Lifeboat 150: Horse Hero’s

Much has been written about the heroics and exploits of the Lifeboat’s Crews, and about the good work of Patrons and Volunteers and about the hero’s. However, little is known about the ‘Facilitators’ of those heroic events: the horses used in the launching and recovery of the Lifeboats and the Horsemasters; the ‘Hostlers’; the men responsible for sourcing, harnessing and trecking the horses.

A conversation with Bruce Allen, the man committed to raising awareness of the Blackpool Lifeboat the ‘Samuel Fletcher of Manchester’ (1896-1930), brought my attention to the paucity of information about the Lifeboat Horse-masters. I was intrigued enough to investigate further.

The most common method of launching the Lifeboat, right up to the 1930’s was by Horses, hauling the weighty boats and their trailers across sand and mud to their launch point, often in appalling weather and rough seas. Many horses were lost, swept away by ferocious tides and currents or caught in deep mud. Many of the techniques of haulage by Horse were learned from the experience of pulling heavy artillery though mud and water in World War 1. However, that experience did not take account of Horse procurement, or of working in deep, rough water.

Teams of up to 12 horses had to be found, gathered together, harnessed and led before the Lifeboat could be launched. The Lifeboat Stations had no Horses of their own. On the Fylde Coast, Haulage Contractors, Towlers in Lytham and Thomas Whitesides at St Annes provided the heavy horses under contract and at a fixed rate (2/6p per hour, at St Annes). At Blackpool, the Horses were provided by the Corporation from their own stock, from stables on the site of the Coliseum on Rigby Road. The ‘Merchant Shipping Act, 1854’ had enabled Lifeboat Stations to demand horses to be provided at an Hourly Rate negotiated between RNLI and horse suppliers

The picture is of the Hoylake Lifeboat in about 1920. (at: LINK)
Over the years, Lifeboats were hauled in to the sea by volunteers working alongside the Horses. At St Annes anecdotal evidence suggests  up to 100 ‘Helpers’ were used to get the boat launched, along with a team of horses.. The Isle of Wight’s Brooke Village Lifeboat was launched with ‘the help of thirteen crew members, ten heavy horses and up to thirty helpers. Six horses were needed to launch the boat and ten to recover it when it was heavy with sea water.’  LINK

Records of the Redcar Lifeboat tell of an incident in 1921: ‘Mrs Margaret Emmans was knocked down by the carriage and killed; two other women were injured. They were all helping to launch the lifeboat as no horses were available to pull the carriage.’  LINK

Occasionally the Launch Point was several miles from the Lifeboat Station. The Wreck of the ‘Abana’ in December 1894 required the Lifeboat to be hauled the 7 miles to Bispham before it could be launched in the dark and in the teeth of a storm, and then wait on the foreshore, ready for the recovery. Bear in mind the north of Blackpool was much less developed in those early days, with tracks rather than roads.

One story recounts the Lynmouth Lifeboat, in January 1899, being pulled 13 miles overland. An account describes the action:  ‘This meant using whatever horses and men could be obtained to haul the boat and its carriage (which together weighed about 10 tons) the distance of 13 miles, including climbing up the 1 in 4½ Countisbury Hill, reaching a height of 1,423 feet above sea level, and later taking it down the 1 in 4 Porlock Hill.  20 horses were brought from the local coach proprietor, and six men were sent ahead with shovels and pickaxes to widen the road. The combined efforts of the horses and 100 local men eventually brought the boat to the top of Countisbury Hill, where a wheel came off the carriage and had to be put back on.   4 Horses died, in harness that day.  The story can be found HERE  A superb picture of the ‘Overland Launch’ can be seen HERE

In the early 1900’s, Crews experienced difficulties obtaining sufficient heavy horses, not just to cover ‘Shouts’, but to service the regular training exercises; operating on mud and in deeper water, along with stories of Teams being washed away, there was a understandable unwillingness of owners to release their best horses. Making the work of the Horsemasters that much more difficult.

By the early 1920’s trials of ‘Motorised Tractors’ were taking place, as the shortage of horses threatened the Lifeboat Service. Not until 1930 did the RNLI provide ‘Launching Tractor’ for Blackpool, ending over 100 years of service by Blackpool Horses. There is little by way of record of who the Blackpool and Fylde Coast Horse-Masters were or what their precise duties entailed, but for some of us they must be counted amongst the key Lifeboat personnel of their time. It’s disappointing that records and research on this topic appear to be sparse. My earnest hope is that a future Under Graduate will choose to investigate the role of the ‘Lifeboat Hostlers’ in the not too distant future.

Aug 2015.

Sources and Further Information
Mayes, G.I. & Mayes J.E., (2000) On a Broad Reach: A history of the St Anne’s on the Sea Lifeboat Station 1881 – 1925, Bernard McCall, Bristol.

