Did you know there was once an underground boat store at Little Bispham, originally built as a subterranean car park? Now lost to history, filled in under the new promenade at Princes Way. Did you go to the open day on 1 November 2014? (Please note, all photos in this article are 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). This was also the beach access point for works on 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… But with a key – beyond those doors was once a vast, cavernous space.
History of the Underground Car Park at Little Bispham
Originally built in 1935, the underground car park once had space for 90 cars.
It hadn’t been open long before it became clear it wasn’t a very practical place to put a car park… It was prone to flooding at high tide! So it quickly fell into disuse, then abandoned by Blackpool Town Council.
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. This hidden-away space was built, following the coast to Cleveleys, at the same time as Princes Way.
“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. With the golf courses sold for building land, that was that.
After the War Ended
“For a few years after the war ended, the underground car park was still used. 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. Notice the little known fact, that aircraft manufacturer Vickers Armstrong used it during the war as a secret storage place.
Thank you to both Dave’s for their information – can you add anything else?
Originally, cars could drive into the car park from either end. Along with the entrance that we’re familiar with was a second entrance against the seafront.
It wasn’t that obvious unless you knew where to look. But before the promenade was rebuilt, you could 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 strange shaped gap in the kerbstones once revealed the curve of the former second access road, which had been filled in four decades previously.
At one time there were also glass skylights in the floor of the promenade which let light into the car park. There isn’t a photo in our archive to show you, but we’re told you could see the marks of the skylights in the old prom. With two entrances and glass in the roof, there’s no wonder that it was prone to flooding! Doesn’t it all look very old now compared to the new sea wall!
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. It was after this flood when 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.
Do you remember this entrance to their underground boat store? This photo is from 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. While working as information officer at the coast protection scheme, Live Blackpool suggested that the Fylde Coast Angling Club might hold an open day. That way, people who were curious (like us!) could have one last look before it was filled in.
Visit Fylde Coast promoted the event, held on 1 November 2014. We popped along at 10.45am to discover that our efforts were a big success. Lots of people attended, raising a good amount of money 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 enjoyed making ghostly noises that echoed. Lots of adults enjoyed being able to see something which they normally wouldn’t see – before it was lost forever.
Why was the Underground Boat Store filled in?
This underground world was heading for 90 years old. Getting to the end of its life, the elderly concrete wasn’t strong enough to support the huge weight of a new sea wall above it.
So in 2015 it 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?
Other Underground Worlds
You might remember various other subways and underground spaces in Blackpool. You might have heard the tales of interconnecting tunnels too, running from building to building.
While you’re here…
Go to the homepage of the Live Blackpool website for the latest updates.
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