The Museum team went to visit Mr Tom Roberts and family at their beautiful home, Bispham Court. We had been told that they had a patio in their garden which had been signed by many of the entertainment stars who had stayed there over the years.
Tom, a successful pig farmer, is quite a character and refers to himself as having been ‘a strutting peacock’ in his prime. Tom very kindly spent a couple of hours talking to us about his memories of the house and the stars that came to stay.
His mother, Mrs. Milly Roberts, bought Bispham Court in 1946 after selling on her Blackpool promenade hotel. The family had just decided to keep pigs at the house and had a stroke of luck whilst frequenting a sale room. Mr. Bull from Entwhistle (an agency) asked Mrs. Roberts if she still had a hotel as he knew of a three dancers coming to Blackpool to performer in the summer season and needed a place to stay.
Not wanting to miss this opportunity, the family realised that the spacious Bispham Court could be divided up into living quarters creating a 3 bedroom house to let during the season. The house would include a dining room, large lounge, hall, 3 bedrooms and a bathroom, but no kitchen. They quickly built a kitchen and agreed to have their first guests, the Andrea Dancers.
The only problem being that the house they were letting out had the only indoor bathroom. The family had to use a chemical toilet in the greenhouse for a while. This didn’t suit Tom’s sisters, Eileen and Mildred who would walk to the bus shelter to use the public toilets instead.
After they had the first guests stay, they never looked back and performers stayed every summer season into the 1980s. The guests would stay with them for the entire summer season, which for some stars could have been up to 20 weeks. They had complete privacy and access to the beautiful garden. Tom explained that the neighbours were on the whole very well behaved, with just a few occasions where they would knock on the door ‘accidentally’ trying to meet the residing star.
Hotels often ask guests to leave their parting comments in a guest book, but Tom and family decided to create something more permanent and much more unusual. Tom set about creating concrete blocks in wooden frames and asked the stars to sign their name and also where and when they performed.
He now has over 40 signed paving slabs and a whole scrapbook of photos, newspaper clippings and memories to accompany them.
Tom tells stories of all the wonderful parties the stars threw from his garden and inside the house. One particular memory was of the celebrations following Eddie Calvert being presented with his Golden Record, which included him playing his trumpet until 4am!
He recalls one particular party were Tommy Cooper dropped in, telling his driver he will only stay for 5 minutes, which turned into hours. He remembers Paul Daniels being at the same party and started doing his impressions of Tommy Cooper. In playful retaliation, Tommy put Paul in headlock. The next day the house received flowers from Tommy to say sorry for not making it to the party. Classic Tommy.
From 1949 – 1984, the stars that have stayed at Bispham Court include; Ernie Wise, Des O’Connor, Eddie Calvert, Sid James, Eric Sykes, Edmund Hockridge, Kathy Kirby, Barbara Windsor, Michael Barrymore and Paul Daniels to name but a few!