We all like a mystery – not least one that appears before our very eyes.
And the yawning chasm on the Promenade, outside the Sandcastle, has more than raised a few eyebrows.
For builders preparing the foundations for the attraction’s two new Aztec-themed water slides stumbled on an enigma. A puzzle. A frustrating question that no one seems to know the answer to.
And it’s more than 20ft deep.
The builders hit a grille in the concrete they weren’t expecting to find – and beneath it was a sizeable drop into a pool of water at the bottom. Closer inspection revealed a door leading off the chamber elsewhere.
Sandcastle boss John Child said: “It was like something out of Lost. The scene where they first find the hatch. We half expected a light to shine out from it.
“It’s a real mystery and so far no one has been able to solve it.”
For no one, read staff at Blackpool Council, members of Blackpool Civic Society, and local historians.
Tweeters tweeted, Facebookers posted, historians researched and at least one nosy journalist started making calls.
There appears to be no record anywhere of this deep room in the middle of the Promenade.
But while no one knows what the mystery room is, a plethora of ideas have been put forward. And not all of them sensible.
First up was a pumping room for the former open-air swimming pool on the Promenade, closely followed by a pumping room for a fountain which once sat in Flagstaff Gardens across the road.
Cheekier Gazette readers bombarded our website with their alternative ideas – including a room for pirates to hoard their booty.
Reader Charabang asked: “How much a night is it to stay there, and does it include breakfast?”
Nothappy took a more political slant and wrote: “I think you will find that’s where Callow and co are in hiding!” alluding to the changing political leadership of the town hall.
But Matthew wrote: “Could be an entrance to one of the many hidden tunnels that are supposed to be under Blackpool?”
And 7 Shades added: “Blackpool’s full of tunnels and bunkers. One particularly long one runs from Talbot Square (where the toilets used to be) under the old Clifton hotel and up to a spot between TJ Hughes and the Tower, though I believe you could go as far as the toilets under the old tower aquarium if you fancied a crawl through a pitch-black hole. We used to get in there via the basement of the Clifton Hotel kitchens as kids.”
Fellow poster G7VEW said: “The tunnels and underground areas run from the old open-air baths site northwards to The Gynn. They were originally individual cellars for various sea-front properties and they were linked and enlarged early in WW2 as communications and control centres for defence personnel. Few locals knew about them. Ground-level access could still be had from Foxhall, from the toilets in Talbot Square and opposite Fairyland in the mid-50s. An access point was found when Derby Baths closed and air-vents can be traced now in the sea wall north of The Metropole. I’m told that The Imperial’s cellars have two closed-off doors that may lead to the network?”
Not quite the right area for this hole, but an interesting idea that could be nearer the mark.
An intriguing email arrived from reader Stephanie Jackson. She wrote: “The rooms below South Promenade are WWII offices and air raid shelters. My husband worked as a security guard walking the halls underneath Morrisons and the air port and a few other buildings. He said in there it looks like one day everybody just up and left and closed the door. There are tunnels and hallways undernearth Blackpool South everybody has forgotten about. The offices still have all the stuff inside them like typewriters and telephones.
A call to the Ministry of Defence bore no fruit, with our query sent over to the Home Office, which was in charge of home defence facilities.
And that’s when we had a Dad’s Army, “Don’t tell him, Pike!” moment.
An email from the Home Office, whose spokesman said he had no idea about our enquiry, contained the line: “We spoke late yesterday about the civil contingencies underground unit in Blackpool. Civil contingencies are a matter for the Cabinet Office, not the Home Office. I’m sorry I can’t help.”
The civil contingencies underground unit? It had a name?
Unfortunately the Cabinet Office too turned up a blank, Any facilities which have been mothballed – if they existed – would no longer be under their authority and no blueprints, pictures or records would be available.
Enquiries were pointed to the National Archives, and that’s where our request for information is still being mulled over. Can you help solve it?