Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Fylde’s Original Promenade: Part Three

In last week’s posting we provided evidence (well, evidence as far as we see it at least) for two major Roman military routes at opposite ends of the Fylde coast. The first emerged from Dowbridge Fort’s western exit, ran by Wrea Green and onto the beach at St. Anne’s. The second ran from the base of Preesall Hill, across Knott End golf course, over the Wyre by Min End ford, up Poulton Road in Fleetwood to Rossall Point where, once again, it disappeared into the sea.
We also conjectured that these roads were connected along the seafront, as illustrated by our map below, and documentary evidence appears to corroborate this.

The legal report in the case of ‘The Queen versus Bamber’ dated Wednesday 15th November 1843, records: “An indictment in the common form for not repairing a highway.”
As you’ve probably guessed this highway ran along the shoreline: “…leading from the village and hamlet of Blackpool, in the county of Lancaster, towards and unto the hamlet and village of Bispham with Norbreck, in the said county.”
Being accused of leaving the highway: “..very ruinous, broken and in great decay for want of due restoration, reparation and amendment” Bamber pleaded not guilty explaining that his: “…land adjoined the sea,” and “…that anciently a highway went over this land that the defendant’s predecessors had repaired it &c; that within living memory the sea had encroached, and that the ancient highway was covered by the sea; that the defendant’s predecessors had from time to time gradually removed the ancient highway as the sea encroached, and appropriated other parts of the estate for the site of a highway, so as to keep a highway along the sea coast.”
So, to summarize without the legal jargon, an ancient highway dating back to a time long since forgotten, had originally run along the seafront, only to be destroyed time and time again by coastal erosion and rebuilt inland to compensate. It’s a reasonable assumption to make, therefore, that this ancient highway connected the two Roman roads disappearing into the sand at both Rossall Point and St. Anne’s together.
With that in mind, it’s also logical to assume that our retired Romans from Ribchester (Ribchester was a fort designed for army veterans who, by way of a pension, were often granted portions of land in the Fylde and Wyre) would have set up their homes along this stretch of coast, using the highway to conduct their trade.
This explains why the domestic Roman sites at South Shore and the Foxhall are situated where they are.
Er…didn’t we mention the domestic Roman sites at South Shore and the Foxhall? Oh…okay…well, the illustration below (once again courtesy of Phil Barker at is a 1786 drawing of Blackpool seafront, the most significant part of which, as far as we’re concerned, is the reference to ‘An Ancient Roman Building’ at the Fox Hall.

Many historians have dismissed this idea as bunkum; nothing more than an eighteenth century tourist gimmick. We’re not so cynical, however, especially when you stop to consider that John Porter records in his ‘History of the Fylde’: “…two brass pans and an ancient measure” discovered in the peat not far from the Fox Hall. These artefacts, as you’ve probably gathered, were Roman and were originally used for salt panning.
The process of salt panning was reasonably straightforward. The pans were filled with salt water and placed on top of pedestals firmly stuck into clay. A fire was then lit beneath them, so that the water gradually evaporated leaving a residue of crystals that were scraped into conical-shaped beakers known as ‘augets’. The augets, themselves, were then placed on more pedestals over more, albeit smaller, fires so that the crystals could dry.
Romans considered salt extremely valuable, and were even paid with it (which is where the word ‘salary’ originates).
Meanwhile, at South Shore, in 1907 at the junction of Clifton Drive and Burlington Road West (albeit before those roads existed) a Roman coin horde was discovered buried in the sand dunes. Alongside the coins, as marked on the 1911 Ordnance Survey map, were the remains of an ancient building.
Three of the coins (nobody ever bothered to record exactly how many were excavated so they might be the entire horde) are, once again, housed at the Grundy Art Gallery. We’ve illustrated them below. (On this occasion the coins were too small for our cheap digital camera to get in focus.)

