Built on Sand - Nevill Street

Nevill Street is still the main route to the pier and the seafront, and in 1900 it was already lined with cafes, shops and attractions to appeal to tourists. Ye Olde Castle Tea Rooms were busy creating a heritage feel older than Southport itself. But a decade later they were swept away to build a new cinema.
This early photo from the 1860s shows where Nevill Street tunnelled through the sand dunes under the Promenade and onto the beach. A long row of visitors - or residents - take in the sea air in front of the first seawater swimming baths. Below them is the hustle and bustle of stalls positioned to catch the tourists.
The Atkinson, Southport
This is why Nevill Street widens out towards the Promenade. The street itself led straight to the beach through the sand dunes, lined with shops and cafes. A wide ramp to the left led up to the pier - newly built in 1860 in this photo - and another ramp led directly to the baths out of sight to the right.
The Atkinson, Southport
The mysterious artist E Vernon - possibly Edwin Beattie - probably painted this from an old photo or an earlier sketch by his father. It shows the view down Nevill Street to Lord Street from the Promenade bridge. To the right is the Victoria Hotel and on the left, the buildings that were re-fronted in Art Deco style around 1930.
The Atkinson, Southport
In 1903, the bridge over Nevill Street was filled in - it was the weak link in the Promenade, which had been built up from the 1830s to protect the developing town from storms and flooding. Queen Victoria's statue was moved to the top of Nevill Street from its original position in front of the Cambridge Hall (now part of The Atkinson).
Sefton Digital Archive
The infilling of the route to the beach allowed the building of a new pavilion at the top of Nevill Street, to the right of the pier entrance. By the 1950s it had become the Casino. Thorp's Restaurant's Art Deco frontage contrasts with the Victoria Hotel opposite.
The Atkinson, Southport
The buildings on the corner of Lord Street were replaced in the 1920s, but on the left of Nevill Street there is still the mix of tall, late-Victorian commercial premises and the older two-storey shops converted from houses.

Nevill Street was the first planned street leading to the beach from Lord Street. It widens out to meet the Pier entrance as until 1903 the street continued under the Promenade.

The street keeps changing to suit the times. The Art Deco front on Leo’s Bar hides Victorian holiday apartments. The Victoria Hotel was demolished in 1971 and flats built. Silcock’s Amusements replaced a cinema.

Nevill Street is a place for entertainment, seaside toys, ice cream and fish and chips. But look up and you’ll see lions, some original small houses, and tall, large-windowed shops.

This text and images – with added captions – are from the exhibition held at The Atkinson, Southport, 18 June – 17 September 2022. There’s more about Nevill Street here.

Comments about this page

  • My late partner worked for Sefton council and told me he had seen the shops underneath Neville Street but it all got closed up.

    By Miss Hilary Davenport (07/12/2023)

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