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ISSUE 18 - JULY 2017

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.

Stanley Park’s 90th Summer We are well into 2017 as Stanley Park celebrates its 90th summer. Let us take a look back at the origins, development and official opening of the park. The greatest period of expansion in Blackpool’s history was between 1870 and 1900, during which time the population increased from around 5,000 to almost 48,000. From the early 1900s, councillors were drawing attention to the need for open spaces and recreational provision for the town, to meet expectations of a growing residential population and the ever increasing number of visitors. In 1920, Alderman Sir Robert Lindsay Parkinson purchased a large area of land to the east of the town at 4½d a yard freehold. He then persuaded his fellow councillors to buy the land from him at the same price he had paid for it and seek to develop it as a park and recreational centre. Other adjoining parcels of land were compulsorily purchased with smaller parcels being donated by Alderman Sir John Bickerstaffe, Thomas Marquis Watson and William Lawson. Having assembled this extensive area of around 288 acres, the Council were concerned that it should be developed and laid out to a high standard. In 1921, the corporation of Blackpool commissioned T.H. Mawson and sons of London and Lancaster to prepare and plan a comprehensive park, recreational centre and planning scheme on the land. Mawsons, who were notable landscape architects, had travelled the continent to study parks and gardens, and had amongst many commissions advised the government of Greece on the replanning of their capital, Athens.They also advised on the development of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the United States, and in 1908 they won a competition to lay out the Peace Palace Gardens at the Hague. Thomas Hayton Mawson’s son, Edward Prentice Mawson, was to oversee the park project. It was to be the most practical and ambitious development to be attempted by an English municipality in modern times, ranking in importance with the most notable achievements of the continent and America.The area was originally devoid of trees and landscaping, comprising of part cultivated fields to the east of the site, and a most heterogeneous collection of dilapidated buildings, pig sties, hen runs, stables, stagnant ponds, caravan dwellings and a brickworks to the west of the site. All the buildings were of a temporary nature: margarine boxes, tea chests, biscuit tins and petrol signs being pressed into service for walls and roofing materials. There was at the time considerable difficulty in removing tenants off the site, even after eviction orders. Eventually they were forced to leave when trenches were dug under their properties. During its layout and construction many problems were encountered, both physical and legal. During the later stages around 120 labourers were

employed on a relief scheme for the unemployed, and provided with a certain amount of food in return for ‘getting the job done’. It was intended to be a five-year scheme, ending in Blackpool’s jubilee year 1926. The original estimated cost of the park was £110,000, but the final cost had escalated to £250,000. The lake was excavated by using a natural depression, covering 26 acres. It was designed to have been 2 feet 6 inches in depth; however during construction reams of peat were found which consequently increased the average depth to 5 feet. The lake contains an estimated 28 million gallons of water supplied mainly from Whinney Heys Dyke, which flows through the Salisbury Woodland Gardens. Stone for the banks of the lake came from Appley Bridge Quarries near Wigan, to provide protection from wind and wave erosion. The bridges over the lake carry two Fylde Water Board mains, which originally ran on the bed of the lake. The cost for the lake project amounted to £13,783.

Official Opening Ceremony

The park was officially opened on 2nd October 1926, by Edward George Villiers Stanley – 17th Earl of Derby from whom the park takes its name.There are three parks bearing the family name of Stanley – our own, Stanley Park Liverpool, and Stanley Park in Vancouver, named after Lord Derby’s father, who was Governor General of Canada around the turn of the century. After opening Blackpool’s new South Promenade in the morning, at 3pm Lord Derby was presented with a golden key by the Mayor Thomas Bickerstaffe with which to unlock the main entrance gates. In performing this ceremony Lord Derby expressed the hope that the park would be a place of recreation and health, not only to residents but to the thousands of visitors who came to the town.

