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Southport
Town
Lord Street, Southport.JPG
Lord Street, Southport
Southport shown within Merseyside
Population 90,381 (2011 Census)
Demonym Sandgrounder
OS grid reference SD333170
• London 191 mi (307 km) SE
Metropolitan borough
  • Sefton
Metropolitan county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town SOUTHPORT
Postcode district PR8, PR9
Dialling code 01704
Police Merseyside
Fire Merseyside
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK Parliament
  • Southport
List of places
UK
England
MerseysideCoordinates: 53°38′43″N 3°00′30″W / 53.6454°N 3.0083°W / 53.6454; -3.0083

Southport (/ˈsθpɔːrt/) is a large town in Merseyside, England. At the 2001 census, it had a population of 90,336, making it the eleventh most populous settlement in North West England.

Southport lies on the Irish Sea coast and is fringed to the north by the Ribble estuary. The town is 16.7 miles (26.9 km) north of Liverpool and 14.8 miles (23.8 km) southwest of Preston.

Historically part of Lancashire, the town was founded in 1792 when William Sutton, an innkeeper from Churchtown, built a bathing house at what now is the south end of Lord Street. At that time, the area, known as South Hawes, was sparsely populated and dominated by sand dunes. At the turn of the 19th century, the area became popular with tourists due to the easy access from the nearby Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The rapid growth of Southport largely coincided with the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era. Town attractions include Southport Pier with its Southport Pier Tramway, the second longest seaside pleasure pier in the British Isles and Lord Street, an elegant tree-lined shopping street, once home of Napoleon III of France.

Extensive sand dunes stretch for several miles between Birkdale and Woodvale to the south of the town. The Ainsdale sand dunes have been designated as a national nature reserve and a Ramsar site. Local fauna include the Natterjack toad and the Sand lizard. The town contains examples of Victorian architecture and town planning, on Lord Street and elsewhere. A particular feature of the town is the extensive tree planting. This was one of the conditions required by the Hesketh family when they made land available for development in the 19th century. Hesketh Park at the northern end of the town is named after them, having been built on land donated by Rev. Charles Hesketh.

Southport today is still one of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK. It hosts various events, including an annual air show on and over the beach, and the largest independent flower show in the UK, in Victoria Park. The town is at the centre of England's Golf Coast and has hosted the Open Championship at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club.

History

Earliest settlements

There have been settlements in the area now comprising Southport since the Domesday Book, and some parts of the town have names of Viking origin. The earliest recorded human activity in the region was during the Middle Stone Age, when mesolithic hunter gatherers were attracted by the abundant red deer and elk population, as well as the availability of fish, shellfish and woodland.

Roman coins have been found at Halsall Moss and Crossens, although the Romans never settled southwest Lancashire.

The first real evidence of an early settlement here is in the Domesday Book, in which the area is called Otergimele. The name is derived from Oddrgrimir meaning the son of Grimm and is linked to the Old Norse word melr meaning sandbank. The Domesday Book states that there were 50 huts in Otergimele, housing a population of 200. The population was scattered thinly across the region and it was at the northeast end of Otergimele (present day Crossens), where blown sand gave way to alluvial deposits from the River Ribble estuary, that a small concentration of people occurred. The alluvium provided fertile agricultural land and the river itself stocks of fish.

It was here, it seems, that a primitive church was built, which gave the emerging village its name of Churchtown, the parish being North Meols (pronounced "meals", not "mells"). A church called St Cuthbert's is still at the centre of Churchtown.

With a booming fishing industry, the area grew slowly and hamlets became part of the parish of North Meols. From south to north, these villages were South Hawes, Haweside, Little London, Higher Blowick, Lower Blowick, Rowe-Lane, Churchtown, Marshside, Crossens, and Banks. As well as Churchtown, there were vicarages in Crossens and Banks.

