The tram is still in storage awaiting restoration, with many calling for it to return to return to Blackpool’s seafront
A recent reminder of a once popular illuminated Blackpool tram has prompted hundreds of responses on social media with people sharing their memories and asking for its return.
A picture of the ‘rocket tram’, sponsored by Burnley Building Society, was post on the Facebook of tourism page ‘I Love Blackpool’ prompting hundreds to react to the nostalgic gem.
The tram provided a unique experience for thousands of passengers from the 1980s to 1999 who travelled at an elevation of almost 30 degrees.
Two redundant waxworks from the old Louis Tussauds museum – King Peter of Yugoslavia and General Neguib of Egypt – were dressed as astronauts to ‘pilot’ the cockpit.
The sloping floor combined with a high passenger load meant that there were concerns raised of running it safely. However despite these challenges, it seems that the public want the vintage vehicle to return.
Kayleigh Bainton commented to say: “Bring it back but don’t have passengers on it just have it go up and down a few times a night for nostalgia.”
Paul Routley said: “Bring back the ROCKET, I remember the rocket as the most anticipated tram on the tracks, always the one to look out for.
“So glad it was not sold off, or dismantled, even the sight of it parked on the Island always gave you hope it would be restored one day, can we not get lottery funding for this restoration?”
Christopher Bright said: “This one really needs to return, seriously all illumination trams need to return. The elevated height won’t be a issue if everyone is seated until the end of the ride. If the rocket returns in my life time then I’m complete.”
Others shared their memories of riding the quirky tram.
Phill Davidson reminisced: “I always remember some words of wisdom from a tram conductor in the 1970s. These illuminated trams might look nice, but if you want to look at the lights, catch a normal tram because you get a better view. These are lit up too much and it’s harder to see out of the windows.”
David Rankin added: “I worked for the Burnley Building Society from 1979 and it merged with the Provincial Building Society to become National & Provincial Building Society in 1982 or 83 I think.
“I remember that, because we had sponsored the tram, we were allowed to have a ‘works do’ on it one night so off we set and there were a couple of crates of beer on board and soft drinks too. I ended up walking up and down that incline many times that night, serving everybody!
“Funny, the things that stick in your mind, isn’t it??”
Blackpool Heritage Trams works to preserve those trams which were in day-to-day use over the past 100-plus years.
The Heritage Tram Depot is the last working first-generation tram depot in the UK and one of only three working historic tram depots in the world built for double-deck trams.
The organisation is always need of vital funds so it can continue to run, maintain and restore the historic trams of Blackpool.
It is 50 years since Supt Gerry Richardson was shot dead in Blackpool
Supt Gerry Richardson who was shot dead in Blackpool
August 23, 1971 was a fair day and with the morning business of the day just awakening, a sea wind from the Promenade was beginning to muster.
But, as the organised armed robbery gang who had arrived the day before took their positions in front of family-owned Preston’s Jewellers, hands firmly on the firearms they had brought for the task, British criminal history was about to add a terrible new chapter.
Fredrick ‘Fat Fred’ Sewell (pictured, inset) was a well-known criminal from South London who had already served a sentence for a £37,000 wages snatch and was a successful car salesman and businessman with a farm and other properties.
With him were Charles Haynes, a nightclub owner, Dennis Bond, Thomas Flannigan, and John Spry, for what they thought would be an easy heist.
It went wrong from the start. The night before, arriving at a boarding house for the night wearing dark glasses and flashing £20 notes, the men had already caused undue attention.
It was 9.41am when they entered the jewellers with guns pointed at the terrified staff. They hadn’t seen the manager who, suspecting the strangers approaching his shop, had locked himself in a back room where he pressed a silent panic alarm which went straight through to Blackpool police station.
Fleeing the jewellers, precious gems, gold, and watches were strewn on the pavement, and after knocking unconscious a passer-by who tried to intervene, they found the doors to the getaway car locked just as police Panda cars started arriving on the scene
Funeral of Supt Gerry Richardson who was shot dead in Blackpool
What transpired next would not only spark one of Britain’s biggest manhunts, see three policemen shot and one murdered, but also set a series of events in chain which would help mould and shape what would be the modern framework for criminal justice and the judiciary in Britain.
The robbers had two service revolvers, a sawn-off shotgun, and a smaller handgun between. Police chased their Triumph at high-speed through winding streets and traffic of Blackpool eventually ramming the car and then taking up the chase on foot.
Two officers had already been shot by two of the robbers as they fled. Spry shot PC Ian Hampson in the chest as he tried to move from his car seat as the raider escaped from the crashed car. Sewell, Spry and Bond then raced down a side street, Sewell shooting PC Carl Walker in the groin.
The robbers then commandeered a butcher’s van, which, after another high-speed chase with shots being fired out the windows as the vehicles sped through traffic, crashed into a wall and was again rammed. This time, as Sewell jumped out of the van and tried to escape he was accosted and held by Supt Gerry Richardson.
Funeral of Supt Gerry Richardson who was shot dead in Blackpool
A top academic student from a working-class family who had left school at 17 and entered the police force as a cadet, Richardson also worked two years of national service as a military policeman and was destined for success in anything he chose to do.
A people’s man with a host of commendations and strong values, he had once saved a drowning man in a daring sea rescue. Well-liked, Richardson always lead from the front. He rose quickly because of merit and took control of the Blackpool sub-district by the young age of 36.
So as he faced Sewell, although the same age, they hailed from opposite ends of the spectrum. They grappled, Richardson fearlessly intent on arresting Sewell. The police officer said to him: “Don’t be daft, don’t be silly”. It was then Sewell shot him twice in the stomach at close range.
Haynes, who had also jumped free of the vehicle, fired a wild shot and merged into the crowd of onlookers. Spry, who had attempted to shoot another policeman, and Bond were wrestled to the ground by other officers.
Killer Fred Sewell
Sewell escaped, hijacking a grey van, leaving Richardson fatally wounded. He would lose his battle for life in his wife’s arms a few hours later as Irene Jermain, Sewell’s girlfriend, and Haynes drove the two escaping robbers down the M1 to London.
The story made international headlines and quickly turned into Britain’s biggest manhunt with Sewell and Haynes now Public Enemy No.1.
Haynes was captured first as he watched his daughter compete at the National Pony Championships in Stoneleigh Abbey. The case, mentioned in Prime Minister’s Question Time, would cause a public outcry prompting Richardson’s widow, Maureen to campaign for the return of capital punishment. Sewell would remain at large for 45 days, but the most wanted man in Britain once imprisoned would not rest there.
Just a year into his 30-year life sentence at Gartree Prison – and barely a week before Maureen Richardson was to posthumously collect the George Cross for her husband’s sacrifice – Sewell with the diversion of a riot nearly escaped in an audacious and well-planned operation.
He was stopped at the fence by dog handler Joseph Loney who, with the prison guard beside him knocked unconscious and the two dogs they had crazy with the acid the escaping prisoners had squirted in their eyes, single-handedly thwarted what would have been a major incident.
Gerry Richardson was the highest ranking policeman killed on duty in England. An estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of Blackpool for his funeral and Richardson was buried in Layton Cemetery.
Stephen Gillen is a reformed armed robber and career criminal. His book The Monkey Puzzle Tree about his own life story was short-listed for The Peoples Book Literary Prize.
Blowing Sands on Common Edge Road has been earmarked by historians as being one of the few remaining early dwellings from the agricultural past of Marton Moss
A “unique piece of Blackpool’s history” is now up for auction with a rustic finish and traditional touches detailing this antique property in Lancashire top seaside town.
The 18th century, grade II listed cottage has been earmarked by historians as being one of the few remaining early dwellings from the agricultural past of Blackpool’s Marton Moss area.
With a guide price of £55,000 the property’s historic features and accents make it a quaint place to reside but with only one bedroom, it may not be the right fit for a growing family.
Originally built as two adjoining cottages, Blowing Sands on Common Edge Road, now a single two-storey property, is built from traditional cobble and bricks with a low slate roof.
The property contains a host of historic features such as wooden mullioned windows, low ceilings and original roof timbers, as well partition walls built from cobbles.
Appearing on this month’s auction by auction house, Pugh, the unique-one bedroom cottage could be the perfect make-over project for a budding property owner.
Rare piece of Blackpool history for sale in form of ‘unique cottage’
Pugh associate director Eamonn Stones said: “This property is an utterly charming and unique relic of what this area of Blackpool was like more than two centuries ago when it was mainly farmland.
“Opportunities to buy a piece of living history such as this one do not come along very often and this is an extraordinary property – a real window on a bygone age.
