Monday, May 29th 2017
On the way out of the hotel this morning, we reported to reception that our wash basin emptied only very slowly and suggested that they might like to unblock it for us. This simple request was later to have unforeseen consequences.
Yesterday, I said that we had had trouble finding breakfast because all of the local coffee shops and cafes opened late. We were hoping that that was because it was Sunday and that today they would open at a more reasonable time. In that we were disappointed and once more trailed through the streets looking in vain for sustenance. In the end, we found a branch of Caffè Nero open near the station where we ordered coffee and ransacked their stock of croissants!
We had come to the station because we were planning an out-of-town trip. The map above shows where we went: as the crow flies, directly north to Blackpool and Fleetwood. We had already spent time in Blackpool in May 2009 (see Blackpool 2009) and taken a look at Fleetwood then, so this would be a return visit.
Our post-croissant train journey took us to our destination in two stages, first to Preston, where we changed trains, and thence to the small local station Blackpool South.
The weather was not running in our favour today. As soon as I disembarked from the train, I felt cold. I tried to brave it but Tigger soon indicated that she too was uncomfortable. Therefore, our first mission was to explore the side streets and find a cheap clothing store where we bought jackets. As the sky was grey, it seemed wise to make sure that our new garments were also rain-proof, though in the event, that turned out to be unnecessary.
Apart from cheap clothes, there seemed little to detain us at Blackpool South so we hopped on a bus and headed north to Fleetwood.
Fleetwood sits in a corner of land, looking west into the Irish Sea and north into Morecambe Bay. On its western side, running roughly south to north is the River Wyre. This circumstance has led some to conjecture that the name of Fleetwood derives from its topological setting and they propose an origin in two Anglo-Saxon words, fleot (‘river mouth’ or ‘estuary’) and wudu (‘wood’ or ‘forest’), giving the meaning of ‘forest by the mouth of the river’. Attractive as this may be, things are unfortunately not so simple, as a moment’s thought will show.
There have been settlements in the area since at least the Iron Age and the Romans built a harbour here, which they called Portus Setantiorum after the name of the local Celtic tribe, the Setantii. The modern town, however, dates only from the 1830s when the local landowner decided to create a new town which would be both a resort and a steam boat station for travellers from London to venture north into Scotland. The developer’s first shot at naming his new town was Wyreton but in the end, he decided to name it after himself.
The landowner in question was Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood (1801-66), 1st Baronet. This gentleman was born Sir Peter Hesketh but petitioned successfully to have added to his name that of his ancestor, Sir Thomas Fleetwood (1517/8-1570), Master of the Royal Mint under Henry VIII and owner of the local manor. In other words, the name of the town derives from the name of the Fleetwood family rather than from the local geography.1
We spent a little while watching the gulls flying about overhead and, more by luck than judgement, I managed to catch this snapshot of a lesser black-backed gull.
This rather striking Victorian drinking fountain stands in Fleetwood’s Euston Park. The cast-iron structure was erected in the last decade of the 19th century (date otherwise uncertain) and is a Grade II listed building. Funding a public drinking fountain was a popular way for a wealthy citizen to show philanthropy and create a memorial to his (or sometimes, her) name. Some fountains, however, were erected by the public as a memorial to an event or to persons who had served the community in some important way. The Cherub Fountain is an example of the latter kind. It stands in lasting memory to three Fleetwood fishermen, George Wilkinson, James Abram and George Greenall, who went out in a small boat in stormy weather to rescue the crew of a schooner in distress. Though their rescue mission was successful, their boat was swamped and sank. Two of the three-man crew, James Abram and George Greenall, were drowned.
This bronze group by Anita Lafford stands on the Esplanade at the north edge of the park. Fishing has long been an important industry in Fleetwood, sending men to sea and away from their families for long periods. The sculpture captures the joyful emotions of family members welcoming the men home after a time away. It was funded by the makers of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges, resident in Fleetwood, with the assistance of the Council.
Entering into Fleetwood harbour is made difficult by sandbanks. To help ships make their way safely, three lights were installed, one offshore, called the Wyre Light, and two land-based lighthouses. Safe passage is ensured by keeping the lighthouses visually aligned during approach. The lighthouse above is the shorter of the two at 34 ft (10 m) and is called the Lower Lighthouse (also the Beach Lighthouse). Further inland is the Upper Lighthouse (also know as the Pharos Lighthouse) which is 93 ft (28 m) tall and stands in Pharos Street. Both were designed by Decimus Burton and Capt. H.M. Denham and first put into use in December 1840. Both are Grade II listed buildings.
