Memories of Sunny Southport

Having found these two videos – see links below – on You Tube about Southport, it’s history and how it was promoted in the 1970’s (both uploaded by Michael Dawson) I had to share them:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgLAZ90BXNQ

www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6MyE-ptbK8

And how the seaside resort is presently promoted in Covid 19 times:-

www.visitsouthport.com/

What’s interesting is that clearly in the days of the former Southport Borough Council and indeed into the early days of Sefton Borough Council there was significant promotion of the famous seaside resort by or at least organised by the council. That this lead in the promotion of Southport has been all but lost via the changing priorities of the present Council and indeed austerity measures must surely have had a detrimental effect on the local economy.

I recall that during my time on Sefton Council (1999 – 2015) with 7 years of that period being as Council Leader one of my long-term concerns was that the Council was always under pressure to reduce spending on the promotion of Southport. So yes the issue well pre-dates modern-day austerity. And the reason for this pressure? The need to spend an ever greater proportion of the budget on adult social care and children in care. Now you can see why politicians of all parties had to put the elderly and children first but never the less the effect was an ever dwindling amount of money to promote our local seaside resort.

Now probably more than ever Southport needs to be promoted so this proud and historic seaside resort can return to prosperity returns after the pandemic.

Southport – More of Anthony Graham’s railway photos & 10 years of volunteering for the Friends of Meols Cop Station

Here’s another posting based on the old railway photos of Anthony Graham, who has generously agreed to my using them. This time we are in Southport and in particular looking at the former railway infrastructure in the Hawkshead Street/Meols Cop area of the Town. Having looked at the history this posting moves on to cover the first 10 years of the volunteer group Friends of Meols Cop Station.

Hawkshead Street Junction & Meols Cop Triangle 25th November 1925

Hawkshead Street Junction signal box opened in 1900, replacing the previous 1887 box. It was a Lancashire & Yorkshire box with a 20 lever L&Y lever frame that was enlarged to 32 levers in 1912 for the new layout at Meols Cop Repair Shops. The junction towards Preston was disconnected on 28th September 1964, the two main lines towards Roe Lane Junction subsequently being converted to two additional EMU storage sidings. Shunts between sidings at the Hawkshead Street Junction end of Meols Cop Works had to be done via the main line, the shunting neck being too short to fit a three car EMU. When the box closed on 11th October 1965 it had to be quickly demolished so as to enable the short neck to be extended through the site of the signal box and across the site of the former Preston lines, just short of the junction, to allow EMU shunting to be done within the works sidings.

Hawkshead Street Junction Site after junction removal March 1967

Left to right, withdrawn Lancaster-Morecambe EMU, Class 502 EMU, withdrawn ex Tyneside baggage car M68000M and another class 502 EMU. The two sidings on the extreme left were the former down and up main lines to and from Preston. The recently extended (October 1965) siding in the centre was to permit shunting operations between sidings on Meols Cop Works, previously these were done via the main line until Hawkshead Street Junction signal box closed on 11th October 1965. The box was immediately demolished on closure and the siding was extended through the former site of the box and across the former Preston Lines, just short of the junction.

Meols Cop Junction Signal Box March 1967

Clearly much has changed particularly with the loss of the line to Preston – Oh how useful that line would be today!

The good news is that Meols Cop Station is now looked after by a dedicated band of volunteers who have recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. Their story is in the latest edition of the Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Assn (OPSTA) magazine:-

Friends of Meols Cop Station- Ten Years of progress

The Friends of Meols Cop Station adoption group was formally constituted in 2009 following its launch at a meeting held on the station platform in July of that year, with its Constitution being formally agreed in October 2009.

However, prior to this founder members of the group, namely David & Pat Sumner and Dr. Jim Ford, had been at work from 2008 to begin the process of tidying up the overgrown grassed area which had been left following the demolition of the station buildings in 2000, and its reduction in status to an unstaffed halt, with only a minimal shelter for its passengers. This made it a somewhat forbidding place to wait for a train, especially on a winter night, for the basic train service which was then available.

History – Up to 1964 the station had been a hive of activity as it was also served by the local electric train service to Crossens which had reached Meols Cop in 1910 along with the railway workshops built by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway to maintain the then new electric trains.

After this service was withdrawn in September 1964 along with the services to Preston from Southport, the station continued to be served by a limited service to Wigan and Manchester and eventually lost its timber extension to its island platform as train lengths were progressively reduced when traffic declined in the later BR years.

The station had once been a call on the local “Altcar Bob” steam railmotor service to Altcar, which was later cut back to Barton, being closed in 1938 by the LMS railway although the route remained intact to its junction with the Cheshire Lines Railway at Hillhouse Junction, Altcar until 1957. It is therefore a unique operating survivor from that route.

By 2010 the station’s appearance had been greatly improved by the efforts of the Friends Group, the grassed area had been tamed, and tidied up, surviving lupin plants, (a remnant of the original flower beds on the station) had been trimmed and in some cases relocated, and the construction of new flower beds, aided by a donation of redundant sleepers from Network Rail had begun, ready to accept plants and shrubs provided by Sefton MBC for the following season. Then came three large planters donated by Bellway Homes and sited on the main platform area.

Through the efforts of Councillor David Sumner, a spare bus-type shelter was provided by Merseytravel to provide extra cover for the growing number of users of the station, and a cycle shelter was also installed which was funded by Sefton MBC.

Later Norwood Ward Councillors provided funding for a sturdier lawn mower and strimmer which has made these jobs much easier to do.