“The house has been well cared for and little altered over the years and it is well known to passers by as a remarkable and very old cottage.
“Needless to say we have had lots of interest from potential buyers interested in owning a unique piece of the town’s history.”
A blue plaque on the front of the cottage marks it out as part of the Blackpool Civic Trust heritage trail and states that the house now stands as ‘the representative of several similar late-18th century dwellings in the area’.
Bidding on the historic property, and the other lots in Pugh’s online auction, opens on 18 August and closes the following day.
In the second of two features, Blackpool Transport archivist Alan Greenhalgh takes us through the later decades, looking at the Burlingtons, ticket machines and memorable, iconic colour schemes
Although Walter Luff concentrated his efforts on modernising the trams, some of the track on the congested Layton and Central Drive tram routes needed renewal.
The decision was taken to convert both these routes to bus operation from October 1936.
Twenty-five streamlined Burlingham bodied, Leyland Titan full-fronted buses were purchased for the conversion. Blackpool buses – the early days Consideration had been given at this time, and indeed later, to the substitution of trams by trolleybuses but this was never followed through even though authorisation had existed from 1935.
Some of the early designs and bus colour schemes became iconic in Blackpool
In 1937 the tram route from St Annes to Blackpool, and operated by Lytham St. Annes Corporation, was withdrawn and the Lytham St. Annes tram system closed down. A new bus service, the 11A, followed the line of the discontinued tram service although this did not involve any track closure within the Borough of Blackpool.
Fifty more streamlined buses were delivered during 1937, partly as provision for the services to Lytham. During the same year, 12 single deck buses, new in 1928, were rebodied by C.H. Roe in Leeds as open top ‘runabouts’ for the Park service.
In the period leading up to the Second World War, additional bus routes were introduced to serve new housing developments, particularly in South Shore. By 1938, bus route mileage stood at 116 miles compared with around 50 miles five years earlier and there were 161 buses in the fleet.
An area of land off Talbot Road, known as Talbot Mews, had developed during the 1920s and 1930s into a bus station for both corporation bus services and independent operators. This was replaced by a brand new bus station, together with a multi-storey car park, in 1939.
This was Talbot Road bus station in 1932
During the war, many bus services were shortened or withdrawn altogether because of shortages of fuel and rubber for tyres. Five of the ‘runabouts’ were transferred to the Auxiliary Fire Service. Even more runabouts were converted as possible rescue vehicles and allocated to the ARP.
Conductresses were employed in 1940, the first time that female platform staff had been used since the end of the First World War. A small number of women became drivers of single deck buses.The bus garage at Rigby Road was used for military purposes and a large number of buses were parked in the Bus Station at night. A temporary bus garage was built at Bond Street to house spare buses. Special bus services were provided for the RAF and for workers at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Euxton near Chorley.
Six single deck and eight double deck buses were converted to run on gas. The single deckers carried a bag on the roof which could be filled from a gas stand pipe and the double deckers had a trailer affixed to them which contained a gas producing unit.
After the war, attention turned to the requirement for new buses as replacements for the pre-war fleet.
A 1960’s cream coloured Blackpool bus on the hospital route
Manager Walter Luff was a strong believer in the benefit of the centre entrance with doors as a means of minimising platform accidents. Consequently, a modern version of the pre-war streamliner was adopted for bus deliveries between 1949 and 1952 when 100 iconic Leyland double deck vehicles with Burlingham bodies entered service. For many years during the 1950s and early 1960s these vehicles epitomised bus transport in Blackpool and indeed they are fondly remembered by many, even today.
Upon Walter Luff’s retirement in 1954 Joe Franklin was appointed general manager. In many respects Franklin adopted different policies to Luff, one obvious one being a reversion to rear entrance open platform buses. The first of these were five Leyland Titan PD2s with Burlingham bodies which were delivered in 1957.
The design of a full fronted cab, introduced pre-war, was maintained on new vehicles up until the mid-1960s.
It was during the early years of Joe Franklin’s managership that the bus (and tram) livery was revised to one of predominantly cream with green relief. This facilitated the controversial decision in 1957 to allow advertising on buses and trams for the first time since 1919. From the early 1970s the bus livery was to become almost totally cream.
During the winter of 1963-64 buses took over from the trams on the Promenade as an economy measure although trams continued to provide a shuttle service between Cleveleys and Fleetwood due to the problems of licensing a bus service in what was then a Ribble Motor Services operating area.
Between 1958 and 1968, no fewer than 130 Leyland Titan PD2s and PD3s were put into service, most as replacements for the Burlingham buses, which were being withdrawn and others for the tram route conversions.
All were rear entrance buses to a similar design, seventy of them fitted with the traditional full fronted cabs that dated back to the 1930s. The last open platform bus to enter the fleet was bus number 540 in 1968 by which time Blackpool was one of the last few remaining operators to specify this design of bus. In the late 1960s, because of escalating costs in the bus industry generally, there was a significant move to introduce ‘pay-as-you-enter’ buses, which dispensed with the need for a conductor resulting in a new fleet of Swift single deck buses coming into operation.
Apart from a period during the second world war, it was not until 1974 that women were employed as bus drivers. The first female driver commenced duty on 15th January of that year following a lifting of a previous ban on women drivers by the trade union.
In 1974 Joe Franklin retired as general manager, Derek Hyde becoming his successor. It was in the same year that female drivers were employed on the single deckers for the first time since the war. A further innovation was the introduction of radio communication, with all single-deck vehicles being equipped from 1975.
In a complete break with tradition, Blackpool’s first rear-engined double deck buses with front entrance, the famous Leyland Atlanteans, were put into service in 1977. By 1983 there were 74 of these buses which carried a revised fleet livery, featuring more green than previously. Their front entrance permitted collection of fares by the driver and the buses were worked with or without a conductor. Also new to the fleet during the 1980s were a small number of Dennis Lancet and Leyland National single deck vehicles. In 1977, the first ‘Almex’ ticket machines started to replace the T.I.M.s (Ticket Issue Machines), which had originally been introduced in the 1930s.
For a few weeks In January 1979, during the infamous ‘Winter of Discontent’, shortages of fuel were so severe that all bus services were restricted to running during the morning and afternoon peak periods only. Mini buses followed in the 1980s and the Blackpool Transport logo was introduced.
Today marks 100 years since the very first Blackpool Corporation bus service came into operation. With Blackpool Transport’s archivist Alan Greenhalgh, we look at the early days of the Blackpool buses
An example of an open-topped runabout bus which had a central canopy
One hundred years ago today, the first bus service operated by Blackpool Corporation came into force between Cleveleys and Thornton Railway Station.
It was a 15 minute frequency with a 4d fare being charged for the full journey.
Two Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric single deck buses had been purchased, seating 20 people, and ran with front entrances to allow the fares to be collected by the driver.
Buses from the 1920s
This was swiftly followed by an open top double deck bus in 1922 and the vehicles were kept in a building at Rossall.
The introduction of the service was Blackpool’s response to a proposal by the railway companies to construct a branch line from Thornton to Cleveleys and which was seen as a threat to the Corporation’s Fleetwood tramroad service.
The first bus service to operate within the Borough of Blackpool itself ran between Adelaide Place (near to the Tower) and Devonshire Road via Church Street and Caunce Street.
A further single deck Tilling-Stevens bus was purchased for this service.
One of the four open-topped Leyland Lions which ran a circular services
That began on December 22, 1922.
The fare between the Promenade and Devonshire Road was 1½ d.
In January 1924, a tram replacement bus service was introduced between Talbot Road and the Gynn, while track work was taking place on Warbreck Road (now the northern section of Dickson Road).
The bus service proved to be popular and was retained once the tram track work had been completed.
A toastrack bus outside Stanley Park in the 1920s
The service, which was slightly amended and ran between the Central Library and Warley Road, has existed in one form or another to the present day.
A further bus service between Adelaide Place and Forest Gate was introduced in 1924 and the Devonshire Road service was extended through Layton the following year.
By this time the bus fleet consisted of 19 front entrance single deck vehicles, mostly seating 28 people, and one open top double deck with a seating capacity of 50.
The following years saw a new batch of buses and the private bus operator William Smith’s Motor Service purchased, which operated services across the Fylde.
Blackpool buses parked up at the depo in the 1920s
Pleasure bus services were introduced a year later, coinciding with the opening of Stanley Park and in 1927, the first three-axle double deckers were added to the fleet. These, however, were less than satisfactory and were withdrawn in 1933.
Until 1932, the corporation department responsible for buses and trams also managed the electricity undertaking, which at that time was owned by the local authority.