Forshaw, D., (1992), On those Infernal Ribble Banks: A Record of Lytham St Annes Lifeboats, sponsored by British Aerospace Defence Ltd.

Morris, J., (2002), Blackpool Lifeboats, RNLI

History Heroes RNLI Lifeboats, Nelson, Shipwrecks and more at:

‘THE LIFE-BOAT’: The Journal of the National Life-Boat Institution. Vol. XI. From Feb 1880, to Nov 1882. Published in London  by Charles Knight & Co. Accessed 01/08/2015 at:

Photo’s at:

Overland Launch at:  With a picture at:

Brooke Village story at:

Redcar Lifeboat Incident at:

Mum and the ‘Clubs’: an affectionate look at Blackpool’s ‘Clubland’

‘Clubland’ refers to those Working Men’s and Social Clubs that provided entertainment on a grand scale, in Blackpool for over 150 years. Some still do.

Prompted by a tenuous link with Clubland, this piece worked its way on to the page. The link is through my Mum’s ‘work’ in the 50’s through to the 70’s, in those clubs. She was a Singer, in fact at 91, she can still ‘belt it out’ at any given opportunity.

The clubs provided a small income to supplement the income of a family of 8. Initially, Mum would have the family bathed and ready for bed when Dad came home from work, he would babysit while Mum travelled to and from the Club by bus. Later, we had Baby-sitters, my Grandad, or Aunties or Uncles, but as we got older, my Sister and I took charge when Mum set off with Dad driving, to entertain the demanding audiences in ‘Working Men’s Clubs’. Dad in the audience.

Mum 1950, Carrol Levis Audition

Mum in her Heyday

Until the research for this piece I knew only the bare essentials: they were for working men; that the audiences were hard work; but they provided a grounding for some of the most famous UK acts in the business, among them, Jimmy Tarbuck, Roy Castle, Frank Carson and many, many others, all of whom cut their teeth entertaining the Blackpool crowds. At one stage Roy Castle’s name on the bill was at the bottom, Mum’s at the top!

Work was found by going to ‘Auditions’ where the Concert Secretaries of the Clubs met and, as a group, tested the ability and capability of the Artiste, then booking the artiste if they thought they had a chance against the noisy but well meaning crowds at their club. My Mum survived singing in Clubs for over 25 years, singing songs from the shows, light opera and pop-songs that
were within her range, or those popular with the audience. She did so whilst bringing up 6 kids, having 4 of them over the same 25 years. Mum went on to appear on Television, returning always to the Club stage.

The Clubs that she loved and hated simultaneously, fell always into only 2 categories the good ones and the bad ones. The good ones, where the pay was good and the audiences appreciative, and the bad ones, where the reverse was true. My memories are of her talk of favourite Concert Secretaries, Accompanists, Bands and Clubs’ names. When she wasn’t shouting at the kids, she sang all the time, no doubt rehearsing the next new song.

For over 60 years, until the late 1970’s, The Empress Ballroom and the larger Clubs hosted the ‘Command Performance of Clubland’. Stars from throughout the year were invited back for the biggest Blackpool showbiz event of the year. Mum regularly appeared and occasionally starred.

But what of the Clubs themselves? They began to emerge as places of entertainment for a working class with a little disposable income. Often built and run by the men themselves as an antidote to the entrepreneurial offers available at the time, although some sought Patrons to provide initial funding and association with a ‘Name’. The rise of unionism and new ideas of self-determination, encouraged both social cohesion and enterprise, giving the Working man an opportunity to contribute to the welfare of his local mates. The clubs were run by a Secretary, with an elected committee and Officers. They would have the power and the subscriptions to book and pay for entertainers to perform in their establishments.

CIU LogoThe Working Man’s Club ‘movement’ leapt forward with the formation of the The Working Men’s Club & Institute Union (CIU) in 1862 by the Rev Henry Solly, a Unitarian Minister, supported by local dignitaries and Politicians, specifically ‘to encourage self-improvement and promote temperance among working men’. For over 150 years, the ‘Union’ provided, and still does, guidance on the setting up and running of Clubs. Affiliation, meant that Members could visit any club in the Union.

The Temperance lobby was strong at the time and members, and their families, were pleased to be seen as contributing to and benefiting from the cause. It did not last, the growing prosperity of the members and their clubs enabled choices to be made as to whether drink would form part of the entertainment. Committees soon realised that to buy beer in bulk and to sell volume relatively cheaply would generate profit and benefit for the members.

By 1865, the CIU Allowed clubs to decide their own path and the majority settled for a not-for-profit bar for the benefit of Members only and the surpluses to be ploughed back into the Club. A Royal Commission and a consequent ‘Friendly Societies Act’ of 1875 sought to regulate clubs, protect members from exploitative activities of those in charge, enabling them to hold property and pay benefits to sick and infirm members.

From the few dozen Clubs in the early days through their supremacy in the 1970’s when there were over 4000 ‘affiliated’ Working Men’s Club to the present day when there are about 1900 throughout the UK.

