Notes and Guidance on a Fylde and River Wyre Cycle Ride from Lancaster with Information on Pubs and Local History
This cycle ride follows an interesting loop from Lancaster. There is not a coastal road as such so we took a few out-and-in roads where we backtracked on ourselves. This is generally something I try to avoid but, due to the limited number of lanes on the western edge of The Fylde, there was no other option in order to enjoy some of the interesting sights. Heading down to Glasson Dock, the route heads westward to Pilling and Knott-End-on-Sea where a ferry crossing can be taken across to Fleetwood [and back]. The ferry runs with the tide so you either have to get your timings right or you simply miss out the Fleetwood section. The route then follows the River Wyre towards Gargstang and then heads back up to Lancaster. There are kilometres of flat so it is easy cycling unless, like us, you undertake this ride on a day with blustery cross winds!
You will notice from the elevation data that most of this ride is flat. There are only a few blips with any sort of gradient but they are easy. There are a few places where you have to backtrack from locations of interest and where there are a limited number of lanes on the coastal section or western edge of The Fylde.
The route profile for this day of cycling is one of the flattest we have ever undertaken. I have had to squash this image a little just to show the few minor climbs. The route from Garstang back to Lancaster is where the ride is gently undulating.
We were staying at Lancaster overnight so we simply grabbed a croissant and headed out quite early in the morning, the plan being to stop for breakfast en-route. This was the wrong decision so take note of my travel blurb for advice on what to do. Still, the early morning sunshine made for a lovely ride along the Lune estuary. Always try to take a positive from a negative.
From the town centre we headed straight for St. George's Quay, cycling past the Three Mariners. We visited this tavern during our stay in Lancaster - you can click here to read more about this pub with an interesting and colourful history. I have also typed up notes on St. George's Quay with some information on the George and Dragon and Wagon and Horses.
From St. George's Quay one simply keeps on cycling along the River Lune following New Quay Road until you run out of road and then roll onto a tarmac cycle path. We cycled along here after there had been a couple of days of heavy rain and, consequently, we encountered one section that was under a few inches of water. Freeman's Pools were created by the Environment Agency as part of its works to reduce flooding in the lower Lancaster area. The mosaic of interconnected pools, ponds and other wetland habitats supports breeding birds, wintering waders and wildfowl, otter and a range of wetland and grassland invertebrates.
The nice smooth tarmac surface continues for a mile or so until it joins the old trackbed of the Glasson Dock Branch Railway. From here the route follows a relatively smooth surface of gravel, shale and dirt. I was riding a cross bike with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres so was comfortable with this surface. Whether I would ride this old trackbed with skinny road tyres is another question. Where the tarmac runs out at Aldcliffe there is a rotting level crossing gate within the trees. Some of the old railway fencing also runs alongside the cycle path. The railway connected to Glasson Dock in 1883 and continued to operate passenger services until July 1930. Goods trains rolled on until September 1964.
The above photograph shows the view across the Lune estuary towards Fiskes Point. If I had swung the camera slightly to the left I would be pointing towards Ferry Cottage at Bazil. These have always been dangerous waters for local fishermen and the public-houses of Glasson Dock and Overton were used for inquests into the deaths of men drowned in the River Lune. Note in the foreground the old railway fencing which runs alongside the cycle path.
The plan was to enjoy breakfast at Café D'Lune which is part of the old buildings at Conder Green Railway Station. However, the café does not open until 10am and it was only ten-past nine. Although the café, complete with cycling parking looks great, we couldn't hang around for fifty minutes so we crossed the old railway bridge and headed towards Glasson Dock for the back-up plan which was the Lantern O'er Lune where the canal meets the old port.
Not far from the site of the old railway station stands Christ Church, a building erected between 1839-40. It was designed by the Cheshire-born architect Edmund Sharpe who had established a practice in Lancaster. He was very much the Nikolaus Pevsner of his day, travelling, studying and publishing books on architectural drawings. A chancel and vestry were added to his original church by Henry Paley in the early 1930s.
Goods trains would have passed through Glasson Station to the mooring docks behind the Victoria Inn. Certainly, the pub would have enjoyed good trade during the dock's busy days. Before the construction of the dock to serve Lancaster, Glasson was the site of small farming and fishing community, known as Old Glasson and Brows-Saltcote. Tradition has it that the first inhabitants of the area resided in the hull of a wrecked vessel; and that later on this "waif of the sea" was used as a public-house known as the Old Ship House.
The main trade conducted in the early years of the port was for grain and timber. The grain was brought on schooners from Ireland and Scotland. The oldest 'official' public-house was the Pier Hotel that traded in the late 18th century. The hotel evolved from Pier Hall, former home of the Salisbury family. Located close to the Victoria Hotel on Victoria Terrace, this was operating as the Pier Head Inn for many years. It had been known as The Grapes and Gerrard's in the past but was trading as The Caribou at the time of the Second World War. Apparently it was given this name by a Captain Heywood, who bought the hotel and modernised it in 1938. On his travels he used to shoot caribou in Northern Canada. The Thwaite's-owned building was closed as a pub around 2002 and the building converted into apartments.
It is thought that James Williamson, a deck officer and occupant of Brows Farm, built the Victoria Hotel. In 1883 the Lancaster Gazette described the hotel as "a modern structure, commodious and well kept, with a most attentive host and hostess."
The above photograph does not show the rather tatty appearance of the Victoria Inn which closed in 2016. The building had been acquired by Andrew Barker and Graham Cass who intended to renovate the pub as they had done to Bowerham Hotel in Lancaster and the Station Inn at Caton. However, with a refurbishment estimated at £400,000, they felt that the pub was not viable and, despite opposition from some locals, decided to convert the premises into housing. At the time of our visit the Victoria Inn was in something of a limbo.
After our look at the Victoria Inn things started going seriously downhill at Glasson Dock. We wanted to take a closer look at the tiny ancient lighthouse near the pier head. There was no activity in the dock so we rolled up to take a closer look at the building. An irate dock worker suddenly appeared advising us in rather strong terms that "this is a working dock and members of the public are not allowed on the site." Fair enough, but I looked around and noticed that there was not a single bit of activity in the dock, no fork lifts whizzing around, no cranes to duck under. If I had looked harder I would have spotted some tumbleweed blowing down the yard. I took this quick photograph before we crossed the swing bridge over to the other side of the dock. The the sandstone structure is just about big enough to hold a candle - just kidding. As you can see, there is a octagonal lantern tower topped with a weather vane.
The Lantern O'er Lune was also closed. Indeed, it looked like the place had not been open for a while. We rolled a few metres to the village store where a couple of dock workers were eating bacon sandwiches and drinking coffee at some outside tables. They gave us a look - the sort of look I last saw when watching 'Deliverance.' Nobody spoke. We were clearly persona non grata. We wandered into the shop and, at the one end, there was a woman cooking bacon and sausages for men clad in high-visibility clothing. Still nobody spoke. Requesting a veggie breakfast might just have tipped somebody over the edge with us also being tipped over the edge of the dock. For a quiet life we ordered a few rounds of toast. This took an eternity - and when it was handed over in paper bags there was margarine dripping all over the place. It turned out that it wasn't toast but warmed up bread. This place had not only set the bar at the lowest possible level but they had failed to reach it by a mile - I have never seen anybody mess up toast. I mean how do you not manage to rustle up some toast?
I put on a brave face for this photograph but we were having a miserable experience in Glasson Dock and were keen to head off - a pity because it should be an fascinating experience here. The dock was planned by the Port Commission at Lancaster because of the difficulties large vessels faced navigating the Lune estuary. Once they secured the land in 1780, a pier was constructed within two years. However, in order to retain vital trade a fully operational dock with gates was required and this work was completed in March 1787. The new dock could hold up to 25 merchant ships. Operational by 1826, the construction of a branch of the Lancaster Canal boosted trade at Glasson Dock. However, this resulted in goods passing through the dock rather than transhipping cargoes, the result being that a smaller workforce was required. Consequently, the population of Glasson Dock did not grow significantly.
There was some shipbuilding at Glasson Dock during the Victorian period. When the first barque built at Glasson Dock was launched around 1839 there was great rejoicing. The vessel was named John Horrocks, and was between 500 and 600 tons burden. I assume it was named after the former cotton mill manufacturer and Member of Parliament for Preston. The builders were Messrs. Daniel Simpson and Nicholson. The shipyard of Nicholson & Sons built fifty vessels here, the most famous of which was the schooner Ryelands. Launched in 1887, this vessel was used as the Hispaniola in the 1950 film Treasure Island. After more film and television work the old schooner became a tourist attraction at Morecambe as the Moby Dick. The vessel was destroyed by fire during 1970. If this was the bad luck bestowed upon the vessel then it was a long time coming. It is considered bad luck if the bottle of wine used at the launch does not break against the hull of the vessel. Miss Lillie Smith, the youthful second daughter of the Lancaster merchant William Smith, was present to name the schooner. A bottle of wine was suspended over the side by a red silk ribbon, and the moment the schooner began to move, the bottle was hurled at her, and struck the bow. However, the juvenile hands failed to send it with sufficient force to break it. Noticing this, a sailor on board the vessel hauled up the bottle, and tried to break it against her side, but was unsuccessful, and it slipped from his grasp to the ground below just as the ship took to the water. The bottle was still unbroken, so a bystander picked it up and threw it into the water after the vessel. Accordingly, the schooner, commanded by Captain William G. Marrow, of Connah Quay, who was also one of the largest shareholders of the vessel, did not get a correct send-off. Following the launch, the owners and friends sat down to a dinner provided by the Gerrard's at the Pier Hall Inn.
The Dalton Arms has outlived the other pubs of Glasson Dock and in 2017 was the only tavern where locals could enjoy a beer. The building is in the part of Glasson Dock where the earliest housing for workers were erected. The Thwaite's house is larger nowadays as the pub has been extended into neighbouring cottages. These were detailed when the Dalton Arms was offered for sale in March 1951 when the pub comprised of a sitting room with kitchen, service bar, tap room, smoke room, pantry, cellar, four bedrooms and large attic store. Included in the sale were four cottages known as Dalton's Row, which produced a total net rental of £46.16s.0d. per annum. The advertisement for the sale suggested that, as the stone-built public-house and cottages were in one block, it afforded the opportunity of extending the hotel.
This inn sign features the coat-of-arms of the Dalton family of nearby Thurnham Hall. Acquiring the property in 1556 from Thomas Lonne, this was the seat of the Dalton family for over four centuries. It was in 1861 that the direct lineage of the Dalton Baronetcy became extinct. The Dalton family formerly held the Manor of Bispham but possibly sold it to move to Thurnham. Robert Dalton married Anne, daughter of John Kitchen of Pilling, and obtained the site of Cockersand Abbey, and the adjoining Thurnham. In 1558 he also acquired Aldcliffe and Bulk from the Crown. Legend has it that Sir Richard Dalton, along with his two brothers, went to the Crusades in the late 12th century. He was awarded a green Griffin to be displayed on the family coat-of-arms for their services to King Richard. The Griffin is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion and the Dalton crest would eventually settle on a lion.
