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Reporting from a country suffering from depression

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Rust erodes on the seashore, attacking the wrought-iron balustrades of the North Park, the lamp-posts, and the benches on which good British society sat to enjoy the splash of Irish sea. Relentless corrosion has even attacked the gates of the Imperial Hotel, a Victorian building built in 1867 that is little more than crumbling pieces of scrap metal.

The Imperial Hotel was once home to Charles Dickens and Princesses Margaret and Anne, sister and daughter of Queen Elizabeth II. Winston Churchill had his habits there, and Margaret Thatcher celebrated her 60th birthday there. We took advantage of the indoor swimming pool, Turkish baths, and gourmet restaurant.

Today, the swimming pool and Turkish baths are closed, the restaurant is no longer gourmet, and the management is skimpy on heating the rooms, even in rainy November. On the facade, traces of yellow moisture drip from the roof, an imitation column of antiquity is broken, and the letter “L” of “Imperial” no longer lights up at night.

The Imperial Hotel in Blackpool, built in 1867. (Tore Ferenc for “OBS”)

For more than a century, Blackpool, on England’s northwest coast, has been one of the country’s most popular seaside resorts. In the 1860s it became a haven for the region’s textile manufacturers who had been enriched by the Industrial Revolution but fell out of favor with the advent of low-cost air travel.

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