Lord Derby, the Mayor, the Town Clerk and Councillor T.G. Lumb then walked to the Italian Gardens where the official opening ceremony took place. There it was witnessed by an immense crowd. It was a high-profile occasion, with civic dignitaries and eighty Lord Mayors and Mayors of English cities and boroughs all resplendent with their gold chains of office, with guests wearing morning coats and silk hats. Blackpool Lifeboat Band and the Excelsior Silver Band provided entertainment. In opening the park, and naming it as he was proud to do by the name of Stanley Park, a great honour was conferred on him. He described it as “one of the most comprehensive park schemes carried out on these islands” and “it shall for all time be open to the public in the name of Stanley Park”. The Mayor then presented Lord Derby with a bound souvenir of Blackpool’s Jubilee, which he thought would be a happy and pleasing memento of the park. On conclusion of the opening ceremony, and at the request of the Mayor, the Lord Mayors, Mayors, Mayoresses and officials were photographed. The guests then toured the park, and afterwards were entertained at tea in the large marquee on the Blackpool Cricket Club ground. In the evening a civic banquet was held in the Tower Restaurant. Barry Shaw The Stanley Park 90th Summer celebration take place on Saturday 8th July from 10.30am. Heritage tours of the park can be booked through Blackpool Heritage Guided Tours. Pre-set dates and private bookings available. Visit

Keeper of Animals – and Deckchairs The family connection doesn’t end there. I was fascinated to hear that Russell’s great grandfather was the chauffeur to Sir John Bickerstaffe of Blackpool Tower fame. Photographs he showed me include one of his great grandfather standing by Bickerstaffe family cars outside their home ‘Highlawns’ which was on Hornby Road, Blackpool. Another family connection to Blackpool Tower is that three of Russell’s uncles worked there. Back then, health and safety was virtually non-existent and a photograph of his electrician uncle shows this all too clearly.

When I arrived to interview Russell Catlow, I had no idea what surprises were in store. Blackpool Zoo celebrates its 45th anniversary this year and Russell has been employed there for most of those years. It certainly wasn’t what he had planned, having trained as a teacher at Padgate College, Warrington. The year he qualified, teaching jobs were short in supply and as his brother was a keeper at the zoo, Russell applied and was soon working with camels, giraffes and rhinos. During the summer season, Russell worked on the promenade hiring deckchairs out and later became the manager. At that time, both the zoo and deckchair hire were operated by Blackpool Council. In 1993, Russell was asked to return to the zoo as Assistant Manager - he spent the next three years working both jobs! In 2003 the zoo became privately owned, initially by Grant Leisure and four years later by Parques Reunidos, a spanish company. They own over eighty other zoos, safari parks, water parks and leisure outlets worldwide. The company have invested heavily in development and expansion of the zoo and its facilities and the range of animals. Russell became Assistant Director ten years ago. As we chatted, it emerged that Russell’s parents had met on the site the zoo is situated, which was formerly Blackpool’s first municipal airport. During World War ll the RAF had taken over the airport and Wellington bombers were repaired on the site. Russell’s father drove the huge transporters which carried the planes and his mother was a panel beater and also ferried pilots to the Samlesbury base. His father later drove coaches locally.

Although Russell took early retirement four years ago, the lure of the zoo was too tempting and he now works as Duty Manager at weekends. He sees continuing success of the zoo down to good planning, investment and great staff. There are around 38 keepers and in the season there can be up to 150 part-time staff. Russell stressed that a high standard of animal welfare is essential and breeding programmes are an important part of life at the zoo. Education is also central to what the zoo provides and courses are available in a variety of areas. The number of Education Officers increases from 8 to 17 during the season. Conservation and research also play prominent roles in today’s modern approach to what zoos are about. Things have come a long way since that wet July in 1972 when Johnny Morris of TV’s ‘Animal Magic’ fame, officially opened the zoo riding an elephant. This summer will see the opening of a purpose-built £2.5 million elephant house and Russell showed me the recently completed themed catering outlet. With his boundless enthusiasm I think it will be a while before we find Russell reclining for any length of time in a deckchair. Wendy Stevenson

