I stared into my local past the other day, attending a talk and slide show at Stanley Park Visitor Centre.
Local historian Barry Shaw was telling Friends of Stanley Park about Blackpool’s oldest road, Whitegate Drive. He’d traced it from winding country lane with several farms, including one with white gates, to becoming our leading residential highway.
We’d seen many beautiful homes of the great and good who had lived along its length, where tramcars ran every few minutes – those were the days!
Then Barry took a turn into my neighbourhood, Preston Old Road, and there was our row of cottages in Victorian years. Mothers leaned in doorways while children played about the road, which was the coach route to Preston. Outside local inns, be-hatted men stood eyeing the camera, pipes in hand.
It was a strange sensation to see your home when used by generations past. I had a similar insight into the past one night years ago during a sea fret. I was crossing the road from a Chinese takeaway. Out of the mist emerged a covered landau, its driver caped up, and for all the world looking like a Victorian hansom cab.
That same takeaway was recently renovated as a private residence and work revealed the remains of another Victorian pub, the Lord Nelson Alehouse. There was a date stone from 1857 and even old barrels containing beer in the cellars.
It inspired me to research the area’s history, then write a Victorian mystery novel set in the same Great Marton. This was a bit of fun at the time but ended up producing a book popular locally and largely featuring the nearby Saddle Inn. Its title is ‘50 Shades of Bass’, a local wit’s suggestion.
However, if you get the chance to hear Barry’s talk take it – I can’t compete with his story of Whitegate Drive’s headless ghost!
• For Roy’s books visit www.royedmonds-blackpool.com.