Blackpool, as a centre of entertainment, was host to many Clubs, some still in existence. The oldest, the No1 or Bloomfield Club, recently celebrated its 150 anniversary. The Central Library local history archives has a programme for the Club’s Golden Jubilee (at LT94(P)), with a fascinating history of the Club and its changes of location, name and activities.

The largest by 1954 was the Central Club, formerly the Blackpool WMC. The Blackpool Directories perhaps tell the growth story best: in 1924 there were 7 Clubs listed, in 1929 it was 9. By 1934, Barretts Directory records 22 Clubs, excluding Sports, Church, Political Clubs and British Legions. The local press bears witness to the evolution of Clubland, recording formation, acquisitions, amalgamations and changes of name and location.

Appendix ‘A’ provides a list from those Directories. Many in the list will be instantly recognisable today. They are for me!

Appendix ‘B’ provides images of Membership Cards and Rule books from Blackpool Clubland available in The Local and Family History Centre at Blackpool Central Library,.

The place of Clubland in Blackpool’s Heritage can not be over stated. Over the years, they provided, entertainment, employment and a vibrancy to the Town, as well as a welcome break from drudgery of work for both men and for women. The paucity of research on the Clubland scene in Blackpool demands that this sector is taken into account in the assessment of Blackpool as the leading UK centre of entertainment. I can only hope that the planned Museum will initiate that research, or at least a bright young Undergraduate might see the potential for a Final Year Dissertation.

Jun 2015

Sources & Further Reading

Cherrington, R., 2012, ‘Who cares about Working Mens Clubs’, available at:

Cherrington, R., 2012, ‘What is the CIU’, The Club Historians, available at:

Blackpool Clubs at:

Cherrington, R., 2012, Not Just Beer and Bingo! The Social History of Working Men’s Clubs’,

Tremlett, G., 1987, Clubmen: the History of the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union, Secker & Warburg.

‘Command Performances of Clubland’, Cyril Critchlow Collection, Blackpool Central Library. An Index is at:—November-2012-%5BPDF-173MB%5D.pdf

War Reporting: Local Coverage of the Battles of the Somme and of Arras


This is an extract from a Dissertation submitted for a BA(Hons) in 2012.

The original work sought to investigate and understand why the Battle of Arras seems to have been neglected and overlooked in contemporary reporting and post conflict literature, compared with the Battle of the Somme. The two WW1 battles have been described amongst the bloodiest and fiercest campaigns of the war, yet the reporting and collective memory of each is very different. In addition to the comparative characteristics of the battles, it has identified the factors that influenced the reporting of these battles in national and especially local press of the time. The work identifies some of the factors influencing the way the news was reported and received by the public.

The methodology employed included: secondary research of newspaper reports of the time and post conflict publications; official histories; literature relating to war reporting; propaganda and censorship..

A natural outcome of the research is a survey of war reportage in local and a selection of national newspapers. It also includes the identification of limitations of the research and opportunities for further research.

In truth, the extent of contemporary reporting in local newspapers is disappointing. The format and style of all the newspapers, in common with some of the nationals used front pages for classified advertisements, leaving the news for the inside pages. The majority of meaningful reporting from the war fronts was left to Editorial comment and reports received from men at the front to their families, presented in single columns.

Stories of local men in extraordinary circumstances; receiving military awards and of course casualty notifications dominate the coverage. Typical of the Editorial comment is an entry made in the Blackpool Gazette and News of 10 April 1917, page 5, the day after hostilities on the Arras front. The article mixes local church news, with a rousing statement of how ‘Field Marshall Haig’s blow has staggered’ the Germans. ‘Whilst they are taking advantage of Russia’s distraction of the revolution, Britain had been preparing this offensive’. It goes on:

‘The blows the British troops are showering on the Germans north of Arras will compel the Great Hindenberg to send his reserves to France instead of Russia: for these smashing, driving, overwhelming onslaughts demand the biggest efforts the Germans can make if they are to hold off defeat.’

The language and general tenor of the article demonstrates the classic ‘spin’ on a story, clearly aiming to appeal to its readers rather than stating the truth of the dreadful events actually taking place. It is also true that what was taking place wasn’t actually known by the author of the reports.

The main themes of news reflected what was considered important news for locals, although it might be argued by a cynic that this was the news newspapers wanted read or the news that inhabitants of Blackpool wanted to hear about. In late spring and early summer of 1916, the main headlines went to Blackpool Councils attempts to amalgamate the local authorities of Fleetwood, Thornton and Lytham St Annes. The nearest attempts at war reporting were the accounts of local men Killed In Action or Died Of Wounds or who died in the locality, alongside advertisements for the ‘Loo’s Trenches’, a system of training trenches, once used by infantry stationed in Blackpool and now open to the public and a Gymkhana to be staged for the King’s visit to the troops.