A key element in the design of Sir Peter’s Fleetwood is the grand hotel. Designed by Decimus Bruton and opened in 1841, it was called the North Euston because it was here that travellers arrived by train from Euston in London. No doubt wearied by their long journey, they would gratefully find luxury accommodation and food for an overnight stay before boarding a steamer or crossing by ferry to Ardrossan where they could take the Glasgow train.
In 1859, the hotel was sold to the government as a school of musketry for the military but at the end of the century became a hotel once more, a role that it still performs.
This is a close as we managed to go to the Upper Lighthouse on this trip. This view is taken along Upper Lune Street.
We returned to Blackpool and thought about riding the trams. Blackpool’s is one of the oldest tramways in the world and was inaugurated in 1885. Five years ago, modern trams were brought into service but a number of older ‘Heritage Trams’ still run on certain days. If you want to ride on one, however, you have to choose your tram stop carefully as the heritage trams call only at certain places which have been designated ‘heritage stops’. In the end, we took a ride on a modern tram. (Did I mention that we love trams and ride on them whenever possible? )
We spent the remainder of our time here rambling as fancy took us. Above is a view of Blackpool’s answer to Paris’s Eiffel Tower. Completed in 1894, it is 518 ft (158 m) tall (rather less than half the height of its French rival) but has earned itself an enduring place in the hearts of generations of holidaymakers. (No, I have never visited it. Maybe one day…)
The name of Blackpool, incidentally, unlike that of Fleetwood, does have topological origins. In medieval times, a stream known as ‘Le Pull’ ran through what was then mainly farmland and drained into the sea. It carried with it dark silt picked up during its passage through peaty terrain and this formed a dark stain in the water where the stream ran into the sea. The developing town was itself known as Pull until the early years of the 17th century when documents begin to show the name as ‘Blackpoole’.
Other landmark sights are the Winter Gardens, opened in 1878 (Grade II* listed) and…
…the Grand Theatre, designed by that great architect of theatres, Frank Matcham, and opened in 1894. In 1973, it nearly succumbed to demolition but was saved by a public enquiry. Re-opening first as a bingo hall and then once again as a theatre, it now benefits from the relative protection of its Grade II* listing.
These two mounted police officers passed us and as I like horses I photographed them. The woman officer seemed amused but the man gave me a Paddingtonian hard stare. The horses, on the other hand, seemed quite unconcerned.
Blackpool’s war memorial is slightly unusual in that it takes the form of an obelisk rather than the usual plinth topped by an allegorical female figure representing Peace or Victory. Designed by Ernest Prestwich and unveiled in 1923 it was intended, of course, as a memorial of the First World War but, sadly, has needed to be adapted to include later conflicts. (Now Grade II listed.)
Blackpool’s Central Public Library and Grundy Art Gallery was built by architects Cullen, Lockhead and Brown in what Historic England calls ‘free Baroque style’. It opened in 1911 and was treated to a £3m refit in time for its centenary in 2011. Let’s hope that this is a good omen for the future of this beautiful Grade II listed building. Long may it continue to serve the citizens of Blackpool in its appointed role.
Blackpool is the happy owner of three piers, the North Pier (see above), the South Pier (opened 1893 as the Victoria Pier, renamed in 1930) and, in between them, the Central Pier (opened 1864). Opened in the 1863, the North Pier is the oldest of the three and, at 550 yards (550 m), the longest. It is the oldest surviving pier by Eugenius Birch and is Grade II listed. This was as close as we came to it on this visit. Perhaps we can go closer or even on it another time.
We took the train back to Liverpool and our temporary refuge, the Nadler Hotel. Our adventures, however, were not over for the day. Returning to our room, I went into the bathroom-toilet only to find a puddle covering most of the floor. I called Tigger and we studied the puddle, remarking that it was slowly expanding, its edge inching inexorably towards the bedroom carpet. As the room had been cleaned while we were out and we had not used the bathroom, the water on the floor could not be the result of anything we had done, such as running the shower.
We agreed that Tigger would go down to reception and report it. As we had only one electronic card for the door and removing this from its socket switched the lights off, I remained sitting on the bed in total darkness until she returned to say that someone would be coming to take a look at the puddle.
We waited for quite a while but someone eventually came. He examined the evidence and opined that there was a leak from the wash basin, presumably as a result of someone responding to our complaint this morning. Happily, he said, they had other rooms free and would move us to one. He departed, promising to return and guide us to our new abode.
Expecting his return from one minute to the next, we quickly packed our belongings and sat on the bed to wait. We waited and waited. Then we waited some more. Round about the time when we were beginning to give up hope, our man returned and led us, Moses-like, down two floors to our new room. Courtesies and electronic door cards were exchanged and we could relax at last.
1As someone is bound to ask whether the pop group Fleetwood Mac have any connection with the town of Fleetwood, the answer is no. Their name is a conflation of the names of two band members, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.