Civic Trust audit
1901 - the year Marton's trams first ran from Talbot Square to Waterloo Road and then through fields to reach Revoe and Central Drive's built up strip.
A recent news item focussed on an initiative now underway by Blackpool's Civic Trust who have taken it upon themselves to undertake a check on the town's structures large and small which have historical or architectural merit. This is to be in two parts with the first covering the more obvious buildings which are associated with Blackpool - and the second the more numerous assorted buildings which are worth recording. There are indeed many still extant physical reminders of the town's great years in the past century (and earlier). There are the three piers just to start with, each being an independent venture originally.
No doubt the Trust will find itself at Rigby Road inspecting the early Workshop structures which originate, I believe, from World War One days. Equally compelling in importance from two decades later are the Transport Company's office block which epitomised modernity when it was built in the 1930s. The Bus Garage is destined for eventual demolition when the Company (BTS) vacate their operational base at Rigby Road for new premises. These are likely to be at Squires Gate, but this has yet to be formally confirmed. The Tram Depot is set to remain with a probable new role as a Museum when funding can be secured. This is a useful second life for redundant tram buildings. Oslo, Brussels, Krakow, Zurich are among many towns and cities I have visited seeing a value and historic importance of their original public transport systems through recycling? an old depot. Our Trust made an effort to preserve the Fleetwood Tramroad Company building but commercial interests prevented this opportunity. Blackpool Transport management regrettably saw fit to sell off the former Lytham St Annes municipal tram (later bus) depot on Squires Gate Lane to a predictable development of immensely boring quality. Here too an even more marvellous transport heritage centre could have been promoted and developed by visionary minds. A big loss.
Blackpool has a veritable streetscape of traditional boarding houses and private hotels which were 'thrown up' in the town's rapid growth from 1880 to 1914. In particular it is noteworthy that the new electric tram routes within the town from 1901 to 1903 were accompanied by enterprising house builders and a profusion of 'public houses' to slake the thirsts of locals. The 'New Road' to Layton which came about alongside the new electric tram service from Talbot Square to Layton Cemetery Gates - was very much a working man's district with steam laundry, abbatoir, brewery, stone masons and territorial/volunteers drill hall to join the then new 'Isolation hospital' erected next to what is now the junction of Talbot and Devonshire Roads. Blackpool's labouring classes were provided with new housing immediately near to the Layton tram terminus offering a 'fast' means of travel into the town centre just over a mile distant. As previously referenced on this blog - the intention of the Tramways Department was to extend this line further north along what became Westcliffe Drive to the former Windmill and public house.
Whitegate Drive was developed more for the prospering middle class and business owners needing a 'statement' home close to the town centre and accessible by the new electric tram service. A walk around this former tram route uncovers some remarkable residential properties along its outer reach. The town's first Victoria Hospital was built at the same time, as were several private (and later Council) schools. Similarly the more southerly stretch of Lytham Road became an 'upmarket' residential area - first operated by the Blackpool St Annes and Lytham tram company until it was subsumed by Blackpool's Tramway system. Vestiges of some of the 'grander' houses can still be seen amid the more recent flat conversions and mundane property designs now drawn by accountants. Below :
stylish classic doorways to then new homes along Church Street.
Central Drive was dominated by the many platformed Central Station out of which year on year millions of families flocked to nearby boarding houses. Commercial premises took up much of the street including the still extant King Edward Picture House and its adjoining Public House. The hundreds of train drivers, firemen and Guards were accommodated in a large multi level 'dormitory' structure almost on top of the station itself - and still standing today although few realise its origins. This could be turned into a remarkable museum of the role of railways in the resort's rapid expansion and success - but without the trains of course.
They don't design buildings like they used to - with care and attention to detail. A
marvellous Edwardian era corner property retaining its character and value . Trams used to pass by every three or four minutes in both directions - up to 1962.
Revoe Gymnasium - later Library was a bold public statement building which marked the south eastern end of Central Drive in its early days, it too still stands and is kept in good condition by the Council. Within Bloomfield Road Football Ground - the BFC Directors Board Room is pannelled with timbers from one of Nelson's fleet - which ended its days aground off Blackpool's promenade. That has to be on the Civic Trust list. I could go on - perhaps we will see Parts Two and Three of these musings.
All Images : John Woodman