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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Next Stop Claremont Savoy

One of the rarer sponsored trams in the tramway's later history was a promotion in early 1971 in conjunction with the 'Slipper Fair' held in Blackpool. The resort was a popular location for trade shows and events. Even today one of Blackpool's most attended out of season event involves the racing pigeon show held in the Winter Gardens, where literally thousands of cooing birds are proudly shown off by their Owners and traders.

Blackpool's one time 'Fancy Goods Fair' and the annual 'Slipper Fair' attracted delegations of specialist firms and manufacturers showing off a diversity of wares, usually immediately after the New Year. Norwich was once one of the UK's principal centres for footwear design and manufacture, with a directory full of individual firms well into the 1960s. Understandably shoe production, if not design of shoes (and much else) left these shores decades ago for far off countries where labour costs in particular offered competitive economies. Fortunately however there are still bespoke companies producing footwear in Britain for the higher end of the market.

An enterprising Norwich shoe manufacturer, Pell Ltd., wanting to go one better in attracting the attention of buyers attending the 1971 trade Fair in Blackpool, worked with Blackpool Corporation Transport to provide a special 'shuttle' tram service from the Savoy Hotel at the Gynn where the Slipper Fair venue was being held, to the Claremont Hotel. At the time the Claremont benefitted, if that is the right term, from a crossover on the Promenade directly opposite the hotel. Although this was used only for emergency short workings. Pell of Norwich had their hospitality and marketing suite at the Claremont Hotel, seperate from the trade show at the Savoy.

Number 638 photographed at the Cabin in January 1971 on one of its special workings for Pell Ltd., Norwich.

In 1970 the then discarded prototype one man tram - Brush Car 638 in its modified state was readily available for hire and thus became the easy tram of choice to host a buffet, banjo band, and special interior (and exterior) display on sides and roof. Under special arrangements in January 1971 638 was used for this unique engagement boasting destination 'CLAREMONT SAVOY' - certainly a collector's item by now; if it still survives. A regular shuttle service on 638 for invited trade show attendees and guests ran every twenty minutes between the two venues, actually from North Pier to the Cabin where three track layouts allowed layover time. The company also hosted a midday journey from Talbot Square to Fleetwood with a light lunch onboard over the three days January 17 to 20 of the Fair.

It was so successful that Pell's management proposed to engage a larger tram the following year and the promotion apparently triggered interest more broadly in using 638 on a summer season buffet service along the Promenade. Sadly the latter proposal did not gain momentum but evidently seeds have evidently been sown for a not dissimilar initiative which might come about under the auspices of Blackpool Heritage Tours using one of many cars now available for creative use. Image Courtesy : Pell Limited of Norwich.

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