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Southport is a beautiful and typically British seaside town in Merseyside, anchored to the coastline of the Irish Sea. With stunning architecture and arguably the best collection of golf courses around, it’s a must see destination.
The Mad Duke of Southport
Southport was founded in 1792 when an innkeeper named William Sutton (also known as The Mad Duke or The Old Duke) took advantage of the fashionable new trend of ‘sea bathing’ and built a bathing house on the beach near the village of North Meols. Realising the importance of the newly created canal systems, he gambled with the idea of a hotel by the seaside just 4 miles away from the newly constructed Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
He constructed his “Original Hotel” at the southern end of what is now the mile-long and much-admired Lord Street, but was nothing of the sort at the time. Rather, the project became a source of disbelief and amusement to the folk of Churchtown and Meols, who referred to William Sutton as “The Mad Duke” and the hotel as “Duke’s Folly”. The hotel was described as being ‘in the southern hawes of nowhere’ at that time, “hawes” (or “meols”) being the local word for sand dunes.
However the Mad Duke proved himself to be otherwise! Lord Street grew, with the hotel anchoring the southern end, helping to create its own more respectable address. Nowadays, the town of 93,000 still pays tribute to its founder with a notable plaque set in a cornerstone at Duke Street/Lord Street, along with a hotel just off the corner which bears the name Dukes Folly Hotel.
Lord Street dates from the 1820s when the joint Lords of the Manor, the Bold-Houghton and Fleetwood-Hesketh families, laid out a spacious street and began the policy of granting building leases which stipulated that development should not be of an industrial or offensive nature. It was first called Lords’ Street after the founding families.
The character of Lord Street and the resort however was established during and after the 1840’s with the policy of the new landlords, especially Charles Scarisbrick, of encouraging planned residential development. This policy, continued by the town’s leading citizens, was accompanied by a deliberate attempt to develop the town as a seaside resort for the ‘refined’ and ‘well to do’.
The first boulevard in the world!
Lord Street is famously believed to be one of the first boulevards in the world. The young exiled Prince Louis Napoleon took lodgings just off Lord Street for a season in 1838. Much later, when he had become Emperor Napoleon III of France, he ordered his architect to rebuild the capital.
The inspiration for Paris, perhaps…
The great boulevards which traverse Paris today are believed to have originated from the Emperor’s memories of Lord Street – tree-lined boulevards, wide pavements and shops on the west side.
By the end of the nineteenth century Southport was well established in its dual role of select residential town and high-class resort. Nowhere was this more evident than in Lord Street with its substantial hotels and public buildings, its exclusive shops and dignified public gardens.
Today Southport is a flourishing seaside and golf destination hosting many events, conferences and just generally a really good time.
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