February 25, 2024

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By Tim Aldred
Aug 19 2022
Allan Blackburn, an entrepreneur who founded GB Antiques Centre and Lancaster Leisure Park and who loaned his  expertise to various popular TV shows, has died at the age of 75 after a short illness.
Allan was born in Clitheroe in 1947. His middle name was Baird, after his famous great uncle, television pioneer John Logie Baird. Inspired by his paternal grandfather Thomas Blackburn’s love for antiques, the young Allan is said to have treasured their trips to shops and fairs together.
Joining the family firm started by Thomas, producing Lloyd Loom conservatory-style furniture, Allan worked at Somic in Preston for 25 years, becoming joint managing director. Allan’s antiques-hunting trips became family affairs, joined by his wife Gloria and later their three children Jimmy, Dawn and Mel.
In 1990, left his job to open GB Antiques on the vacated Hornsea Pottery site. Named after Gloria, what started as a Sunday antiques market now spans more than 40,000 feet and is open seven days a week, welcoming more than 200,000 visitors each year year.
In 1998 Allan acquired the lease and investment for the surrounding leisure park. The development was the largest Lancaster had seen at the time, creating retail, restaurant, and leisure facilities, plus housing and employment.
Allan also proved to be an ideal host for topical TV programmes including Salvage Hunters and Antiques Road Trip, as well as contributing his expertise to local newspapers, magazines and Radio Lancashire.
Allan achieved wider fame in 2003 when an escaped bull went on the rampage inside the centre, an event commemorated by the life-size fibreglass bull commissioned by Allan which stands proudly on the roof, over its entrance.
He was involved in a number of local community projects, including organising the Lancaster Food and Drink Festival.
A lover of hockey, golf and horse racing, Allan played in over 1,000 games for Preston Hockey Club before moving into coaching. In his final season he played alongside his son in the first team. He also managed the Lancashire Men’s Hockey Team when they won the County Championships for the UK. He was on the technical hockey committee organising several international games and a supervisory steward for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
Son Jimmy, who today runs the family business with sister Dawn, said: “Dad had us going to antique fairs before we could walk. While he was the ‘face’ of GB Antiques, it’s a real family business, and lots of our loyal team have been with us for many years too. It’s a sad time for everyone, but having people coming into the centre and sharing their stories and regard for him is very moving.
“We only persuaded dad to ‘retire’ a couple of weeks ago – I was honoured he asked me to take over his antiques column, so he could enjoy more well-deserved time with mum. His spirit definitely remains in the centre, where we will continue with everything we were planning together, and, I hope, continue to make him proud.”
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