Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Edwardian Cleveleys

Have a look at this for a moment, will you?

The chances are you’ve no idea where that photograph is located.(Actually it’s located at Phil’s house in Rossall…probably in a suitcase under his bed…but that wasn’t what I meant.) If you look closely, you might be able to make out the sunken gardens which, up until the revolting, Jetsonesque revamp of Cleveleys promenade recently, were sunk into, er, well, into Cleveleys promenade actually.
And that, in case you’re still wondering, is an aerial view of Cleveleys Pleasure Beach.
Believe it or not such a place did exist once, occupying the stretch of ground between Beach Road and Jubilee Gardens.
The same site nowadays is occupied by the Leisure and Cinema Complex, I think. For many years following the Pleasure Beach’s demolition the field lay fallow, proving popular as a venue for galas, circuses, Jubilee Days and gypsies with nowhere better to park their caravans. (The latter have now taken to annoying the residents in Preesall -- how come travellers never actually want to travel anywhere?)
Long before the Pleasure Beach was built, the field was occupied by a windmill...but that's another story.
Anyhow, as you’ve probably gathered, the Pleasure Beach (not exactly a rival to Blackpool’s, but interesting in it's own ramshackle sort of way nonetheless), along with the sunken gardens and the Edwardian shelters and all the other fascinating and historic stuff, is now long since gone.
On the off chance that you still don’t believe it was ever there, however, here’s another view of it, this time from a pedestrian's point of view, looking towards the Traveller’s Rest.

According to some contemporary advert or other for the place, (there whereabouts of which we've currently misplaced so we're working from notes here) the amusements consisted of: “A roller coaster, dodgems, slot machines, a helter-skelter, a carousel and Daredevil Shows.”
Unfortunately we’re not informed of what the daredevil shows consisted…possibly, if modern day Cleveleys is any reflection of its own inglorious past, some old biddies on Zimmerframes dicing with traffic, almost invisible (and certainly unheard) in the blue miasma of petrol fumes and screeching clutches.
The roller coaster sounds fascinating, though. No-one ever believes us when we tell them there was formerly a Big Dipper in Cleveleys, so here’s the proof of the pudding, for all those doubting Thomases/Thomasinaseseses:

It’s not exactly the clearest photograph ever produced, perhaps, but it is an historically fascinating one, as it’s the only image we’ve ever seen showing the Big Dipper from ground level. It's doubtful that the Blackpool Tourist Board lost any sleep over its construction, but back in the early 1940s this must have been an impressive sight towering over the relatively subdued streets of Cleveleys.
Nowadays, if it was still there, which it isn’t, it would probably be mistaken for the relics of a gasometer.


Andrew said...

A local fair ground for local people. Can't imagine people flocking to it when Blackpool was so close.

Brian Hughes said...


Neither can I to be honest, which is possibly why it didn't last long.

Ann ODyne said...

"Let's put in a sunken garden. people will love that."

oh dear, those were the days indeed.
It takes a lot more to amuse the populace these days, and I am sure that in order to appease thrill-seekers, we will soon go full circle and return to public hangings.

Jayne said...

How sad the whole area is covered with the leisure and cinema complex when the beach is right there to entertain any who can be bothered getting off their arse.

Brian Hughes said...


" order to appease thrill-seekers, we will soon go full circle and return to public hangings."

And I can think of no better people to start with than the planning committee for the new promenade.


"How sad the whole area is covered with the leisure and cinema complex..."

It's even more sad when you realise that the average age in Cleveleys is 96.

Jayne said...

A day at the beach, paddling amongst the ripples on the shore would probably do 'em good.
Or get rid of their tinea at least :P

Anonymous said...

yeah it would have made a great grave yard !!

Feral Beast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Feral Beast said...

Hi Brian, I don't know about anyone else (that is, living in your area) but I belive you about it all, and the reason for this is, er, well, because I've never been to Fleetwood, so I've got no reason to not believe you.

An interesting point you raise is, why don't travellers like travelling?

Brian Hughes said...


The starfish would all catch bunions.


The way Wyre Borough Council like digging stuff up and rebuilding on it every few years, it'd make an excellent mafia graveyard.

Feral Beast,

The same reason they don't like paying taxes, contributing to the community, following socially acceptable standards or laws in the same way that everyone else does, or even washing, I suspect...

Hels said...

Terrific stuff. I have not been there, but even if I had, there would have been nothing of Cleveleys Pleasure Beach complex to be seen. So why is its history interesting?

I have been writing a great deal about pleasure piers and beach pavilions for the last 12 months eg . But I had assumed that all Edwardian beach pavilions would have, more or less, the same facilities. That regardless of whether you were in St Kilda in Melbourne or Brighton in England, there would always be swimming facilities, musical facilities, restaurants and coffee shops, perhaps gardens and games areas.

Cleveleys Pleasure Beach sounded more like a Luna Park complex and I cannot tell from the top photo if people even used the beach opposite.

Given that Blackpool was so close and so attractive to visitors, why do you think the good city burghers wanted to sink money into another, more local project?

Brian Hughes said...


I've got quite a few photos from the Edwardian and Victorian periods illustrating just how much people used the beach itself. (Very daring they were too in their one-piece-covers-all bathing suits. Some of the women's costumes even had bustles.)

As for why the 'burghers' sank money into Cleveleys Pleasure Beach when Blackpool was just a few miles up the tramtracks, I suspect it was probably a private enterprise. Not a particularly educated one, however, on reflection...

John Hanson said...

Hi, I recently bought a selection of old prints from ebay, and came across one of the sunken garden, new promenade, Cleveleys. It was taken in September 1930, and thought you may be interested in taking a look.

Brian Hughes said...


Thanks for that, that's excellent! No sign of the Royal in the background (which looks odd) and what appears to be a small version of Fleetwood Mount (complete with flagpole) where Jubilee Gardens later stood. Apart from that, that's more or less how I remember the sunken gardens, which I massively preferred to the multi-award winning and extremely expensive promenade we have now.

Francis said...

I remember riding on the 'Big Dipper' but I think a Scenic Railway would be a more appropriate description since it was very sedate and slow. The carriages were more like Dragon Bodies with multiple seats and a LARGE Dragon's head acted as a windshield for the front seats. It had two coloured glass eyes which were translucent to the riders and each was a different colour and probably some 4 inches diameter.
Within the centre of the ride was a car racetrack. I can't remember whether it was petrol or electric, but it broke my heart since, being very young, I wasn't strong enough to steer consistently.

Anonymous said...

My Dad's just mentioned the roller coaster by Jubilee Gardens, and said it was moved to Battersea after being damaged in a storm. Just looked it up, and it's on Flickr

Francis said...

Hi, Anonymous. I've not investigated your link, but as I commented above I did ride on the roller coaster. However, the Battersea ride was of a totally different character. I think it may have used the wood from that at Cleveleys. There is a Film of the Battersea ride in the BFI archives on YouTube. The layout was vastly different and it was very much faster. I went on it at the festival Gardens when I was aged eleven in 1951. Regards, Frank. (Francis).