Anyhow, I was doubly surprised, having checked back through our articles here, to discover that we hadn’t actually covered the subject. So now, perhaps, it’s time to make amends. To be honest, this article has been copied almost verbatim from the stuff I wrote at Blackpool Ghosts…but I’m a great believer in recycling material, so here goes…
The village in question was undoubtedly Singleton Thorpe, which legend has it was destroyed in a flood but originally stood, as already suggested, just off the present shoreline at Cleveleys, opposite the entrance to Jubilee Gardens, more or less.
Hold on, here's a quote from William Thornber (the Victorian Antiquarian): “In the reign of Mary, 1554…‘a sudden irruption of the sea…took place at Rossall grange; a whole village, called Singleton Thorpe, was swept away by its fury – the inhabitants were obliged to flee from the ancient spot, and erected their tents at a place called Singleton to this day.’”
Let’s just get a few bits and pieces straight. ‘Thorpe’ generally indicates a ‘sister village’ or ‘hamlet’ belonging or related to the owners of the larger estate, in this instance Singleton, which presumably predated Singleton Thorpe and first appears in the Domesday Book.
The photograph above shows an enthusiastic group of Edwardian school children attempting to hunt down the ruined village. (All right…it doesn’t…but it might have done. It’s roughly in the right location whatever the case.)
Right…moving on, in 1877 C. E. de Rance went looking for the remains of Singleton Thorpe and recorded finding horse troughs and shippons full of sea water in the sand and in 1893 Alfred Halstead published a booklet entitled ‘Singleton Thorpe: Discovery of Remains’ which followed his own expedition in search of the ruins.
Here's another quote (see...we go to massive lengths for you lot, we really do...): “We began operations at a point nearly opposite the hulking which slopes to the sea about half a mile from Rossall and about four miles north of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
Cleveleys seafront didn't, as such, exist back then. In fact Cleveleys, strictly speaking, didn't exist back then. Ritherham did, but that was near St. Andrew's church, so Alfred Halstead didn't have anything on the seashore to mark the spot...but if you work all that stuff above out for yourselves, you'll see that it leads you to the beach off Jubilee Gardens as mentioned earlier.
And the Evening Gazette dated 17th July 1974 relates how Mr. Jowett discovered a metallic pot embedded in the roots of a tree recently uncovered by the ‘scouring action of the tides’ opposite Carr Gate. The pot was probably connected to the missing village.
Back to Halstead again: “Our explorations revealed more than the mere forest and field remains. Evidences of the foundations of houses were not wanting. Our attention was first directed to what looked like a log tree. Closer notice revealed that it was quite different in shape from the other trees half buried in the sand. Digging and shovelling the sand laid it all bare, and we found it to be a straight and square piece of timber, about 17 feet long and 13 inches in a square breadth. There were the marks of other pieces of timber being fastened to it.”
From Halstead’s description it seems likely that the timber was some sort of roofing joist, a suspicion confirmed in the minds of the excavators when they shortly: “…traced the foundations of what was evidently the wall of a house.” The wall, true to the construction of mediaeval random-build houses, consisted of: “…rough lime mixed with large cobblestones…the stones getting smaller towards the top…It measured about 22 feet in length, though we could not find a clear and unmistakable finish to it at one end.”
This wasn’t the only building, however: “We found in another place, about 150 yards from the fallen rafter, the same evidence of some sort of building. The rubble foundation, and the coarse lime and pebble mixture upon it was plainly visible; but it was too near the waves to follow it to the end.”
Unsatisfied with the excavation, several years later Halstead returned to the scene, this time accompanied by Mr Pearson, Ben Bowman, J. Whiteside, several carts, excavation equipment and a number of labourers. On this occasion more trees were uncovered, parts of which were taken home for souvenirs along with doorposts and what appeared to be a lintel.
All of which brings me, in a circuitous fashion, to the fact that, recently, ‘improvement’ (and I use the term loosely) to Cleveleys’ promenade have resulted in a shifting of the sands and the uncovering of new sections of the ancient sunken forests. Which means there’s a good chance that a few previously undisturbed bits of Singleton Thorpe might have been uncovered along with them.
Let’s conclude then with an aerial photograph courtesy of Frank Smith (Wyre Archaeology Committee Member in charge of Aerial Reconnaissance) showing the remains of the tree stumps nowadays (I think):
Time for an expedition, I reckon. We’ll keep you posted on the results.