Right royal visits to the Fylde coast

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Blackpool Opera House for the Royal Variety Performance, in 1955
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Blackpool Opera House for the Royal Variety Performance, in 1955
0
Have your say

To mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, Memory Lane takes a look back at her visits to the Fylde coast over the years.

Her Majesty’s first visit to the area came in 1955, when she attended the first Royal Variety Performance to be held outside of London.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at Blackpool Opera House for the Royal Variety Performance,  1955

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at Blackpool Opera House for the Royal Variety Performance, 1955

In 1980, the Queen came to Garstang, to unveil a plaque and declare open a new £58m water scheme – including the £11.5m Frank Law plant, the nerve centre of the operation.

Elizabeth II also came to Weeton Barracks to present new colours to the 1st Battalion Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, on July 9, 1990.

She arrived at Blackpool Airport earlier that day, in blustery conditions.

It was reported, as she stepped off the BAe 146, her wide-brimmed hat needed a “firm royal hand to keep it in place” in the gusty wind. She was welcomed by Lord Lieutenant Mr Simon Towneley and his wife Mary.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Blackpool and Rossall School in 1994. The Queen went up Blackpool Tower during her visit in 1994. She is seen here with Katherine O'Connor of First Leisure and Tower general manager Steve Brailey

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Blackpool and Rossall School in 1994. The Queen went up Blackpool Tower during her visit in 1994. She is seen here with Katherine O'Connor of First Leisure and Tower general manager Steve Brailey

The Queen arrived on the parade ground at the army camp to a 3,000-strong crowd, after the old colours had been marched off to Auld Lang Syne.

She inspected the troops and watched as the Rev Graham Roblin consecrated the colours.

A power failure silenced her address at Weeton, and soldiers had to use a sledge-hammer to break open a locked garage to try to find a power generator, as the public address system cut out.

But the hiccup did not spoil the occasion. The ceremony ended with three cheers for the Queen.

The Queen arrives at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, for the The Royal Variety Performance, in 2009. The Queen is introduced to Leisure Parcs Director Mr Craig Hemmings.

The Queen arrives at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, for the The Royal Variety Performance, in 2009. The Queen is introduced to Leisure Parcs Director Mr Craig Hemmings.

Her Majesty spoke to pupils from Weeton Primary and Singleton C of E Primary and was presented with a bouquet by six-year-old Lynette Sherratt. Pensioners from a Fylde nursing home, whose names were drawn out of a hat, were also lucky enough to grab a quick chat with the monarch. She later lunched in a marquee with VIPs.

On July 22, 1994, the Queen and Prince Philip came to Blackpool, to help celebrate Festival 94 and Rossall School to mark its 150th anniversary.

They visited The Grand Theatre and Blackpool Tower for the first time, as part of the attractions’ 100th birthdays.

The royal couple were welcomed by bright, unbroken sunshine as thousands of people lined the roadsides and craned for views from the top of buildings, to catch a glimpse of their monarch.

The Queen is greeted by excited children at Rossall school, in 1994.

The Queen is greeted by excited children at Rossall school, in 1994.

The party received a guided tour of the Tower, including a historic trip right to the top.

The Queen and Prince then met local children at Jungle Jim’s, including six special youngsters who were being rewarded for their courage in adversity.

Her Majesty unveiled a huge commemorative mirror and she and the Duke signed the visitors’ book.

At Rossall, 2,500 specially-invited local school children and residents lined the grounds, but only 600 of them could attend a thanksgiving service in the school chapel, because every seat was full.

After the short service, conducted by Rev Graham Canham and the Bishop of Blackburn, the Right Rev Alan Chesters, the Queen signed the visitor’s book and moved out into the small quadrangle with the Duke of Edinburgh.

At the Big School Hall, she took her seat to watch a drama group perform an extract from Macbeth.

The Queen's visit to Weeton, July 1990

The Queen's visit to Weeton, July 1990

Lunch for 300 guests in the school dining hall featured a starter of smoked salmon and Atlantic prawns, a hot chicken main course with fresh vegetables and a medley of summer fruits in champagne.

