LOCAL HISTORY SECTION
Formby by the Sea 2011
Reg Yorke -
Sometimes things don’t work out as you expect but nevertheless fortuitously result in some unexpected and unplanned benefit. This is the story of a “magnificent failure‟ a plan that didn't succeed in the financial way expected but nevertheless had much success in totally unexpected ways.
In 1875 a company was incorporated under the title of the Formby Land and Building Co. to purchase 105 acres of the coastal area of Raven Meols, for £12,100 – a roughly rectangular area south of Formby, west of the Liverpool – Southport Railway and as far as the shore, overlooking the mouth of the Mersey.
This Company‟s ambition was to create a new residential resort, which it was hoped would rival Southport. Practical work was to include:-
“The laying out, forming, and sewering of streets, roads, parks, gardens, squares, crescents, terraces, boulevards, Promenades and other open spaces; the making of piers, jetties, and landing places in, upon and connected with lands purchased; the laying of tramways, railways, and running carriages thereon, by steam or other motive power, for hire or profit; the forming of waterworks and reservoirs, for supplying water; the erection of gasworks, and the‟ manufacture of gas and the selling of the same; the erection of markets, docks, hotels, laundries, baths, water gardens, aquariums; the manufacture of bricks and tiles, and selling the same.”
Their first step was to run a narrow-
For easier communication, in 1915 a proposed loop-
Now most of the properties actually constructed have disappeared and the 1000ft promenade has disappeared under the sand. The lack of commercial success however lead to a valuable and interesting use for many of the of the houses built. During the depression, several were seized on by a number of philanthropic organisations to provide rest and recuperation for children from poor backgrounds in central Liverpool, Manchester, and Bootle, one house also being used to provide refuge for Basque children during the Spanish Civil War.
The properties included:-
The most interesting of these is Seabank house, as we here have a clear link with the well known mid-
This happy philanthropic use for Formby-
There was also a searchlight unit, a Radar Unit on the flat roof of Stella Maris and a military Rifle Range, used by troops training at Harington Barracks (where I learned to use a Lee Enfield 303 myself during my military training in 1947). Unlike for most of the properties, the high brick wall of this range still stands rather like a memorial to the “resort that never was‟. In summary, apart from a separate (still existing) area of housing close to Formby Station, only a scattering of houses of the sea-
Visiting Ravenmeols today (via a very pot-
You have to look closely to find the sites of the majority of the houses which once stood here. Apart from a rather special Grade 2 Listed house designed by McMurdo, the noted architect, slightly seaward of Firwood, only a few properties survive, Seabank House, overlooking the promenade and a new bungalow built on the site of a former wartime “shack‟ near the remains of the Rifle Range. Several others remain further inland.
The area is slowly „scrubbing over‟, but along the edges of the roads are some very picturesque, ancient Black Poplars; search of the area reveals many other younger Black Poplars. These have only recently positively identified genetically as the “real thing”. They were planted by the Land Company as amenity trees and have survived longer than most of the bricks and mortar development. The whole county of Cheshire is proud to possess about 350 Black Poplars; here in Formby and Freshfield we have about 650, mainly in the dunes. These probably will be the final legacy of Formby-