This article is targeted on the last days of the Foudroyant which foundered off the Fylde coast in 1897.
By Lemuel Francis Abbott - National Maritime Museum
The earlier part of the story of the Foudroyant can be found here.
On the 4th June, the Foudroyant was towed from Liverpool to Blackpool. It was intended that the Foudroyant should be a tourist attraction and would visit several resorts around the coast.
On the 16th she broke a cable in a gale and, at the subsequent ???, the acting master, William John Robins, supplied the following information. The ship was based in Liverpool; owned by G. Wheatley Cobb, rigged as a ship and built of wood in Plymouth in 1798. The crew consisted of 27 including the deponent. It had a draught of 19ft 6in forward and 22ft 6in aft. He also states that the ship carried 60 cannons in three tiers but many of the reports at the time seem to contradict this.
Statement of voyage previously to the casualty. That the said ship was between 3 and 4 miles off Blackpool anchored between the central and north piers by the port anchor of 95 ( c with vertical line) and 60 fathoms of 1+7/8 in cable in 5 fathoms at low water. At 3am on the 16th inst the wind blowing a gale from the S by W the starboard anchor of 95 c was let go with 30 fathoms of cable.
On Wednesday the 16th of June at 5:30am , the tide at the time being low water, the weather squally and the wind S by W blowing a gale, the said ship parted the starboard cable at the hawse pipe and the vessel commenced to drag towards the shore. She continued to drag at intervals and at 10 am the stern touched the ground and the foremast snapped close to the deck. The bowsprit and head gear going at the same time. Some time afterwards, the vessel bumping heavily, the main mast snapped close to the deck. The seas were breaking over the vessel and as the tide rose she gradually drove higher up the beach and is now 300 yards to the north of the North pier Blackpool with her head to the north drying at low water. The crew were landed by Blackpool lifeboat at 2:30pm
That a steam lauch towing astern sank about the time the vessel commenced to drag and a gig at the port boom also went down. Two boats hanging at the quarters were destroyed when the vessel commenced to bump along the beach. The vessel is a complete wreck internally and no doubt her back is broken. No spare anchor was carried.
Estimated loss by deponent at £30,000. Not insured.
The master, owner and 26 crew were saved by lifeboat.
Cause. The port anchor failing to hold.
Sworn 17th June, 1897 at Fleetwood.
Image courtesy of Blackpool Gazette.
Another document gives the figure for scrap copper of £58 per ton.
Another outcome of the wrecking of the Foudroyant can be found in the case (Aug 1897 - Liverpool?) of Cobb v Beecham* and Challinor - Lobb being the owner of the Foudroyant. It seems that Challinor had boarded the wrecked ship and daubed in letters 3 foot high and 2 foot wide the words "England expects every man to do his duty and take Beecham's pills". Challinor claimed he had misread a communication from Mr Beecham and was fined 40s. The verdict against Mr Beecham was a £50 fine. Beecham appealed against the verdict.
*Probably by this time Sir Joseph Beecham the father of Thomas Beecham the conductor.
By May, 1898 there were still claims and counter-claims. Blackpool Corporation for getting the wreck off the beach and damage to some of their works. The owners counter-claimed for return of portions of the wreck.
Trincomalee - now at http://www.hms-trincomalee.co.uk/history/hms-trincomalee-archive - it was a Leda class frigate
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.
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
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.
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.
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.