SITUATION AND ADVANTAGES.
SOUTHPORT is situated in the parish of North Meols, in the county of Lancaster, on the coast of the Irish sea, and near the mouth of the Ribble, at 53° 38' 40" north latitude, and 2° 59' 45" west longitude. It is about the same distance — twenty miles — from Liverpool, St. Helen's, Preston, and Wigan; and about forty miles from Manchester. The waters are pure and unadulterated, and the dryness and peculiar mildness of the air has contributed, and, indeed, may be said to be the sole cause, of its present enviable popularity. Years ago Dr. Brandreth styled it "the Montpellier of England," a character which it has well and deservedly maintained. It !s scarcely possible to conceive the remarkable and extraordinary effects of a residence in Southport to persons of weak and relaxed habits, and even in the earlier stages of that scourge of our variable climate—consumption, which claims and marks for its own thousands annually of the best and loveliest of the population of happy England, It is gratifying, and it has been wisely ordained, that such an oasis in the desert should exist; that some healthy, quiet place of repose should be convenient to our unhealthy manufacturing towns, where for awhile the founders of the wealth and prosperity of the country may cease from their labours, and regain vigour of mind and body. Such is Southport. There are, it is true, rivals, that would share, nay, claim superior honours; but those who have been induced to make comparisons decidedly give to Southport that pre-eminence which its own natural advantages, aided by the artificial embellishments of latter years, justly entitle it to.
The beach is perfectly smooth and hard, extends for many miles, and is perfectly free from those disagreeable and sometimes dangerous accompaniments, quicksands, stones, and pools of water; it is, therefore, well adapted for riding; and has been compared to an immense natural road. Various projects have been announced, and some have been attempted, for converting the shore to some profitable account. A few years ago, a joint-stock company, principally boatmen of the town, had a kind of land boat built, which would carry a dozen persons at the rate of twenty miles an hour, and was intended to ply for hire; it was called "The Ariel," in allusion to the high rate of speed obtained, and was so successful in every respect that a rival boat was built by another company and called "The Flying Dutchman." It was a matter of wonder to many that those novel vehicles, which were in great demand, and would doubtless have proved profitable to the shareholders, were discontinued almost as soon as the experiment had been tried; but a collision with a bathing machine having occurred, attended with some slight damage, it caused a verification of the old proverb, "For want of a nail the shoe was lost—for want of a shoe the horse was lost." For some similar reason the "Flying Dutchman" was discontinued; and the consequence was, that these "strange craft" were allowed to become "wrecks ashore." A short time ago a private individual took some trouble, and incurred some expense, in testing the capabilities of the shore for the transit of locomotive engines and carriages between Southport and Liverpool: the consent of the landowners was obtained; a survey was made, which was extremely favourable; and, notwithstanding there appeared to be all the elements of success, the project failed for want of support.
The sea flows so far inland that it is of little consequence whether visiters arrive at spring or ebb tides, although the greater number arrive during the prevalence of the former.
THE FOUNDER OF THE TOWN.
To the late Mr. D. W. Sutton, of Churchtown, a village about a mile and a half distant, who during his life time was familiarly termed "The Duke," the public is indebted for the foundation of the first or original house, about the year 1792. There is at the present time a gentleman resident in the town, almost a centenarian, who was present when the first barrel of ale was tapped at this house, and partook thereof. For some years previous to that time this coast had been resorted to for sea bathing; but those visiters of a bygone day made Churchtown their place of abode, from whence they were conveyed in carts and other conveyances to the convenient sands, the existence of which induced that farseeing individual before named to carry into effect the above crotchet of his fancy, which he conceived would be of great advantage,—and so it proved.
The town, which had previously been called South Hawes, received its present appellation from the late Dr. Barton, at an entertainment given by Mr. Sutton at the opening of the new inn. During the evening, the doctor, in a moment of enthusiasm, took a bottle of wine, and dashing the contents about him, exclaimed, "This place shall be called Southport!" Tradition has it that there was formerly a fine bay of water, eleven fathoms deep, within half a mile from shore, where vessels of considerable tonnage securely rode at anchor; it would have been then a port to all intents and purposes. Some of those euphonious personages, "the oldest inhabitants," remember the site of Lords'-street as a famous place for skating. The bay is now filled with sand, caused by the changes which so frequently take place in the current. It is lamentable that the shores where so many persons regain health and strength, should also be the common grave of numbers of hapless seamen who have been driven with their frail barks on this treacherous coast; which thus becomes the bane, as it is most certainly the antidote A history of the unfortunate vessels which have been lost, and the circumstances relating thereto, would fill volumes. Since the establishment of the "life boat," casualties have been rare: no sooner is a signal seen or heard than a volunteer crew of our hardy boatmen, regardless of the fury of the tempest, proceed, if at all possible, to the luckless vessel, and are in most cases of effectual service. In our own times, a project has been advertised for erecting a railway pier, to extend to low water, where vessels might discharge passengers or goods, to be from thence conveyed to the manufacturing districts! Whether this is practicable or not we do not pretend to say, but it is scarcely desirable. If a pier is erected as an additional promenade for the inhabitants and visiters, and for their convenience when embarking on pleasure voyages, it will be warmly welcomed, and will, without doubt, prove profitable to those who undertake its construction.