Keeping Blackpool memories alive September the 9th, 2005. Gentleman sees lady, smiles and wonders. The lady smiles back enigmatically and he knows he must be bold, for ‘faint heart never won fair maiden’. Standard stuff, except that she’s a lassie from Blackpool, Lancashire … and he is training to be a Catholic priest. Not anymore! Roll forward twelve years, happily married, loving sunny Blackpool, creating precious memories along the way and now helping others to remember theirs. Jimmy O’Donnell had no thought of living in Blackpool until that providential evening in the No. 3 pub, when he fell in ‘love at first sight’ with a Blackpool girl. And now, as she says regularly, ‘Why would you want to live anywhere else?’ Jimmy is renowned for his interactive reminiscence presentations that are putting a smile on many faces across the county. He recently set up a project called Lancashire Memories, based here in Blackpool, where countless beautiful and cherished moments have taken place for millions of people over the decades. At the heart of his work is sensory reminiscence with older people. The idea that, as humans, we engage with the world through our senses and that what we see, hear, taste, touch and smell, stays with us in the mind and heart … that is a veritable ‘palace of memories’. Blackpool evokes so much for so many. In one of Jimmy’s typical sessions, a photo of a donkey on the sands, the sound of the waves, the taste of Blackpool rock, the touch of vintage seaside souvenirs or the smell of hot dogs, encourages vivid conversation from those who might usually be reserved and quiet. Jimmy’s passion for his work is obvious. ‘I love the way in which people remember verse and chorus of songs they have not heard or sung, perhaps even since childhood. I love it when a day room in a care home is alive to ‘The Blackpool Belle’ or ‘Sitting at the top of Blackpool Tower’ and when smiles and precious reminiscences come flooding forward, it is impossible not to be moved.’ In care settings, Jimmy plays ‘Name that tune’ with his gramophone. Most people remember the delight when they were first allowed to wind one up, playing their favourite records and loving the beautiful sounds of Gracie Fields or Doris Day, George Formby or Josef Locke, to name but a few. Precious memories were unlocked at Princess Alexandra home for the blind, by the sound of radio clips evoking reminiscences of listening attentively to Family Favourites, Dick Barton Special Agent or Listen with Mother. His first ever reminiscence session took place in a Blackpool day centre, supporting people living with dementia. As Jimmy wound up an old music box and asked what the tune was, one lady, for whom dementia had taken away her ability to complete sentences, started to sing every word. ‘What is that song? Jimmy asked. ‘Lily Marlene!’ she exulted.

Everyone gave her a round of applause. Everyone celebrated what she could (and do beautifully), rather than be saddened by what she could not. An old image of the comedy actor Jimmy Clitheroe, had one lady remembering serving him ‘off-sales’, whiskey it seems, which she said was strange as he was so diminutive. A clip of a 1960s episode, led to many remembering Coronation Street battle-axe Ena Sharples. Locals, of course, knew her as Violet, a lady who loved this town. Much loved Burnley and England football legend Ray Pointer, sadly passed away last year in a Blackpool Care Home. As Jimmy strives to personalise his sessions, he had done his research and delighted in showing Ray a video clip where he scored a goal for England. Despite his dementia, his reaction was priceless, his smile unforgettable and for all the world, Ray was back on that hallowed Wembley turf. Jimmy met Blackpool’s own Jimmy Armfield at a Carers’ Trust event on Stanley Park and handed him an old football rattle (made for ARP, as some may recall) which he took great delight in rattling. How many times Jimmy must have heard one from the terraces and what memories were evoked of his great playing days, only he can tell. Jimmy also works in schools and colleges with his ‘Sharing Precious Memories’ project, emphasising and exemplifying the awesome power of reminiscence through sensory interaction with his vast collection of vintage objects, video clips, old photographs, music and dance. Where else would you see a ten year old winding up an old gramophone, playing an old 78 record of Frankie Laine, wondering how it works, where the power comes from

and asking questions such as, ‘Is it a big black CD?’. Youngsters are encouraged to spend precious time with older relatives, to ask questions and glean answers so as to build a beautiful foundational life story, celebrating their past, valuing their present relationship and making a priceless treasure for the future. As well as care and educational settings, Jimmy does talks on ‘The Power of Reminiscence’, training in person-centred reminiscence care and is currently rolling out his ‘Sharing Precious Memories’ project with adult groups. We are truly blessed that, because Blackpool was a major 20th century holiday destination, hundreds of cine and video clips and thousands of photographs grace the internet. Yes, the World Wide Web, the biggest library in the world, has a decent sized Blackpool section. So get on t’internet (as Peter Kay would say) and type in ‘Vintage Blackpool’ for starters and see where it takes you. As long unopened doors in your ‘palace of memories’ are unlocked, you may be surprised at what is there. As one lady said whilst showing the rest of the group how to use an old posser, washboard and dolly tub, “Eee, I’m remembering things I forgot that I knew!” Bev Carroll For more information please visit or call Jimmy on 07761 071696

