all England is aloste,
Where so safe as in Chryste's Croft?
Where do you think Chryste's croft to be
But between Ribble and Moerse?
There are far worse places in which to live than between Liverpool
and Preston - that is the message of the old Domesday doggerel.
When it had been cleared the land was fertile and the climate equitable,
and the nearer to the coast you were, the greater chance there was
of a livelihood without involvement in the fightings and frustrations
of busier parts of the country. "Leave us in peace," said
the Sandgrounders - the folk born between the Alt and the Astland
most remote, and therefore, the least written about part of "Chryste's
Croft" has always been the northern part - the coastal strip
from Southport to Preston - and those who have been busy dispelling
the impression that Lancashire has nothing to offer but chimneys,
derelict terraced houses, neglected canals and slag heaps have invariably
extolled the virtues of the Ribble Valley, the Fylde and Lancaster
rather than Banks, Penwortham, Tarleton and Longton.
adapted to the Production of almost every vegetable
forests from Penwortham to the Dee extended inland to a line through
Longton, Rufford and Ormskirk - that is the picture given by the
earliest maps of the area called Belisima by the Romans.
North of Southport,
we still have North Meols - "nine miles long with the sea
on one side and the mosses and marshes of Scarisbrick and Halsall
fringing Martin Mere, on the other". (Meols - Scandinavian
for a "sand hill" with "North" to distinguish
it from the earlier Norse settlement on the Wirral - pronounced
"Mells".) The Anglo-Saxon chronicle recalls the conquest
of North Meols in 923 by the English King and its transfer from
Northumbria to Mercia. At the time of the Norman conquest there
were only 10,000-12,000 people living in the area between the
Mersey and the Ribble. Ecclesiastical allegiance was to Lichfield
until the foundation of the Chester Diocese in 1541.
the coastline was cut off from the inland areas by marsh and bog,
Danes and Norsemen "who infested the Irish Sea during the
century preceding the Norman invasion" found it easy to land
- particularly via the Alt and Douglas. The pre conquest name
was Otegrimele and there were five manors. Charles Leigh commented
in 1700 on the wilderness of North Meols and the small number
of people. "It is little more cultivated than the deserts
of Arabia" he said.
To stand in
the centre of the area, before 1700, was literally a case of "water,
water, everywhere!" The Ribble Estuary, far narrower than
now, to the left; behind you the sea at what is now Southport
- coming in further than we realise. There was enough sea in the
early days of the resort to attract more visitors than Blackpool.
Ahead was the Douglas and, ultimately, the Ribble. To the right,
up to 1849, was Martin Mere, in its day one of the largest lakes
in England - bigger than Windermere, shallow but with three islands;
an area of 3,000 acres with a circumference of 18 miles from Crossens
to Rufford. Originally it extended so much into North Meols at
one point it was separated from the sea only by a narrow neck
One writer has
pointed out that by the time you reach Hesketh Bank and Tarleton
you had almost entered two "moated" villages - "moats"
in the form of the Douglas, the Ribble and Martin Mere, with the
only permanent road out eastwards through Sollom and Rufford,
and with even that liable to occasional flooding.
of Bank Hall was the first to attempt drainage. "A man truly
ingenious, urbane and pleasant" says the Latin inscription
in St Cuthbert's Church. "By means of a sluice communication
with the adjoining sea, he drained and made arable the immense
Meer of Martin - an enterprise which former generations dare not
attempt." A desire to improve the land - and a weariness
with the arguments about rights relating to the mere - spurred
him on, and authority to do the work came from an Act of Parliament
of 1692. two thousand labourers were employed and, amongst other
things, they found a dug out canoe and the antlers of a red deer
- 8,000 years old. The items are on display in the Botanic Gardens
and cultivation caused a shrinkage of the low ying peat surface
and the increasing deposit of marine silt on the foreshore raised
the level of the estuary channel.Mud and silt from Liverpool Bay
also chocked the outfall and high seas - perticularly in 1755
- ruined what Fleetwood had attempted. In 1781, through the initiative
of Thomas Eccleston, John Gilbert, Enginner of the Bridgewater
Canal, was brought in to construct a tripple set of gates between
the lake exit and the Crossens Sluice on the right of the road
leading to Banks village. Fleetwood had been ahead of his time;
Gilbert was of the generation bringing about agricultural improvements
in tandem with the industrial revolution going on in the towns.