Mr. Sutton's speculation was considered at the time quite romantic, and his house received the name of "The Duke's Folly." The first part was built chiefly of timber, and was only opened during the summer months. Mr. Sutton removed there with his family in the year 1798, and remained in it until 1802. Messrs. Hilton and Leadbetter then entered upon it for a term of twenty-one years, commencing in May, 1803, and, having a pretty general acquaintance with the company who then frequented the place, the house obtained great repute, and was by them designated Southport Hotel. They only occupied the premises for seven years, when a Mr. Ashall became the occupant. About this time it was considerably enlarged by Mr. Sutton. Mr. Ashall remained between three or four years, and was succeeded by Mr. Trevitt, who only remained two years. Mr. and Mrs. Clare, from Wigan, were the next occupants, and continued to reside there until April, 1824, when the original lease expired. Mrs. Clare gave it the name of the Royal Hotel. A son-in-law of Mr. Sutton's held it one year, and on the 10th of April, 1825, it was taken by Mr. Halfey, who remained in it until he removed to the new and splendid hotel, the Bold Arms, in Lords'-street, where he still resides. Mr. Thompson, a relative of Mr. Sutton's, Mr. Charles Walthall, and, lastly, Mr. John Parkinson, have succeeded each other, in which latter person's tenancy many further additions and improvements have been made. It is now a tolerably comfortable house of accommodation, but bears no comparison to the costly and splendid erections of latter years. What it lacks in splendour is compensated for by its site, and the interest caused by the reminisences of the past; the view of the town from its windows being unequalled, and as "the folly" it must be an object of curiosity while it stands.
Increase and multiply became the order of the day, as the benefit resulting from a temporary stay convinced persons that a permanent residence would of course be proportionably beneficial. Mrs. Walmsley built a cottage about 1797, to which great additions were afterwards made. Colonel Gerard occupied this house when his melancholy death by drowning took place. The Kaleidoscope, a journal published at that time, thus announces the event.
"On the 23rd of May, 1822, Colonel Gerard, of Windle Hall, (brother to the late Sir W. Gerard,) embarked at Southport in his pleasure-boat, in company with the Rev. F. Crathorne, a truly philanthrophic Catholic clergyman, Mr. Adamson, of Ashton-in-the-Willows, his son Roger, and a boatman, on a fishing excursion, for which the weather seemed propitious. They were not heard of until the next day, when the boat was found 'untenanted and unoccupied,' with her sails unfurled, drifting at the mercy of the wind and tide. As no one survived to tell the sad narrative of misfortune, it can only be conjectured that the boat either upset and threw the party into the sea, or that they had incautiously disembarked upon a bank, and were surrounded by the rising tide, while the boat drifted away from them. The esteem in which the parties were held may be gathered from an extract of a letter from Southport on the day after their departure. 'With the ebbing tide several boats went out in search of the missing party; and during the whole of the afternoon the sand-hills were peopled with an anxious multitude, all directing their gaze across the vast expanse of sand which the far-retreating tide had left, and towards that quarter from whence it was expected that intelligence would come. After some hours solicitude, a sail was descried at a distance, making its way to the shore. All, with one accord, now rushed forward; expectation was at its height; but too soon the sad certainty was known—soon communicated the sad intelligence, and throughout the village a general consternation was spread; all occupation ceased, and every one seemed absorbed by this melancholy event. Meantime, night came on, and about nine o'clock, other boats arrived bringing the lifeless bodies of two of the unfortunate party. Some of the sufferers left large families, and all of them an extensive circle of relatives and friends. Mr. Crathorne was peculiarly eminent for his extensive benevolence; his loss will be deeply felt by the poor of the surrounding country', to whom he was in the habit of administering medical aid, gratuitously, with extraordinary success.' The families and intimate friends of the unfortunate sufferers will long lament this casualty but there are others, who cannot be classed precisely under either of these heads, who will yet have bitter cause to mourn. The poor and the afflicted, within many miles of Garswood, have lost, in the Rev. Mr. Crathorne, a physician who was in the daily habit of administering, gratuitously, to the bodily diseases of all who solicited the aid of his medicine and advice. Hundreds of patients, too poor to afford any other fee than their grateful thanks, have, by his fostering skill, been reinstated in the enjoyment of health and strength, and now live to bless his memory, and grieve at his untimely end. The accident is supposed to have been occasioned by the boat having been overtaken by one of those eddying gusts of wind which sometimes prevail in the midst of general calm. The body of Mr. Adamson, senior, was found, on the Sunday after, on the Lytham coast; and on Saturday, June 1st, the body of Colonel John Gerard was found on Cockerham sands, four miles from Glasson: and the remains of Mr. Crathorne were discovered on Sunday morning, near the place where the unfortunate accident had happened. Mr. Gerard was the next heir to the late Sir W. Gerard, and left a large family. The boatman, John Jackson, left a widow and several children, who were dependent upon his exertions for their support." It is gratifying to add that some compensation was made to Jackson's widow by the relatives of Mr. Gerard.
