Then & Now

The Gazette - Then and Now
Then and Now - A trip down memory lane
Welcome to our Then and Now online special. Here you can view videos and read articles from Craig Fleming as he casts an eye over Blackpoolӳ glorious history and uncovers the changing face of Britainӳ favourite seaside resort.

Don't miss Memory Lane each Saturday and Tuesday in The Gazette, or click here to view our online memory lane section.

Please click on a link to take a trip down memory lane.

Then & Now: Blackpool Tower Ballroom

Then & Now: Westcliffe Drive

Then & Now: Blackpool Tower Laser

Then & Now: Central Beach

Then & Now: St Johnӳ Church

Then & Now: The Winter Gardens

Then & Now: Church Street

Then & Now: Devonshire Square

Then & Now: Flagstaff Gardens

Then & Now: Stanley Terrace

Then & Now: Hornby Road

Then & Now: Raikes Smithy

Then & Now: Christmas special

Then & Now: Abingdon Street Market

Then & Now: Bank Hey Street

Then & Now: The Shovels

Then & Now: The Foxhall

Then & Now: Abattoir Road

Then & Now: Queen Square

Then & Now: Derby Road, North Shore

Then & Now: Warton Street Post Office

Then & Now: North Promenade

Then & Now: Demise of the corner shop

Then & Now: Under the Riverdance ferry

Then & Now: Abingdon Street

Then & Now: Talbot Road Bus Station

Then & Now: Coronation Street

Then & Now : Central Station

Then and Now: Blackpool Tower ballroom

TAKE your partners please...

Blackpool's magnificent Tower Ballroom has always been a firm favourite with dancers of all ages, as well as those who simply come to admire the architecture or savour the atmosphere for a few hours.

Find out how to get our Then and Now special souvenir publication

There has been heightened interest thanks to BBC's Strictly Come Dancing ֠and the live final in the first series came from the Tower back in 2004.

Now the stars perform in a purpose-built studio in London and, as the fifth series starts on October 6, local dancers and council chiefs are calling for its return to the resort.

But back in 1956, the dancing stopped when a carelessly discarded

cigarette end resulted in an inferno which took hold between the floor and crept almost the entire length of the ballroom, flames breaking free in one area, leaping three feet into the air.

At one point the ballroom was under four inches of water and it still wasn't enough to douse the blaze.

Firemen hacked through the floor to release hundreds of gallons of water ֠and this overflow cascaded down the steps of the stairs on the approach to the ballroom and flooded the main entrance.

Fortunately, tarpaulin had been placed over the ballroom's famous Wurlizter organ to save it from damage. The Gazette reported a scene of "desolation and destruction, a grim waste of smoke, running water, charred wood and fire hoses".

Cost of repair was put at ò50,000 and within three years the Tower had a new look, while the ballroom itself was restored to its former glory, gold leaf and all.

Then and now: Westcliffe Drive, Layton

THIS week in Then and Now we travel ֠very slowly ֠along Westcliffe Drive, Layton.

Earliest of the three pictures dates back to 1919 and a horse drawn cart trundles slowly up the road.

Fast forward to February 1963 and the trees have gone. Cars and vans were probably not travelling much faster than that hard working horse, though, because work was under way on Blackpool Corporation's ó3,000 dual carriage scheme.

As seems to be the case with many local authority projects, the work suffered lengthy delays. In this case, as deputy borough surveyor Mr J Radcliffe told The Gazette, it proved impossible because of frosty conditions to continue work which involved concrete and cement.

And so to the present day, and traffic along this stretch is once again travelling slowly ֠this time because of the official 20mph limit in place.

You can expect more road works soon as the council tries to sort out some of the problems created during the controversial õ00,000 pedestrian enhancements.

Do you have any old pictures of Fylde scenes ֠or suggestions for our own photographers ֠to feature in Then and Now? If so the contact

Then and now: Blackpool Tower Laser

They say there is nothing new under the sun ֠or in Blackpool's case perhaps that should be under the night sky.Illuminations bosses have just unveiled the UK's largest and most powerful laser which is shooting through the sky to be seen up to 30 miles away.

This latest addition to the autumn spectacular is based at the top of the famous Blackpool Tower.

Yet the 35-watt, green laser which will provide a 10- minute show at regular intervals during the Lights, is not the first time we have gone hi-tech from such heights.

