Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Pleasure Beach: The Early Years

This week we thought we’d take a look at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in its infancy…or to put it another way, when it was actually still a beach and not a huge slab of tarmac coated with candyfloss, toffee apple cores and grockle puke. By the late nineteenth century the gypsies who’d originally lived near Uncle Tom’s Cabin and had attracted early visitors to the town with their ‘romantic lifestyle’ (ahem…we’re saying nothing…we pushed our luck with what we said about the Ellis’s a few weeks ago) had moved to a new site close to the Star Inn. Here Gypsy Sarah Boswell would, apparently, sit in front of her tent smoking a pipe, whilst Mother Herring made apocalyptic predictions (sounds like the residents of Chatsworth Avenue today if you ask me). Amongst the other attractions at the gypsy camp was a skittle alley, the inevitable fortune telling booths, a black-and-white minstrel show (although the actual name it ran under was considerably less politically correct than we’re willing to record on this website) and even a switchback railway; all precursors to the Pleasure Beach itself. And, because we know you’re curious, here’s the whole ensemble complete with the‘aerial flying’ device (otherwise known as ‘stupidly hanging from a washing line’).

Eventually the land was bought up, the gypsies turfed off and the Pleasure Beach proper came into being, the only ride available in those early days being Sir Hiram Maxim’s Flying Machines. Believe it or not, the Flying Machines are still working today, and they aren’t clapped out or dangerous at all, we’ve been informed.
The photograph below shows the aforementioned ride without any of the white-knuckle erections of steel and concrete surrounding it at present.

All of which really is just a preamble to the main event. In truth, we’ve come across an excellent bit of film footage tucked away on the net that we want to post here, but it would have looked a bit lost on its own, hence the stuff above. Some of our readers might remember a television programme recently presented by Dan Crookshank (or however his surname’s spelt) in which he retraced the journey taken by Claude Friese-Greene the Edwardian filmmaker. En route, Friese-Greene filmed Lancashire. Albert Clayton was even interviewed on the telly about some footage of Garstang that nobody recognised. If we ever manage to track that bit down we’ll post it here and see if you can do any better.
Anyhow…here’s the footage of Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1924…mostly…there’s quite a lengthy bit at the start showing North Pier at sunset because Friese-Greene wanted to make full use of his patented colour technique. He probably shouldn’t have bothered. There’s no sound to the film, but it’s certainly worth a gander in our opinion:


Ann O'Dyne said...

Never mind the pleasure beach ... I found the Stumpy Moose Noticeboard, and thank you very much.

I noticed your meeting at Farmer Parr's, checked his map, saw "Eros Statue", found out about the Donor of it, and that lead me to Stumpy's account of the Wyre Folk Festival. hysterical.

Brian Hughes said...

"The continent's standing stones clearly don't hold much interest for the people of the Wyre."

Stumpy Moose has hit the nail on the head. But then again, the Wyre's timber circle at Bleasdale doesn't hold much interest for the rest of the continent, so it just about evens itself out.

Sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam said...

Thanks for the kind words, and apologies for distracting attention away from an entertaining Pleasure Beach post.

I'd never heard of the Bleasdale timber circle before, Brian, but I'll check it out next time I'm home.

All the best,
Sam Beckwith
Stumpy Moose

Brian Hughes said...


It's well worth a visit. Oddly enough, I don't think I've ever posted anything about Bleasdale Circle myself on this board. I'll have to rectify that a.s.a.p. I reckon.