Gerard Walmsley, Esq., occupied the house for some time; T. Satterfield, Esq., and afterwards Henry Pooley, Esq., succeeded him; and it has since been purchased by Ralph Greenough, Esq., a county magistrate, who is the present occupier.
Mr. Barton built a house about 1799. Miss Bromley, Miss Leigh, Mrs. Moneypenny, Miss Johnson, and Mrs. Halsall, were amongst the earlier inhabitants of Southport, and were followed by Mr. Nevill, Mr. Tennant, Mrs. Addy, and others.
THE UNION HOTEL.
An increased demand for accommodation, and a great influx of company, during the bathing season, rendered it necessary to erect another inn, which received the name of the Union Hotel. It was occupied by Mrs. Barlow for many years, and was very popular under her management. It is said that no less a person than the present King of the French once slept at this house, and it is thus accounted for. The king, then an exile, was on a visit to the late Mr. Blundell, of Ince Hall, and had been with a shooting party in the neighbourhood; being benighted, they made their way to this house, and, finding it no mean quarters, slept under its roof until daylight enabled them to return to the hall. Various persons have successively tenanted the house, amongst others, the eccentric but accommodating and generous Mrs. Ashworth, who first styled it "Bolton House," or, rather, united it to its original title, and it is now in the occupation of Mr. Josiah Mather.
A suite of buildings succeeded in 1807, for the use of persons requiring private lodgings; these were then and are still termed Union Buildings.
The Mansion House was erected in the year 1810, by the late Mr. Hargreaves, and was the residence of his widow until her death in the early part of the present year. The cottagers, anxious to share in the growing prosperity of the town, whitewashed their dwellings, and let "apartments" to the economical. The shore now began to "teem with visiters," and Southport was even then a fashionable watering-place.
Belmont Cottage, West Hill, and Sea View were erected about this time. Belmont Castle, King's Buildings, or "Eight Houses," and a great number of residences on the soath-eastern side of Lords'-street, and Panton Place, Coronation Cottages, Green Lawn, &c., on the north-western side, followed.
Mr. Whiteley's Repository was built in 1812, and formerly bad a news-room, library, and other conveniences attached thereto; now, a goodly supply of generous wines, and the strengthening bottled porter, and other articles of a general nature, required by invalids, (aye, and by valetudinarians too,) are there in tempting and luxurious profusion.
For a considerable length of time uniformity of plan was maintained, but this gave way, and great taste was displayed in subsequent erections, the ornamental as well as the useful was desired, and a visible improvement was the consequence.
The spiritual wants of the town were first supplied by the erection of this church, in the year 1820, through the great exertions of the Rev. W. Docker, the present incumbent, the agents of the late Robert Hesketh, Esq., of Rossall Hall, and the late Princess Sapieha, of Bold Hall, the lord and lady of the manor at that period. The patronage was vested in Mr. Hesketh, in consequence of his advancing a certain sum of money towards the endowment, and further improving the living. The church, which originally accommodated from six hundred to seven hundred persons, has since been enlarged by the erection of galleries; and in the year 1846 an organ was obtained. The pulpit is placed over the altar, having the reading desk on the south, and the clerk's desk on the north side. The front of the gallery, at the west end, is decorated with the royal arms, under which is an inscription, stating the time when the church was erected and consecrated, with the names of the then churchwardens, and that of the incumbent. The church is ventilated upon an excellent principle, which prevents any injury to the congregation from the rush of the external air. The height of the tower to the battlements is fifty-three feet, and the pinnacles four feet higher. There is a delightful prospect from the top, and it was for some years of great use to the boatmen as a land-mark, but there are now more prominent objects which serve the purpose.
THE SCARISBRICK AKMS HOTEL.
In 1821, the Hesketh Arms, now called the Scarisbrick Arms, (in compliment to one of the present lords of the manor,) was added to the number of inns. It was for some time kept by Mr. T. Mawdesley, the then owner, who was succeeded by Mr. Dobson, and afterwards by Mr. John Salthouse, who remoyed to another house. Mr. Samuel Wood followed, and it is now occupied by Mr. James Hunt.
THE INDEPENDENT CHAPEL.
The Independent Chapel was built in 1823, and in 1825 commodious school-rooms were added. No alterations of consequence were made until the year 1846, when it was raised higher, and otherwise considerably enlarged. The Rev. George Greatbatch was for many years the pastor, but, having been worn out with long and faithful service, he is now allowed that repose which the infirmities of age require, and he views with heartfelt satisfaction the pleasing result of his labours: he has been succeeded by the Rev. J. E. Millson, whose eloquent discourses have gained him considerable notoriety. Previous to the erection of this chapel, Mr. Greatbatch, who had for some years been the pastor of a congregation at Churchtown, used to preach at Southport on a Sunday afternoon during the bathing season, and return to his own people in the evening. Mr. Greatbatch is universally known, and deservedly respected.
THE STRANGERS' CHARITY.