The Friends of Meols Cop are active in many ways, helping to promote the station, and one of its early successes was the June 2012 “Muffin Monday” when Coffee and Muffins were offered to early morning commuters, some 70 in all, according to the records of the time. This event gained valuable local press publicity, helping to further promote the station’s facilities, by then enhanced by a restored Sunday train service. We have also had help from several local businesses for our events and running repairs from Latham’s, Porters and Jewsons.

In later years the station fared well in the North West “Britain in Bloom” competition, gaining several outstanding awards. Children from Norwood Primary School also helped to tend the flower beds as part of a school project, and the local Guides (now disbanded) also helped, both Groups enjoying a trip along to Hindley Station with tickets to ride from Northern.

After a couple of successive years of vandalism not only at the Station but along the line, with pressure from the Friends, British Transport Police and Norwood Ward Councillors, CCTV was finally installed funded by MerseyTravel, Northern and Network Rail, this has made the Station a very much safer place to wait for a train.

In 2016 the Northern franchise moved to a new operator, Arriva Rail North, and the station now benefits from a real-time train indicator, public address, and latterly a ticket vending machine and new, larger recycled plastic planters with money made available from ACORP, replacing the originals of 2010 which had given years of sterling service.

We have helped with the campaign to save the Southport to Manchester Piccadilly service, in July 2016 we held Juicy Tuesday when rail users were given a drink and a book to read on their journey provided by the High Park Project from Southport Community Centre and North Meols Library Association, whilst they took part in a rail survey.

What of the future? Having gained a two trains an hour weekday daytime service in 2018 the use of the station continues to grow, and from surveys conducted from time to time, it is clear that passengers have come to like its new lease of life, and there has been comment that it was a pleasure to wait for a train, even to the point of arriving early just to look at its flowers on a summer’s day.

Meols Cop station can justify its rejuvenated life as part of the West Lancashire Line, as its large white on red sign proudly announces.

The Friends of Meols Cop meet on the second Sunday of each month at 10.30 am. There is no membership fee; just remember to bring your gardening tools to qualify, and enjoy the company of a friendly group.

*****

My thanks to Anthony Graham for the use of his photos and congratulations to the Friends of Meols Cop Station.

Please click on the photos to enlarge them for viewing.

Southport – When Patrick the fastest bowler in the world bounced into town

Sunny Southport’s Cricket Ground

My love of cricket will be known to people who drop into the blog-site and that one of my Nottinghamshire cricketing heroes is the legendary fast bowler Harold Larwood – we both originate from the same district of Notts, Kirkby-In-Ashfield. But being a Notts lad exiled on Merseyside my cricket watching has been Lancashire based via catching County Championship matches at Aigburth (Liverpool) and Birkdale (Southport) for many a year.

The other day, You Tube, suggested a video to me about Patrick Patterson, probably the fastest bowler of modern day cricket. I watched said video (linked below) which has more than a tinge of sadness about it as seemingly Patrick can’t really remember much about his playing days.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpT5TPUmeCQ&t=220s

And what’s all this got to do with Southport? Well Patrick played for Lancashire from 1984 to 1990 and from checking the LCCC website archives I identified that he played at Southport’s Trafalgar Road ground in August 1984 against Northants and in July 1987 against Warwickshire. I was at one of those matches, I may have been at both, but my memory is hazy as to whether I was there in 1984 & 1987. Chances are that I was there with my old chum Chris Reilly and probably other Bootle Inland Revenue colleagues as many of the male members of staff would often take a day off to watch the cricket when Lancs were playing locally.

But what my memory is very clear about is the bowling of Patrick at the ground on the occasion I saw him. I recall that he started his run-up outside the playing area i.e. beyond the boundary rope within the crowd. He bowled incredibly fast and with Trafalgar Road being a smallish ground when he bowled a bouncer which evaded batsman and keeper it could and easily did make the boundary for 4 byes/wides!

On a sunny day there’s nothing quite like watching County Championship Cricket at Trafalgar Road and it is a matter of some sadness and frustration that Lancashire seem reluctant to make it an annual fixture of recent seasons. Here’s a link to the matches that have been played at the ground, the last one being 2018:-

cricketarchive.com/Lancashire/Grounds/751_f.html

Note:- Click on the photos to enlarge them. Neither were taken when Patrick Paterson was playing I might add.

Southport & its Vulcan Vehicles – Liverpool on Wheels Exhibition

My 2nd posting about the excellent Liverpool on Wheels exhibition, curated by Sharon Brown, at the Museum of Liverpool concerns Vulcan vehicles. Here are the photo’s I took at the exhibition relevant to the company:-

Below there’s a link to a Wikipedia page giving more information about Vulcan vehicles:-

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulcan_(motor_vehicles)

As an aside I’ve always felt that the car should actually be permanently on display in its home town of Southport.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Southport – In the era of the trams

I picked up this postcard at Wirral Transport Museum recently and having tracked the same photo down in the book ‘Southport in the age of the tram’ by James Dean & Cedric Greenwood I can say that the authors say this of it:-

Company cars 16 and 11 pass on Lord Street at the junction with Eastbank Street Square about 1907-08. The book credits the photo to the Geoff Price Collection. They go on to say that the neo-Elizabethan timbered building on the right is Lomas’s (later Cannell’s) a high-class fashion store which opened in 1905

Click on the photo/postcard to enlarge it.

Southport – Labour throw in the General Election towel

The Sunday Times has the story – see extract below:-

So much for Labour’s ‘surge’ in Southport. Apparently, according to the Sunday Times, it’s going so badly for Labour in Southport that they’re pulling the plug. No longer one of Labour’s NW target seats.

Please click on the newspaper extract to enlarge it for reading.