Parts of the parish were almost completely surrounded by water until 1692 when Thomas Fleetwood of Bank Hall cut a channel to drain Martin Mere to the sea. From this point on, attempts at large-scale drainage of Martin Mere and other marshland continued until the 19th century, since when the water has been pumped away. This left behind a legacy of fine agricultural soil and created a booming farming industry.

Early history

William Sutton plaque
Plaque dedicated to William Sutton, on the corner of Duke Street

In the late 18th century, it was becoming fashionable for the well-to-do to relinquish inland spa towns and visit the seaside to bathe in the salt sea waters. At that time, doctors recommended bathing in the sea to help cure aches and pains. In 1792, William Sutton, the landlord of the Black Bull Inn in Churchtown (now the Hesketh Arms) and known to locals as "The Old Duke", realised the importance of the newly created canal systems across the UK and set up a bathing house in the virtually uninhabited dunes at South Hawes by the seaside just four miles (6 km) away from the newly constructed Leeds and Liverpool Canal and two miles south-west of Churchtown. When a widow from Wigan built a cottage nearby in 1797 for seasonal lodgers, Sutton quickly built a new inn on the site of the bathing house which he called the South Port Hotel, moving to live there the following season. The locals thought him mad and referred to the building as the Duke's Folly, but Sutton arranged transport links from the canal that ran through Scarisbrick, four miles from the hotel, and trade was remarkably good. The hotel survived until 1854, when it was demolished to make way for traffic at the end of Lord Street, but its presence and the impact of its founder are marked by a plaque in the vicinity, by the name of one street at the intersection, namely Duke Street, and by a hotel on Duke Street which bears the legacy name of Dukes Folly Hotel.

19th century

Southport grew quickly in the 19th century as it gained a reputation for being a more refined seaside resort than its neighbour-up-the-coast Blackpool. In fact Southport had a head start compared to all the other places on the Lancashire coast because it had easy access to the canal system. Other seaside bathing areas couldn't really get going until the railways were built some years later. The Leeds and Liverpool canal brought people from Liverpool, Manchester, Bolton and Wigan amongst others. By 1820 Southport had over 20,000 visitors per year.

Southport Pier 1
Southport Pier is a Grade II listed structure. At 3,650 feet (1,110 m), it is the second longest in Great Britain.

Southport Pier is referred to as the first true "pleasure pier", being one of the earliest pier structures to be erected using iron. A design from James Brunlees was approved at a cost of £8,700 and on 4 August 1859 a large crowd witnessed the driving home of the first support pile. The opening of the pier was celebrated on 2 August 1860.

Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte lived in exile on Lord Street, the main thoroughfare of Southport, between 1846 and 1848, before returning to France to become President and subsequently Emperor of the French. During his reign, he caused much of the medieval centre of Paris to be replaced with broad tree-lined boulevards, covered walkways and arcades, just like Lord Street. On the strength of this coincidence, it has been suggested that the redevelopment may have been inspired by memories of Southport's town centre.

Southport lifeboat disaster memorial 1
Memorial to the crew of the Eliza Fernley lifeboat, in Duke Street Cemetery

On the night of 9 December 1886, the worst lifeboat disaster in the history of the UK occurred off the shores of Southport. A cargo ship called the Mexico was on its way to South America when it found itself in difficulty. Lifeboats from Lytham, St. Annes and Southport set off to try to rescue those aboard the vessel. The crews battled against storm-force winds as they rowed towards the casualty. The entire crew from the St. Anne's boat was lost and all but two of the Southport crew were too. In all, 28 lifeboatmen lost their lives on that night, leaving many widows and fatherless children. A memorial was erected in Duke Street Cemetery and a permanent exhibition used to be on display in the Museum of the Botanic Gardens (now closed) in Churchtown. There is also a memorial inside the Lifeboat house, now operated by the Southport Offshore Rescue Trust. Mexico was just one of many shipwrecks in the Southport area.

20th century

From 1894 to 1912 Birkdale and the adjoining village of Ainsdale were separate from Southport and administered by Birkdale Urban District Council before becoming part of the county borough of Southport in 1912. This was a huge expansion of the town.