Publicans of the Dalton Arms have, over the years, been hauled before the magistrates for serving alcohol during prohibited hours. The main line of defence of the licensee was generally that they were legally entitled to serve lawful travellers. However, one court case was widely published in newspapers across the region when the police raided the pub in 1878 during which Josias Williams, Richard Illingworth and James Lord, all of Galgate, were charged with drinking although not being travellers - the rule being that a customer had travelled more than three miles from the place where they had slept on the previous evening. Although the distance from Galgate to the Dalton Arms was 294 yards over three miles if one travelled by the public highway, the police determined that the men had used the canal towpath which was 113 yards less than three miles. The men's legal representative contended that the canal towpath was not a public thoroughfare within the meaning of the Act of Parliament and that the distance ought to have been calculated by the Queen's highway. The Bench, however, took a different view and fined each of the men.
There was a curious court case in August 1848 in which two prisoners were sentenced simultaneously. In the first case J. Bickerstaffe, a postman, was charged with purloining a letter entrusted to him for delivery. He was found guilty and brought up for judgment in company with a man called Skinner. The latter was found guilty of stabbing the landlord of the Dalton Arms in fit of drunken fury. At one time tampering with the mail was deemed to be a most serious offence and this is reflected in the punishment handed out by the judge. The postman was sentenced to seven years' transportation, whilst Skinner was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, with hard labour, at the Preston house of correction.
As we cycled up Tithebarn Hill I felt a tinge of sadness that Glasson Dock is a shadow of its former self. Two of its key pubs have gone, the post office had closed down and the dock was only dealing with low volumes of cargo. It is almost hard to imagine that the community was once vibrant enough to stage an annual regatta during which there were sailing competitions, rowing events, horse races, athletics and wrestling matches.
Intrepid adventurers may brave Marsh Lane and head towards Crook Farm before following the Lancashire Coastal Way but we opted for the tarmac down to Thurnham Moss before heading out to Abbey Lighthouse Cottage. Erected on the tidal Plover Hill, a rocky outcrop, the Abbey Lighthouse is also known as Plover Scar Lighthouse. The 'missing' lighthouse is that of Cockersand Lighthouse and was once a wooden structure adjacent to the cottage. This was once the abode of the lighthouse keeper and to get a sense of the role of this solitary job have a look at this fabulous short film on the British Pathé website. Mrs. Beatrice Parkinson was filmed in 1948 undertaking her daily duties. The film was made not so long ago but it seems like another age.
The wife of Tom Parkinson, she succeeded Miss Janet Raby who retired at the age of 67. Her grandfather Frank was the keeper, and so was her father Henry. He was succeeded by her brother Jim. Following her brother's death she was the lighthouse keeper for 18 years. Following her retirement she initially moved to Cockerham but soon returned. Unable to find a cottage, she bought a caravan and immediately installed it behind the lighthouse keeper's cottage.
Plover Scar or Abbey Lighthouse was built in 1847 and was the lower light of a pair of leading lights that helped ships navigate into the Lune estuary. Prior to Beatrice Parkinson the Raby family kept the lights from the time of construction until the end of the Second World War - a term of almost 100 years. In the 19th century Henry Raby also occupied himself by fishing a baulk for William Bell of Lancaster who held the rights by lease. The baulks, or fish-traps, on this part of the coast were owned by the Lord of the Manor of Cockerham. This ancient method of catching fish, once operated by the monks of Cockersand Abbey, survived longer here than in most other coastal areas due to the big tidal rises of Morecambe Bay.
Cockersand Lighthouse was also built in 1847 and acted as the rear light of the pair. Replacing an older beacon, the lighthouses were designed to be used as a pair to guide shipping through the treacherous sandbanks of the Lune estuary. This rear light was a simple wooden structure and incorporated the living accommodation for the lighthouse keeper's family. The latter was replaced by a stone cottage which still stands today. The lighthouses were designed for the Commissioners of St. George's Quay at Lancaster by Jesse Hartley, engineer of the Liverpool Docks. Born in Yorkshire, he altered, or entirely constructed every dock in Liverpool. He was also employed as engineer for the Bolton and Manchester Railway and Canal, and was also consulting engineer for the Dee Bridge at Chester. The foundation stone of Plover Scar Lighthouse was laid by John Sharp, Mayor of Lancaster, amid a large ceremony, the guests of which later retired to the Victoria Hotel at Glasson Dock for dinner.
The site of Cockersand Abbey is only a short distance to the south. It was founded by William de Lancaster in the reign of Henry II as a hermitage and subsequently used as a hospital. As such, it was known as Saint Mary of the Marsh on the Cockersand. The first canons are said to have come from Croxton Abbey in Leicestershire which led to disputes over land and privileges. Though continuing as a hospital, it was elevated to an abbey in 1192. The isolated position must have led many of the canons to drink and a ruling was introduced banning monks from boozing after night prayers. This followed a scandal in which the cellarer William Bentham and James Skipton the cantor were accused of breaking their vow of chastity. As part of the dissolution by Henry VIII, the abbey was surrendered by Abbot Poulton in January 1539. The site, with the demesne lands, was initially leased to John Burnell and Robert Gardiner but was later sold to the Hertfordshire-born farmer John Kitchen for £700. His eldest daughter Anne married Robert Dalton of Thurnham Hall and possession passed to that family. The vaulted Chapter House is the only intact remains of the old abbey. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Chapter House was used as a mausoleum by the Dalton family. The building, open to the public on Heritage Open Days, is a Grade I-listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Backtracking, we cycled eastward along Moss Lane to take a look at Thurnham Hall, seat of the aforementioned Dalton family but the site was formerly held by the de Thurnham family before, by descent, passing to the Flemming, Cancerfield, Harrington, Bonvile and Grey families. Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, sold the estate to Thomas Lonne, a London grocer. However, after just three years, he sold to Robert Dalton of Bispham. Rebuilding the hall, the Dalton family remained for 400 years. After the ceiling collapsed in a front room of the old hall at Thurnham, the owner, John Dalton, proposed that the old farmhouse be demolished and replaced by a new building. However, the priest who held masses in the room, refused to oblige so John Dalton renovated the existing property in 1823-4. Designed by Robert Roper, the Gothic-style symmetrical frontage contains an embattled parapet, a central projection, and octagonal corner turrets. The private chapel to the south of the hall was added in 1854 by Elizabeth Dalton. When she died in 1861 the estate passed to Sir James Fitzgerald of Castle Ishen in the County of Cork. At the demise of the Fitzgerald family, the estate was reclaimed by William Henry Dalton. However, the hall gradually fell into decay and was damaged by a fire in 1959. Thurnham Hall was sold to Stanley Crabtree who completely renovated the building.
The Roman Catholic Church of Saint Thomas and Saint Elizabeth was erected in 1847-8 to the designs of Charles Hansom. In 1785 John Dalton granted a plot of land for the construction of a chapel and priest's house. The latter was completed in 1802 but it took many years for the priest, Father Foster, to collect sufficient funding for the chapel which eventually opened in 1818. With financial help from Elizabeth Dalton, Father Crowe, the second priest at Thurnham, succeeded in gathering sufficient funds to build a new church which opened in August 1848. The old chapel was subsequently demolished. Robert Gillow and Richard Worswick were important benefactors of the church.
The Gillow mausoleum stands in the churchyard of the Church of Saint Thomas and Saint Elizabeth. The sandstone rectangular structure, in Egyptian style, has buttresses on the corners. The south front features four recessed Egyptian columns with bud bases, reeded bands, fluting, and bell capitals with papyrus decoration. The mausoleum is thought to have been designed by Robert Gillow, grandson of the founder of the Lancaster furniture-making firm. The building was completed in 1830 and the first internment took place six years later.
Returning to the main road, we headed south to Cockerham, a village almost destroyed by fire in the 17th century. The rebuilding of the village resulted in the church being rather detached from the centre of the settlement. The church was largely rebuilt in 1814. Only the tower remains of the older edifice. The churchyard contains the grave of a former vicar who died of the plague, along with eleven members of the congregation. Being separate from the village, Cockerham Hall survived the 17th century conflagration.
Cockerham has one of those fanciful legends in which the devil, or Old Nick, was tricked into leaving Cockerham where he had decided to take up residence. The petrified villagers held a meeting during which it was decided that the schoolmaster was the wisest and most adroit of the parishioners and, consequently, he was dispatched to drive out their unwanted guest. The schoolmaster's first task was to use an incantation to raise Old Nick who challenged the teacher to devise three tasks which, if he succeeded in completing, would mean his demise. The schoolmaster gave Old Nick the task of counting the dewdrops on a hedgerow and this was completed with ease. It was a doddle for Old Nick to also count the stalks in a field of grain, his second task devised by the teacher. The third task demanded that Old Nick had to make a rope of sand that could withstand washing in the River Cocker. The devil quickly made the rope but it could not cope with the running water in the river. Outwitted by the schoolmaster, he strode off in the direction of Devil's Bridge at Kirkby Lonsdale.
With such a fanciful legend it would have been great to find a pub and inn sign to celebrate the village fable. Still, the sign of the Manor Inn has some historical interest. Slightly weather-worn the signboard shows one of the landed gentry with some of his servants. The two maids appear to be black women and this is perhaps a reference to the slave trade once part of Lancaster's economy. The manor of Cockerham was once held by the Calvert family. The current Manor Inn has a date stone of 1871 with the letters CHB. These are the initials of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Henry Bird of nearby Crookhey Hall who had a moiety of the manor. He was the son of a Liverpool ship-owner and called to the Bar in early life, but he never practised. He was a large landowner, ex-High Sheriff, Deputy-Lieutenant of Lancashire, Colonel Commandant 3rd and 4th Battalions Royal North Lancashire Militia, Vice-president of the Lancaster Conservative Association, and Ruling Councillor of the Cockerham Habitation Primrose League. In August 1887 he married Isabel, fifth daughter of William Edward Wyndham of Clearwell Court at Coleford in Gloucestershire. He died in February 1909. Oh, a bit of cycling trivia - Charles Henry Bird was once the Vice-president of Lancaster Cyclists' Club.
The Manor Inn is one of two public-houses that once traded in Cockerham. However, the old Manor Inn used to stand on the corner of the lane leading to Saint Michael's Church. Today, the site is a car park for the village hall. Even that building was not always known as the Manor Inn. In the early 19th century it was known as the Atkinson's Arms Inn, a reference to Anthony Atkinson of Lancaster who once held a moiety of the manor. The pub was still recorded as the Atkinson's Arms in a trade directory published in 1869 with Thomas Newton being the publican. The pub that you see here is the current Manor Inn but this was once the Plough Inn. There is a date stone on the gable of the building, above the lantern, that bears the date 1871, the year that the pub was rebuilt - though parts of the original building may have been incorporated at the rear of the property.
