It’s the big summer holidays and where does a Yorkshire lass go for a bit of sea and sand. Morecambe, of course (you’ll note that I didn’t mention the sun).
In Lancashire it may be, but Morecambe is the traditional seaside resort for Yorkshire folk, especially for Bradfordians (I used to live in Shipley and Bingley, and worked in Bradford, so I think I can make some claim, slight though it is).
In the early to mid 20th century, the last week in July was known as Bradford Tide Week, when all the city’s mills and factories shut and the workers and their families decamped to Morecambe, usually travelling by train as there was a direct rail link. Lancashire mill workers took their Tide Week down the coast in Blackpool. Anyway, Morecambe became known as “Bradford on Sea” and the Bradford Telegraph & Argus even printed a Morecambe edition.
Once the package holiday abroad took off, Morecambe became increasingly less popular, losing the West End Pier through storm in 1978 and the Central Pier in 1992. Morecambe’s two fairgrounds also closed in the 1980s and ‘90s.
But roll forward to 2014 and there is every reason to cross the border into Lancashire for the very purpose of visiting Morecambe.
I went with my wider family last week and a jolly old time was had (although wide they are not – I feel I have to make that clear). We went to Happy Mount Park and played Crazy Golf. We looked out across the vast bay to the Cumbrian mounts. But best of all, we went for afternoon tea to the Midland Hotel.
Situated right on the front, this is an architectural masterpiece. Built by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company at a cost of just under £72, 000, work started in 1932, after the company decided to make a real statement and chose the architect Oliver Hill to design “a building of international quality in the modern style“.
Hill had been trained in the Arts and Crafts tradition and had converted to Modernism, deciding that the new Midland Hotel would allow him to realise his vision of unity in architecture and decoration. He was interested in furniture, décor, upholstery and costumes and had a reputation for his extravagant interiors using glass, chromium, vitrolite, marble and exotic woods.
Oliver Hill believed that the exterior design should be intimately linked to the interior décor and controlled the hotel’s colour scheme, works of art, decoration and furnishings. Everything was designed to give visual interest.
Eric Gill was commissioned to create great works of art, including a huge bas-relief for the hotel’s entrance lounge entitled “Odysseus welcomed from the sea by Nausicaa“, carved from six tonnes of Portland stone.
In 1951 the Midland was bought by Lewis Hodgson of Bolton Abbey for £50,000 and then in 1960 to Scottish Brewers, changing hands a few times over the decades and decaying until it was bought by Manchester based development company Urban Splash, who restored it to its former glory. The Midland Hotel reopened in 2008.
My Mum tells me the bedrooms are lovely. We had afternoon tea there last weekend (nine of us at £17.95 a head – thanks, parents) and it was amazing – you get several sandwiches each, and then Victoria sponge, eclair, fruit flan and two scones with jam and cream each, plus lashings of whatever tea or coffee you want. Amazing stuff (and stuffed we were too).
Now I have been introduced, I intend to go back. There are some good deals, if you check out here: http://englishlakes.co.uk/hotels/lancashire-hotels/the-midland-hotel-morecambe/
By the way, to celebrate the Bradford to Morecambe link, there will be a Morecambe Historic Vehicle Run, on Sunday September 14, 2014, when hundreds of classic car enthusiasts will gather at Yorkshire Water HQ, Western Way, Bradford. The run will leave Bradford via Bingley, Skipton, Settle, Ingleton, Kirby Lonsdale, Bolton-le-Sands and so to Morecambe where vehicles will assemble for a Grand Display on the promenade. For further details see www.lancaster.gov.uk/