Many acres of
land were reclaimed and Eccleston received the gold medal of "The
Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacture & Commerce".
Storms in 1813 threatened Gilbert's outer gates and they were
replaced by cast iron cylinders with valves operated in conjunction
with the pumping station. In the area he owned, Thomas Hesketh
of Rufford built a drainage reservoir into which water was directed
for pumping into the sluice by a steam engine.
of Martin Mere thus took 150 years and, since then, the local
scenery has been man-made. A bigger drainage scheme came into
operation in 1961 with a new pumping station. It was, at the time,
the third largest of its kind in the country, costing £1,000,000
and serving 36,000 acres. 32 miles of channel were excavated and
35 new bridges built. When Princess Alexandra opened the scheme,
it was heralded as "a prototype for modern land drainage
schemes where the water table is to be controlled in relation
to agricultural operations." "Stop
the pumps here," they tell you at the pumping station "and
Martin Mere would be back again in no time".
from Dumfiesshire on display across the road from the pumping
station and the Eskdale granite and mountain limestone boulders
in Crossens churchyard are reminders of the Ice Age earth movements
which have resulted in the coastline from the Ribble to the suburban
fringe of Merseyside being labelled the richest agricultural area
of Lancashire. "Boulder clay deposits between Crossens and
Hesketh Bank," says William Ashton in The Battle of Land
and Sea "are similar to those near Llandudno, Colwyn
Bay and the Clwyd Valley on the one hand and Blackpool and Fleetwood
on the other".
clay is interlaid with sand and peat and, according to Hall and
Folland in Soils of Lancashire, the country's most extensive
deposit of peat "extends in a cresent south of the Ribble
from Banks and Tarleton in the north and to Maghull in the south
with easterly extensions to Rufford and Tarlescough " - near
the Martin Mere wildfowl establishment. There is also a large
isolated area of peat on Longton Moss. The peat varies in depth
from three to nine feet and it is covered, particularly on Tarleton
Moss and sporadically between Churchtown and Tarlescough, by shallow
raised moss peat.
With its topping
of sandy loam the peat is "well adapted to the production
of almost every vegetable that has yet been brought under cultivation"
according to John Holt in 1795. "It
is impossible to estimate," he said, "the advantage
which might be obtained by improved and superior management."
Before chemical fertilisers, the boulder clay from under the surface
and the sea sludge from the Ribble were spread over the land as
a substitute for the "marling" dug from the pits in
other parts of the country.
and cultivated, the peat areas have lived up to John Holt's prophecy
and have become very fertile. Market Gardens have developed as
land has become available from trhe large estates. There is a
mild coastal climate but it is the soil rather than the weather
which is the main reason for the specialisation which now exists.
The variety in what is grown arises from local variations in the
type of soil. Clay was, in the past, used for brick making - Brick
Kiln Lane in Banks is a reminder of this - and stones from the
deposit, rounded by ice and water, were useful for cobble stone
pavements and housebuilding in Churchtown.
It was on the
ridge of boulder clay going through Burscough - now the A59 -
that the Romans travelled north. The country westward was so wild
and isolated that they generally avoided any excursions into it,
except to establish crossings of the Douglass at Rufford and Tarleton.
Any travel they undertook within the area seems to have been along
the side of the estuary.
Because of this
lack of development, travelling from Southport to Preston - even
in the early 1800's - was via badly maintained lanes as far as
Tarleton, where you could join the slightly better Liverpool/Preston
turnpike road, which was in existanceas early as 1777. It is prominant
on the map of 1786 and was 30 miles long - three times the length
of other Lancashire turnpikes. In the Tarleton/Preston stretch,
the toll centres were at Tarleton, Bretherton and Penwortham.
But surfaces were not good and shire horses had to leave Tarleton
as early as 2:00am to be at Preston Market for the 5:00am opening.
An 1838 report
suggests that there were even greater problems in the Crossens/Tarleton
lanes leading to the turnpike. A corresponding to the present-day
Marsh Lane in Banks (until fairly recently called Shore Rd) has
existed for seven centuries but the original track was further
inland because of the extent of the sea shore. Such roads, according
to the report, were "so sloughy that horses drag loads of
produce from Preston market over so-called roads in Banks with
broad appendages to their feet called pattens to prevent them
The only direct
coach service between Southport and Preston was begun in July
1833 by H Scofield, with coaches leaving the Hesketh Arms, Churchtown,
every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:00am and at 6:00am on Saturday.
