Nostalgia: Belle Vue ‘North West playground’ where crowds flocked during the Easter holidays
Pictured: Easter crowd at Belle Vue amusement park, April 1969 © Mirrorpix
In the 1950s and 1960s, the bright lights of Blackpool and the beaches of New Brighton were favorite attractions for Mancunians looking for a day out at Easter.
The Belle Vue roller coaster also attracted attention, as well as ferry trips to the Isle of Man from Liverpool Pier.
In its post-war heyday, Belle Vue was truly the playground of the North West.
On holiday weekends, crowds of 250,000 were commonplace as visitors flocked to its zoo and amusement park.
Rides like the Bobs roller coaster – so called because it costs a shilling – and the waterfall have always been popular, as well as animal feeding times. At its height, Belle Vue covered an area of 165 acres.
Belle Vue was home to music, sports, boating lakes, elephant rides, beer and pies.
It hosted the first dirt-track speedway meeting in the UK, the first greyhound race and some of the first stock car meetings.
He had the biggest bingo club in the country, the biggest teenage dance club and one of Britain’s leading pop music venues at Kings Hall.
On Easter Monday 1955, British Railways ran two special excursions from Liverpool Central to Belle Vue.
The 12:35 went direct to Belle Vue, while the 12:55 called at Garston.
An earlier excursion for Belle Vue departed from Widnes at 12.10pm, calling at Warrington Central, Padgate and Glazebrook.
The return fare from Liverpool Central was 5/- (25p) or £7 in 2021 according to the Bank of England inflation calculator.
Tickets were available at no less than 53 stations around Merseyside and passengers could even buy their entrance tickets to the gardens in advance at 1/- (5p) for adults and 6d (2.5p) for children .
In 1957, Belle Vue opened the first of its themed dining outlets – the Bavarian Banqueting Suite.
The novelty of themed dining caught on and other outlets soon followed, including the Cumberland and Windermere suites.
Even fictional characters from Granada’s long-running Coronation Street soap opera have been drawn to Belle Vue, especially around Easter.
On Easter Monday 1962 Elsie Tanner and local shop owner Florrie Lindley went to a reception at Kings Hall.
Elsie, played by Fallowfield actress Pat Phoenix, was back at Belle Vue in June 1965 for a day out with builder Len Fairclough, played by Peter Adamson.
One of the most dramatic street storylines followed in May 1969. Young Barlow twins Peter and Susan were lost to their grandmother Edith Tatlock, played by Manchester actress Clare Kelly.
The children had wandered off to watch the penguins and were found by an elderly lady called Mrs Allendale who took them home for tea.
A great panic ensued and the police were called. Eventually Mrs Allendale sent the twins back to Coronation Street thinking everything was fine.
Parents Ken and Valerie Barlow (William Roache and Anne Reid) weren’t amused.
In 1970, betting shop owner Dave Smith (Reginald Marsh) watched greyhound racing at Belle Vue with Irma Barlow, played by Manchester actress Sandra Gough.
Out of character, actors Arthur Leslie, Margot Bryant and Violet Carson visited waxworks of themselves at Belle Vue in 1962.
They starred Jack Walker, Minnie Caldwell and Ena Sharples respectively.
Coronation Street filmed their final action at Belle Vue in 1972, by which time the park and zoo were struggling with rising costs and competition from other theme parks.
The zoo closed in 1977, followed by the amusement park in 1980.
The site was finally cleared in 1987 with the exception of the greyhound stadium and the billiard room in its car park.
New Brighton, Merseyside, developed as a popular seaside resort in the second half of the 19th century.
A new pier was opened in 1867 and the promenade from Seacombe to New Brighton was completed in 1901. It is now the longest in the UK.
Although New Brighton’s popularity waned after the war, the resort was still a favorite with Manchester families looking for a day away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Our remarkable 1959 Easter photo shows Eccles’ father, Gerald Perkins, deftly changing a diaper, safety pin in his mouth, while his wife enjoys some well-deserved rest. The famous donkey rides can be seen in the background.
The Tower Ballroom in New Brighton remained a major venue for North West bands throughout the 1950s and 1960s before being destroyed by fire in 1969. The Beatles played here 27 times!
The ballroom was surrounded by large grounds including a boating lake, fun fair, gardens and sports ground.
Our picture shows cheering day trippers outside Tower Grounds on Easter Monday 1960.
Obviously they were looking forward to a brilliant day!
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