Poulton - the town by the pool - is situated in the North West of England in the county of Lancashire. Thename is derived from the River Wyre, situated at the bottom of the Breck at Skippool. In 1842 'le-Fylde' was added to the name when the Penny Post began, to stop local post mistakenly being sent north to another village of Poulton-le-Sands, now part of Morecambe.
THE CARLETON ELK
An exciting discovery in July 1970 gave Poulton-le-Fylde international fame - an almost complete skeleton of a 12,000 year old elk was found as foundations were being dug for a new house on Blackpool Old Road, Carleton. What made the find so important was the discovery of hunting barbs embedded in the leg bones - indicating that human hunters had lived in this area around 10,000 BC. This is the earliest evidence yet found for man living this far north, in the days when Britain was part of the continent of Europe and it would have been possible to walk from Poulton to the Ural Mountains in Russia.
THE SKELETON OF THE ELK IS DISPLAYED IN THE HARRIS MUSEUM IN PRESTON
Although a small Roman fortlet existed and has been excavated in Kirkham about 15 miles from Poulton, there is no definite evidence that the Romans made any effort to develop the area nearer the coast. For centuries the land of the Fylde coast was marsh, stagnant peat moss and sand dunes with only a meagre population, and very inhospitable to the traveller. In his 'Geography', Ptolemy of Alexandria mentions a 'Portus Setantiorum' and one of several possible positions for this long lost site lies in the waters of the Lune Estuary off Fleetwood. However David Shotter, in his recent book 'Romans and Britons in Northwest England' says "we should bear in mind that the Setantii may have lived in Southern Cumbria and the Portus Setantiorum may be an elusive site near the Southern end of Lake Windermere."
Lancashire did not exist as a county in 1086 and Poulton appears in the Yorkshire section of the Domesday Survey, one of over 60 local villages in Amounderness. Unfortunately no details are given about these communities. Domesday records 3 churches in Amounderness but does not say where they were. However it is extremely likely that a church has stood in Poulton since Anglo-Saxon times and possibly
Poulton was part of a very large Anglo-Saxon parish of Kirkham. The dedication of the church to St Chad, an Anglo-Saxon bishop, is taken as further evidence that a church stood in Poulton well before the Norman Conquest.
St CHAD’S PARISH CHURCH FROM THE MARKET PLACE
ROGER DE POITOU
The first written evidence for a church in Poulton is a document drawn up in 1094 when Roger de Poitou, the Norman knight to whom Amounderness had been granted after the Conquest, presented the church in Poulton to the Abbey at Sees in Normandy. It was accepted practice for this to be done, and Poulton church, together with other churches in Amounderness, including the newly built church dedicated to St Mary at Lancaster, remained in the hold of the Norman Abbey until Henry IV dissolved the power of foreign abbeys to hold land in England.
Until the early nineteenth century when the Victorians began a major programme of church building on the Fylde coast, the parish of St Chad, Poulton stretched from what is now Squires Gate Lane in Blackpool, where it met the parish of Lytham, to the banks of the River Wyre where Fleetwood now stands. (Over a period of about eight hundred years Bispham church was at different times both a chapel of ease to Poulton and a separate parish.)
Poulton has never belonged to a major landowner and so the township has no important and useful documents such as Manor Court Rolls. After the Reformation, Queen Elizabeth passed the church to members of the Fleetwood family, but the majority of landowners in Poulton continued to be local people owning small farms.
A MARKET TOWN
Built on one of the few low hills in the western part of the Fylde, near to the River Wyre, for centuries Poulton provided a natural social and commercial centre for the many tiny hamlets which lay over a wide area reaching from Lytham to Kirkham. Over the centuries Poulton became an important market town providing local farmers and families with the many services they needed - blacksmiths, farriers, nail makers carpenters and joiners, shoemakers, dressmakers and tailors and all manner of food suppliers. The market cross still standing in the square is a reminder of the days when it served as a sign that regular markets were held there. Poulton has no market charter, and the earliest mention yet found of a market in Poulton was identified by Dr Alan Crosby in a document of 1628, but it is very likely that markets have been held here for centuries.
THE VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE CHURCH TOWER DURING A VICTORIAN MARKET
Life in Poulton would have been very hard for the average family. Most of the population, probably in the region of 300, would have lived in small cobble-built cottages with mud floors and thatched roofs which huddled round the Market Place and the six streets leading off it. Parish registers and gravestones show the high death rate, particularly amongst children. Poulton was badly hit by a 'plague' in the winters of 1622-24 during which many people died; it decimated the population of nearby Kirkham and caused havoc throughout the north west. Poor living conditions and an unhealthy diet meant people were unable to withstand any epidemic and many would not survive a particularly harsh winter.
The area round Moorland Road, being close to the River Wyre and low lying, would have been where local people gathered rushes and cut wood to be put to various uses in their homes and the church - rushes for the floor, wood for furniture, agricultural tools, etc. The lack of any large areas of woodland left the land of the coastal Fylde unprotected from the salt winds and the bleak outlook was increased by the starkness of the great mounds of black peat stacked by each cottage to be used as fuel.