The return was from the New Cock Inn on Mondays, Wednesdays and
Fridays at 4:00pm. As late as 11th February 1888, the Preston
Guardian reported that "the portion of the main Southport
to Preston road between Banks and Tarleton is in a very unsafe
and neglected condition owing to the rough materials used on the
pavement and to the wide drains which run almost the entire length
of the road andto want of proper and sufficient fencing to protect
the traffic along the road from the ditches." Mr Hodge, Surveyor
of Roads, who wrote the report quoted in the paper, described
Southport as "moated off". "This delightful watering
place," he said, "is stated to be the only town in the
Kingdom that is specified on the cyclists' map as being only approachable
And even the
railway was late in the day in serving Southport and Preston.
The first part of the Liverpool/Southport line was opened as early
as June 1848;Stephenson died in the August. The link operated
from 1855 with an extension to Manchester six years later. But
is was 1878 before the Southport to Preston linestarted to function
and then only as far as Hesketh Bank. The full line was not ready
until 1882. The West Lancashire Railway, brainchild of the Southport
city fathers who feared the monopoly of the Lancashire & Yorkshire
Railway, was completed eleven years after approval, yet the line
only operated under its own steam for eight years. It went bankrupt
because the line was too short to be viable; there was not enough
commuter traffic and the area served by the line did not develop
as it might have done.
A branch was
constructed from Longton to the Blackburn line but, because the
company was so impecunious, it was impossible to buy new rolling
stock for the extended service. The line, therefore, had the distinction
of using some second-hand carriages and engines - yellow with
dark green edging - from the very progressive London, Brighton
& South Coast Railway. There was even the suggestion of developing
Crossens as a west coast Grimsby. But - and it is again an indication
of the quietness of the area - the line had the dubious distinction
of being mentioned in the Beeching Report, eventually closing
in 1964. Poor as business might have appeared to Dr Beeching,
the railway was a particular help to children travelling to and
from school and to holiday makers coming to Southport from Scotland.
area was so untouched by the transport revolution and the new
roads, the waterways - the Ribble, the Douglas and with it the
Leeds Liverpool Canal - were important.
A River of Romance and an Interesting Waterway
Rising near Rivington,
the Douglas flows via Horwich and Blackrod to Wigan, where it
passes through a coalfield. Passing through Parbold and Rufford
to Tarleton, the Douglass eneters the Ribble Estuary at Hesketh
Bank opposite Freckleton Naze. A mile from Tarleton, the Douglass
is joined by the Yarrow, which rises on Rivington Moor and passes
through Duxbury Park, near Chorley, Eccleston and Croston. Water
from Martin Mere also flowed into the Douglas. It has, therefore,
always been a vital outlet for the drainage of a large part of
lower reaches of the Douglas have traditionally been called the
"Asland" ("Ash-Land"), a title aptly describing
the hazels and nuts once common along the river bank. These reaches
were hiding places for large serpents or pythons, Vikings sailed
here, but a claim that is said to be without foundation is that
"Asland" is really "Dubglass" in the tales
of King Arthur. There is a relevant passage in Tennyson:
And answered him in full, as having been
With Arthur in the fight which, all day long,
Raged by the white mouth of the violent Clem;
And in the four wild battles by the shore
says one of the King Arthur/river Douglas enthusiasts, "from
its birth in Rivington Pike to its being swallowed up by Old Father
Neptune to me has a glamour of its own which nought can foil."
dismiss this special claim to fame as being "derived from
a passage in the spurious Welsh compilation of the legends".
"The true character of the presumed Arthurian victorieson
the Douglas have not been demonstrated with such certainty as
to obtain universal assent" says another authority.
Almost a river
of romance, and certainly a river upon which the area depends
for its water safety, the Douglas has been vital to the prosperity
of Tarleton and Hesketh Bank. There are records from the 1500's
concerning iron, salt, oats, wheat, sacks of peas and herrings
coming ashore from the banks of the Douglas. Thanks to the ingenuity
of Thomas Steeres, one of the first Englishmen to enter the full-time
profession of civil engineering, work started in 1719 to make
the Douglas navigable for small ships to and from the Wigan coalfield.
