Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms
Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England


Thomas Bradley, Town Clerk.

Newspaper article from 1935


FORTY-EIGHT years ago (Queen Victoria's Jubilee year), I received the appointment of Clerk to the Local Board of Health of St.Anne's-on-the-Sea. I was one of 44 applicants, and the appointment was made on 17th March,1887, although I did not begin duties till the 25th of the same month. Mr. Robert Hargreaves, I remember, was Chairman of the Board, and in a speech of few words he counselled me to act well my part and to serve the Board without fear or favour. The members present on that occasion were, in addition to Mr. Hargreaves : Messrs. W. J. Porritt, W. H. Hargreaves, James Pye, Thomas Swarbrick, John Pearson, John Singleton, Joseph Ellerbeck, James Lord, Edward Parkinson and John Thompson. The only absentee was Mr. A. J. Holloway. None of the 12 members are now living, and the only living person present at the meeting when I was appointed is Mr. James Bowman, Editor of the " Express."

More Rabbits Than People.

Thomas Bradley, Town Clerk.St. Anne's, of course, at that time was only 12 years old, and was in a very primitive state more sandhills and rabbits than houses and people. The population in 1887 was 1,200, and the rateable value £8,000.
The " town hall " consisted of one room in Matlock House, South-drive, the home of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Pennington, and now occupied by Dr. Blair, J.P. This room did duty for everything inquiry office, clerk's office, rate office, sanitary inspector's office, and board room. It was not unusual to see drain pipes, cement and road metal displayed about the room. The other portion of the house was occupied by Mr. Pennington's family.
The outside staff was exceedingly small, consisting of Fred Porter (road foreman) and Richard Butcher (roadman). When special work was in demand (road-mending generally), a few extra men would be engaged in stone-breaking. The monthly accounts ran to £16, £20, and sometimes £25. The Local Board had borrowed no money. They believed in the proverb, " He that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing," and the chief concern of the members was to keep down the rates at ls. 6d. in the £.

Streets Wastes of Sand.

The streets were wastes of sand and, in wet weather, quagmires. The esplanade was a " howling wilderness." The only assets of the Board were a few spades and brushes. There were no buildings between Kilgrimol School (District Club, South-drive) and Starr Hills, Ansdell (Major Hincksman's residence), except the lighthouse keepers' cottages hidden away in the sandhills. Shops were few and far between in the Square.

The method of election was the open, cumulative system which preceded the ballot. A list of candidates was left at the home of each elector by a policeman, and initials were placed opposite the names of those you wished to vote for. The papers were collected by the police and conveyed to the Local Board office, where the counting took place. It was customary for the candidates to be present to make notes of broken promises !

Under such a system, as might be expected, in a village where everybody knew everybody, a considerable number of papers were returned blank. Votes were granted according to a scale. Property rated at less than £50 was allowed one vote ; up to £100, two votes ; up to £150, three votes ; up to £200, four votes ; and so on, the maximum number being six. Bricks had votes,
not heads !

During my 40 years in office, every public improvement has been initiated and carried out, excepting, of course, the foreshore boating pool and golf course now being constructed.

First Public Loan

The first public loan of £25,000 was for the main drainage scheme in 1892. In 1894 the Local Board was superseded by the Urban District Council, and in 1896 the first Improvement Bill was promoted, the chief object of which was to take over the promenade from the Land Company, and to lay out the esplanade from the pier to Eastbank-road. There was great opposition, all the residents on South-promenade, with one exception, I believe, petitioning against the destruction of the sea view by the erection of what was described at the Government inquiry as monkey houses (shelters) and potato hogs (banks of rockery). Having failed to purchase the gas works in 1897, although the preamble was proved in the House of Lords, the Urban Council obtained an Electric Lighting "Order in 1898. St. Anne's has never been free from schemes of one kind or another since 1891. During that time there was a steady increase in rateable value and in population.

Each scheme gave a fresh impetus to building and new residents. The construction of a refuse destructor was a great step forward in the interests of public health. Instead of tipping refuse in dykes and waste places, it was consumed by fire. A town's depot and stables, public abattoirs, a steam fire engine, a free library, a technical school, public offices and a town hall, were one by one added to the furnishing of the growing town, followed by the housing scheme and the £300,000 sewerage scheme.

Some years ago the foreshore rights were purchased from the Duchy of Lancaster and Mr. Clifton, while recreation grounds, the Ashton and Beauclerk Gardens, the open-air baths, the tramways and buses, and miles of streets, have been added to the assets of the town. Since 1887 the 1,200 population has become 15,000, the rateable value has grown from £8,000 to £160,000, while the " spades and brushes " assets of the St. Anne's portion of the borough have multiplied to the colossal sum of one-and-a-half millions.

It fell to my lot to obtain the Charter of Incorporation and the Consolidation Act, continuing as Town Clerk for five years and as Consultative Clerk for a period of three years. Thus I have been associated with the local government of St. Anne's from the infancy of the town, 48 years ago, till its full manhood of a borough, with a rateable value approaching £300,000.