Catching up with photos from our autumn visit to Southport, I was intrigued to relate them to the history of the place.
It all began in 1792 when an innkeeper named William Sutton built a bathing house on the beach, and then in 1798 he built a hotel, the South Port Hotel. This soon became popular and a settlement grew around it. The deal was sealed in 1848, when the railway arrived, followed by the crowds. In 1860 the pier was established (see earlier posts).
Lord Street was always the main shopping street for Southport, a ‘Victorian canopied boulevard edged in scenic gardens’. Here is a small part of it today. I remember a summer’s day trip there in the 1950s, when it seemed very posh to me with all those glass canopies, and it was extremely crowded. It’s not so busy these days and many shops have closed.
Originally Lord Street was just set back from the sea front. In 1887 local entrepreneurs had a wonderful vision to handle the mass of visitors. A huge new Marine Lake and King’s Park was established and the beach itself was effectively pushed out to sea by several hundred yards, away from Lord Street. Attractions now included the lake, walks, boat rides, funfairs, a bathing pool… And half the pier was now over land, rather than over sand and sea, which certainly surprised me when I first realised it. The Marine Way Bridge in the featured image links Lord Street with the modern sea front.
Here are just a few photos of the Marine Lake area.
I realise that Southport was still in its heyday on that visit in the 1950s. Today, it obviously struggles to sustain the magic without the mass tourism of those days. It’s still popular though, and well worth visiting.
As the sun was going down there was sure to be something spectacular going on after a sunny day in Southport, despite gathering cloud. I had never really noticed this particular feature before – the Clwydian Hills of North Wales, emphasised by back lighting from the setting sun, framed by the picturesque structures of the Victorian pier.
Just wait for the walker to reach the centre and shoot… Shame about the bin.
Southport pier is the second longest in England, after Southend-on-Sea.
It is August 1877, and the newly constructed pier at Llandudno is opened, replacing an earlier wooden pier from 1858. The next year, steamboats ply their way between Llangollen and ports in North Wales, the North West of England and the Isle of Man. The venture proves so successful that the pier is widened and extended (1910), with a pavilion and a tramway. Throngs of people pay to enter and walk/ride up and down the pier, and attend concerts in the pavilion. Even in 1969, when the landing stage was rebuilt in concrete, Landudno was still known for its ferry trips to the Isle of Man.
Llandudno was one of many seaside resorts established in England and Wales with the coming of the railways. At 700 m in length, this is the longest pier in Wales and the fifth longest in England and Wales.
A walk down the pier to the pavilion is still popular today (featured image). The tramway, concerts and steamers are long gone. The ironwork and decking show signs of wear, but the structure is still sound, and the ‘entertainment’ is now mostly rather loud bars, ice cream and amusement arcades. But the air is fresh as ever, and the views stupendous.
On the way back you see the Grand Hotel silhouetted like an enormous pleasure liner against the mountains of Snowdonia.
The largest hotel in Wales opened in 1902, replacing an earlier hotel alongside the pier, an adjunct to the 1855 bath house. The evidently once-grand bath house is now just a skeleton ruin. The hotel is still in business, despite a period of ownership by Butlins (1981-1998).
And the pier is but one of the many attractions of Llandudno!
The central section of Southport’s pier offers photogenic opportunities, such as this one set against a bright late afternoon December sky. Clumps of marram grass and reflections in foreground puddles complete the picture.
The view in the opposite direction (northwards) can also be of interest. Here the low sun catches the normally unremarkable buildings of Lytham St Annes on the Fylde coast, 5 miles away as the crow flies (or 34 miles by road, skirting around the Ribble estuary).
This view from Southport Pier has a great feeling of space. Reflections on the shallow surface water supplement the effect of the clouds themselves. No wonder this is one of my favourite places, especially towards sundown.
As child I was taken to the seaside at Southport on the few occasions we strayed from Lincolnshire, to stay with cousins on the other side of the country. An abiding memory is of the long walk down the pier and the tram you could take down the pier’s length to make the journey back easier. And then there was the question of the sea – it wasn’t always there, just miles and miles of beach.
Southport was created in the great Victorian railway/seaside resort boom, and very grand it was, too. Its pier, built in 1859, is the oldest iron pier in the country. At 3,635ft (once 4380ft) it is the second-longest in Great Britain, after that at Southend. In it’s heyday the pier was visited by steamers conveying tourists along the coast. By the 1920s increased silting meant steamers could no longer reach the pier, which fell into disrepair, until restored in the new millenium. The tramway recalled from my childhood ran in various forms until 2015, but the recent austerity meant it could not be maintained and the tram is now replaced by a little road train, which looks not bad on the featured photo.
The same silting in the water channel allowed for land reclamation, which is why some of the pier now runs over what is now dry land, reclaimed from the sea. This provided for the creation of the Marine Lake, now a very good location for paddleboarding.
Of course, the pier can be relied on as the foreground to some great sky photographs, but most usually with a base of sand rather than sea.