Allen Clarke mentions them in his ‘Story of Blackpool’ in the following manner: “These are three specimens of Roman Coins, now preserved in the Museum at Revoe Library, discovered in the Blackpool district. They are each three quarters of an inch in diameter and one eighth of an inch thick. They were struck at Alexandria, the first two during the reign of Gallienus (A.D. 259), and the third during the reign of Claudius II (A.D. 268)”
Unfortunately, archaeology being low on the political agenda in Victorian Blackpool, to the best of our knowledge no record of the wall against which they were buried was ever made, other than the few lines on the Ordnance Survey.
Again, however, there is enough evidence here to suggest that this was a domestic Roman site. And, because we’re that way inclined, we’ve decided to include the map below showing exactly where these artefacts came to light.

On which note, it’s time for another seven-day break before we conclude this increasingly lengthy set of postings and move onto another subject.


John said...

This post has been great because of the depth of detail, and scope of the story, so please don't apologize for long postings, or 4 week postings. 0)

The diagrams are great, although part 2 needed at least another. As an outsider, my head spins when you mention 3 or 4 place names in one sentence.

Allow me to ask a question, and forgive me if it's dumb, but could this ancient Roman highway along the coast have anything to do with the undersea stone wall you have mentioned in the past? I think it's in the bay... you know, the one fisherman talk about, and that scuba divers have explored?

Just curiouds if there's a connection, although if it's all Roman, there must be some connection, right?

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Martyn said...

Good point about the wall, John. From what I can gather this wall may be too far out in the Bay but someone will be along in a short while to tell us more.

Brian Hughes said...


"The diagrams are great, although part 2 needed at least another."

This is true. Unfortunately I also need to sleep from time to time, so that's all part 2's going to get for now.

As Martyn points out, the 'walls' in the bay (if they are actually walls and not just natural shingle banks) are too far out to be the road, especially when you stop to consider that, despite the ideas put forward by some historians, the land north of Fleetwood could hardly have been further out in Roman times than is today. The trouble is, Min End ford that once stood at the river mouth means just that; 'River Mouth' in Norse. And the Norse (again, despite the opinions of some historians) were here as early as the sixth century when documents first recorded the area as Agmundreness (another Norse name meaning the Ness -- or promontory -- of Agmundre). So the river mouth in the sixth century was in the same location that it is today.

The land off Rossall (i.e. to the west) has eroded over the centuries, but the land north of Fleetwood, or rather lack of it, probably (in fact, most likely) hasn't.

When the channel was straightened in Victorian times, a number of walls were built out in the bay to shore up the to speak. Perhaps that's what the fishermen have seen.

On the other hand, who knows? We don't have all the answers, as you've probably gathered, but working on the assumption that the Roman coastal route ran in a straight line hitting Norbreck Castle en route (which I think is mentioned in next week's installment) then it couldn't have been too far out to sea as the coastline currently stands.

Besides, as far as we can tell, the road turned at Rossall Point and followed the 'Old Country Road' north to the harbour mouth, and the 'walls' in the bay lie further north of that.

Strewth...that was an explanation and a half. And it still probably doesn't make any sense. I need a stiff whisky after that, I reckon.

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Brian Hughes said...


I bought one of them a few years ago and it turned out to be an expensive load of old junk run by a group of money-grabbing spammers.

Martyn said...


What's wrong with sitting in a veranda along the prom ? And it's free !


Sie können HTML-Tags verwenden,

What do I do here, I only speak English. It may have been thee for ages and I've not noticed.

Brian Hughes said...


Not sure what language that is. Sounds German doesn't it? Whatever the case, it means, basically, that if you write
'left triangular bracket -- b -- right triangular bracket' before the words in your post followed by 'left triangular bracket -- back slash -- b -- right triangular bracket' at the end of the words, then your words will appear in bold type...a bit like mine do.

'Left triangular bracket -- i -- right triangular bracket' (with 'Left triangular bracket -- backslash -- i -- right triangular bracket' at the end) gives you italics'm not sure what the 'a' does...

Lets find out shall we?

Brian Hughes said...

Ah...apparently it underlines the words for you.

bob said...

very interesting topic, we will keep our eye on this, and gald to see another history site fighting the cause up here in the cold bleak north west of england.
the wanna be antiquarians

Brian Hughes said...

Cheers Bob. I reckon you deserve a link for that.