Southport is now a beautiful and remarkably clean and healthy town. The population, which in 1824 numbered between seven and eight hundred, amounts to nearly three thousand, and is steadily increasing. Streets are now enumerated, whilst within a few years it was customary to describe the increase of the town by single houses.
Lords'-street is acknowledged by all who have seen it to be one of the most splendid thoroughfares in the kingdom and yet its beauty is not owing to the skill of the architect, but to the indescribable neatness and taste which is everywhere visible; and also to its length, which is upwards of one mile, and its great width, which is ninety yards from house to house. The carriage-road is well paved, and the foot-path, as has been before observed, excellent. The south-eastern side consists entirely of private dwellings, with neat gardens and lawns in the front; and on the opposite, or business side, all the shops are situated.
The shops are of a very superior character, not the ordinary shops of a village or small town, where you may purchase everything but what you require, which precise article they happen (unfortunately, of course,) to be without; but really splendid establishments, adapted for the wants of a fashionable and numerous population. Articles of almost every description may be purchased upon terms equally as advantageous as in the largest and most flourishing towns. It is in the recollection of many persons when the first shop for the sale of drugs and groceries was opened for a day or two in the week for the inhabitants and visiters to obtain their week's supply. Ormskirk was then the market for necessaries. At the present time there are numerous shops of all the necessary trades.
London and Manchester House, the new establishment of Messrs. Jolley and Boothroyd, silk mercers and general drapers, boasts of its dome, gallery, and pillars (with their terra cotta capitals and bases), lofty plate-glass windows, and internal fittings worthy of a drawing-room. Pendleton House, a similar establishment, although nothing remarkable in its architecture, vies with its rival for extent and variety of stock. Other establishments in the same line, and chemists and druggists, ironmongers, confectioners, grocers, bazaar-keepers, booksellers, and other tradesmen, are also candidates for the favours of the public.
As a proof of the economical and liberal mode of conducting business adopted by the Southport tradesmen, it may be stated that it is by no means unusual for visiters to make extensive purchases for home consumption.
The Victoria Bazaar, in Nevill-street, deserves noticing as one of the sights of the town. The proprietor allows the free ingress of the public to view this most splendid repository of British and foreign goods, combining the most unique and chaste luxuries with the ordinary useful articles for the toilet and domestic use, and toys for "the dear girls and boys." It is a peculiar feature in this recherche establishment that persons are not pressed to purchase that which they do not require, and they receive the same courteous treatment on their departure whether they have or not contributed to the accumulating fortune of the spirited and obliging proprietor.
The Visiter Office needs a passing notice. The Visiter, from which the concern takes its name, has been previously alluded to. An extensive circulating library and a public news-room are two of the departments of this establishment. The printing and bookselling business, and an agency for the letting of furnished and unfurnished houses, procuring apartments, &c., are also carried on.
On the Promenade and in the streets lately formed the houses are generally loftier, and the interiors arranged with more due regard to comfort than was formerly the case; this is no doubt owing to competition, the great demand for accommodation, and the more extravagant wishes of the visiters of the present day. In "the season," Lords'-street has almost its quantum of company before the cross streets have increased their population: this is not owing to any great advantage which is derived from a residence in that street which is not to be obtained in the others; but simply because, being the greatest thoroughfare, visiters will submit, in many cases, to inferior accommodation rather than take up their abode in the modern and convenient dwellings in more retired parts of the town. In many cases it is rather desirable that invalids should be removed some little distance from the shore, where they may inhale what may be termed "country air," or, at least, the saline breeze in a modified state; and there are many such desirable domiciles within an easy distance of the shore and baths.
It would be an endless subject to record the improvements of the last few years. The ordinary cottage-houses, where the most respectable families in the county were content to reside are now totally eclipsed by houses and mansions fit for the reception of Majesty itself. Martindale Lodge, Sea View, Brunswick Villa, Beach Grove, Elm Grove, and the residence of Mr. R. Wright, in Hoghton-street, are superior detached residences; and in Manchester-road, Oxford Terrace, Mount Cambria, Heaton Mount, and others, may be named as excellent terrace houses.
On the Promenade and shore we have a most extensive sea view. Looking northwards, the summit of the Black Combe, near the southern boundary of Cumberland, and Lytham, with its church and white houses, backed by the Cumberland mountains, are seen. The high hills about Lancaster, with Longridge Fell, range about north-east, and Rivington Pike in a more easterly direction. On the opposite coast, Wales, Snowdon is the first object which strikes the eye. The mountainous line continues to Penmaenmawr, forming, together, with the Orms Head, a conspicuous feature. Snowdon is 3568, and Penmaenmawr 1540 feet above the level of the sea. About north-west, the Isle of Man is said to be visible. From the upper end of London-street, and, indeed, any of the outer parts of the town, the spires of Churchtown, Halsall, and Ormskirk churches, and a great extent of the country, may be seen.
Within a few years, the neighbourhood had a singularly barren appearance, not a tree or hedge-row being visible, and miles of apparently unproductive sand might be seen in an inland direction; but each successive year some portion of this wild waste has been enclosed, and, by means of the usual artificial appliances, the choicest of the products of the earth are grown. That universally-used esculent, the potato, is one of the most noted, and, we believe, the most profitable, productions of this sandy soil; but the more general produce of the farm and garden is also cultivated to advantage, and finds a ready home market. Flora, too, decks the fields and hills with the most beautiful of her acceptable gifts.
A considerable number of the inhabitants of the town are persons of independent means; and in order to maintain the purity of the air no manufactures of any description are allowed to be carried on, except for the actual requirements of its own population.
It is proverbial the economy of a residence in this town, taken in comparison with a majority of similar places. Accommodation either in private lodging-houses or at the hotels, the necessaries and luxuries of life, and the best professional aid are obtainable at the most moderate cost and it has been truly described as "A lovely spot for all that life can ask."