But by then it was decided that the transport side needed a complete re-organisation and modernisation.
Charles Furness, who had been overall general manager since 1906 was to remain as Borough Electrical Engineer and a new transport manager appointed.
The new general manager, Walter Luff, became head of Blackpool Corporation Transport Department on 1st January 1933.
Luff produced a five-year plan to re-vitalise the transport department and is perhaps best known for his introduction of 116 centre entrance streamlined trams.
A 1930’s bus
The bus operation, which had never paid its way, received similar attention and a fleet of modern centre entrance buses, mostly double deck on Leyland chassis with either English Electric or Burlingham bodies, entered service from 1933 with fleet numbers 78 to 89.
As part of Walter Luff’s modernisation plan, the red livery of the buses and trams was replaced by green and cream.
Six open top single deck buses were purchased in 1935 for use as ‘runabouts’ on the Promenade to Stanley Park service.
These buses were most unusual in that they had a central canopy into which the destination indicators and bells were fitted, not unlike on the open ‘boat’ trams, gaining the nickname ‘gondolas’.
In 1935, licences were granted to both Blackpool and Lytham St Annes Corporations to operate a joint bus service between Blackpool and Lytham.
The route (number 11) ran from Adelaide Place to Halfway House via Central Drive and St Annes Road and then continued along Blackpool Road (which was closed when the runway at Blackpool Airport was extended during the war). Around this time Blackpool offered to purchase the Lytham St Annes branch but this was rejected and it was to be almost 60 years before Blackpool’s ambitions were finally realised.
*Next week we look at how the bus service has developed over the last few decades.
Here are some of the stories making the news in May 1976
Centenary parade went like clockwork
Massive crowds braved the weather for a big parade through the Blackpool to mark the start of a fortnight of centenary celebrations,
Grey skies, a blustery breeze and showers of rain threatened to mar the events for which the promenade was closed.
Blackpool centenary parade, 1976
Watched by an estimated 100,000 people, the procession involved 200 vehicles and 2,500 people. It was organised by the Blackpool and Fylde Junior Chamber of Commerce and was titled Blackpool on Parade.
It featured local commercial interests and voluntary organisations.
Before the main event, there was a special service at St John’s Parish Church, at which the Very Rev Lawrence Jackson from Blackburn Cathedral, was the preacher. Then a party of civic dignitaries took their place at the town hall which the procession passed on its way to the promenade and Starr Gate.
Roadworks in Church Street meant that there were gaps in the procession. Chris Hughes, president of the chamber said: “In general the whole thing went like clockwork.” He also paid tribute to the police for their handling of traffic and crowds.
Gunman fled from wine store but said ‘please’ in hold-up
A gunman said ‘please’ when he came face to face with an assistant at a wine store.
The drama began for Barbara Docktray just 25 minutes before closing time at Ainley’s wine store in Cookson Street.
Mrs Docktray, a partime shop assistant was sitting near to the cigarette kiosk when a young man walked in.
He pulled out a small gun from his pocket and said: “Will you empty the till, please.”
But the raider was scared off when the owner of the store, Alan Ainley, came into the shop.
“When the gunman realised someone was coming, he just fled,” said Mrs Docktray.
“The gunman first came into the shop and bought some cigarettes or a can of beer and left.
“The first time there were customers drifting in and out of the shop.”
Half an hour later he went back and that time the shop was empty. When he fled, Mr Ainley chased after him. Police were soon on the spot and searched the area. But the gunman was not found.
Mrs Docktray said the gun was an automatic type, about six inches long.
“It has been quite an experience,” she said, “I have been trying to keep myself occupied, I hardly slept last night.”
Garage break-in third in six months
A Fleetwood garage was broken into for the third time in six months.
Ken Maden, owner of Styan Motors Ltd, went to the premises in Copse Road and discovered a rear window broken.
A total of £128 cash was stolen from the office along with more sweets, Mr Maden said the intruders had also upturned drawers in the premises.
He said the money, which was in a drawer, was the deposit on a car and some uncollected wages.
A high wing aeroplane which had a black fuselage and orange wings was stolen from a desk along with the radio control equipment.
Mr Maden estimated the plan and equipment to be worth £200. He said it was the third break in since December and they also had five plate glass windows smashed since mid-January.
New tenant needed for five-bob house
The Royal British Legion was considering applicants for a two bedroomed house in Rodwell Walk, Grange Park, for a weekly rent of just 25p.
The ‘five-bob house’ was one of 10 owned by a trust set up by a local landowner for ex-servicemen.
Under the terms of the McCandless Trust, the houses must be let at a rent of only 25p and the Royal British Legion were asked to interview suitable applicants. A British Legion spokesman said: “We have loads of applicants for these houses.
“The new vacancy follows the death of one of their tenants and they are waiting for the estate to be settled before a new tenant can move in.”
The only condition is that the prospective tenant was resident in Blackpool in 1939 and had served in either of the two World Wars.
The Ellis family were experts in palmistry, physiognomy, crystal gazing, fortune telling, graphology, hypnotism, and spiritualism
Ida Ellis giving a palm reading circa 1896 (Image: Courtesy of Wyre Archaeology)
The forecasting of future events and the assessment of one’s character by means not considered rational has been practised since as far back as 4000 BCE, with its origins in ancient Egypt, China and Babylonia.
By the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, the concept of fortune telling became rapidly more organized and sophisticated.
The practice began to flourish not in the country’s capital of London but in the ever-growing popular seaside resorts with Blackpool being the most influential.
The newly built and developed railway network to the town meant meant the middle and working classes could embark on better holidays and so the fortune tellers of the day followed this trend.
One infamous family in Blackpool however took this trade to its maximum potential.
The Ellis family, who were qualified scientists of the time, established themselves in the town in 1891.
They were experts in palmistry, physiognomy, crystal gazing, fortune telling, graphology, hypnotism, palmistry and spiritualism.
The occultists were famous for their practice of phrenology which involves the observing and feeling of the skull and bumps on one’s head to determine an individual’s psychological attributes.
Although by today’s standards we could write the family off as quacks and charlatans, the Ellis’s truly believed in their methods and managed to successfully acquire a grand premises based on, not only their successful entrepreneurship of land and property, but also because of what we would deem as a good ‘business model’ today for their fortune telling.
Forget the notion of stripy pop up tents, candles and beaded curtains, by the early 20th century the Ellis’s occupied a house with 11 rooms, had a domestic servant and operated from a site that is where the current Madame Tussauds wax museum is today.
Not originally from Blackpool, husband Albert and Ida Ellis and brother Frank Ellis moved from Leeds and then briefly in Batley as the seaside’s town reputation for fun and entertainment grew.
In 1890 Albert and Ida had a son named after their uncle.
Albert, an insurance agent, had gained a lot of influence in the town when they arrived and became a town councilor.
He also established a partnership with butcher John William Outhwaite and established a thriving fairground alongside the gypsies and hawkers who traded on the seafront.
His family business however was ran like a true service and each family member having a specialty.
Frank’s was physiognomy, Ida’s was palmistry, crystal gazing, automatic writing and psychometry and Albert’s was graphology and phrenology.
The literature created by the family was incredibly sophisticated and provided stiff competition for the psychiatrists of the day mostly written by Ida and published by Albert.
If you crossed the palm of an Ellis family member, they would then delve deep into your psyche asking complex and probing questions.
The height of scientific analysis, a calculation was made on paper in pencil of your ways to gain success, bad omens and pitfalls to avoid.
Although seemingly primitive, this “chart” was packed full of information from a personal reading where customers could take home and live by the prescribed advice.
Even babies could get their “charts” done to serve as a predicter of their personality, potential characteristics and where they would and wouldn’t excel in life.
Although more organised and sophisticated than the Gypsies and palmists who endured all weather out in tents on the beach, the family still lived with the suspicion and stigma of their beliefs.
Their time in Batley saw them have their first brush with the law in 1891 when they were accused of writing and publishing “obscene” literature.
The trio were subjected to ridicule, contempt, fines and imprisonment and Ida herself had a short stint in Preston Gaol.
Despite this they successfully set up a publishing house and were very protective of their written work.
Their eye catching posters and charts of crystal balls and palms were incredibly eye-catching which help stay on top of the Blackpool fortune telling scene.
Being a “bump feeler” proved lucrative and even the stands on the beach that practised phrenology could earn them up to £10 a day which a lot of money at the time.
Although the family could be seen as making a quick buck from vulnerable people, their personality traits did express empathy and sympathy for the human condition and they appeared to have sincere intentions to help people.
