Some time ago I wrote a Facebook entry about my local butcher’s disappointment when he visited Cleethorpes for the first time in decades. The place wasn’t what it used to be, he said, fifty years ago.
Shortly afterwards, my friend Marion remarked how much the children at her grandson’s primary school had enjoyed a day in Cleethorpes.
Apparently the school is in a fairly deprived area, and some of the kids had never actually been to the seaside. It proved impossible to get them off the beach: the sand and the sea were all they wanted.
That’s the magic of the seaside, yet Cleethorpes is entirely a commercial creation, the unlikely joint enterprise of the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway, who had built the line out to Grimsby to exploit the fish docks, and the dons of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, who owned 56% of the land enclosed by an Act of 1842 that specifically allocated to them 2½ acres of coastline.
The railway to Cleethorpes was opened in 1863: in August that year 40,000 Primitive Methodists attended a tea meeting, three-quarters of them arriving by train.
By 1892 the railway company owned the entire foreshore between Grimsby and Cleethorpes. George Dow, the railway historian, declared that Cleethorpes was one of the best investments the MS&L possessed.
Like most British seaside resorts, Cleethorpes is indeed a shadow of its former self, though you can by a quirk of railway geography get a train there direct from Manchester Airport.
Cleethorpes’ most successful sons are the actor, Patrick Wymark (1926-1970), and Rod Temperton (born 1947), member of the band Heatwave and writer of – among much else – the title track of Michael Jackson’s album, Thriller (1984).
The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2016 ‘Humber Heritage’ tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.