‘If there was a national A to Z book, B would certainly be Blackpool.’
So say the authors of a new book about Blackpool and its history – The A to Z of Blackpool; Places, People, History.
From its most famous attraction and landmark, the Tower, the home of the world-famous Tower Ballroom, to the Matthews final of 1953, local authors Allan Wood and Chris Bottomley take the reader on an alphabetical journey, visiting the resort’s most interesting places and meeting some of its famous residents and visitors – many from yesteryear.
According to the authors: “Blackpool is unique in that it was ‘created’ from sparsely populated farmland and villages, for the purposes of visitors having fun and pleasure.
“The development of the town over the last 170 years or so has led to a diverse modern history, which could be said to reflect in a large part the history of entertainment in the UK.
“The respect of people, Blackpool’s past was dominated by male figures, from the time of Dr W H Cocker and John Bickerstaffe and has changed little in the people it has produced or who are synonymous with the town in the modern era.
“In respect of history, Blackpool is a relatively young town, built upon its natural assets, the change of social freedoms of the 19th and 20th centuries and entrepreneurship of those who saw its early potential.”
As well as the big tourist attractions still popular today, such as the Tower, Winter Gardens, Pleasure Beach, Illuminations and Piers, the book examines such of the landmarks of the past – sadly long since gone.
Among them is the Great Wheel – which opened in August 1896, at the corner of Coronation Street and Adelaide Street. The 220ft diameter structure was not a success, and it was dismantled in 1929.
Central Station features in the book – it opened in April 6, 1863, at end of the Blackpool and Lytham Railway line and was renamed Central Station in 1878. It was enlarged in 1901. As part of the Beeching recommendations, the station was closed in November 1964. Part of the building was used as a bingo hall until 1973, after which time the station was demolished.
Another sight no longer visible in the town is the Queens Theatre, originally named the Borough Theatre, which opened in Bank Hey Street in September 1877.
After being rebuilt in 1928 and renamed Feldman’s Theatre, the building was renovated in 1951 and reopened in 1952 as the Queens Theatre.
The X-rated shows which were once housed in the sideshow venues along the Promenade get a mention.
They included Gannon’s starving bride shows – where allegedly a recently married couple starved for 30 days in glass cabinets, to be stared at by passers-by who paid tuppence for the privilege.
And the Montmatre Theatre featured semi-naked ‘girlie’ shows in the 50s and 60s – legal if the girls remained perfectly still as this would equate to art, rather than pornography.
Lewis’s and RHO Hills department stores are also included.
Among the people included in the book are footballer Jimmy Armfield, who died in January this year, Billy Smith – who owned Bridge End Farm at Carleton where he had a vile-smelling bone factory, and he operated Blackpool’s first bus service in 1920.
Much-loved Tower Circus clown Charlie Cairoli, Dr William Cocker – major player in the development of Blackpool, organist Reginald Dixon, Olympic swimmer Lucy Morton, and singers the Nolans are all featured.
Author Allan Wood was born in Blackpool and has a degree in civil engineering from Sheffield Poly and worked in the Borough Surveyor’s Department of Blackpool BC from 1978 to 1989.
His fascination with old Blackpool scenes started in Sheffield in 1975, at a ‘collectors’ fair and has since published several books about old postcard views of Blackpool.
Co-author Chris Bottomley became a draftsman after training at Blackpool Technical College and later starting a building company, which now specialises in renovating residential properties.
Royalties from the book will be donated to Bispham-based Trinity Hospice.
n The A to Z of Blackpool, published by Amberley, is available from June 15, priced £14.99.