Trouble on the Beach

Pat McGregor – 07 May 2008

We all know that there is traffic congestion at Victoria and Lifeboat Roads on fine summer weekends and sometimes we read of antisocial behaviour on the Beach but did you know that over seventy years ago Formby inhabitants were much concerned about visitors to the Beach?

Going through the Formby Times on microfilm at the Library looking for any information on Sand Winning revealed some interesting facts. In July 1930 there was “trouble with the trippers” at Freshfield Station “they come from the more proletarian parts of Liverpool, leave litter on the beach and romp about in what are called rat-a-tat bathing costumes, scanty affairs adapted for sunbathing” They kept coming however and started camping on the beach and in nearby fields. Some farmers didn’t farm any more as they could get £300 a season letting land to campers. In June 1936 there were complaints about the behaviour of campers on the shore. Several were fined for abusive language and reports of a group playing Ring-a-Ring-of-Roses round the Cross at Cross Green! In the next issue two mounted police were said to patrol the Beach at weekends! 

More and more campers came and on one fine weekend there were 2000 people in tents and there were five or six such camps. Over the summer letters appeared in the Formby Times about the conditions in these camps and worries about typhoid and diphtheria. Some of the concern seemed to be due to the fact that ill people would be sent to hospitals at the expense of Formby Ratepayers!

At the time the Council had no Legal powers to close or prohibit camps. The Public Health Act 1936 gave Local Authorities the power to make Byelaws about Camps but it would not apply until October 1937.A well attended Public Meeting was held at 8pm on 10th Nov 1936 to discuss ‘The Formby Camping Problem’ when it was decided to appoint a Warden to look after the Camps and to have inspections by the Council but not to make Byelaws. Conditions seem to have improved and camping continued until the outbreak of war in 1939 stopped it.

Litter on the beach was a constant problem, with much broken glass and things thrown over- board from ships as well as litter left by visitors. The Council did not own the foreshore at that time and could not legally do anything to improve it. The owners the Formby and Ince Blundell Estates were unwilling to sell not wanting the development of Seaside amenities. As late as July 1951 John Breeze, Clerk to Formby Urban District Council, said in reply to a complaint of cut feet “The beach from the southern boundary to Victoria Rd is still under Government Requisition and technically you are trespassing and the Council can’t improve it.”

The Formby Society (now Formby Civic Society), after its formation in 1953 sent many letters about the state of the foreshore and in 1961 organised two litter drives with the help of local Youth Clubs & the Round Table.

How much better is the state of the foreshore and dunes now! Sefton Council and the National Trust have made miles of well maintained footpaths in the Dunes which are enjoyed by local people of all ages as well as many visitors. The improvements in sewage management and the reduction in stuff thrown overboard together with provision of litter bins have made the foreshore more attractive. We now still have much to enjoy and should appreciate what has been done by many people.