walking: Mystery of Bispham Tragedy’, Blackpool Gazette, 10 Aug 1944

‘Woman hit by bullet: Blackpool inquest adjourned’, Blackpool Gazette, 11Aug 1944

‘Bullet from aeroplane killed Bispham woman visitor, Blackpool Gazette, 11 Aug 1944.

‘WOMAN SHOT DEAD ON HOLIDAY WALK AS PLANES FLEW OVERHEAD’ Daily Mirror, 11 Aug 1944 (British Newspaper Archive)

‘Bispham Bullet Mystery Solved: Obvious came from plane’ Blackpool Gazette, 26 Aug 1944.

Lions in Blackpool!

Blackpool has celebrated its Lions for over a hundred years.In years gone by at the Tower Circus and more recently at Blackpool Zoo, where they recently celebrated their 50th anniversary.

A stroll round the British Newspaper Archive unearthed a number of reports of injuries to and by Lions at Blackpool!

08 July 1897:  Voltran, who was engaged at the Tower with a group of performing Lions, manged to retrieve a large piece of meat from the throat of one of the Lions that was found choking, following a rehearsal at the Tower Circus. Sadly, the Lion did not survive its ordeal and died within a few minutes of being found. Voltran was ‘well-nigh inconsolable’.

30 September 1898:  Following the closing of the season, a few days earlier, a group pf Lions were allowed in to the railed off Circus Ring for exercise. Working close by was an unnamed joiner who leant against the rails and was promptly grabbed by one of the lions first by the arm, then by the neck and face. The Newspaper reports that the man had to have his coat cut away during the rescue!

16 October 1906:  A man was charged with cruelty to a horse that had been acquired for food for the lions at Blackpool Tower. The man, Obadiah Barnes was fined 5 shillings plus costs at Preston Magistrates.

19 August 1905:  The body William Livesey was found in a Lion’s den ‘in a horribly clawed and mutilated condition’, inside a den at the Tower Menagerie. Livesey was a Carter at the Blackpool Tower Company Stockyard in South Shore. The body was discovered by Robert Bonney, a Butcher/Slaughterman employed by the Tower Company, of Hawes Side Lane, South Shore. Edward Eaves who was with Livesey, said he was drunk when he went into the den. This story may be the basis of the story of ‘Albert and the Lion’, the famous Stanley Holloway monologue. And the name of Wetherspoons pub on Central Prom

24 July 1933:  Joseph Lesley Hatch, (30) of Meyler Ave, Blackpool suffered injuries to face and Legs and body, whilst ‘leading the animal back to its Cage’ after a ‘Wild Animal Exhibition’ on the Promenade. His cries for help were heard and other Attendants managed to rescue him.

16 June 1941:  James Turpin, (66) of South Shore, was injured by a Lion called ‘Hurricane’. The Lion grabbed the Attendant by the arm, through the bars of the cage. Another Attendant beat off the Lion with an iron bar!

March 2023

Cleveleys Beach Safety: Past tragedy & controversy

A stroll on the main path at Layton Cemetery, a family grave stone displays the names of a family, prompting an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the loss of three children in 1926. However, the story begins earlier.

27 July 1921: Two Haslam brothers, James (16) and Richard (14) of Irlam o’th Heights, Manchester were drowned, while spectators looked on. The boys were on holiday, staying with Mrs Rimmer at Smith Road, Cleveleys. Folk on the beach thought the boys were enjoying themselves and the screams for help were ignored.  A friend, Arthur Scarlet (16), managed to reach the shore and raise the alarm. A boatman set out to help but was unable to find the boys. Five ours later the bodies were found on the beach as the tide receded. Two years earlier a man and woman were drowned at Cleveleys.

At the boys’ Inquest, the Coroner was advised that ‘there had been many fatalities on that part of the coast, and that the council had placed notices and three Lifebelts in the area, in addition they had made it a condition of Boatman’s Licences that they should render assistance’. He recommended that a boat patrol available between certain hours and a notice to that effect. A verdict of Accidental Drowning was returned.

At the height of the season in 1926 a tragedy struck a Cleveleys family that would shake the community and influence Lifeguard services on the Fylde coast to the present day. It serves too, as just one example of the many tragedies associated with Blackpool and The Fylde beaches. This case is doubly tragic for the families involved. One wonders how such tragedies might be dealt with today with the panoply of safety and safeguarding legislation.

The Diggle Family Tragedy

The trio were seen bathing, but the tragedy was not discovered until sometime later, when the bodies were found near the water’s edge..

Harris had been staying with the Diggles, his cousins, at their house in Windsor Bank, Victoria Road, Thornton, and was due to return to his home in Heywood a few days later Ellen and Hilda Diggle were respectively oldest and youngest of the four daughters of Mr. and Mrs. John Diggle of Thornton, a couple of miles from the spot where the drowning occurred. Hilda attended Fleetwood Secondary School, whilst Ellen was a popular member of the Thornton Tennis Club. James Harris, whose parents keep a hairdresser’s shop at Heywood, Lancs, was the nephew of Mr. and Mrs. Diggle.

The Diggle Family Grave at Layton Cemetery

He and his two cousins had swum in the sea several times during his visit, usually at a place west of Beach Road, where hundreds of people took advantage of the warm sunshine. Nothing seemed amiss until the two girls’ bodies were seen floating near the edge of the water, half an hour after they had gone into the water. There were attempts to revive the girls, by artificial respiration, until the arrival of Dr. A. H. Penistan, when he declared both dead who continued the operations for another half hour, when he pronounced life to be extinct. The bodies were then removed to the mortuary, not far from girls’ home. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Diggle were aware of the tragedy until the bodies had been removed to the mortuary, when they were informed by the police.

Unknown to bystanders, it wasn’t known that Harris was missing. An hour later his body also was washed up on to the beach and subsequently taken to the Mortuary. The parents were unaware of the deaths until Police informed them at that time.

When the two girls were found, the Pierrots performing on the beach suspended their concert and the audience (some of them in tears) started singing the National Anthem and then dispersed.

The Inquest

Four bathers lost their lives on the Fylde coast on the same afternoon. The three cousins were drowned at Cleveleys, and a boy visitor, at South Shore. He was found to be dead on arrival at Victoria Hospital.

In returning a verdict on all four casualties of ‘Accidental drowning’, the Coroner, Col. H. Parker, expressed his strong opinion that the protection for bathers there was inadequate. Stating “I shall write to the Urban District Council, giving my views’. The Formby Times of 26/08/1933 carried the headlineBLACKPOOL TRAGEDY: CORONER CRITICISES BEACH PATROL

Reports in newspapers of the time included transcripts of the Coroner’s questioning of key witnesses and Officials, among them Benjamin Booth, in charge of the Bathing machines on the beach. He told the Coroner that it was 3 o’clock in afternoon when the two girls and the youth ordered the two vans. He had seen anything more of them, until he had heard that the bodies had been ‘washed up’. He went on to say that the police arrived later to claim the clothing.  

The Coroner questioned all regarding features of danger on the beach and the facilities available for saving life. He referred to the drowning of the boys in 1921, and what lessons had been learned. He questioned the Police about Beach Patrols. The Constable was unable to comment or describe facilities available, within easy reach for lifesaving.

Turning his attention to Mr Booth, ‘There is no watch kept on the bathers as far as you are concerned. You consider it is no part of your business to watch them when they have the use of your vans?’ Are there any other van men besides you?’. ‘No. I’m the only one’.So, only you there and one Patrol Inspector?’. ‘Yes.’