A revolutionary laser display was first unveiled back in 1982 to provide added sparkle to the 50th Illuminations year.

It was a joint venture between Tower owner Trusthouse Forte Leisure and Blackpool Council. At the preview, tourism committee chairman Coun Collin Hanson enthused: "It was quite impressive ֠the display was fascinating. This sort of thing would have tremendous publicity potential."

The hope, then as now, was that seeing the laser beam inland would encourage more visitors to travel to the coast. Once here, the eye-catching display would entice them to get out of their car, have a walk around and spend some money during their stay rather than drive straight through and home.

Lasers were back again in the late 1990s when the Tower legs were also lit up with sponsored animated displays to promote soft drinks.

Then and Now: Central Beach

LOOK out to sea from Blackpool Promenade and the view will be the same today as it was in 1878.

But look at the land from the identical point on the sands and what you see now is worlds apart.

The Palatine Hotel, with its distinctive turret, stood on the Promenade corner of Hounds Hill.

In the name of progress it was demolished in the mid 1970s to make way for a structure that is very much of its time. The Palatine Buildings houses several stores at ground level and over the years there have been various nightspots in the basement and upper floors.

At Adelaide Place, is the distinctive 1930s building complete with clock tower, still a landmark alongside Blackpool Tower. Created originally as a prestigious seafront store for Woolworths - who have since moved a couple of blocks further up the Promenade - it is, for the time being, home to Pricebusters.

Back on the beach, donkeys were as popular then as they are today, but holidaymakers are no longer in formal dress.

Then and Now: St Johnӳ Church

St Johnӳ Church has been a focal point in Blackpool town centre in three separate centuries.

And, looking to the future, a stunning sculpture is set to be the centrepiece of a ó.5m revamp of the area around the church.

The building itself is reaping the benefits of a six year internal makeover which take in a community centre, heritage centre and, most importantly, a contemporary worship area and restoration of the chapel.

The original church, consecrated by the Bishop of Chester in 1821, was demolished in 1877 to make way for the current building, completed the following year.

In 1924 Blackpool Corporation wanted to widen the junction of Church Street and Abingdon Street, which led to the removal of bodies from the church graveyard.

As part of the arrangement, the corporation undertook to lay the churchyard as open space forever - and the latest plans further endorse that deal.

Cynics might call it a hi-tech tombstone, but proposals for the hollow spiral of mirrored steel with a two directional stage at its base, have found widespread support in the community - including backing from Gazette readers in our online and telephone polls.

The project would see Cedar Square themed for cafe use, including a double row of mature silver-leaved trees with seating underneath as well as space for outdoor cafes, free WiFi and an area for markets, performances and events.

Then and Now: The Winter Gardens

INCREASINGLY frozen out of the major conference market, some might say the future could be a frosty one for the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

Council bosses are seeking assurances from owners Leisure Parcs over the company's commitment to this landmark six acre complex, which borders Church Street, Coronation Street, Adelaide Street and Leopold Grove at the heart of the resort.

There is quite a legacy - and next year the Winter Gardens celebrates its 130th anniversary, having been officially opened with a grand banquet in July 1878, attended by the Lord Mayor of London, along with the civic worthies from 68 towns.

Millions of tourists and delegates have passed through the doors and under the distinctive 120ft by 42ft glass dome which leads into the Floral Hall.

Main entrance to the ballroom was originally through an arched hallway in the Empress Buildings in Church Street, which can still be made out among the brickwork.

Over the years, what was originally the Bank Hey estate has been remodelled. Long gone is the Big One rollercoaster of its day, a circular switchback railway Les Montagnes Russes, which opened in 1902.

Also long demolished - since the late 1920s - is the Gigantic Wheel, branded a white elephant for the time it took the 30 carriages to turn full circle.

The present 3,000 seater Opera House was the setting in 1955 for the first Royal Variety Performance outside London, in the presence of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

The Winter Gardens received Grade II listed status in 1973 and at the end of that decade and into the early 1980s the Olympia, Baronial and Spanish halls survived the threat of redevelopment as a shopping centre.

With decreasing use as an all-year conference venue and the reluctance of today's big stars to commit to the old-style lengthy summer shows, some soul searching lies ahead as to the future direction of this long established leisure palace.