The building called "The Strangers' Charity," on account of its intended purpose, was erected in 1825, at an expense of about £500. It is situated on the north-western side of Lords'-street, and is entered by a flight of steps which conduct to the principal room, fifty feet long by eighteen, with a surgery behind; underneath are baths, and also apartments for those who have the charge of the building. The baths are not now used, the "Original Baths" being rented for the purposes of the charity. The ground in front is neatly laid out with shrubs and trees, which, when clothed with their summer garb, completely hides the building from view. Respecting the "original baths," it may be stated that for a number of years they were found a great convenience to visiters, and were well and deservedly encouraged; but their more splendid rival on the Promenade, the enterprise of a company, has for some time caused the private and more humble speculation to fall into disuse. Such events too often occur to cause much notice to be taken of what are considered trifling matters; but would it not well become the powerful rivals of humble and striving individuals to compensate the latter for the ruination which is often the result of their success? The "Strangers' Charity" is also made use of for the purposes of the North Meols Local Dispensary.
THE WESLEYAN METHODIST CHAPEL.
The Wesleyan Methodists had a chapel built for their accommodation in East-bank-street, in the year 1824, but their increase in numbers and respectability had long rendered it necessary to build another, and also to change the site. A considerable amount of money was raised in a very short space of time, by the exertions of the then minister, the Rev. W. Coultas, and others, and the plans were approved of by the Building Committee in February, 1847. Land was purchased in Hoghton-street for the chapel, and also for school-rooms and a residence for the minister. On the 17th of March following, the first stone was laid, with due ceremony, by Dr. Wood, of Manchester and on the 15th of August in the same year the building was opened for public worship, the Rev. Dr. Newton preaching on the occasion. Several days were set apart for services in connection with the event, in which the Rev. Edward Walker and the Rev. George Osborn, of Liverpool, the Rev. James Everett, of York, the Rev. Frederick J. Jobson, of Manchester, the Rev. W. Coultas, of this town, the Rev, George Dickinson, of Ormskirk, and other ministers of the denomination, took a part. The entire expense of building the chapel, which is extremely neat and convenient, and capable of comfortably seating eight hundred persons,was about £1400; and the architect, Mr. Thomas Withnell, and the builder, Mr. Richard Wright, of this town, have done ample justice to the trustees.
THE ASSEMBLY ROOM.
As the town increased in importance, a number of residents and visiters began to feel the want of some building, which might answer for the purpose of holding public meetings, and also for those festive occasions when the young of both sexes desired to "Trip it on the light fantastic toe."
No sooner thought of than done! A company was formed in the year 1831, in shares of £30 each, which were almost immediately taken up by gentlemen in Manchester, Liverpool, Bolton, and other distant places, and the Assembly Room was erected in Lords'-street. It is a very unique brick building, the front being cemented to imitate stone. It has two stories, and a handsome portico elevated on a flight of stone steps, and supported by Doric and Ionic columns. The external appearance and the inward construction is very suitable for the purpose it was intended. The ground floor was formerly used for a news-room, with apartments for the master: one portion is now converted into a billiard-room, and the remainder is almost entirely occupied by the recently formed Literary and Scientific Institution, the upper room, which is about twenty yards in length and eight in width, being still available for public business. As a speculation, the undertaking failed; and various are the uses to which it has been converted, amongst the rest as a theatre. The late Mr. Robert Mawdesley purchased all the shares in the company a few years before his death, and it is now the property of his brother, Mr. James Mawdesley. It is to be hoped that the inconvenience to the shareholders from the depreciation in the value of the property was not very great, as the building is a great acquisition to the town.
The rapid progress of the town must now be described in a wholesale manner, by streets, and not by single dwellings. Lords'-street was connected from house to house; and now, there is scarcely a spare yard of building land in its entire length. Coronation-walk, Nevill-street, East-bank-street, London-street, Sea-bank-road, Hill-street, Union-street, Bold-street, Chapel-street, Hoghton-street, Fleetwood-street, and the Victoria Promenade and Manchester-road, are not only formed, but many of them are completely built up; and other streets, crescents, and squares, are either planned or suggested.
THE BOLD ARMS HOTEL.
In the year 1832, Mr. Halfey opened the new and splendid hotel, the Bold Arms, at that time situated at the entrance of the town; the builders' occupation has, however, apparently changed its position, for a considerable number of first-rate residences have to be passed before you arrive at its inviting entrance. From fifty to sixty beds are made up in the house, and there is stabling for twenty horses.
An increasing population rendered it necessary, in 1837, to erect another church, which is situated in Manchester-road, near to the entrance of the town, and is dedicated to the most Holy Trinity. It is cemented and painted externally, and the burying-ground is tastefully planted with trees and flowers. A bazaar, held in the year 1840, produced sufficient funds to warrant the purchase of a splendid organ and the erection of a new gallery, which two objects were soon afterwards completed. Through the great exertions of the late lamented Mr. Sidebotham, the organist, and for some time one of the churchwardens, considerable additions were made to the organ, and principally to his zeal is the public indebted for the superior character of the musical portion of the service, and the beautifying of the edifice itself: in these praiseworthy exertions he was assisted by other "good men and true," who live, and are ready and willing for active service. The church was further enlarged in the early part of 1847, the east end being taken out and another window at each side added. A new clock, the appropriate and munificent gift of T. T. Taylor, Esq., was fixed in the tower about the same time. Neat and commodious school-rooms, convenient to the church, were erected in the year 1843, at the sole expense of a charitable gentleman, who having been blessed with a liberal allowance of wealth dispenses a portion thereof for the good of his fellow-creatures; and it may be said of him that "his right hand knoweth not what his left hand doeth." A neat parsonage house adjoins the burying-ground, the residence of the Rev, Jonathan Jackson, the present incumbent.
