What might surprise a lot of people who’ve never seen the smudgy brown photograph before, is the size of the building. For a start it’s two stories high. Secondly it’s got an extension on the right hand side as viewed from the front. And on the left hand side there appears to be another low building edge onto the riverbank.
That’s because most people have probably seen the painting/photograph below (we’re not sure which it is…we’re informed it’s the former, but it’s photographic in quality, so who knows) taken sometime around the 1930s.
Looks like a bungalow, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s misleading. The two figures in the painting are posing in the field to the rear of the hall, which is actually on top of a bank. The hall’s first floor is below the viewer’s line of sight.
Anyhow, let’s have some of that history we mentioned. We went searching for any smidgeons we could muster, and discovered an article (or a book or something) on the Internet, written by Mary Welsh (we think…it all got a bit confusing) that informed us: “Cockle Hall was named after a great cockle bed in the nearby river. Because it was so remote the original tenant, the father of 13 children, described himself as the ‘only squire this side of the Wyre’. In 1989 the small site was developed and picnic tables added so that it could be enjoyed by those of limited mobility.”
We can add a bit more to that courtesy of Ralph Smedley’s ‘Thornton Cleveleys Remembered’ which says: “Alas, no carriage and pair ever swept up to the front door of Cockle Hall, no liveried retainer speeded the departing guests. Why it was ever called Cockle Hall I don’t know, but it was like an old farm worker’s cottage and it was bought by Thornton Cleveleys Council over thirty years ago and demolished.”
How old the building was, we just don’t know. Freda showed us some letters dating from the late 19th century (circa 1896 if memory serves) when the Fleetwood Estate Company were purchasing the hall from Peter Hesketh. And the hall itself appears on the Ordnance Survey maps from the 1840s. Earlier than that we couldn’t say. We don’t even know if it was random build or brick, the only remains of the building nowadays forming a large bump in the middle of the path, a bit like the sort of bump that’s created when all the dust and rubbish in a living room is swept underneath the carpet.
There are the remains of an orchard to the south of the ruins, consisting mainly, it seems of plum trees. There are signs of coppicing amongst the trees occupying the steep bank behind the hall, the bank itself suggesting that, the original builders, dug into the hillside and used the earth removed to create a platform above the marsh on which to build.
But there you go; like we said, not much is known about its history. Being the naturally curious people what we are, we had a rummage around the few remaining bits of rubble and unearthed the following bits and pieces.
The fragment of fire-blackened brick tends to indicate that the chimney, if nothing else, was Victorian. We also found a shard of milk-bottle with part of the word ‘Carlton’ on it and the neck of a cider bottle, which we strongly suspect was added in more recent times.
Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable jaunt out, so cheers to Nathan and his Mum for giving up their Sunday afternoon for our guided tour and if anybody knows any more details about Cockle Hall then feel free to write to us at the usual address.