Blackpool & Lytham Railway Company
Newspaper report of the official opening of the Blackpool & Lytham
Railway in 1863.
OPENING OF THE BLACKPOOL AND
Another line has been added to the now extensive "system" of Lancashire railways.
The Preston and Wyre Railway was planned and formed in the comparative infancy of
railway travelling, and taking a nearly direct route between its termini, the
ancient borough of Preston and the new port of Fleetwood, it skirted the old towns
of Kirkham and Poulton, but altogether “ignored," as the modern phrase is, the
watering places of Lytham and Blackpool.
These towns, which grow with the rest of Lancashire and partake
of the general prosperity of the Kingdom, could not, however, continue to be long
overlooked, so branches from the parent line were made to the coast, one branching
off from Kirkham to Lytham, the other from Poulton to Blackpool.
Unlike many railway extensions and branches, these off-shoots of
the Wyre line have been advantageous to the lessees for they have contributed a
large and increasing traffic to the company, and for years back they have been a
great convenience to the vast numbers of persons travelling to the coast of
Lancashire for health or pleasure. It has, however, been found that one large class
was not provided for in this arrangement, the persons who, during the summer
months, desire to travel between the two towns.
Who, that has ever spent a few days at Blackpool, has not
included a trip to Lytham in his programme, and who, that has Sojourned a little
while at Lytham, has not desired to pay a visit to Blackpool. They are only seven
miles apart, yet nearly seventeen miles of railway had to be traversed before one
place could be reached from the other; indeed, the Wyre railway between Lytham and
Blackpool was, instead of being a straight line, something like three sides of a
This circumlocution was not the only inconvenience, for
passengers between the two places had usually a long stoppage to submit to at
Kirkham or Poulton or both, and one or two changes of carriages to boot. From time
to time suggestions have been made for the formation of a direct line, and frequent
advances have been made to the lessees of the Wyre Railway with the view of
inducing them to form a connection between the two places on the coast, but the
company have suffered so much from branches, and extensions, and now lines, so many
of which have been anything but "feeders" of traffic that they were loath to
encourage new undertakings.
Finding the company unwilling to make the line, some gentlemen
at Lytham formed an independent company, and receiving every encouragement from
the lord of the soil, Colonel Clifton, to whose estate it will be of great
advantage, and his enterprising agent, James Fair, Esq., an act of parliament was
obtained early in the session of 1861, and in September of that year the " first
sod" was cut by the young squire, the heir of the Lytham estates.
The line was found to be easy of formation, and it was completed
in little more than twelve months, but in consequence of the winter traffic being
but light it was considered advisable to postpone the "opening" until the eve of
the "season" of 1863. The arrangements being perfected, the line was “opened" on
Monday—perhaps we should say Saturday, for on that day a great number of trains ran
between the two places, a free ride being allowed to all corners.
The opening of the line, on Monday, was celebrated in Lytham as
a general holiday. Flags were flying from the public buildings and the more
important houses and places of business, and the place generally wore its gayest
aspect. The bells of the Parish Church also welcomed the occasion with merry peals.
The day, too, was fine and warm, and, though rather early in the season, such a one
as is most enjoyable at the sea side.
The Lytham terminus of the line is at present in a new street,
which forms a continuation of Dicconson-terrace, and not far from the principal
entrance to Lytham Park. This has, however, been removed a little to the north of
the line, but the park gates and lodge have been re-erected on their new site,
under the charge of Mr. Hibbert, architect, of this town, rail for rail, and stone
for stone, exactly as they stood before.
The station at Lytham, which, were we in a fault-finding humour,
we should say has been built sadly too small, as has also that at Blackpool, was
thronged throughout Monday by persons anxious to he passengers, and by others
watching with interest the arrival and departure of the various trains.
Having had the pleasure of travelling by the new line, a brief
description may not be uninteresting, but before doing this we must congratulate
the company on the commodious and convenient character of their carriages. Both
classes (there are only first and third) are lofty and roomy, and far superior to
the vehicles in which travellers are usually "cribbed, cabined, and confined."