The Beach Inspector

Mr Pearson, Beach Inspector, employed by the Thornton Urban District Council, explained the sequence of events. The first he heard of the tragedy was when it was reported to him that the two girls had been found floating in the sea. He telephoned for the Doctor and Ambulance. At five o’clock the same afternoon it was reported that the dead body of a man had been found.

The  Coroner then put the Beach Inspector through a grilling, with questions about his duties generally and in an emergency; his experience and qualifications (or lack of them); The help he had available (or lack of it); Lifeboat and Lifebelt provision (or lack of them) and Notices and restricted areas (or lack of them). By the end, the Coroner had a very clear impression of the shortcomings of the Beach Patrol system at Cleveleys and beyond! He was scathing in criticism of the Council’s Beach Safety provision. Declaring that he would be making several ‘recommendations’ to the Council. These would include, at the very least:

  • Two Lifesaving qualified Patrols, covering no more than 100 yards of beach.
  • A Boatman, on the water during Bathing periods
  • Bathing areas named and times restricted.

He went on to say, ‘I hope they will do a little more than has been done up to the present!’

In the following days the nations newspapers provided detailed accounts of the funeral of, and the Memorial Service for the cousins, both attended by large crowds, including holiday makers who were present at the tragedy and those taken up in the groundswell of sympathy in the community. Reports described the 90+ wreaths and dedications.

Local officials are quoted as blaming bathers for reckless and foolhardy behaviour on the beach and in the sea. Possible complacency was reflected a few years later in the Fleetwood Chronicle of 14/08/1931, reporting Mr. A. Cottam, Clerk to the Fleetwood Council saying, ‘Fleetwood is happy in the possession of a beach that has an almost perfect surface, … There has been no bathing tragedy here for the last ten years’.

A few years later in 1933, following another triple drowning at South Shore, Lancashire Evening Post reported The District Coroner, Colonel Parker saying, ‘I’m mad about this.’ he declared. ‘These lives should never have been lost.’ And ‘If there are only nine Patrolmen for five miles of shore it is inadequate’.

On the following day, Col Parker is quoted in the LEP as saying to the Deputy Blackpool Town Clerk ‘I want to wake you up – I want to wake you all up!’. He was still fighting for improvements in Beach Safety for the 5 miles of Blackpool coast, although the headlines stated, ‘Blackpool Beach Safety Plans: New system of Patrols?’ and the LEP congratulated Col Parker ‘…in taking such a deep interest in the safety of the Blackpool coast’.


I’ve been unable to find out how the Coroner’s recommendations were received and acted upon, by Thornton UDC. However, a review of Council General Purposes Committee Minutes of Thornton URDC, there is no mention in wider Council Minutes or Annual Reports, referring to safety on the Foreshore, only a 1929 advert for a Beach Inspector and ‘Foreshore Attendants’.

I’ve written about the origins and history of Lifesaving and Lifeboats, as have many others. However, the safety, supervision, and if necessary, rescue of bathers on the Fylde’s beaches gets scant coverage.  Modern efforts of education, communication and reporting have changed to accommodate the popularity of sea bathing and a more sophisticated population. Unfortunately, lessons are not learned. In 2015 there were 289 serious incidents for the Blackpool Beach Patrol, alone.

The current Wyre Beach Patrol in Cleveleys is operated by Fylde Coast YMCA, with qualified Beach Lifeguards 3 at Cleveleys and 2 at Fleetwood.

Annexe ‘A’ details the record minutes relating to safety on the Foreshore.

Annexe ‘B’ provides the catalogue of incidents in Cleveleys reported in newspapers, collected from the British Newspaper Archive.

Jan 2023

Sources & Acknowledgements

Richard Williams, Manager, Blackpool Beach Patrol
Liverpool Echo, 16/08/1926
Manchester Evening News – Wednesday 18/07/ 1926
Fleetwood Chronicle, Fylde News & Advertiser, 20/08/1926
The Formby Times, 26/08/1933, p4
Lancashire Evening Post,  25 & 26/08/1933, p6.
BNA. British Newspaper Archive Search

Opportunity for further research

BYELAWS: Thornton Cleveleys: Promenade and seashore. National Archive at Kew. Ref: HO 45/16990

Annexe ‘A’
Casualties at Cleveleys, 1903 – 1936 (Press Extracts via BNA)

18/03/1903Ethel Warburton
06/07/1903Minnie Warburton – Body Found
07/07/1903Inquest on Minnie Warburton. Coroner thought precautions should have been taken by the Local Authority to render impossible any such fatalities. Recommend that Thornton Council to indicate dangerous places.
10/07/1903‘Council Bye-Laws prohibiting bathing, save from Vans, had not yet been confirmed by Local Government Board.’ UDC Meeting 09/07/1903
11/07/1903Norah Lord – Reported regular Police Beach Patrols
09/06/1905Harry Gilbert of Stoke
22/06/1905Harry Gilbert Inquest
21/07/1911Christopher Cameron (22) of Aspatria, Cumbria
26/09/1911Artificial Respiration saves lives. Coroner: The least the authority could do would be to provide lifebuoys about the place.’
03/09/1914Boating disaster: Mr Ashton, 3 Children, Miss Smith, Herbert Wilcock (11) and the Boatman Mr Croft
19/07/1919Kathleen Seely, Robert Nelthorpe, George Johnson
29/07/1921James and Richard Hallam (14) of Manchester.
21/10/1921Beach Inspector James Simpson reported he spoke to the defendant regarding carrying 325 passengers on pleasure boat, without a licence.
04/07/1924Robert Shuttleworth (44)
18/02/1927Proposals for a Bathers Patrol Boat; Limited times for Bathing; Provision of Bathing tents.
22/06/1928Council recommended appointment of Major JD Grubb Beach Inspector at £3.10s weekly.
03/08/1928Florence Thomas of Cleveleys – Bathing during unpermitted hours. 2 notices re bathing HOURS. Coroner ‘If people will contravene these regulations, they do so at their own risk.’
19/09/1930Thanks to the Beach Patrol for saving the life of Joseph Pownall
26/06/1931Rescue by Mr Tom Bamber Beach Inspector at Cleveleys.
14/08/1931Fylde Coast Safest in the Country.
16/08/19333 Drowned in Blackpool: Mary Ashton 35, Joan Wilding 13, Stanley Thompson 21.
20/07/1934Record appreciation to the Beach Patrol
17/04/1936Call for volunteers
08/05/1936Annie Rigby murdered children by drowning, June Cissy Rigby  (3)and Eric Eastwood Rigby (4m)
07/07/1936Reported – Thornton Cleveleys Lifeguards Club – ‘Beach was first patrolled 2 yrs before, in return for free use of council cubicles.’ Suggested creating a ‘Women’s Corps’
28/08/1936Reported Mr S Groves supervised the beach from Cleveleys to Squires Gate. Thornton Cleveleys Lifeguard Club/Beach Patrol on duty from 7 until last tide out.’ 20,000 bathers without incident.
30/08/1936Johnstone, drowned retrieving Golf balls

Annexe ‘B’
Extracted Minutes of
Council General Purposes Committee Minutes of Thornton URDC. 1907 – 1923 (Records held at Lancs Archive)

19/07/1907Tenders Rec’d for supply of 2 lifebuoys  
  14/05/1908Foreshore Sub-Committee formed to oversee Activities on the Foreshore
01/12/1910Foreshore prepared a scheme for improvements to shelters and Conveniences. Mr Diggle proposed area from Southern Boundary to Beach Road, at a cost of £15,000.
01/06/1911Permission sought to drilling of Boy Scouts in Fire Brigade work
12/04/1912The Town Clerk to write to Mr Croft, thanking him for his efforts in Lifesaving on the Shore at Cleveleys, expressing hope ‘that he will keep observations as hitherto’.
31/05/1912Letter from the White Star Line acknowledging the resolution of sympathy in the disaster to Titanic.
01/08/1912Police Sgt to give instruction of Lifesaving apparatus.
12/11/1914Requests received regarding billeting of Troops
14/01/1915Informed that there was no probability of Troops being billeted in Cleveleys.
09/05/19183 Lifebuoys to be purchased and that the area for bathing be restricted.
12/12/1918Proposal Rec’d for a Roll of Honour for the town.
20/02/1919Price of Manure set at 10/- per ton, by .12/02/1920 to 12/6
11/08/1921Ref 30/07/1921, from Coroner re the fatality of 27/07/1921 and making recommendations. A sub-committee to consider and report.
08/06/1922Sub-committee reported arrangements for Patrolling of the Beach at Cleveleys for the protection of Bathers. Approved.
10/05/1923Continuation of arrangements for Patrolling of the Foreshore.

