Monday, August 13, 2007

Tapping into the Mains

Mains Hall at Little Singleton, as frequent visitors to this board will already be aware, holds a particular fascination for us on several accounts, those being 1) because Adele Yeomans who owns Mains drops by for a chat with us from time to time 2) because Most Haunted based one of their episodes there (and we always enjoy a good ghost story) and 3) because it’s just inside the border of the Fylde on the banks of the River Wyre (don’t worry…we’re not about to reopen the old Fylde/Wyre boundary debate) which makes it central to all matters Fylde and Wyre Antiquarian related…if that makes any sense.

Besides, on Wednesday August 15th 2007 Adele Yeomans gave Fiona, Michelle and myself a personal tour of her home and is even letting us return with our spades and trowels in the not too distant future to dig up her lawns, flowerbeds and other manicured areas. (How’s that for being trusting?) But the guided tour will have to wait for now, because this particular article concerns a completely different matter.
You see, the origin of the hall’s name remains a bit of a mystery. Some historians reckon that it derives from ‘Monks Hall’ as recorded on old maps…but, to be honest the ‘old maps’ or rather ‘old map (singular)’ was drawn up by Bowen in 1730 and…well…Mains Hall was known as Mains Hall well before that.
The hall itself dates back to at least the thirteenth century, or at least the estate does, when Sir Adam Banastre (knight, rogue, self-serving aristocrat and violent thug)’s grandfather had possession of it. But the meaning of the name ‘Mains’ was just as obscure back then as it is today.
So we conducted a bit of research and here’s what we found out.
To the northwest (rather approximately) of Mains Hall, at the gymkhana field at Skippool creek to be precise, evidence was discovered in the 1920s for a Bronze Age settlement in the form of Bronze Age pottery, red deer bones and flint weapons. (Yes, we know, this isn’t exactly news…but it is related to our conclusions so just bear with us.) Like most Bronze Age settlements this one appears to have survived until at least the Iron Age, rumours (and well founded rumours at that) of amphora discovered on the site being rife amongst local archaeologists.
The Romans seem to have improved the Celtic ford near by during their tenancy. After the Romans left the Norse moved in, naming the ford Aldwath (or Old Ford) for obvious reasons. As with most places around the Wyre evidence for the Norse living harmoniously with the Celts is strong at Skippool. All of the lands around Skippool and Poulton bear Celtic/Norse names and attributes.
Meanwhile, to the southwest of Mains Hall lies a place called Kirkstiles. This is a Saxon word referring to a church, implying that a Saxon village (most likely Little Singleton) originally stood at this location.
Between the two, in the area around Shard, as shown on old maps, was a place called Means. This was located about halfway between Shard Bridge and Mains Lane at an enigmatic kink in the road now long since ironed out. Don’t believe us? Okay…well below is a detail from Hennet’s map just to prove our point.

The word Means stems from the Saxon word 'Meannes' meaning 'jointly owned land'. As it falls directly between the Saxon village and the Celtic/Norse settlement it's reasonable to assume that, unlike the boundary ditches separating the Celtic/Norse lands from the Saxon village at Stanah, around Shard the two opposing peoples had reached an understanding.
Anyhow, after the Norman invasion no doubt all of this changed. Saxon/Celtic-Norse agreements would have been abandoned in favour of new Norman land ownership laws (otherwise known as subjugation). But the Saxon name for the territory stuck. When Mains Hall was built (on what was previously shared land but was now solely Norman owned) it took on board the original Saxon name, which gradually became corrupted over the centuries to Mains.
(We’re working on the scientific principle here that if the facts fit then we’re happy to accept them…until something better comes along.)
All of which goes to show that the estate on which Mains now stands was occupied and worked before the Domesday book. And when it comes to evidence of pre-Norman, possibly even prehistoric, occupation how does a midden full of cockleshells and chicken bones grab you? Adele sent us the photograph below showing just such a discovery, made when digging a ditch close by her new moat.

So exactly how old is Mains then? Well, it’s at least Saxon as the name ‘Means’ demonstrates, and (working on the assumption that the photograph above does show a midden and not just the remains of some 20th century barbeque of Hambleton Hookings and KFC) presumably dates even further back to Romano British times. (The Romans introduced chickens into Britain and, to be honest, cockleshell middens are extremely rare.)
All of which is fascinating I’m sure you’d agree, but once again we’re short of space and we probably exhausted our readers’ attention span several minutes ago so, pending further investigations, it’s time we ended this particular article. For anybody who’s interested there’ll be more about the hall’s incredible history, not to mention our guided tour of the building, as soon as we’ve written about it.

14 comments:

JahTeh said...

