Discovering Blackpool's history from hidden blue plaques

Blue Plaque of Lucy Morton, 1924 Olympic Gold Medal winner, on the Town Hall entrance at Talbot Square.
Blue Plaque of Lucy Morton, 1924 Olympic Gold Medal winner, on the Town Hall entrance at Talbot Square.
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The history of Lancashire’s most famous seaside town can go back many years and it would be a long story to tell but there is a more interesting way to learn about the history of Blackpool: through the town’s blue plaques.

Did you know there are more than 60 of them across the town, each one of them marking the houses of where famous people lived or worked, or the sites of famous buildings or historical events?

England’s first blue plaque scheme started in 1867 by the Society of Arts and it’s still going strong. The original scheme has been replicated in hundreds of towns and cities and Blackpool is no exception.

The Blackpool Civic Trust are responsible for the issuing of the plaques in the resort and their maintenance. In most cases the plaques are sponsored by a company or person, such as the Church of the Sacred Heart plaque being sponsored by Barclays.

Most recently footballers Jimmy Armfield and Frank Swift received plaques in their honour, which were both sponsored by the Professional Footballers’ Association.

Watson Road Park, which was the site of First World War practice trenches, also received a plaque last year.

Joan Humble, chairman of Blackpool Civic Trust said people should enjoy spotting blue plaques by chance as well as finding them.

She said: “As you walk around the town and see a blue plaque, you should stop and read it. You’ll see about what makes Blackpool the place that it is.

“The plaques are a record of the past but they are important for the future as well. It’s also an easy and convenient way to learn about the history of Blackpool.”

The former MP for Blackpool North and Fleetwood also revealed the resort is hopefully set to gain four more plaques later this year.

She added: “We are working on those still at the moment which take a lot of time and process to be unveiled.

“I’m often approached by people about the process to get a blue plaque and sometimes it can be quite diffucult.

“We work with the council and with the building owners where the blue plaque will be placed as well as any family or friends.”

A number of the resort’s blue plaques have disappeared over the years, either lost or destroyed with Mrs Humble adding: “A notable example is the Victoria Promenade which was located in town. The structure was for women to walk down without having to get their hair wet but it was demolished a number of years ago and the blue plaque went with it.

“We do need to make sure where the plaques are located they are safeguarded if anything happens to the building itself.”

Mrs Humble’s husband, Paul, has worked on Civic Trust’s website to let visitors know where the plaques were and what they said.

He said: “About five years ago, myself and the trust’s webmaster, Peter Quinn, photographed all of the plaques.

“We decided to update them on the website so people would be able to learn about the places in the resort and perhaps even if they don’t see them in person they can learn about them online.”

Go to www.blackpoolcivictrust.org.uk/blueplaque.html for more information and locations of Blackpool's Blue Plaques

The more interesting ones ..

Plaque: Blackpool Municipial Airport

Where: At Blackpool Zoo on Woodside Drive

Why: The plaque marks the site of the former airport which opened in 1931. Following the end of the First World War, the site closed and became the zoo in 1972. Some of the airport’s original hangers survive to this day.

Plaque: Birthplace of Swallow Sidecars

Where: 23 King Edward Street in North Shore

Why: William Walmsley built sidecars as a hobby in his garage at No. 23 before founding the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922 with William Lyons. In 1935, after expanding, the company was renamed the Jaguar Car Company.

Plaque: Frank Swift

Where: Revoe Library

Why: Former England goalkeeper born in Blackpool and attended Revoe Primary School. He played for Fleetwood Town and Manchester City where he was a First and Second Division, FA Cup and Charity Shield Winner. He was killed in 1958 in the Munich air disaster whilst reporting as a journalist.

Plaque: HMS Foudroyant

Where: Next to North Pier

Why: Historically it was Lord Nelson’s flagship vessel. The ship, which at the time was a training vessel, run aground during a severe storm in 1897 opposite the Metropole Hotel and became a total wreck. 28 crew members were saved by Blackpool lifeboat crew.

Plaque: Robert’s Oyster Rooms

Where: Junction of Promenade and West Street

Why: Oysters and seafood in general have been sold on the site since 1876 and the building is one of the oldest survivors on the Promenade.

Plaque: Foxhall

Where: Queen’s Promenade, near Central Pier

Why: The first substantial house in Blackpool which was built in 1670. It was eventually demolished in 1990 after becoming dilapidated whilst being a hotel later in life.

Plaque: Alistair Cooke

Where: 10 Vance Road

Why: Broadcaster, journalist and writer famous for his ‘Letter from America’, who moved to Blackpool in 1917, later attending Blackpool Grammar School.

Plaque: Blowing Sands

Where: 166 Common Edge Road

Why: The cottage is one of the few remaining early agricultural buildings in the area and it can trace its history back to the 18th century. The sea shore has occupied the site at least 11 times in its history.