Shrimping from St. Annes

By Gilbert Ian Mayes

I was born in November 1936 at 6 Edward Street, St. Anne’s-on-the-Sea.  At 34 St.Patrick’s Road South lived the Harrison family, Robert Harrison, his wife Mary and four children.  The Harrisons were originally from Marton and were fishermen, keeping their boats in North Hollow inside Crusader Bank, just this side of Squires Gate.  From the arrival of the Mayes and Tims families to the embryo township in 1875/6 the three families had worked together when fishing was slack and the need to earn some money to support their families, on such projects as the gas works and the building of the Parish Church.

From 1939 my father was away in WW2 in the Royal Navy, in minesweepers for the entire war and demobbed in 1946.  Robert Harrison, known to all the children of the area as “Uncle Bob” became in a way a surrogate father for those war years, and when not at school I spent a lot of the time with him, both shrimping, cockling and caring for livestock.  My earliest recollection of this relationship was going with him by bus to Skippool in 1943 to buy a boat – BOBBY (FD157) a 19ft motor boat (I have the registration document).  At that stage he was still cart shanking with a flat cart and a small pony – Peggy, which meant that he had to wade in the water alongside her as she towed the nets.  BOBBY was not a success; she was kept on a mooring off Church Scar, just up from the Navigation Barge and having to cycle from St. Anne’s to Lytham and back with the catch was too much.

Towards the end of the war, Uncle Bob bought a horse from Midgeland Road, Marton – Dolly, which had previously been a landau horse in Blackpool, and with a cart started to shrimp in the Southport style.  The ability to get on to the sands easily and more importantly get back quickly to boil the catch (as you know shrimps have to be boiled whilst still alive) meant better returns per tide.

The horse was stabled behind St.Anne’s Road East, on ground on the north side to the west of Clarendon Road.  The stable was a homemade affair on about three acres of ground rented from the St. Anne’ Land & Building Co and also had ducks, hens and later pigs.  It was known as ‘The Pen”

I ‘helped’ Uncle Bob from about 1943 to 1953 when I joined the Royal Navy. My role was mainly fetching and carrying but when I was about nine I would undertake weekend tasks, cleaning out the stable, riding the horse to the smithy (Neville Sanderson at the railway end of Sandhurst Avenue) for shoeing once a month (£1 to shoe all round), delivering shrimps for ‘shilling’ (picking) to the girls who did this work for him (the family also did the shilling, Uncle Bob, Mary his wife and Sheila his younger daughter). I would also pick up the shrimps and the ‘sloughs’ (shells) and bring them back to St. Patrick’s Road for scalding and laying out on the marble slab. Later when I was at King Edward’s I would take shrimps to Talbot’s in the Square by bike and to Blackpool by bus to a shop on Talbot Road.

Daily routine was dictated by tides, fishing being possible about two hours before low water and up to an hour after.  Weather also played an important part and could make a big difference to the time spent on the sands.  At about four to five hours to low water we would go to the pen.  Feed the horse while we prepared the cart, cleaned out and when she had finished give her a bucket of water and harness up, take her out, back her to the cart and we would be off.  Fishing was seasonal and in the summer it was the North Road (North Run) a mile and a bit across what had been Salthouse Bank (Salt’ouse corrupted to Salters).  On arrival the two ten foot shank trawls would be laid out on the sand the boomer connected across the front of the cart and the two trawl warps connected through the eyes at the end of the boomer to the trawls.  We would get back in the cart and with the command ‘walk on’ the horse would go forward into the water.  The horse would be turned so as to run parallel to the bank and at a depth up to the shafts, more or less depending on the weather, the tow would commence.  Unlike the Southport boats who hauled on the move, we always came out onto the bank to empty the cod end into the withy basket, which was placed back in the cart, the nets reset and the whole process repeated. While trawling the catch would be riddled roughly to get rid of most of the unwanted fish – stingers, crabs. star fish etc.  The duration would depend on the catch and once the tide really started to make we would leave for home.  This is where the horse’s previous experience as a cab horse came in; she could trot at speed.

At home Mrs Harrison (as she was always known) would have the electric boiler on and immediately the catch would be riddled again to get any ‘stingers’ (weaver fish), small crabs, etc that we had missed on the first riddle.  When completed the catch would be laid out to cool, all the while the horse had stood patiently outside on the road.  We would take her back to the pen, feed her, rub her down and I would either turn her out or take her along the back of St. Anne’s Road East to some ground that was rented behind the Memorial Hospital and I would walk back to the pen and pick up my bike.

If it had been a good catch I would take the carrier bike with boiled shrimps out to the shillers, one girl, a Lytham lass, I remember lived in Newton Road.  I would then return and help tidy up and depending on the time of day the table would be set up for shilling.

A shank trawl as made and used by ‘Uncle Bob’ Harrison.  He was at the autumn fishery off Harrowside.  Note that the cart tows the nets from a boomer which is the same way that the St. Annes boats (and some Lythamers) spread their nets under sail.  The cart fitted out very much like the boat. He would fill at least those two baskets with shrimps and probably on a good day the third one.  Then the race home to the boiler.  (The cart was made in 1946 at Preston)

Oct 2021

Fishing Boats owned by the Melling Family of St Anne’s


(Vessel identification assisted by Maurice P. Evans, Heswall & Nick P. Miller, Barrow)
Dates in brackets indicate the approximate period in the St. Annes fleet


The Melling family of St Annes, my ancestors, were Fishermen and later Fishmongers in the town. What follows is a detailed, almost forensic analysis of the fortunes and boats owned by the Melling Family. Whilst the Melling’s are its main focus, the work includes the history of St Annes, it’s fishing families, it’s fishing fleet and Geographic’s of local fishing grounds. It is reproduced here by kind permission of its main author, Gilbert Ian Mayes who produced the work in 2002. I have also included extracts of correspondence between him and me which sheds more light on the Melling’s fishing boats. Also included at Annexe ‘B’, are maps showing the topography of the Fylde Coast, photographed from Ian’s book ‘On a Broad Reach’.

Ian Mayes, a St Anne’s lad, born in 1936 to a family that came to the Fylde in 1875, from the Rossendale Valley, to work on the building of the town. His Gt Grandfather was a Carter and married Phoebe Tims, whose two brothers were lost along with the rest of the crew of the St. Anne’s lifeboat, ‘Laura Janet‘, when she capsized on service to the German barque ‘Mexico‘ in December 1886. Annexe ‘C’ below is a more detailed portrait of this extraordinary man and his extraordinary career.