Despite suffering controversy at times, Ida’s sensitivity and Franks’ political liberalism made the pair popular with those they met.
All three founded ‘The British Institute of Mental Science’ situated on Kent Road, Blackpool based on their principals though its overall success was questionable.
The 1920s proved a quiet periods for the Ellis’s and in the early 1930s they loved to Cornwall after falling in love with the resort.
Albert died in Trewinnard, Cornwall on October 3 1934 after being ill for some and Ida herself died later in 1940.
Albert’s brother Frank remained in Blackpool all his life and died in late 1939.
A 1958 programme from when Dave Morris performed in Blackpool
A television series is the aim of today’s likely lads of comedy. But imagine how unlikely it would have been when there were only two channels.
In continuing the story of Blackpool comedian Dave Morris, we find that Dave actually did it in 1957 with his Club Night show.
Dave is one of the forgotten men of comedy. The broadcasts were not archived but having radio, television and stage seasons of the same show is worth a time-line.
Comedian Dave Morris
After 20 years of touring the variety theatres, Middlesbrough-born Dave stepped up in 1940 to stardom in Blackpool summer shows. It was the first of seven consecutive seasons at the North Pier.
After a 1947 season at the Opera House, Dave produced his own summer shows at the South Pier from 1948 to 52.
We rejoin him in his third season at the pier, spending his down time by writing a radio series of Club Night, the result of having a drink with the BBC’s Robert Stead, who was looking for new ideas.
It went on the air in November, 1950, the first of several series. Dave cannily retained the stage rights.
In 1950 Dave was 54. He was tubby and very short-sighted, the result of a gas attack while fighting on the Western Front during the First World War. Hardly a likely lad for a TV series.
His trade marks were a straw “boater” hat, a big cigar and a fast, wisecracking style.
Unlike most radio sitcoms, Club Night was ideal for the stage and became Dave’s summer show at the South Pier for both 1951 and 52. It then toured the variety theatres, with several Blackpool visits.
The radio series ended in 1955 and for two years Dave toured in a patter act with his “feed” Joe Gladwin.
Television was on the rise and the BBC suggested a screen version of Club Night in 1957. The TV version was made in Manchester by the young John Ammonds, later to become one of the BBC’s top producers.
It was noticed by George and Alfred Black, the London-based producers of the Blackpool Tower Company’s summer shows at the Opera House, the Winter Gardens Pavilion and the Grand Theatre.
They were looking for a 1958 summer show for Blackpool’s Palace Theatre and Club Night filled the bill – eight years after its radio debut.
It was a late career boost for Dave. A Gazette reviewer noted: “As a topical comedian Dave is unrivalled.”
In 1959 Dave returned to the South Pier under the title Dave’s Back and co-wrote a new TV sitcom with Blackpool writer Frank Roscoe. In The Artful Dodger, Dave’s character was a football fan who would do anything to avoid working.
A Gazette writer thought it was the funniest thing on TV with the exception of Hancock’s Half Hour. A second series was planned but during the winter Dave was disabled by a stroke and died on June 8, 1960, a month before his 64th birthday.
There was a big disappointment in Dave Morris’s merry progress through the 1950s.
In April, 1955, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were on a tour of Lancashire and a special Royal Variety Performance was staged at the Opera House.
Several northern comics were in the cast. But not Dave, who had done more Blackpool shows than any of the others, who lived in the resort and was a respected publicist for the town. The producer of the royal show was bandleader-turned-impresario Jack Hylton, who had failed to get the stage rights to Club Night. Dave hadn’t danced to Hylton’s tune and was offered a mere “walk on” during the opening scene.
Historian David Hewitt looks back at the very first movies which screened in Blackpool, 90 years ago
It is ninety years since the first talking picture to be filmed in Blackpool was actually shown here.
Talkies had come to the town a couple of years before, and while the first two of them starred Al Jolson, The Singing Fool was seen – and heard – at the Hippodrome long before The Jazz Singer at the Winter Gardens.
Then, No Lady was the talk of the town. In the summer of 1930, the Promenade was suddenly a riot of cameras and lights, men with bullhorns, and crowds of excited onlookers.
English actor Lupino Lane Photo: Getty Images
The star, and also the director, of this film was the great Lupino Lane, who had been born Hackney and claimed to come from ‘the Royal Family of Greasepaint’. What he had come from most recently was a decade in Hollywood, where he had made films with the likes of Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle and DW Griffith.
Now, Lupino played a man who goes on holiday with his wife and children, only to be mistaken for a foreign spy who is determined to stop the British champion winning a prestigious flying competition.
And while there would certainly be talking in this film, there would also be music – much of it the work of Herman Darewski, who was well-known at the seaside.
A popular dance band leader, Mr Darewski was also a prolific composer. (The Great War hit Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers had been one of his.) He spoke five languages and always wore a carnation in his button hole, and he too appears in No Lady, albeit as conductor of something called the ‘Blackpool Tower Band’. In real life, Herman had spent the summer playing at the Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens.
American singing entertainer Al Jolson leaning on a radiogram. Photo: Getty Images
Before that, he had spent a good few seasons in Bridlington, where his salary (in today’s money) was £11,000 a week. He had recently written the music for another Lupino Lane film, and when he arrived here he found himself caught up in a debate that had been raging for several days. ‘I have never found that Blackpool girls are gold-diggers,’ he told a reporter.
The ‘interior’ shots for No Lady had already been filmed, on elaborate sets put up in studios at Shepherd’s Bush. And the man who designed those sets had his own local connection.
Andrew Mazzei had lived in Blackpool for a while, and even been married here, and most recently he had designed the Olympia Hall, which had been built inside the Winter Gardens complex, in the place where the Big Wheel had once stood. In his mid-forties by now, he was the veteran of many films since making his debut with an early version of Hindle Wakes.
The weather in Blackpool that August was distinctly changeable, with daytime temperatures in the mid-eighties, but filming frequently brought to a halt by thunderstorms. There were as many people bathing between the piers as promenading, with thousands more basking in deckchairs. And a barker at the entrance to North Pier could be heard to shout, ‘Come and see Mr Lane make a Talkie!’
In Talbot Square, the onlookers had to be held back by a rope, and by the combined efforts of local policemen and Boy Scouts. Mr Darewski and his band serenaded them with a medley of popular tunes. And the Mayor, perhaps hoping to catch the director’s attention, had turned up in the full civic regalia.
Lupino Lane’s last few American were doing the rounds at this time – The Love Parade, in which he appeared alongside Maurice Chevalier, the most prominent – and in the evenings, local cinemas showed several of them back-to-back. Then, at the end of the week, there was a glittering ball at the Winter Gardens, attended by the star and other members of the cast, with drinking past eleven o’clock and dancing until two.
It was in London the following May that No Lady was shown to the film trade, just as Andrew Mazzei’s latest creations – including the Baronial Hall, the Spanish Hall, and the Galleon Bar – were opening for business at the Winter Gardens.
The trade paper The Bioscope was impressed, calling the film ‘splendid entertainment for patrons of every age, class and nationality.’ Kinematograph Weekly, meanwhile, called it ‘excellent light entertainment,’ which, ‘moves at a merry pace and works up to a capital climax.’
In Blackpool, the grand opening night was Sunday, 12th July 1931, with the film being shown at the Winter Gardens not only in the afternoon, and twice in the evening, but at 10.30 in the morning as well. ‘A screaming farce of Blackpool holiday life!’ the advertisements proclaimed. ‘See yourself on the screen in this, the greatest British Talkie yet produced.’
Over seventy breathless minutes, and whether or not they caught sight of themselves, audiences would see Lupino get chased by the police, run into a ladies’ baths, come out dressed as a woman, get chased by bathing beauties, descend from the top of the Metropole Hotel using his umbrella as a parachute, get chased by his own wife, walk off Central Pier in a striped blazer, dangle from one of the flying boats on the Pleasure Beach, run in and out of cars and trams, make his get-away along the beach, ride a tricycle through a Punch & Judy show, fly a glider, crash the glider onto the beach, and be left spinning on his head like a child’s top.
And this created excitement in other towns as well. ‘No need to go to Blackpool,’ one cheeky cinema-owner announced, ‘We bring it to Burnley,’ and a local newspaper said of the film, ‘If you like your humour broad and unsubtle you will thoroughly enjoy it.’ Up the road in Nelson it was described as ‘a thrill-a-minute, laugh-a-second type of entertainment’, while even in far-away Newquay they were hailing it ‘a hilarious affair, which completely captivates the holiday spirit.’ Whatever its merits, No Lady would be re-released in 1943, long after its star had stopped making films, at a time when the people of Britain needed to be cheered up all over again.
