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Skippool

Skippool

One area of interest, historically, is Skippool. Over the years it has been suggested that it could be, without a lot of evidence, the famed Portus Setantiorum so it is an area that warrants investigation.  Unless we discount mooring out on the Wyre estuary (or flat bottomed boats) the only places of anchorage would be Skippool or Wardleys.  The origin of the word "Skippool" is probably from  Old Norse skip meaning ship and Old English pull/pol  for a slow moving stream.

From a local paper dated 18/07/1873 we have

A short time ago there was discovered at Skippool, on a site where the Roman Road is supposed to have been, a second brass coin of the Emperor Trajan in very fine condition. The obverse side bearing the following:
TMP. NERVA. CAES. TRAJAN. AUG. GERM. P.M. and on the reverse: OPTIMUS PRINCEPS.

Also according to the Blackpool Herald, 30/9/1887, several bronze coins of Nerva found at Skippool.

More recently one of our members has, whilst metal detecting, discovered 2 Roman coins.  These are shown below:-

Denarius of Hadrian(Emperor 118-138AD). This coin was minted in Rome in 122AD according to David Shotter. Found in 2009 in the field by Skippool yacht club and about 100 yards from the river. The reverse is "Genius", the Roman god of manhood.

Denarius of Faustina Minor(in circulation 145-175AD), daughter of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161AD) and wife of Marcus Auralius (Emperor 161-180AD). Found in a field some 300 yards to the north of the yacht club and about 150 yards from the river. The reverse is "Spes", the Roman goddess of hope. Both of these coins are silver. According to David Shotter's book "Roman coins from north west England", at least two other Roman coins have been found at Skippool, including one of Mark Anthony when he was a pro-consul around 30BC, which pre-dates the Roman invasion of 43AD by some 70 years. So it was either brought in by traders, or by a Roman from 70AD onwards after they moved into this area.

The question to be asked "why are they there?"  Estuaries have always been a convenient way of getting troops from one place to another and the Fylde, 2000 years ago, would have been a boggy place.  The other point of view, considering that various hoards have been found at Hackensall and Rossall, is that there was a major Roman site in the vicinity.  The only problem with this thought is that it has never been found.

Early Maps

The earliest map that mentions Skippool is Speed's map of 1610.  Unfortunately it gives little details apart showing the river as Skippon Flue.

Slightly more detail is given in Yates' map from 1787.  The modern spelling of Skippool appears here.

Port of Poulton

This could mean Skippool or Wardleys but the favourite would be Skippool.  In terms of written records there is a late start. 

It has often been said (for instance in Porters "History of the Fylde") that Poulton had a customs house in 1708. A little bit of research takes this back slightly

Disposal of money for maintenance of bastard of Thomas Nosworthy, Collector of customs, and Ann wife of Edmund Hankinson. QSP/907/16 c1704

This can be taken even further by use of Pipe Office: Roll 947. 26 December 1706 to 25 December 1707

In this there is the section

for the new subsidy ending 1 Feb. 1699–1700: Poulton (Thomas Nosworthy) £15 5 2.25

 Or taken back even further

 Sacrament Certificates (Lancashire Records Office QSJ/8/18/32) for the 5 Oct 1684

Contents:

Lancaster. Christopher J'ans, gent., "Surveyor of his Majesties Customs in the port of Lancaster and Poulton." Witnesses. Thomas Simpson of Torrisholme, gent., and John Rimington of Lancaster, yeoman.

In the online British History for 1684 we have

Christopher J'ans (one of the surveyors in the Isle of Man) to be established as surveyor in Lancaster port at 40l. per an. salary, and to keep a horse and to survey Poulton port, and another boatman and tidesman to be nominated: all as proposed by abovesaid Kirby in his survey of Lancaster port and by Jno. Foster, collector there.

As an aside it looks like Christopher J'ans died before 1691 as another "landwaiter" took over the place of Christopher J'ans, deceased, in Hull

If we go further round to the Port of Lancaster is concerned, in 1680 we have

James Crosfeild as waiter and searcher at Broadfleet, in Lancaster port, loco John Hind, lately deceased.

And Broadfleet is the outlet from Pilling - so perhaps their duties also went around into the Wyre

In, what appears to be a thesis deposited in the LRO, "17th Century Poulton-le-Fylde" by J.W.Locke the author has examined a number of 17th Century will from Poulton.  Amongst those examined were those from James Hull ~ 1660, who had:-

- part of a barke - £22 - part of a small boat - £2 10s. 0d.

Robert Tinckler (who was described as a mariner)had:-

- a vessell called "The Eagle" worth £54 and - a vessell called "Godspeed" worth £34.

As a comparison, 2 cows, 1 heiffer and a calf were worth £7 15s 0d.

James Hodgson (probably shortly before he died in 1669) invested £60 in the building of a barke.

Slavery?

Most local histories name Lancaster as the main slavery port in the area but analysing Lloyd's Lists another possibility.  Between 1747 and 1752 the name Poulton appears 5 times as an arrival port from Barbado[e]s. ie

Tuesday 20th October 1747 ...  Betty & Martha, Carter...Poulton

Tuesday 24th May 1748...Ap. Mary, Allenby... Poulton

Friday, 29th November, 1751...Thomas, Mucket...Poulton

17th April, 1752...Industry, Kilner... Poulton

Friday, 22nd September, 1752...Lilly, Montgomery.

Then there is a big gap, Poulton only rarely being mentioned.

Two Sisters, Poulton arrived from Virginia/Antigua - 4th June 1793 

A 1763 manifest for this vessel (or one of the same name) can be examined at Lancashire Archives (DP/448/18).  The skipper and 5 crew are named - obviously not big enough to be a slave ship.  