Then and Now: Church Street

Talk about a restricted view at the theatre and you usually mean what you can see from your seat in the stalls.

This week, however, we are at the entrance to the Grand and looking out towards Church Street and Corporation Street.

Straight across is the refurbished West Street multi storey car park that tops the block housing the Bhs store and other shops.

In the earliest picture, dating back to 1939, you can see a row of Churchy Street shops, all empty and awaiting demolition.

As our middle picture shows, in 1952 from the same vantage point you could see the row of jewellery shops in Market Street and the levelled area was an open air car park. This was once St John's Market, whose roots dated back to the mid 19th century.

Today's town centre shoppers grumble about pay and display machines and the spread of double yellow lines. Back in the 1950s they had a more civilised approach with signs telling motorists: "No waiting this side on even dates".

And not a traffic warden in sight - restricted view or otherwise.... *Don't miss Memory Lane each Saturday and Tuesday in The Gazette

Then and Now: Devonshire Square

Devonshire Square is one of Blackpool's busiest junctions.

But when the scene was captured on camera in the 1920s, cars were probably no more frequent than the trams trundling through.

In the centre of the square was a rustic style combined sub station and tram shelter and you could quench your thirst with a pint or two on the corner of Newton Drive at the Number Three and Didsbury Hotel.

At a time when inland towns and cities are re-introducing trams (albeit modern versions) Blackpool's system is regarded by many as just a seafront tourist attraction.

Yet until 1962 the Marton route was a vital service for many, linking North and South on a tree-lined route.

The trees themselves were a council initiative to add some relief and greenery to the increasingly built-up areas of Blackpool.

Today most of the trees around Devonshire Square have been felled and the long-hidden tram tracks replaced by white traffic stripes to keep motorists in check.

A more modern substation remains at the heart of the square - the original demolished in 1965 - and the pub, now just the Number Three, boasts a beer garden overlooking the traffic passing by on Whitegate Drive.

Then and Now: Flagstaff Gardens

A SIGNIFICANT new statement in the realm of public art...

That is how Pleasure Beach boss Amanda Thompson describes the fun park's plans for a õ00,000 scheme to transform Flagstaff Gardens at South Shore into a 12 hole adventure golf attraction.

There will be water hazards, eye-catching landscaping and benches for those who would rather watch than play.

The seafront gardens, now leased to the Pleasure Beach, were opened by Blackpool Council in 1914, almost 20 years after the corporation acquired the land.

In the earliest picture, dating back to the launch, landau horses were as much a part of the resort's holiday season as they are now.

Centrepiece of the gardens was an ornate fountain. Uncertainty surrounds how the landmark came into existence, with some sources believing it may have a connection with the world-famous Tiller girls.

The dancing troupe rose to popularity in the early 1900s and performed many times in Blackpool. Founder John Tiller even brought his mother to live in the resort.

But other archives report that the ornamental fountain was put in place by the Tramways and Electricity Committee in time for the Illuminations in 1914. In 1925, the Tiller family donated a sundial to the gardens but that is no longer there.

As for that historic fountain today - it might be one water feature too many for the new golf attraction. But it has been carefully dismantled and is now in storage with Blackpool Council hoping to eventually relocate it somewhere in the town centre.

Then and Now: Stanley Terrace

Today the Midland Bank has become a late night take away and where traffic once turned through between Church Street and Caunce Street, there is now a large expanse of pavement - ideal for hungry clubbers to stand as they devour their kebabs and pizzas.

But it wasn't always like this.

Back in 1934, improvements were on the way with the demolition of Stanley Terrace, as part of a road widening scheme.

The properties were replaced with the art deco style block still known today as Stanley Buildings.

As in the earliest picture, the photograph from 1954 also clearly shows the tramlines of the Marton route.

Two buildings stand out in all the Church Street pictures - the former Regent Cinema, later offering bingo, which is now a snooker hall.

And, in the distance, the former Blackpool Grammar School building, now the Salvation Army Citadel and, temporarily, the home of St John's Church of England Primary School which will be rebuilt opposite Stanley Buildings.

This stretch of Church Street also boasts the Stanley Arms (more commonly known as the Blue Room) where Blackpool Football Club was born.But watch out for the speed camera!

