JANUARY 1971 FLEETWOOD, LANCASHIRE
Trams and cars collide – hopefully not literally – on this unfeasibly warm winter’s day
We had to turn detective with this image. The location isn’t in doubt – even without the Arthur Street nameboard, distinctively painted white-on-red (something of a local trademark), the 1937-built Brush Blackpool rail-coach tram would nail the general area. The cream and red tip of the 1840 Pharos Lighthouse looming over The Washing Well laundrette and dry cleaner would then pinpoint things even more accurately. But when was the photograph taken?
At first glance, it looks typically early-1960s – until you spot the post-1968 Ford Escort MkI about to be eclipsed by the tram. Still 1960s then? Well, maybe. But look closer. The weak sunshine casting long shadows and ‘A Merry Xmas’ scrawled on the window of Pricerite Motor Spares suggest mid-winter… except the three young children a little way down the street are dressed in very lightweight clothing. We know they breed ’em tough up north, but still – shorts and a pinafore dress in December in Lancashire? That’s bordering on psychotic parenting. However, according to Meteorological Office archives, January 1971 was unseasonably warm, with record temperatures recorded. North Wales – not that far away – reached 18.3 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit). So was this shot snapped on that day, 10 January 1971? When Northern schoolkids could happily – but briefly – don summer clothes again, while local shopkeepers contemplated whether the time had finally come to take down the Christmas decorations? Elementary!
We suspect that the owner of the Ford Prefect 100E was probably a Pricerite customer; being between 12 and 18 years old, this would have been a typical cheap banger of the era. But the prominent wing mirrors and stick-on bonnet numberplate suggest that its owner was fond of jazzing things up a little with accessories. Perhaps he was in Pricerite seeing if he could add a little engine oomph? The Prefect’s 1172cc 36bhp wheezy side-valve wasn’t even capable of 70mph, yet the M6 at Preston – Britain’s first stretch of motorway, opened in 1958 – was just down the road. Perhaps the much plusher 196062 Humber Super Snipe Series III behind belongs to Mr Pricerite himself, acquired using the bountiful profits of his thriving automotive empire?
Next is an early Wolseley 16/60 Farina, which might have been regarded as a slightly more budget-conscious alternative to the Humber when new. However, the scruffy condition of this one, with black underseal extending from the sills onto the doors, suggests that it’s fallen down the foodchain. The ultimate ignominy for this once quite prestigious machine is that it’s being used for learner driver duties, judging by the peeling L-plate.
The grey Austin A30/A35 van behind it looks surprisingly large by contrast and presumably belongs to a local shopkeeper. Then comes the only comparatively modern vehicle here – a Ford Escort two-door MkI. Rectangular headlamps and bumper overriders identify it as the better-equipped Super – rejoice, for you got a carpet instead of the Deluxe’s rubber matting and a fresh air-blending heater as standard. A radio was still £20 extra, mind. It’s hard to be sure, but its windscreen wipers appear to suggest that it’s left-hand-drive, too.
Over on the other side of the road, a local business’ Ford Anglia 307E or 309E van is gently mouldering away, with tinworm especially prevalent around the bottoms of the rear doors. Beyond that is what looks like the rear lights of an ADO16 of some description, with a Volkswagen Type 2 Kombi Transporter van completing the lineup. It’s a very early 1950-1955 version, known as a ‘Barndoor’ due to its large engine cover and small rear window. Its classic value today would far exceed all the other vehicles here put together. Well, except for the tram, perhaps.
Remarkably, both Pricerite and The Washing Well are still going strong on North Albert Street, and the trams still run to the nearby Fleetwood Ferry Terminus. But the Pharos Lighthouse has weathered to its original sandstone finish and not even Pricerite’s anti-corrosion treatments and Plastic Padding body filler could probably save the cars here from the ravages of time and salty sea air.