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Failures on the North Promenade

Undoubtably the main playground for our area for any years was the North Promenade area. Many ideas on entertainment were tried in this area first. Several for a time succeeded extremely well but then collapsed and failed dramatically.

One of the strange failures has been sea trips, which have always been popular at seaside resorts and, in many areas, still are operating strongly. In Cleethorpes there have been several attempts over many years to engage the public in this activity but eventually it all seems to come to grief, not necessarily with any fault of the boat owners.

Obviously being next to the sea, boat trips have been on offer many times since the resort began, but then always seem to fade away for a period. The current position is that there have been no such trips on offer in recent years at all.

Originally, when passengers first left the railway station after it was originally built, they were greeted by oyster stalls and it was at these stalls they were also offered boat trips.

Some years later the boats attracted passengers with placards and you embarked by means of a long gangplank with small wheels at one end and large ones on the seaward side. Two men wearing waders held the gangplank and helped passengers to board the various small vessels.

The First World War seemed to end this occupation but then eventually came the ‘boats with wheels’ which also plied for trade opposite the railway station. There were four of these vehicles which drove into the sea until the water was deep enough for the propeller to come into play. When the tide was out, the land journey was obviously longer and compensated by the seaborne trip being shorter. These vehicles were specially built on Ford lorry chassis and dated from 1925. The boats were the size and shape of a lifeboat and held about 25 people per trip.

Cleethorpes was the first resort to use them and the locals knew them as ‘floating charabancs’. These lasted until the late 1930’s.

After the Second World War, two ex american army amphibians were used for several years on the same principle but eventually they, like their predecessors, stopped trading.

Another even shorter lived vessel attraction, was the Mississipi River Showboat which was beached at the north end of the promenade in the 1950’s. It had been converted from a former Goodwin Sands lightship and considered to be a ‘monstrosity’ by officialdom.

The original idea was for it to be anchored near the Hale Fort but in the interim it was beached close to the north breakwater near the pier. A special hole was dug at low tide, which was 100ft long, 30ft deep and 15ft feet wide. The idea was to tow the vessel into this excavated area at high tide.

Unfortunately the tug towing the boat had problems and the excavator with steel ropes attached had to assist. The job was finally achieved with much manual effort and the use of wooden railway sleepers.

After only three months the Chairman of Cleethorpes Council (who ran the pier at that stage), served the ship owners a summons and had the vessel removed to Grimsby Docks. After a few months at that location, it’s contents were sold by public auction.

Another oddity was the revolving tower which was built at the far end of the North Pier. This was called a Warwick tower and there were several similar towers built at other seaside resorts.

This attraction was an American idea and brought to England by one, Thomas Warwick – hence it’s name.

The tower was planned in 1900, but not built until 1902, standing approximately 150 feet tall. It consisted of a large circular lift at the bottom which could carry 200 people at one time. The lift ascended as it revolved around a central pole. At the top visitors could step out on to an observation platform, with views over Cleethorpes, Grimsby, the Humber estuary and on a clear day, even stretching across the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Strangely at the time it was the only attraction in Cleethorpes allowed to open for Sunday Trading.

At the bottom of the tower stood an indoor pavilion where a band often played. It held the usual slot machine and souvenir amusements and entrance to two other larger rides, one being a figure of eight and the other a helter skelter.

Initially it was popular but declined in its usage in later years, so much so that eventually the lift was fixed in one position, to have what was known as flying boats attached, thus becoming little more than a fairground type ride.

It was dismantled in 1911 as a roofed area was felt to be required in this rather exposed spot. Consequently by the end of 1911, Wonderland had been built.

Mr Warwick’s company itself had only a limited life and his Company ended in failure and was dissolved.

In short it perhaps proves that there may be ‘no business like show business’ but there are lots of businesses like accounting!