5 things you should know about St Annes
- Credit: Kirsty Thompson
The town was planned and laid out in the 19th century. But although it can pin-point its founding to March 31 1875, the origins of the Viking village which stood on the land previously are much less specific; Kilgrimol was thought to have been established in about 900BC. The town was mostly laid out according to a plan drawn up by businessman Elijah Hargreaves who saw there was money to be made from bringing workers from the mill towns to the coast. Much of his plan is still evident.
Ashton Gardens was opened as a public park in 1874 and originally had views to the sea. These days the park is home to Japanese Gardens, Rose Gardens, Water Gardens and a lake as well as children’s play areas, bowling greens.
Most of the shops in St Annes are along St Annes Road West, and the roads leading off it. The grand old dame of St Annes shops, JR Taylor’s department store, closed down in 2015 and still stands empty, but there is a good range of shops and cafes, whatever you’re looking for. Many of the businesses here are independents and offer the kind of friendly warm welcome you’d expect.
Food and drink
There is very little chance of going hungry in St Annes, with a huge range of restaurants, cafes and pubs to choose from, many of them along Wood Street which runs parallel to St Annes Road West. There’s a farmers’ market on the wide pedestrian areas of the main shopping street on the first Thursday of each month. There’s a popular café in Ashton Gardens and there are plenty of great spots for a picnic.
A seaside resort wouldn’t be complete without a pier. This one opened in June 1885 by which time there were two at Blackpool, one across the estuary at Southport and another down the road at Lytham. The pier at St Annes hosted entertainment and Gracie Fields and George Formby (who lived about a mile down the road) were among the stars to perform on the pier. There were devastating fires on the pier in the 1960s and 80s which left part of the old landing jetty sitting on the sand adrift from the main structure.
St Annes is often lumped together with its near neighbour Lytham, but they are distinct towns. Between them you’ll find Fairhaven, with its famous lake and the landmark white church. Fairhaven Lake is undergoing a transformation, with a new adventure golf course already proving popular and re-building work is continuing on the café. The plans for the lake include restoring the Japanese Gardens that were originally laid out in the 1920s by renowned Scorton-born designer Thomas Mawson.
A little inland is Ansdell, the only village in England to be named after an artist. Richard Ansdell moved here from Liverpool. His fame was such that a new road near his house was named Ansdell Road and a railway stop was called Ansdell Halt. The rapid spread of transport links to Lytham ruined the tranquillity he’d originally sought and he moved away. His house is now a care home and there is a small but pretty comprehensive range of shops.
A little further along the coast is Lytham, one of the gems of the Fylde Coast. Famous for its wide tree-lined streets, its mile-long green and its fabulous shops, the town also has a reputation for its cafes, bars and restaurants. There are also some lovely parks – try Park View to keep children entertained for hours, or Lowther Gardens where you’ll find the Pavilion Theatre which has an impressive programme of events throughout the year. Among the town’s landmarks are the windmill – surely one the most photographed in the country – and Lytham Hall, home to generations of the Clifton family.