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Beechwood Baths

Early Days

“Beechwood School and Kindergarten”
 1. Directly across Fleetwood Road, Thornton, opposite our house, were some high, black-painted, double wooden gates—always closed. In front of them the pavement [sidewalk] and grass verge bordering the road gave way to a gravel driveway. On either side of the gate were high wooden fences, though I think their starkness was mitigated by the presence of a hedge before and tall trees behind them. To the left, this fence continued round the corner, down the first, straight half of Neville Drive, before Neville Drive turns left then right again in a sort of “kink” and the houses like Nanny and Grandad Cooper’s begin.[more] Later, though, some of that fenced-off land was acquired by Gartside the building contractor for bungalows on that side of Neville Drive; and Laurel Drive was constructed just before the “kink” in Neville Drive, cutting through to Beechwood Drive, with more Gartside bungalows on it (such as Trevor’s at No.10).

“Trevor’s at No.10”, photo taken 2003
 Later on, a sign, in gold letters on a black background—“BEECHWOOD SCHOOL AND KINDERGARTEN”—appeared on one side of the tall gates, and then they weren’t always kept closed.

Perhaps 1960 or 1961
 2. When I was about ten my Dad started to take our Steve and me to Beechwood School on Sunday afternoons, to its small, indoor, heated swimming pool, situated in an outhouse at the rear of the main building. That was the first sight I had had of the large house, surrounded by spacious grounds with tall trees and lawns and flower-beds. Going there to swim was far more convenient than travelling, say, to Derby Baths in Blackpool; and the water at Beechwood was agreeably much warmer. At this time I couldn’t swim, so I spent my time within arm’s reach of the water’s edge; though later on I was given an inflatable rubber ring and got more adventurous.

Derby Baths on the North Promenade, Blackpool, with a large swimming pool and other bathing facilities, opened in 1939. It was demolished in 1990 to make way for the Hilton Hotel.
The Gorsts
 3. We used to meet the Gorsts there: Mrs. Gorst—and her slim, dark-haired daughter Sandra, all resplendent in her blue swimming costume. Perhaps “all resplendent” is somewhat exaggerated, but she did wear a bright blue costume which had a sheen. My Dad knew Mrs. Gorst because, like he, she worked for the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance at Norcross, and because she was in the Amateur Dramatics Society which met across the corridor from the Club at Norcross, where my Dad was steward.

“Sandra”, early 1970s
 There was another girl who used to appear there, with them, in a black swimming costume: “Sandra’s sister?” I wondered. Sandra was about my age, but the other girl was somewhat older; she looked older, and her swimming costume had begun to show signs of slight outward displacement at the chest.
 So we used to swim—later on I did learn to swim
[1]—and have games together.
[1] Later on I did learn to swim: See Swimming lessons at Beechwood School and I learn to swim.
The end of Beechwood School
 4. More Gartside bungalows appeared along Fleetwood Road, including the one opposite our house, called “Gardine”, which Mr. Gartside built for his mother. It looked just like the others, except that it had a taller chimney than all the rest. That chimney blew down in the storms that swept Thornton one January night in 1965—but that’s another story. Eventually, the site of Beechwood School was completely swallowed up by housing.

“Gardine”, 2006, taken from the driveway of “our house”. It is not quite “opposite our house”, then. The entrance to Beechwood School was where the driveway of the next-door house is, in this photo.

“Completely swallowed up by housing”

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