• David Walshe

Coronation Walk (part two): Caesars’ Laws on the Parade.

Updated: May 12

At the top of Coronation Walk facing the sea, stood a unique building which has been confused many times as being Whiteley’s repository. This time I am referring to ‘The Lodge’. Peter Aughton states it was built by Samuel Whiteley in 1840 and this is probably where the confusion arises that it was his repository. The date of 1840 is backed up by the earliest image of the Lodge, an engraving by W.H. Bartlett and J.C. Armytage entitled, ‘The Sands at Southport’. The Victoria Baths (1839) can be seen in the distance, along with one or two houses (1840 built by a Mr.Wright) centrally positioned on the Promenade and Sea Bank Cottage next to the Lodge. It is shown on the 1848 OS map being named ‘Promenade Lodge’.

The Sands at Southport c1840

1845/48 OS over modern map showing a position of The Lodge at the top of Coronation Walk. Reproduced with kind permission from Lancashire County Council

Robinsons’ guide gave the following description of the Lodge when discussing the ‘Victoria Promenade’;

A handsome stone lodge is situated at the entrance from Coronation-walk, and the foot-path is reached by a flight of stone steps. In order to keep the Promenade in good repair, a small toll is charged, which is exacted from residents as well as visiters (sic) unless persons are resident thereon, or are going to or returning from the Victoria Baths.

‘The Lodge from High Water’ as featured in Robinsons’ 1848 guide

The levy to enter the ‘Marine Parade’ as the Promenade was originally called was one penny. Inside the Lodge was a shop selling toffee, shells and toys and thanks to James Whitehead’s recollections we know that the original custodian was another entrepreneurial Lancastrian, by the name of Caesar Lawson, born 1797 in Leigh. In 1819 he married Mary Comstive in Ormskirk, and the earliest mentions I can find for him in North Meols come in 1828 Pigot’s directory and also Peter Whittle’s 1831 guide, listing him as a saddler, living in Churchtown. By 1841 he had moved to Southport living on Back Lord St, still listed as a saddler, but like Whiteley, Lawson had many strings to his bow.

Beattie painting of the Promenade Lodge. Image credit Sefton Library Services

He utilised the flat roof of the Lodge, ensuring trippers and residents were provided with a viewing platform and the use a telescope, which could be used for a one penny charge. There was an octagonal shaped toll booth at the Nevill Street end of the Promenade too, where James Whitehead tells us ‘out of which pounced a minion of Caesar Lawson’s to demand the toll’. Pleasure seekers wishing to sail across to the Fylde were advised to gain terms & times from Lawson, who was described as ‘Promenade keeper’ and also, a known authority on ‘nautical matters’. He is still listed in Slater’s 1848 directory as being proprietor of the lodge. If all this was not enough, he was also listed in Robinson’s 1848 guide as a tax assessor and one year later in ‘J.S.’ 1849 guide, he was described as a ‘saddler, collar & harness maker’ on Lord Street.

At some point between 1845 & 1851 the Lawson’s had taken up residence on Chapel Street, (next door to my 4th great grandfather, Thomas Rimmer!) still living there ten years later, however in 1861 it appears he had turned his hand to operating the weighing machine at the Railway Station. It’s interesting to note that Caesar is recorded as a widower on the 1861 census, however detailed on the national probate calendar following his death on 24th May 1869, it says that his effects were left to Mary Lawson, widow the relict living in Cheetham Hill, Manchester.

Caesar Lawson had ceased trading at the Promenade Lodge by at least 1857, as listed in the directory of that year under ‘bazaars & fancy repositories’ is a George Waterhouse at Promenade Lodge. What is also interesting is that an 1857 engraving by Rock & Co of London describes the building as a museum. Shortly after this, the toll was abolished in 1858, when the Commissioner’s took over the responsibility on behalf of the ratepayers. On the 1861 census there is an entry recorded as ‘Lodge’ for a Thomas S. Hartley from Hull, listed as a ‘skin dresser’, which was an occupation that prepared animal skins for the manufacture of clothing. This is also the first census entry I have found for the building, therefore showing it was also residential at this time.

P. Mannex & Co’s guide for Lancashire tells us that the Lodge was still operational as a repository in 1866, with Thomas S. Hartley as the proprietor. The guide gives us a brief description similar to Robinson in 1848;

There is a handsome stone lodge at the entrance from Coronation Walk, and the footpath is reached by a flight of stone steps.

However the Hartley family didn’t stay for long as only four years after Mannex’s guide, they had moved back to the east coast, found living in Bridlington in 1871. The Promenade Lodge was now in the hands of Mary Wilson, tobacco dealer, originally from Rochdale.

Rare photo of The Lodge, centre with The Royal Hotel (Clifton) behind and the Lifeboat House in front. This could well be the last known image before it was demolished. Image credit Sefton Library Services

However just two years later in 1873, the whole area, an ‘extremely well chosen’ eight acre site adjacent to Coronation Walk between Lord Street and the shore was to be transformed into a ‘miniature Crystal Palace’; of course this was the beginnings of Southport’s famous ‘Winter Gardens’. The original King Street, previous residence of Samuel Whiteley, and our handsome Promenade Lodge, which had stood facing the retreating sea at the top of Coronation Walk for just thirty-three years, were to be permanently wiped off the map as this section of old Southport gave way to what became the most magnificent feature of Victorian Southport.

David Walshe (Secret Sand Land) Copyright 2021.

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Sandy Tracks' is a startling literary and artistic creation. It is classical in its ambition to both uplift and educate and is an invaluable contribution to understanding local history and dialect. There is a wonderful synthesis between the very fine poetry, the exquisitely restrained illustrations and the succinct historical research. I could not put this book down. You will return to it again and again. Phil McNulty, Editor, 'The Fringe Poetry Magazine'.

This is a must read for all those interested in Southport’s rich heritage. David has the rare ability to paint poetic word pictures of the Southport of yesteryear coupled with skilfully crafted illustrations.

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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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