*Don't miss the Memory Lane nostalgia pages every Saturday and Tuesday in The Gazette

Then and Now: Hornby Road

It's a road that just about links Blackpool's bustling seafront with the more tranquil Stanley Park - albeit with a change of name as you reach the last part of your journey.

Here we look at Hornby Road as it starts from its junction with Central Drive, just behind the Golden Mile.

When the picture was taken, in the early 1920s, thousands of visitors would pour in daily by train to nearby Central Station, now a sprawling car park.

In 1926, when Stanley Park was opened, Hornby Road was on the circular route for toast rack type buses that took trippers to the new attraction.

A few years before that, as the picture shows, people were also ready for the off, aboard the Smith family's Daimler charabanc which was loading up at Hornby Road Garage.

The Smiths were long prominent in public transport and, in early days, horse-drawn wagonettes had trundled off to explore Marton and Over Wyre.

The business of Charles Smith Jnr eventually became part of the well-known Standerwick firm, with its countrywide routes, but these charabanc passengers were happy to stay on the Fylde coast with a relatively short journey to Fleetwood for 1s 6d (7.5p).

*Don't miss Memory Lane each Tuesday and Saturday in The Gazette. If you have any ideas for Then and Now scenes, email

Then and Now: Raikes Smithy

A MULTI-million pound retail and residential development could rise from the rubble of a sprawling town centre site, part of which once housed what was reputed to be one of Blackpool's oldest buildings.

It is the land bordered by Church Street Cookson Street and Caunce Street.

If plans are approved, 10 new shops and 93 apartments, along with a wine bar, restaurant, fitness centre and nursery, could be included in the building which would rise to six storeys.

One of the landmark properties, demolished earlier this year for what is now a temporary car park, was the old Grosvenor Hotel.

Built in 1874 and once boasting Irish funnyman Frank Carson as its landlord, the pub had fallen into disrepair in recent years.

A short distance up Church Street, and also part of the site, was a building destroyed by fire in 1988, and said to date back 300 years.

Latterly it was a bedding shop but originally it had been the Raikes Smithy.

In 1932 part of it was empty, but a section was operating as a pet shop. A poster for a performance of Messiah at Raikes Parade had been pasted alongside adverts for two new movies.

Lionel Barrymore was starring in Mad Masquerade at the Princess Cinema, while Man About Town was showing at the Variety Theatre Talkies.

Then and Now: Christmas special

CHANGING fashions and hairstyles apart, all the photographs you'll see in our special festive edition of Then and Now could have been taken in the run up to any Christmas.

This week we take a look not at buildings but at people, and, in particular, department store Santa in his thick crimson robes.

We're opening the archives to reveal some of the local youngsters - many by now no doubt parents themselves - who have been captured over the years by Gazette photographers.

Remember the days when literally hundreds of children and their parents would flock to North Station, at the corner of Talbot Road and Dickson Road, to greet Father Christmas arriving in Blackpool by train on the last leg of that l-o-n-g journey to his town centre grotto?

Time was when the resort could boast a number of grottos where youngsters would wait patiently in line to share their wish list - and come away with a novelty gift of modest proportions!

RHO Hills, the Co-Op Emporium, Lewis's, even the Undersea World Aquarium in Blackpool Tower. All have hosted the Yuletide favourite over the years.

Stores and buildings may come and go, but Blackpool still has one Santa continuing his grotto tradition. And this year, real reindeer accompanied the sleigh as the procession made its way through the town's streets to the Houndshill centre.

But look at the warm welcome on the station platform given to Santa in 1972 by a group of feathery young ladies.

Did Father Christmas REALLY get his boots covered in snow travelling first class from the North Pole - or more probably Layton station! - en route to RHO Hills in Bank Hey Street?

Stretch your imagination, like you did as a youngster, and the chances are we'll all have a Merry Christmas.

Then and Now: Abingdon Street Market

AVOID disappointment by ordering early...

A wise message that is as relevant today as it was back in December 1936 for those making their festive arrangements.

The sign, with holly leaf and gift box drawing, could be seen in the sweet stall window offering "all the leading makes of chocolates at cut prices".

Yes, we are outside Abingdon Street Market with a photograph from the Gazette archives taken 71 years ago this week.

An elderly shopper, stick in hand, holds on to her hat as she looks at the fine holly wreaths at the florists stall at the opposite side of the entrance.