The haunting, how many ghosts?

Brian Hughes said...

Jahteh,

Lots and lots of 'em including dueling cavaliers, musket-firing Jacobites, mournful women gazing out of windows long since bricked up, wandering murdered monks, Victorian children...you name 'em, Mains has got 'em.

Hopefully, by the time we've finished, there'll be a couple of Romans wandering round as well wondering who's been digging up their pantry.

John said...

Another great post!

A few questions, though...

1) When you say Main's Hall has been around since forever, do you mean that the actual building has been there this whole time, added onto, but still the original?

2)What do you mean by the word 'moat'? Is Main's Hall due to be invaded, so a moat of deep water and alligators is being put into place to repel invaders?

3) well, there's more, but I'll await further posts and updates, quite anxiously, for answers. :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

Okay...answer one: There in lies the problem. Certainly the current hall has been around since Tudor times as the physical evidence demonstrates. Documents also record that a hall has stood on the grounds since at least the 13th century. What we'd like to know (and, hopefully, will eventually discover) is whether the 'Norman/Saxon' hall and the 'Tudor/Georgian/Victorian' hall (it has been altered considerably over time) occupy the same foundation (although 'foundation' isn't perhaps the best word considering that most of it stands on plain soil) or an entirely different site within the estate.

Answer two: The remains of the moat can still be seen (most of it having been filled in over the centuries). After the Norman Conquest of 1066, the new 'landed gentry' were generally regarded as invaders (and quite rightly so) by the vanquished Saxons and as rivals (also rightly so) by their own aristocratic associates. It was therefore sometimes necessary for them to build moats around their manor houses. Occasionally they even went so far as to add crenelations to the buildings themselves. By the Tudor period the aristocracy was well established and could afford to relax a little, and often, when manor houses were rebuilt during the Elizabethan period, they included an ornamental moat as a sign of status and wealth.

The pinning down of Mains' pre-Tudor hall would answer the question as to which form of moat (geuininely defensive or ornamental) remains to this day.

Answer Three: Er...there is no answer three.

Hope that clarifies matters. It's left me more confused, I must admit, and I've just written it.

The Actor said...

I thought that the ghosts where a tourist type thing ?

It all sounds very interesting and I now find myself looking for it every time I ride past.

Let's hope the road works finish soon...or reveal something else.

Brian Hughes said...

Martyn,

All ghosts are touristy type things as far as I can see...after all, what's the point in having a good ghost if it doesn't brew a bit of publicity?

Having said that, the hall is currently a private house so I'm not entirely sure what sort of promotional value the ghosts would serve. Certainly some of the legends and ghoulie stories about the place go back a long, long way. We didn't actually bump into any personally when we visited, but who knows...maybe on our next visit we might encounter Doris Stokes or Derek Acorah. (Yes...I know he's not dead yet...just wishful thinking.)

The Actor said...

Brian

Sorry, I must be getting confused with Singleton Hall. I'm sure that I read in the Gazette that they had found it to be haunted.

Or maybe I'm just in meltdown.

Bless Derek, with that image he is dead.

Brian Hughes said...

Martyn,

Not sure about Singleton Hall being haunted, although it wouldn't surprise me. (If the owners of Singleton Hall are reading this, of course, we'd always be willing to conduct a ghost vigil there.)

As for Mains being haunted, for the ultimate proof just check back through the 'previous posts' on this board and you'll find four segemented episodes of 'Most Haunted at Mains' for your viewing pleasure. (You know you want to...just don't watch the episodes alone.)

The Actor said...

Brian

I guess that I should go back lurking until can get my details ratified.

I'll be checking Most Haunted at Mains soon enough.

Brian Hughes said...

Martyn,

Lurking's good...especially where ghosts are concerned. Give us a shout and I come along for a good lurk with you.

In the meantime, here's the address (on this board of course) for the first of those 'Most Haunted at Mains' mini-episodes.

http://wyrearchaeology.blogspot.com/2007_05_20_archive.html

If you want to watch the rest of 'em (and who wouldn't?) just click on the 'Mosted Haunted Clips' link below the posting and, with a bit of luck, they should all appear.

Brian Hughes said...

Bugger...that didn't work, did it? Tell you what, go to the 'Previous Articles' drop-down-menu in the right hand column of this page, select May 20th and that should do the trick...fingers crossed.

Brian Hughes said...

Actually...when I said 'This Page' of course...I actually meant the front page of the website. Too many late nights and early mornings obviously.

The Actor said...

Thanx, Brian, I've found it.

Brian Hughes said...

Martyn,

Thank God for that. After that set of garbled instructions I'm surprised you managed to find your way off this page.