Immediately on leaving the station, the line enters Lytham
Park, which, though wanting in some of the features of sylvan scenery which give a
charm to the landscape, is not without pretty views. In a little while we have a
fine view of the hall, the residence of Colonel Clifton, a spacious and commodious
mansion, built for his great grandfather, Thomas Clifton, Esq., about the middle of
the last century, by Mr. Carr, of York, the architect of the last Preston Town
Leaving the park, we come to the sand hills, a desert like
country, hitherto abandoned to the rabbits, but fast being encroached upon by the
westward march of the Lytham villas. Here another "Lytham" is planned to be
erected. Roads are to be laid out, convenient stations are to be built on the new
line, and some hundreds of acres of land, hitherto unproductive, is intended to be
the site of villas. Indeed, already, several plots have been sold, on which
first-class mansions are to be forthwith erected.
Between the sand hills a glimpse is now and then caught of the
estuary of the Ribble, with here and there a sail of some craft trading to the
“port of Preston." Beyond the water, and skirting the opposite shore of the
estuary, is Southport; while further inland is distinctly visible the parish church
of North Meols; and, beyond. Ashurst's beacon, and the hills of Anglezark and
Rivington; and to the west, Hoghton Tower and Pendle Hill. In another direction, we
see a large extent of the Fylde country, with its numerous windmills and farmhouses
Having passed the village of Heyhouses, with its numerous white
cottages, we are near the mouth of the Ribble, and make a detour northward, leaving
to our left the Double Stanner, on which the Ribble lighthouse lately stood. When
the line was planned, the lighthouse was so conspicuous a landmark, that a
representation of it forms a part of the "common seal" of the railway company, yet,
before the line was actually opened, the lighthouse bad passed to the domain of
history, and is not, it appears, to be replaced. The vast extent of sandy land to
our right is called Cross Slack, a name of holy association, for tradition says a
church or oratory once stood there, of which, however, nothing remains but the name
preserved in the emblem of man's salvation.
The soil hereabouts is of that character that shows the wisdom
of Colonel Clifton encouraging the line. Apart from the vast quantity of land which
the railway will make first-rate sites for villas, there is much light sand that is
at present unavailable for agricultural purposes, and all but valueless to the
owner. It, however, only wants marling, to make it produce the finest crops; yet,
hitherto, its distance from the marl fields has prevented its being rendered
available. During the winter months, it is intended to bring a large quantity of
marl by rail to these sand hills.
Next to Cross Slack, and smiling like an oasis in a desert, is
the well-managed farm of Mr. Richard Cookson, Layton Hawes. Mr. Cookson has long
been one of the most enterprising farmers in the Fylde, and we were glad to hear
that his efforts at agricultural improvement had been so appreciated by his
landlord that he has had his lease renewed for a long term of years, at the old
rent. Travellers by this line, who have any taste for farming, will be sure to
notice Layton Hawes, and some may remember its tenant, in another capacity, a
leader of the opposition to free trade, and a predictor of ruin to agriculture
from the repeal of the Corn Laws. They will all rejoice at the falsification of Mr.
Cookson’s prophecies; 'for our own part, we always thought that he was a better
farmer than political economist.
And now we leave Col. Clifton's estate, five miles and six
furlongs, out of the seven miles and forty-two chains of the whole line, being on
his land. We are soon at South Shore, where there is a station, and where we see
before us Marton Church and the now large town of Blackpool. South Shore was quite
astir, for, no doubt, the railway will be of great service in developing the
resources of that agreeable suburb of Blackpool. Again the train was on its route,
and we arrived at the Blackpool Station, at Hound-hill, the plans for -which, we
fear, were based on a calculation of the winter traffic on the line, for it was
crowded to inconvenience.