Two of the Queen’s most famous visits to the Fylde coast have been for the same reason – the Royal Variety Performance.

Her Majesty made her first ever visit to Blackpool 61 years ago, when she came to the Opera House in the Winter Gardens for the right royal occasion.

It had taken two months of hard work to prepare and get the famous venue ready for the big event, the first time the Royal Variety Performance had taken place outside of London.

The extra special occasion attracted applications for ticket from at least 20 times the 3,000 available.

The 35 acts were lined up by Jack Hylton and featured “everything from slapstick to ballet.”

The theatre itself had a new look for the big night – dubbed “one of the greatest shows of all time.”

One of the biggest tasks was the installation of the Royal Box, which featured a “symphony of gold and cream, so devised as to afford the best possible view of it to the audience.”

The Illuminations were lit up in purple and gold to mark the regal occasion.

Among those who performed were George Formby, Reginald Dixon, Joan Regan, Arthur Askey and Morecambe and Wise.

It was another 54 years before the Royal Variety returned to the resort.

Among the acts performing at the Opera House in 2009 were Lady Gaga, Bette Middler, Peter Kay, Michael Buble, Miley Cyprus, Whoopi Goldberg and Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity.

The night began with host Peter Kay appearing from the stage on the famous old Wurlitzer organ.

The Tower and the Golden Mile were lit up for the glittering occasion and the Queen was quoted as saying she “absolutely loved it.”

The Queen has had a long association with the Fylde coast.

Just a month after her coronation, she presented the FA Cup to winners Blackpool in the famous Matthews’ final.

She is pictured here on May 2, 1953, at Wembley.

The young Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh can be seen presenting the trophy to Blackpool’s Harry Johnston.

In 1980, the Queen came to Garstang, to unveil a plaque and declare open a new £58m water scheme – including the £11.5m Frank Law plant, the nerve centre of the operation.

She paid tribute to the Fylde engineer, Frank Law, who helped develop the scheme.

Later that day, she went to visit two tenant farms on the Duchy of Lancaster Estate – the first time she had set foot on her 11,300 acres of Lancashire farm land. Both farmers – Jim Mitchell, of Snapewood Farm, Garstang, and Richard Barton, of Lee Farm, Bilsborrow, had met the Queen previously at Buckingham Palace garden parties.

At Snapewood Farm, she visited out-buildings where cows were receiving computer-rationed food.

The Queen then spent 40 minutes at Myerscough College of Agriculture, before driving to Preston railway station, along a route lined with flag-waving crowds.

She was snapped meeting children at the farms, as can be seen here, and on her way there.

This charming photograph shows six-year-old Sonya Wallacy, of Garstang, handing flowers to the Queen, through her car window, during the visit.

And this was the scene down on the farm – Snapewood Farm – as the Royal cavalcade pulled in, during the 1980 visit.

The Queen made something of a secret – and very brief – visit in November 1984, along with Prince Philip.

The Gazette reported the following day, she had made the clandestine stop in the North West en route to Abbeystead, in the Trough of Bowland.

The paper stated: “Armed detectives stood guard as the Royals were greeted at windswept Squires Gate Airport by the Duke of Westminster.

“He whisked them away in his Range Rover to his huge estate at Abbeystead.

“The Squires Gate Airport opened late that night for the touchdown.

“No other flights were allowed to take off or land as the aircraft flew in.”

Were you at any of the Royal visit and do you have any photographs of the big day?

If you would be willing to share your pictures or memories with Memory Lane readers, email emma.harris@blackpoolgazette.co.uk or write to: Emma Harris, Blackpool Gazette, Avroe House, Avroe Crescent, Blackpool Business Park, Blackpool, FY4 2DP.

The Queen's visit to Weeton, July 1990

The Queen's visit to Weeton, July 1990

Down on the farm at Winmarleigh when the Queen came to the Fylde in 1980.
This was Snapewood Farm Winmarleigh as the Royal cavalcade pulled in.

Down on the farm at Winmarleigh when the Queen came to the Fylde in 1980. This was Snapewood Farm Winmarleigh as the Royal cavalcade pulled in.