In the two weeks after the trauma of the first days of the Somme Battle, requests were published for any information from the front: ‘In the Big Push: Request for ‘Boys’ accounts from families of Great Push’ (Gazette, 11 July 1916, p2). Reports in the form of letters from men at the front to their families, were passed to the papers and formed the basis of articles, prompting column headlines like: ‘A Pals Story of the Great Offensive’ and ‘In the big push: Blackpool man’s graphic story’ (Gazette, 18 July 1916, p3). Interestingly, the slaughter of Loos and Neuve Chappelle was translated into: ‘Battle of the Somme supremely proved our volunteer soldiers worthy of the most splendid British traditions’. (Gazette, 11 July 1916, p2).

For the next month, reports in the press appear to have been based on these, probably censored accounts of life at the various war fronts. These represent the ‘Twitter’ of the day, albeit without the promptness. The days of formal news syndication was still in its infancy.

Later in the summer more reports were released and the papers include them, How-ever, reports were only single columns and remained upbeat, with details buried amongst other local news, for example, an Annual picnic, Exams held, annual report of Old Links Golf Club, a house auction, reading of a will (Blackpool Times & Fylde Observer, 22 July 1916, p8)

Reports pertaining to the April 1917 offensive were subtly different, with greater emphasis on official reports, but still only in the form of editorial and single column reports, no prominent headlines and those stories woven into other stories. New topics appear: Aid for Prisoners of War; Conscientious Objectors (and how to convert them!); Land Army recruitment and munitions workers holiday in Blackpool.

A main topic of the reports appeared to be a local ‘Pastries Order’ stopping making of ‘ornamental cakes crumpets muffins, teacakes and other light articles of food’ restrictions on sugar content and white flour, a column headline declares: ‘Bakers Baffled by drastic restriction on trade’. Another reports profiteering ‘Excessive War Profits’.

A table showing details of the local newspaper coverage is available for download.

You will need a PDF Reader, one is available here

Table of Local Reportage during the period of the Battles of Somme and Arras.

The original ‘Dissertation’

Comparing the Battles of the Somme and Arras Comparator Table

Blackpool’s Experience of War


The essay seeks to compare experiences of Blackpool and two other resort areas in wartime. The findings show two fundamental differences in that experience. On the one hand continued occupancy levels and sustained leisure facilities. On the other, continuing but lesser occupation rates and the imminent threat of danger. The essay concludes by summarising the differing features of the three resorts.

The file attached to the link is a PDF and you will need a PDF Reader. You can download one from here.

Blackpool’s Experience of War

Lifeboat 150: The ‘Abana’

In this the second article commemorating the legacy of 150 years of the lifeboat, we look at the first major engagement of the Blackpool Lifeboat ‘Samuel Fletcher’ as she battled through heavy seas to support the foundering Norwegian flagged, 1200 ton barque ‘Abana’.

Sailing from Liverpool, on the 22 December 1894, the Abana was bound for Sapelo, Florida. As she sailed through the Irish Sea off the Isle of Man she encountered a major storm. The same storm had already claimed a Fishing Smack, the ‘Petrel’ off the Blackpool Coast. Mistaking the Tower for a Lighthouse, she first hit North Pier then drifted north with tattered sails. At about 3pm, Little Bispham landlord Robert Hindle, was watching the storm from an upstairs window of the Cleveleys Hotel.

To his horror he was able to see the Abana in great difficulty just off the headland in front of the hotel. He summoned the lifeboat by sending a man on horseback to the Lifeboat Station at Blackpool, located opposite what was the Coliseum. The crew had just returned from rescuing the crew of the ‘Petrel’, washed ashore opposite Uncle Toms Cabin. Within 20 minutes, six horses were harnessed to the Lifeboat wagon and driven at full speed down the lanes to Bispham, arriving and launching some 5 hours later..

image002The rescue was only partly successful, whilst the crew of the Ababa was saved and taken to the Red Lion Inn, Bispham. The ship was lost.

For his part in the rescue, Mr Hindle was presented with the ships bell at a short ceremony, by the ships Captain. Shortly after, the bell was presented to St Andrews Parish Church, in Cleveleys for both safekeeping and as a reminder of the fragility of life at sea. The hulk of the Abana lay rotting and plundered for souvenirs for many years.


The ‘carcasse’ of the Abana

In terms of the legacy of this event the bell can still be seen in the North porch of St Andrews along with a framed citation of the events leading to it being presented to the church. More especially the carcass ribs of the Ababa can still be seen at low tide, just off the promenade at Anchorsholme Park, Cleveleys, quite close the place where the ‘Riverdance’ foundered 110 years later.

June 2014

Courage and Honour on the Fylde

Blackpool and the Fylde heritage is widely known. However, a part of our proud heritage is less known and appreciated. The town has close links with 6 winners of the highest Gallantry Awards, the Victoria Cross and George Cross.