"The making of this river navigable from the River Ribble
to a place called Mirey Lane End in the township of Wigan will
be very beneficial to trade, advantageous to the poor and convenient
for the carriage of coals, cannel, stone, slate and other goods
and merchandise," said the preamble to the Act of Parliament
authorising the work, which was not approved without opposition.
The Bill was sponsored by William Squire and Thomas Steeres, "Gentlemen
of Liverpool", and the freight rates were 2/6d a ton.
In 1715 Steeres
had built Liverpool's first dock and he was also involved in navigation
schemes for the Mersey, the Irwell, the Weaver and the Newry Canal
in his native Ireland. The Douglas development was one of the
many schemes for making rivers navigable associated with the South
Sea Bubble,. The work was achieved with difficulty - the first
surveys had been carried out in 1711 but it was 1742 before it
was ready for shipping; there were "financial difficulties
with more than a suspicion of fraud". In addition to accidents,
navigators' lives were lost through drinking bouts and disease.
The area of Plox Brow - down Coe Lane, opposite St Mary's (Tarleton)
and turn right - was where the labourers lived rough. When the
river became navigable, caroges were transferred to larger vessels
at the enterance to the Ribble. These ocean going ships then sailed
to Ireland and other ports in this country. Coal went, via the
Ribble, to a quay near the foot of Fishergate, where it helped
to meet the needs of the growing industrial activities of Preston.
pioneering venture was overtaken in 1774, when Wigan was provided
with more elaborate inland navigation by the Leeds and Liverpool
Canal. Completed in 1781, long before the main canal was ready,
the Rufford branch ran from Burscough to a junction with the Douglas
at Tarleton - a distance of 7.5 miles. The final stretch takes
over the original course of the river, with the new course coming
along side the canal just above Tarleton. There are remains of
an obsolete lock at Sollom. "The channel takes on the appearance
of a Fenland Dyke through tall reeds," says one waterway
writer. Canal and river merge, via a solid lock, about half a
mile from Tarleton on the Hesketh Bank side.
One of the first
actions of the Leeds and Liverpool company was to buy out the
old River Douglas Navigation. The locking of the canal into the
Douglas allowed schooners of 80 to 90 feet into the canal basin
at Tarleton, where cargoes could be transfered to barges. One
of the conditions of the takeover was that the canal company would
continue to maintain the Douglas and its banks. In 1857 training
walls were built between Hesketh Bank and the entrance of the
Douglas into the Ribble. The stone for the walls came from Parbold.
By the early
1800's there was enough trade to justify a customs officer at
Hesketh Bank and, in 1850, 100 vessels arrived with cargo from
overseas - three times that number called in coastal trading activities.
Coal came in from Wigan and gunpowder went there for the pits,
together with iron for furnaces from Millom. "The coasting
trade of the Douglas and the canal connected with it," said
an 1891 report, "is considerable."
But an Act of
1855, imposing dues on shipping using the Douglas, was ultimatly
to be the death knoll for the trade. The customs officer was withdrawn
in 1859. However, sea-going activities still continue and the
Shell Book of Inland Waterways describes the present day Tarleton
Boatyard as "useful and catering mainly for sea-going craft".
"The final lock falls to the tidal Douglas and is operable
at high water; only 4 miles of the original 17.5 miles is now
navigable," says the book.
Often times I have crossed the sands
well as using the waters of the Ribble and the Douglas, travellers
in the coastal area between Southport and Preston found it helpful
to reduce the length of their foot slogging journeys by fording
the two rivers wherever risks were not too great. The journey from
Chester to Lancaster was reduced by 28 miles by going over the river
at Hesketh Bank rather than Preston.
was a point of departure from the northern bank and, in the reign
of Henry II (1154-1189), the route across was to a point north east
of Banks. The guide house was marked "Ball's Farm" on
old maps and it can still be identified between Far Banks and Hundred
End. Later, the crossing moved to Hesketh Bank and the guide house
there became Whiteheads Hotel, later renamed the Hesketh Arms. Travellers
waited there until the tide was right. Baron Albert Bussel of Penwortham,
who died in 1186, owned land on both sides of the water, so the
tradition of a ford thereabouts was long established.
In August 1644,
2,000 royalist trooups under Lords Goring and Molyneux, after defeat
at Marston Moor, fled southwards over the river at the turn of the
tide. In true Biblical fashion their pursuers - the Parliamentary
forces commanded by Sir John Meldrum - were prevented from reaching
them by the rising tide. Their deliverance was shortlived and Meldrum
later routed the Royalists at Ormskirk. Cromwell knew the area;
"its all enclosures and miry ground," he said.
