A newspaper article dated 1935 in which the writer reminisces about Blackpool in the 1870s.
THRILLS OF SIXTY
Reminiscences of Life on the
By Rev. FRED HIBBERT
ONE of the privileges of those in advancing years
—I will not say old age, because there are no old people nowadays—is that of memory. The
recollections of days that are gone, which have been filled with so many things worth remembering,
and the remembrance of which gives constant pleasure.
For it is one of the kind
dispensations of a beneficent Providence that we forget the unpleasant experiences of life, and
remember with pleasure those that were joyous. It is with an effort one recalls the drab things in
life. The brighter colours are always there. So it seems to me
that life in its later years should be supremely happy. We ought to grow old gracefully, because we
have so many pleasant memories, and so many things to be thankful for.
Blackpool for Life
My recollections of Blackpool are of the very best. I have often been
asked by facetious friends if I was paid by the Corporation as a "booster" of Blackpool, I have
always spoken of it so enthusiastically. But I have good
reason for doing so. Had it not been for Blackpool's dustless breezes I should not have been here
to speak about it at all.
When I was a boy I was nearly always ill. I think
I must have some Scots blood in me, for I took everything that was going, including smallpox after
vaccination. My mother often brought me to Blackpool and left
me for a month at a time at a whitewashed cottage where the Pleasure Beach is now, in charge of a
good woman; who was a second mother to me.
One of my playmates was our late Borough
Treasurer, Mr. William Bateson. There were no other houses near. The Star Inn was the nearest
building, but then, as now, no inn had any attraction for me.
The " Parliamentary "
A journey to Blackpool in those days was a rather serious
undertaking. We had not the luxury trains we have now, nor the quickness of transport.
I lived at a little town, Ashton-under- Lyne, five miles the other
side of Manchester. We had to leave home very early in the morning. In those days there were only
two trains a day for third-class passengers.
The railway companies imagined that their main
support would come from those who could afford to travel first class. But it was a condition
imposed upon the railway companies by Act of Parliament that they should run two trains a day for
third-class people, one early in the morning and the other in the evening, and they were called
We left home about six o'clock in the morning.
Then we had to wait an hour or two in Manchester. The train stopped at every station. We usually
waited at Bolton, Chorley and Preston for an hour at each place. Why, I never knew. And if we
arrived in Blackpool by one or two o'clock we did very well.
The carriages were uncomfortable. Hard, wooden,
narrow seats, with very little room between to stretch your legs. There was no heat in the
carriages. In cold weather there were foot warmers. if you could get one by a well-disposed tip to
a porter. They made your feet hot, but legs and the rest of your body cold.
But these discomforts are not what I remember most. In fact, we
were not conscious of them then. We did not know anything better.
Thrill of Journey's
But I can remember the thrill as we got nearer the sea. After we had
passed Preston I looked eagerly through the carriage window to catch a sight of the windmills, for
they were to me the sign that we were not far from the coast. And when we got the first glimpse of
the sea my heart throbbed with delight.
The railway line in those days ended at Lytham.
The main line came to Talbot-road. But a sort of toy railway ran from Lytham to what is now
Blackpool Central, and we got out at South Shore. There was
hardly a station in those days. There was a little structure like a night watchman's shelter, and
that was all.
JOY OF THE SEA
Waves That Make All the World
BUT that did not trouble me. I wanted to see the sea. What a thrill
it gave me! The sight of it did me good. And I confess it does yet. The country is all right, and I enjoy it. There is a beauty about trees and grass
and flowers and mountains. But there is a special charm about
the sea. It suggests vastness. It reminds you that there are other countries against which the sea
washes: other people with other manners and desires. It lifts your thoughts into the
I remember once bringing some children from
Blackburn to Blackpool for half a day. When we were ready to go back one of the children was
missing. A teacher went to look for him, and saw him in the distance walking by the side of the
sea. The tide was out. When the teacher asked him what he was
doing there, the lad said, "I did not think there was so much room in the world." He lived in a
narrow street in Blackburn, and the vision of the sea filled his soul with a sense of bigness,
vastness, a sense of the illimitable.
I think that is how I used to feel, as, indeed, I,
feel now. It makes you realise how much room there is in the world; but it also makes you feel how
akin we are to others, for it offers to carry us on its mighty bosom to our brothers on the other
side of the world.
