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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Layton Windmill

The former air raid shelter used as a bus stop for services into town passing the former 'Windmill' site in Layton. A 'Metro Coastlines' remember that brand? Delta in Line 11 colours passing by.

The road junction at what is now a 'Tesco' on the crest of the hill leading from Layton was originally a country track which split with one direction towards Bispham via a level crossing over the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway line from Talbot Road Station; and in the other direction leading towards Poulton. One of the many windmills which were a feature on prominentories on the otherwise flat Fylde coastline was sited where the Tesco shop now stands. Even though it disappeared before the Second World War - the bus stop is still known locally as 'Windmill'. A public house of the same name was situated on the same site over many decades.

It was the intention of Blackpool Corporation Tramways to extend the Layton tram service from its terminus outside Layton Cemetery the relatively short distance up towards the Windmill and detailed plans were prepared for this eventuality before the outbreak of the Great War. In that postwar era a sentiment in Blackpool's Town Council weighted against further tram extensions in the town itself. Along with many other municipalities both large and small - the least expensive investment in motor buses had gained favour. Many former military personnel, now demobilised had the essential skills for operating, maintaining and repairing motor vehicles and a glut of former War Department vehicles (and equipment) meant a cheap source of chassis were immediately for disposal on the market. This resulted in a flurry of new family owned 'charabanc' operations springing up around the country. Blackpool's Tramways found itself nurturing? a solid tired section from 1921. This grew exponentially from the mid 1920s onwards to inevitably become the dominant part of the municipal transport system in the next decade.

Back to Layton Windmill. The tram extension was never built. Bus services became the preferred transport mode (away from the promenade) - and with the advent of a new Transport Manager in 1933 - the retirement of Charles Furness as Electrical and Tramways head brought an end to the styles and practises dating from 1900s. Bus services to Poulton, Bispham and Cleveleys passed the Layton Windmill stop with the number '9' services being the most prominent in frequency and longevity. The town was a very pro-active in building air raid shelters in 1938 and 1939 (and later). Several former air raid shelters were later turned into more civil purposes by the simple expedient of knocking down the sides facing onto roadways and this providing least expensive new bus shelters. Examples can be found today at Stanley Park's Main Gate, and at Bispham roundabout on Devonshire Road. Another example was sited next to Layton Library until the library extension required its removal. A diminutive example was built at the Layton Windmill offering cover (and questionable safety) on the inbound service stop where it remained as a notable feature until three years ago when Tesco acquired the former Windmill Public House property and proceeded to construct one of their convenience store outposts which are a common feature not only in Blackpool of course. Tesco's property included the diminutive piece of land on which the former air raid shelter cum bus shelter was sited - and it had to go although it had little if any consequence for Tesco's property people. So it went into history unlamented and replaced by a mundane metal edifice that does little in terms of protection from the winds (and rain) which are common to this exposed point - hence a choice locale for a windmill in former times. Interestingly the 'Oxford' hotel, now also gone into historical reference books, was sited next to another windmill which lasted into the late 19th century.

So windmills come and go - as do bus shelters - but the number 9 Bus Service runs on and on with its latest variant now taking passengers to Victoria Hospital in a new extension of the route in Blackpool. The Number 9 continues to run to Cleveleys Bus Station as it has done from the 1930s - so at least this piece of local transport history remains very much alive today - perhaps a blue plaque is needed somewhere on the service. At one time there has been a 9, 9A, 9B and 9C to mark out slight distinctions in variations of the journey through Bispham and Anchorsholme area - but that's for another time....

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