THE HOGHTON ARMS HOTEL.
A very commodious house of entertainment was erected in London-street, by Mr. R. Wright, builder, of this town, at his own expense, in the year 1838, but was not licensed until 1841, when it was taken by Mr. John Salthouse, then of the Hesketh Arms in Lords'-street, who has since removed to the more aristocratic hotel, "the Victoria." Mr. Thomas Townsend was his successor; and he, again, has been succeeded by Mr. John Waterhouse. The Hoghton Arms Hotel is much frequented by visiters from Wigan, and is, indeed, generally well supported.
THE VICTORIA PROMENADE.
A project, which had long been agitated, and which was absolutely required, was partially completed in the early part of 1839, the formation of a promenade. For many years the shore and the streets were the only promenades for visiters; but the encroachments of the tide, "which waiteth for no man," and the drifting sand, rendered it necessary to build a stone wall and form a slope to protect the town, which almost seemed threatened with inundation. The object was accomplished partly at the expense of the lords of the manor, and partly by the Victoria Baths company, who obtained thereby a considerable quantity of valuable building land; indeed, it was a part of the general scheme of this company. A neat iron bridge crosses Nevill-street, from whence the road has been recently continued as far as Sea-bank-road; its entire length being about three-quarters of a mile. A great portion of the land is already built upon, and plans of numerous first-rate residences are in preparation. A handsome stone lodge is situated at the entrance from Coronation-walk, and the foot-path is reached by a flight of stone steps. In order to keep the Promenade in good repair, a small toll is charged, which is exacted from residents as well as visiters, unless persons are resident thereon, or are going to or returning from the Victoria Baths.
THE VICTORIA BATHS.
The Victoria Baths stand about the centre of the Promenade. They were erected by a company, at an expense of about £6000, and opened with great rejoicing on the 2nd May, 1839. The facade is towards the sea, and is composed of a central portico or collonade of the Ionic order, with ballustrades to the right and left, forming a continuous covered parade. The entrance on the right leads to the ladies' baths, and that on the left to the gentlemen's. A refreshment-room divides the entrances, over which is another apartment, and above that there is an open gallery. Tepid and cold swimming, hot, shower, vapour, and other baths are instantly obtainable, with every convenience, and the most civil and obliging treatment. At the end of the lobbies is the engine-room, which was formerly used as a conservatory, a singular and unusual combination of objects. Mr. Clayton, the architect, took advantage of the high temperature produced by the boiler to form the conservatory, and the effect, as may readily be imagined, was really admirable. It was furnished with one hundred and fifty pots of rare and beautiful plants, and the stage was surmounted by a bust of the "Iron Duke." We have spoken of the conservatory as a thing of the past; it is indeed so. In the employ of the company was an individual who has a peculiar and intense love for botanical pursuits; and to him the charge of these specimens of Nature's handiwork partook more of a pleasure than a duty. The company ceased to manage the baths on their own account, having agreed to let them at an annual rent. The individual alluded to ceased his connection with the establishment, and with him the flowers and stage, and, if we mistake not, the stem representation of the "hero of a hundred fights" as well, departed, and, "like the baseless fabric of a vision, left not a wreck behind." The engine is of six-horse power, and lifts fifty tons of water per hour from a reservoir on the shore, about one hundred and fifty yards distant, into a large iron tank upon the centre of the building, from which the baths are supplied. The engine, and all the apparatus connected with it, was manufactured by Messrs. W. and J. Galloway, of Manchester; and the builder, Mr. Richard Wright, of this town.
As soon as the Promenade was in a forward state of completion, the handsome building called Claremont House, was erected thereon, at the sole expense of William Hill, Esq., of Manchester, one of the principal shareholders in the Victoria Baths and Promenade. His design was to establish a house where all the comforts and privacy of home might be obtained, combined with the general conveniences and accommodation of a first-rate hotel; or, as it is styled, a "private hotel." The noble and respectable families who sojourn at this house prove the estimation in which it is held. Adjoining the premises a considerable space of land is neatly laid out for walking exercise, which is strictly private. Mr. Michael Charlton was the first tenant, and it is now in the occupation of Mr. John Halfey, jun. At the latter end of the season of 1845, an unfortunate calamity befel this house, which, but for its timely discovery, might have been attended with the most dreadful consequences. At half-past twelve o'clock on the morning of Monday, the 29th of September, tlie house being at that time filled with company, a nurse girl, belonging to one of the families, having occasion to leave her bed to attend to the children, discovered that one of the rooms was on fire. She instantly gave the alarm, and the sleeping inmates were providentially saved; but one wing of the house was completely gutted, as Southport, with all its conveniences, did not then possess a fire-engine! It must not be supposed that no effectual assistance was obtained to quench the progress of devouring element: within an hour of the time when the alarm was first given a messenger had been to and returned from Ormskirk, from which town fire engines were brought in an incredible short space of time; and the inhabitants generally exerted themselves to the utmost; otherwise the entire building must have become a heap of ruins. The portion which was destroyed was immediately rebuilt, and at the same time the house was considerably enlarged and otherwise improved. This is a rare casualty, and it may be recorded as Southport's only fire.