The ford was used
two hundred years later by the Reverend Charles Hesketh, who left
Bispham on the 1st October 1835 with his wife and two ladies en
route to take up the living of St Cuthbert's, North Meols. "We
crossed the river," said the new Rector, "at Hesketh Bank
Ford in the carriage and gig and carts full of furniture and live-stock.
The cart with the live creatures, namely pigs, dogs, cats and poultry,
stuck in the river but was got out in time." An 1842 publication
confirms that at high water, the Ribble at Hesketh-with-Becconsall
was a full three miles across but fordable when the tide was out.
Guide Road, running from what was the Hesketh Arms to the river,
still exists, showing the route followed. But the ford dissapeared
in the 1850's with the building of embankments and the narrowing
of the channel for navigation; with its dissappearance the importance
of Becconsall declined.
There is a tombstone
reminder in the Becconsall Lane churchyard, even though the Ribble
would appear more treacherous than the Douglas (Astland), the smaller
river could nevertheless claim the occasional life, experienced
as the traveller might have been. Of James Blundell, drowned on
6th July 1844, a gravestone post says:
times I have crossed the sands, And
through the Ribble deep. But
I was found in Astland drowned, Which
caused me here to sleep. It
was God's will it should be so, Some
other way we all must go.
Abram, Bond, Ball Blundell...
then for the area as a whole. What of the villages that comprise
On a journey along
the coast from Southport to Preston, Banks is the fist port of call.
The name Banks may have come from the mounds of earth behind which
sea salt was trapped for use in the preservation of meat from cattle
kept on the marshes. Or perhaps it came from embankments or "sea
cops" built to protect the low-lying fields from the sea -
all parts of the process of draining Martin Mere. In the early 1800's
labourers came from Hesketh Rossall Estates and, probably helped
by the Irish navvies who had worked on the canals, built what are
now the outer banks. Despite the tons of stone they used, their
work was ruined by an abnormally high tide one Sunday in 1834. The
mark left by the sea water on that occasion can be seen on Bony
Barn, which is between Far Banks (where you could swim at the beginning
of the century) and Hundred End.
On 19th January
1863 there was further flooding right up to the Methodist Chapel
in George Lane; a hole appeared in the bank on Hugh Ainscough's
land near New Lane. "The Southport Visitor" reported gaps
in the banks varying between one and forty yards. "The sea
cop for about a mile beyond Crossens and opposite Banks," said
the paper, presents a most dilapidated appearance." The brownside
Houses and the farm run by the Ainscoughs were said to be in particular
distress. Potatos, carrots, turnips and grain were lost and livestock
Sir Charles Scarisbrick
built new banks and 1,200 additional acres were enclosed. The most
difficult problem was at Old Hollow - an area near the farm of the
same name at the end of the private road which runs to the embankment
at the right hand turn where New Lane Pace joins Marsh Lane. There
is still water in the hollow to the landward side of the bank, where
the final phase of the work was completed with difficulty and, eventually,
with much rejoicing.
The pumping station
mentioned earlier in connection with Martin Mere is in Ralph Wife's
Lane. (Ralph was a smuggler whose wife perished from exposure here)
Lanes with strange names are quite common - New Lane Pace and Sugar
Hillock being typical examples. Until World War I, the Crossens
Sluice, where the pumping station is located, was the focal point
of the Banks fishing industry. Punts and open boats sailed from
bridges over the sluice and larger boats were moored at Hesketh
Bank, in the Crossens Channel or the Bog Hole near the Southport
Pier. Extensive boat building went on in Bonds' Yard; the most popular
boat was shallow, 30-40 feet long, with sails and a rounded stern.
A survey shows that Crossens and Banks between them could muster
a hundred fishermen in 1860.
5 Rippling in
the sunlight like a Lake of Emerald
A is for Access,
B for Boundary; C for Celery and D for Drainage. That is a fair
summary of what you can say about Hundred End.
The access is
to the Ribble Marshes National Nature Reserve, "acquired in
1979 to protect the habitat of the many thousands of wadres, ducks,
geese, gulls and tern which depend on its sandbanks, mudflats and
salt marshes for feeding." There is a path at the Crossens
pumping station on the Southern end of the 7 kilometer public footpath
which marks the landward boundary of the Banks Marsh. The access
to the Northern end of this path is at Hundred End. You become aware
of the existence of the reserve at this point because of the notice
board directing visitors, if they wish, back along Marsh Lane to
Old Hollow Farm, where the reserve's full time warden has his headquarters.