The aforementioned Thomas Newton quit the Manor Inn at the end of April 1875 when he sold the household furniture, feather beds and bedding, kitchen requisites, bar and brewing utensils, and other effects. At this time Anthony Turner was running the Plough Inn. He was both farmer and innkeeper. The Hornby-born publican and his wife Mary farmed 30 acres of land. It is not surprising that a pub should be called the Plough Inn because Cockerham used to stage a prestigious ploughing competition every year. During the 1870s this was held at Little Crimbles Farm but the venue was moved in 1883 the Great Crimbles Farm run by Robert Mason. Contestants used to come from as far as Milnthorpe, Casterton and Ulverston. A crowd of around 500 people would gather to watch the event and Anthony Turner would erect a refreshments tent on the field. However, although the licensee of the Plough Inn enjoyed the trade during the day, it was the Manor Inn where the the post-match dinner was served.
Anthony Turner was formerly a butcher. He continued this trade after marrying Mary Lee at Claughton and settling in Preston. The couple were running the Plough Inn by 1860. The rival Atkinson's Arms, and later when it trade as the Manor Inn, was the location of noted horse sales during the 19th century. These were held at Christmas, May and July. The Plough Inn meanwhile had its own attraction in the form of the Cockerham Wrestling and Sports event held behind the pub during September. The wrestling ring was set up in a field behind the Plough Inn where Anthony Turner would once again erect a refreshments tent for the spectators. The event proved popular and a grandstand was erected at one end of the field. Some of the country's best wrestlers would attend at Cockerham. Other events included High Pole Leaping, a Foot Race, a Sack Race and a Trotting Contest.
The Manor Inn was run for many years by William Butler and his wife Elizabeth. In the 1920s the licence was extinguished and the name transferred to the Plough Inn where John Kilshaw was the publican. When the Crookhey Estate was broken up and sold in July 1926, the Manor Inn was purchased by Mitchell's for £3,300.
From Cockerham we headed south-west along the A588 for a short distance before turning south at Cocker Bridge. There is a quiet lane to Great Crimbles where there is an even quieter Gulf Lane through Cockerham Moss.
Cycling along the exposed flat landscape you cannot miss Moss Edge Farm, home to one of the most remote breweries in the UK. The enterprise was established by Steven Holmes in the autumn of the previous year so he was still finding his feet when we rolled into the yard. Indeed, the first commercial brews had not long been produced so we got our timing just right! Despite his busy workload and planning his imminent wedding, Steven was most generous in allowing us to take a look inside. The brewery has been created on a 6th generation family farm which has been worked by the Holmes family for yonks, including his parents Bob and Debbie. Farms are having to diversify these days and Steve, a home-brewing enthusiast who was driving milk trucks, thought that brewing beer commercially could be a way to safeguard the future of the farm.
The family supported the launch of Farm Yard Ales which received financial assistance from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The brewery plant was installed by working with Tottington-based specialist Johnson Brewing Design. Steven sought the guidance of some expertise and has been joined by Darius Darwell as brewer. He had come to have a look at the new set-up at a time when he was considering starting his own brewery. It made sense to team up with Steven and work together. Farm Yard Ales uses their own natural mineral water, found 51 metres below the soil of the farm. Steven is proud to boast that everything in the brewery process is recycled. The hops and yeast are mixed with the waste water to fertilise the soil on the farm. This helps to grow the barley used in their malt. The farm's cattle are fed with spent grains. A brewery tap was created on an upper floor where drinkers can look down on the equipment used to create the contents of their glass. We were most fortunate to be amongst the first customers of this new bar and we enjoyed the two beers that were available, one being a refreshing IPA. Steven has decided to name future ales with single syllable words ending in 'F.' Concerned that we were holding up vital work, we drank up and continued our journey, a ride greatly enhanced by our visit to this fledgling brewery.
From the brewery we took the circuitous route to Pilling along Horse Park Lane in order to approach via Stake Pool. It is not easy to see Pilling Hall Farmhouse from the road but there is some interesting history to the place. Built close to the site of the original Pilling Grange, some of the stone was probably recycled for construction. Some remains of the ancient church can apparently be found close to the farm.
Railway enthusiasts can take a slight detour towards Jarvis Carr to look at the old railway cottage and former trackbed of the Garstang and Knott End Railway. There was a level crossing here, the manual operation of which was probably the duty of the occupants of the cottage. Large locomotives passed within centimetres of the building which must have shook when trains trundled by.
At the eastern end of Garstang Road stands the Elletson Arms, a former Robinson's house that got into difficulties and closed in 2015. The building has been refurbished by Blackpool-based Kays Peake Properties Ltd., and re-opened as a smokehouse. Inside, it is no longer recognisable as a historic tavern, with chrome and neon lighting. And the folks that laid the turf for the bowling green to the rear would be horrified to see it now, especially when the bouncy castle is in use.
The railway station was located a few metres to the south of the pub once known as the Gardner's Arms. Opened in 1870, the 7 mile line ran from Garstang and Catterall on the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway terminating here at Stake Pool, though the station was named Pilling. It was intended to build the line to Knott End but the scheme ran out of funding. It was not until 1908 that the line was extended by the Knott End Railway. Perhaps this is the reason that a steam-powered charabanc can be seen outside the pub around 1905. This brought day-trippers out to the newly-named Elletson Arms, a sign commemorating the family who owned the manor and residents of Parrox Hall in neighbouring Preesall. The previous name was also a reference to the Gardner family who held a moiety of the manor. The wine and spirits merchant Richard Gardner was resident of Liverpool and the nearby Fluke Hall.
Roger and Ruth Ireton were hosts of the Elletson Arms Hotel for almost a quarter-of-a-century. Born in Quernmore to the east of Lancaster, he married Ruth Gardner in October 1891. The couple kept the Bowling Green Hotel at Scotforth before moving to Stake Pool in 1900 to take over this hostelry. They remained here until 1924, a golden period for the Elletson Arms Hotel during which it became one of the most popular destination pubs on The Fylde. Roger and Ruth Ireton catered for patrons who came by all forms of transport. The house proudly displayed a sign for the Cyclists' Touring Club, offering refreshments, meals and accommodation to two-wheeled adventurers.
The hostelry hosted all manner of events over the years. The Pilling Horse Show was held in the field adjoining the Elletson Arms Hotel during the time of Roger and Ruth Ireton. Pilling Football Club held meetings here in the inter-war years. A hot-pot supper was also served to members of the Fleetwood Road Club when they presented medals for their club time trials. The hotel was also used for coroner's inquests for many sad events and accidents.
In addition to running the Elletson Arms Hotel Roger Ireton was also a farmer. Indeed, Charles Bamber, a popular licensee throughout the 1930s, also managed Town Head Farm. Before coming to Stake Pool he had been head gardener to the Pyke family of Thistleton Lodge on the other side of the River Wyre. His wife Doris was in charge of the catering at the hotel.
Heading north from the Elletson Arms, we turned off and headed along Taylor's Lane until we reached the old mill. The structure has been restored in recent times and looks rather splendid. Replacing an older wooden post mill, this was built in 1808. As much of the land is below sea level the structure was carefully erected to a considerable height. The mill was operated by the Cookson family for generations until 1962 when the building was sold to Mr R. Baines, a Bradford businessman who was a partner in a cycle and toy business. It was reportedly a spur-of-the-moment decision of Mr. Baines who drove past the mill with his wife Celia. He told a journalist that he "just happened to ask her would she like to live in the mill and she said "Yes." He swung the car around and started negotiations with the Cookson family. It was not until 2007 that new owners commissioned a newly-built cap to surmount the structure. The cap was manufactured by Neil Medcalfe, a traditional millwright from Lincolnshire. The cap was a match of that on Marsh Mill at Thorton Clevelys as both mills were built by Ralph Slater. From the top floor the lucky occupants have a fine view of Morecambe Bay and The Fylde.
Continuing to the end of Taylor's Lane, we turned left over the bridge and cycled to the Golden Ball, an attractive pile on the junction of Fluke Hall Lane. The architect of this building was Joseph Parkinson of Lancaster. He drew up the plans in 1904 for the landowner Major Edmund Hornby of Dalton Hall near Burton-in-Kendal. He owned the old Golden Ball Inn which was located around 500 metres to the south, near the triangle where School Road meets Smallwood Hey Road. This site was deemed the only suitable plot on which to build a larger house. The magistrates were told that Joseph Parkinson's plans included stables, coach houses, bowling green and tennis court attached. The Bench were also informed that the hotel was to include 'luxuries' for visitors in the way of bathrooms, which were unknown in Pilling before the vicarage was built a few years previously. It was a bit of a struggle to get the plans passed but the magistrates were swayed by Edmund Hornby's pledge to create two new playgrounds for the nearby school.
In addition to the plans being passed, a provisional licence was granted for the new building, it being transferred from the old tavern. The old Golden Ball Inn survived until April 1949 when it demolished after the structure was declared unsafe. In the late Victorian period the house was the domain of William Cookson.
The new hotel enjoyed good motoring trade during the inter-war years when those who could afford a motor vehicle drove out to what was billed as a popular destination resort, offering tennis, putting greens and a hydro. Even the Special Constables of Accrington made their way to Pilling for their annual outing in 1926. Accompanied by Chief Constable Sinclair, the officers journeyed in cars to the hotel where they spent an enjoyable afternoon on the bowling green. Walter Appleton, licensee at the end of the Second World War, was not so good at motoring after a tipple and drove down an embankment and through a hedge. The magistrates fined the publican and his driving licence was suspended.
The Pilling Brass Band used to hold their annual field sports day next to the Golden Ball Hotel, to which they retired for an evening ball. The hotel was also home to the Loyal West Coast Lodge of the Manchester Unity, Independent Order of Oddfellows. The aforementioned brass band would lead their processions attended by around 250 members. Click here to view the inn sign of the Golden Ball.
Just to the south of the Golden Ball is the Church of St. John the Baptist. The structure of snecked sandstone rubble from Greaves Quarry, was built to the designs of the Lancaster-based architectural firm of Messrs. Austin and Paley, and consecrated by Dr. Moorhouse, Bishop of Manchester in June 1887. The building is considered to be a fine example of the late Gothic Revival church. Designed by Messrs. Burslem of London, the East window was a gift of the Elletson sisters of Parrox Hall in memory of Reverend Dr. Gardner.