ST. MARIE'S CATHOLIC CHURCH.
The Roman Catholics, who had long required a convenient place of worship, have now a beautiful church in Sea- bank-road. Through the determined and persevering efforts of the Rev. James Newsham, the beloved pastor of the Catholics of this town for many years, sufficient funds were obtained to commence, in the year 1840, the present truly ecclesiastical edifice, which was erected from designs, and under the immediate superintendence, of A. W. Pugin, Esq., professor of ecclesiastical antiquities at St. Mary's College, Oscott. The interior has since been much decorated by the hands, and in the leisure moments, of the Rev. John Hill, who has been for some time stationed in this town. The church is dedicated to St. Marie. Immediately adjoining, is a residence for the incumbent priest, and also a neat and commodious school-house, each in character with the edifice itself. Between the church and the priest's residence, at the entrance to the burying- ground, stands a lofty carved stone cross, with the monogram "I. H. S.," in ancient characters, on the four sides of the base, and two steps leading thereto. It was at these crosses that our pious forefathers complied with that charitable belief, "It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead." Some curious grave-stones mark the last resting-places of numerous members of the congregation; and, amongst others, the Rev. J. Talbot, for many years the pastor of the Catholics of Ormskirk, who died suddenly in this town, where he had been for some time resident, at the commencement of the year 1847. At the front entrance to the ground is a revival of the liche gate, a kind of roof or canopy, where it was formerly the custom for the attendants at a funeral to await the coming of the officiating priest. Some of them were so large that not only the coffin, but also all the attendants at a funeral were sheltered under them. In the interior, there is much to be admired: the high-pitched roof; the open benches, alike for rich and poor; the carved baptismal font; the organ loft; the rood and screen; the painted window, the gift of the Earl of Shrewsbury; each, in their turn, claim attention. Every portion of the church property, both within and without, is of the most substantial nature, and seems destined to last for eternity.
The Society of Friends have for many years had a Meeting House in the town.
THE FIRST NEWSPAPER.
On the 4th of May, 1844, appeared the first number of The Southport Visiter, and General Advertiser, a local newspaper, dedicated wholly to serve and further the interests of the town. Very moderate expectations were entertained by the proprietor and publisher when it was established, but the signal success of the first season led him to enlarge it, and otherwise to improve its general character, on its re-appearance. There was decided proof that it had been established in the "nick of time." Its principal feature was intended to be a list of the visiters, but more was required: the inhabitants wished to know what events had occurred at home and abroad during the past week, the number of "little strangers" added to the population, the fond hearts that had been united, and the names and ages of those upon whom sentence of death had been recorded; the tradesmen, necessarily unknown to the majority of the ever-changing population of visiters, required a vehicle to make known to the public the articles they vended, the "fresh arrivals," &c.; in a few words, an organ of communication was required between the inhabitants and the visiters, betweeen Southport and the rest of the country. The paper is at present published during only six months, from the first Saturday in May to the last Saturday in October, but hopes are entertained of its permanent publication. That the Visiter has been of service to the town, no person laying a claim to sanity can doubt; but it is in its perpetual and not partial support that the inhabitants will receive those great advantages which may be acquired by this means.
THE IMPROVEMENT ACT.
