Rare piece of Blackpool history discovered on the beach after almost 95 years

Almost a century ago, thousands of souvenir pendants were produced for the first Blackpool Carnival, which saw two million people enjoy a week of pageants, parades, shows, and races.

Tuesday, 19th December 2017, 11:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th December 2017, 12:10 am
The 94-year-old pendant was discovered on the beach near Central Pier following stormy weather (Picture: Blackpool Museum Project)

None were believed to still exist – until a metal detectorist scouring the beach close to Central Pier after Storm Brian struck heritage gold.

Lost to the sands of time, the 94-year-old pendant – in almost perfect condition – is understood to have been brought to the surface by the strong winds, which also whipped up strong emotions for the family of the woman pictured on it.

She was Florence Stevenson, the face of the carnival and daughter of resort councillor Edward Stevenson, who became mayor in 1939. The singer, who used to perform in a music hall on the Prom, was picked to be the face of the huge event.

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The picture of Florence Stevenson that inspired a range of 1923 Blackpool Carnival memorabilia (Picture: Emma Bonney)

Her great-great-niece Emma Bonney, who now lives in Ansdell, said: “It has been down there just short of 95 years and it looks like it could have been dropped yesterday. It’s amazing.”

Few items of memorabilia remain from the carnival, which was held again in 1924 before resort bosses ‘abandoned them in favour of an event that would extend the season’, Blackpool Museum Project curator Emma Heslewood said. That event was the world-famous Illuminations.

A similar-looking brooch was also found on the beach in the ‘50s, though it is in a poor condition. It is framed and belongs to Florence’s family.

A pin lapel is owned privately elsewhere, while the council’s heritage collections contain an original song sheet, which also features the poster girl.

A woman, named only as Mrs Topping, in peacock feathers for the carnival in 1923

Ms Heslewood [pictured left] said: “To find a pendant on the beach is amazing, in such good condition as well.

“It’s remarkable. Blackpool always mass produced souvenirs so they could be affordable, so I imagine there would have been thousands made. Its value will be nominal but it’s the historical value we are interested in.”

The pendant will be displayed in the Local and Family History Centre in Blackpool’s Central Library from February next year, after being donated by Michael Brady.

The 43-year-old, from Preston, was hunting for treasure for just a second time, and followed the tide out at the start of November.

A happy constable laughs with revellers at the carnival in 1923, which attracted two million people

After getting a ‘bing’ on his metal detector, he dug down and found the pendant buried beneath the sand. “I brought it home and cleaned it up,” he said. “I thought, because it’s to do with Blackpool’, it might be interesting to them (the museum). I said they could have it.

“I’m glad I found it. It inspires you.”

Ms Stevenson, who became Mrs Robinson after marrying at All Saints’ Church, died after her health deteriorated following a car accident, understood to be in the Preston area, in 1958. She was 55.

Her son David, who is still alive, was 18 at the time.

Former Blackpool mayor Edward Stevenson, who moved to the resort in search of adventure and helped build the Tower (Picture: Emma Bonney)

“It was very sad for him,” Mrs Bonney added. “They were very close.”

Florence’s father Edward came to Blackpool as a teenager, without his parents, ‘to seek adventure’, The Gazette and Herald reported in 1939 when he became mayor.

In a rags to riches story, he worked at a brickyard – helping to lay the foundations of Blackpool Tower – before later becoming a furniture dealer, auctioneer, and valuer.

A Conservative councillor in the Foxhall ward, he was also a keen sportsman. A Blackpool FC fan since the pre-war days, he was also bowling champion of the council for five years.

Emma Heslewood, curator at the Blackpool Museum Project
The Blackpool International Carnival was held earlier this summer, and is set to return in 2018 (Picture: Mark Forrester)
The picture of Florence Stevenson that inspired a range of 1923 Blackpool Carnival memorabilia (Picture: Emma Bonney)
A woman, named only as Mrs Topping, in peacock feathers for the carnival in 1923
A happy constable laughs with revellers at the carnival in 1923, which attracted two million people
Former Blackpool mayor Edward Stevenson, who moved to the resort in search of adventure and helped build the Tower (Picture: Emma Bonney)
Emma Heslewood, curator at the Blackpool Museum Project
The Blackpool International Carnival was held earlier this summer, and is set to return in 2018 (Picture: Mark Forrester)