Pilling is unusual in that the village retained its old church following the construction of the new building in the late 1880s. The building, later used as a mortuary chapel, still stands and is a must-see Georgian building. It can be accessed via a narrow lane alongside the former Ship Inn a few metres to the south of the new church. Erected in 1717 and consecrated four years later, the church was probably built as a result of Queen Anne's Bounty Scheme established in the previous decade. Above the entrance of the red sandstone building there is a sundial plaque inscribed with the phrase, "Thus ETERNITY approacheth. G. Holden 1766." This is George Holden who, together with his brother Richard, published the 'Holden Almanack and Tide Table,' an authoritative publication that endured for two centuries. On entering the old chapel prepare yourself for the wonderful sight of a near-original Georgian 'preaching box' interior featuring a flagstone floor, galleries supported by Tuscan columns and panelled box pews. There is a double-decker pulpit, impressive enough but it was once a triple-decker. The parson would be at the top and beneath him would be the clerk and reader. But most of all, there is an impalpable sense of the past when soaking up the aura of this old chapel.
Back outside, look for the grave of Reverend Potter, a parson-cum-prizefighter who is said to have "fought thrice and preached twice one Sunday." Potter sounds like he was a bit of a rogue who enjoyed the spoils of illegal booty. In 1924, when recalling the Pilling Parson, the journalist Allen Clarke wrote: "One stormy Sunday morning a vessel came ashore on Pilling beach. A man who had seen the stranded ship popped into the church, and soon the news was whispered round. The congregation, keen after possible wreckage began to stir and creep out, one by one, and then Parson Potter, suspecting what was astir, bawled out from the pulpit, "Here, hold on there. Let's all start fair," and he wound up the service, and they all made for the shore."
It is thanks to efforts of the Churches Conservation Trust that the old chapel has been saved for future generations. This body took care of the decaying building in 1986 and it is now a treasure to behold.
Returning to School Lane the building at the top of the lane to the Old Church is that of the former Ship Inn, an 18th century building featuring an entrance flanked with Tuscan columns supporting an open pediment. Renovated in 2011, the property was built in 1782 for George Dickinson, a locally-born mariner who captained a number of vessels including "The Happy Return." Aged 50, he had retired from his life on the sea, and had gained his wealth by transporting slaves in the trans-Atlantic trade. Indeed, he had enough wealth to buy other land and Hooles Farm. He had married Ann 'Nancy' Whiteside and their initials can be seen inscribed on a pump in the yard. It is said that George Dickinson was involved in smuggling whilst occupying the Ship Inn.
Allen Clarke wrote in 1926 that there was an earlier Ship Inn. A thatched building, it was apparently erected in 1717, the same year as the old church. Another article published in April 1944 stated: "One of the few good things that have come out of this war is the renovation of the old Ship. When it lost its licence because there were thought to be enough pubs in Pilling the Ship, noblest in stature and dignity of them all, with its pillared portico, its broad steps and its tall, austere windows set deep in its thick walls, began to decay. Its panes were broken, sparrows and starlings nested in it, and when you peered into one of the fine rooms you saw cobwebs and dust. It was like a noble old man, erect and silver-haired, who had suddenly slipped into the mud of the gutters and lay there dirty and helpless while the urchins stood around and stared at him. But soon after the war began a use was found for the Ship - and how soon and how proudly it repaid renovation!"
It was in March 1908 that the Ship Inn was discussed at the Licensing Sessions for the Garstang Petty Sessional Division as being "not required to meet the wants of the neighbourhood, and that the situation of the premises were structurally deficient and not convenient for police supervision. At the time the house was tenanted by William Armer. During the Sessions Sergeant Davey said: "the house was assessed for poor rate at £15, and the annual value for licensing purposes was £35. The general sanitary accommodation and facilities for police supervision were, in his opinion, bad, the back door opening on to a footpath which led over the fields. The state of repair was bad. There was a small farm attached, and the rent for the house alone was £25. The house was fully licensed, the tenancy being yearly, and the present tenant took possession in July, 1891. The average takings for the last three years was stated by the tenant to have been £325, the profit during that time £3 per week, and barrelage three per week including bottled stuff. The house was free, and the nearest licensed premises were 420 yards away." The Ship Inn survived this threat to the licence and continued to trade until February 1934 when the last beers were drawn from the casks. Within three years the former tavern was described as "derelict and falling fast into ruin."
The Ship Inn formed part of a farm and a smithy was once attached to the north side of the building. The aforementioned William Armer, together with his wife Mary, kept the Ship Inn for 36 years before they retired in 1927. During the previous summer the couple had purchased a bungalow next to the Manor Inn at Cockerham. The property known as "The Nest" was one of the lots auctioned during the aforementioned sale of the Crookhey Estate.
Today we were looking at buildings and landscape so remained inland on our route to Knott End-on-Sea. However, a very pleasant alternative is to cycle out to Fluke Hall and then follow a route along the coastline, giving way to pedestrians of course. Our route took us past Pilling Methodist Church and School, a building opened in June 1894 to replace the old chapel of 1813. The hotch-potch style was the work of the Blackpool-based architect J. A. Nuttall. Though a number of contractors were brought in for specialist work, every single stone but one of the building was laid by the Sunday School teacher Luther Curwen. He allowed his cousin, who had dressed the stone for him, to put in one block.
On Sandy Lane, the main route into Knott End-on-Sea, stands the old Bethel Chapel erected in 1835-6. Well, that is the small section fronting the road. The extension of 1886 is fine but a hideous block was added to the rear in more recent times. The interior was "altered almost beyond recognition" in a refurbishment of 1927. The modest old chapel however serves to remind of simpler times. A congregation was formed in the early 19th century, meeting at Bibby's Farm, the home of Thomas and Agnes Hodgkinson which had been licensed for worship. The chapel was completed in December 1836 when the Rev. Samuel Bell from Lancaster preached to the congregation in the morning, and Rev. D. T. Carnson from Preston in the afternoon.
By this time we were pretty famished and on a cycling hunger knock. However, we paused briefly to look at Saint Oswald's Church on the way into Knott End-on-Sea. Designed in 1896 by Hubert Austin of the aforementioned Lancaster firm of Austin and Paley, the church was completed in 1899. His plans are on display inside the building constructed of red brick with sandstone dressings. The plan includes a west tower but this was not constructed. Consecrated in May 1899, the church was originally a chapel of ease to Stalmine but its own vicar, the Rev. J. Holt, was inducted in May 1934.
There are not too many options for eating at Knott End but we were suitably sustained inside the Cottage Loaf, a fairly recent expansion of the old bakery shop. Having eaten little from setting off with scotched breakfast plans I was ravenous. Drinking beer at Farm Yard Ales on an almost empty stomach did not help our situation. My cake almost went in sideways in one go! There was no hurry as our pfaffing meant we had missed the tide to jump on a ferry to Fleetwood. We will have to return to see the planned development of Peter Hesketh, High Sheriff of Lancashire and MP for Preston. It would also be nice to view the lighthouses. The modernist Church of St. Nicholas is also on our bucket list, not to mention the Strawberry Gardens.
If you think Knott End has few eateries than consider that there is really only one place to drink. However, up until it developed as a tourist destination, Knott End consisted of few dwellings, never mind lots of pubs. Those who risked the constant flooding in order to eek out a living here would either call at the Bourne Arms or walk to Preesall in order to enjoy a beer in a tavern. The Knott name refers to the large flocks of birds whizzing around in squadrons on the edge of The Fylde. I am not sure of the date of this hotel but there was a Bourne Arms here in the mid-19th century. William and Sarah Barton were recorded at the inn during the 1861 census. As a widower, he continued to run the inn with the help of his daughters Agnes and Sarah. The elderly publican died in July 1890. His mother died in the same year, aged 104. She had become something of a tourist attraction at her home in Heysham. Visitors were curious to see the women who was born in January 1785 but finally succumbed to what was known as Russian Flu. She had not long passed the 47th year of her widowhood. She could remember when there was not a single house at Fleetwood.
With 368,353 people using the ferry in the summer of 1905, Anthony Gilbert, landlord of the Bourne Arms Hotel, no doubt enjoyed great trade. The extension of the railway to Knott End in 1908 increased the footfall at the hostelry. These were the hotel's halcyon days that extended up to the Second World War. Click here to view the Bourne Arms Hotel as it looked in the 1930s.
John William Smith came to Knott End from Bolton in 1910 and would run the Bourne Arms Hotel for 21 years. He kept the hotel for Magee Marshall & Company, a firm based at the Crown Brewery in Bolton. The business was founded in 1853 by the brewer and spirit merchant David Magee who originally trade from a boozer called the Good Samaritan. He took over the Crown Vaults during the 1860s and established a brewery next to the premises. He was succeeded by his sons, who acquired the Grapes Brewery and the Horseshoe Brewery established by Daniel Marshall. The enlarged business was registered as Magee Marshall & Company Ltd. in 1888. A new tower brewery was built to the designs of William Bradford in 1893. In the following year the company bought Henry Robinson's Brewery of Wigan which had come up for auction. In 1912 the company acquired the Alexandra Brewery of John Halliwell & Sons. The company fell victim to the mad takeover period of the late 1950s and were taken over by Greenall Whitley & Co. of the Wilderspool Brewery in Warrington. The Crown Brewery did remain in production until September 1970 when Greenall's wrapped it up. Click here to view an inter-war photograph of the Bourne Arms Hotel at Knott End-on-Sea.
At the top of the slipway there is an art installation entitled "Matchstick Man and his Dog," that commemorates L.S. Lowry's visits to Knott End-on-Sea where the celebrated painter would stand to sketch the ferry and the passengers who travelled on the boat. A plaque states that his sketches of the ferry, drawn from the site of the memorial, became the basis of his painting "Jetty at Knott End" in 1957. Indeed, it was this painting that formed the basis of the figure unveiled in September 2015. A 'Shape Your Neighbourhood' grant was awarded by Preesall Town Council and Wyre Council for the work which was undertaken by apprentices at the Darwen-based training academy of the WEC Group.
It was only after the development of Fleetwood during the 1830s that a regular and dependable ferry service operated across the River Wyre. The Croft family were responsible for establishing a scheduled service as early as 1841. The early boats were powered by oar and sail. It took until 1892 for the Fleetwood Improvement Commissioners to reach an agreement with the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway to build a ferry jetty at Fleetwood. The Urban District Council took control of the ferries towards the end of the 19th century. They acquired the vessels used by the Croft family who remained as operators of the service. Although tourists used the crossing in huge numbers, the ferry was a key link for those living and working on The Fylde, not to mention children attending schools across the river. In the 21st century the ferry is funded by both Lancashire County Council and Wyre Borough Council.
So, having missed the tide, we backtracked to the old Bethel Chapel and cycled along Park Lane to Preesall. Just after the road junction there is an entrance to Parrox Hall, one of the oldest houses in Lancashire. Although the present structure dates from the 17th century, parts of the fabric are of greater antiquity. The site was occupied by the original Lord of the Manor of Preesall-with-Hackensall, Geoffrey the Crossbowman [Galfridus Arbalastarius], a Norman soldier who was installed by Prince John in 1189. His descendants have resided here since those violent times. Prior to the Norman invasion, the area had been occupied by the Danes. Indeed, the name Preesall is Norse in origin.
