Uncle Toms Cabin – Bispam’s First Centre Of Entertainment – By Norman Cunliffe
THE EARLY SCENE
In the year 1846 the Preston and Wyre Railway opened a branch line from Poulton to Blackpool and by doing so connected the growing resort to the more populous Lancashire and West Yorkshire. This resulted ina sudden increase in the number of visitors coming to the coast from these areas it order to enjoy the pleasures and remedial effects of bathing, or for health, rest and relaxation.
Change was gradually taking place in the area and growth was in evidence, but even so the community was still very small when compared today’s town. By taking a sail in one of the pleasure boats which plied from the beach at central Blackpool in those days, a visitor could look back at the coastline and view the whole of the town from only a short distance, when Blackpool stretched from Foxhall at the south end to Dickson’s Hotel- the fore-runner of the present Butlin’s Metropole, save for a few cottages nestled in the area now known as Cocker Square, but then called Fumblers Hill. Of course there were no piers and the promenade had not been built. Our visitor would see that the land around central Blackpool was fairly flat but northwards and inland he would notice that it became more elevated. In tact there as and of course still is, a ridge extending northwards which could be easily seen reaching its highest point just over 100 feet at Beryl Hill, Warbreck, and also extending westwards to the coast, where it created the northerly cliffs composed of red boulder clay.
The present coastal area of north Blackpool consists of attractive,
elegant hotels, many of which were built in the Victorian era, with
others of more recent origin, whilst fronting these are the promenades, walks and artificial cliffs- all created by man. How different it was around 1850; then everything along this section of coast was a natural creation. Only the golden sand and the ever present sea scene to have unrivalled the progress of man. The only building along the coast north of Fumblers Hill was the old Gynn Inn, where in its vicinity an encampment of gypsies was to be found. The census records of June 1841 inform us that there were nine of them living in tents or in the open air. Whey there were regular visitors to the area and it was only when the forerunner of the present Pleasure Beach was taking shape that they forsook the
A hundred yards or so north of the Gynn was the old town boundary
and beyond was the township of Bispham. The cliffs here were some-
times referred to as the ‘Cliffs of Egberg but were known locally as
Bank’ whilst further north they came to be known as Red Bank. About
half a mile inland, immediately north of Beryl Hill, lay Knowle Farm
ontaining land of more than one hundred and seventy four acres
stret ching from Bispham Road to the sea. From around 1847 this land
was leased and farmed by Thomas Parkinson, assisted by his wile Elizabeth, his family and four farm labourers, Devonshire Road had
not yet been built, but there was a road leading from Warbreck Village
over Beryl Hill to Knowle Farm, from which an occupation road lead
west wards to the cliff path at Bank. Near the western end of this occupation road were three cottages, one of which in 1851 was occupied byThomas’s brother Henry, who worked as a farm labourer, his wife Margaret, and his son Thomas who was then three years old.
Margaret Parkinson hadn’t been living there long before she realised that she could help out with the family finances by making a little money from the visitors and others who took the opportunity of walking along the attractive grassy cliff path from Blackpool. In season these cliffs
were covered with wild flowers, whilst below lay the shingle and sandy beach or the breaking seas. From them wonderful views of the inland hills or the setting sun could be obtained, Is it any wonder that folk were attracted to this area,
Thus thee scene was set for the birth of what was to become over the next fifty years or more Bispham’s most popular landmark and place of entertainment, catering to thousands of visitors who were attracted to Blackpool in ever increasing numbers.