The useful leaflet
which the warden provides explains that visitors can walk along
the green marsh - the vegitated salt marsh - providing they keep
clear of the study sanctuary zone. The leaflet exudes vastness.
The area itself is over 2000 hectaresin size; fifty to eighty thousand
wading birds stop off each autumn en route from the Artic, where
they breed, to Africa, where they winter. There are alkmost as many
birds as people living in nearby Southport!. Knot, dunlin, bar-tailed
god-wit rub shoulders - or wings - with oyster catchers, grey plovers
and redshank. Thirty thousand of these waders stay over the winterand
they are augmented by fifteen to twenty thousand wildfowl - widgeon,
pink footed geese, teal and pin-tail. In the late spring, 6000 pairs
of black headed gulls, 2000 pairs of redshank, 100 pairs of common
redshank and 100 pairs of tern nest on the marshes.
B is for
Boundary. Hudred End marks the division between the Hundreds of
West Derby (which went down to the Mersey) and Leyland. English
shires were divided into such hundreds from Anglo Saxon timesuntil
the ninteenth century; in theory, each hundred consisted of 100
hides. The word "hide" is beautifully defined as, "The
amount of earth which can be ploughed by one plough pulled by a
team of oxen in one season." As soil was very light in some
areas and heavy in others, hides and therefore hundreds, varied
in size. Each hundred had its own court or moot, which met monthly
to deal with local affairs and to apportion taxes.
For over a thousand
years there was a gigantic boulder called the Snotterstone at Hundred
End, marking the boundary. The local story is that it was sold by
a council workman for £5 and might eventually come to light!
J A Perkins reports
on the existencee, until quite recently, of a hundred stone at the
entrance to Sutton Aavenue, which is off Hesketh Lane. The positioning
of these stones was checked yearly under the authority of the Court
Skips of old tree
trunks are commonly seen at Hundred End as a reminder that the present-day
ploughing is still unearthing remnants of the vast forests which
once covered the area.
C is for
Celery. There was a station here on the old Southport/Preston line
(the West Lancashire Railway) which was nicknamed Celery Junction.
Mr Philips, who worked at the station and still lives in the old
station-house, recalls problems in lighting the oil lamps when gales
were blowing across the estuary. The days of the station - built
originally to meet the needs of the tenants of Sir Thomas Fermor-Hesketh
- were numbered as soon as motor lorries began to steal the cartage
business for local farm produce.
of the station was responsible for what little housing development
there has been at Hundred End. At one time very few people visited
the area because there was a bottomless pit(possibly dug in the
hope of finding coal), where the Hesketh Moss Methodist Chapel is
today, at the beginning of Moss Lane.
of the history of this chapel is found in a newspaper report of
22nd June 1901. "primitive Methodism," it says, "has
a flourishing existance at Hesketh Moss and this view is substantiated
in the laying of the memorial stones of the new chapel which took
place on Tuesday afternoon. The scattered population of the toilers
of the soil - and scattered they certainly are - tramp o'er the
Moss and may come several miles to attend service at an old dilapidated
building about a mile from Hundred End Station." This original
chapel was built in 1863.
D, in the
context of Hundred End, is for Drainage. When it took place inthe
mid-1800's, two Roman coins (Vespasian pennies) were found, although
there is no suggestion that there was ever a Roman settlement at
Hundred End. As mentioned earlier, Roman armies, in subduing the
county, avoided the dense woods and treacherous bogs of places like
Hundred End by marching along the shore. In 1939 a stone hammer
was unearthed; it was probably 4,000 years old and used to help
clear forest areas for cultivation.