Positively modern compared to Viking invaders and Norman lords, the Black Bull at Preesall only dates from the 18th century. However, the house is of enough antiquity so that one has to duck to prevent banging one's head against the low beams inside. The building is thought to date from 1762 and in the early 19th century was owned by Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood, the man who was instrumental in bringing the railway to the Lancashire coast and develop the holiday resort and port of Fleetwood.
The Black Bull Hotel played a role in the development of the salt industry at Preesall when engineers from Barrow-in-Furness lodged at the house when sinking boreholes in the local fields. The men failed in their search for iron ore but discovered a bed of rock salt 300 feet below the surface. They returned to the Black Bull with a sample where a young Dorothy Parkinson, daughter of the landlord, dissolved, filtered and boiled it to produce the first sample of Preesall salt. This industry supported hundreds of people and its products were dispatched by sea to all parts of the globe.
Despite the growing industry close to the property, the Black Bull Hotel was advertised in October 1893 as "beautifully situated, with garden and large orchard stocked with prize fruit trees."
The popular Over-Wyre resident Irving Jackson took over the Black Bull Hotel at the start of World War One. He was something of a mover and shaker in the local area and was a member of the Parish Council agitating for the extension of the Garstang-Pilling railway to Knott End. He also advocated the construction of a new bridge over the Wyre. A native of Gressingham, near Hornby, he came to the Over Wyre district and became departmental manager of the refreshment department of the Lancashire Wagon Works. From there he went to the Golden Ball Hotel at Pilling. In September 1914 he became the owner and licensee of the Black Bull Hotel. However, the story of the Black Bull would have been very different had he succeeded in transferring the licence to a property at One Ash in Knott End. It was in March 1916 that Irving Jackson applied for the removal of the licence of the Black Bull to be transferred to One Ash. He planned to open a hotel with bowling green to rival the Bourne Arms Hotel. Drawn up by the architect H. D. Hartley, plans for the new hotel were presented to the local magistrates at the Garstang Licensing Sessions. The Bench, stating that the present time was not opportune, refused the application. And so the Black Bull survived and Irving Jackson eventually died at the pub in July 1929.
Over the years the Black Bull Hotel was used for a great number of coroner's inquests when people met an unfortunate end in the salt works, in the estuary or in the most unusual of events. One such tragedy occurred in October 1922. James Midgley, a popular character of Preesall who traded as a butcher and grocer for two decades, was returning home from his round in the Pilling area when the horse pulling his cart was startled by a passing charabanc on the Head Dyke Road. The horse and cart overturned and James Midgley was flung head-long into a ditch. The horse fell on top of the butcher and did not get up. As a result he was pressed further into the ditch and suffocated.
The Black Bull was operated by Burtonwood Brewery Co, [Forshaw's] Ltd., possibly following the death of Irving Jackson. However, after the Second World War the property became part of the tied estate of Joshua Tetley & Son. Ltd.
It is only a matter of metres to the former Saracen's Head Inn, a recent pub casualty. The house had been operated by Thwaite's until its closure. I have seen an old photograph of the building and there was a carved head of a Saracen over the front entrance. Landlord in the late Victorian period, Richard Clegg used to advertise that the pub was a good port-of-call for those enjoying a pleasant ride in the country. He was "glad to welcome visitors to this picturesque village" and offered choice ales, wines and spirits."
Richard Clegg took over the licence of the Saracen's Head Inn during September 1889 and was a tenant for Catterall & Swarbrick when the company were based at the Queen's Brewery at Queen's Square in Poulton-le-Fylde. The brewery is said to have been founded in 1871 but I believe it was towards 1880 that these names came together. The two men involved in the business were William Swarbrick who hailed from Out Rawcliffe, and John Swarbrick of Carleton who spent his early career on the railways before becoming a coal merchant. William Swarbrick first got involved in the wines and spirits business when he left his brother's mill at Staining and went to work for H. Eaves at Liverpool. He remained there for five years before becoming the licensee of the Railway Hotel at Poulton. The paths of the two men converged and they went into business together.
The third key person to become involved in the company was Tom Lockwood of the Golden Ball at Poulton-le-Fylde. Hailing from Lockwood near Huddersfield, he paid £5,000 for the Foxhall Hotel and Harmonic Rooms at Blackpool. In the summer seasons he hired some of the finest comedians of the time. Doubling his investment, he sold the hotel to Messrs. Seed and Co. and purchased the Golden Ball Hotel at Poulton. It was at this public-house that an auction was held for the Queen's Brewery in April 1892. The sale included the premises and brewing plant. It was after the acquisition of James Richardson's Newton Springs Brewery at Hardhorn that the company was registered as Catterall & Swarbrick's Brewery Limited in 1894. This brewery had formerly been owned by George Ormerod. Brewing was transferred to Hardhorn and the new premises was bestowed with the old name of the Queen's Brewery. It was located on the Staining Road, a short distance north-west of Newton Hall.
By the time of the 1901 census William Catterall and John Swarbrick had retired. In 1907 the company was chaired by William Nabb and the directors were Whittaker Bond, Richard Swarbrick, Richard Stirzaker and Tom Lockwood. The latter had already proved that he possessed some entrepreneurial flair and, in addition to his directorship he became chairman of the Big Wheel Company. He was also involved with Jenkinson's Limited and a director of the Victoria Pier at Fleetwood. He died in 1911, some years after the other two founders of the company.
The Hardhorn brewery continued as a bottling facility after the company moved to a new third Queen's Brewery which was erected on Talbot Road in Blackpool in 1927. The site was close to the junction of Devonshire Road. The company was eventually taken over by Northern Breweries in 1961 by which time the company had been operating 104 public-houses. Northern Breweries Ltd. had become United Breweries Ltd. when they merged with Charrington & Co. Ltd in 1964 to become Charrington United Breweries Ltd. In 1967 this concern merged with Bass, Mitchell's & Butler's Ltd. The Queen's Brewery on Talbot Road was closed four years later and eventually demolished in 2000. The names of Catterall and Swarbrick were commemorated in two of the street names within the housing development on the site.
I really liked old Preesall with its hotch-potch development where cottages and buildings were erected at odd angles. We continued along Park Lane until a small industrial area on the right. Within the large factory unit is Preesall Windmill, a structure built in 1839 to replace an earlier peg mill that was destroyed by strong winds earlier that year. The mill may have suffered the same fate as that of Prescot where the velocity of the wind turned the sails at such a speed the mill caught fire and burned to the ground. There was widespread damaged across the Fylde and surrounding region during the storm.
Dated 1846, the miller's cottage stands next to the main road. The Bisbrown family operated this mill, the second highest on The Fylde, from 1845 until 1923. They were an old Poulton family, extending back several hundred years. Members of the family operated several Fylde windmills down the centuries, including those at Carleton and Hambleton. When it was operational Preesall's windmill had a sail span of 76 feet and was of five storeys. History repeated itself in 1926 when high winds damaged the sails and cap. These were subsequently removed and the mill converted to electricity. In this configuration, the mill was the last to operate in the county, remaining in service until 1988.
We turned right and along Cemetery Lane, the grounds for which were consecrated in 1856. Heading towards the river we passed the sites of several former brine wells. From the lanes it is not easy to see the effect these former workings have had on the landscape so it is best to view some aerial photographs or browse an Ordnance Survey map to perceive the legacy of this industry. The pools have been created by collapses into the hollowed-out caverns beneath the ground. The largest of these is dubbed "Bottomless Pit" and is thought to be several hundred feet deep. When this cavern collapsed several farm buildings and part of an orchard simply vanished. Beyond the wells Barnaby's Sands is home to many species of birds including lapwings and redshanks.
We rode along Burrow's Lane to be as close to the River Wyre as possible. This road can get a little muddy but is a pleasant quiet lane via Staynall to Hambleton. We rolled by a caravan park where Wardley's Hotel once stood, the building having been badly damaged by a fire in 2011. The remains of the place were demolished soon afterwards. A sad end to a hostelry that during the Victorian period promoted its romantic setting and offered facilities such as bowling, quoits and croquet.
Wardley's Hotel was thought to have been built in the early 18th century when it was positioned next to a busy port. Indeed, such was the volume of trade, together with Skippool, there were six Custom House officers belonging to the port with headquarters at Poulton. The principal trade of the port was in cotton, flax, Russian tallow, and corn. The two principal quays were Swainson's Quay and Birley's Quay. As far back as the late 16th century, a considerable trade was carried on with Russia. The trade, however, gradually diminished, and ultimately the foundation of Fleetwood as a port in 1839 led to its final decay.
A path from the hotel led down to a ferry crossing that took people across to a landing stage directly opposite, near Cockle Hall. The ferry was still operational in the early 20th century with William Hornby running it. There was another ferry further upstream until Shard Bridge was constructed in 1864, a toll of one penny being charged for pedestrians.
The road horseshoes around the yachts that, when the tide is low, are marooned in mud, accompanied by that smell of rotten eggs, a pong that stems from the bacteria living in the squishy peat being exposed to the air. As the road name suggests, there was once a lime house operational next to the river, the lane named The Shore led to the site.
Hambleton was originally part of the extensive parish of Kirkham, and in the time of King John belonged to Geoffrey the Crossbowman. In earlier times traffic could cross the River Wyre at low tide by a causeway and ford. The ancient route passes in front of the Shovels Inn. Inside this tavern there is a survey plan dated 1919 on display. It shows little development around the site of the public-house, in stark contrast to the 21st century environment in which the pub trades. By all accounts it is a popular place in which to eat and drink. Four years earlier the chef won a "Best Pub Pie of the Year" award for his Cheesy Drunken Swine Pie. Mussels was on the 'Specials Board' but this dish lacks the exotica of earlier times as described by Dr. Charles Leigh of Singleton, when writing around 1700, that "the River Wyre affords us pearl fishing, which are frequently found in large mussels, called by the inhabitants Hambleton Hookins, from their manner of taking them, which is done by plucking them from their skeers or beds with hooks."
The Shovels Inn formed part of a farm and was originally a thatched house. In the early 20th century the pub was part of the estate of Catterall & Swarbrick Limited. The brewery possibly acquired the Shovels Inn when it was sold at auction by Charles Simister in July 1926. The sale notice described the house as a "substantial brick and stone structure, and containing smoke-room, tap-room, spacious bar, good cellarage, drawing-room, four bedrooms, bath and w.c., with comprehensive domestic offices, club room, and licensed refreshment room on the ground floor, together with meadow and pasture lands, and extensive farm buildings, extending in the whole to 10.347 statute acres."
From the Shovels Inn at Hambleton we enjoyed rolling along quiet lanes through Whin Lane End before turning north up Chapel Lane where there is an old pinfold at Out Rawcliffe, one of only six that have survived in Lancashire. Derived from the Old English pundfald, a pinfold is perhaps more commonly known as a pound in which farm animals that had strayed or trespassed on other land were kept until the owner, on payment of a fine, redeemed them. This one is a particularly good example, though the telegraph poles and wires detract somewhat from the scene. This pinfold was restored in 1987 by Out Rawcliffe Parish Council.
