Did you know there was once an underground boat store at Little Bispham, originally built as a subterranean car park? It’s now filled in, underneath the new promenade at Princes Way. (Photos in this article are all copyright to Visit Fylde Coast)
Where was the Underground Boat Store at Little Bispham?
Do you remember a pair of curved walls which ran alongside the curve of the highway just after the tramway at Princes Prom?
You’d have seen the walls between the tram stop where the public toilets are, to the right of the lookout spot (just seen at the left of the above photo). It seems to have been fenced off forever, as the access point for beachworks connected to the Anchorsholme sea defences and United Utilities works at Anchorsholme Park.
Between the walls was a single lane road, leading to a pair of solid doors. Without a key you could get no further…
With a key – beyond those doors was a vast, cavernous space. Or there was before it was filled in to stabilise the sea wall as part of the sea defence works.
History of the Underground Car Park at Little Bispham
The underground car park was originally built in 1935, with space for 90 cars.
However, it became clear soon after it was built that it wasn’t very practical, as it was prone to flooding!
It quickly fell into disuse and was abandoned by Blackpool Town Council. It flooded easily at high tide, causing damage to vehicles which were parked there.
Dave Hutchinson shared this photo (below) looking south along the promenade. You can see the two curved walls against the road leading to the entrance to the car park.
David Wall added: “There was certainly no shortage of parking in the 1930’s as very few people owned cars. It was built at the same time as Princes Way was constructed, following the coast to Cleveleys.
“My theory is there may have been plans to develop an upmarket alternative to Central Blackpool at that end of town. At the time there were two large Hydros at North Blackpool/Cleveleys, each with their own golf course and tennis courts. The underground car park and new coastal road made a statement. However along came WW2 and that’s as far as it got.
“After the war, the concentration was on residential housing. The golf courses were sold to be used for building land, and that was it.
After the War Ended
“The underground car park was used for a few years after the war. However flooding was a real issue and it closed.”
Dave Hutchinson posted this newspaper snippet (below) from May 1948, talking about an expected ‘invasion’ of motorists when petrol was once again available. It includes a little known fact, that it was used during the war as a secret storage place by aircraft manufacturer Vickers Armstrong.
Thank you to both Dave’s for their information – can you add anything else?
The car park could originally be accessed from either end. Along with the entrance that we’re familiar with was a second entrance against the seafront.
Not obvious unless you knew where to look, but before the promenade was rebuilt, you could still see the remains of the second entrance. See the traces of it in the next photo, near to the old concrete bench before it was all rebuilt.
A gap in the kerbstones once revealed the curve of the former second access road, which was filled in four decades ago.
At one time there were also glass skylights in the floor of the promenade which let light into the car park. We don’t have a photo in our archive, but we’re told you could see the marks of the skylights in the old prom. Doesn’t it all look very old now compared to the new sea wall!
With two entrances and glass in the roof, there’s no wonder that it was prone to flooding!
The Flood of 1977
At the time of the infamous storms of 1977, the boat store flooded with all the boats inside. The flood water lifted them up and crushed them against the roof of the space. People were breaking the skylights to try and get the boats out.
After this flood, the second driveway was filled in. Inside the store, the bricked-up entrance to the second driveway could still be seen.
Underground Boat & Tractor Store
The Fylde Boat Angling Club formed in 1971 and started using the derelict car park soon afterwards as an underground boat store. Around 60 boats are registered with the Club which has upwards of 200 members.
This is what the entrance to their underground boat store looked like, back in 2014 before the promenade was rebuilt.
Inside was a dank, dark space. It was quite huge, with bays on either side with some of the club fishing boats stored by their owners. Laterly it made a good storage space for the tractors which take the boats to water.
Look Around the Underground Boat Store at Little Bispham
There’s a lot of interest in the local history around us. Live Blackpool suggested that the Fylde Coast Angling Club might like to hold an open day so that people who are curious could have one last look before it was filled in.
Visit Fylde Coast promoted the event on 1 November 2014 and popped along at 10.45am to discover that our efforts were a big success. Lots of people attended and a good amount of money was raised for the Club’s funds.
Have a look around. Start with this video, taken during the Open Day, and lots of photos –
586 visitors signed in during the course of the day, raising over £250 for the Club funds. The money went to upkeep and maintenance of the nearby Clubhouse, which needs constant attention.
Tiny toddlers were enjoying making noises that echoed, and lots of adults were enjoying being able to see something which they normally couldn’t see – before it was lost forever.
Filling in the Underground Boat Store
This underground world was heading for 90 years old. Getting to the end of its life, the elderly concrete wasn’t capable of supporting the huge weight of the new sea wall to be built above it.
And so, in 2015 the boat store was filled in as part of the sea defence works at Anchorsholme. That way there’s no chance of the sea wall failing following the £22m project to build a new one.
The Promenade at Little Bispham Promenade Now
There’s a new tractor store nearby, adjacent to the Fylde Boat Angling clubhouse.
There’s history all around us if you just look for it.
Have you got anything to add to the story of this local landmark?
While you’re here…
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