There are new sea defenses on the Promenade in Little Bispham, but not so long ago, there was an underground boat store, which was previously used as a car park. The space was filled in preparation for the work on the sea defenses, but The BPL Bible went down to the open day to see the place for ourselves. We recently found the photos that we took from that open day so we thought we’d share them with you guys along with some history about the boat store.
The Boat Store
Near to the tramway at Prince’s Promenade in Bispham, there was a curved pathway with parallel walls, descending underground. It was located somewhere between the tram stop and the Little Bispham toilets and the sea wall. If you had walked down the path, you’d probably have found yourself at locked doors and wondered what was there.
If you had found the doors unlocked, you’d have walked into an underground space that you’d never have imagined was there. It was a wide expanse of space, clearly designed to act as some kind of storage or holding facility. It was in fact in recent years, used as a boat store where tractors and boats were kept.
Previous Life As A Car Park
The boat store was built in 1935 and it’s initial purpose was to be an underground car park. There was space for 90 cars and although it may have been useful, here was a slight problem. The space regularly became flooded and this caused parked vehicles to become damaged, especially at high tide. As a result, not long after it was built, Blackpool Council abandoned the space and it quickly fell into a state of disrepair.
There was no shortage of parking back in the 1930s as there weren’t so many cars. Blackpool didn’t have the parking issues that it has these days or the need for so many car parks, so it’s not entirely clear why the underground car park was built at Bispham. One theory is that with the golf course and tennis courts close by, it may have been part of a plan to create a more upmarket place to visit away from the centre of Blackpool. Of course, not long after that, WWII came along and then even if the car park hadn’t flooded, improvements to the Bispham area would have taken a back seat. Following the war, it was necessary to build more houses in the town and so the land that the golf course occupied was sold off to make way for these new builds.
The underground car park was used for a short amount of time after the war but due to the flooding, this didn’t last for very long.
Underground Boat & Tractor Store
In 1971, the Fylde’s Boat Angling Club was set up and it began using the disused car park as a boat and tractor store. With around 60 boats between 200 members, this was a worthwhile use of the space.
The tractors were important to the boat store as they are essential for getting the boats out to the water.
Our Open Day Visit to the Boat Store
The Boat Store Open Day was on Saturday 1 November 2014 and visitors were asked to sign in on entry. Even though we weren’t particularly late in getting there, we noticed that there had been a great number of visitors already.
When we went to the boat store, we were welcomed by some very knowledgeable members of the Fylde’ Boat Angling Club who gave us some interesting pieces of information and answered all our questions.
The inside of the store was dark and uninviting. It clearly served a purpose and that wasn’t to entertain guests. There were bays on each side of the store, where once boats had been stored but by then they had all been moved out by their owners.
Towards the end of the Boat Store’s life, it was used to store mainly tractors as you can see in some of these pictures. They were essential for transporting the boats across the sand so they could be launched.
There was originally 2 entrances to the store, one at each end. Whilst the second entrance was still visible when we visited the boat store, it had already been filled in as it caused too many problems with flooding.
Whilst the space was pretty dark when we went, lit only by some low power lights, there were once skylights at the promenade level to let some light in. These glass skylights became broken in 1977. There were a number of infamous storms in that year and this caused the boat store to become extremely flooded with the boats stuck inside. As the water rose, the boats were pushed up to the roof of the boat store, causing them to become damaged and the skylights were broken in an attempt to rescue the boats. After this flooding incident, one of the accesses was filled in to try to limit any future damage.
The Boat Store Open Day was a great success for the Club and raised over £250 with 586 visitors. The money that was raised was put into the maintenance of the Club House.
It was a great opportunity for locals to see this unusual structure and to learn more about it before it was filled in and disappeared forever. Now it is part of the foundations for the new sea defenses at Bispham. Whilst the new sea defenses were a necessity, the loss of the boat store does mean that a little bit of Blackpool’s history has now been buried forever.
Make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to see some of the local area’s most intriguing establishments by checking out our articles about Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde’s Heritage Open Days coming up in September!