We pedalled east along Crook Gate Lane until we reached the jewel of Out Rawcliffe. I have no idea who came up with the idea of building a church in the Romanesque style. Perhaps at Ye Olde Parish Meeting somebody suggested something a little different from the Gothic or Early English churches dotted around the region. Legend has it that the Squire of nearby Rawcliffe Hall, having travelled to Italy, decided that the church should reflect a building closer to the Holy Land. Designed by John Dewhurst, the building is of red brick with some sandstone dressings. The corner clasping buttresses continue to four square turrets. The front gable features a circular stone plaque with a chevron border. Sadly, we were unable to access the interior. As if to remind us that our method of transport can be dangerous, a young girl named Phyllis Roskell of Curlew Farm was killed shortly after mounting her bicycle outside this church in 1940. The poor girl was run over by a lorry.
Like Oliver Cromwell and his troops we by-passed Rawcliffe Hall which has been converted into a caravan holiday park. It is said that the Lord Protector who, having forded the river, completely missed the medieval hall due to the surrounding trees. and unlike his troops we crossed the river by dry means, cycling over Cartford Bridge. Following the death of his gamekeeper and dairyman, the Squire of Rawcliffe Hall ordered the construction of Cartford Bridge in 1831. This remains a toll crossing, the toll house being on the northern side of the river. We were charged 20p for our bicycles. A local journalist wrote in 1942 that "that fine lashing lass with the fair hair takes my coppers. She is very pleasant to look at, and she always smiles," prose that would land him in trouble if he typed that in the 21st century.
As one would expect with a key river crossing, a tavern was opened for travellers. According to the official website for the Cartford Inn, the "main inn building is believed to date back to the 17th century, although the first record of 'The Cartford Inn' was in 1839. The coaching house was then part of a farm owned by Squire Robert Wilson France of Rawcliffe. It provided hospitality for coach travellers using the ancient roads and stables for their horses. Later in the 19th century, licensee James Stuart would offer fishing supplies and picnics for people enjoying the surrounding countryside." Some of this is plausible but I had a little dig and found that Robert Noblet was running the inn earlier than this. In 1832 he was the occupier of inn, toll bridge and kept five acres of land. The property was then listed as the Ferry Boat House, suggesting that a tavern with this inn sign had served travellers long before the construction of the bridge in 1831. Secondly, the role of the Ferry Boat House was unlikely to be servicing coach passengers as they would be travelling along the main road at Great Eccleston.
The James Stuart mentioned was the son of Robert and Mary Stuart, a farming family of Sowerby Hall at Inskip. He married Ellen Porter in 1894 and the couple kept the Cartford Inn with several members of staff, most of whom worked on the farming side of the business. James and Ellen Stuart would later move to the Manor House at Upper Rawcliffe where they concentrated on agriculture.
Looking further at the pub's statement, it is a fact that fishing and picknicking took place on the river. However, the inn had much more of a colourful history during the 19th century. The local newspapers are littered with reports of illicit drinking, fighting and police raids. Even during the 1960s the hostelry was kept by the eccentric Mrs. Robinson who was dubbed "Dirty Annie," which sounds far more exciting than the genteel ambience within today's boutique hotel. Check out the above photograph of the bar area where, in addition to ordering a pint, one can choose from a range of contemporary art prints. Back in the day one of the local farmers would have put his wellies through one of those as he was chinning somebody for podging at the servery.
The status of the Cartford Inn has been seriously elevated in the posh end of the market by Patrick and Julie Beaume who took over the run-down hotel in May 2007. Patrick hails from Bordeaux but Julie was born in Blackpool. Their paths first crossed in Texas and, following some years with the Hilton Group in London, along with working in the Caribbean, they came to the Fylde coast to run their own restaurant. When the Cartford Inn came onto the market they bought the place and invested all their creativity in the business. The rooms are billed as chic and the food is top-flight. I can imagine the look of a Victorian agricultural labourer being fast-forwarded into today's tavern and asking for a snack, instead of a pork pie he would be offered a wild garlic & asparagus arancini featuring pine nut and crispy capers.
It is a pity that Patrick and Julie Beaume converted the old brewery into the River House - a rebirth of homebrewed ales would have been a nice touch. This was once the home of the Hart brewery between 1995 and 2010 before the brewer/owner John Smith relocated to Preston. Although it is not my idea of a country pub, there is plenty to commend, particularly the policy of serving locally-sourced beers. It was pleasing to see that a beer from the recently-launched Farm Yard Ales was on sale.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to us was that there is a shop and deli to the rear of the Cartford Inn. Unless I got my wires crossed I think this was the brainchild of Jeanicia, daughter of the owners. There is even a tea room and, like many cyclists on the road, could we resist a slice of cake? Of course not.
Returning to the hostelry in former times .... from the sign of the Ferry Boat House, following the construction of the bridge, the name of the house evolved into the Cartford and Ferry Bridge Inn. However, by 1838 it was listed simply as the Cartford Inn and run by Richard Danson. This was at a time when the bridge across the Wall Brook was being taken down and rebuilt to the designs of James Threlfall, Bridge Master for the hundred of Amounderness.
Richard Danson was landlord when the pub hosted coursing events on the Rawcliffe Estate. The prize-giving and dinner would be held at the inn. In the mid-19th century Thomas Strickland, licensee of the Cartford Inn, was secretary of the local ploughing club and would be in charge of the refreshments booth during the matches which were very popular and well-attended. Like most of the Victorian publicans the former grocer and carter was also farming whilst running the Cartford Inn with his wife Margaret. The acreage of the farm attached to the Cartford Inn almost doubled during the latter half of the 19th century.
In January 1930 the Cartford Inn was sold by John A. Banks to Mr. Birtwell of Blackburn for £3,100. At the sale the farm buildings and ten acres of land were withdrawn. £3,100 was a decent price during the inter-war years. Today, one can add a few zeros to the ever-developing business at Cartford Bridge.
Having patronised the Cartford Inn we could hardly go on a bender around Great Eccleston. For a start, we still had many kilometres to cycle to get back to Lancaster. After pausing to look at another pinfold on the right-hand side of the road as we rolled into Great Eccleston, we ended up doing a mini-tour of the village, stopping to look at some of the surviving taverns. Not all have survived but there is enough for most people to enjoy a pub crawl. Looking at a trade directory published in 1828 the senior houses were the Bowling Green, Black Bull and White Bull. The latter stands on the north side of the High Street. This hostelry was mentioned in an auction sale held on the premises in 1766 when it was kept by Gabriel Croft. I noticed that a date stone of 1745 had been re-sited on an extension to the premises. The exterior of the main building has been modernised over the years. The Senior family have been running this popular pub for over a decade where up to six real ales are on tap.
The Black Bull stands on the opposite side of the High Street. This house was kept by John Raby during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. However, the one name that is associated with this house is that of Valiant. William Valiant kept the Black Bull Inn in the 1840s and was succeeded by his daughter Ann. She was the landlady for half-a-century. She finally hung up her apron when in her 70s. She continued to live in East End until her death in 1907. When she was running the pub the Black Bull hosted meetings of the Cattle Plague Society. If that did not sound that appealing then perhaps the villagers were tempted to attend meetings of the Great Eccleston Pleuro Pneumonia Society, a body that also met at the Black Bull Inn. Harry Sheard became the licensee in 1920. He had formerly been the landlord of the Princess Hotel at Blackpool and the Pack Horse Hotel at Stalmine. Prior to taking over at the Black Bull he had spent some years in America. Refurbished in recent times four real ales are available in the Black Bull.
Away from the bustle of The Square and Main Street, the Farmers' Arms stands in Halsall Square. The pub has been refurbished in recent times. The former homebrew house now has a restaurant. In the Edwardian period the Farmers' Arms Inn was operated by the Hilton Brewery of Chorley. The pub still only had a beer house licence at this time. The house was fully licensed when the freehold was offered for sale in October 1919. The closure of the Bowling Green Inn in 1907 may have played a part in this upgrade in status. The sale notice for the Farmers' Arms Inn stated that the property contained a large parlour, farmer's room with bar parlour, kitchen, pantry, large dining room upstairs, two cellars, bathroom, five bedrooms and a box room. The outbuildings comprised a six-stall stable, two loose boxes, one double loose box, wash house, coal house, store room and piggeries. There was also a large yard and garden. There was a tragedy at the Farmers' Arms in 1985 when the elderly landlady, Phyllis Davies, known to locals as Aunty Phyllis, was stabbed during a robbery. She sadly died from her injuries.
In Copp Lane there is an dovecote thought to date from the late 18th century, though the roof is a more recent replacement. This is topped with a square ogee-roofed cupola. The interior contained 10 rows of nesting boxes, 9 boxes to each row on each of the four walls. From the Dovecote we pedalled slowly through Great Eccleston and then headed eastwards to St. Michael's on Wyre.
St. Michael's on Wyre is a very small village but has somehow managed to support businesses and facilities that many larger places have lost. There is a public-house, garage, school, tennis club, bowling club. Heck, there is even an airfield. Mind you, it is merely for those pesky microlight things that disturb the peace of those below for the sake of one person's thrill-seeking.
The parish was of greater importance in the past. Indeed, it was one of seven ancient parishes of the hundred of Amounderness. When looking back at some of the pubs we have passed on this route I have delved into the records for St. Michael's on Wyre as the parish contained the townships of Out Rawcliffe, Upper Rawcliffe, Elswick, Great Eccleston, Inskip-with-Sowerby, Newsham and Woodplumpton.
The first thing that hits you when rolling up to the Grade I-listed church is the immacualte churchyard. Credit must go to the volunteers who maintain the place. There was a church here in Saxon times and was recorded in the Domesday survey. The late medieval church is constructed of sandstone ashlar and rubble, the nave and chancel dating from the 14th century. The squat tower is thought to date from 1549 with some rebuilding by Henry Butler, whose arms and initials are carved on the north-west merlon of the parapet facing west. The church enjoys a lovely situation being next to the River Wyre, which bounds the churchyard on the north side.
Just across the bridge there is an interesting group of cottages named Bridge Row at the end of which stands The Grapes, its front door having been bricked up many moons ago. Thankfully, the other door welcomes patrons to a traditional pub setting where a good meal and beer can be had. The Grapes is of some antiquity and was trading in the 1820s when Robert Fairclough was the licensee.
Although on the main road, the Grapes Inn was not a coaching house as the house is close to the important staging town of Garstang. However, it was listed as a posting house when Edward Ward was the gaffer in the late 19th century. He was seemingly a man of some sobriety as he applied to have the pub's seven day licence reduced to six in August 1882. The chairman of the Bench probably could not believe his ears and promptly agreed to the new licence, remarking "I am very glad to grant it, and only wish there were more applications of the same kind." The locals who enjoyed a tipple on Sundays may have had a different opinion. The publican was also known to host a tea feast for the children attending the nearby school. He also captained the bowls team that was adjacent to the tavern.