At Blackpool, a party of ladies and gentlemen sat down, as the
guests of Colonel Clifton, to an elegant luncheon, served by Mr. Birch, of the
Clifton Arms Hotel. James Fair, Esq., presided. The company congratulated the
chairman on the manner in which the day's celebration had gone off; and “Success to
the railway," “Colonel Clifton, and better health to him, "and” the ladies", were
duly honoured in the juice of the grape. At the Clifton Arms Hotel, Lytham, a party
of gentlemen dined together, 'Thomas Fair, Esq., in the chair; and here, as at
Blackpool, "Success to the railway" was not forgotten. The catering was on Mr.
Knowles's usual hospitable scale.
As yet only a single line of rails has been laid, but the
permanent way will easily admit of a duplicate set. The engineer of the line is Mr.
T. B. Foster, and the contractor Mr. J. R. Allen. The line has only one drawback
and that, it is to be hoped, will only be of a temporary character. It is, as yet,
isolated and unconnected with the other line.
It was intended, last year, to go to parliament for powers to
form a new line from Preston to Lytham, by the coast, and, by joining this new
line, so have a new and independent line to Blackpool. This would obviate the
inconveniences which the Lytham and Blackpool passengers at present suffer at
Kirkham and Poulton. Such a line would, however, be strongly opposed by the owners
of the Wyre Railway; and as the Blackpool and Lytham line has been formed in no
spirit of hostility to that concern, probably some course may be taken which shall
join the present railway with the Wyre line and still give Preston a shorter and
more convenient line to Lytham.
This might be done by branching off about Lea, in which case the
Wyre Railway proprietors would have the advantage of the traffic ever a few miles
of their line and the new Company would be saved the cost of an expensive entrance
into Preston. Perhaps, the former might be then induced to make the line, if
favourable terms were offered by the landowners, for a large extent of land would
become valuable for building purposes, at Lea, Freckleton, and Warton, were a coast
To return, however, to Lytham: the railway was not the only
public undertaking "opened" on Monday. That fashionable marine resort has long
needed public baths, for it is only at certain times of the tide that bathing can
be conveniently had in the Ribble, and as the place extends the privilege of sea
bathing must be subjected to strict regulations.
A public company was formed for the erection of baths, and a few
cottages on the beach, almost the last of the ancient thatched huts, which, in our
fathers' early days, constituted Lytham, falling out of lease, Colonel Clifton let
their site for the erection thereon of baths, and a company was formed for carrying
out the project, and at the same time of supplying the public with an Assembly
Room, of larger proportions and of a superior character to what the town had
The building is of neat design, and is an ornament to the
neighbourhood. Its cost is between £6,000 and £7,000. The architect is Mr. Holt, of
Bolton and the builders, Messrs. Metcalf and Waterson, of Manchester. The engines
for propelling the tidal water from the river, which are of ingenious construction,
were erected by Mr. C. Seward, of Preston. The establishment comprises fourteen
private baths and four swimming-baths, two cold and two tepid; the swimming-baths
appropriated to the gentlemen, with the necessary dressing-rooms, occupying each a
space of about 80 feet by 40 feet, the baths themselves being about 60 feet by25
feet in extent, and gradually and safely shelving in depth. The Assembly-room will
accommodate several hundred persons at concerts, halls, &c., and below is
another room of equal proportions, well adapted for a meeting room, or refreshment
room, for large parties, and will, no doubt, be extensively used by members of
Sunday schools, and other pleasure parties visiting Lytham.
Over the Assembly-room is a neatly fitted ladies attiring room,
and a news and general reading room ; and there are also on the various floors the
necessary offices and apartments for the keeper of the place, Mr. Thomas Moore, and
the other persons on the staff.
In the evening a ball was held in the new Assembly room to
celebrate the opening of the railway and of the baths. The room was elegantly
fitted up, and the company numbered about ninety. Norwood's band officiated in the
orchestra, and to their lively strains dancing was kept up with much spirit until
the following morning had marked three hours on the clock. The refreshments were
supplied by Mr. Carter, of the Ship Inn and Royal Hotel, and they gave general