In 1925, the RNLI abandoned the station at Southport and left the town with no lifeboat. In the late 1980s, after a series of tragedies, local families from Southport started to raise funds and bought a new lifeboat for the town stationed at the old RNLI lifeboat house. The lifeboat, operated by the Southport Offshore Rescue Trust, is completely independent from the RNLI and receives no money from them. Instead it relies entirely on donations from the general public.

On 21 March 1926, Henry Seagrave set the land speed record in his 4-litre Sunbeam Tiger Ladybird on the sands at Southport at 152.33 mph (245.15 km/h). This record lasted for just over a month, until broken by J.G. Parry-Thomas.

Geography

At 53°38′43.44″N 3°0′29.88″W / 53.6454°N 3.0083°W / 53.6454; -3.0083 the town is situated in North West England. The closest cities are Preston approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) to the north east and Liverpool approximately 27 kilometres (17 mi) to the south.

Existing on the West Lancashire Coastal Plain, most of the town is only slightly above sea-level and thus parts of Southport used to be susceptible to flooding. This would be most frequently noticed on Southport's Marine Drive, which was regularly closed due to flooding from high tides. But in February 1997, new sea defences started being constructed and in 2002 the whole project was completed.

Southport has a maritime climate like most of the UK. Due to its position by the coast, Southport rarely sees substantial snowfall and temperatures rarely fall below −5 °C (23 °F) so it doesn't have frequent frosts. Southport generally has moderate precipitation, unlike the rest of western UK.

The coast-to-coast Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) stretches the breadth of northern England – 215 miles (345 km) from Southport in the west to Hornsea in the east. The TPT is an exciting route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders linking the North and Irish seas and passing through the Pennines. Its route takes you alongside rivers and canals and through some of the most historic towns and cities in the North of England. You can follow historic railways and canals and follow in the footsteps of packhorse traders on ancient salt routes.

Demography

The United Kingdom Census 2001 showed a total resident population for Southport of 90,336. Approximately 19,000 were aged 16 or under, 60,000 were aged 16–74, and 10,000 aged 75 and over. According to the 2001 census, 96% of Southport's population claim they have been born in the UK.

Historically the population of Southport began to rapidly increase during the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era. From then the population has been stable with minor decline in some areas of the town. Southport is quite affluent compared with other parts of the north west.

People from Southport are known as "Sandgrounders", although there is debate about what is sufficient to qualify for that name as the majority of the locals are today made up of liverpudlians who over the past 20 years have move out of the city and larger towns within Merseyside to settle in Southport which has not left many of the original Lancashire residents.

Population growth in Southport between 1901–2011
Year Population ±%
1901 48,083 —    
1911 51,643 +7.4%
1921 76,621 +48.4%
Year Population ±%
1931 78,925 +3.0%
1939 91,240 +15.6%
1951 84,039 −7.9%
Year Population ±%
1961 82,004 −2.4%
2001 91,400 +11.5%
2011 91,703 +0.3%
Source: Southport - A Vision of Britain, City Population - Southport &

Landmarks

See also Listed buildings in Southport
Pleasureland, Southport
Pleasureland in 2005.

One of Southport's main attractions for many years was Pleasureland, a fairground established in 1912. It was owned by the Thompson Family, and was closed in September 2006. A replacement fairground on the same site, provisionally named New Pleasureland, opened in July 2007. An earlier permanent funfair, Peter Pan's Playground, closed in the 1980s and is now the site of part of the Ocean Plaza shopping development. A former landmark of Pleasureland was the Looping Star roller coaster, which was on site from 1985 to 1987. It featured in the video for the pop single Wonderful Life, by Liverpool band Black, which was also shot at other parts of the Sefton and North West coastline. On 24 April 2009 a serious fire occurred at the oldest attraction within New Pleasureland. Called The River Caves, it was completely destroyed in this arson attack, and a 16-year-old boy was arrested in connection with the fire.