The Melling’s Boats

We know that the Melling family of fishermen lived in Lytham Heyhouses/West End cottages, certainly from the late 18th century (Henry Melling b, Lytham-1781), and owned open sailing Trawlboats fishing in the then wide waters of the North Channel off where St. Anne’s now stands. These open boats we suspect were very similar to the clinker planked beach boats used at Blackpool around that time for fishing and later for trippers. We know that in the early days the Mellings kept their boat(s) in what was known as Granny’s Dock, the natural harbour inside the Double Stanner which now forms the outer Promenade around Fairhaven Lake, a refuge they shared with the Commonside (Ansdell) fishermen. This was surprising because we also know that the Little Marton fishermen, with whom they were more closely associated and included the Harrisons and the Balls, kept their boats at Gillett’s inside the Parker Bank, which later became known as the Crusader Bank and the waters as Oliver’s Heading.

Fig. 1 Blackpool beach boats hauled up on the beach opposite the Wellington Hotel near Chapel Street, around the mid-1860s.

Blackpool beach boats, with no protection forward to prevent swamping, were only suitable for inshore working and several were rebuilt as ‘Halfdeckers’ to enable them to fish outside the banks, as far north as Shell Flats and south to the Burbo Bank. Although we have no concrete evidence it is likely that the Annie’ was of this type.

ANNIE (1882-1906)

A two man ‘Shanker’ – approx 26ft (based on height of new mast (26ft x 7½ inch) made Jan 1890 by Rawstrone of Freckleton, weighing 2 tons (Imperial)

1882: Owned in St. Annes by John Melling, Mellings Lane, St Annes and registered at Preston -PN106. 1.1.1890: At Rawstrones, Freckleton for repair (211¾ man hours – £9.17s.0d). 15.10.1890: Broke from moorings off St. Annes Pier, sighted aground on Horse Banks. Recovered and returned to fishing. 1906: Registry closed.

Fig. 2 One of two half decked Blackpool beach boat types on the Double Stanner in the early 1890s when most of the St. Anne’s owned boats had moved to moorings to the south of the new Pier. It is likely that the ‘Annie’ was of this type.

Like the ‘Annie, the ‘Why Not’ was an older boat and whilst we have no direct proof that she was Melling owned, she is mentioned in this context by Harry Cooper in his essay, ‘Days of My Youth – The village of St. Anne’s 46 years ago’, published in 1932. Although built on Blackpool beach boat lines she was carvel built, so it is not clear whether or not she was originally an open boat, but most likely she carried internal ballast in the form of pig iron or stones which could be moved to windward when sailing. ‘Why Not’ (1889-1924)

A Trawler/Shanker 3.80 ton 28ft approx. 1889: Owned in St. Annes probably by the Melling family. 3,4.1891: Registered at Preston – PN25, as a two-man (fish) trawler. 1899: Re-registered as two-man shrimper (shanker) and fished by Thomas Ball, Abbey Road, Squires Gate with other partners including Nicholas Johnson, 53 Church Road and Hugh Rimmer, 35 Nelson Street. 3.4.1906: Possibly sold, coinciding with the purchase of the Tern. Re-registered as one man shrimper {shanker). New owner possibly Hugh Rimmer. 16.10.1924: Registry closed, broken up at St. Annes.

Fig. 3 The scene is the south beach adjacent to the Pier, sometime between 1910 and the spring of 1913, with two boats up on the Stanner for repair. From her lines and general arrangement, we think that it is safe to identify the boat on the left as the Why Not. Other boats are the Wild Duck fished during this period by “Ting” Harrison and “Nicky” Johnson, the Oliver Williams of “Noms” & “Teddy” Rimmer and the ‘Tern‘ of “Harry” Melling and “Skip” Harrison

The Annie’ was either sold out of fishing in 1906 or broken up at St. Anne’s at the usual repair site to the south of the Pier where a lot of the work was undertaken by the fishermen themselves or by the Nixon family; because of her age it is highly likely that the latter course was taken. The replacement for the ‘Annie‘ was the ‘Tern‘, a bigger and more efficient Trawlboat built on lines that had evolved rapidly over the past thirty years and was destined to see them culminate in the most powerful cutter rigged sailing trawlers on the UK coast. The lines and scantlings of the ‘Tern‘ suggest that she was built at Fleetwood by Gibsons and a boat with very similar dimensions was launched in 1893 for J. H. Bullock of 17 Dean Street, Blackpool as The Tern, and registered as a “yacht” but we have been unable to confirm that this was the same boat. The ‘Tern‘ is not recorded in Lloyd’s Register of Yachts in 1906/7 and this coincides with change of ownership to the Melling/Harrisons. In all the many Trawlboats, Nobbies, Prawners, Smacks, Half-deckers, etc. registered from the Solway Firth to Cardigan Bay only one boat ever carried the name ‘Tern‘.

Fig. 4 Although this is an Annan trawlboat it gives a good view of the layout on deck with the beam trawl stowed on the starboard side; the foredeck hatch and bogey stove pipe are clearly seen.

TERN (1906- 1913)

Smack 12.82 net tons (from 5.4.1913 – 8.20 net tons), 33ft – 5ins LOA x 9ft – 9ins x 3ft – 10ins draught. Class 2nd Trawling & Shanking.

1893: Possibly built by John Gibson & Sons, Fleetwood. 29.6.1894: Registered as ‘Tern‘ at Preston – PN64. (Possibly owned in Blackpool). 1903: Sold ? 3.5.1906: Sold to Henry Melling, 61 Church Road, St. Annes {fished in partnership with Robert Harrison, 43 Church Road, St. Annes). 5.4.1913: Sold to Fleetwood. Registered at Fleetwood – FD182. 23.2.1916: Sold to William McParlin, New Ferry Road, New Ferry. Registered at Liverpool – LL25. 7.5.1918: Sold to Heaton Bedson, Russell Road, Rock Ferry. 21.6.1923: Sold. Registered at Runcorn – RN37. 2.5.1931: Registry closed – ceased fishing. 1939-1946: Served as a firefighting float in Liverpool Docks. Renamed ‘Jean‘. 1946: Sold to Ernie Jones, Liverpool. Registered at Liverpool – LL1. 19??: Sunk at Knott End, raised by Stan Hurley, Thornton, but repairs too daunting. 19??: Sold to Mike Griffiths and towed to Fiddlers Ferry for repair and restoration. Renamed ‘Arthur Alexander‘ (LL1) on completion. 19??: Sold to Dave Pendleton 8.2.1997: Sold to Dennis Wright, Aberconwy. 1998: Won Mersey Nobby Race. 11.2001: For sale £17500. 12.2002: Not sold. Still sailing Conwy.

Fig. 5 Arthur Alexander‘ sailing on the Mersey
Fig. 6 Arthur Alexander‘ ashore for refit in the 1990s her appearance belies her working life as a trawlboat, at least seven years of which were spent fishing from St. Anne’s

With the continued silting of the North Channel and the ever-changing banks, channels and roads in the estuary following the cutting and restraining of the new Gut Channel opened in January 1910, it was inevitable that the deeper draughted Smacks could no longer operate safely from St. Anne’s. Harry Melling and Bob Harrison had the foresight to appreciate this fact early on when in 1913, they sold the Tern to Fleetwood owners and both purchased smaller boats suitable for single handed working; Harry, a 25 footer from Morecambe which was to become the Irene’ and Bob the Sunbeam’ a slightly larger boat at 28ft and suitable for working with his son.