And through the main doors a wide range of fruit and veg awaits the chap in the trilby.
Upstairs was the Club Embassy.

Over the years the market has had various facelifts, although the bleak entrance of the 1980s did few favours if any.

Today, with the neighbouring post office closed, relocated and relegated to a basement in Bank Hey Street, Abingdon Street Market retains a community feel, the double glazed exterior reinforcing its all year, all weather availability.

Then and Now: Bank Hey Street

Back in August 1972, within weeks of this photograph being taken, Blackpool Corporation workmen were creating what was being called the resort's "first no-go traffic area".

The Mayor should have officially launched the six month experiment, during which cars, buses and other vehicles were barred in Bank Hey Street between 10.30am and 6.15pm.

But it became a "no show" traffic area for Coun Edmund Wynne, who spectacularly refused at the 11th hour to do the honours by cutting a ribbon - his place taken in the pouring rain by Planning Committee chairman Ald Charles Broughton.

The Mayor stayed away from the ceremony in protest at the timing of the experiment - in high season - because the previous day the mayoral car had taken 20 minutes to make a 400 yard journey from the Town Hall because of the big build-up of frustrated motorists on the Promenade, unaware of the changes.

Within less than two hours of the pedestrian precinct opening, traffic conditions were as bad as the Mayor had forecast with vehicles were nose to tail. Holidaymakers looked on in amazement, motorists fumed with anger and bus schedules went completely by the board.

A Transport Department official grumbled: "The trouble spread its tentacles all over the town. It was one of our worst, most troublesome, days for years."

One police officer trying to sort out the chaos, told The Gazette: "I've never seen anything like it. This is crazy!"

The Mayor, watching the gridlock from a Town Hall window, declared: "This is madness."

Despite these teething problems, the 1972 experiment was branded a success and Bank Hey Street became a permanent pedestrian-only area the following summer, and similar schemes mushroomed around the the town centre in the decades that followed.

Then and Now: The Shovels

BUILT in the early 19th century, The Shovels Inn at Marton Fold was the only watering hole on Marton Moss.

In those days it catered for local families and farm workers, keen to quench their thirst after a hard day's labour.

The pub, which now attracts tipplers and diners from across the Fylde coast, is on Common Edge Road, previously known as Moss Edge Lane. It was orginally a neighbour to the adjoining Folds Row cottages and, beyond them, Folds Farm, at the corner of School Road.

Farmer William Singleton and his family, Thomas, Joseph and John were innkeepers, variously, from 1811 to 1871.

A later innkeeper was Robert Ormond and from 1881 to 1906 the host was Ralph Braithwaite.

In local slang was known as Rafe Brethert and when customers purchased their drinks, he cunningly gave stamped tokens for change, thus ensuring their return!

The original Shovels Inn was demolished in the mid 1950s for road widening and to make way for the present pub of the same name which was built to the rear and alongside the outdated watering hole.

Recently-refurbished, the property is now known as The Shovels Pub and Restaurant, serving up a wide range of food which is a far cry from the basic fare devoured by those hungry farm labourers of the 19th century.

Then and Now: The Foxhall

SIR Thomas Tyldesley would doubtless be happy if he could see how things have turned out at his old Blackpool homestead.

He was a lad who liked a party and once wrote in his diary: "We drank the house drye."

That was in 1712 and his diary is now being restored by the British Library, where it unfortunately suffered damage after being loaned to them in 1994 by one of Sir Thomas's descendants, Devon solicitor Peter Tyldesley.

As an investigation continues as to the cause of the damage, Mr Tyldesley, who has sent the two postcard pictures, says: ""It is just so upsetting, ironically the text would have
been safer with me at home."

Mr Tyldesley is working with conservation staff at the library to repair the damage but he is doubtful it will be fully restored.

Mr Tyldesley can trace his ancestors back to the 16th century and his family roots are firmly fixed in Lancashire.

He says: "I don't know for sure but I expect the family were drawn to Blackpool because it was so quiet and a perfect place for them whilst they were plotting the Jacobite rebellion."

In more recent times, successive generations of holidaymakers and locals alike have tried to follow the old squire's example at the Foxhall pub that stands on the site.

The original hall survived largely intact until the 1860s and the popular pub was replaced by the current red brick watering hole - still retaining the Foxhall name - opened in July 1991.