The licence of the Grapes Inn was transferred from Ann Hardman to Richard Butler in July 1869. Following his death, widow Elizabeth Butler took over the licence. The aforementioned Edward Ward came to the Grapes Inn and was employed as a general servant. It looks as though Elizabeth Butler took a shine to him for they were married soon afterwards. At the end of the 19th century the couple moved to Blackpool where Edward Ward became a cab proprietor.
A number of coroner's inquests were held in the Grapes Inn. Given that the building is close to the river, it is no surprise that some of the case involved those who had lost their lives in the water. One unusual case in 1862 concerned 18 year-old Sarah Jane Wilkinson, a domestic servant at the home of the Rev. Canon Hornby. Apparently, she had quite a quarrel with the cook Mary Kendrew. The row was over the milk cans that were to go back to the farm. Sarah Wilkinson, it was reported, refused to take them and "in her passion going out of the kitchen, saying she would drown herself." Sarah Fleet, the laundry maid was sent after her but on reaching the river bank, the young woman jumped into the water. Sarah Fleet sought the assistance of Sarah Clegg but she was unable to pull the servant out of the river, the water being deep at that point. It was not until the following morning that her body was recovered by Police Constable William Parkinson. The jury at the inquest returned a verdict of "temporary insanity."
Another case examined at the Grapes Inn concerned John Kirk who left the Garstang Union Workhouse in September 1891 and hung himself from an apple tree in the garden of Margaret Houghton at her home in Sowerby Lane.
We set off in the direction of Churchtown. There is a right-hand bend in the road close to Tarnacre House Farm that has been altered to make the curve smoother. During the Second World War four Danish sailors wound up in the brook when the driver of the car in which they were travelling, Inguar Vesly Arndtzen, overcooked it. All four were trapped in the car which had overturned but were assisted by officers of Garstang Police Station who also rendered first aid before taking them back to Fleetwood in a police car. I guess it was a case of allied help during the war.
The has been another road development in which Churchtown has been by-passed. Consequently, the old village green has recaptured some of its peace and serenity. Not that there is a green as such. However, there is a rather lovely dial-post, more commonly called The Cross. Much of this sandstone landmark is thought to date from the 18th century, erected on a medieval base. Replaced during the inter-war years, the Tuscan column with pedestal is surmounted by a square block featuring a sun dial on its southern face. This is topped by a ball finial. A market had been held around this column in earlier times.
We rolled a few metres past the Punch Bowl Inn [panic not, we came back to the pub] to look at the Church of Saint Helen, a structure also known as the Cathedral of the Fylde. Like St. Michael's on Wyre, it is a Grade I-listed building. Indeed, these are the only two churches on The Fylde to have such status. The site itself is fascinating as the round churchyard and yew trees has led to research into its use as a Druid temple prior to Christianity. The churchyard also features a grave marker for the village's sole victim of the Black Plague.
On the northern side of the churchyard three rebels of the Jacobite invasion were buried. They were accused and found guilty of siding with the rebels during the Battle of Preston, the final action of the Jacobite rising of 1715. Most of the rebels were rounded up and taken to Lancaster Castle where they were hung in public. However, Joseph Waddesworth, Thomas Goose and Thomas Cartmell were hanged at Garstang in February 1716, following which they were loaded into a cart at sundown and brought to Churchtown for burial. There was a fourth hanging for Allan Sanderson, a ship's carpenter from Preston.
Historically, St. Helen's was the parish church of Garstang. Indeed, the village itself was once known as Kirkland. The oldest, including the arch piers in the nave, date from 13th century. However, much of the structure was rebuilt in the Perpendicular style during the 15th and 16th centuries. I have read that the church roof has beams made from four oaks said to have been presented to Churchtown by Henry IV. On one is carved "Peace to those who enter here," "Always say less than you do." The church was flooded in 1736 and this necessitated much restoration.
The Rev. John W. Pedder was the vicar during the late 19th century. He remained for over 30 years before retiring to the Lake District in September 1923. On his retirement a long family connection with the parish was interrupted, but the living, of which he was patron, reverted to the Pedder name through his son, the Rev. Roland Pedder. Occurring in 1772, there had only been one other break in the family chain at Churchtown since 1755.
Given its situation, I was perhaps surprised that the tavern in Church Street did not have a signboard of the Bell or The Cross. Mind you, I see from a trade directory for 1834 that there was a house called The Cup in Churchtown and this is sometimes related to the wine cup used in the Christian Eucharist. Perhaps this was a former name of the house? By the 1850s it was certainly the Punch Bowl Inn when kept by John and Margaret Crombleholme.
The location of the pub is charming. It has been a popular place to a quick drink before weddings at the church. The Punch Bowl Inn has, over the years, hosted many wedding receptions.
Like many of the public-houses visited on this tour of The Fylde, there was a plot of land with the tavern and the landlord would combine the role of publican with smallholder. In 1906 the Punch Bowl was still a free house, to let with four acres of land, a large garden and orchard.
In the late Victorian period the Punch Bowl Inn was flanked by joiners, one was a cabinet maker and the other a wheelwright. At this time the pub was run by Thomas Mashiter. He was hauled before the magistrates in February 1891 for being drunk on his own premises. There had been a sparrow shooting match at the pub during the day but the publican was bladdered by eight in the evening. The police asked the Bench to impose a heavy fine upon Thomas Mashiter. He was soon replaced by John Dunderdale.
Outdoor games were traditionally played at the Punch Bowl Inn. However, during a game of quoits in September 1879 Thomas Holden, landlord of the house, was hit on the head with a quoit. At first, he seemed to get over the initial shock and injury. However, some days later he was suffering from the effects of the blow. His condition deteriorated and, despite the efforts of Dr. Chapman of Garstang, the publican passed away. The newspaper report stated that the 29 year-old was "a very industrious, obliging and intelligent man."
Hopefully there were no injuries in March 1945 when the Punch Bowl Inn hosted a "Grand Skipping Contest." The notice for the event stated that the "champion challenges all-comers."
At the time of the skipping contest the Punch Bowl Inn was kept by Austin and Ellen Lucas. The couple had previously lived in Blackpool. Austin Lucas had been publican for eight years before his death in December 1945. Floral tributes were sent by the Comrades of the 8th Irish Kings Liverpool Regiment, in which he had served during the First World War.
From the Punch Bowl Inn we returned to the old dial post or cross at the square and turned right, cycling along the old road to Garstang. The Horns Inn used to stand on the road but the by-pass now sets it back a little. The old road was famous for the avenue of elm trees, planted by the squire of Kirkland Hall. At one time, the Horns Inn was seemingly in a long tunnel of woodland.
The Horns Inn is an old tavern. It is mentioned in the late 18th century. In the early 19th century it was kept for many years by the Salthouse family.
William Derby Eteson became the licensee of the Horns Inn in the mid-Edwardian period. He and his wife Alice kept the place for 29 years. The couple had previously kept the Sir Robert Peel at Walton-le-Dale for eight years. A journalist for the Fleetwood Chronicle visited the Horns Inn towards the end of his tenure. He described William Eteson as a "walking repository of facts about Churchtown." He knew James Limpsty, the old bell-ringer, who was born in 1818, and died in 1913, "the oldest bellringer in Lancashire. For years and years he rang the curfew at eight o'clock every night from Old Martinmas to Shrove Tuesday."
William Eteson claimed that his family name went back to Henry II's time and that they originally hailed from Danish stock. He and his wife Alice offered good catering to picnic parties, with fishing in the Wyre, a bowling green and billiards.
William's younger brother Stanley was one of the biggest pub operators of Preston. He bought all the licensed houses the Derby family owned, including the Derby Arms, Stanley Arms, Eagle and Child, Golden Cross, Golden Lion, King's Arms and the Bull and Royal. One of his ventures was to acquire Calvert's India Mills, which he converted partly into warehouses and partly into the Plaza Cinema. He became a director of other cinema companies in Liverpool and Manchester.
From the Horns Inn it is possible to miss a lot of busy road into Garstang by nipping along Tan Yard Road and Catterall Gates Lane. Alternatively, one can cycle to the junction of Cock Robin Lane which some have suggested was the site of the aforementioned hanging of the Jacobite Rebels. This seems a little unlikely to me as the desired impact of the executions would have been diluted if they had taken place in a remote spot. The authorities hung these men to send a message to the local population.
On crossing the River Calder, at the top of the slope, at Bowgreave there is the above milestone at what seems to be the lost name of Barnacre. Bonds is still marked on the Ordnance Survey map but technically the civil parish is called Barnacre-with-Bonds. The milestone is on the left-hand side of the road next to the entrance of a house named Cromwell. The marker was placed by the Preston and Garstang Turnpike Trust, a body established in 1751. This b-road forms part of the old road that connected Lancaster with Preston. This would evolve into the A6 but, of course, the M6 is the favoured route for motorists these days.
Shortly after passing the milestone, on the opposite side of the road, the residential care home complex stands on the site of the old Garstang Union Workhouse. The road crosses the Lancaster Canal and, shortly after the mid-19th century Catholic church designed by E. G. Paley, there is another turnpike bridge over the River Wyre.
By the time we rolled into Garstang it was getting on for 16.30hrs so we could not possibly do the place justice. We still had some kilometres before losing the light and plenty of things to see en-route. We made the decision to a have a quick look around and head off. I counted seven pubs. Not bad, but there were many more in the old days.
Passing the site of the Golden Ball Inn, we cycled into town and up to the medieval market cross. Garstang received a Royal Charter to hold an annual fair in 1288 and, in 1314, Edward II granted the right to hold a market on Thursdays. Facing the old market place is the Royal Oak Hotel, a coaching inn dating from the 17th century. The scene outside and around the stables must have been quite a sight in days of old. In the early 19th century almost all of the main coaches called at the Royal Oak, including the Royal Mail, The Umpire, The North Briton and Fair Trader, all of which arrived and departed at various times of the day. The latter is apposite as Garstang declared itself as the "the world's first Fairtrade Town" at the turn of the millennium.
The Royal Oak Hotel was renovated in 1998, but has retained three small rooms along with the main bar and restaurant. I believe that the licence of the hotel has remained with the same family since 1959. A blue plaque on the frontage states that "about 1650 Celia Fiennes stayed here, as did Sir Walter Scott in 1828."
Almost opposite the Town Hall, the Eagle and Child was another important hotel that was a staging point for the Royal Liverpool and The Invincible coaches. A shame that it seems to be struggling nowadays - well, that was the impression I got. A lease for the property was being advertised by Star, the pub arm of Heineken UK. It is not the first time that the hotel has been on unsteady ground. The licence was in danger in the late Victorian period when it was a bit of a rough place with drunkenness and disturbances being quelled by the police. It was more orderly in the Edwardian period when the key entertainment was the fine bowling green. During the inter-war years the custodian of the Eagle and Child was the popular and well-regarded publican Thomas Dobson who was known throughout The Fylde. He was a native of Poulton, where his father was at one time the licensee of the Old Plough Inn. Thomas Dobson came to the Eagle and Child after running the Anchor Inn at Hutton, a house also kept by his father.