The Collapse of Redmans Does anyone in Blackpool remember the Redmans store which once stood in Bank Hey Street? The original three storey grocery shop with its integral café was somewhere on the site of the later Chelsea Girl boutique chain store, between the jewellers H.Samuels at the corner and Owens, now W.H. Smiths. It was from the BHS building site that the first rescuers ran around the corner late one day in 1956. Hearing a sudden ‘dull explosion’ followed by the sounds of tumbling masonry, workmen raced towards the Redmans store, the Blackpool branch of a national chain. They were followed within minutes by police, firemen, newspaper reporters and the few passers-by lingering in the area after the shops closed on the Friday.

Saturday’s edition of the Blackpool Gazette and Herald reported that sometime around 5.30pm on Friday 29th June 1956, the Redmans store unexpectedly collapsed ‘like a pack of cards’, spilling three floors of its interior into the street below. Sharing party walls with neighbouring shops, it was the only structure to fall. Within seconds, parked cars were buried beneath flying rubble, wood splinters, bricks and dust, the pavements strewn with shoes, toys, utensils and furnishings the accident had thrown outdoors from inside the shop.

By Monday 2nd July 1956 newspaper headlines were celebrating ‘getting back to normal’, workmen climbed up neatly assembled scaffolding and barriers were in place around the disaster zone so that the legions of tourists flooding into Blackpool over the weekend could walk by the scene safely. Meanwhile journalists, discovering a crack in walls adjoining H. Samuels, had noted missing jewellery totalling thousands of pounds. Reports about Redmans continued all that week. From inside a café room a safe, which someone had witnessed fall, was removed together with wage packets and ‘a quantity of money’. Local newshounds responded to the Redmans disaster quickly, tourists arrived in thousands and restorations were swift. The new store that rose from the wreckage is recorded in the media on the 26th July 1957. Designed by architect Charles E. Jackson, this 600-seater café and restaurant was given a shiny faience façade in similar greens and creams to the corporation trams which ran along the promenade. With state-of-the-art equipment and interiors freshly redecorated in blue, cream and red, or limed oak tiles and plastic furnishings, 120 uniformed staff worked from 7am until 11.30pm in Redmans new three-storey café with restaurant, on exactly the same spot. The wealth of renovation along Bank Hey Street and nearby roads over the last two or three decades means that matching old photographs to the present pedestrian precinct is virtually impossible. Vanished are those buildings, those roofs, shop fronts and individual features. Strolling through the town’s walkways today, heritage sleuths can if they look upwards, high above the busy shopfronts, hoarding and signage, see evidence of Blackpool’s solidly Victorian and Edwardian past. The relief sculptures, emblems and coats

The papers agreed that fifteen women had been injured or treated for shock at Victoria Hospital. Their names were printed in the press. Fortunately, there was only one death reported, a woman, who was still being identified over the weekend. She was later named as Amy Hardwick, an employee of Wilcock’s drapery on nearby Abingdon Street. She lived at South Shore’s Windermere Road but was at Redmans on the day the building fell, dying under rubble and debris. The cellar was apparently first to ‘buckle’, sharply forcing the shop core and frontage outwards before the heavy masonry and brickwork overhead immediately began to topple, ‘crashing’ downwards onto Bank Hey Street. The owner, Albert Redman, had died only a few years earlier after taking over the shop in 1943. Only eleven years after the end of the war, another scene of sudden, fatal destruction involved ordinary people in their home towns. Just like the injured females, names of some of the men involved were also recorded. Brave foreman, Alf Millership, had undoubtedly saved many lives by dashing to the front of the store to warn of its imminent collapse. A Mr. E.J. Gunson, manager and later branch inspector, was on call all weekend to assist the rescue, tidy up and update journalists.

