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Issue 1 - February 2013

Blackpool Heritage News is created by Blackpool Heritage Champions to celebrate and promote Blackpool's heritage. Blackpool Heritage News is about you, your past and your present. We want your stories and your pictures. Love heritage and discover Blackpool.

THE INSPIRATIONAL ELAINE SMITH, CHAIRMAN, BLACKPOOL CIVIL TRUST RETIRES In the time Elaine Smith has been the Chairman of Blackpool Civic Trust, she has been an inspiration in uncovering and renewing interest in Blackpool’s heritage. She has encouraged public awareness through a network of volunteering groups and interested societies to become interactive with one another, thereby helping secure the future of our town’s rich architectural assets. She was in at the beginning of wanting Blackpool to gain heritage status and along with Heather Morrow, Head of Heritage, and Carl Carrington, Built Heritage Manager, she tirelessly worked to this end. When asked how her interest in heritage really began she said it was the Civic Trust that started her drive and ambitions for the town. The Heritage Champions is another cause that has meant a lot to Elaine. At another level she was part of the idea for having Accredited Heritage Tourist Guides to showcase the Winter Gardens. Elaine’s other passion is Stanley Park and as equally important, the Friends of Stanley Park, as shown

Elaine Smith receiving her MBE from Princess Anne

in the transformation of the park through her numerous funding bids. The Civic Trust has, under her leadership, become a strong force aimed at maintaining Blackpool as a great tourist attraction whilst introducing the wealth of heritage that is open to all on Heritage Open Days. In June 2009, in honour of her volunteering achievements, for Services to the Town of Blackpool in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, a day she was particularly proud of. More recently Elaine was presented the Christian Marsh Volunteer of the year award 2012. By Shirley Matthews

Did you know...? Blackpool is believed to get its name from a long-gone drainage channel which ran over a peat bog. This stream may be the Spen Dyke which is still visible on the Moss. The water which ran into the sea at Blackpool was black from the peat whilst the local dialect for stream was pul or poole, hence Blackpool.

Photo by Kevin Taylor

YOU ARE THE HEART OF BLACKPOOL Blackpool’s industries and wealth of traditional skills are in abundance, as the local trades people demonstrate. From small cafes to large hotels, builders, sculptors, entertainers, stonemasons, carriage builders, artists, engineers and entrepreneurs – we all make up the working cogs and industries within the town. We are uncovering some of the forgotten treasures in our town – the people that make it. Today’s skilled people are a product of Blackpool’s heritage and are an important part of our young peoples’ heritage. Blackpool continues to evolve with society at a rapid pace. It always has. It is renowned for being the best, biggest and the first to do things outshining America’s Atlantic City in the 1930’s. Blackpool has been the model for many but none quite so grand and lasting. We have so much to be proud of. Meet the characters that make up our iconic Blackpool and take this nostalgic journey through the stories passed on through generations. This first, special edition meets the local landau people and their horses. Spanning over 150 years, they are a huge part of Blackpool’s culture and heritage. We want to hear your stories. What did your parents and grandparents do? What tools did they use? What did they wear? Maybe that trade or business is still going today? Tell their story about working and making a life in Blackpool. Dig out those photographs and tell your story by c o n t a c t i n g u s a t : uk By Ann Faraday

WHO ARE THE HERITAGE CHAMPIONS? Blackpool Heritage Champions are a group of like-minded people formed in 2010 as part of the Community Learning Champions Programme. All those involved are volunteers from a wide spectrum of Blackpool life who have a passion for the town’s wide and varied heritage. We work through the Blackpool Wyre and Fylde Volunteer Centre based at South Lodge, Stanley Park. Our people are interested in a wide variety of projects including visitor attractions like the Winter Gardens and Stanley Park where volunteers conduct entertaining guided tours on a regular basis. Your suggestions

for further tours or events are welcome. See contact details. Whilst some members are interested in the town’s older and more interesting public houses like the Saddle and the Mitre, others have more interests in the darker side of town by conducting cemetery and Halloween tours and some have an interest in churches. Other projects include oral and photographic histories of the town. The group is managed by The Volunteer Centre, Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Civic Trust

WHO ARE THE CIVIC TRUST? The Blackpool Civic Trust formed in 1975 by like-minded people from all areas of Blackpool life. Currently chaired by Elaine Smith, the patrons are ex Blackpool and England footballer Jimmy Armfield and Amanda Thompson, Managing Director of the Pleasure Beach. Being non-political, the Trust members can say that they truly represent and campaign on behalf of the interests of the people of Blackpool. The Trust’s social calendar includes tours and talks of historic Blackpool as well as the town's future development and were instrumental in setting up the Friends of Stanley Park. The Trust is also part of the Civic Voice and North West Civic Trusts and meet the third Monday of every month at the Town Hall. One of the projects that the Trust has been involved with is a George Wragge stained glass window in Blackpool Town Hall which shows images based on Blackpool’s 19th century maritime heritage. The window can be found in the Visitors Gallery of the Council Chamber.