2Lt Alfred Victor Smith, VC Croix de Guerre

Alfred Smith, a native of Guilford Surrey was a Blackpool Police Inspector, his father was Chief Constable of Burnley Police. On his recruitment into the Army in 1914, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant to the East Lancashire Regiment. He was awarded the VC as a result of conspicuous bravery in trenches during the Gallipoli campaign. On 23 December 1915, a grenade he was about to throw fell from his hand and into the trench, close to several officers and men. He immediately threw himself on the grenade and was instantly killed in the explosion, but saved many lives. He is buried in an unidentified grave in Twelve Trees Copse Cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. His medals are on display at Towneley Hall in Burnley and plaques commemorate him and his courageous deed in Blackpool Police Headquarters and St Johns Church.

2Lt Stanley Henry Parry Boughey, VC

Stanley Boughey was born was a founder member of the first Blackpool Scout Group and the Blackpool Division of the St John Ambulance Brigade. At the outbreak of the first World War he was called to go to France with other members of the Brigade with a Royal Army Medical Corps contingent. In 1915 he was invalided home to the Kings Military Convalescent Home at Squires Gate (now Pontins). He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

He single-handedly attacked an enemy machine gun position with grenades, killing many and causing the surrender of about 30 enemy soldiers. As he returned for more bombs, he was mortally wounded. He died shortly after on 3 December 1917 and was buried Gaza War Cemetery in Palestine.

Stanley’s VC was presented to his mother by King King George V at Bucking Palace on 2 March 1918. A plaque presented to Victoria Hospital by his mother in his memory was recently lost, found at a car boot sale and is currently kept at a private house near Blackpool. His name and VC is commemorated with others at St Georges Methodist Church in Layton.

LSgt Arthur Walter Evans (Alias Walter Simpson), VC DCM

Lance Sergeant Arthur Evans was born in 1891 in Liverpool. He seemed to have had a ‘colourful’ life before joining the Army in 1914. By then he had travelled widely, joined the Royal Navy and changed his name. He joined the 1st Kings Liverpool Regiment, seeing service in Mons and Ypres. He later joined 6th Lincolnshire Regiment, probably as a casualty replacement. He earned his VC in action in France when he swam across a river and single-handedly silenced a machine gun position, taking four prisoners. On his return across the river his patrol came under very heavy fire, wounding an Officer. He managed to cover the withdrawal of the Officer ‘under most dangerous and difficult conditions and under heavy fire’. The success of the action was described in the VC citation as being ‘…was greatly due to the very gallant of Sgt Simpson’. After the war he joined the Australian Army Tank Corps for two and a half years. He died in Sidney Australia in 1926. His ashes are buried with his stepbrother in a grave in Park Cemetery Lytham

2Lt John Schofield, VC

John Schofield attended Arnold School, in Blackpool. He was born 1892, a native of Blackburn. He was a Temporary Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers at the time of his award. The citation for the VC describes how he led a raid on a strongpoint at Givenchy in April 1918. The action resulted in the capture of 123 officers and men when 2Lt Schofield stormed a parapet under fire, and ‘… by his fearless demeanour, skilful use of his men and weapons forced the enemy to surrender’. He was killed at the scene a few minutes later.

There are a number of commemorative plaques in the school. His medals including his VC is displayed at the Fusiliers Museum in Bury.

2Lt Hardy Falconer Parsons, VC

A native of Rushton Lancs, he was a pupil at King Edward VII School in Ansdell, attending the Drive Methodist Church in St Annes. His father was a Wesleyan minister.

Parsons served with the Gloucester Regiment in France. On the night of 21 August, the Germans launched a major attack on a position commanded by Parsons, close to the St Quentin Canal. His men, under heavy fire were forced back. However, Second Lieutenant Parsons stayed at his position and although badly scorched by flame throwers he single-handedly held up the enemy until fatally wounded. The citation records that ‘this very gallant act of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty undoubtedly delayed the enemy long enough to allow of the organisation of a bombing party’. This action led to a retaliatory raid by his comrades which succeeded in driving back the enemy before they could do any real damage in the trench system.

There are memorial plaques in the Drive Methodist Church in St Annes, which includes a copy of the VC Citation and in King Edward VII and Queen Mary School in Fairhaven. Parson’s V.C. medal is on display at the Gloucestershire Regiment Museum in Gloucester.

The George Cross (GC) shares equal precedence with the Victoria Cross; the senior gallantry award for civilians and the military whose actions don’t meet military honours requirements.

LAC Albert Matthew Osborne GC

Enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in July 1940. He was awarded a posthumous GC for his “unsurpassed courage and devotion to duty” during constant German air attacks on Malta. Recorded acts of valour included making safe torpedoes in burning aircraft; rescuing a pilot from a burning plane and rescuing trapped airmen during enemy bombing. He was killed on 2 April 1942 by an explosion while fire fighting in a similarly courageous manner. (Wikipedia). Osborne is remembered on a memorial in Kirkham Grammar School.

