Saturday, April 30, 2011

Birkdale Palace

I spent the first 10 years of my life in Birkdale on the Lancashire coast and on the way between our house and the sea was the Palace Hotel - pictured above. This postcard is undated but it looks pretty similar to the one in my memory - if you go to the wikipedia link above you'll see that it was originally a 20 acre site which after the original owners got into financial difficulties (here's a link to the liquidation report of 1882) then reduced to 5 - and a railway station built alongside! As you can see from the photo it was a huge building probably a white elephant from its inception. It - the hotel - was eventually demolished in 1969 amidst stories of from the demolishers of mysterious rows, screams and clattering of stilettos across the marble foyer. The noises were explained away as the deserted hotel being a rendez-vous for local courting couples but the fin-de-siecle atmosphere lent credibility to the stories. At one stage it was used as a film set and actors such as Boris Karloff and Norman Wisdom stayed and filmed there (now there's a wonderful combination!). You'll see various other legends on the wikipedia page including that the hotel was built the wrong way around - the front should have faced the sea and the architect is supposed to have committed suicide by jumping from the hotel! Wikipedia suggests that the Fisherman's rest was created after the Palace was demolished - but I don't think that is true.
I have copies of a couple of articles by Peter Elsen which have formed part of the source for this from the Southport Visiter of 2004. The Visiter's webpages have a historical section but it is presently broken so I can't see if the original articles are on line... but here is a copy and paste of most of the articles - without the pictures which accompanied it.
The Fisherman's Rest a pub - is the only surviving fragment of the Palace Hotel no doubt inhabited by the less rich - and associated with the Mexico Disaster of 1886 in which the Southport lifeboat overturned and 14 of the crew died - as well as 13 deaths from the St Anne's lifeboat. The Fisherman's Rest was used as a temporary morgue for the bodies of the Southport men.
I remember both buildings well - mainly as a way point on the way to Birkdale sands as I don't think I ever went in either building. At least one of my relations was lost in the lifeboat disaster - I'm afraid I can't remember who as a lot of the names in the story are familiar!

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