Guiding the way to Blackpool In 2011 a group of people from different walks of life, with an interest in the history & heritage of Blackpool, trained to be Blackpool’s first Council Heritage Guides. They received their Certificates as Heritage Guides from the Institute of Tourist Guiding, Level 2, in a ceremony at the Town Hall. They were congratulated by the then Mayor, Councillor Joan Greenhalgh, and Heather Morrow, Head of Heritage. During the 2012 season, the Guides have been offering excellent tours around the fabulous Winter Gardens. The tours include rooms not usually open to the public and the Guides have a treasure of information about how and why the Winter Gardens were developed. They also discuss the architects, designers and innovators involved in the building of this grade 2 listed palace of entertainment. They also do similar tours in the beautiful ‘space’ that is Stanley Park with acres of greenery created for the fun and health of locals and visitors alike. In addition, Torchlight Tours were offered by the Winter Gardens Trust in association with the guides. The Torchlight Tours include all the knowledge of the history tours but with ghostly tales added. With the lights turned down low, each visitor carries their torch they have brought. Like any building of age, the Winter Gardens has had its tragedy and intrigue. So if you want to see a different side of the Blackpool you know, contact ‘Visit Blackpool’ on 01253 478222 or book at the Tourist Information Centre, Festival House on the promenade. Details can also be found on the Winter Gardens Trust Website and the Visit Blackpool website. The tours can be tailored to your group's needs we can provide tours for small and large groups.

Blackpool Civic Trust was awarded £31,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the George Wragge window. The project also involved stained glass workshops, volunteer led tours of the To w n H a l l a n d a p h o t o g r a p h i c exhibition created by local college students. A picture of the window is shown on the right. Wragge had his metal works in Wardry, Salford, Manchester and a showroom in Shaftesbury Avenue, London. The information regarding the George Wragge window is printed by courtesy of the Blackpool Civic Trust

Did you know...? The Clock Tower in Stanley Park was dedicated to Dr William Cocker who was the first mayor of Blackpool in 1876.

MURDER MOST FOUL THE ‘BRIDES IN THE BATH’ MURDER Blackpool is known for its sea, sand, fresh air and family fun. But one visitor in the early part of the 20th century arrived with a more sinister motive. He was George Joseph Smith, serial bigamist & wife murderer. In 1913 a couple arrived at 16 Regent Road, Blackpool, then a popular street for visitors as it was close to the Winter Gardens and other attractions. Landlady, Margaret Crossley, noted the name ‘Smith’ that the newlyweds gave and despite the implications, she took the story of a delayed honeymoon to be true as the couple married 2 weeks before Christmas. Crossley showed them a first-floor front room but Smith spotted a 10 shilling a week bedsitter at the back of the house with use of a bathroom. A bathroom was a rare thing in Edwardian lowermiddle class circles. These houses had pianos but not bathrooms. The bathroom was located above the kitchen with hot running water supplied from the cooking range. The bath was in the corner, wood-panelled, one side against a wall slightly raised from the floor on blocks of wood.

George Smith the bathroom in her nightdress. The Crossley family gathered in the kitchen below for their evening meal when they noticed a large patch of water on the ceiling. It grew bigger and dripped down the wall. Knowing that Alice was bathing, they discussed if they should complain. Suddenly Smith appeared hot and bothered carrying a paper bag. 'I have some eggs for breakfast' he told them and handed Mrs Crossley the bag. He then preceded upstairs. He emerged on the landing moments later shouting for a doctor. The doctor arrived and found Smith in the bathroom supporting his wife's head as her body lay in the hot, sudsy water. 'Oh she has drowned, she is dead', declared the doctor At a trial at the Old Bailey, Spilsbury used the Regent Road bath tub to demonstrate how Smith may have murdered Alice. To prove this, the tub was filled with water and in an ante room a nurse, in a bathing costume, climbed in. A detective grasped her feet and pulled her under. This realistic demonstration caused the nurse to need artificial resuscitation. In 22 minutes the jury condemned Smith to the Hangman. Smith’s defence, Marshall Hall, appealed on the grounds that the evidence of ‘System’ had been improperly admitted however, Lord Reading (LCJ,) dismissed the appeal and Smith was hanged in Maidstone Prison by John Ellis.