Fig. 7 Sometime after WW1 the Irene with Harry Melling at the helm. His daughter Edith and a friend are sitting in the thwart and the Irene is towing a punt with three passengers. Note the two shank trawls and the general cramped condition in a 25ft Shanker, used for shrimping in the channels at low water, particularly the Pe(i)nfold and the North Road.

IRENE (1913- 1935)

Shanker   25ft       2.11 tons. 1913: From Morecambe owned in St. Annes by Henry Melling, 61 Church Road. 14.9.1917: Renamed Irene and registered at Preston – PN65. 1927: Mooring transferred to Lytham. 4.6.1935: Ceased fishing and sold to Preston owners.

With the closure the St. Anne’s Lifeboat Station on 30 September 1925 and the North Channel reduced to a very shallow waterway, it was inevitable that the three remaining St. Anne’s boats, Harry Melling’s ‘Irene‘, Bob Harrison’s ‘Sunbeamand Teddy Rimmer’s larger ‘Playmatewould have to move, along with several punts and dinghies. As all three fishermen were still employed looking after the lifeboat ‘James Scarlett’, which had been retained in the Lifeboat House for publicity purposes, it was not until the decision to remove the lifeboat was taken in September 1926 that they decided to move their boats. This move to Lytham was achieved in 1927.

We have been unable to trace any Morecambe boat that fished under the name Irene and as her name was not changed until the autumn of 1917, she must have fished from St. Anne’s under another name. We do know that she was last seen by Harry Melling and Keith Threlfall downstream from Penwortham Bridge around 1950, but what subsequently became of the last St. Anne’s boat in the ownership of the Melling family name we do not know but suspect that like many projects with old fishing boats she ended up being cut up. (This excludes the steam trawlers, the last of which the ‘Lizzie Melling‘ (PN45), 207grt/1904, owned by Melling Ltd, Fleetwood, was not broken up until June 1957 by Hammond Lane Foundry Ltd, Dublin).

Fig. 8 The Jetty, St Annes Pier


Fig 9. Freckleton Shipyard

Trawling from St. Anne’s was undertaken with two distinctive type of trawls each for different species of fish/crustaceans. The nets were braided by the fishermen themselves in the long winter evenings from twine supplied by the packman from Preston and treated with linseed oil and cutch (A preservative, made from catechu gum boiled in water, used to prolong the life of a sail.) to preserve them. The ironwork for the net frames would be made by the local blacksmith, in the case of the Melling’s possibly by the smithy at the top of Squires Gate Lane, Blowing Sands or Smithy Lane, Heyhouses. For demersal fish (those fish living close to the sea floor – Plaice, Sole, etc.), a single Southport beam trawl was towed, the overall dimensions depending on the size and power of the Trawlboat/Smack involved but seldom less than an 18ft beam.

While the beam trawl also caught brown shrimps the Ribble Estuary was home to a specific type of trawl for shrimping – the shank trawl. The development on the northern shore was distinctive from that on the Southport side and involved blacksmithed ends and wooden beam members. The smaller shanking boats trawled with two 8ft nets whilst the larger boats used two 10ft – 6inch trawls except when “broadsiding” – drifting broadside to the tide, carried by the current, when possibly four nets could be rigged.

Fig. 10 A Lytham/St. Anne’s shank trawl frame photographed on the Double Stanner in the early 1890s, this type of trawl frame was used until Arthur Wignall of Lytham built the first all metal box framework.

Sources and Further Research

Marine Research & Vessel Statistics. Search ‘SmaShipData’,

Mayes,G.I.& McCall, 1995, Short Sea Shipping 1995, Portishead Private

Mayes, G. & Mayes, JE., 2009, On A Broad Reach: The History Of The St Anne’s-On-The Sea Lifeboat Station 1881-1925 , Bernard McCall, Bristol

Images from G.I. Mayes Collection


TrawlboatA boat used in fishing with trawls or trawlnets.
PrawnerA boat used for prawn fishing
HalfdeckerAn open boat with some decking – commonly over the forepeak, over the stern sheets, and along each side of the well.
NobbyAn inshore sailing boat, used for traditional fishing around Lancashire and the Isle of Man
SmackA traditional fishing boat, often containing a well to keep the catch alive.
StannerA gravel, shingle and/or sand bank, offshore.
Shanks/ Shanker/ ShankingIn the North West of England a ‘shank’ is a brown shrimp, so a ‘Shanker’ is a boat that catches shrimps by net, usually a shank trawl, but in a mixed fishery, a beam trawl.  Shanking generally refers to boat fishing, but more in respect of Southport, St. Anne’s and Flookborough, as horse drawn carts towing two shank trawls i.e.. cart shanking.

Annexe ‘A’  Further information from extracts of correspondence between G.I. Mayes and the Blog Owner, Mike Coyle
(NOTE: Recent, personal information, addresses, etc. have been removed to protect privacy)

28 July 2001

Dear Mike

Since we last communicated our ‘Lancashire Nobby Research Group’ have managed to locate the yard ledgers for Peter Rawstrone’s shipyard at Freckleton. I had seen several transcripts, but most people thought that the originals had been destroyed, however a chance comment from a colleague, tracked them down to the Textile Museum at Helmshore! They are now in Fleetwood Museum, but not available to the general public – I hope to get them placed on microfiche or CD. The interesting thing is that as I already knew John Melling is mentioned, but with more detail.

In On A Broad Reach p.72 the Lytham Times is quoted recording the incident on 15 Oct 1899 when the ‘Annie‘ (PN106) owned by John Melling was torn from her mooring south of St. Anne’s Pier and was last seen on the Horse Banks. From her continued existence, fishing from St. Anne’s until 1906, I knew that she had survived and from one of the Freckleton transcripts, that she had gone to Rawstrone’s for repair.

In the yard ledger Book 1, the ‘Annie, a ‘Shanker’ is entered on 1 Jan 1890, owner John Melling, St. Anne’s and some 2113/4 man-hours were expended on her repair. In the notes are ‘Church Road’ and that a new mast, 26 ft x 71/2 inches was made for her, the total cost of repairs and mast was £9.17. 0. Perhaps the most interesting is that this bill was not settled until 1 Nov 1890. The cost should be related to the wages being paid in the yard, a shipwright 4/4d a day and a labourer 2/8d a day. The measurements of the mast give us a rough idea of the ‘Annies’ length overall, this would be 27-28 ft, a single hander which would either be fished alone or with a ‘fisher lad’/ ‘fisherman’s boy’, and essentially used for shanking for shrimps inside the banks in the channels, roads and gullies.

Enclosed is a repro of the Fleetwood NobbyNora(FD46), which at 32ft x 9.4ft x 4.2ft and 7.73 tons was very similar to Harry Melling and “Skip” Harrison’s Tern (PN64) 33ft – 5ins x 9ft – 9ins x 3ft – 10tns 12.82 tons, the difference in tonnage being a slightly ‘chunkier’ boat. ! think the pic gives a good impression of the sail area of about 850 sq ft, even though they are becalmed and have a sweep out. Hard to imagine a fleet of about six or seven boats of this size getting underway from their moorings south of St. Anne’s Pier prior to WW1.

Fig. 11 ‘NORA’ FD46, Built Overton 1892.