A team that includes some of the most highly skilled craftsmen in the country, who have worked across the world on projects including the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace have worked on it
Specialist painters and fibrous plasterers work on the major conservation project taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021 (Image: This is Influential)
One of the UK’s most iconic buildings is today a step closer to re-opening its doors following a £1.1M refurbishment.
The Blackpool Tower Ballroom, located in the Grade 1 Listed Blackpool Tower, is hoping to re-open on June 21, providing the Government’s latest road-map out of lockdown goes to plan.
The venue, which dates back to 1894 and is known by millions as the home to Strictly Come Dancing’s annual ballroom special, has under-gone the most extensive programme of work and deep clean for more than 60 years.
A team, including some of the most highly skilled craftsmen in the country, who have worked across the world on projects including the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, have dedicated more than 21,000 hours, over a period of six months, each climbing an average of 85 flights of scaffolding daily, to restore the famous Blackpool Tower Ballroom to its original glory.
The team has discovered signatures under the murals that adorn the ornate plasterwork ceiling showing the last time anyone was in this space was in 1957.
A specialist painter works on the major conservation project taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021(Image: Blackpool Tower Ballroom)
These historic works took place following a fire in the building which caused severe damage to the ballroom. At the time, these works were estimated to cost over half a million pounds and took 17 months to complete.
The work has been made possible thanks to a lifeline grant of £764,000 as part of the Government’s unprecedented £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, together with funding from Blackpool Council, taking the total investment to £1.1M.
The grant, awarded to Blackpool Council by Historic England, has supported the venue to carry out comprehensive repair and restoration work on the ballroom’s period plasterwork ceiling.
Project Manager Keith Langton inspects and oversees the major conservation work taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 202(Image: This is Influential)
It is one of the most “significant” projects Historic England has been involved with to date and has replicated the skills used by workers back in 1894 when the Tower was built, including:
· Skilled scaffolders, artists, decorators, structural engineers, joiners, plasters and conservators all pooling their skills.
· The rare art of fibrous plastering
· More than two tonnes of plaster being mixed.
A specialist painter works on the major conservation project taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021(Image: Blackpool Tower Ballroom)
· Organic hessian being imported from India to mix with the plaster to make a special formula allowing intricate repairs to be carried out to the ornate plaster work adorning the ballroom ceiling.
· A team of over 30 specialists on site, working a combined 21,000 hours.
· Skilled craftspeople working daily in tiny roof spaces to inspect and restore the ornate plasterwork from behind the ceiling.
· Oil paints being colour-matched by the naked eye by on site restoration experts to patch up murals damaged by water ingress and nicotine over the years.
· Several hundred litres of gold paint being mixed to ensure the gold leaf ornate artwork is restored to its former glory.
· Deep cleaning behind all of the ornate models which adorn the ceiling, with dozens of dust filled bags being removed from site every day.
· Murals being deep cleaned removing water damage and nicotine damage from over the decades.
· Intricate and detailed research work being carried out to establish exactly how the work was originally done to ensure all the works which took place during this latest refurbishment were carried out to the exact same standards. This involved drilling more than 12 square spaces in the roof space to enable this “methodology” as the craftspeople call it to be carried out.
The entire space of the Blackpool Tower Ballroom is covered in scaffolding to facilitate the major conservation project taking place, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021(Image: Blackpool Tower Ballroom)
The work, led by Hayles and Howe, specialists in ornamental plaster work and scagliola, has also uncovered some incredibly rare and unusual finds – all discovered in the angel figures adorning the ballroom ceiling.
These have included newspapers dating back to 1911, old cigarette packs which would be museum pieces today and even an old walking stick, believed to date back to the early fifties.
Keith Langton, project manager, said: “I thought Buckingham Palace had the wow factor – which obviously it absolutely did.
“But working here at The Blackpool Tower Ballroom has literally blown me away. This really is something else. It is a project I will never forget – and perhaps even a project for me to retire on.
Everyone wants to end their career on a high – and I don’t think I could get a better high than working at the Ballroom.
“It has been an absolute pleasure and honour!”
He has, however, warned of the desperate need to recruit more young craftspeople into what he describes as a “rare trade.”
Keith added: “We are just not seeing enough young people coming through.
“Fibrous plastering – the key trade being used on the refurbishment – is becoming a rare trade and we just cannot allow this to happen.
“Without people being skilled in this way, buildings like this would be forced to close. It is essential more young people take up careers in this sector.
Literally everywhere I go, in this country and abroad, I make it a priority to pass on as many skills as possible to as many people as possible – hopefully inspiring them all along the way!”
This the longest period of time in its history the ballroom has been closed, with the exception of the fire in 1956/7.
Last week we remembered Harry Korris’ Happidrome show, which the comedian put on as a summer show sketch in the 1930s.
From this he developed a radio series that ran for seven years from 1941. In 1943 there was also a film version.
Unfortunately, a little gremlin was active on the page last week and implemented the captions. Today we put Harry back in history with this “at home” Gazette photo with his wife, Connie.
Harry (1891-1971) lived at Squires Gate for nearly 40 years, first on Dunes Avenue and then on Lytham Road.
So what was the second radio sitcom that originated in Blackpool?
It was Club Night, written by and with Dave Morris (1896-1960), whose Blackpool appearances lasted 40 years and who lived in Duchess Drive, North Shore, for more than 20 years.
Coun Mrs. Constance May Korris and husband Harry Korris
Dave had starred in Blackpool for ten consecutive summer seasons before Club Night first aired in the fall of 1950.
The story of how the show came about was told on the Gazette’s radio column in the spring of 1950.
Dave had had a drink with BBC’s Robert Stead in the Dress Circle Bar at Blackpool’s Palace Theater, a popular hangout for performers, producers, and Manchester radio guys.
The conversation was put through to the Gazette, probably by Dave.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything new under the sun. What we need in broadcast are new ideas, ”said Stead.
“How about a workers club on the radio?” answered Dave.
“Look at the characters that you have. There’s the little guy with the chickens; the brave who always drinks drinks; the eternal grouser and wise man, that’s me. “
Dave explained, “The main topics of conversation are beer, racing and soccer until someone gets a brainwave and starts politics. It would be good down-to-earth fun. “
“But who is going to write such a script?” asked Mr. Stead.
And he put himself in the spotlight as treasurer and loud Mr. Know All from the club. Like its other characters, it was a clubland stereotype.
There was a steward, played by Billy Smith quoting the rules, and the Wacker, played by Liverpool’s comic Fred Ferris, who was in and out of the club forever and asked, “As’ ee am in?” That was just a way to include yourself in a round of drinks.
There was the boring Army veteran, Pongo, first played by the show’s producer, Ronnie Taylor, and the disrespectful (to Dave) Snuffy Hargreaves, played by Frank Bass.
Then there was Cedric, the little man in the bowler hat, meek and gentle, who didn’t touch alcohol, part of who gave Joe Gladwin the character around which the comedy joke began.
The Gazette article had revealed to readers who did not already know that Dave was almost blind and had a unique arrangement with the BBC. He didn’t have to read from a script when it aired: “I write my own material and can remember it – usually,” he told the newspaper’s radio columnist.
“I had to get permission from the BBC high-ups. From their point of view, that’s quite a risk. “Next week: The radio and stage success of Club Night – and the reason Dave didn’t attend the Royal Variety Performance at the Opera House in 1955.
Blackpool Rock Gin expertly distilled and handcrafted in Lancashire and can be found in many of the resort’s bars, pubs and restaurants
Blackpool Rock Gin is inspired by the seaside (Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)
Blackpool Rock Gin has become a well-loved brand not only in the town’s local bars, pubs and restaurants but also in other parts of the UK and further afield.
The truly Lancashire gin is the only one of its kind to actually use its product, i.e. a stick of Blackpool Rock, within the drink and not simply use flavouring as is with the case with many other flavoured gins.
The idea for the pink gin came about around three years ago by founders Simon, now aged 48, and Jay now aged 37.
Simon, born on the Fylde coast, has spent over 30 years in the drinks industry supporting national and international gin brands and distillers achieving many multiple international awards.
Jay, who lives in Lytham St Annes with his young family, is a design expert with his own marketing and web design agency.
He supports many local businesses across the North West working predominantly in the hospitality space.
The original Blackpool Rock Gin along side the 125th Limited Edition bottle(Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)
One evening the pair were out drinking gin on a terrace in Lytham discussing life when the idea was born.
