St Anne’s-on-the-Sea (also known as St Annes-on-Sea or St Annes) was a 19th-century planned town, officially founded on 31 March 1875 when the cornerstone of the St Anne’s Hotel was laid. The town was mostly laid out according to a plan drawn up by businessman Elijah Hargreaves, who saw the economic benefits of attracting large numbers of visitors from the mill towns to the east. It retains much of its original character today, and is fighting hard to become a stylish town to rival Lytham, its nearby neighbour. It is a traditional quiet Victorian/Edwardian seaside resort with up-market hotels, a sandy beach, donkeys, a small pier and ice cream stalls. Sand dunes fringe the beach and the town has an excellent, but little-known sand dune nature reserve and very good floral displays.
St Annes is the original home of Premium Bonds and their prize-selecting computer ERNIE, which were situated on a site between Shepherd Road and Heyhouses Lane. Premium Bonds operated from there for more than 40 years and then moved to Blackpool. The shopping area declined towards the end of the 20th century and was redeveloped in an attempt to attract more retailers and shoppers. As part of this project a restaurant quarter was established, centred around Wood Street. Work began on a £2m restoration project in Ashton Gardens, a park situated near the town centre. As this is where many of the activities for St Annes Carnival are held, the 2009 carnival was cancelled and the 2009 carnival queen’s title was extended by one year.
The beach to the north of St Anne’s Pier was an internationally renowned sand yachting location for many years, but sand yachting has been suspended since 2002, when a visitor to the beach died after being hit by a sand yacht. St Annes Beach also hosts a number of kite flying events each year. In 2006 kite enthusiasts raised concerns about the future of these activities following a decision by Fylde Borough Council in 2006 to ban the flying of kites with two or more lines anywhere in the Fylde. Following representations from kite-fliers and completion of a risk assessment, the council rescinded the ban on condition that kite fliers remain at least 50m from the sand dunes. A memorial statue of a lifeboatman looking out to sea was placed on the promenade at St Annes after the Mexico Disaster of 1886. The original lifeboat station was established in 1881 but closed in 1925 due to silting of the channel (a secondary channel of the Ribble that ran past the pier). A lifeboat continued to operate from Lytham, but the main channel of the River Ribble also became silted up, so the lifeboat was moved to a new all-weather RNLI base a few hundred yards south of St Annes pier which opened in 2000. St Annes-on-the-Sea Carnegie Library is situated just outside the town centre in an Edwardian, Carnegie-funded building.
St Annes railway station
There is some confusion, even among residents of the town, about whether the correct name is “St Annes” or “St Anne’s”. The apostrophe has been dropped from the name by many of the residents of the town and has long been absent in many formal uses, such as local newspaper the Lytham St Annes Express, St Annes Parish Church, and Lytham St. Annes High Technology College, although the spelling St. Anne’s is still sometimes used.
On 23 October 2008 a bronze statue by sculptor Graham Ibbeson of comedian Les Dawson, who lived in the town, was unveiled by Dawson’s widow and daughter in the ornamental gardens next to St Annes Pier. Comedian George Formby, Jr. also lived in the town.
St Annes is one of the few English towns whose centre was designed from the outset with a grid layout, albeit one which follows the curvature of the coast. Many principal streets are named after saints, such as St Annes Road West, the main shopping street, and St Annes Road East which is residential. The west/east demarcation is mostly according to the railway. The other axis consists of the two St Annes Roads. Roads which intersect either of these are named accordingly, for example St David’s Road North and St David’s Road South, St Andrew’s Road North and St Andrew’s Road South, St Patrick’s Road North and St Patrick’s Road South, North Promenade and South Promenade, Crosland Road North and Crosland Road South, Beverley Road North and Beverley Road South, and Clifton Drive North and Clifton Drive South. Roads from west-east that are named in this way include St Leonard’s Road West and St Leonard’s Road East, and Highbury Road West and Highbury Road East. Another lesser-known naming convention applies to back alleys, which are named after rivers, for example Tyne Street, Ribble Street, Avon Street, Tweed Street, Don Street and Goyt Street. Many of these streets no longer have properties in their own right, being used only for access to the rear of properties on neighbouring streets, and so many do not have name plates.