Recently I have discovered a gem. A little bit of Britain that I love. I do like the obvious gems:
and of course many others, too numerous to feature here.
This one is probably not one that would spring to most people’s minds but it has really captured my imagination. It’s Mereside Estate, Marton, Blackpool.
I’ve been spending a lot of time recently with Darcy and in the mornings I drop him off at work before going into work myself. He works flexi time which fits in nicely with my fixed shifts.
While dropping him off I had noticed the outskirts of Mereside Estate and thought it very much typical of council estates around the country. Not everybody’s idea of a desirable area to live in. However, more recently, instead of turning the car round and risking life and limb to turn right onto Preston New Road, Darcy suggested I drive through Mereside, so I would come out on Clifton Road where I could turn right at the lights.
So I got to drive through what I now believe is the heart of Mereside. I absolutely loved it. To my ignorant eye, it looked like the original houses must have been built in the 1950s (I wasn’t far wrong, as I have since discovered through intensive research on the Net).
Actually, it is a post war social housing development, built in the late 1940s, a time of huge financial problems for the whole country and a massive shortage of housing but, amazingly, a time of huge optimism and also, significantly, the founding of the Welfare State. I don’t know exactly when Mereside was built but I do know that the first houses were occupied in 1949 (Rootsweb ENG-LAN-FYLDE-L Archives). The heart of Mereside has optimism written large all over it. The houses are grouped together in fours mainly, with plenty of green spaces. The roads are quite narrow – obviously not a problem in the late 40s – with cars parked either side that effectively render them single lane, a bit of a problem if I’m late for work. The estate is very characteristic of social housing built at roughly the same time all over the country but it also has plenty of character of its own. The roads are named after places in Lakeland; I think it is quite common to name roads in council estates after beautiful parts of the country. I would like to show a picture of the estate but there are none I can find on the Internet, which I think is disgraceful. I will have to take my camera there, take some shots and upload them, labelling them “Mereside, a model of optimism” or something similar. If I do that, I will definitely grace this blog with them.
Mereside has plenty of later additions. I can only say they detract from its original charm. It also has a windmill nearby that doesn’t:
It was built in 1838 and was in use until 1923. It has been a target for vandals recently but it appears that there is a bid to attract lottery money to restore and possibly get it back to full working order. (BlackpoolGhosts) It provides a great centrepiece to the estate (this was probably the intention when the estate was built) and I sincerely hope Meresiders are proud of it.
What else is there to say about Mereside? Well, while I was trying to find out when it was built so I could write this blog, I found a couple of entries in the Blackpool Council Corporate Performance plan, Key Milestones, sub-section Council Housing, where they intend to extend the reassurance project to Grange Park and Mereside (yes, I would like to know what that means), that they have a Consultation and development of Mereside Estate Action Plan and, to my optimistic eye, the best of all, they want to develop “positive activities for young people on Mereside … in consultation with local residents, extending the dream scheme pilot from Grange Park”. That to me suggests that they want to steer young tearaways from vandalising the windmill to such wholesome activities as playing pool and darts and socialising with other young tearaways. Well, that’s how remember youth clubs from 30 odd years ago.
Something else that I found, which really gladdened my heart was an article in Blackpool Council’s website about plans for a “green makeover for Mereside”. The link is here but briefly, it involves Mereside primary school, the housing association that has taken over the running of Mereside, Blackpool Council and Mereside Tenants’ and Residents’ Association to regenerate an underused green space on the estate. Always involve the young. They’re the most optimistic of us all.
Finally, lets go back to where it all began and where I finally discovered, if only roughly, when it was built. I would just like to quote the man who finally led me in the right direction:
You forgot to mention the most notable event in Blackpool in 1949! I was
born , and a year later we moved to the Mereside estate (Cartmell Road)
Thanks Phil, you’ve got a friend for life now.