The arrangements couldn’t have suited Smith better, for unbeknownst to all, he had drowned his first wife (Bessy Mundy) at Herne Bay in 1912 so the fate of his new bride was sealed. The woman, Alice Burnham, aged 25, was a large pretty girl and the daughter of a prosperous fruit grower. Smith insured her life for £500 and persuaded her to transfer money from her savings into his account. Just days before the Blackpool trip, she had made a will out in his favour. At Regent Road, the ever frugal Smith, decided that he and Alice would buy food for Mrs Crossley to cook for them. For 2 days the couple behaved as doting newlyweds taking in the town’s sights and attractions. Whilst Smith stood over her, Alice wrote a postcard on Friday 12th December 1913 to her parents stating ‘Very nice comfortable apartments, Blackpool is a lovely place’. Alice then asked to take a bath and the landlady’s daughter duly lit the gas in the bathroom, pulled down the blind and placed soap and towels out for her use. At 8pm Alice entered

The use of the ‘System’ – comparing other crimes to one a criminal is being tried for, to prove guilt – was first used in Smith’s trial and it set a precedent as it was later used in other trials such as serial killer John Bodkin Adams By Abigail George

Did you know...? The Blackpool Illuminations first shone in 1879 when they were described as 'Artificial Sunshine', and consisted of just eight arc lamps on the promenade. Today they use 400,000 light bulbs and cost £2.4 million per year to stage. They're on from early September to early November. It takes twenty two weeks for all the lights to be erected in time for the ‘Switch On’ each year and nine weeks to dismantle after the display has finished.

STANLEY PARK PLAYGROUNDS Showzam! Blackpool’s festival of Circus, Magic and New Variety is promising to be bigger and better than ever before when it returns in 2013 with some acts showcasing world premieres! This extraordinary and unique festival includes high profile performers, street artists and never before seen acts, showcased throughout Blackpool’s famous landmarks and on the streets. With a mix of ticketed and free events, family friendly and adult only shows, there’s something for everyone. Be encouraged to engage and interact with the performances and enjoy the workshops and talks with established industry experts. Showzam Producer Professor Vanessa Toulmin, from the University of Sheffield, added: “This is a great opportunity to blend Blackpool’s wonderful, historic past with a modern twist working with the UK’s leading theatre, arts and circus companies.

“We have all fallen in love with Blackpool and have created site specific shows which celebrate its wonderful history and the future.” Many Showzam! events are free and tickets for all shows are available through the Showzam! website, Tourist Information Centre and the Showzam! venues or why not make a Showzam! short break of it and book your accommodation packa ge.

Showzam is a ten day festival that runs every year in Blackpool during February – coinciding with the school half term holidays.

Blackpool’s Stanley Park was created by the most sought-after and influential garden and landscape designer at the turn of the twentieth century, Thomas Mawson. It was part of Mawson’s vision to create this recreational centre, a pleasant space for residents and visitors to spend their leisure time. Blackpool Council and the Friends of Stanley Park are working together to secure grant funding to improve the old playground site adjacent to the Adventure Playground. As part of this process the local community are being asked to share their views. Full colour 3D plans are on display in the Visitor Centre by the car park inside Stanley Park. The Visitor Centre is open from 10.00am till 2.00pm until Easter . Stanley Park Visitor Centre is also hosting a new exhibition celebrating 100 years of the Blackpool Illuminations originally showcased at the Wellington Arts Exhibition, London. Whilst in the beautiful landscaped grounds of Stanley Park why not sample the delightful food served in the refurbished Art Deco Cafe, open 7 days a week from 9.00am to 4.00pm.

THE CHANGING FACE OF BLACKPOOL SEAFRONT Throughout its short history, the promenade at Blackpool has been the town’s face, dominating the progress of its structure and development. It is the people using it, locals and visitors, who have always made the place. Until quite recently, really popular events were the public beauty competitions and Blackpool Bathing Belles contests along the promenade and in the old open air baths, still visible near Gynn Square like temple ruins. These events attracted huge numbers of summer visitors through the years. Today, imagining these contests’ popularity might be difficult and some of the photographs recording post-war pageants with their participants remain available for the public to view in such collections as those stored in Blackpool’s Local History Centre.

high tides unusually met hurricane winds. Late that night, the sea burst through the promenade’s walls flooding the coast for up to a mile inland. Woken in the early hours by my excited parents, I, with my younger brother and sister, peeped appalled from upstairs windows as the dark sea water edged slowly around the corner into the grove. Later my brother remembered nothing although we had all seen the opaque sea that night, a watery lava slithering towards us from an unknown volcano.

Those women were worlds away, even from the 1970s competitions, which my grandmother took me to watch during the long summer holidays, their contestants then suntanned Blackpool hippie girls, laden with beads and bangles, as well as the more traditional, usual movie star hopefuls.