During the Civil War people living in Poulton would have had divided loyalties as men from Lancashire were drafted into the armies of both Parliamentarians and Royalists. In 1642 a ship of Royalist supporters was stranded in the River Wyre.
Most inhabitants of Poulton at this time lived close to the Market Place, with a small pocket of cottages in the nearly hamlet of Little Poulton. Each cottager would have a small piece of land where produce for the family's use would be grown and a few animals kept. Common grazing land situated on the outskirts of the town would be used in the summer months, possibly the origin of 'Higher Green' and 'Lower Green', known in the 19th century simply as 'The Green.
During the 18th century improvements were made in methods of agriculture across the whole country which helped to raise the living conditions of the poorer people. Food prices stabilised, methods of farming improved and the devastation caused by epidemics ceased. Life in Poulton also improved for its inhabitants.
In late medieval times a Moot Hall (or town hall) stood at one end of the Market Place and stalls ran down each side selling food and other produce. Stepping stones enabled people to cross the unpaved streets without stepping into the mud. Small cottages surrounded the Market Place, with the exception of the few grand three storey town houses with their slate roofs, built by local gentry families such as the Walmsleys and the Rigbys. James Baines, a wool merchant whose house overlooked the stocks and whipping post, left money in his will of 171 7 for free schooling and apprenticeships to be provided for poor boys of Poulton, Marton and Thornton. All three schools still exist today.
JAMES BAINES' HOUSE, SHOWN BELOW, STANDS AT THE SOUTH END OF THE MARKET PLACE; IT IS UNUSUAL IN HAVING TWO CRUCKS ON THE SECOND FLOOR
THE GREAT FIRE
The buildings on the west side of the Market Place were erected all at one time, in contrast to those on the opposite side. The awful events which necessitated this rebuilding must have remained in the memories of the inhabitants who witnessed it all their lives. As the funeral procession of Geoffrey Hornby passed through the Market Place to the church on March 5th, 1732, sparks from tapers set fire to the thatched roofs of the cottages on the west side of the Market Place resulting in the destruction of all the property. It was several years before the present buildings were erected in their place. A national collection was organised - known as a 'brief' - and the estimated cost of rebuilding was put at £1034. Timber which was re-used after the fire of 1732 was recently exposed when re-roofing work was being carried out on a shop on the west side, and has been preserved.
THE PROPERTY ON THE LEFT WAS BUILT AFTER THE FIRE OF 1732
THE MARKET PLACE
The market cross, fish slab, whipping post and stocks standing in the Market Place are rare items from Poulton's past. The stocks and whipping post are unpleasant reminders of the punishments wrongdoers might suffer, but it was also common for those begging for food in order to stay alive to be punished in this way.
Farmers and their families would travel from miles around to Poulton on market days to trade stock and goods, to meet and socialise. Its busy and successful life as a thriving market town throughout the centuries was marked by the number of public houses recorded in the town, never fewer than a dozen at any one time, with many people also brewing their own beer and selling it from their front doors. Today
only six pubs remain but there is now a wide selection of coffee shops, cafes and restaurants.
THE THATCHED HOUSE IN BALL STREET. BUILT IN 1910, IT REPLACED A MUCH OLDER AND SMALLER PUB
On market days Poulton's streets were so crowded with farmers, shoppers, animals and stalls that by the 1890's it became necessary to build an auction mart behind the Golden Ball. It flourished for nearly a century until changes in farming and marketing practices led to its demise. The land is now a car park.
THE GOLDEN BALL ALSO HOUSED A READING ROOM IN THE 19TH CENTURY WHERE
NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS COULD BE READ EACH WEEK
A tithebarn, a station and a chapel have all come and gone in Poulton, leaving only street names to remind eople of their presence. The tithebarn was replaced in 1969 by a car park. Its position so near to the centre of the town suggests it was an ancient site.
Poulton's original railway line opened in 1840 running between Preston and the newly built town of Fleetwood, with the station at the corner of Station Road and the Breck. In 1896 it was rebuilt in its present position at the top of the Breck near to the town centre. The original Methodist chapel stood on the corner of Chapel Street and Queen's Square until a new one replaced it on Queensway in 1968.
THE PORT OF POULTON - SKIPPOOL
Poulton had two ports one on either bank of the River Wyre, on the south side at Skippool and on the north side at Wardleys in Hambleton. During the 18th century this was an important trading facility for Poulton, which had its own customs house, dealing in mahogany and flax with Baltic ports and coastal trade with farm produce to Liverpool, Lancaster and Cumbria. The rise of Glasson Dock and Fleetwood ended Skippool's importance as a port. Today it is a popular venue for sailing.
In recent years Poulton has grown rapidly and it attracts many visitors throughout the year. In early spring the churchyard is a carpet of purple and yellow crocuses. A series of historical plaques on various sites and buildings in the conservation area and a town trail will help the visitor to learn more of Poulton's history.