St Annes has a lovely beach, a genteel town centre and a world class golf course
PUBLISHED: 17:16 08 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:11 26 February 2013
St Annes has a lovely beach, a genteel town centre and a world class golf course - everything but an apostrophe, writes Martin Pilkington. Photography: Kirsty Thompson
There can be few settlements founded from a desire to keep people out of the pub, but St Annes on the Fylde Coast can claim just that. From that unpromising starting point in the 1870s, it has developed one of the countys prettiest coastal towns.
Lady Eleanor Clifton was the lady of the manor here, explains parish priest, Father David Lyon. She expected her estate workers to go to church on Sundays but those at this end had three miles to walk to the church at Lytham, and their route was past a pub. She built a church here so they had no excuses.
She employed Lancaster architects Paley and Austin to build a church on land donated by her husband, and she laid the foundation stone in 1872. The completed building was dedicated to St Anne in memory of Lady Eleanors aunt, Anne Bentinck. The railway station was named St Annes on the Sea after the church and the town that grew as a resort and a residential centre took its name, continues Father David.
At that time there were only a few cottages in Heyhouses, adds local historian Arnold Sumner. They survived by fishing, cockling, shrimping, catching the odd bass and plaice, growing a few crops. Crofting describes it very well.
While neighbouring Blackpool developed for the masses, St Annes was for the better off, with Rossendale cotton magnate Elijah Hargreaves a major force in its expansion.
Originally, the people who formed St Annes were high society wealthy types. They came along and built a fabulous town with very posh houses on the promenade. They didnt want the tone lowered so they put the lifeboat station round the corner off the promenade which made it far more difficult to launch. It had to be dragged quite a distance before it could be put into the sea, says Arnold.
The sands and the sea fuelled the towns development, a marvellous pier where paddle steamers once moored was added in 1885. The following year the St Annes lifeboat Laura Janet capsized with the loss of all 13 crew while attempting to rescue the German barque Mexico. Another 14 on the Southport boat died with them.
Six of the crew were buried at the parish church where a red sandstone cross recalls their sacrifice, and on the promenade there is a fine sculpture dedicated to them. Sir Charles Macara, a businessman with a home here, arranged the first ever charity street collection in Manchester for their dependents, says Arnold.
The lifeboat is now housed next to the beach, a giant tractor drags it to the water. The tractor cost nearly as much as the boat and as it enters the sea the lifeboat engine is already started, explains Arnold. All rather different from the old system. When the maroon went up local people who had horses sent them to help pull the boat my grandfather had an ironmongers shop and hed rush down with his horse, and Whitesides Taxis, one of the oldest established taxi firms around, would come with theirs.
The town council and Civic Society have included a reference to the lifeboat tragedy in the new town flag. We commissioned a local vexillologist (someone who studies flags) to design it and get approval from the Flag Institute in London, says Councillor Vince Settle. Each flag has a symbol behind it associated with the town, so we have the golden sands and sea, and the upper part represents the Laura Janet lifeboat.
We return to the towns starting point, the parish church, for a beautiful summation of its many attractions and brief history, The St Annes Heritage Mural. This magnificent embroidery in seven panels took nearly seven years to complete, the last of the more than two million stitches.
The ancient farming community, shrimping, the pier, the coast noted for its fabulous sunsets, the church, Lady Eleanor, the aviator Alcock who was an alumnus of Heyhouses School, harvest time as until relatively recently this remained an agricultural community... they are all included. And the last panel fittingly is the Mexico Disaster, says Father David.
Whats for tee?
St Annes has a claim to be Englands golfing capital with Royal Lytham and St Annes hosting the Open 11 times. Eddie Birchenough, pro from 1987 to his recent retirement, says: Its a great course Tiger Woods was just quoted as saying this was a proper challenge and the Open ought to come back here more often. Amateurs flock here, too. For a lot of people its a course they want to play at least once in their lives because of its fame as an Open venue.
They want to play the course that Seve won on twice, that Tom Lehman won on and back to Bobby Jones who won his first Open here in 1926. St Annes Old Links at the other side of the town and Fairhaven on its edge are fine challenges too - both act as qualifying courses when the Open is held at the Royal course.
Lady Eleanor Clifton had a part in establishing golf here. In 1889 she presented the then Lytham St Annes Golf Club with a gold medal valued at 25 as a competition prize. Ernie Els received 900,000 for his 2012 win on what are now the Royal Lytham and St Annes links.
The name of the town is written variously as St Annes on the Sea, St Annes-on-Sea, and several variations between. Father David Lyon says: The official title of the church is without the apostrophe, though many find it irritating, and a lot of the roads round here are named for saints and dont have apostrophes either. Historian Arnold Sumner says: This argument always rages. Grammatically, it is the town of St Anne so the apostrophe should be used the church has got it all wrong!