Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some old Photographs of Bispham Cliffs

We’ve been colouring in some old photographs again, this time, as the title suggests, of Bispham cliffs, in order to highlight the ridiculous dangers that early travellers to the Fylde were willing to face in their ignorance.
Colouring in old postcards, incidentally, is excellent therapy and we recommend it to most people reading this board.
Here’s the first one, entitled ‘On the Cliffs, Blackpool’. (Presumably the words ‘Potential’ and ‘Death’ have been accidentally omitted from the start of that description.) Our colour scheme might have gone off a tangent from reality, but we estimate the photograph to be of the Edwardian period.

They’re all sitting right on the edge of the cliffs are that lot. No…look at them! They’re right on the edge, with their toes hanging over. That’s the sort of stuff that’d give your average Health and Safety Executive a stroke, that is. (Well…if he could get close enough to some of those ladies in their tight bodices and laced-up ankle boots he’d have stroke, anyhow.)
It’s a wonder, given the precarious nature of the cliffs and the fact that Uncle Tom’s Cabin had a habit of falling off them every few years, that the whole lot didn’t give way.
There is a good reason for such a large crowd, in case you’re wondering. In Victorian and Edwardian times Lancashire factories would close for a week during the summer, to give their workers a well-earned break. As a result entire communities took their holidays at the same time. These events were known as Wakes Weeks, an evolution of the mediaeval Wakes Holy Days (from which the word ‘holiday’ derives). We’ve written about them before on this board in considerably more detail, so if you’re that way inclined, you can go and look them up. (And that’s about as much proper history as you’re going to get in this particular article.)
Here’s another photograph of Bispham cliffs that’d have the Health and Safety People waking up in a cold sweat (whether out of fear or pleasure I wouldn’t hazard to guess).

Bah gum, look at the steepness of that…not to mention the lopsided angle of it. A vertiginous set of steps if ever there was one, leading down the cliff face near Bispham tram station; particularly difficult to navigate, we suspect, when wearing high heels and dresses resembling meringues like the two picnickers on the beach at the bottom.
Beats most of the white knuckle rides at the pleasure beach, does that one. Those two kids about a sixth of the way up look as though they’re paralysed with fear. It puts one in mind of the old nursery rhyme:

Jack and Jill went down the cliff, to fetch a pail of seashells.
Jack fell down and bust his neck and then lay perfectly still in a small crumpled heap with his head staved in on the rocks.

There have been a few improvements from a safety perspective since the lower promenade was added. For a start fewer walruses like the one in the photograph plunge to their deaths from the cliffs now. It’s also considerably easier for wheelchair access nowadays, I would imagine.
One last somewhat disturbing image from about the same period then:

Go on, Son. Jump oop un’ doon on’t. Let’s see what ’appens!
This particular postcard is entitled ‘The Steps, Bispham’ although ‘Death on Stilts’ would make a reasonable alternative title.
As you can see, it’s difficult to imagine this complicated construction of rickety planks standing up to a typical Fylde coast gale, which is probably why it isn’t there any longer. Nowadays, of course, the slades are all fashioned from concrete and shored up with rocks, transforming them into ideal racetracks for cyclists and exciting bob sleigh runs in the winter, where pedestrians and dog walkers can be targeted as human skittles.


John said...

It appears, Brian, that you colored these with your "A Child's Set of Easter Colors". I'm no expert, but I'm certain that Edwardian folks didn't glow in pastel colors, although they may have, depending on whether or not they were working with radium in those factories. (Ha. I can get away with that jibe since Hisself ain't here)

As for me, I wouldn't call it a Holiday if everyone and their Granny all had the same week to vacation! I prefer to stay away from the crowds, which is why I go to the beach in the winter months... just as fun, but without the sunburn and warm waters.

Those stairs do appear to be an invitation to white-knuckle adventure, although I don't see the Walrus you mention.

There must be some cool fossils or something at the bottom of those cliffs for anyone to want to venture down. How big are these cliffs anyhoo? Couldn't you just walk around the steep bit to some flatter land if you wanted to see the beach?

Come back soon, Mr. Hughes, or I'm taking over completely. That may mean moving to Lancashire, of course, but I'm assuming you'd cover expenses? (That'll get him back... the thought of parting with a pence... even the moths can't get in that coin pouch of his)

JOHN :0)

Jayne said...

LOL John.

I say, those steps are giving me heart palpitations just looking at them, could be a method to deter the crowds of the great unwashed masses, maybe?

John said...

Jayne, guessing how those unwashed masses may have smelled before the days of deoderant, one would think they would be encouraged to hit the beaches? :0)

Those must have been some beaches if people risked their lives and lungs on those steps. Can you imagine having to climb those steps after a day of enjoyment at the beach?

I bet there was a lot of sleeping on the sands, to break up the trip... unless the tide comes all the way in, of course!

JOHN :0)

Jayne said...

Having another gander at the postcards I wonder how many attempted to ride their push bikes down that loooooong staircase to the beach?

One might guess that the White Cliffs of Dover are actually made up of the layers of perfumed talcum powder washed from the great unwashed masses...instead of bird poop :P

John said...

Bicycles on Bispham Cliffs!!!!? Do you know how slippery the heather gets from the morning dew?

Hmmm... I wonder if that's where the Wright brothers got the idea that bicycles could fly? :0)

JOHN :0)

JahTeh said...

Take over by all means, John, but don't move to Lancashire. The place is full of poms and bacon butties both hazardous to anyone's health.

It's my belief that the real ruler of the Hughes homestead ie. THE CAT has finally found a way to do him in and is now wandering the lanes of Fleetwood in gumboots and a dishmop on its head and no-one is the wiser. Well, until the cat opens its mouth and talks sense.

John said...

Would the Cat really do him in? I mean, Brian DOES feed him, even with it's steady diet of seagulls, and bacon buttie crumbs found under the Hughes computer.

Then again, cats are mysterious creatures, and sometime quite vengeful. Maybe Brian didn't feed him on time?

I still maintain that Brian simply decided all this was just too much work. Perhaps he went senile and got a 'real' job? Naaahhh...

JOHN :0)

JahTeh said...

"went senile", hahahhaha, the man hasn't had a sane day in his life.

Brian Hughes said...

Oy...I ain't dead yet Witchy. I might be mostly missing at the moment, but I've still got my beady eye on you.

Hels said...

I love the Edwardian idea of getting fit, spending time in the open air, beaches, swimming, semi nudity, exercise, riding bikes .. all great stuff.

But these people are fully dressed and not moving very much. I suppose that since all of Lancashire's factories closed for a week at the very same time in summer, people had to squish in as much pleasure and leisure as they could.

Those 3 postcards are little treasures.

Brian Hughes said...


Despite their subdued appearance, and regardless of what image Edwardian novelists might have portrayed, I believe that holiday makers from that particular period were actually a bit on the wild side. An ice cream wafer and a penny's worth of parched peas, and there were flashes of ankle everywhere.