Uncle Toms Cabin – The Closing Years – From 1902

Uncle Toms Cabin – Bispam’s First Centre Of Entertainment – By Norman Cunliffe


Although the groynes placed at the foot of the cliff helped in
slowing down the rate of erosion they were not able to eradicate
the problem or prevent them from being undermined. In early
September 1902 a landslip occurred which was the beginning of
the end for Uncle Tom’s. People realised that before long it must
be demolished for safety reasons. Prior to this landslip the steps
to the beach had been destroyed and the camera obscura, which
already had been moved away from the cliff edge, was moved
again. It was the hut adjoining the front of the house which was
the first building to suffer any damage, partially collapsing as a
result of being undermined. It was demolished for safety reasons.

In early February 1903 another severe storm occurred which did
a great deal of damage along the coast. Uncle ‘Tom’s did not escape
for part of a hoarding there was blown across the tram track, causing a temporary holdup in the service and Uncle Tom himself was
separated from the rest of his family by being blown down from his
prominent position on the roof, The roof where he had stood was
also badly damaged with the result that part of it had to be replaced.
The figurehead of the blackman disappeared at this time. After the
repairs had been completed Uncle Tom was put back with his family
but for some reason he and Topsy swapped places. Worse things
were to come, however, when the foundations of the house were
affected, so much so that the front part of it was taken down and
then built up again and set further back in line with the former
west wing which had also suffered damage. The bar was moved
and set up in a style reminiscent of an old wild west saloon. It was
here that a Mary Millie Higton worked as a barmaid, when she was
a young woman, as well as helping out in the sweet shop. One
of her daughters still lives on Warley Road. In this manner the
business was able to carry on for a few years longer, retaining its
licence and continuing to provide music for entertainment and dancing.

Eventual closure was inevitable though, and by 1906 plans had
been drawn up for building a new Uncle Tom’s on the easterly side
of the tramtrack on the site originally planned for such a hotel.
Following this in February 1907 the old Uncle Tom’s was only
granted a renewal of its licence on a provisional basis and finally at
11.00 p.m., on Friday 4th October the same year George Ash worth,
who had been the licensee since around the turn of the century, closed the doors for the last time and the licence was transferred
to the new hotel. By the weekend of the 11th and 12th January
the following year, this centre of Victorian entertainment which
had given enjoyment to thousands was demolished and finished
up as a few piles of wood, bricks and mortar on the ground.