16 May 2001

Dear Mike

As discussed this afternoon, pics of the ‘Arthur Alexander’ ex ‘Tern‘ (PN64) owned by Harry Melling and worked in partnership with Robert “Skip” Harrison from 3.5.1906 until 5.4.1913. At 33ft she was a good sized Smack (Nobby) used for both flatfish trawling using a 20ft Fleetwood style beam trawl or for shrimping using the St. Anne’s/Lytham 10ft 6ins shank trawl, two when trawling and two or three when ‘siding’ (broadsiding – using the tide flow to move the boat broadside, used when the current was strong and there was little wind).  In the winter they would also tow out the punt and use her to set long lines off Blackpool for spur dogs and cod. It is highly likely that the punt ‘Our May’ owned by ‘Skip’ Harrison was used in this fishery. ‘Skip’ Harrison’s youngest daughter, remembers, both this boat and the smack ‘Sunbeam’ (PN10), which he bought after the ‘Tern’ was sold. She was 3ft longer than Harry’s ‘Irene’).

We think that the ‘Tern’ may have been built at Fleetwood, but we have been unable to confirm this. | think that the recent owners would like to lay claim to her being ‘Stoba’ designed, and there are lots of features that point that way, but nothing positive so I am wary. In her present yacht like guise it is difficult to appreciate that she lay at her moorings to the south of St. Anne’s Pier for nearly seven years, taking all sorts of weather and providing a living (of sorts) for two families. With over 800sq ft of canvas, I bet they drove her hard, fishing both inside the banks and outside from Rossall to Burbo Bank, she would be a well used tool, that Harry and Skip were superior coastal boatmen and excelled at the fishing is clear from all the recollections I have of talking with “Uncle Bob” Harrison and listening to Tommy Harrison and Teddy and “Boxer” Rimmer. Hard men who led a hard life.

7 January 2003

Dear Mike

I am still a bit puzzled as to why the Melling steam trawlers never seem to get mentioned. I can remember the ‘Lizzie Melling’ registered at Preston (PN45) and the ‘Harry Melling’ (FD397), but when the latter was owned by lago Steam Trawlers and registered in London as LO55. Others were the ‘Annie Melling’ (FD168), ‘Tom Melling’ (FD414),‘Nellie Melling’ (FD25), ‘Lily Melling’ (FD222), ‘Lena Melling‘ (1) (FD189) and ‘Lena Melling’ (2) (FD417), they were owned by Melling Ltd and managed by W. Melling, 7 Fish Trade Buildings, Fleetwood (note this is not J. W. Melling, they were most meticulous with trading names in the BOT Mercantile Navy List.

Annex ‘B’ Topography and wrecks off the Fylde Coast
(Photographed from Mayes book, On a Broad Reach)

Annex ‘C’ Pen Portrait of Commander Gilbert Ian Mayes OBE CEng MRINA

My interest in ships and shipping took hold when I attended King Edward VII school in Lytham St. Anne’s overlooking the Ribble estuary.  The ability to observe the Preston bound shipping on a daily basis and to recognise the ships themselves was the start of a lifetime of research, collating and writing on current and maritime subjects.  This was fostered by the Geography master who suggested that I record a month’s shipping, noting the ports and cargoes and present as a snap-shot of Preston shipping.  Following on from this, visits were organised to Preston Dock and followed up by further visits, to Courtaulds’, Red Scar Mill,  Ribbleton to see rayon being produced from the imported wood pulp, the Preston Bypass where the imported roadstone was being used and others industries associated with the dock traffic. 

A thirty seven year career in the Royal Navy gave the opportunity to view the maritime scene world wide, particularly in Singapore and Hong Kong and books of notes were filled with my observations.  During my apprenticeship I started to write about shipping and became the Journal of Commerce & Shipping Telegraph correspondent for the Forth ports, particularly recording the large numbers of steam trawlers arriving for breaking up.  In 1974 I took over the compilation of the Ian Allen pocket book Coastal Ships, Tugs & Trawlers and complied the final version of that publication.  

Whilst serving at Bath I became involved in the Naval Control of Shipping in the short sea trades and this led to supporting Bernard McCall in his column in Sea Breezes writing abut the coastal shipping scene.  This was to form a lasting partnership.  The centenary of the Mexico disaster in 1986 took me  and my cousin John into research of the St. Anne’s lifeboat station and St. Anne’s  and Lytham fishing fleets.  Both these avenues  resulted in compiling and publishing the results, the former in On a Broad Reach the history of the St. Anne’s-on-the-Sea lifeboat station and the latter in publications by both Leonard Lloyd and Nick Miller on the Lancashire Nobby.  A follow on from this was teeming up with Alan Hirst at Fleetwood to start to compile a database of Fleetwood fishing vessels.  Realising the size of this task we decided to concentrate initially on the steam trawlers but with the untimely death of Alan I was compelled to carry on alone.  Contact with Jim Porter led to the results being posted on his website Bosun’s Watch and this relationship continues.

My interest in Coastal shipping, fostered in my teens remains and in the early 1990s Bernard and I decided to compile and publish a directory of short sea shipping companies domiciled in UK and the Republic of Ireland.  Six editions of Short Sea Shipping was published but towards the end it became more difficult to validate material as companies chose to flag out their tonnage and the last edition was published in 2004. By way of compensation I joined a group who had compiled a basic yard list of vessels built by the Yorkshire shipyard Cochrane & Sons Ltd and with Mike Thompson at Hull, set about putting this into shape for publication.  To do justice to the subject I decided to write in three editions and these were duly published in succession as Cochrane Shipbuilders and were well received by the public.

Bernard McCall died suddenly in August 2021 and my efforts in respect of coastal and short sea shipping will be to continue to support his projects by helping his wife Doreen and son Iain in their efforts to pick up the reins and continue with the business.  As to the Fleetwood Steam Trawler database, this is a daily update, as thanks to modern communications and the internet, fresh material is constantly coming to light and more emphasis is being placed on the social history of the fishing industry.


Heritage: In the eye of the beholder

An observation by Mike Coyle

At any appropriate opportunity, I happily declare that I am a ‘Blackpool Heritage Volunteer’. I understand the nomenclature, I understand the role, I think I understand the concept, but the term ‘Heritage’ remains vague to me. So, what is ‘Heritage’ about? Is there somewhere I can find out, perhaps an online source I can interrogate for an answer?

Any attempt to get a rational definition is fraught with academic danger and intrigue. Heritage is confused by elements of tangibility and intangibility; perception and concept; cultural identity; ideas and memory. 

First port of call, a dictionary. However, it’s not helpful:

Heritage (Noun): …features belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as traditions, languages, or buildings, that were created in the past and still have historical importance.

At this stage, it worth considering the origins of the word ‘Heritage’ to provide a clue towards a definition:

 (Originally) c. 1200, “that which may be inherited,” from Old French iritage, eritage, Heritage “heir; inheritance, ancestral estate, heirloom,” from heriter “inherit,” from Late Latin hereditare, ultimately from Latin heres (genitive heredis) “heir” (see heredity). Meaning “condition or state transmitted from ancestors” is from 1620s.

That brings us a little closer, it’s about ‘Inheritance’, ‘something transmitted from ancestors’. But what is transmitted from ancestors. Further research suggests more complications. Harvey (2015) quotes Tunbridge and Ashworth (1996)

                  ‘a contemporary product shaped from history’

A ‘product’ then? More complications! A product implies a tangible form, but we know that we can regard language, condition, skill, song, or other intangible as Heritage. I’ve inherited several phrases that my grandad used, ‘Never assume malice when stupidity will do!’; You’ve always got to have something to look forward to’. Does that represent a product?  It is contemporary because I use both regularly and it is shaped from history.

The ‘contemporary’ description is an important one, everyone will interpret or perceive a ‘product’ as ‘Heritage’ by his or her own measures and standards. My dad may well have perceived something of his Heritage or inheritance: his Uncles watch or his meticulous attention to detail, that I might discount from my perceptions of value.