Southport Model Railway Village is situated in Kings Gardens opposite the Royal Clifton Hotel and near the Marine Lake Bridge. The Model Railway Village opened in May 1996 and was created by Ray and Jean Jones. The Jones family still run the attraction today. The Model Railway Village season extends from April to the end of October. The season has extended into weekend openings during November, February and March, weather permitting. An earlier model village, the Land of the Little People, was demolished in the late 1980s to make way for the aborted Winter Gardens/SIBEC shopping development. Its site is now occupied by a Morrison's supermarket.

Other major attractions in Southport include Splash World, an indoor water park situated on the back of the Dunes swimming pool which opened in June 2007.

Meols Hall, a manor house, home of the Hesketh family is open to the public for a limited period each year. Set in its own expansive grounds, it boasts a history back to the Domesday Book and is full of interesting pictures and furniture.

Southport also boasts one of the few lawnmower museums.

The Power Station, that was the base of the town's former radio station Dune FM, on the edge of Victoria Park, which itself is home to the Southport Flower Show.

Architecture

Southport has many unique buildings and features, many of which are privately owned Victorian villas and houses and the town centre shops are of architectural interest. The most notable buildings, gardens and places of architectural interest are:

Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport
Scarisbrick Hotel on Lord Street
RosefieldHall2007 southport
Rosefield Hall, one of Southport's Victorian mansions, while being restored in 2007.
  • Lakeside Miniature Railway
  • Southport Pier (formerly home of the Southport Pier Tramway)
  • Marine Way Bridge
  • Lord Street
  • Southport Model Railway Village
  • Southport Town Gardens
  • Kings Gardens
  • Wellington Terrace, Lord Street
  • Promenade Hospital (Renovated as luxury flats and renamed Marine Gate Mansions)
  • Ribble Building, built as a railway station then adapted for use as a bus station, part of the site was redeveloped as a supermarket and the remainder converted to a hotel and restaurant)
  • Scarisbrick Hotel
  • Smedley Hydro (A former Victorian Hydropathic Health Spa, now under ownership of the Home Office for the UK's Birth, Deaths and Marriages)
  • Botanic Gardens (was home of only local history museum in Southport – that was closed by Sefton Council in 2011)
  • Hesketh Park
  • Park Crescent, Hesketh Park No.29 has one of the oldest existing residential garages in the UK dating from about 1899, although both house and garage have been converted to flats.
  • Kew Gardens (Southport District General Hospital now occupies most of the site)
  • Meols Hall
  • Round House
  • Wayfarers Arcade
  • Atkinson Art Gallery & Library
  • Arts Centre & Town Hall
  • St Cuthbert's Church
  • St George's United Reformed Church, Lord Street
St George's United Reform Church, Southport
St George's United Reformed Church, Lord St
  • Emmanuel Parish Church, Cambridge Road, which has an organ, installed in 1914, built by Harrisons of Durham
  • Holy Trinity Church. The church was founded before 1898.
  • Queen Victoria Statue – originally moved from the Town Hall Gardens to Neville Street junction to the Promenade and again to the pedestrianised side of Neville Street.
    Queen Victoria statue, Southport
    Statue of Queen Victoria on Neville Street

Also of architectural interest, but not extant, are:

  • Cannon Cinema (Lord Street)-(demolished and replaced with the Vincent Hotel that opened in 2008)
  • Kingsway Night Club (demolished in 2010 following an arson attack)
  • Open Air Baths (demolished 1990s, South Ocean Plaza complex now occupies the site)
  • Steamport Museum (housed inside the former 27C locomotive shed, demolished in late 2000) site now occupied by Central 12 shopping complex.
  • Palace Hotel, Birkdale (a large Victorian hotel, demolished in 1969)
  • Southport General Infirmary (demolished in 2008–09 with only a wing of the infirmary remaining as it is being used for mental health services)

Transport

Road

Due to its position by the coast, Southport is a linear settlement and as such can only be approached in a limited number of directions by road.

