Plaque marks Jaguar cars special link with Blackpool
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A Blue Plaque has been unveiled at the Armfield Club on Bloomfield Road which is the site of the original Swallow Sidecar Company – the predecessor to Jaguar cars.
Blackpool Civic Trust and the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust joined forces to provide the plaque honouring business partners William Walmsley and William Lyons who founded their company in 1922.
Production continued at the site until November 1926 when the company moved to larger premises in Cocker Street, North Shore.
A previous plaque at the site had gone missing, but with the building now reopened as a social club for fans of Blackpool FC, it was decided a new plaque was needed.
It was officially unveiled by Blackpool Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayoress Coun Peter Hunter and Anne-Marie Hunter.
Joan Humble, chairman of the Blackpool Civic Trust, said: “I was very pleased to be approached by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust about replacing a lost blue plaque celebrating how Swallow Sidecars started here in Blackpool, and over the years developed into a major car manufacturer.
“I’m pleased the Blackpool Civic Trust working with the Jaguar Daimler Trust, created a new blue plaque which explains this sometimes forgotten history of Blackpool.
“Blue plaques are inspiring and I would urge people not to walk past when they see one, but to stop and read them and take pride in the people and achievements we have in Blackpool.”
The new plaque is one of three celebrating the resort’s link with Jaguar, with the others in Cocker Street and on King Edward Street where William Walmsley first started building sidecars in the garage of number 23 which is now the Berwick Hotel.
A Brough motorbike with a Blackpool-built Swallow Sidecar attached was bought to the town from its home at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon in Warwickshire to mark the unveiling of the Bloomfield Road plaque.
Tony Merrygold, vehicle collection manager at the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, said: “We are here today to unveil a blue plaque because this site is the original site from 1922 for the Swallow Sidecar Company that was set up by William Lyons and William Walmsley, both of whom were Blackpool residents.
“Walmsely built the original Swallow Sidecar and Lyons thought they were so good it convinced him to form a company and go into business together.
“They found these premises and rented two floors here initially in 1922 and that was the birth of the Swallow Sidecar Company, which moved down to Coventry in 1928 eventually became SS Cars which after the end of the Second World War became Jaguar Cars Limited.
“So this factory is really the birth of the company that ultimately became Jaguar Cars as we know and love it today.”
When bigger premises were needed the company moved to Cocker Street, but it eventually relocated to Coventry because the city was at the heart of the British car making business.
Andy Higgins, one of the owners of the Armfield Club, said he was proud to see the plaque unveiled on the building.
He said: “It’s quite fitting to see this building, which has been reopened after being closed for many years, commemorated for its past as the first factory that developed something which led to Jaguar cars.
“And the site is still being used in Blackpool – now as a supporters club for Blackpool FC. So we are very proud to have the blue plaque here.”