We could regard Heritage as a service, which includes tangible artifacts and venues together with sets of intangibilities. A service because Heritage as a product ignores the role of users engaging with the products. Producing a loaf of bread without someone to eat it, remains a loaf of bread. The story of a loaf must include its purchase, consumption, and satisfaction of its consumers. Writers on service quality have scrutinised the elements comprising the service experience and the gaps in that service experience that impact on users of the service.

A modern, collective understanding of Heritage requires us to regard it as precious meaning we must impart a perception of value to others. A building like Blackpool’s Grand Theatre is regarded as part of our Heritage, to be treasured, retained, and left for future generations to enjoy and to pass on themselves. So now we can add a ‘temporal’ theme to Heritage. To protect what we inherit for future benefit and educate folk in their value.

The problems do not end there. An apposite, but fictitious quote can be found to describe the problem:

‘History is that certainty produced at the point at which the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.’

Briefly explained, the quote suggests rightly, that the ability and authenticity of the recorder of history (or in this case, Heritage) it totally dependent on the constraints on recording, adequate memory, interpretation and setting down those interpretations cogently.  We rely on style of writing, intellect and ability of both writer and reader equally.

Archaeologists do not have facts to work with, but they are able to interrogate their knowledge and experience, deduce and project understanding and interpretation of circumstantial features of an object, in a bid to help our understanding. But we, the public are left just a little insecure; can we really rely on the stories about lost Fylde villages – Kilgrimol, Singleton Thorpe, Waddum Thorpe, without specific evidence.

Harvey (2015), expresses concern in the way that Heritage is presented to the public and the influence of presentation on our interpretation and perception of Heritage products:

               ‘… a visit to a cathedral has always been a highly mediated and controlled Heritage-related event. Just like museums, their layout and architecture, fixtures and fittings, practices and ritual, are carefully choreographed, replicated and constructed in order to convey messages about the ‘order of things’ as represented through a specific notion of the past.’

Like all ‘truths’, products are subject to interpretation, understanding and acceptance. Much has been written recently about efficaciousness of ‘Truth’. Today, truth is under close scrutiny, with advent of ‘fake’ news, ‘Augmented Reality’, ‘Artificial Intelligence’, ‘Conspiracy Theory’, and bias. There is much scepticism, re-interpretation (noting the recent Colston incident in Bristol), even denial of truth, presenting a real opportunity for academic research relating these modern conventions and constructs to Heritage.

As we move closer to a definition, what’s Heritage for? What is its role or purpose? We need to consider both its altruistic role and its commercial role. As a subject rather than a product, Heritage provides us with a glimpse into practices and behaviour, not to mention skills and culture, of the past, rather than simply museum references.

The commercial imperative, or saleability of Heritage presents both opportunity and risk. Opportunity to capitalise on public appeal and attraction of Heritage concepts, exhibits and venues. Risk in the betraying the integrity of those concepts, exhibits and venues, in favour of a marketing benefit, increased footfall or contribution to costs.

There is a third consideration of purpose, that is organisational development. National and local authorities have found a convenient banner in ‘Heritage’ to bundle those functions, that were previously stove piped in to function silos, libraries, museums, archives, historic properties, etc. The Heritage Council of Ireland goes further, by defining its version of Heritage thus:

Our Heritage comprises:  …the tangible – our historical sites, buildings, monuments, objects in museum artefacts and archives.

the natural – our waterways, landscapes, woodlands, bogs, uplands, native wildlife, insects, plants, trees, birds, and animals.

the intangible – our customs, sports, music, dance, folklore, crafts, skills, and knowledge.

Our tangible, intangible and natural Heritage and all the associated myths, legends, traditions, and memories provide us with a common language and insight that enables us to communicate on a deep level with each other and to express ourselves in a unique way to the outside world.

By broadening the definition, the organisation finds efficiency in delivery of its mission and services. It also imposes ‘democratisation’ of definitions for Heritage, requiring us to agree a standardised interpretation of what Heritage means to society. For example, Heritage in Fleetwood necessarily includes heavy reference to its seafaring history; in Horwich, its Railway and Locomotive Works; in Blackpool, its entertainment venues, and connections; in the National Trust, its stately homes, and gardens.

So where does this leave us in attempting to define Heritage? It has become clear to me that Heritage is in the eye of the beholder. It is what people say it is, depending on what it is seeking to achieve. I am still happy to declare that I am a Blackpool Heritage Volunteer.

Mike Coyle
Oct 2020

Sources and further reading

Definition at:
Oxford English Dictionary and Accessed on 06/10/2020

Heritage Council of Ireland at: Accessed on 06/10/2020

Harvey, DC., (2015), The History of Heritage, Ashgate Research Companion Available at: Accessed on 06/10/2020  

Etymology of the term ‘Heritage’ at: Accessed on 05/10/2020

Fictitious quote regarding recording history at:
Patrick LaGrange, a fictitious philosopher quoted in Barnes, J., 2011, ‘The Sense of an Ending’, Jonathon Cape, London.

Service Quality Tangibles and Intangibles
Zeithaml VA., Parasuraman A., Berry, LL., (1990), Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations, Simon and Schuster

A Forgotten Blackpool Sailor

Earlier this week I watched  ‘Yangtze Incident’ for the umpteenth time and have been captivated by the story since I was a boy. As a boy in the 1950s I took every opportunity to visit showings of war films at the local cinema. Films I can still watch as though for the first time: Dam Busters, Battle of the River Plate, Cockleshell Heroes, Odette, Colditz, Cruel Sea, Malta Story, Yangtse Incident, and others.  (The name ‘Yangtse’ and ‘Yangtze’ are interchangeable)

Whilst working in Blackpool in the late 1960’s I worked with the mother of a young lad, killed during the ‘Yangtse Incident’, George Winter. She described in detail how she had a premonition of Georges death. I don’t think she ever
got over it.

No. 818706, Able Seaman George Winter RN, of the British warship HMS ‘Amethyst’. In April 1949, Amethyst was to relieve HMS ‘Consort’ at Shanghai, via the Yangtse River. A few days into the journey, she was attacked
and fired on by Communist Chinese shore-based artillery. In the attack, the ship was substantially damaged, eventually running aground on Rose Island in the river. With many casualties among the crew and ships officers, Amethyst was
under regular bombardment for several weeks, before making a dash for safety, under cover of darkness.  Although the main story belongs to Amethyst, there were several other ships involved.  All in all, a real ‘Boys Own’ story.

George died of his wounds, age 19 whilst being transported under cover of darkness when the ship’s wounded were being secretly evacuated to a land-based hospital in Shanghai, with help from Chinese locals.  Wounded on the first day of the attack, he died two days later. He is buried in a lonely grave, without any of his shipmates, in Hungjao Road Cemetery, Shanghai, China. He is remembered on the Blackpool Cenotaph and Highfield School memorial.

In 1939, his parents Philip and Annie Winter are living in Knightsbridge Avenue, South Shore, Blackpool. Annie died in 1969, his father in 1967. George’s back story and life as a Sailor are not known, indeed I’ve had great difficulty in gathering information on him. The list of ‘Sources’ below is testament to that.

I have no direct connection with George, nor his family. I was simply intrigued by his mother’s tale and love of the film.  If you know of the family, or better still have a photograph, I’d be delighted to share the research with you.

The ‘Amethyst’ was used in the film ‘The Yangtse Incident’ (1957) and was scrapped after filming.

