How the former Clifton Hotel underwent a huge refurbishment in the middle of the First World War to make it an unrivalled place to stay
A historic Blackpool hotel has reached a new era following a £400,000 refurbishment which has given the iconic, corner sited building its pride of place again. The 90-bedroom hotel also has a new name – Forshaw’s Hotel in a throwback to the original property on the site. Barry Band looks back at the history of the building…
Materials and labour were in short supply during World War One but, somehow, a leading Blackpool hotel underwent a refurbishment.
It was described in a half-page article in the Gazette under the heading The Clifton – Blackpool’s Historic Guest-House.
The article appears to be an Advertorial’ – a paid-for publicity device used by local caterers to guarantee them the top of a page when they had good news to deliver.
The Clifton Hotel is on the right and beyond the man (with what appears to be a plank across his back ) there is a stall on the corner of the old St John’s Market. On the left is the Williams Deacons Bank which is now part of the Town Hall. This is from the 1920s
The style of these articles was rather prosey.’ Perhaps The Gazette had an editorial chap with a superior education who had not found a comfortable berth in law, accountancy or teaching. But his flowery prose could certainly make the advertiser feel he had got his moneys-worth!
These publicity pieces usually had some little nibbles of information that the local historian would never find elsewhere.
For example, we learn from this 1916 article the management of the Clifton was in the hands of Mr FST Brooks “whose experience comprehends not only this country but also his native Australia.”
The hotel used the write-up to promote itself as being at the centre of events in the growth of Blackpool; one of four oldest inns dating from the 1780s and originally called Forshaw’s.
The newly refubished Forshaws Hotel in Talbot Road
By 1830, it had become Nickson’s Hotel, hosted by Cuthbert Nickson, more familiarly known as Cuddy.
“His genial nature made his house the social centre of the leading townsmen, among whom was the Rev William Thornber, the Vicar, Blackpool’s own faithful historian, ” declared the writer.
Under the sub-heading Some Notable Assemblies, the reader learned the hotel was at the centre of the festivities in honour of the opening of the North Pier on May 22, 1863, when around 20,000 visitors came by railway.
A procession of local societies, professions and VIPs, headed by a band, came to a halt in front of the hotel, where in the evening a dinner was served to 150 directors of the North Pier Company and leading townsmen – presumably with their ladies.
The Clifton Hotel, as it was, is pictured in the background of this early photo
On November 7, 1864, the Clifton Arms and Pier Hotel Company Ltd was formed with a capital of £3,000 to take over the hotel – attracting investors from Manchester, Liverpool, Blackburn, Preston and Lytham to buy £5 shares.
In 1866, the old three-storey inn, on the south corner of Talbot Square and the Promenade, was joined by a four-storey block facing the square and 10 years later the original inn was demolished and redeveloped to match. The result was largely as it stands today as the Ibis hotel.
In 1870, a notable event in the development of Blackpool was the opening of the paved Promenade – and again the main ceremony took place in front of the Clifton, the writer noted.
The article also asserted that the hotel had been kept “well in the van of the community’s progress, alterations and enlargements being carried out from time to time in keeping with its reputation as the premier hotel in bright and breezy Blackpool.” The directors had spent considerable sums in recent years on the comfort and refinement of the Clifton and now their very latest enterprise was the beautiful Derby Lounge, designed for the enjoyment of afternoon teas with musical accompaniment by the Clifton Ladies Orchestra – “a bijou band of charming musicians” – and as a ballroom for select parties.
The article gave credit to Mr Frank H Gorst, one of the town’s leading architects, for his work on the hotel’s recent enterprises.
The main contractors were two local companies, J Parkinson and Sons for building work and Bickerstaffe’s Ltd for furniture, upholstery and carpets. In addition to the refurbishments the hotel’s hot water system and sanitary fixtures had been renewed.
So, 40 years after the enlargement of the hotel, the directors were clearly looking to consolidate their position with residents and visitors and spelled it out with the following piece of journalistic embroidery.
“It only remains now to point out the splendid situation of the establishment. It is enviable indeed. In the very heart of Blackpool – that is where the Clifton Hotel stands, unrivalled. All the residential and visiting activities of Blackpool centre in Talbot Square – the hub of the Promenade.
“And here the extensive facade of the Clifton commands the south side; with the Town Hall to its right, banking and commercial premises in front, and the great favourite the North Pier, the Princess Parade and the Marine Promenade to the left.
“The glorious sea ebbs and flows almost at its very doors; the network of electric trams centres before it; and around are the great palaces of pleasure. Yet within the hotel there prevails an air of quiet and selectness, while there is every provision for high class comfort.
“To the enjoyment of the best of cuisines is added the pleasures of the billiards and smoking rooms, the convenience of writing and reading rooms, the pleasant sociability of the lounge, and such helpful and healthful accessories as the electric lift, electric light and the most modern of sanitary arrangements. Winter and summer alike the Clifton always appeals… to those wishful of spending a few days by the invigorating sea coast at Blackpool.
“The hotel is mid-way between the two principal railway stations, with a string of motor garages close by, while the pick of the chain of golf courses on this coast are but a few minutes distant.” Mr Brooks, the Australian manager, would be delighted to make the arrangements!
The glorious sea ebbs and flows almost at it’s very doors’