Once dubbed ‘The Naples of the North’, Morecambe was originally developed during the late 19th century to welcome millworkers from towns and cities in West Yorkshire and beyond.
‘Britain’s most modern and progressive resort’, was how a 1930s tourism poster described it.
‘Morecambe has everything under the sun,’ another claimed. But as package holidays abroad started guaranteeing suntans and cheap booze, Morecambe rapidly went into decline and, by the 1970s, the Lancashire town swapped its exotic nickname for ‘The Costa Geriatrica’.
Seaside revival: Morecambe beach. The average asking price of a home in the West Yorkshire town is £151,607, while the national average is £256,000
Businesses collapsed, visitor numbers dropped and it became the butt of jokes on national television.
In 1999, Morecambe had the highest number of antidepressants prescribed per head of population, earning the unenviable title of ‘the most depressed place in Britain’.
But, thanks to the ITV drama, The Bay, there’s renewed interest in this corner of the North.
The series, which follows Detective Sergeant Lisa Armstrong (played by Morven Christie) as she investigates serious crimes in Morecambe Bay, has caused searches for homes to buy in the area to surge by 71per cent in the space of just a week, according to Rightmove.
The property website reported a bigger seven-day increase in searches for the town than anywhere else in Britain during the week the show returned for its second series in January. Searches for homes to rent in Morecambe were also up 22 per cent over the same period.
Morven Christie as DS Lisa Armstrong in ITV drama The Bay
What’s more, for those looking to make the move, there are bargains to be had. The average asking price of a home is £151,607 (the national average is £256,000), while renting typically costs £612 per month.
On the other end of the spectrum, homes in Salcombe, Devon, for example, Britain’s most expensive coastal town, go for an average £787,628.
Laura Fort, director of iBay Homes, ibayhomes.com, based in Morecambe, said: ‘There’s been a huge amount of interest recently, the market’s boomed as people are realising what Morecambe has to offer.
‘There are great schools, it’s affordable, laid-back and you’re never more than five minutes away from the sea. There are big businesses here, we’ve got two power stations, two universities and a hospital.’
Prices have increased by about 10 per cent in the past year but it’s still possible to find a three-bed semi-detached in a sought-after area for £180,000.
But it’s not just the glorious scenery displayed in the TV show that’s resulted in renewed interest. The town is now home to a newly revamped stone jetty and promenade with a statue of comedian Eric Morecambe, the resort’s most famous son.
Many of the grand Victorian guesthouses in the West End area which had been taken over by landlords are now being turned into apartments and family homes.
Placefirst, the Manchester-based build-to-rent developer, is transforming some of the empty homes as part of a £10 million regeneration project.
Properties range from five-bedroom houses to one-bedroom apartments with rents from £540 to £884 per month with no third-party letting agent fees (placefirst.co.uk).
‘The West End used to be the golden place to be but then it became very deprived,’ says Matthew Kitchen, property expert at Lancastrian Estates.
‘But it’s had a huge amount of investment over the past ten years or so, and there are some absolute bargains in the area. The terrace houses there are beautiful. They’re full of original features and close to shops and new restaurants.’
Locals are also excited about the construction of the £85 million Eden Project North on Morecambe’s prom, a collection of ‘biomes’ which will house a lido, a 4,000-capacity performance space, and gardens.
It is set to open in 2023. ‘Morecambe is only half an hour from The Lakes, and its main train line takes you to Euston in two-and-a-half hours’, added Kitchen.
The town seems determined to shake off its reputation of being another seaside resort casualty. And it seems to be working.