or arms gracing the upper walls or corners of many urban buildings are still there, just waiting to be admired as much for their longevity as for aesthetics. Something of the Redmans cream and green façade can be detected from the old bricks and glass renovated store, which has not traded for many decades now. In the rear courtyard, all is new brick, except for next door’s W.H. Smiths which retains one partial wall of creamy faience tiling. This modernized, vibrant seaside town of entertainment, shopping, leisure and business guards its secrets closely, but its talent lies in the presentation, the show-business, the sheer theatricality of life. The story of Redmans and the people connected with the shop, of its collapse and revitalization is certainly worth our reading time. Lynne Charoenkitsuksun

BROOKS MEMORABILIA Whenever I am in South Shore, one of my favourite places to visit is Brooks Memorabilia Museum, above Brooks Collectables, situated on the corner of Waterloo Road and the Promenade. Entry into this hidden gem is free and it is a real Aladdin’s Cave. The exhibits number over 5000 items and are the result of over 60 years of collecting by the Yates family, who have run the business since 1949. Brooks Collectables was founded by William Brooks and first opened its doors on Good Friday 1949. ‘Bill‘ Brooks was soon joined by his son-in-law, Mac Yates, who was in turn joined by his brothers, Colin and Jim. The Museum was opened in 2009 to mark the 60th. anniversary of the business.

particularly excited to see the large collection of vintage cameras and a unique 1890s map of Blackpool which measures 10ft. x 14ft. and covers an entire wall. Children of all ages will wonder at the huge collection of die-cast model vehicles, which includes many rare Dinky and Corgi items. They will also be amazed by the collection of Airfix kits, Victorian and Edwardian china souvenirs, a vintage doll’s house and doll collection, coin and stamp collections and much, much more. Many of the exhibits are housed in 1950s Broughton and Moore cabinets. Made in Blackpool, these were part of the original shop fittings. One cabinet in particular which fascinated me houses over 800 model soldiers and military bandsmen. Today, the whole enterprise is run by Mark Yates who gave me a guided tour of the museum and introduced me to his uncle, Mac, who works tirelessly to maintain and restore the exhibits, and who can be found in the museum most days. The collection is breathtakingly diverse. It includes a 5 ft. replica of Blackpool Tower and a wonderful model of the Open Air Baths which stood where the Sandcastle water park is currently situated. This stunning model was nearly lost and came to the museum in a very dilapidated condition. Over the last few years it has been fully and lovingly restored by Mac Yates, and now takes its place as a centrepiece of the collection. Also featured are a working road and railway layout and a fully operational tram layout. Both run continuously during the museum day. There really is something here to interest all the family. I was

The museum is visited by over 28,000 people each year. During my recent visit I met a family from Germany who had heard of it via the internet and had made a special journey to Blackpool to take a look! The museum is open 10am to 12pm, 2pm to 4pm every Wednesday to Sunday throughout the holiday season. This September it will also be part of Heritage Open Days. More information can be found on:Facebook BrooksCollectables Twitter @BrooksCollector Next time you are in South Shore do not miss out on a visit to this free attraction (a donation to local charities is appreciated). You will be truly amazed. Kevin Armstrong.

COMMUNITY HERITAGE TALKS Blackpool Heritage Champions now offer talks in the community. NOW BOOKING FOR Winter Gardens Blackpool Tower Saucy Postcards Blackpool Sideshows Seaside Traditions Bispham Cleveleys Stanley Park The Buckley photo collection

New for 2017. We will come to your venue. To book, contact (01253) 476633 or




If you would like to contribute to this newsletter or comment on the contents please contact 01253 476633 or email The Volunteer Centre Blackpool, & Fylde is a Registered Charity, No: 1125184 and a Company Limited by Guarantee registered in England & Wales No: 5756723 ©2015

Blackpool Heritage Newsletter Issue 18  

As Stanley Park celebrates their 90th summer, we head down memory lane and see where it all started. Learn about the collapse of Redmans, Br...

Blackpool Heritage Newsletter Issue 18  

As Stanley Park celebrates their 90th summer, we head down memory lane and see where it all started. Learn about the collapse of Redmans, Br...