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.
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.
Heavy cloud can give good photo opportunities, when there are gaps. Here the pools of water on the beach at Southport, that gap in the cloud, and the low late afternoon December sun combine to stunning effect.
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.
I spotted this silhouetted curlew on the rocks, against the backdrop of this sundown picture at Crosby, Merseyside.
The sun is not yet low enough to produce the longer wavelength reds and yellows, but as we drove into Southport, a bit further up the coast, these colours had become quite magnificent, but for only a short while.
Quite a difference!
The metropolitan borough of Sefton extends from Bootle, on the edge of Liverpool, up the coast as far as Southport.
We were in the car park by Southport’s Marine Drive having lunch. Out of the dunes at the back of the parking area came several youngsters carrying what looked like a couple of canoes or surf boards. Not thinking much of it, we carried on eating. A few minutes later their two tiny cars drove away, and we realised there was no trailer, no roof rack, the boards had somehow gone into the cars. Now that was a mystery.
Lunch over, we went for a walk with the dog over the said dunes to see the Marine Lake. On the lake were a couple of similar boards, with people standing on them and apparently punting or paddling. A friendly local, who turned out to be their mother, was standing by the waterside, so we asked her what these things were – paddleboards. Apparently they fold down for storage but you pump them up to make the boards, which are then driven/steered from a standing position by a long paddle.
The slowly declining sun provided a super backdrop for a photograph or two.
According to our informant, the Marine Lake is a popular venue for paddleboarding. She had tried it on the sea, but got seasick!
Internet research shows that paddleboards have been around for a few years and are a rapidly growing trend. It looks fun. We should keep up!
Mute swans are common in the UK, possibly related to the fact that the Monarch retains the right to ownership of all unmarked swans in open water.
Mostly you see them in small family groups, but in some places such as Windsor there are large colonies. This group that we saw on Southport’s Marine Lake were clearly acting as a coherent grouping, speeding along together, like lads who’ve heard there’s free beer – presumably to meet up with others we’d spotted further along the water.
The single cygnet suggests that this is not a family grouping as such.
I was intrigued to know what was this colourful plant amid the marram grass on the sand dunes at Southport.
A bit of research shows that it is sea buckthorn. It is the plentiful berries that are so colourful, lit up by the low November sun. Like the marram grass itself, sea buckthorn has an extensive root system that is able to cope with the extreme environment of the sand dunes (which also helps to stabilise the dunes).
The featured image shows the berries, leaves and thorns closer up.
Following my recent post on matches, which was inspired by the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport, I was interested to note that the first lawnmower was actually invented by Edward Budding in Stroud in 1830, just after the perfection of a reproducible striking match in 1825/6. What an inventive time were those days of Great Britain’s industrial revolution.
The Southport museum contains an example of Budding’s invention, and a fine piece of engineering it was, operated by two people, one pushing and one pulling. But extremely heavy because of its cast iron manufacture.
It was interesting to discover from Brian Radam, who established the museum, that this is a true lawnmower. Later modern rotary ‘mowers’ are in fact ‘grass cutters’ that work by shearing and tearing, rather than by cutting.
Altogether, a visit to the lawnmower museum proves rather more interesting than you might think, with a number of rooms full of old machines and stories that Brian, a great enthusiast, will regale you with. And you get to see an old machine once owned by Nicholas Parsons of ‘Just a Minute’ fame!
Brian Radam at the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport was demonstrating to a 16-year-old work-experience volunteer how to light an old gas stove.
“How did I do what?” countered Brian.
“Make that flame when you ran that little stick across that box.”
That 16-year-old had never seen or experienced a match. My flabber has never been so truly gasted!
Makes you realise that things that one generation takes for granted as commonplace are not necessarily carried forward to succeeding generations.
It seems that a replicable and usable friction match was invented in 1826, and a safety match in 1855. They were so common during my childhood in 1950s Lincoln that the roadside gutters usually contained numerous matchsticks; I was even led to try making matchstick models, but soon gave up as it was all too messy and tedious – all that sticky glue!
After nearly 200 years, matches appear to be in the ‘long tail’ of their lifecycle. It seem unlikely that they’ll ever disappear altogether, but you never know…