Jay said: “Simon asked me how work was going, and I basically said I was fed up with making successful brands and products for people.
“Simon, as ex senior manager of one of the largest distilleries in Europe, had said that people had kept asking him to create his own gin. At the time gin had really taken off and the industry was booming so we got to thinking of what we could do ourselves.
“Blackpool really enjoys its nostalgia so we immediately thought of Blackpool Rock. We also wanted to do something no one else had done too and actually have the real product in the drink.
“From that point we set about trying to make that happen.”
“Seaside poster” for Blackpool Rock Gin(Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)
The two were to find out that the unique process this involves would be much more complicated than trying to dissolve a stick of rock within the gin.
They therefore enlisted the help of one of the oldest Blackpool rock factories in the town.
After much fine filtering and technical wizardry the results that came was a lovely, subtle sweet, original pink gin.
The drink is now expertly distilled and hand crafted using 10 premium botanicals and the base gin is made to the London dry standard and the single sourced spirit is produced in Lancashire.
Truly a craft gin, the pair painstakingly hand label and bottle every gin themselves.
Blackpool Rock Gin is a true Lancashire gin(Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)
Jay said: “There is sometimes a concern that because Blackpool Rock is used it’s going to really sweet almost like a liqueur.
“It’s very subtle however – if you mix it with lemonade it really brings out the sweetness and if you mix it with tonic it tastes truly like a dry gin.
“There can be a little bit of stuffiness within the gin world and we don’t really enter competitions. Simon has done all that and, given his expertise, he says with all honesty that this gin is one of the best he’s ever produced.
“As someone from Lytham I know sometimes there can be a little bit of snobbery towards Blackpool too however we know how great and unique the town is.
“The Blackpool community is like no other and the support we’ve had from locals and businesses has been overwhelming.
“Some gin makers have all kinds of funding to help them make their products however we have created and nurtured this ourselves without any support.
Jay (left) and Simon (right) with Jean-Christophe Novelli(Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)
The collaboration between the two local lads is why the pink gin has proved so successful.
Simon is responsible for making the gin and handcrafts each and every batch himself and Jay brings the creative side to the business which is everything from the label on the bottle to the website.
As part of the original marketing of the gin, and inspired by the seaside, the pair managed to source some original Blackpool deck chairs and re-upholstered them in the brands colours to take pictures.
Since the offset the gin makers have set out to challenge the regular outlook of a start-up gin business and created a contemporary spirit that was fun and approachable that would bring new drinkers into the gin category.
In order to do this, Jay has always kept his finger on the pulse by keeping up with the latest trends, events and venues so the drink can be enjoyed by a full spectrum of visitors.
A fan of Star Wars, he didn’t miss a opportunity to mark May 4th this week by decanting his pink gin into a Storm Trooper bottle his nephew bought him – which made for a striking picture.
So much so the pair have been inundated with questions asking who designed the bottle. Although Jay didn’t, it would be something he’d love to do if it was made possible.
To celebrate 125 years of incredible innovation in the town and the birthday of Blackpool Pleasure beach, Blackpool Rock Gin also launched its ‘Limited Edition 125 Years London Dry Gin’ made from the premium 10 botanical base recipe.
This limited edition has 125 numbered bottles which have been designed and produced in its inaugural year.
Showcasing the true heart of Blackpool Rock gin, this version highlights the wonderful single source British spirit and the fantastic botanicals within it.
The original pink gin has found its way to places like Scotland and Brighton and even Jean-Christophe Novelli has enjoyed a tipple.
The recent pandemic has proved difficult, as it has for so many other businesses, however there are exciting new plans in place for the Blackpool gin including working with the team at Blackpool Rocks for their Blackpool Rock Returns event.
As always, Jay and Simon also have ideas for Blackpool inspired products to come and plans for tasting events.
For more information, please visit the Blackpool Rock Gin website here.
Fascinating photos taken by an urban explorer show what has become of some of Blackpool’s disused trams
Urban Explorer Kyle Urbex discovered the Blackpool tram “graveyard” in Fleetwood Haven Marina (Image: Instagram @Kyle_Urbex)
Fascinating pictures of what appears to be a “graveyard” of Blackpool trams have emerged thanks to an urban explorer who came to Fleetwood.
Kyle Urbex, 24, from Leeds discovered the vintage vehicles whilst exploring the docks area near Fleetwood Haven Marina.
The intriguing snapshots show a plethora of coloured trams appearing to be from different eras in progressive states of decay.
Some also sported artwork in relation to Blackpool Zoo, presumably a past destination and artwork of Professor Wilde.
The interiors of the trams were not so colourful however and appear to be in an awful rotted state with seats ripped up and piled high in some instances.
A pair of distinctive blue and yellow ‘Metro’ trams can also be seen with windows missing parked up next to a distinctive 710 ‘Metro Coastlines’ doubledecker.
Captured by Kyle, who works in a warehouse, the explorer only began pursuing his hobby around 11 months ago and has developed a knack for finding obscure places
So far he has visited over 300 obscure destinations around the UK and has even spanned the depths of Paris’ catacombs.
Kyle said: “I was attracted to this area because I know the people of Blackpool and Fleetwood are big fans of nostalgia which means there’s always potential to discover interesting things.
“I was aware that there was a security cabin not far away who knew I was there but I think they saw me on my own taking pictures so felt it was ok. I’m usually on my own when I explore as I find it a great way to escape and relax.
“I really wanted to capture the old trams and it was so sad as they had all fallen into a state of decay.
“Inside they were pretty chaotic but luckily they didn’t smell that bad as the windows were either open or missing.
“I managed to find some really cool old fashioned tram lights which looked very Blackpool.”
The site where the old trams are located are on private land and belong to the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust who endeavour to rehome their vehicles.
There was some fear among local people is that these beautiful locomotives would amount to nothing more than scrap.
Take a look at Kyle’s photos below. To see more of Kyle’s work, please visit his Instagram account @kyle_urbex.
Old Blackpool ‘Metro’ trams in decay
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Colourful display of old trams in Fleetwood Dock area
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Professor Wilde painted on the side of an old tram
(Image: Instagram @Kyle_Urbex)5 of 10
Old fashioned tram fair sign
(Image: Instagram @Kyle_Urbex)6 of 10
Old fashioned tram seats
(Image: Instagram @Kyle_Urbex)8 of 10
Old vintage steering wheel
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Old Blackpool lights in a box found inside one tram
Blackpool Pleasure Beach will open its gates on Monday – here’s a look back at the theme park over the years
How Blackpool Pleasure Beach has changed over the last 125 years (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)
Interest in theme parks has surged online by 65 per cent in the past three months amid the third national lockdown – showing that people are eager to get back to the thrill of rides.
One renowned north west attraction that’s been sorely missed is Blackpool Pleasure Beach, with its fun of the fair and its host of entertainment and interaction experiences.
It’s set to reopen its gates on Monday, April 12 after outdoor attractions were given the green light to welcome back visitors as part of Step Two in the roadmap.
And while it’ll be a big day for Pleasure Beach, it will also be celebrating its 125th anniversary.
A lot has changed at the theme park over the years, and there are even more new experiences launching in 2021, reports LancsLive.
This includes Walk the Woodie, which is an escorted, guided walk of the track and lift hills of one of the park’s classic wooden roller coasters.
Skipping ahead to autumn, there will be a new ‘it’s Friday night’ event, which will see the park open from 4.30pm-9.30pm.
While the hub is also a new centre for park entertainment located in the middle of the grounds near the fountains, which will also welcome Oktoberfest in September.
To allow visitors next week, the amusement park has put in place a number of robust Covid-secure measures, such as limiting the number of guests, compulsory masks and temperature checks.
Here, our sister site LancsLive takes a look at the iconic history of the family-owned Pleasure Beach and its 125 seasons.
Vision of an American-style theme park
1890 – 1910
Alderman William George Bean founded Pleasure Beach in 1896 after being inspired to build an American-style amusement park.
He had ambitious plans to build a world-renowned attraction “to make adults feel like children again”.
In conjunction with partner John Outhwaite, A.W.G. Bean bought a 42-acre plot of land where the park still stands today.
The local businessman travelled extensively to bring new rides and ideas to Pleasure Beach.
He introduced the Hotchkiss Bicycle Railroad to the site in July 1896 and Sir Hiram Maxim’s Flying Machines and Noah’s Ark – which still stand today.
The Infamous Flying Machines are not only one of the oldest continuously working machines in the Blackpool Pleasure Beach but also in Europe.
125 years later A.W.G. Bean’s Creation has brought joy to millions of visitors of all ages and backgrounds.
