• David Walshe

Coronation Walk (part one): A pathway to retail & recreation.

Updated: May 12

We can trace the origins of Coronation Walk back to an entrepreneur from Bolton, Samuel Whiteley, born circa 1783. In 1812 he built his repository, approximately 100 yards to the seaward side from the buildings, beginning to form what became Lord Street. Thomas Glazebrook gave us the following description in his guide of 1826;

Mr Whiteley’s repository deserves to be noticed separately;- every exertion having been made by Mrs.Whiteley and himself, to provide for the comfort and amusement of the visitors. It was built in 1812, and consists of an extensive shop, containing a large and well selected assortment of elegant and useful articles. There is also a news-room and library. To these have lately been added, a wine and porter cellar, and a warehouse plentifully stocked with the necessities and luxuries of life.

An early image of Whiteleys’ repository by E.Filshie, from the archives of Geoff Wright

Francis Bailey tells us it was named Coronation Walk from 1820 in anticipation of George IV’s Coronation which was originally scheduled to take place in August of that year. The event was postponed until 1821 due to George’s estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick, returning to England. A bill was put to parliament in an attempt to deny her the title of Queen however, this was eventually dropped, much to the delight of large sections of the public. Bland tells us that a celebration took place in November 1820, lead by Wiganer Robert Holt, which included a procession from his newly built Belmont Castle that abutted the Birkdale boundary where Castle Walk & Castle Mount stand today. This event was reported in the Liverpool Mercury and according to Bailey, the reference to ‘the Main Street’ is the earliest known for Lord Street.

On James Leigh’s 1824 plan of Southport, Coronation Walk is shown leading from Coronation Houses (named after the official Coronation in July 1821) from the then unnamed Lord Street. It is therefore likely that the pathway was formed from 1812 onwards by visitors meandering through the Sandhills to reach the delights of Whiteley’s repository. The repository and wine vaults are also detailed on Leigh’s plan. The Whiteley’s business continued to prosper and be recognised regionally. A letter to the editor of the Manchester Courier in 1826 said that the business, ‘stands A1 for news, gossip, and divers (sic) other sundry good things, too numerous to be mentioned’.

Section of James Leigh’s plan of Southport as featured in Farrers 1903 A History of the Parish of North Meols

As the bathing village of Southport grew into a town and more businesses appeared, Whiteley no longer needed to offer the community aspects of his Coronation Walk staple and diversified to accommodate the increasing number of visitors in search of health & well-being. Robinson provides us with the following description from his 1848 guide;

Mr Whiteley’s repository was built in 1812 and formerly had a news-room, library and other conveniences attached thereto; now, a goodly supply of generous wines, and the strengthening bottled porter, and other articles of a general nature, required by invalids, (aye, and by valetudinarians too,) are there in tempting and luxurious profusion.

The location of Whiteley’s repository was almost opposite to the junction of West Street today, with the family residence directly behind their business premises, on what became the original King Street, (today’s King Street was called Upper King Street until c1873 when the former made way for the Winter Gardens). In 1831 Whittle described it as a, ‘neat marine cottage, called the second sea bank house, (upon the verge of the strand or beach), is a neat ornee residence, and possesses a stone embankment to the front in order to prevent the encroachments of the sea at spring tide’. This stone embankment was built in 1821 following a very high tide and is considered to be the forerunner to the Promenade which opened in 1839.

Section of 1845/48 OS map kindly reproduced with permission from the National Library of Scotland.

Bland tells us that this embankment extended from Coronation Walk towards Birkdale, and formed protection for Whiteley’s ‘Beach House’ and other properties on King Street. The location of Beach House is shown on the 1848 OS map and is where Samuel Whiteley lived until his death in July 1852. On the 1851 census he is listed as a retired porter dealer at No.1 King Street, however this last return for him did not tell his full story. Not only was he recognised for his entrepreneurship and forward thinking, he was also a leading figure in early Southport; at the consecration of Christ Church in 1821, a toast was specifically raised to him. This was clear evidence of how highly he was regarded in his adopted town and which continued when he became an original member of the Southport Improvement Commissioners in 1846.

In part two of our blog next week we will look at another well known & respected character of early Southport, who was more than prominent on Coronation Walk.

David Walshe (Secret Sand Land) Copyright 2021.

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This fascinating mix of poetry, fact and legend contains plenty to surprise even the most knowledgeable of Southport residents – but its appeal is not only local. David has an insight born of deep connection to place and his ancestry in this once-unknown spot on the north west coast. He wields hisdepth of knowledge deftly in this first volume of his imagist poems. Some are gently evocative of different times, like Velvet Walk and The Gardens of Montpellier, but for a seaside town tragedy was never far away and I challenge anyone to read John ‘Shark’ Jackson, Peter ‘Diamond’ Wright and Single Loaf without erupting in goosebumps. The illustrations complement the text perfectly.

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