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.