Lancashire

Plaque for Blackpool Winter Gardens couples

A plaque dedicated to all the couples who met and fell in love during the dancing years at Blackpool Winter Gardens has been unveiled.

Blackpool FC player Jimmy Armfield and his wife, Ann, were among the thousands of local people who attended weekly dances at the complex in the 1950s.

The couple, who had their first date at a ballroom hospital ball, unveiled the plaque on Wednesday.

"Our relationship blossomed at the Winter Gardens," he said.

'Enduring affection'

The commemorative plaque is a simple bronze disc showcased on a boxed structure in the rotunda area of the building.

Its inscription reads: "This plaque commemorates all those who met and fell in love here at Blackpool Winter Gardens and marks the enduring affection of those people for this place. Thousands of loves stories, an enduring legacy all starting here..."

Mr Armfield said: "I think like thousands of Blackpool people especially this is the place really where it all started, where people used to meet.

Image caption The plaque is dedicated to Blackpool's couples

"There were 2,000 or 3,000 people here on a Saturday night especially."

In its heyday, the Empress Ballroom was the resort's premier attraction and hundreds of married couples can trace their relationship back to its dance floor.

Elaine Smith, chair of Blackpool Civic Trust, said she used to stand at the west end of the ballroom with her friends.

"Every Friday night at 9pm, I would have a single dance with a lad from the other side of the ballroom. I was engaged at the time and I can't tell you how much it annoyed my fiance," she said.

"No matter who I was dancing with, he would come over and say this is my dance. Lots of my friends met their husbands and wives at those dances."

The Grade II-listed Winter Gardens complex is in the middle of a £29m refurbishment programme.

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