Demolition completed on former syndicate nightclub, once the hub of Blackpool’s entertainment industry

Picture by Julian Brown 19/02/16

The Old Syndicate building in Blackpool has been totally demolished and all the rumble gone.
Picture by Julian Brown 19/02/16 The Old Syndicate building in Blackpool has been totally demolished and all the rumble gone.
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It was once at the hub of Blackpool’s entertainment industry - but today nothing remains of the former Syndicate nightclub.

Two years since demolition began, work is set to start this week on creating a car park on the site after the bulldozers finally completed their job.

The Beatles on the  ABC Theatre stage during the Blackpool Night Out live Sunday TV programme July 20, 1964

The Beatles on the ABC Theatre stage during the Blackpool Night Out live Sunday TV programme July 20, 1964

The former ABC theatre and Hippodrome, which played host to legends including The Beatles and Morecambe and Wise in its heyday, has been completed razed to the ground radically changing the landscape on the corner of Church Street and King Street.

Blackpool historian Barry Band, who has written a book about the landmark, said the venue was the latest in a string of theatres and cinemas lost over the years.

He said; “As a monitor at the old Hippodrome in the days of the ABC Minors on Saturday mornings, and in 1966 walked Cilla Black down the front steps of the ABC, to Bobby Willis waiting at the kerb in their Jaguar, I should be sadder than most to see a flat space at the corner of Church Street and King Street.

“But don’t forget we lost a dozen other cinemas and a few theatres, as well.

“Best to remember the good times and keep in mind that entertainment venues are closed by people who stop going. Support what we still have.”

The venue opened in 1898 as the Empire Theatre of Varieties before changing its name to the Hippodrome in 1900.

In 1963 it was largely demolished and rebuilt before opening as the ABC Theatre which could hold nearly 2,000 people and boasted a revolving stage.

That year’s summer season show Holiday Carnival starred Cliff Richard and The Shadows. Perhaps most famously, The Beatles played at the ABC in 1963 and returned in 1965 for the ‘Blackpool Night Out’ which was the first time they had played the song ‘Yesterday’ on television.

Meanwhile summer shows featured the likes of Cilla Black, Morecambe and Wise and Tommy Steele.

The ABC closed in 2000 and two years later reopened as The Syndicate, which at the time was one of the country’s biggest nightclubs before it shut its doors in 2011.

The building remained empty until Blackpool Council bought it in April 2013 for £635,000.

After announcing its intentions to bulldoze the venue, a campaign was launched to save it.

But despite attracting around 1,500 supporters, no viable business plan was forthcoming.

Demolition began in February 2014. Around £200,000 was saved from the cost because the contractor recycled many of the materials removed from the building - but that slowed the process down. Delays were also incurred due to Electricity North West having to remove a sub-station, and a telecoms mast also had to be relocated.

Now the site will be linked into the existing East Topping Street car park to create an additional 59 spaces, with planning permission for five years.

The first drivers are set to be able to park there within the next few weeks, with the full project set to be completed shortly after.

It will operate as a pay and display facility, with the same rates and entry and exit point as East Topping Street but with the addition of a new pedestrian access into Church Street.

Coun Christine Wright, cabinet member with responsibility for car parks on Blackpool Council, said: “It has taken longer than anticipated to reach this stage, but that was partly because the full demolition, including crushing of the bricks, took place on the site.

“You can’t get things done overnight and for things to move forward people have to have a bit of patience and there will be some inconvenience.

“Hopefully residents and visitors will benefit from the extra parking being provided, especially at peak times and in this part of town.

“The car park opens out into Church Street and helps to join up both sides of town.”

In the long term the land is expected to be redeveloped - with calls for a hotel to be built there which could link in with conference facilities at the nearby Winter Gardens.

The full cost of the project including demolition is around £1.1m.

Council chiefs borrowed the money over 50 years at a repayment rate of £93,000 a year due to be paid out of the car park revenue.