search
date/time
Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
frontpagebusinessartscarslifestylefamilytravelsportsscitechnaturefictionCartoons
Phil Hopkins
Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent
@philhopkinsuk
1:00 AM 23rd March 2024
travel

Blackpool's Imperial Hotel - A Mint Legacy 157 Years On

 
As you enter the lobby at Blackpool’s Imperial Hotel it is hard to deny that you are following in the footsteps of political greatness and, as you check in, you wonder whether or not you will hear the tattyfilarious tones of Ken Dodd or one of his mother-in-law jokes!

As probably one of the longest established hotels in what is euphemistically known as the ‘Vegas of the North’, the Imperial first opened its doors in 1867 as the centrepiece of the Claremont Park Estate, and to this day remains as a testimony to the Victorian prowess of Manchester architects, Clegg and Knowles.

Midway through the 19th century Blackpool was a popular resort with the upper classes and the Imperial was built to cater for their sophisticated needs.

Indeed, many of them would stay for weeks at a time and bring maids, valets and grooms to cater for their champagne lifestyle.

By the late 1800’s the West coast’s favourite town was enjoying a surge in popularity, thanks to the railways making it more accessible to visitors from across the country: mill workers from Leeds and Manchester also visited by the coachload.

These days it may well be a shadow of its former self, however, there is no taking away this property’s historic pedigree, with its intricate facades, grand columns and still elegant interiors and, if there were a trade to be had in ghosts, then the Imperial would surely win the ghoul stakes hands down!

Its who’s who of visitors is impressive to say the least, many visiting there for either a political conference or simply to switch on the town’s famous illuminations: Winston Churchill, Kate Moss, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sarah Brightman, Charles Dickens, the late Queen Mother, political commentators and, indeed international ambassadors, have all dined in the Palm Court Restaurant.

In 1955 Jacob Malik, the Russian Ambassador to London stayed in the Ambassadors Suite when he visited Blackpool to turn on the illuminations, enjoying the Tower Circus, riding the Pleasure Beach’s Grand National and eating candyfloss alongside holidaymakers.

He even modelled for a figure at Louis Tussauds Waxworks during his stay!

Two years later in 1957 and his opposite number was in town: John Hay Whitney was the American Ambassador to London and one of the top 10 wealthiest men in the world at the time. He and his wife spent several days in the same suite and visited many of the town’s attractions, enjoying rides on the Pleasure Beach’s Big Dipper!

Both men were key players in 1950’s world politics. However, for a few days, they were able to enjoy the relaxed fun and holiday atmosphere of Blackpool and the Imperial.

Our delightful Greek waitress in the Palm Court, was a joy. “Your wife is late again (to breakfast), I see. It will be hair and make-up,” she mused. “Have another coffee, I am sure she will be along soon.”

The Palm Court was busy. These days the Imperial hosts many conferences and, during our stay, it was former serving members of one of the Army’s regiments that were having their reunion and keeping the restaurant staff busy.

“The other week,” confided a waiter, “we had 350 of the world’s top balloon modellers staying here. It was amazing. We had cartoon characters in the lobby made out of balloons!”

Our sea view room was clean, simple, large and spoke of glory days with its chandelier and wall mounted sepia photographs, of people from the Victorian period paddling in the Irish Sea, and ladies from the 50’s guffawing as they were thrown from side to side in one of the Pleasure Beach’s manic rides.

The Imperial was originally built at a cost of £14,947 with a further £2,233 being set aside for kitchen equipment and grates!

A further £5,000 was spent on furnishings and the central feature of the hotel was an impressive central tower in French Renaissance style, complete with a large flag mast and the name ‘Imperial Hydropathic Hotel’. The Tower Suite now occupies this space.

Downstairs we partook of dinner in the Palm Court, but not before we'd enjoyed a drink in the No 10 bar, not only noted for its more casual dining options, but named in honour of those politicians who have also taken a tipple there!

Midway through our starters we were soon deep in conversation with two delightful neighbours, a Lithuanian chap who spoke five languages and his equally amiable colleague from Valencia. They were staying there as part of a training course.

Brexit, life, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the joys of Mediterranean food all figured on our two-hour agenda. After coffee we bade our farewell and retired for the night following a day’s walking along Blackpool front, eager to hit our pillows.

As Blackpool continues to evolve and reinvent itself for the 21st century, the Imperial Hotel remains a steadfast emblem of the town’s enduring, chaotic charm and hospitality.

With its rich history, impeccable service and timeless allure, the hotel continues to welcome guests from near and far, inviting them to experience the magic of Blackpool in style and comfort.

I haven’t’ spoken to my mother-in-law for 18 months, I don’t like to interrupt her!”

We had just checked out but I’m sure I heard Ken Dodd just behind me. I looked, he’d gone and, very soon, so had we.

‘If those walls could speak,’ I thought, ‘what tales they would tell.’


ROOM RATES

The 180-room Imperial Hotel sits on the Blackpool promenade within walking distance of many of the town’s much-loved attractions. It offers Standard Single and Two Bedroom Suites, starting in price from £67.50 for a weeknight stay in a Standard Double Room with Sea View. More information here