Still thriving through the first World War
1910 – 1930
The outbreak of the first world war saw Pleasure Beach face many challenges.
The exporting of rides from the United States eventually ground to a halt and investment in the park stopped as a result of this and the mounting difficulties faced.
Always resilient through hard times however, Blackpool found a way to overcome problems.
Against the odds and due its unwavering popularity, the amusement park’s profits soared and it became one of the most prolific employers in the North West.
Escapism from war and handing down of the business
1930 – 1950
Throughout the war years, Pleasure Beach remained open all year round.
Thousands of servicemen, evacuees and a wider population would come through its gates to briefly escape the burden of the world war around them.
So much so, signs around the park were written in Polish due to the number of Polish air force bases around the town at that time.
Once again, despite the turmoils of the external environment, this proved a great time of development for the park which started with the opening of Noah’s Ark and The Virginia Reel.
1923 also saw the introduction of a fast and modern ride like no other in the park. This was the Big Dipper which still operates today.
At the end of this prosperous decade for the theme park, W. G. Bean died in 1929. This is when Blackpool’s most well-established attraction was passed on to his son-in-law, Leonard Thompson.
Disney Inspiration and influx of rides
The company saw continued success under Thompson when there was an intensive period of development, including the building of the then modernistic Casino Building.
Inspired by Walt Disney’s penultimate amusement park, ‘Disneyland’, Leonard concentrated on introducing several groundbreaking rides including The Rollercoaster, The Pleasure Beach Express and the world-famous, twin-tracked coaster, The Grand National.
Returning the compliment, the Pleasure Beach became so world-renowned that Walt Disney himself came over to pay a visit.
The entrepreneur and animator came over to see it for himself and stated that he liked the fact it was a family park and that it was “a higher class of resort”.
This resulted in him granting permission for the company to use Alice in Wonderland as inspiration for a ride.
The second world war had seen a temporary holt in terms of the rides and attractions development however it soon saw a return to prominence with the opening of the highly regarded Wild Mouse wooden rollercoaster in 1958.
This was then followed by The Derby Racer in 1959 which carousel has 56 horses, each one hand-carved at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Britain’s first commercial monorail and influx of popular rides
During the 1960s, Britain’s first commercial Monorail was built along here with an explosion of new popular rides including the Monster, the Astro Swirl and the world’s longest Log Flume.
Visitors were also wowed by an enchanting trip through the Looking Glass on Alice in Wonderland; the Grand Prix and the popular Tea Cup ride .
Europe’s first 360-degree looping coaster and the UK’s only bobsleigh ride
Geoffrey Thompson became Managing Director in 1976 and added several exciting and iconic rides to the pleasure beach.
These include the Steeplechase, opened by the racehorse Red Rum in 1977., then two years later, Europe’s first 360-degree looping coaster, the Revolution, which received huge acclaim.
This time also saw the introduction of the infamous The Big One – the tallest, fastest rollercoaster in the world at the time of its creation and the Avalanche – the UK’s only bobsleigh ride.
This remains the only bobsleigh rollercoaster in the country and in the year the British bobsleigh team were competing in the Winter Olympics, 1988, Avalanche opened and carried over one million passengers during the first year.
The world’s tallest, fastest rollercoaster
In 1994 the Pepsi Max Big One opened at 235ft tall, meaning it was the world’s tallest and fastest rollercoaster of its time.
This was part of Geoffrey Thompson’s great legacy after he invested £12m in the gigantic ride.
The Big One changed the skyline of Blackpool’s seafront forever and attracted roller coaster superfans from all over the world.
Another UK first was also established around this time, the £2 million Ice Blast, which catapults riders 210 feet vertically into the air.
Millions continued to be invested in the Pleasure Beach from the 2000s and beyond.
Over £3m was invested in new rides, enhancements and attractions.
The notorious Valhalla ride opened in 2000 after a massive £15m investment, the biggest amount up until that point.
This thrilling new ride was hailed as the biggest, most spectacular dark ride ever to be constructed by mankind.
The Big Blue Hotel opened its doors in 2002 offering luxury accommodation which also saw the 100th birthday of Chairman, Mrs L.D. Thompson. The 157-bedroom hotel has now established itself as one of the most popular hotels in Blackpool.
Sadly in 2004 Mrs L.D. Thompson M.B.E. J.P. and Geoffrey Thompson O.B.E. passed away and the company was passed to the Managing Director.
Amanda Thompson re-themed and refurbished the park and there has since been the introduction of Infusion – the world’s first rollercoaster suspended entirely over water, Nickelodeon Land, Red Arrows Skyforce and ICON – the UK’s first double launch rollercoaster costing £16.25m.
In 2019, the £12m Boulevard Hotel opened with 120 stylish rooms with views of the seafront or park, a 90-seat restaurant and state-of-the-art conference facilities.
The future and beyond
Now the team at Blackpool Pleasure Beach is hard at work in order to re-open the gates on April 12 after a tumultuous 12 months.
Staff have used lockdown as an opportunity to improve and enhance visitor experiences for its well-loved guests down to replacing rollercoasters wheels and old pieces of track.
They have also implemented, and will maintain, a new unprecedented and enhanced deep cleaning regime to keep visitors Covid safe.
As plans for the Blackpool Central development are considered, Blackpool historian David Hewitt hears echoes of the King Edward cinema’s early days
King Edward Picture House, Blackpool
Great things have been promised for the site of the old Central Station – hotels and restaurants, and Chariots of the Gods, a ‘flying theatre’ said to offer ‘an immersive and thrilling Edutainment experience unlike any other in the world.’
When the plans were first announced, council leader Simon Blackburn hailed them as a game-changer that would make Blackpool a world class tourist destination.
That seems to be the way with this site. We have already been promised the Snowdome, of course, and before that the super-casino, neither of which got off the ground. But a century before all that, it was a picture house that got everyone talking.
When the King Edward Cinema opened in July 1913, it was known as the Central Picture Theatre – a name that can still be seen picked out in cream terracotta on the great curved gable which rears up from Central Drive at the junction with Read’s Avenue. This was during the early days of silent cinema, and right from the start, the King Edward was billing itself as ‘the finest picture palace in Blackpool’.
The building’s façade would be preserved under the present plans, and possibly incorporated into an ‘artisan food hall’ on the south-east approach to the site. And that’s a relief, for with its Accrington brick and stone-coloured banding, its large Venetian window, its pilasters and checker-board pediment, the King Edward really is something special. Inside, there was a barrel-vaulted ceiling and plasterwork in the shape of leaves and flowers, although much of that is thought to have been destroyed when the building was converted into a restaurant in the 1980s.
The management of the King Edward was never backwards in coming forwards. Early advertisements describe it as the ‘prettiest and cosiest new theatre in Blackpool’. They also promise ‘1,000 tip-up seats’ alongside ‘all the latest and up-to-date films’ and ‘popular prices’.
But if this was one of the first purpose-built cinemas in Blackpool, it didn’t lack for competition. Films had been shown in the town for the last two decades, and there were already established halls such as the Colosseum on Tyldesley Road and the Royal Pavilion on Rigby Road, the Hippodrome on Church Street (which would become the ABC), the Tivoli in Talbot Square, the Princess on the Promenade and, across from the present-day Marks & Spencer store, the Clifton Palace. There were also cinemas in the Winter Gardens and on the Victoria (later South) Pier. Only a week later, the Imperial Picture Theatre would open up on Dickson Road. And while prices at the King Edward might have been popular, that didn’t stop them increasing. It was 3d or 6d for the stalls at first, 6d for the balcony. But the cheapest ticket would be fourpence before long, fivepence in no time at all. And anyone wanting to come in ‘early doors’ would have to pay even more.
There were showings in the evening and most afternoons, together with a special ‘sacred’ bill on Sundays. On those rare occasions when the weather was wet, there might even be a showing at 10.30 in the morning. And whatever the time of day, patrons were promised a ‘Great programme of all-star films’, with changes on Mondays and Thursdays.
The main film in the first few days showed the recent visit to Blackpool of King George V and Queen Mary, and the weeks which followed were packed with melodrama and thrills – Trial By Fire and On Fortune’s Wheel, Prisoner of the Harem and The Jockey of Death. The most popular performers at the King Edward were Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, but Norma Talmadge and Pauline Frederick could also be seen, Violet Hopson and Douglas Fairbanks, John Barrymore and Stewart Rome. There was even a film starring Miss Cecilia Loftus, who, a newspaper noted, ‘is so well known to Blackpool residents, having been educated at Layton Convent.’ Before long, though, ‘Cissie’ would be fleeing the country for good, dogged by ill-health, ugly rumour, and a criminal conviction for the possession of morphine.