Jun 2021

Sources and Further Research:

Response to enquiries about ‘George Winter’ at:

Grave details at:

Basic personal details:

Births Marriages and deaths at:

Death details at:

The Yangtse Incident Report to Parliament at:

1939 Registration, via

Naval General Service Medal (Yangtze Clasp) entitlement.

Description of the whole incident and George Winter briefly
mentioned in:  Izzard, B., ‘Yangtze Showdown: China and the Ordeal of HMS Amethyst’, Seaforth Publishing, available on Google Books

Story of HMS Amethyst
The Glorious History of HMS Amethyst, produced by the The Navy League and sponsored by the Daily Telegraph

Brief coverage of the Incident in:
Western Morning News, Monday 25 April 1949, p 1 Col 3: ‘Cease-fire
for Amethyst refused by Communists: Plymouth casualties in shelled frigate.

Images from the Winter family archive, (Courtesy of Stephen Bailey)

George Winters Headtone
Article from the Blackpool Evening Gazette
Georges Medal

Ever wondered who ‘Louie Horrocks’ was?

 Over the years I’ve had a sort of hit and miss association with a small park in South Shore.  50 years ago, it was a venue for a walk and play with my kids. A place for them to play on the grass and a welcome change from being fastened into their prams. The Myna Birds providing an added distraction. Some years later, it was where my son hung out with his friends, with his bike, no doubt terrorising the park users with wheelies, and launching off a roof of a building in the park – I never asked!

Later, it was a place to take my Grandkids, by then a nice little park with a play area to match the needs of their ages. More recently, passing by on my Covid compliant exercise, on my bike or walking by.

The park, ‘Louie Horrocks Park’, on Lytham Road, South Shore. It’s a charming oasis off the main road, close to a built-up, busy shopping area, Primary Care Centre and a main road to the Beach from Marton Moss.

IMG_20210217_110342241_HDRaUntil recently, the name of the park never registered, other than when my lad told us where he was going. So, what or who was ‘Louie Horrocks’?

An information board in the park tells us that the Park ‘… resulted from a £10.000 bequest by one-time Bolton mill owner Mr James Walsh Horrocks, who retired to Blackpool and bequeathed the money for the development of a memorial to his daughter Louie, who died of Tuberculosis, as a child.’ 

The board goes on  ‘…On July 11th 1951 Louie Horrocks Recreation Ground was opened by the then Mayor, Councillor Joseph Hill  … the memorial would enable others to enjoy some of the healthy outdoor recreations that Louie Horrocks had not been able to enjoy.’ An account of her funeral, records that ‘for many years she was an invalid’.

James Walsh Horrocks had a story to his name. He was born in December 1862 in Bolton, Lancashire, to Elizabeth Walsh and Henry Horrocks. Census entries show an illustrious career for James, from Apprentice in a ‘Heald & Reed Manufacturer’, through ‘Travelling’ for the same business, to finally owning a business in Bolton, ‘J.W. Horrocks Ltd’. (Healds and Reeds are components of textile mill weaving machinery.)

James married Ada Louise Shepherd on 2 October 1890, at Park Street Methodist Church in Bolton. James was living in Blackburn Road, Bolton.

‘Louie’ was born in July 1893 in Bolton and at the time of her Christening, she and her parents were living in Pilkington Street. There are newspaper reports of her talent as a ‘Soloist’, probably a singer and dancer. When she was 5 she was praised for a performance at the Unity School Christmas Fair and Fundraiser. Again, at 13, she’s delighting crowds, dancing in a Dutch costume at a Victoria Hospital Fundraising event at the Winter Gardens.

The 1911 Census entry shows he and his wife, Ada Louisa and ‘Louie’ are living in Shaw Road, South Shore. ‘Louie’ is actually Alice Louisa Horrocks (17).  By 1939 James and Ada have moved to Broadway, South Shore.

In 1933, Louie married George Paton, a Journalist in Aberdeen. The wedding was reported to be a grand affair with many guests. She divorced him just a few years later.

Louie died in Aberdeen 1940, age 46, of Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Cardiac Failure. Her death and funeral were reported widely. The funeral was held at St Cuthbert’s in Lytham.

Ada Louisa died 26 August 1943, James on 30 July 1945, according to Probate Records, they were still living in Broadway. As well as bequests for the park, there were others to establish nine beds at Victoria Hospital, donations to Bolton Infirmary, the church where he was married, and St Cuthbert’s, Lytham.

James’ benevolence was challenged a few years after his death. He had included a bequest to all his employees with 10 years continuous service with J.W. Horrocks Ltd. However, in 1948 seven of those employees were denied the payment because their service had been interrupted by their war service. The issue was widely reported.

IMG_20210222_114156320_HDRThe name of Louie lives on with the Park. The family share an impressive family grave on the western edge of the St Cuthbert’s Burial Ground, in Lytham. Her father’s extended family are commemorated in Tonge Cemetery in Bolton.

Mike Coyle
Feb 2021


Images property of the author.  Newspaper reports via ‘British Newspaper Archive’ in absence of access to local Press, during lockdown.

Louie’s performances:
Bolton Evening News, 31/10/1898 &
Fleetwood Gazette, 12/04/1907

Louie’s Marriage:
Aberdeen Press & Journal, 25/04/1933, p4

Louie’s death and funeral:
Aberdeeen Press & Journal, 24/05/1940, p3

James’ Will details:
Liverpool Echo, 19/12/1945, p4 &
Belfast Telegraph, 04/11/1946, p3

Denial of payment to seven workers:
Manchester Evening News, 01/11/1948, p4  &
Liverpool Echo, 01/11/1948, p4

Census, Births, Marriages & Deaths via publicly accessible records online: FamilySearch; FreeBMD; LancsOPC; Ancestry; FindMyPast; ScotlandsPeople; 1939 Register via Ancestry; Assistance from Olive Thexton, Fylde Branch, Lancs Family History & Heraldry Society

Gallantry at Sea on the Fylde Coast

Browsing a recently seen copy of ‘Lifeboat Gallantry’, by Barry Cox, based on earlier research of Major DV Henderson GM, I was struck by the number of entries associated with the Fylde Coast, specifically, the lifeboats of Lytham St Anne’s, Blackpool and Fleetwood.

My family has strong association with both the sea and Lifeboats on the Fylde Coast. My Great Grandfather was Coxswain at St Annes. My brother, a member of the Shore Crew at St Annes and my niece also trained on the St Annes Lifeboat. My wife and sister in law work in the shop at Blackpool Lifeboat Station. I penned a tribute to that family connection in my Blog at:

This piece relies heavily on material received, with permission from Cox’s book. The book makes reference to 17 acts of gallantry by members of the Lifeboats Crews, which warranted Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) Medal Awards to 27 individuals up to 1998, with at least one member being awarded two medals and one, three.

‘Lifeboat in Tow’ taken from ‘Lifeboat Gallantry’ reproduced by kind permission of Spink & Son Ltd

 Newspaper reports, books and personal testimonies record the most spectacular incidents. The ‘Casualty’ boards in each of the stations, the commemorative plaques and monuments provides a clue to the remarkable and the mundane. As a simple guide, Blackpool Lifeboats are called out for around 100 ‘Shouts’ per year.

The ‘Lives Saved’ board at Blackpool Lifeboat Station

There’s been a lifeboat at St Annes and at Lytham since 1851, Fleetwood’s was established in 1859. Blackpool was a relative latecomer in 1864.

Cox’s book dates, describes and names the awards and the individuals and incidents, along with occasional photographs and illustrations. Like the book, in this piece, a timeline provides a recording framework. Download it below.

Nov 2020