The overall impression is that it is unlikely that Poulton/Skippool was involved in the slave trade.

Skippool Mill

The first map of the area was the so-called "Strip Map".  More information on these can be found on the Wiki.

The mill on this map appears to be a windmill.  There is a will for Nicholas Rigby (1734) who was described as a miller of Skippool.  No mention of wind or watermill.

 

This tithe map is of the area in the 1840's. The area circled shows the dam/weir used to control the water for the mill.

Looking at the first OS maps of the area we have.

The mill is mentioned in several newspaper articles.

From the 28th December, 1850

In this flat country there is sometimes difficulty in getting an outfall for the drainage; but besides that material difficulty, there is an artificial obstruction at a place called Skippool, where the proprietor of a small meal-mill has the power of damming up the water to turn his mill, and in this way actually keeps up the drainage and sets back the water over several hundred acres of valuable land.  It would appear that the neighbouring proprietors and their tenants, who are injured by it, have no power to compel the removal of this obstruction, and negotiations for the purpose of buying the privilege have hitherto failed.  After a clean bare fallow the crop of wheat yields from 24 to 28 bushels and acre; 36 to 40 of beans are reckoned a full crop.  From the level character of the country it is exposed to severe cold winds. On Mr. Begbie's farm boarded hurdles are erected to shelter his own flock, which are kept for the supply of lambs to the coast villages, whence there is an excellent and increasing demand during the sea-bathing season. Two-thirds of the Fylde district are still undrained, and comparatively unimproved.

More details about the mill are contained in the proposal to let.

TO BE LET, BY PROPOSAL,
For a Term of Years,
And entered upon on the 1st of May next,
All that desirable WATER CORN MILL, called "Skippool Mill", in Singleton, in the County of Lancashire, together with the COTTAGE and OUTBUILDINGS occupied therewith.
The Mill is situate about one mile from the Poulton Station, on the Preston and Wyre Railway, and contains two pairs of French Stones, one pair of Meal Stones, one pair of Shelling Stones, Groat Machine, Flour Machine, and other requisite Fixtures.

February 2nd, 1850. 

 

Forton Farm

Those attending the August 2015 meeting might recall that one of our members had been approached by a farmer in Forton who for years had been intrigued by a strange feature in his field and invited Wyre Archaeology to investigate.  The direction of the feature was at right-angles to the main A6 road - and presumably the Roman road to Lancaster.

One evening 3 WAG members met at the site and found four parallel ditches 8 metres apart delineating what appeared to be 3 aggers – on the face of it a classic Roman road – very similar to the excavated road at RedScar, Longridge.



We invited David Ratledge to take a look but despite the physical evidence, he was somewhat sceptical since in his view it was in the wrong place and heading in the wrong direction. Undaunted, our digging team turned out and, aided by Ralph, the landowner, and a borrowed excavator, a number of trenches were opened, eventually exposing two ditches and the central agger.



Although the agger appeared to be a little stonier than elsewhere in the field, the ditches proved to be shallow (one contained a relatively modern field drain) and there was absolutely no indication of how the feature had been formed. So David Ratledge appeared to be proved right.  One possibility is that it could have something to do with the building of the canal or the wharf.

Slyne Roman Road

We announced in recent issues of our newsletter David Ratledge’s discovery of the ‘new’ route of the Roman Road from Ribchester to Lancaster and our disappointment with the absence of evidence for a Roman road at Forton. We were excited, however, to be contacted by David with an invitation to assist in an evaluation dig on another possible Roman road, this time at Slyne just north of Lancaster.

LIDAR image produced by David Ratledge showing the possible Roman road.

Initially it was thought that there might be limitations on the number of vehicles allowed at the site, so just one car load comprising 4 WAG members met up with David Ratledge and colleagues from the national Roman Roads Research Association and County Archaeologist Peter Iles, on a very misty November morning. A single track lane led to the site, a hillside just outside the village where LiDAR imagery appeared to suggest the presence of an agger, potentially marking the route of the road running from the Roman fort at Lancaster to that at Watercrook near Kendal in Cumbria.



Following much discussion about where to put the trenches we trekked across several fields and over several hills (it seemed) until a suitable location was identified and where the landowner removed a considerable amount of overburden to reveal a cobble-strewn sub-surface. Our experts were initially pretty certain it was road material especially since excavation revealed a kerb-like arrangement of large cobbles but, with no clear indication of the diagnostic v-shaped Roman ditch, the certainty waned as work progressed and at the end of Day 1 it seemed more likely that we had excavated a natural feature.

Day 2 was slightly brighter both in regard to the weather and to the dig.  An intriguing feature was uncovered consisting of a sub-circular arrangement of large cobbles surrounding a sandstone slab under which was exposed a clay-lined pit filled with many large fragments of white stone, possibly limestone (above). After cleaning the pit which was approximately 1m by 0.5m no further feature or artefact was found. Mike Haken of the RRRA did however suggest that it was about the right size, shape and location for a roadside burial, a common custom!  Other WAG members concentrated their efforts at the other end of the trench and at the end of Day 2 had exposed several strata suggesting that a stone building of some sort had been erected on a repaired - but later disused - road surface. It is possible that a partial wheel-rut was identified in the earliest road layer.

Meanwhile David Ratledge and other RRRA diggers were excavating a trench in another field that from LiDAR images appeared to contain an agger. This excavation was less fruitful.

We’ll have to wait for the formal report currently in preparation, but there are already plans to return to Slyne next autumn for a more thorough investigation in which WAG members will very probably be invited to take part.

Preston

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