For a considerable length of time the inhabitants were much dissatisfied at the manner in which the public business of the town was conducted. Rates to a considerable amount were annually collected, of which but a very small portion was expended in those repairs and improvements which were essentially necessary to keep pace with the otherwise rapid progress of the town; nuisances of the most intolerable nature existed, without power for their suppression; the streets were badly paved and sewered; in winter the town was in darkness; and various other grievances existed without any convenient remedy. These annoyances were partly owing to the fact that the village of Churchtown was the head quarters of the parish, and it was necessary until the parish was divided that all business should be transacted there. The parish being pretty extensive, and, excepting Southport, thinly populated, it required the greatest portion of the funds to repair the roads to the various farms in the neighbourhood; so that there was little left to procure luxuries for the more refined inhabitants and visiters of this town. Tt was not to be supposed that this would be endured for ever. Meetings were held to discuss the propriety of illuminating the streets in winter, and in the course of the various discussions that took place upon that subject it was hinted that it would be advisable to apply for an act of parliament, giving power to divide the parish, and to make all the improvements which were then or might ultimately be required. A committee was appointed, the lords of the manor were consulted, the bill was framed, and every arrangement made for an application to parliament previous to the session of 1846; and on the 18th of June in that year "The Southport Improvement Act" received the royal assent. The expense of obtaining the act amounted to about £1500, but the extensive powers gained thereby will, it is supposed, render it quite unnecessary for any supplementary bills, the requirements of a densely populated city being contained in this complete and comprehensive one. The act was no sooner obtained, than the Commissioners named in the bill, after having appointed a staff of officers, commenced operations in earnest. On the 7th of November, in the same year, the streets of the town were for the first time illuminated. Contracts had been previously advertised for displacing what has been facetiously termed "the angular pavement," and substituting the more agreeable surface of flags; an expensive and complete system of sewerage was decided upon, and immediately executed; a gravel walk, or invalids' carriage drive, was formed on the south-eastern side of Lords'- street, which street was afterwards made of an uniform width, and otherwise much improved; and in twelve months about £2000 had been expended in this manner. The Commissioners have relaxed none of their vigour, for in every direction improvements are in progress, and, in sober and honest truth, they are "astonishing the natives." Other luxuries and conveniences are in contemplation; and it ought to be a matter of heartfelt satisfaction to the inhabitants that so much has been done to promote their permanent comfort and welfare in such a brief space of time. Since the passing of the act, Southport, which had previously been styled "the village," has been called "the town," although the former term is still preferred by some persons. A short time after the act came into operation, the town experienced a rather severe loss in the melancholy death of Mr. Wales, the efficient chairman to the Commissioners, whose business-like and persevering habits were then very desirable. The Rev. W. Docker, who was elected as his successor, well and satisfactorily fulfilled the duties of the office until some petty annoyances to which he was subjected caused him to resign, and the public lost his valuable services. The Rev. J. Jackson, the respected incumbent of Trinity Church, now holds the office.
As soon as that mighty invention of man, steam power, had been pretty generally introduced for the purpose of travelling, the inhabitants became anxious, almost as soon as they had become possessed of tolerable highways, to share in the accommodation which this swift and luxurious mode of transportation from town to town affords. Rival watering-places were supplied with their wants in this respect whilst it was a matter of discussion which, of about fourteen different schemes, was the most desirable route to Manchester in one direction, and Liverpool in another. Some individuals were inclined to question whether it was desirable to adopt this reformed method of travelling at all, foreseeing "Cheap Trips," "Holiday Excursions," and "Big Bathing Sundays" extraordinary: others, differently disposed, saw no great cause of alarm at these visions of the future; and in their turn, could imagine the streets and shore thronged with the "citizens" of Manchester, and the townspeople of Liverpool, Wigan, and Bolton, which this economiser of time and money enabled them to accomplish, much to their own gratification and the pecuniary interest of the town; they also indulged in the hope that increased numbers of visiters and permanent residents would be the result of this object. Above all, it was thought not only desirable, but absolutely necessary, that every facility should be afforded to visiters, in order to maintain the present and insure the future popularity of the town. Two lines of railway were projected in the year 1844, the Southport and Euxton Junction Railway, and the Liverpool, Ormskirk, and Preston Railway, with a Branch to Southport; and in the session of 1845, application was made to parliament in their favour. The first-named of these two lines was principally supported by the inhabitants of this town, and the latter was encouraged by interested parties at Ormskirk. It would be useless to disguise the fact, that, for a time, the latter-named line was favoured by many influential gentlemen who were anxious for the welfare of Southport, and who afterwards gave their support to other lines which they thought would be of more direct benefit to the town. The Liverpool, Ormskirk, and Preston line was thrown out for non- compliance with the standing orders of the house; and a Committee of the Board of Trade gave it as their opinion "that Southport required a railway, but that they would prefer a more direct and comprehensive scheme than had yet been proposed." In the session of 1846, application was made in favour of the Liverpool and Preston, and Manchester and Southport (or Grand Cross) line, the West Lancashire Coast line, and also a renewed application for the Liverpool, Ormskirk, and Preston line. The two first-named lines were lost; but the last-named line was sanctioned, with the exception of the Southport branch, which was strongly opposed by the supporters of the Grand Cross. Nothing daunted at their previous disappointments, the projectors of the Grand Cross line made application for the Manchester and Southport line, a portion of their former scheme; application was also made in behalf of the Liverpool, Crosby, and Southport line, and a renewed effort to obtain the Southport branch was made by the Liverpool, Ormskirk, and Preston company. It had been intended to renew the application for the West Lancashire Coast line, but an arrangement having been made with the provisional directors of the Liverpool, Crosby, and Southport line, it was withdrawn, the projectors transferring their interest and good wishes to the new company. The result of these last applications, as far as Southport was concerned, was entire and perfect success! On the 2nd of July, 1847, the Liverpool, Crosby, and Southport Railway Bill received the royal assent; and on the 22nd of the same month the Manchester and Southport Railway Bill, also, received the royal assent! "Delays are not always dangerous:" the inhabitants of Southport gained much by the "law's delay." Two direct and comprehensive lines of railway have been obtained, placing the town, in its isolated situation, upon an equal footing in this respect, with the most favoured and central towns in the kingdom. It was considered by some of the enemies of the town to be an extravagant and preposterous idea of the inhabitants to require two such lines as have been granted, but it was a proof of their foresight, for which they will be well rewarded. The severe depression in the commercial world, or "the panic," which will ever be remembered, prevented, in common with a host of others, the immediate construction of the lines which had been granted; but the inhabitants were not long to be disappointed, for at a meeting of the shareholders of the Liverpool, Crosby, and Southport Railway Company, held at the Clarendon Rooms, Liverpool, on the 1st of January, 1848, the recommendation of the chairman, William Blundell, Esq., of Crosby Hall, "that that portion of the line between Waterloo and Southport should be immediately constructed," was assented to; and at an extraordinary meeting of the shareholders of the company, held at the same place, on the 25th of the same month, the said recommendation was voted for by the representatives of 7249 shares, there being only five persons, representing 103 shares, in opposition.