A few metres further along the High Street, and set back from the road, stands the King's Arms, a hostelry operated by the Craft Union Pub Company based in Wakefield. In the 19th century a fortnightly meeting of the Garstang Board of Guardians was held in a room of the King's Arms. The pub also hosted meetings of the Rural Sanitary Authority. All exciting stuff! Things livened up a little when the hotel hosted the Garstang Entire Horse Show in the 1880s. When Sarah Whiteside was the host in the 1860s, the tavern was patronised by the Loyal Adelaide Lodge of the Independent Order of Oddfellows.
Almost opposite the King's Arms, is the site of the Pack Horse Inn, a building erected around the turn of the 19th century to replace an older tavern said to have been named the Wool Pack in the 18th century. The arms of the Keppel family were included on the Pack Horse Inn, Bertram William Arnold Keppel being Lord of the Manor. With many dignitaries meeting at the King's Arms across the road, the roughnecks of Garstang preferred to frequent the Pack Horse Inn where there was countless cases of drunkenness, fighting and illegal gambling. At one time there was stabling for 29 horses and there was business as a stud. The house also had land to the rear where a bowling green was laid out. The Keppel family washed their hands of the place in 1877. It was later owned by the Castle Brewery Company. The magistrates finally had enough of the place in 1905 and refused its licence. The police had objected to the renewal of the licence on the basis that the rooms were low, dark and unfit for public business. They also stated that the Ward couple running the pub were not fit to hold the licence.
Further along the High Street on the west side is Laburnum Cottage and an ultra-neat front garden. This was once the site of an old tavern called the Holy Lamb. Thomas Cardwell was the publican in the early 19th century. However, the building slowly fell into decay and was closed and demolished in the 1850s.
A little further north on the east side of the High Street stands The Crown, formerly known as the Crown Hotel. They may have binned the hotel status but it is set in stone - literally. Look up at the gable on the Thwaite's-operated building. This pub has retained its bowling green which is to the rear next to the River Wyre. Indeed, the hotel once offered fishing facilities to patrons.
Richard Armriding was the licensee who removed from the Old Crown to the replacement Crown Hotel. A native of Scorton, the former joiner married Ellen Lamb, daughter of the licensee of the hotel and succeeded his mother-in-law as publican. Ellen Lamb, along with her husband Robert, had earlier kept the Kenlis Arms Hotel at Barnacre and the Feathers Inn at Lancaster. Richard Armriding became a well-known and popular figure in Garstang but died aged 42 just before the outbreak of World War One.
Moving from the King's Arms Hotel at Blackpool, William and Elizabeth Coward were running the Crown Inn during World War One. In March 1918 they received news that their only son John, a flight lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps was reported missing. Major Holt, in explaining the circumstances, stated that Flight Lieutenant Coward obtained leave to go into a local town with another officer for dinner. Since then neither of them has been heard of. The Germans had bombed the town very heavily that night, and caused many casualties. His death was later confirmed. Educated at Poulton Grammar School, he joined the solictor's firm of William Lockwood at Blackpool before taking up a post with Messrs. William Heap and Sons, insurance brokers of Manchester. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in March 1917 but had only gone overseas a short time before his death.
Back across the other side of the road, the post office is roughly located on the site of the Red Lion. The adjacent Co-op occupies land once occupied by the George and Dragon, a hostelry that became the Anchor.
Before heading out of Garstang via Moss Lane we stopped at The Wheatsheaf near the corner of Park Hill Road. The beer selection here is more varied than most of the other public-houses, the pub offering up to five real ales. Warning: the beams of the oldest section of the building are very low so duck. In earlier times the tavern was listed at Park Square. If you think the stabling at the Pack Horse Inn was impressive, consider those of the Wheatsheaf Inn which could accommodate 52 horses. Early publicans also farmed 13 acres of land - little wonder it was called the Wheatsheaf.
At the end of the Victorian era the licensee of the Wheatsheaf Inn was Thomas Hesketh. However in April 1900 the farmer and hotel keeper was killed in an accident when riding back to the pub from the Longridge Fair. Thomas Hesketh was a well-known figure at all the local shows and fairs, and highly respected throughout the Fylde district.
Vowing to return to Garstang for a proper exploration, we headed north-west to Winmarleigh. This was a very pleasant ride along quiet lanes and a gentle gradient to higher ground. The Jacobean style hall is now central to an outdoor education programme for schools across the country. Originally designed by, you've guessed it, those Lancaster architects Paley and Austin, the hall was built in 1871 for the then Lord Winmarleigh and extended in 1914. The house was partially reconstructed following a fire in 1926.
The Church of Saint Luke is another Paley and Austin creation, the building being erected between 1875-1876. The style of the church is in the Carvillinear form of Decorated, all the windows being filled with flowery tracery of elegant design. The foundation stone was laid by Colonel John Wilson-Patten, 1st Baron Winmarleigh, who funded the construction. However, some of his wealth came from the rents of his tenants! The ceremony for the foundation stone took place on Shrove Tuesday 1875 with a time capsule containing a copy of The Times, along with coins and a piece of paper containing the names of every individual on the Winmarleigh estate.
Paley and Austin, the omnipresent pencil pushers from Lancaster, also designed the school at the next road junction. We headed up School Lane and left at Lane End Cottages. The Patten Arms stands on the eastern side of Park Lane, an isolated position but the pub enjoys steady trade by offering good beer and decent pub meals. The terrace overlooking the bowling green is a nice spot on a sunny day.
I believe the Patten Arms is still part of the Winmarleigh estate. The inn sign certainly doffs its cap to the former Squire. The solid squared sandstone building was built in the early 19th century. The pub is mentioned in a sale of the Old Hall in October 1841. John Cook had become the licensee in the 1850s. The former master plumber kept the Patten Arms with his wife Margaret. The grocer William Charnley, a nearby resident, dropped dead in the lane not far from the pub in 1861.
John Cook was no spring chicken and, in addition to running the Patten Arms, he had to farm the 52 acres that came with the house. However, he did employ two men to help with the agricultural side of the business. Following his death in 1877 the licence passed to his son William, a widower who kept the pub and farm with his children. The acreage of the farm had grown to 63.
In the 1880s an annual Winmarleigh Horse Show was held in a field opposite the Patten Arms. The event was well attended and James Cook, son of the licensee, would provide lunch in a large marquee erected in the field.
Heading north from the Patten Arms, we turned left at Forton Hall Farm and pedalled along the road to Cockerham, a return visit to the village we had visited earlier in the day. The A588 did not have too much traffic so the route north to Conder Green was pleasant. The road is undulating and a nice change from the flatlands by the coast. We crossed the Lancaster Canal again and then over the River Conder. As a roadside tavern, the Stork Inn looked very inviting so we came to a halt for further sustenance.
Enjoying a pleasant location close to the estuaries of the Lune and Conder, this roadside hostelry of slobbered rubble dates back to the 17th century. The thatched roof may have gone but the interior, featuring wood-panelling, furnishes the place with a fine rural atmosphere. And, hey, there are cycle racks for bike parking!
It is thought that the signboard featured a cock in its early days. However, by the early 19th century the pub was known as the Hamilton's Arms Inn. In fact, in an advertisement dating from August 1828 for an auction of tithes to be held at the tavern, the notice read "at the house of Richard Taylor, the sign of His Grace the Duke of Hamilton's Arms." Assuming it had traded for a while under this sign, it was a reference to Archibald Hamilton, 9th Duke of Hamilton and 6th Duke of Brandon, who was once a Member of Parliament for Lancashire. He was succeeded by the Alexander Hamilton, the 10th Duke who, in 1802, began his political career as an MP for Lancaster.
Sitting outside the Stork Inn with a glass of beer, try to imagine what Conder Green was like nearly 200 years ago. Today, there are few places not affected by light pollution. Then there are the lights of passing motorists. However, on a cold Saturday night in December 1855 an elderly patron named Robert Armstrong set off from the pub towards his home at Bankhouse. It would have been pitch black outside and once he had walked a few yards the light of the oil lamps inside the Hamilton's Arms Inn would offer no illumination. Consequently, he fell into one of the ditches which intersected the flat land of Thurnham Moss. It was not until the following Wednesday that he was found in the mud. He was in an erect position, the water reaching no higher than his breast. But he was unable to extricate himself from the mud and died from the excessive cold.
An inquest into the death of Robert Armstrong was held inside the Hamilton's Arms Inn, one of many such inquests regarding the circumstances in which many people met their end. A number of these concerned sailors at Glasson Dock, or agricultural misfortune and, in later years, in road accidents.
There were many happier occasions at this tavern. For instance many local people held their wedding reception of this inn. The house also enjoyed bumper trade during the Conder Green Flower Show. However, in 1872 the licensee, John Speakman jr., applied for an occasional licence to sell drink during the event and was refused on account of drunkenness and fighting there at the previous show.
The name of the roadside inn changed in the mid-1880s. It was listed as the Hamilton's Arms Inn during 1883 but the name of the Stork was recorded in 1885. The licensee at the time was William Walmsley. Born at Whalley in 1830, he kept the pub with his wife Jane. The couple had married in 1861, she being the daughter of John Speakman, landlord of the Hamilton's Arms Inn. William Walmsley, innkeeper and farmer, remained at the pub for the rest of the 19th century. William Walmsley had earlier worked as a gardener, probably at the nearby Ashton Hall. This would have been for William Le Gendre Starkie who had acquired the hall from the Hamilton family in 1853. The stork features on the coat-of-arms of the Starkie family. And so, the name of the hostelry continued as an acknowledgement of the landowner. Mind you, around the time of the inn sign changing Ashton Hall was acquired by the lino king James Williamson. The eagle on his coat-of-arms was not adopted by the Stork Inn. Not that he would have noticed for he rarely slept at Ashton Hall.
After rolling away from the Stork Inn we cycled less than a kilometre to have a look at Ashton Hall, a Gothic pile dating from the 14th century but almost completely rebuilt by the aforementioned William Le Gendre Starkie. These days Ashton Hall is owned by Lancaster Golf Club. The grounds of the hall were transformed into a golf course in 1932. Unfortunately, we were made to feel most unwelcome by several members loading their clubs into Bentley's and Mercedes. So, our look at the exterior was the briefest.
We returned to the main road to pick up a very quiet lane through Stodday. This was a most enjoyable ride with much of interest to look at as we rolled along. At Bank Farm we turned left down Aldcliffe Hall Lane, named after the historic building once owned by the Dalton family. It was demolished in 1960 and a housing development now stands on the site. Continuing down the lane we returned to the former railway line for an early evening ride back to Lancaster. At the old quay we called into the George and Dragon for a few beers and reflect on a tremendous ride around The Fylde.