" Is This Lytham? "
I remember one of my early journeys to Blackpool.
When we left Manchester our first stop was at Salford, only a very short distance. In a nearby
carriage an old lady put her head out of the window and cried in a shrill voice, "Guard, is this
Lytham?" And so at every station until we reached Bolton. Then
the guard came and said to her, "No! this is not Lytham. I'll tell you when we get to Lytham. Make
yourself comfortable. We shall not be there for hours yet.'
The Promenade was quite narrow and low in those
days. There were very few, houses on the front after you left the Manchester House, now called the
Manchester Hotel. And when autumn came with the promise of the
equinoctial gales, the front doors were locked, and doors and windows were packed with clay to keep
out the sea. And there were storms in those days.
I remember once, after a heavy gale walking to
Blackpool, and where Tyldesley-terrace now stands was quite open* and the sea had swept over in
such force that all the ballast beneath the rails on the railway had been swept away, and nothing
was left but the rails on the sleepers.
Exhilaration of Storm
And all round Bonny-street and the Central Station had to be
negotiated in boats. But it was wonderfully exhilarating, To
walk along the front in the strong breeze with the spray flying in your face gave new health to a
tired and delicate body. It revived one.
It was quite a long walk from the cottage where we
stayed into the towns There were no trams or buses. We used to walk, and it did us good. On a
Sunday! we always went to Victoria-street Congregational Church, of which the Rev. James Wayman was
the minister. To my youthful mind he was a great preacher, and the church was always full. But it
was the only Congregational Church there was, for Bethesda, the mother church, was
Later I came to know Mr. Wayman very well. He
often stayed with us at my old home. And a splendid guest he was. A wonderfully eloquent
man. He was once concerned in a libel action against the "
Blackpool Times." His counsel was the famous Sir Charles Russell. He told me that he had a consultation with Russell before the trial. Russell
asked questions which Wayman answered in his usual eloquent speech. Russell rather rudely said, " Just answer my questions, and save your,
eloquence for the pulpit." And Wayman felt a little sat upon.
Dinner With Gipsy
One of my most interesting youthful recollections was my
acquaintance, might say my friendship, with Gipsy Sarah. Her tent was in a field quite close to the
cottage where we stayed. I was often there, and got to know Gipsy Sarah. very well, and became a
welcome visitor in her tent.
She was a very interesting old woman, honest,
straightforward and kind. She was very good to me. I can recall now; many a good meal I had
there. The pot in which the food was cooked hung on a tripod,
and from it there came a most appetising savour, and as I was delicate and needed good food to
build up my strength, I greatly enjoyed joining with her and her family in many, a delicious
It tasted all the better because it was eaten in
so unconventional a manner. I remember the old gipsy woman very gratefully. Though she belonged to
the gipsy tribe she left behind her a good name, and Scripture says that is more to be desired than
The August Crowds
The crowds came to Blackpool in my young days. August was
inconveniently crowded. The holidays in the Lancashire towns were most of them in that
month. The churches were packed; the streets were crowded; and
it was a scramble to get in the trains.
I remember once coming for the August holiday
week-end. We had hard work to get into Talbot-road Station, and it cost a great effort to get on
the platform and into the train. In the crowd I lost my
father, and we came home by different trains. I landed home about 2 o'clock in the
There always have been crowds coming to Blackpool,
and there always will be: Blackpool has advantages to offer which no other place has.
And while I admire the diligence of the Publicity Committee in
keeping Blackpool in the public eye, I wish they would, cease talking as though Blackpool was
losing its popularity. Psychologically it is bad policy to run
your goods down. It is foolish to talk as though the crowds did not come. That is the way to keep
them from coming.
Crowds Follow the
You should talk about the crowds that do come, and that will induce
others to come. People like to go where they can hardly get in. Tell the world that a church is badly attended, and it will be. Talk about the
diminishing numbers at a place of entertainment, and it will cease to attract. Nothing succeeds
Blackpool has still an unequalled attraction for
the crowds. Broadcast that fact, and the people will want for come, and they will
come. I am like Major General Fielden—I love Blackpool.
There is no place like it. Let those who are privileged to live there do all they can to keep up