Friday, 29 April 2011


In the 1950's it was the steam train that took my mother and I to Morecambe, on the Lancashire coast. The memory of the smell of steam and coal, the slam of carriage doors and the blast of the whistle. Then the departure in a whirl of steam. That's how I remember my trips to Morecambe.

Morecambe is a seaside town which has seen better days,yet somehow it has managed to hang on to a fan base who, despite everything, still hold on it in affection.  Alan Bennett said, had Morecambe been in the south of France it would have been a playground for millionaires.  The location, if not the weather, IS spectacular. On a clear day the mountains of the Lake District frame the bay making it remarkable.

Bennett wrote a TV play about an elderly, rather proper couple, who retire to Morecambe (Sunset across the Bay). But that was in the 1970's. Now it would be a very determined couple who choose it as a retirement home. These days, Morecambe, called by some Bradford-on-Sea, seems to be dominated by the unemployed, and the addicted. The unloved ones who's presence in Morecambe depends on DHSS benefits. The state, after selling off of so much public owned housing in the Thatcher era, must now rent from the private sector and it rents the one time holiday accomodation of Morecambe.

In its heyday, (1900-1950) Yorkshire workers took the long train journey across Lancashire to come to Morecambe. Perhaps they preferred the more temperate west coast, and it was more easily accessible by train from Bradford and Leeds than the east coast resorts. And, in the 1930s, Morecambe might actually have aspired to be a playground for millionaires, for it was then that the Midland Hotel was built.

The Midland  was intended to appeal to the bright young things of the day. It was designed to the height of what was then the very latest styling fashion, Streamline. This was a sub-genre of Art Deco which took inspiration from the new metal, streamlined,  aircraft that were then coming into use.

This Eric Gill mural, which shows Morecambe and the less lovely Blackpool, with its tower, decorates the interior.

But it was not to last. The 1960s brought, among other things, advances in airtravel and soon holidays abroad were in easy reach of almost everyone. Then, changes to the railways deprived Morecambe of its branch line. The thinking of the day was that branch lines were redundant, it was said that passengers would drive their cars to mainline stations. Instead they drove their cars to airports and jetted off abroad. So ended the heyday of Morecambe and numerous other British seaside resorts.   

The Midland, the property of the nationalised railway company fell into disrepair. It must have come close to being pulled down, as Morecambe's piers and funfairs were. Somehow it survived and now it has been restored. And a pretty good job has been made of it, although I have to say that the mosaic floor looks as though it's already missing a few pieces, or perhaps the money ran out before they could finish the job. A pity, but the main structure of the building is intact and the hotel is open once more for guests. The main stairway is magnificent and it looks as though Bertie Wooster, and Jeeves could stroll down it at any moment.  If you get anywhere near Morecambe, take a look. Morecambe could use your support. And it's worth the trip.

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