The Making of Blackpool

The years between the wars saw Blackpool develop as it had not done since the heady days of the 1890’s. Blackpool Corporation poured huge sums of money into a programme of expansion of the seafront, pushing the Promenade out into the sea from the boundaries with Cleveleys in the North to St Annes in the South.

Beginning at South Pier, the corporation opened the new open air baths in 1923 and then pressed southward laying a new promenade through the sand dunes to Squires Gate. The Old Star Inn which previously stood on the edge of the sea was replaced in 1923 by a new building on the reclaimed land along the new promenade. A similar northwards expansion followed the widening of the North Promenade in 1924, removing the tram tracks from the roadway. The steady erosion of the old cliff face seen at Norbreck when the Isle of Man telephone cable was being laid in 1929, was halted by the extension of the Promenade and seawall through Bispham, reaching Cleveleys in 1937. To make room for the sea front road improvements, the venerable Gynn Inn was demolished in 1921. There was a spirited campaign to save the building but this has little success.

Besides improving the Sea Front the Corporation tried to spread the load of visitors who now were arriving in their many thousands throughout the town by laying out a park on the Eastern edge of the Borough. A prominent feature of the new Stanley Park opened in 1925/26 was the William H Cocker memorial clock tower, a tribute to one of the founding fathers of the town. To entice visitors away from the Promenade the Corporation provided a special bus service. The vehicles used were a special combination of bus and tram making the journey West along Hornby Road quite an attraction in itself.

During the Twenties and Thirties visitors became accustomed to finding new attractions when they visited each Summer but the first trippers arriving at Easter 1929 were taken aback to find an unfamiliar gap in the Blackpool skyline. The 200 foot big wheel had gone. This big wheel had been losing money ever since it opened as a competitor to the iconic Blackpool Tower in 1896 and its fate was sealed in February 1928 when the Winter Gardens which owned it was taken over by the Blackpool Tower Company. The Wheel never re-opened but it did make one last revolution on October 28th 1928, carrying the demolition contractor Eli Ward, and his family. Dismantling began the following Month and turned out to be a long and delicate job. The carriages were sold for £13 each and scattered about the local countryside. In 1930 the Olympia amusement centre was opened on the same site.

It was between the first and second world war that saw the explosion in Blackpool of small accommodation providers. From Bispham down to Squires gate south of Blackpool pleasure beach the Promenade witnessed the opening of many small hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments. Of course the main mode of travel in this time was the railway as not many owned their own motor vehicles so the areas around the main railway stations at both Blackpool North and Blackpool South are particularly prevalent with cheap hotels. Blackpool South has in the latter part of the twentieth century become less used as it was demoted to a branch line under the Beeching railway reforms in the 1960’s. The establishment of so many accommodation providers led to a lot of competition amongst the lady owners who became known as the ‘Landladies’. These ladies would compete with each other by attempting to offer the best home cooking in town. Back in those days many of the visitors to Blackpool took what is known as a bed, breakfast evening meal option when booking their accommodation. The term was particular to Blackpool and is still referred to this day as BBEM. The rest of the world knows the term as half board.