The main roads entering Southport are:-

  • A565 (from Preston to the north east, from the A59 Liverpool – Preston – York),
  • A570 (from Ormskirk and St Helens to the south east),
  • A565 (from Liverpool and Formby to the south).

There is no direct connection to the motorway from Southport; the nearest connections are:

  • from the east – junction 3 of the M58 (on the A570, twelve miles)
  • from the south – junction 7 of the M57 (on the A565, fourteen miles)
  • from the north – junction 1 of the M65 / junction 29 of the M6 (on the A582/A59, nineteen miles)
Marine Way Bridge
Marine Way Bridge

An east-west bypass for the A570 at Ormskirk is planned to relieve congestion on Southport's main access route to the motorway network, although the effectiveness of the proposals are still under debate.

Several areas within Southport town centre have recently undergone major road redevelopment; the largest scheme was the construction of the Marine Way Bridge (opened May 2004), which connects the Lord Street shopping district with the new seafront developments. The 150-foot (46 m) high structure is thought to have cost in the region of £5 million.

Also one of the main shopping areas in the town, Chapel Street, has undergone a pedestrianisation scheme to be similar to parts of Liverpool city centre.

Bus

Due to the limited number of directions by road, many of the services operated in Southport are from one place South to one place North or East of Southport.

The main operator is Arriva North West, that operates many services to Liverpool, Ormskirk and other places to and through Southport as well as some local services.

Stagecoach in Preston operates two services in Southport, the citi 2 (Preston – Southport) and the X2 (Preston – Liverpool)

Rail

Southport railway station
Southport railway station

Southport railway station has a frequent service of trains to Liverpool and a regular service to Wigan, Bolton, Manchester and Manchester Airport. In addition, there are stations at Birkdale, Hillside and Ainsdale on the Liverpool line, part of the Merseyrail network, and at Meols Cop on the Manchester line.

The Liverpool line was originally built by the Liverpool, Crosby and Southport Railway in 1848, to a terminus at Eastbank Street. It was followed on 9 April 1855 by the Manchester and Southport Railway with a line to Manchester via Wigan, with stations at St Luke's and Blowick.

Formerly, Southport was also served by three further railway lines:-

  • From 1882, the West Lancashire Railway operated from Southport Derby Road station (also known as Southport Central) to Preston Fishergate Hill. It had stations in Southport at Ash Street, St Luke's, Hesketh Park, Churchtown and Crossens. This line was shut in 1964, and nowadays, Southport and Preston are linked only by the (largely dual-carriageway) A565 and A59 roads.
  • In 1884, another line from Southport to Liverpool was opened:- the Cheshire Lines Committee's Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway extended the CLC's North Liverpool Extension Line from Liverpool Central to Southport Lord Street. It had stations in Southport at Birkdale Palace and Ainsdale Beach.
  • The West Lancashire Railway sponsored the Liverpool, Southport and Preston Junction Railway to provide a connection to the CLC line, joining it at Altcar and Hillhouse. It had stations in Southport at Butts Lane and Kew Gardens. These lines ultimately proved uncompetitive, and the Southport services were withdrawn in 1952.

In July 1897, both the West Lancashire and the Liverpool, Southport and Preston Junction Railways were absorbed into the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&Y). The L&Y had a large terminus at Southport Chapel Street and could see no sense in operating two termini at very close proximity. In 1901, the L&Y completed a remodelling of the approach lines to Central to allow trains to divert onto the Manchester to Southport line and into Southport Chapel Street Station. Southport Central was closed to passengers and it became a goods depot eventually amalgamating with Chapel Street depot. It survived intact well into the 1970s.

On Southport Pier can be found the Southport Pier Tramway which transports passengers from the Promenade to the pier head over 3,600 feet (1,100 m) on a 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge. This closed in 2016 because of the effect on the pier of the weight of the trams.

Walking and cycling

Famous animals and entities

  • Red Rum, record-breaking racehorse and 3-time winner of the Aintree Grand National.
  • Eagle, a comic for boys, was started in Southport.

Images for kids


Southport Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.