Making room for Sir Harold - but which one?

Cutting from The Gazette, October 1, 1959, showing the unveiling of the Sir Harold Room in Blackpool's Winter Gardens.  From left: Sir Harold Grime,  Tower Company chairman Douglas Bickerstaffe,  Mr J. H. Clegg,  Clifford Bowman and Dr Ted Badman.
Cutting from The Gazette, October 1, 1959, showing the unveiling of the Sir Harold Room in Blackpool's Winter Gardens. From left: Sir Harold Grime, Tower Company chairman Douglas Bickerstaffe, Mr J. H. Clegg, Clifford Bowman and Dr Ted Badman.
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IT LOOKS as though my retired colleague Roy Edmonds might just be about to get his indigestion back.

The veteran scribe, who still shares his seasoned look at life thanks to a regular Thursday column in The Gazette, recently recalled an embarrassing working lunch back in the 1970s.

Called to discuss Blackpool’s future, the gathering was hosted by Sir Harold Grime, The Gazette’s chairman and editor-in-chief, and diners included the Mayor, various elected worthies and some leading lights in the business world.

The venue was the wood-panelled Sir Harold Room in the Winter Gardens and during the course of the meal, Roy managed to disgrace himself. He interrupted and ultimately curtailed the power talks by coughing and choking on a piece of vegetable stuck in his throat.

In his column, Roy recounted how, in more recent times, he had passed that same room, close to the Spanish and Baronial Halls, on a tour of the Winter Gardens taken by social historian and heritage champion Prof Vanessa Toulmin.

Roy said that during a conversation, Prof Toulmin had corrected him, claiming the room was named, not after Sir Harold Grime, but after Labour Prime Minister Sir Harold Wilson.

As Roy put it: “Like magic, the indigestion of years was gone.”

But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. In this case a Gazette photograph and caption from October 1, 1959.

As readers can see, the small dining room WAS named after Sir Harold, at that time vice-chairman of the Blackpool Tower Company, which owned the Winter Gardens. The naming, which marked his knighthood, had been a well-kept secret from the Press baron.

Harold Wilson did not receive his title until 1976 and his life peerage in 1983.

Prof Toulmin says she has no recollection of the conversation with Roy, but adds: “I have done about 100 tours and know very well that this room is named after Sir Harold Grime. A few people on tours have assumed it was Harold Wilson, but I have always tried to put them right.

“However, I am sorry if it appears any misunderstanding has arisen, by any action on my part, over the naming.”

If all of this has whetted your appetite, you can see the Sir Harold Room for yourself, on one of the engaging, enthralling and entertaining tours led by expert, Blue Badge-trained guides.

Natalie Wyatt, managing director of Marketing Blackpool, says: “The introduction of heritage guides last season has added yet another exciting new dimension to all that we offer. We are encouraging people to actually learn about Blackpool and its fascinating history.”

All tours of Blackpool’s Grade II listed Winter Gardens, which first opened in 1878, start promptly at 11am, ending at around 12.30pm, price £5, children £3. Meeting point is the Floral Hall and booking is essential as numbers are limited.

Other dates might be added, but tours already confirmed are April 11 and 25, May 9 and 21, June 6, July 18, August 1 and 15, September 5 and 19, and October 10 and 24. There are also tours of Stanley Park, which dates back to 1926, on the following Sundays: June 2, 9 and 30, July 7, 14, 21 and 28, August 4, 11 and 18. Tours start at 11.30am from Stanley Park Visitor Centre and complimentary tea and coffee is served afterwards at The Art Deco Café. Again, limited space means pre-booking, at £5, children £3.

For more information visit www.visitblackpoolshop.co.uk or contact the Tourist Information Centre on (01253) 478222.

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