The King Edward would prove itself a place of innovation. Special continuous performances were introduced, which patrons were promised would last for at least 2½ hours. There were twice-nightly showings, with different films in either house. A ‘King Edward Orchestra’ was formed. And the place even published its own magazine, printed on pages of blue, bound between covers of black and orange.
On the day the Great War broke out, those inside the King Edward were watching In the Wolves’ Fangs. But in a place named for a monarch, the conflict couldn’t help but loom large. Most war films would be shown there, including The Battle of the Somme in October 1916, and man known as ‘Ex-Gunner 537’ would treat audiences to his Battlefield Pictures, a collection of lantern slides as well as films, which promised ‘Living Incidents of the Great European War. Pictures that will make you think.’ Later, a benefit concert was given in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs Lindsay Parkinson, culminating in a stirring address from none other than Harry Lauder. (It was two shillings in the balcony for that one.) Benefit concerts were common at the King Edward. One held in aid of Victoria Hospital featured a Beethoven sonata and Mr Tom Kimberley reciting The Death of Nelson. There was ‘a capital rendering’ of Our Sailor King by Miss Ethel Reeve, who was known as ‘The Singing Nurse’. And the Blackpool Orpheus Ladies’ Choir and the Blackpool Male Voice Choir joined forces for Comrades in Arms and the Soldier’s Farewell.
The old Central Station, Blackpool
As fighting still raged on the Somme, a party of staff from the King Edward made an excursion to Ingleton, where, in very unseasonable weather, they enjoyed a six-course dinner, before returning home via Garstang (where they enjoyed a six-course tea). The party was augmented by staff from the Waterloo Picture House on Waterloo Road. The King Edward was managed jointly with the Waterloo, which it slightly resembled, and advertisements of the time call the two of them ‘The People’s Popular Picture Houses’ and ‘The Cinemas of Distinction’.
But if the halls were treated alike, the same couldn’t always be said for their respective patrons. When ‘the eminent soprano’ Miss Lilian Beaumont was engaged to perform at the King Edward, she was withheld from patrons of the Waterloo, who were shown Adventures Among the Cannibals instead.
Eventually, a benefit even had to be held for one of the cinema’s own. John Taylor Jones had been the assistant manager, before he joined up and was sent to France. And lately, he had been wounded on the Western Front. This concert, too, featured songs, recitals and speeches, and in the interval, Mr Jones was helped up onto the stage to receive the acclaim of the packed audience.
By now, the manager of the King Edward was John Beck, who lived near Devonshire Square, and whose early tenure had been marked by a very special event. On 14 April 1917, Mr Beck married his sweetheart, Annie Singleton (née Taylor) who lived in Lune Grove. The wedding took place at St Paul’s church in Marton, and the bride wore a wine-coloured dress coat with ‘picture hat’ to match, and carried a spray of roses and lilies of the valley. Mr Jones was a guest at the ceremony, where the best man was the assistant manager of the Waterloo Picture House. And after returning from honeymoon in Colwyn Bay, Mr Beck lost no time in assuring his patrons that, contrary to rumours that had been sweeping the Fylde, and indeed the country, Mary Pickford was not dead. Ms Pickford would go on making films for years, and the King Edward would show many of them. John Jones eventually succeeded Mr Beck as manager. But after the Second World War, as the competition grew even more intense, the cinema turned to ‘second-run’ films, and to ‘B’ films shown with comedies from an earlier age – Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd alongside Old Mother Riley and the Crazy Gang.
The King Edward closed its doors in the Seventies, to be succeeded by a bingo hall, by that restaurant – The Village – and finally by a succession of nightclubs and bars. David Hewitt is a lawyer and a writer. His last book – Joseph, 1917 – told the true story of a Thornton man who got caught up in the Great War. His next one – Anything But Silent – is about another early film, which scandalised half of Lancashire.
Blackpool Carnival has been cancelled for the second year running due to the pandemic.
The Blackpool Carnival has been cancelled for a second year running
Organisers for the free two-day event said they have tried to delay the announcement but said the show must be cancelled again.
It was scheduled to take at the end of July at the Waterloo Headland but will now be rescheduled for 2022.
Geoff Moore, chair, of the Blackpool Carnival Community Interest Company, said he was sad to see this year’s event scrapped.
He said: “We know how popular this event would be, especially at the end of an horrific period for us all and we would do anything possible for us all locally to work together and organise a tremendous party to get rid of all the pent up frustration at not being with each other over the last year or so.
“However, again we have to weigh up the positives against the negatives and as with the other major local events, we have to act responsibly for the good of us all and taking into account the easing of the lockdown measures and the vaccination programme that is certainly helping enormously with the fight against this horrendous virus, yet we can’t ignore the fact that there is still so much uncertainty regarding the staging of outside events that attract thousands of people.
“We shall be organising a much bigger Santa Clause Drive Around in December and so please keep checking the social media pages for details and hopefully next year will be third time lucky and the Blackpool Carnival will be going ahead and if you want to participate in any way, either personally or as part of a group or organisation, please don’t hesitate to contact us, tell all your friends and colleagues.”
The Regent cinema has received a new stage, new screen and furnishings during lockdown
The Regent Cinema on Church Street in Blackpool (Image: Regent Cinema)
An independent cinema in Blackpool has managed to survive the coronavirus pandemic and is set to re-open its doors for its 100th year.
The Regent Cinema, located in the heart of the town centre on Church Street, first opened in 1921 and boasted 1092 seats and a retractable roof.
It was a popular cinema for decades before being used as a bingo hall in 1969.
In 2016 however the building was reclaimed and re-stored to become an independent cinema once again.
During one of its toughest times and longest spells closed due to coronavirus restrictions, the picture house has received a re-vamp including a new stage, new screen and some new dressings.
Renovation work carried out in 2016 when the building was reclaimed as an independent cinema(Image: The Regent Cinema)
Owner Richard Taylor told Lancs Live: “The pandemic has been tough and we don’t want to go through that again but we’ve come out the other side.
“All our staff are returning and we’ve been working hard on some refurbishments including a new stage that can be hired out, a brand new screen and some nice smaller furnishings like brand new curtains.”
The cinema wasn’t able to celebrate its 100th anniversary back in January due to being closed however in the summer, if the UK roadmap out of lockdown goes well, there will be a special occasion to mark the event.
The Regent’s antique’s centre was able to re-open however on Monday April 12 and on May 21 there will be a showing of the classic Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction, the first film screened when it was first re-claimed as an independent cinema.
Inside the Regent Cinema in Blackpool(Image: Regent Cinema, Blackpool)
Richard added: “It was a shame that we couldn’t celebrate the 100th anniversary properly however the stage will really mark a hundred years and if all goes well we can celebrate officially in the summer.
“We just want to welcome people back for now and let them know that though we have made some changes the character of the cinema still remains!”
To find out more about the re-opening of the Regent Cinema, please visit here.
We take a trip down memory lane and look at some of Blackpool’s memorable moments over the last century
The Beatles before playing the Opera House Blackpool 16 August 1964.
Blackpool has a long and amazing history.
For centuries the town was a hamlet by the sea until the 18th century when visits to seaside towns became fashionable – attracting hundreds of people to the area.
For over 100 years the town has had an unique sense of pride and history and an unbreakable bond with the British public.
Always one for firsts, when Blackpool Tower was built in 1891 it was the tallest man-made structure in the British empire.
As well as visiting the tower and having a picture taken with it, holidaymakers and visitors to the resort over the years have enjoyed a host of attractions including Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Coral Island, Blackpool Zoo, Madame Tussauds and more.
While food has often attracted people to the area from cockle and mussle stands in the Victorian era to Harry Ramsden’s famous fish and chips today.
The world’s first permanent electric street tramway also debuted in Blackpool in 1885 – much to the delight of locals and visitors from near and far.
Both the Pleasure Beach and the illuminations have survived two world wars and offered some escapism for visitors from the circumstances around them.
From the 1950s Blackpool has attracted many superstars and celebrities from the Beatles to Cliff Richard.
While Blackpool has also hosted political events including Labour and Conservative party conferences – with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher attending in the 1980s.
In recent times however the coronavirus pandemic has given Blackpool it’s toughest challenge yet and the nature of its hospitality and tourism industry has had to change and adapt.
Here at LancsLive, we reveal 30 amazing pictures that show what Blackpool has looked like throughout the decades and some of the famous faces who have enjoyed a trip to this wonderful town.