Hesketh is the
next stop along Marsh Lane from Hundred End. The present day map,
showing Hesketh New Marsh and Hesketh Old Marsh, is a reminder that
a significant amount of reclamation has taken place. "The outer
sea bank." said one writer, after a reclamation scheme had
been completed, "will now be above a mile from where a vessel
was, within living memory, washed onto the sea bank near a farm
called Dunkirk." This wa, presumably, in the area of the present
New Manor Farm. The inner sea bank, referred to locally as the "old
Bank", was built in 1860 and a similar lentgh, three quarters
of a mile further out in the estuary, between 1880 and 1884. Before
the reclamation, Hesketh and Becconsall were right on top of the
with the reclamation are Dick Iddon and Dick Dytcher, and the teams
they controlled included many itinerant Irish labourers. The building
of the second embankment - undertaken, of course, by hand - was
a particular battle with the sea and the favourite rendevous for
the workers was the Hesketh Arms, now Mount Farm at the corner of
Station Rd and Hesketh Lane, where pints were drawn in anticipation
of the customers' arrival. It was the only Inn and a rowdy place
at times. Later, the Becconsall was established and leased by the
Southport Brewery Company. This inn was rebuilt in the 1920's after
Because of these
visitors, the area enjoyed great prosperity and there was much through
traffic. Before the land was reclaimed and given over to agriculture,
it supported alot of game and provided for coursing events. Coaches
came from one Hesketh Arms to another - from Rufford to Hesketh
Bank. Two gamekeepers were kept busy and there was alot of salmon
poaching, with crowds coming from Wigan and Preston. "Most
people go by train to Hesketh Bank," says Bulpit, "and
then walk hal a mile to the village of Hesketh." The crews
of coasting vessels in the Douglas lived in Hesketh and spent money
- some of which, it is suggested, was obtained from smuggling activities
in the Isle Of Man. The visitors came "for bathing and marine
recreation," and they were plentifully supplied with salmon
and flounders." Even when Blackpool and Southport surpassed
what Hesketh Sands could offer, the enclosure of the marshes and
the West Lancashire Railway brought new prosperity.
Hesketh is part
of Hesketh Bank, which was once two villages, Hesketh-with-Becconsall,
(The Danes put "keth" at the end of a name to signify
a landing place. Hence Tulketh and Hesketh.) Hesketh was the subordinate
village to Becconsall, which is round the corner when the road takes
a right hand turn into Station Road for Tarleton. This high ground
at the south east corner of Hesketh is a continuation of the Tarleton
Ridge and wwas once the only habitable part. Indeed, the word Becconsall
means Beacons Hill and there is an artificial mound in the area,
made to defend the fords across the river. This mound was crowned
by an oratory, where a priest prayed for seafarers - when he was
not supervising the firing of the beacon. Access is now off Station
Road into The Brow. Here there are old cottages and a courtyard
behind what was the Hesketh Arms, used by the coaches before or
after going along Guide Road and the ford over the Ribble.
We have now reached
the Douglass, and Hesketh Bank grew initially because it marks the
point where the Ribble and the Douglas meet. Seafaring activities
continued to the mid ninteenth century.
sea defences were established, the village suffered from serious
flooding. Sunday and Monday, 18th and 19th December 1720, were particularly
disasterous, with lives and property lost because of the coincidence
of a change of moon, a specially high tide and a severe storm. Flooding
from the river or the mere was bad enough but the sea water brought
salt with it which soured the ground. Collections taken in church
under Letters Patent from the King were of little consolation in
such circumstances. The point reached by the high tide on the 31st
December 1833 used to indicated by an iron markeron the boundary
wall of what was the Hesketh Arms, knocked in by one George Spencer.
The experiences of that day in 1833 determined the height of the
banks which were subsequently built.
Larger sea going
vessels loaded and unloaded from barges at various pointsalong the
mouth of the Douglas. Vessels could only enter and leave the Douglas
on the spring tides, once a fortnight - and when that happened the
scene was very impressive. "When they set sail," says
Bulpit, ""they did so in such numbersthat they were like
a fleet of His Majesty's Ships when they put to sea." Coal
came from Wigan, via the Douglas and the sea, to the river Nile
north of Southport, and a branch stream which went behind the Belle
Vue Hotel in Lord Street West. Jigger flats went to North Wales
for slate and to Ulverstone and Barrow and they also delivered bricks
Because of the
seafaring activities in Becconsall, a branch of the Fleetwood family
lived in Hesketh and William Fleetwood, boorn there, became the
recorder of London in 1560. He was the author of a number of law
books and a great legal celebrity of his day. He died in 1592.
The earliest reference
to Hesketh Bank is in 1259. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
the villagers worked mostly for the Lord of the Manor, with some
common grazing land. By the mid sixteenth century it was possible
to rent and lease land and stretches of the river bank.