IN ADDITION:   There are 2 other, somewhat spurious records linking Blackpool to the Victoria Cross.

Private William Proctor ‘of Layton

It is already known that Proctor never did get a VC, but it was reported in the Blackpool Gazette and News in 1915 that he had been awarded one. The story is completely spurious. On the other hand Smith and Boughey did receive the award. (Tony Sharkey, 2011)(Nick Moore, 2009)

Jonathon Quayle Higgins III

Then there’s the entirely fictional star of ‘Magnum PI’ (starring Tom Sellick), a detective series from the 1980’s. Jonathon Quayle Higgins (played by John Hillerman), claimed to have been awarded a VC though we are not told what for. Higgins was the British character, an ex Regimental Sergeant Major who looked after the Magnum estate, and his link to Blackpool? His father treated the young Jonathon to a holiday in Blackpool to celebrate his graduation from Sandhurst. It seems that the boy Jonathon was not impressed, he thought Blackpool to be ‘…a bit gaudy for his tastes’!

MP Coyle

September 2009

(Sources: The internet via Google. Photographs are available on the internet. Photographs of the commemorative plaques mentioned are available from MPC.)

Local Visits: Thornton Station

Visit  Date:                            03 June 2014
Place Visited:                       Thornton Station (Preston & Wyre Railway)
When was it built?              1927 To a standard design, the same as the station at St Annes on Sea.
For what purpose was it built?    To provide a transport link for the burgeoning tourism of the new developments in Fleetwood, North Blackpool resorts and the commercial industrial freight demands of the area.

Interesting Facts

  • image002Thornton Station (originally ‘Cleveleys Station’, later called ‘Thornton for Cleveleys’), is a station on the now disused rail link between Fleetwood and Preston, opened in 1840 and closed to passengers in 1968. Freight used the line until 1980.
  • In 1835, a group of business men and developers representing the principal interests formed the ‘Preston & Wyre Railway, Harbour & Dock Company’ to establish a link with commercial and manufacturing centres in Lancashire and Yorkshire and tourist/travellers from further afield.
  • The line to Fleetwood was the first on the Fylde/Wyre Peninsula, predating that of Blackpool. It was established to accommodate travel between England and Scotland when it was thought unlikely that the network could be eimage004xtended over Shap Summit. The line and terminus at Fleetwood provided a link to Scotland via the Ferry Port to Ardrossan.
  • The earlier station was built in 1865, replacing an earlier ‘Halt’, called Ramper Road (now Victoria Road) situated on the opposite, south side of what is now Victoria Road. It was moved to stop trains obstructing the road when they stopped to disembark large numbers of passengers.
  • There are plans to redevelop the line as a ‘heritage attraction’ by a voluntary group formed for the purpose ‘The Poulton & Wyre Railway Society’.

Sources & Further Information:

Inundations: Floods on the Fylde

Reflecting on the recent storms and writing the missive on Shipwrecks, coupled with memories of early adulthood working on South Shore, caused me to put this piece together.image002

The references to early adulthood refer to my time as apprentice chef at the Headlands Hotel on South Prom. Regularly at Easter and other times of High Tide, I was called upon to carry the ladies who worked at the hotel from the hotel front door, wading sometimes at past knee height through the water to the bottom of Harrowside Bridge, so that the ladies didn’t get their feet too wet. I was a big lad in those days, a Rugby player and as strong as an ox. Piggybacking the ladies, I saw as not just a good deed but part of a regime of keeping fit, and a I did it for about 7 years. Needless to say, I paid for that good intention in later life! The hotel never seemed to suffer too much. The cellar flooded of course and oil fired boiler injectors housed down there were brought into the kitchen, serviced by me and the owner, replaced and they and we carried on working, as though it was an everyday occurrence, though nowadays, I feel sure that Health & Food Safety officials would have something to say about that. In the early 1970’s too, I helped colleagues move their goods and chattels in the floods at Larkholme Estate.

image003Getting back to the storms, the massive investment in sea defences have mitigated a lot of the inconvenience and anguish over the regular floods of those days in the early 1960’s. More recent storms have been put down in part to ‘Global Warming’, however, the Fylde coast has a long history of ‘Inundations’ and long before there was any reference to its affects on weather..

A little bit of further investigation at Central Library and a 1937 account lists what are referred to as ‘Inundations’ that occurred regularly if not frequently over the last few hundred years and proimage005bably before that. These inundations wrought havoc in the Fylde flatlands. Fields, houses, hamlets and presumably people and stock losing their place in the landscape, ships and crews lost from the seascape.Indeed, 2 separate occasions hamlets just off the present coastline were consumed by the waves; Waddum Thorpe just off Squires Gate and Singleton Thorpe (aka Singleton Scar) off Rossall Point/Bispham, although there is no evidence that these existed or were lost, but popular folklore and early histories of the area refer to them.