Then and Now : Abattoir Road

WHAT is in a name? Quite a lot, apparently, if you are building a housing development and are anxious about the image.

Which is presumably why Abattoir Road in Blackpool changed overnight into...Coopers Way.

With a slaughterhouse at the end of the cul-de-sac, the original name was obviously felt appropriate by the town's planners in decades past.

But then Coopers Way is equally appropriate as the estate, close to the Talbot Road junction, was built on the site of the abattoir's neighbour, the Catterall and Swarbrick's Queens Brewery.

The company also owned a string of pubs in Blackpool and the Fylde and sold their XL ales and best mild to many other outlets - before various takeovers by the likes of United Breweries, Charrington and Bass.

And here's a sobering thought ֠the last mild brewed in Abattoir Road in the early 1970s cost just 1s 9d (that's 9p) a pint!

Then and Now : Queen Square

WHATEVER happened to the taxi drivers hut?

It was there in Queen Square, Blackpool, in 1954, just as it had been for around 40 years without any criticism or talk of its removal.

And then came complaints from local residents that the men were creating "unnecessary noise" inside the hut as they spent the long night hours waiting for fares.

After all this was in the days before Blackpool's spread of nightspots and early hours culture.

Yet not all people living in the shadow of the Cenotaph had a downer on the taxi men.

According to letters published in The Gazette, the presence of the drivers deterred burglars.

And then there was the case of a lady who fell out of her bedroom window only to be saved by the taxi drivers from the hut!

These days the hut is no more. There isn't even a taxi rank. In fact Queen Square has been fully pedestrianised since the summer of 1995.

Then and Now : Derby Road, North Shore

THE phrase "things are not what they used to be" is often quoted by people bemoaning the fact they don't like what they see around them today.

But here is one Blackpool view that is surely much improved 41 years on.

Stand in Derby Road, North Shore and you get a sea view of sorts beyond the grassy landscaping of the Hilton Hotel's car park.

In February 1967 the outlook was bleak. Dilapidated holiday accommodation, which once echoed with the happy laughter of visitors, brought a new meaning to bed and board.

These properties were empty and boarded up, as they awaited demolition for a proposed luxury hotel, conference and exhibition hall, shops and not one but TWO petrol stations.

Like many others before it, the scheme came to nothing and it would be another 15 years before tourists were staying on that land with the opening of the four star Pembroke Hotel, later to become the Stakis and now the Hilton.

Perhaps the zaniest idea came in the late 1940s: a "talking" tableau with Little Bo Peep lamenting the loss of her sheep...

Then 50 years ago this week the council named the site The Pembroke National Gardens, with scenes that included a replica of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, all for just one shilling (5p) admission charge. The project failed. Successors, such as a ten-pin bowling alley submitted by film star Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, never left the drawing board.

The derelict boarding houses, like others in the street, were bought up by Blackpool Corporation and demolished in the late 1960s.

In 1990, the Derby Baths, on the opposite side of the Hilton, suffered the same fate as those guesthouses - but that's a story for another Now and Then.

Then and Now : Warton Street Post Office

WAY back in the days before we had to decide on either first or second class mail, how much was a stamp?

Whatever the price, back in 1906 when this picture postcard was taken, they were no doubt selling stamps by the bucketful in Lytham - just as they are today.

Then, as now, this corner property was Warton Street Post Office and you can find a framed version of this picture on the wall inside.

You can clearly see the poles and wires of the tramway system, the gas lamp outside the shop and young girls and grown ups alike in their boaters.

According to the hoarding, the post office was also a household store. Today, under postmaster Mark Bamforth it also continues to serve the community.

But that could all change as Warton Street is one of 12 post offices across the Fylde coast earmarked for closure as part of a major overhaul by Royal Mail.

The Gazette launched its "Stand Up for Post Offices" campaign urging bosses to rethink their plans.

But back to that question about stamps. Our thanks to local historian Barry Shaw - a former post office worker who stresses that he was not around at the time.

He says that in 1906 an Edward VII stamp for a postcard was a halfpenny - which means you could send 24 of those 1906 postcards for the equivalent of 5p in today's money.

Then and Now : North Promenade

Exactly a century ago, Blackpool Promenade was blessed with a new building of considerable flair.

