I mentioned in a blogpost a few days ago that The Smith family liked to go on holiday to Douglas, Isle of Man.
Another of their destinations of choice was Blackpool.
Edith received a postcard from her mother:
Postmarked Blackpool 17 July 1905
Arrived safe ¼ to 1. Came straight through from Normanton. Nice place where we are staying. A lot of people in Blackpool. E.A S.
Blackpool is a seaside town situated on the north west coast of England about forty miles from Manchester. It became very popular with holiday makers from the Lancashire cotton towns and also from the West Riding of Yorkshire.
A couple of years later, Edith's mother was off to Blackpool again and staying at Woodfield Road. This was a street of three storey terraced houses many of which according to the 1901 census were in use as guest houses.
Postmarked Blackpool 13 September 1907
Arrived quite safe but not until 5 o clock. They are very busy here. Lot of people in Blackpool. Love to all E.A S.
Four years later and Eliza is on holiday in Blackpool and staying in Woodfield Road once again.
The 1911 census shows that the number of guest houses in Woodfield Road had increased and the whole street had become predominantly places for visitors to stay. The street was at right angles to The Promenade in easy reach of the many attractions for which Blackpool had now become famous.
Postmarked Blackpool 9 September 1911
Just a line to say that we arrived safe about quarter to two. Hope Elsie got home safe. Best love Mother
Originally Blackpool had developed in the mid-eighteenth century as a resort where people went to bathe in the sea for health and medicinal purposes. By 1781, a regular stage coach service had been set up to transport visitors to the town from Manchester and Halifax. There were few amenities and the main attraction was the miles of sandy beaches. The population of the town remained small.
However in 1819, a local entrepreneur named Henry Banks re-developed one of the few hotels and built some holiday cottages. His son-in-law John Cocker was the brains behind a scheme to open Blackpool's first assembly rooms where visitors could gather, socialise and be entertained.
It was the coming of the railways that started Blackpool's boom when in the 1840s a railway was constructed which connected the town to the industrial cities of the North of England. Travel became easier and cheaper and as more people went to visit Blackpool so more people went there to live and work and service the needs of these nineteenth century tourists. Entrepreneurs seized the opportunity to build more accommodation and create more attractions leading to ever increasing numbers of visitors.
This was aided by the practice of the Lancashire cotton mill owners closing their factories for one week each year to service and maintain the machinery. All the workers from a particular factory would be off work at the same time and these weeks became known as "Wakes Week". All the factories in a town would be closed at the same time on different weeks thus providing Blackpool with a steady supply of holiday makers throughout the summer season. Blackpool also evolved as the preferred holiday destination for thousands of workers from Glasgow.
A few days later Edith received another postcard, this time from her sister Beattie who was also on holiday in Blackpool at the same time as their mother (Eliza Ann).
Postmarked Blackpool 20th September 1911
I hope you are alright and safe. We are coming home on Friday, rained last night and first thing this morning but it is lovely now. The sea came right over last night, it was glorious. We are feeling much better and shall be glad to be home. Best Love B.E.S.
Since the 1880s, Blackpool had had its promenade and all the features of a popular seaside resort: piers, pubs, theatres, trams, donkey rides and fish and chips. Blackpool was, and remains, unique in the U.K having three piers. The first to be built was North Pier opened in 1863 which quickly became established as a centre of entertainment. Central Pier was opened in 1868 and incorporated a theatre and an open-air dance floor. Finally, the South Pier was constructed in 1893. In addition the famous Winter Gardens complex was opened in 1878.
Another claim to fame was that Blackpool was the first town in the whole world to have electric street lighting which was commenced in 1879. The pageants that accompanied the street wiring were the fore-runners of the renowned Blackpool Illuminations. The installation of street electricity also facilitated the construction in 1885 of one of the world's first electric tramways.
Two years later another of Edith's sisters, Elsie, was on holiday in Blackpool.
Postmarked Blackpool September 1913
We went to the Palace last night. It was very good. Every place seems crowded out. Our party seems to be having nothing but bad luck. Joe and Sarah went home yesterday. He has been bad since Sunday. Went to a Dr yesterday who told him to come straight home as he had got appendicitis. Hard luck isn't it? Best love to all. Yours Elsie
The Palace that Elsie mentions was situated within the huge and lavish Palace Complex on the seafront. The Theatre was a re-vamped version of the original Alhambra Theatre which had been undertaken by Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham in 1903/04. Matcham was also commissioned to design the Grand Theatre which had opened in 1894. His design for the Grand was the first to incorporate an extraordinary cantilever design to support the tiers thus reducing the need to use pillars which always obstructed the view of the stage for many members of the audience.
When Elsie visited Blackpool in 1913 she would have been able to see the early version of the renowned illuminations which were held for the first time in 1912 but were suspended on the outbreak of World War One and not re-instated until 1925. Elsie would also have seen the famous Blackpool Tower which had opened in 1894 and dominated the skyline of Blackpool ever since. It was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris and is 158 meters in height. Beneath and within the Tower is a complex of facilities including the famous Tower Ballroom and Tower Circus.
In her message Elsie mentions Joe and Sarah who were having health problems.
Sarah was the twin sister of Elsie's husband Sidney Buckle; Joe was Sarah's husband, Joe Roebuck.
Even though the First World War had been underway for over a year, this didn't prevent Eliza (Edith's mother) from taking another holiday in Blackpool in 1915.
Postmarked Blackpool October 17th 1915
Just a line to say we are going on nicely. Hope you are all keeping well + that everything is alright. It has been very nice so far. Love to all E.A S.
I think it's true to say that the Smiths in my family loved their seaside holidays and especially Blackpool.
In the words of John A. Glover-Kind who wrote the famous music-hall song in 1907:
Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll along the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play
I'm a former primary school head teacher now enjoying family history, e-publishing and gardening. I'm the author of "Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood" and was delighted when the book became an Amazon 2015 bestseller in the Social History category. I'm the founder of Spurwing Ebooks which is at http://www.spurwing-ebooks.com for book details and information about new releases and special offers. Details of my books are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.-Murray/e/B009R7CRVC and the other books I've published are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Murray/e/B007AQZMZK