The ‘Saxton Map’ (right) of the 1500’s show the extent and shape of the Fylde Coast, compared its shape and form today, although we can assume some artistic licence. 1752 Emanuel Bowen’s Map of Lancashire confirms the erosion of the coastline over a couple of hundred years.

The following is a record of Inundations over the last 500 years:

Year      Impact
1532     Loss of Waddum Thorpe, a Churchyard and 2 miles of pasture at South Shore
1555     Loss of Singleton Thorpe, west of Cleveleys by Penny Stone Rock
1720     Loss of 6600 Acres in Lancashire including the Fylde Coast
1744     A ‘Disturbance’ or earthquake on Pilling Moss. ‘The Moss rose up and slid South’
1796     Inundation of Fylde Coast
1821     Inundation
1833     Inundation covering Marton Moss, up to Fleetwood
1863     Inundation affecting Rossall and Fleetwood
1870     Loss of the Promenade and ‘White Houses’ at Rossall Point

Mawson’s ‘Amounderness’ report only covers the area to 1937, But we know of many floods since. Research at Durham University cites 15 occasions of severe flooding at Blackpool in the hundred years between 1870 and 1970. even though the Promenade at Blackpool, as the first defence against the sea, was built before 1870.
Clearly, the sea and its floods are an integral to the life and life of Blackpool. Floods have a significant effect on those who suffer as a result, but what a spectacle for those who simply observe!


Books Bibliography
Thornber, William, 1837,The History of Blackpool and Its Neighbourhood
Porter, John (1876). History of the Fylde of Lancashire.
Mawson, T.H., 1937, Amounderness: Being a report of the Regulation Planning Committee for the Area of the Fylde, Batsford Ltd.

Websites Bibliography
Floods of 1720 at: accessed 13/01/14
Flood of 1870 at: Accessed 13/01/14
Floods of 1927 at: accessed 13/01/14
Film of recent floods at: accessed 13/01/14
Zong, Y. and Tooley, M. J. (2003) ’A historical record of coastal floods in Britain : frequencies and associated storm tracks.’, Natural hazards., 29 (1). pp. 13-36 at: Accessed 13/01/14
Recent Blackpool Flood at: Accessed: 15/01/14
Extract from Saxton 1537 Map of Lancashire at: Accessed 15/01/14

Stanley Park: The Festival of Britain Trees


The Festival of Britain took place in the summer of 1951 and celebrated the nation’s recovery after WW2. Located mainly on the South Bank of the Thames at Lambeth in London, the site was developed from old Victorian industrial buildings and railway sidings. New structures were built to house exhibitions exploring Britain’s landscape, the British character, British industry and science.

Although the Festival took pride in Britain’s past, most of the exhibits looked to the future. Science and technology featured strongly. In one of the pavilions, many Londoners saw theimage004ir first ever television pictures.

Blackpool’s commemorations of the Festival of Britain included the planting of the trees in Stanley Park.

Each of the trees has a plaque set on a small stone associated with it. All are presented ‘In Commemoration of the Festival of Britain 1951’.

(Poster & General information about the Festival of Britain was extracted from

Listed in approximate order:

  Tree Name In English Presented by: Photo
1. Olmus Stricta Wheatleyi Jersey Elm Blackpool Chamber of Trade  image006
2. Quernicus Pendulata English Oak The Blackpool Co-operative Society  image008
3. Prunus Serpulat Shirofugen Double Pink Cherry Pelham Mount Club  image010
4. Taxus Baccata English Yew The Blackpool Girl Guides Association  image012
5. Quercus Pedunculata English Oak Blackpool and District Boy Scouts Association  image014
6. Stone but Plaque Missing  image016
7. Stone but Plaque Missing  image018
8. Stone but Plaque Missing  image020
9. Prunus Lannesiana Erecta Pink Cherry Blackpool & District Caledonian Association  image022
10. Pyrus Aucuparia Mountain Ash Blackpool Gentlemans Highland Band James Macfarlane  image024
11. Pyrus Malus John Downie Ornamental Crab Blackpool Afternoon Townswomen’s Guild  image026
12. Stone but Plaque Missing  image028
13. Broken Stone and Plaque missing  image030
14. Prunus Cerasifera Pissardii Purple Leaf Plum The Blackburn and District Association  image032
15. Acer Davidii Maple Player’s Welfare Association  image034
16. Prunus Cerasifera Pissardii Purple Leaf Plum National Union of Public Employees Blackpool and District Branch  image036
17. Badly damaged hidden stone.  image038
18. Damaged and part hidden stone  image040
19. Part hidden Stone  image042
20. Prunus Serrulata Hizakura Double Red Cherry St John Ambulance Brigade(Blackpool Ambulance & Nursing Divisions  image044

Map of Stanley Park (Extracted from:


Sept 2014

Church Building in Blackpool, 1840 – 1940

RawcliffeStChurchIn Aug 2013 the BBC reported a Church Building boom across Romania, It was reported that at least 10 new churches were being opened across the country month. 170 years ago, we could have been saying the same about Blackpool. Between 1840 and 1940 there was an unprecedented programme of church building in the Fylde area.

