St Annes on Sea
Research by Maretta Fawcett
Found in 1993, sealed behind the backing of the painting, are the following comments:
Brantfell, 7 Queens Road, St Annes on Sea, 2nd June 1914
'Save me from a committee next time! This picture was originally intended for a poster design for St Annes on Sea. It was one of the first designs put before the Advertising Committee, but finally was not selected for advertising. It was commenced about April 1913 and was altered many times to please members of the selecting committee whose ideas about ART were to say the least varied.
So it was something between pictorial art and a poster hence its crudeness! Walter Woodhead`
Walter Woodhead was born on 23 April 1866 in Bradford. He lived with his mother and sister, Charlotte, at several St Annes on Sea addresses including:
1914 'Brantfell', 7 Queens Road, St Annes on Sea (see above)
1924 33 Bromley Road, St Annes on Sea - the home of his mother (unverified)
1929 126 St Annes Road East (Barretts Directory 1929)
1934 50 Albany Road St Annes on Sea (Barretts Directory 1934)
where he died on the 3 August 1941
Woodhead, along with Walter Eastwood and Harold Partington, was a founder member of Lytham St Annes Art Society. He was also a well-respected member of St Annes Parish Church. His grave is located in a prominent position close to the main door of the church.
Fiona Wilson, a local church historian, explains:
'Walter Woodhead became a sidesman in April 1916 to assist the church wardens in handing out service books and tidying the church etc. He became a Church Warden in 1924 and was 'Peoples Warden', which means he was elected by the parishioners. At the time he also became a member of the Parochial Church Council. He remained in office as Warden for only one year, retiring in 1925.'
The Church Magazine of May 1925 contains an article written by the vicar:
'I am sure you will share with me regrets that Mr Woodhead did not see his way to continue in office as Peoples Warden for another year. He has filled the office with much credit and to the satisfaction of the congregation. He has served during a very busy year and I wish to thank him for his loyal devotion to the Church.'
The Parish Magazines of August and September 1946 record his burial on
7 August 1946 and his bequest:
'The Late Mr Walter Woodhead It is with gratitude that we have to record that he has bequeathed in his Will (a) £2000 for the Parish Church Clergy Endowment Fund and (b) £1000 for St Margaret's Clergy Endowment Fund. These legacies are most generous and will indeed greatly help our parochial finance where it is at present most needed.' (In 1946 £3000 would equate to £90,000 today, 2015).
The painting/poster St Annes on the Sea 1913 is listed in the Stephen Sartin Catalogue (2001) as The Harbour.
The following information throws some light on the period in which it was painted. The Urban District Council minutes 1913-14, Volume 12, reveal the Council's rudimentary attempts to promote St Annes as a holiday destination. In fact prior to 1914 there was no such thing as an 'Advertising Committee'. That committee was instigated and representatives elected on 25 May 1914, it having been resolved that:
'A sum equal to the amount collected by the Tradesman's Association for advertising purposes (but in no case to exceed £50) … be contributed out of the profits of the Electricity Department'.
By 5 July 1915 it appears that the Advertising Committee were pleasantly surprised at the large number of prospective visitors seeking information about
St Annes on Sea:
'It is resolved that having regard to the large number of applications from intending
visitors for information and particulars of St Annes, the duty of supplying information and particulars of St Annes be relegated to Miss Moore, Temporary Assistant in the Sanitary Department.'
(Urban District Council Minutes, 5 July 1915)
By 30 October 1916, 1500 additional Guides, together with 128 advertisements in the sum of £85, were inserted into St Annes on Sea publicity material.
(UDC Minutes, 30 October 1916)
The above supports a view that St Annes was really taking off as a holiday resort in the early 20th century. Walter Woodhead's 'painting/poster' would have been competing against the increasing usage of photography, as this original early 20th century postcard might suggest:
What can the brush of an artist achieve which a camera cannot?
Walter Woodhead appropriately described his painting/poster as 'pictorial art' (1914). His painting of St Annes (ostensibly viewed from above) succeeds in including places of interest which cannot in fact be located by the camera in a similar (but not quite as airborne) position.
Comparison with photographs taken from a position substantially beyond the pier (without wide angle lens) confirm that neither the White Church at Fairhaven nor Blackpool Tower can be seen, yet the brush of Walter Woodhead cleverly includes them. Nor does a photograph capture the view of the distant Pennine Hills, Ashton Gardens and the Golf Course, all clearly visible in the painting.
Walter Woodhead's painting of St Annes on Sea draws subtle attention to the many attractions of the area; its magnificent hotels (including the 'Imperial' later renamed the 'Majestic'), its tramway (from Lytham to Blackpool) and the sea voyages which could be taken from the end of the pier to Southport and other areas of interest.
Whilst Walter Woodhead's 'pictorial art/poster' might not have been 'photographically' correct, it is clear that 'geographically' it was 'spot on'; the
flower beds flanking the bandstand and monuments are accurately positioned.
A comparison with the 1909 Ordnance Survey map clearly illustrates that his portrayal of buildings and transport in St Annes on Sea in 1914 were extremely accurate.
The questions arise as to how and why did Walter Woodhead paint his view of St Annes on Sea (ostensibly) from the air?
This painting was made at a time of great excitement among aviation enthusiasts, particularly on the Fylde Coast! The first ever 'official' aviation meeting to be held in the United Kingdom was held at Blackpool on 18 October 1909, with aircraft flying from Squires Gate (the boundary between St Annes and Blackpool) over the old 'Pontins' holiday camp site.
Those 'amazing men in their flying machines' would have had a 'birds eye view' …. just like the one in Walter Woodhead's wonderful painting!
Barretts Directories, 1924, 1929 and 1934
Byrom, Peter, (2012),
St Annes through Time, Amberley, Stroud
Draper, Derryck, (2005),
Lytham St Annes,
Black Horse Books/Francis Frith, Salisbury
Eyre, Kathleen, (1960),
Sand Grown, The Lytham St Annes Story,
Weaver and Youles, St Annes
Haley, R A, (1995),
Lytham St Annes, A Pictorial History,
St Annes Parish Church Magazines,
7 August 1946 and September 1946
Shakeshaft, Peter, (2008),
St Annes on the Sea, A History,
Urban District Council Minutes, 1913-14,
Vol 12, 5 July 1915 and 30 October 1916
I would like to pay special thanks to Fiona Wilson of St Annes Parish Church for helping me with information from Parish Magazines.
Also to Veronica McDonnell for her enthusiasm and personal encouragement.
St Annes Library for access to Urban District Council Minutes.