Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Celtic Coastal Road: Part Two

Right…in last week’s exciting episode we traced our Celtic highway through Blackpool from the Winter Gardens, towards Revoe, past the old gasworks where a stone hammer was discovered in 1881 and alongside a ‘ruin’ at the junction of Kent Road and Princess Street. (This ruin, obviously, is now gone and shouldn’t be taken as a personal reflection on any of the current properties around that area.) So, picking up the thread again, our projected hollow way continues via Manchester Square, through a ginnel and onto Bolton Street, shown in the photograph below, where, many years ago, according to Kathleen Eyre’s ‘Seven Golden Miles’: “…there were three old cobbled cottages turned into shops, entered by going down two steps from road level.”

It ought to be mentioned that, when houses appear to be lower than the road itself, this generally indicates that the original road is of great antiquity, having been rebuilt so many times across the centuries that its surface gains significantly in height.
Unfortunately it’s around this point that we lose track of the Celtic route. Or to be more honest, it’s around the point that we stopped trying to piece the southern section of it together simply because we couldn’t afford the tram fare to travel any further.
So, let’s return to the Winter Gardens and see if we can trace ‘Double Dyke’ to the north. It seems likely that our ancient track originally ran beneath Central Library to Cocker Square where, it once again, turned to follow the high ground up Fumblers Hill.

Fumblers Hill, shown in the photograph above, was certainly one of the earliest known occupied locations in Blackpool, Rev. Thornber recording that: “…in 1769…the houses were few and scattered…from the hovels standing on the site of Bennett’s Hotel to Fumblers Hill, eight cottages might be numbered.”
In case you’re wondering, Fumblers Hill, the origin for the name of which we’ve never been able to determine, runs from Cocker Square and emerges on Dickson Road opposite Pleasant Street, where Ziggies used to stand.
And because, once again, all of this is probably starting to get confusing, we’ve included the map below.

(Incidentally, if you’re feeling that way inclined, you can join last week’s map and this week’s map together. That way you can follow the entire hollow way from the Gynn to Waterloo Road...if you really want to.)
From Dickson Road our prehistoric road curved through the estate surrounding Egerton Road and can be clearly seen recorded on old maps with no particular start or finish to it.
Something of it can still be determined in the allies between Eaves Street and what was once St Paul’s church, running parallel to Dickson Road. Here the ginnels are lower than the roads surrounding them, partly due to the fact that the streets are built on a slope, but also partly due to the original road being sunken.
In fact, if you look at the photograph below, you can even see, albeit filled in considerably nowadays, the remains of the sunken track crossing the car park behind the church. (You might have to look closely, but the dips and banks are definitely there.)

From here our hollow way descends towards the Gynn, having more or less followed the high ground all the way from Waterloo Road.
Returning once again to the Winter Gardens, another branch of Double Dyke apparently once ran east/west creating a ‘T’ junction with the route we’ve just followed, heading off through Stanley Park to Whinney Heys.
But we reckon that’s enough orienteering for one fortnight, so it’s time for a cuppa and beef and mustard sandwich before we return to our rummaging and embark on something completely different for the next article.


John said...

Okay, here's a question... just where do these Celtic roads lead to? The answer is probably in one of your books, but I'm feeling lazy right now, and besides, a post like this should be a bit more thorough. Twas a bit too short for my liking.

Still, something to look for while walking round the Wyre. :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


To the north it probably leads to Bispham, to the east Marton and to the south Lytham. I realise the posting should have been a bit more thorough, but I like to sleep occasionally and between the various books we're researching/writing, Wyre Archaeology, on the ground investigations and the usual general nonsense that constitutes life, from time to time postings such as this suffer a bit from me snoring too loudly whilst I'm typing.

JahTeh said...

At the very least you could have put up a google earth image instead of tatty little maps.

So if it was a road well travelled, I gather it was for trading and not just hunting or raiding other celts for booze, women & cattle.

I don't know about John but I'm still puzzling over the sandstone blocks and the strange way they were incorporated into walls. In every programme I see, something like these are always laid straight then built up. Is it local sandstone?

Ozfemme said...

Very informative post, Mr Hughes. I just have to clarify for myself what a ginnel is.

Looks like a top notch place to take a wander round though. Those wily Celts... what a bunch, hey?

Would you like us to organise a collection plate for your tram fare?

Brian Hughes said...


"At the very least you could have put up a google earth image instead of tatty little maps."

Copyight problems there. Not that that usually bothers me...but I quite like my tatty little maps. I spent ages drawing them up, tweaking them just enough to put the Ordnance Survey people off the scent.

"...something like these are always laid straight then built up."

You've got a point there and, to be honest, I've no idea why the blocks in the photographs weren't used in flat rows for the bases of the buildings. In most of the buildings round this end of Fleetwood they are actually laid in the way you's just that, for reasons best left to my screwed-up aestheticism, I only photographed the ones that were a bit higgardly-piggardly.

"Is it local sandstone?"

Don't know. It's not stamped. It's local now, whatever the case.


"Would you like us to organise a collection plate for your tram fare?"

Nah...but thanks for the offer. I'd probably just spend it on whiskey and cigarettes, anyway. Besides, the trams have stopped running for the winter whilst the engineers repair the tracks.

Brian Hughes said... A ginnel is a narrow passageway between houses, not wide enough to be an alley but left in situ for public access nonetheless. They're also good for getting pushbikes wedged.

Ozfemme said...

a pushbike wedged where? owies

Brian Hughes said...

Between the passage walls...

(Copyright Julian Clarey Jokes Ltd. 1928)