Situated almost opposite North Pier, the Italianate Booths store and cafe with its distinctive pillared windows was a treat for the eyes and the appetite.

The family-owned business had started out in Blackpool in 1847 in a barn rented by Edwin Booth for ñ5 a year and with a stock of ø0 worth of borrowed goods.

In 1908 the provision merchants moved on to the Prom, almost opposite North Pier.

In the centre of the property was an entrance with a grand

staircase leading guests up to a ballroom and restaurant.

On the way up was a large alcove which backed on to The Strand, where musicians greeted arrivals with songs of the day.

In 1957, upper floors became the North West regional office for Prudential Assurance.

The block was sold in 1972 and three years later had been replaced by a red brick entertainment complex housing a four screen cinema, Scamps discotheque, the splendidly-named King Dick's bar and, in contrast to the basement location of most bier kellers, a top-of-the building Bavarian beer hall.

The silver screen has long gone and over the years the property has seen many bar, pub and club guises, the latest ֠Flares - accessed now from The Strand.

Judging by the sorry Promenade view today, that former building with flair has been well and truly replaced with one that, from the outside at least, boasts none.

Then & Now: Demise of the corner shop

Whatever happened to the traditional corner shops that once played such a vital role in everyday life?

Take this corner property in North Shore, at the junction of Chesterfield Road and Sherbourne Road, for many years also part of Blackpool's holiday heartland.

A postcard of the building from the late 1940s has a hand painted sign in the window "Campbells high class groceries and provisions" and there were advertisements for Robinson's Bread, Players Bachelor cigarettes, Oxydol, Fairy Soap, Turog bread and the splendidly-named Shinio.

There is a wooden phone box at the edge of the property, no doubt later replaced by the once-familiar red version.

The reverse of the card reveals that Mrs Campbell also offered holiday accommodation: "apartments or board residence, hot and cold water, terms moderate" at the adjoining Dalkeith House.

As the newer picture shows, the property still stands, but passers-by would never know there had ever been a shop or boarding house.

There's a patio door where the shop windows once were and although the gateposts remain, the brick wall has been extended.

Countless other corner shops have suffered the same fate thanks to the growth of the large out-of-town superstores.

Then and Now: Under the Riverdance ferry

Thousands of visitors - and locals - are still flocking to the seafront to view the stranded ferry Riverdance.

But when they walk along Princess Way how many know what lies beneath their feet?

The answer is the former Little Bispham underground car, with spaces for 90 cars, which opened in 1935.

Passers-by might see metal doors at the bottom of a slope but will have no idea how big the subterranean space is.

Memory Lane reader John Knowles, now 77, recalls that before the Second World War his family had a box type Austin and they went down to the beach for a walk and a picnic with sandwiches and, his favourite, a bottle of Tizer. It was quite exciting, he says, as a young boy, to be driven into an underground car park.

Edmund Wynne, former "father" of Blackpool Council, and real-life dad of current Mayor Robert Wynne, actually ran the underground car park, as well as the West Street multi-storey, when he took over the lease of several council car parks in the early 1960s.

He paid the council an annual rent of ñ0,000, immediately cut the charges to motorists and managed to turn a ñ5,000 loss into a profit, giving his staff, mainly ex-servicemen, a regular bonus.

Edmund says some councillors thought he was out of his mind but he knew he could do it.

The council eventually voted to take the lease back and, as he says, car park prices rocketed.

These days the huge vault is leased to Fylde Boat Angling Club to store boats, tractors and other equipment.

And if motorists were down there, not only would they get a ticket from a warden for overstaying their time, but there would also be a free car wash as the high tide floods up through the drains twice a day!

Then and Now: Abingdon Street

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we will begin...

Once upon a time the corner store where you can buy comfy chairs, tables, beds and other furnishings had a very different look.

In fact there is very little of Abingdon Street, at the heart of Blackpool town centre, that remains from when our first photograph was taken in the early 1900s.

A hoarding advertises an upcoming appearance by Vesta Tilley at The Palace.

Married to Blackpool MP Sir Walter de Frece, she was the most famous and well paid music hall male impersonator of her day.

On stage then, at least, she would have no use for the fine gowns and furs on sale at Duckworth Sons and Co on the corner of Abingdon Street and Birley Street.