Exactly why it happened is subject to further investigation and debate. Clearly the burgeoning demand of visitors and residents as the town grew is not in question, but why there was a seemingly incongruous development of on the one hand pleasure palaces and facilities and on the other, the growth in the number of places of worship. A preliminary assessment of why might include the reaction to the search for truths, certainty and order, brought about by engineers and scientists of the Industrial Revolution. Unexplained and unconfirmed ‘truths’ being answered by belief and faith. Around the time and before conditions were right for what became known as the ‘Evangelical Revival’. Clergymen with conscience moved out into the highway and byways preaching salvation. Methodism and its contemporaries were born and grew. New thinking, new ideas and philosophies Mormons; Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Christian Science; Darwinism; Marxism; Freud’s new ‘psychology’; History as an academic subject; Spiritualism; all of them seeking to question or incorporate the legitimacy of Scriptures and Christian teachings.

The 19th Century was a time for missionary zeal both nationally and internationally, with Protestant missions established throughout the UK. Bible Societies; the Sunday School Union; ‘Reform’ societies were Established as a reaction to slavery, drunkenness, prisons, education, poverty; Migration of rural populations, often forced via the Poor Law arrangements and simplest of economics, into the industrial centres. The established church had been unable to keep up with demand for its services.

Following the Napoleonic era, the Government established the ‘Parliamentary Grants for churches’ during a period of patriotic fervour after success at Battle Waterloo in 1815. The funds available, up to £1m, were controlled by the ‘Church Building Commission’ giving rise to churches being referred to as ‘Million Churches’, ‘Watrerloo Churches’ and ‘Napoleon Churches’. The programme provided for around 600 church nationwide, with grants of up to £10,000. Its not recorded whether any of the churches were built in Blackpool.

Revolution and uprising also presented a threat. France had gone through tumultuous revolution. In the UK, the higher social echelons expected the church to provide religious and moral guidance in justification of the ‘status quo’. Further, it had been argued that the church should be a sponsor of ‘Social Control’, inculcating defence of the State and its functions for the support of the population.

For the ‘Established Church’ there were internal worries: Ownership, structure and patronage, absenteeism amongst Vicars who could afford Curates; parochial income and stipends; poorly organised training for the priesthood; increasing questioning and The 1818 ‘Church Building Act’ allocated funds and empowered the ‘Church Building Commission’ to build churches in the great cities of the Industrial Revolution. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners, established 1836 by act of Parliament, were an essential factor in making the explosion of church-building of this period, possible. Their administrative powers, church property and income from the churches was supplemented clergy’s income.


Note: Figures in the adjacent charts do not include those churches for which we have no date of opening.

In Blackpool, there had been a Church at All Hallows Bispham since 1100’s. Hutton’s 1817 ‘Description of Blackpool’ makes the observation that ‘There is no place of public worship. Bispham, the parish church, is the nearest. Neither could I learn that divine service was performed in any one of the rooms.’

Porter records: At this time Blackpool was not only without a church, but in the whole place there was no room where the inhabitants or visitors were accustomed to assemble together for divine worship’. Until 1821 when St John’s was built. Although plans had been laid by 1789 for a church, plans for funding it came to nothing. Small congregation met at a local Hotel with ministers from Poulton & Bispham, or occasionally a visiting Vicar officiating.

In the period 1840-1940, we know that 110+ churches were built, with the peak building taking place between 1890 and 1920. The numbers reveal recognition of need between 1840 and 1860, with only 2 churches built. Later, church building appears relatively meteoric, however it fails to keep up with the population and these are resident populations, they don’t take account of the visitor numbers and temporary residents, like those who were posted to Blackpool in both world wars.

A review of the various Blackpool Directories and & Guides for the period don’t add any light regarding numbers of church openings. Up to 1870 they show 5 or 6 of the main congregations in Blackpool. Perhaps a little more telling is the number of Councillors expressing a religious affiliation. 60% of Councillors at the time of the formation of Blackpool as a Borough in 1876 expressed affiliation, with the vast majority Church of England, perhaps recognising the need to keep the moderates and reformers out of power, to protect the interests of the town’s entrepreneurs.

The conclusion can be drawn that in spite of demand and an ‘Evangelical Revival’ the main focus of the bulk of the resident and visitor population was and remains fun and entertainment.

A table associated with this article, is available to download here. It gives details of the dates and range of church openings, together with sources of further information. There is some confusion resulting from some churches changing name and location, temporary structures, denominations sharing facilities, etc. There are also discrepancies between the range of sources, especially with reference to ‘establishment’, opening and building dates. Some information about building and opening dates and location has not been found, but the churches mentioned are all referred to within the sources.