THE VICTORIA HOTEL.
The Victoria Hotel is a massive and superb building situated on the Promenade, erected in the year 1842, shortly after the opening of that delightful acquisition to to the town. The late T. Kershaw, Esq., of Ormskirk, (the owner,) spared no expense in rendering this house fit for the accommodation of the wealthy and noble families who at that period began to resort to Southport. The stabling and other conveniences attached to the hotel are also in character with the general accommodation afforded and the establishment is well conducted by Mr. John Salthouse, formerly of the Scarisbrick Arms, and afterwards of the Hoghton Arms Hotels.
THE NEW MARKET.
The custom of hawking all the necessaries of life from door to door is now almost at an end. Bread, butter, eggs, fowls, rabbits, fish, and vegetables, have hitherto been purchased in this manner, tediously convenient; and the butchers have made their morning calls for orders for flesh meat and game. By the term "tediously convenient," we mean to imply that every article has been offered in such profusion that to answer all the applications approached pretty nearly to the coveted secret, "perpetual motion." These numerous morning calls had long led the inhabitants to suppose that it would be less trouble to go to a market to purchase any article that they required, than to have ninety-nine which they had no need of brought to their doors. It may be asked by strangers, has this delightful town, the resort of so many thousands, and the permanent residence of about three thousand persons, been without a public market? Oh, no! there have been two; or, rather, there have been two open plots of land, dignified as the "old market" and the "new market;" the occupants of which have long declared, to use a quotation neither grammatical or elegant, that "things isn't now as they used to was," feeling keenly, no doubt, the pressure from without.
The Commissioners, anxious to bring into force, as soon as possible, the most beneficial provisions of the Improvement Act, determined to erect a proper and sufficient market and market-house as soon as a convenient site could be obtained. Charles Scarisbrick, Esq., one of the lords of the manor, offered, without charge, a large plot land, situated behind Waterloo Terrace, on the Promenade, and having two entrances from Nevill-street; but on account of several disadvantages connected with that situation the Commissioners prudently declined to accept it. Proposals were entertained for the purchase of other property, situate in Lords'-street, and also for the Assembly Room and the premises connected therewith, in the same street, but neither were purchased. Arrangements were subsequently made with Mr. James Mawdesley for the rental of the bowling-green behind the Assembly Room, and plans were prepared and agreed upon in the month of February in the present year, and its immediate construction decided upon. The contracts were duly advertised, and fell into the hands of Mr. Richard Wright, builder, of this town, who was consequently obliged to resign his office as a Commissioner. The stipulation allowed for its completion was the end of June. The total cost of the various works required was fixed at about £600. The plans and specifications were prepared by Mr. Thomas Withnell, architect, of this town, and we are assured that he has satisfactorily fulfilled the intentions of the Commissioners, the land being laid out to the utmost advantage.
The plot of land is nearly square, being eighty-six feet one way and eighty-two feet the other; and on its four sides are twenty-eight covered stalls, which are thus arranged: on the south-east side, eight stalls for butchers; on the south-west side nine stalls for fruit, poultry, and fish; and on the north-west side, four double stalls for vegetables. The entrance, nine feet wide, is in London-street, on one side of which there are three stalls for bread, and an office for the market-looker; and on the other side four stalls for butter, cheese, and eggs. There is an elevated covered passage of four feet wide on every side, which will enable persons to make their purchases without being exposed to the weather. In the centre of the remaining space there is a covered shed, thirty-six feet long and fifteen feet wide, for baskets and other purposes, and a large pump and trough. The whole of the area is flagged, and has channels in various directions.
The town is still rapidly progressing, both in size and consequence. "The Duke," who has been so frequently alluded to, might have obtained a long lease of the site of the town for a few pounds, at the time when he first built "the folly," and had he done so he would, perhaps, have caused the assembling of a commission de lunatico inquirendo; but within the last seven years a portion of the manor of Southport and the surrounding neighbourhood has been sold by Sir Hesketh Fleetwood, Bart., to the present lord of the manor, Charles Scarisbrick, Esq., of Scarisbrick Hall, for, it is said, upwards of sixty thousand pounds, and land, which, previous to 1847, was sold at one farthing, is now advanced to one penny per yard.