By 1960, that block was due to be demolished and G E Wilcock ladies outfitter, having moved further down Birley Street, was promoting a sale of fixtures, fittings and even the counters.

All in true Blackpool "Everything must go..." fashion.

Two years later, the four storey Timothy Whites store was taking shape, eventually rebranded Boots after a late 1960s takeover of the chain.

In 1978 the property was snapped up in a secret deal by Fylde coast building tycoon Raymond Eaves.

It became Babington's store, housing various traders, then Wades and, today is a Harveys furniture store, which brings us right back to those chairs...

Then and Now: Talbot Road Bus Station

Itӳ Easter Weekend and tourism businesses in Blackpool are keeping fingers crossed for a cracking curtain raiser to the 2008 season.

Rail passengers have dwindled in recent years - for understandable reasons - and most visitors arrive by road, yet not all by car.

Blackpool has bustled with buses ever since charabancs and trains brought the first trippers to Britain's number one holiday resort.

Here buses pack the Talbot Mews traffic park, alongside the Blackpool North rail station (now the site of a discount supermarket) in 1932.

The pavements are crowded with visitors burdened by heavy luggage, moving to and from their boarding houses and hotels.

Nine years later the bus station and four storey car park opened - and was hailed as one of Blackpool's outstanding buildings - rising high above the adjoining, newly-built St John's market.

The imposing Talbot Road structure which cost ñ62,152 was 80ft tall and could hold more than 1,000 cars.

Its original cream and green exterior displayed coloured panels depicting progress in transport.

The building was reclad in the 1960s when the tiles were considered to be in an unsafe condition.

In 2006 the bus station was earmarked for demolition as part of the ò27 million redevelopment - the Talbot Gateway project - to revitalise the area.

The neighbouring market building was bulldozed to create a surface car park and although the bus station still stands there are more parked cars in there than coaches these days.

Then and Now: Coronation Street

Sometimes the eyes and mind can play tricks and things are not always what they seem at first glance.

Take this photograph of Coronation Street from 1953.

To the casual eye the structure above the street might resemble a cable car, making its way back to the seafront almost a stone's throw away.

That's the theory at least.

The box was, in fact, a familiar sight in Blackpool at one time, a distinctive street light strung above every major road junction. In this case it was where Hornby Road crosses Coronation Street.

The box displayed red glazing to motorists on the major roads and amber on the minor roads.

Traffic was obviously so light in times past that this was sufficient to warn visitors of a hazardous cross road.

Today you'll find more conventional traffic lights and in the distance, then as now, you can see the distinctive white tiled corner entrance to the Olympia Hall of the Winter Gardens.

If you spot a box-like contraption above town centre streets on your travels these days, it's likely to be CCTV - and that doesn't stand for Cable Car Transport Vehicle!

Then and Now: Central Station

Hereӳ a picture that certainly signals change in a big way.

Rail has become road as the motorist reigns supreme almost 80 years on.

The 1921 photograph, from the archives of the National Railway Museum in York, shows the approach to Blackpool' Central Station.

In the days of steam hauled trains, l-o-n-g before today's electronic gadgetry, engine drivers depended on their knowledge of semaphore signals to ensure passengers arrived safely at their destination station.

This gantry boasted 28 signals for the Down West Line, the Down East Line and the Up East Line.

It will be 44 years in November since the last train steamed out of Central Station after a controversial decision by rail chiefs to sell the prime 23 acre site for redevelopment.

This meant the end of the line after 101 years as a terminus which had brought millions of trippers to the Golden Mile and into the shadow of the Tower.

Rail campaigners maintain to this day that the decision to axe Central rather than the farther-flung North Station gouged the heart from the town centre and dealt a jarring blow to the holiday industry.

Back in 1964 there was finally potential for a comprehensive

redevelopment of the Golden Mile, mooted as far back as 1938 by Blackpool Corporation.

But it is ironic that a large chunk of the 22 miles of sidings that once cut a swathe through central Blackpool has been bequeathed to the railways' arch rival - the car!

Today all that is left of one of the country's busiest provincial terminals is a block of public toilets.

The tracks and signals on the approach are long gone and in their place is Europe's biggest car park.

There is direct access by spine road to the M55 motorway and by allowing far-flung tourists to get in and out of the resort in a single day, the removal of the rail link badly damaged the hotel trade.

Some would say that Blackpool has never recovered.


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