Then pushing silently, relentlessly forward, that treacherous sea with the tantrums and foamy seahorse waves was the same sea that had engulfed many a midnight wader, several police, drunks and dogs – and still does. On a velvet bed in a glass case in Fleetwood Museum a silver medal is displayed to commemorate the many local fishermen, sailors and coastguards drowned on duty in the Irish Sea; around its edge are the words ‘Let Not the Deep Swallow Me Up’, suitable words for reminding of the terrors inspired by this sea. This was the same sea that one night, calmer, silent, sinister flooded gardens, basements and ground floors of houses along the entire coast, that were nearer to the promenade than ours. Hardest hit apparently was low lying Larkholme and overall damage reported meant astronomical insurance claims were discussed in the local newspaper alongside its latest scoop photographs of a waterlogged and marshy Fylde coast. I recall no fatalities mentioned in the media yet plaques remembering the town’s drowned throughout out the years dot the length of the promenade from Lytham to Fleetwood.

One night sometime in the 70s, excessively

By Lynn Charoenkitsuksun

Testifying to the fashions and concerns of the period, these black and white pictures depict statuesque females gazing resolutely outwards past the viewer, just like the women of Soviet propaganda posters earlier that century. With immaculately coiffured hair, dark, bright lipstick, fully-fitted one-piece swimming costumes and towering high heels, the unnamed Blackpool contestants forever smile confidently at the judges and camera, past the crowds and out to sea, seeming to challenge future viewers to sneer at their glamorous ambitions and chutzpah.

PRIDE OF THE PROMENADE The horse-drawn carriage has been more than a tourist attraction in Blackpool since the 1800s when it was a 'way of life'.. From Singleton to St. Annes along country roads, it was not confined to the promenade. In 1916 the landau was the taxi service at a princely sum of one shilling per mile. In the late 1800's a successful professional family who could afford to employ a coachman would very likely own a closed carriage for bad weather and night-time use, and an open carriage for fine weather. Then came along the convertible, the Landau, named after the German town Landau, where the first luxury landaus were produced. Johnny Gillimore "Mr Blackpool" (1950s)

Once only used by the elite, some of the finest coaches are still used by Royals and dignitaries for special occasions around the world today. Kate Middleton used the 1902 Royal landau when leaving the Abbey upon being a fully fledged Royal. You can't just pop into the local garage with a Landau. Built by craftsmen, maintained by craftsmen, they require specialist skilled people, found here in Blackpool. Read their personal profiles and wonderful true stories of working life on the landaus, exclusively in our next issue. You can send your own landau pictures and stories to Take a wander down Blackpool's landscaped promenade and see if you can spot the heritage, wood crafted carriages, with their sweeping curved outline and coiled suspension detail. The sort mentioned in novels such as those by Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. Experience a unique piece of England's heritage preserved here in Blackpool. By Ann Faraday

Did you know...? The Tower took three years to build using 2,500 tonnes of iron, 93 tonnes of steel and five million Accrington bricks and cost £290,000 (£40million today) for the Tower and buildings. It was opened on Whit Sunday 14th May 1894 and stands 518 feet 9 inches tall. The Tower being designed to collapse into the sea is an urban myth. If the west legs were to fail, it would fall on Bank Hey Street and the Winter Gardens.


JUNE Fri 15th-24th Fri 15th-24th Fri 15th-18th Fri 15th-19th Fri 15th-19th Mon 18th Wed 20th-23rd Fri 22nd-24th


Fri 1st Sat 2nd Sat 2nd-Sun 3rd Wed 6th Fri 8th Sun 10th Wed 13th Sun 17th-18th Fri 22nd-24th Sun 31st

Thur 13th Sat 15th Tues 18th - 20th Sat 22nd Sat 29th - Sun 30th

JULY Sat 20th – 28th Tue 23rd - 26th July


AUGUST Thur 8th-11th Sat 17th Aug



Sat 12th - 13th Sat 19th - 22nd Thur 31st Thur 31st




Mon 1st –7th Fri 5th Thur 11th –12th Sat 13th Sat 13th –14th Fri 19th Sat 20th Sun 21st Apr Fri 26th Sun 28th Apr-1st May


Sat 2nd Sat 9th Thur 21st – 23rd Sat 30th - Sun 1st (Dec)


Sat 7th Sat 14th Tue 31st


Sat 18th Thur 23rd – 31st Fri 24th Sat 25th Fri 31st

Information correct at time of issue, subject to later amendments. New shows & events are added throughout the year – see for the latest information If you would like to contribute to this newsletter or comment on the contents please contact 01253 301004 or email Mission: To provide support and inspiration for volunteers, organisations and groups to develop volunteering in the community. The Volunteer Centre Blackpool, Wyre & Fylde is a Registered Charity, No: 1125184 and a Company Limited by Guarantee registered in England & Wales No: 5756723 Copyright 2103 ©


Blackpool Heritage News Issue 1  
Blackpool Heritage News Issue 1