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River Ribble

Up until the 20th Century the River Ribble was the main artery of transport into and out of Preston.  Here follows some thoughts and sources for research on the topic.

17th Century

Illegal net sizes were mentioned on a number of occasions in the Preston Court Leet Records which shows, even in the 17th Century, there was environmental awareness.

March 1679.  Willm Chrichley, Edward Hollinghurst, Hugh Simmon and the rest of the farmers of the fishing of Rible for that they fish with unlawfull netts contrary to the Statute. Wee therefore find them in xxs. apiece.

April 1683. Ye occupyers of the ffishing yt they fish in unlawfull netts & amerce them to pay vli.

The Corporation employed "Viewers of Flesh and Fish" to monitor the sale of meat & fish in the Town.  Any small fish found would be reported by them.  Even in the 17th Century there was a realisation that over-fishing or reducing the fish stock could have long-term repercussions.

In 2010 United Utilities constructed a main sewer along the Southern side of the Ribble.  Archaeologists monitored the dig and found several sets of fish traps.  These consisted of a series wooden stakes driven into the many channels which made up the pre-dock river.  In the report the archaeologists suggest that wattle or nets were held by the stakes and trapped the fish when the tide ebbed.  Some of the wood was carbon dated and two date ranges were found; 1610 to 1670 and 1730 to 1810.

 The full report can be found here.

18th Century

The following six images show the Ribble in 1756.  The position of the fish traps might link in with the above Archaeological report.

It is interesting to see the Ribble splitting where Savick Brook decants.  See the Savick Brook article.

Many thanks for permission to publish from Lancashire Archives.  The original is very impressive and the reference is DDPR/144/7.

SS 8/1 supplies a lot of information on the ships entering the port of Preston together with their owners.

In 1782 John Gornall was the surveyor & landwaiter.

Ship - The Heart of Oak built 1787 in preston - owners Peter Lomax - salt merchant & Christopher Wilcox of asheton

- described as 1 52 ft round sterned sloop with snake head.

Ship - The Jenny - 1788 - owner Thomas Leeming - a 55ft square sterned sloop with no head.

Ship - The William - owner Thos Briggs of preston 1792 - built in 1768 - a 54 ft round sterned flatt with no head.

Ship - The Hope - 1792 - built 1792 Ashton - owners Peter Lomax merchant & Edward Abbott nailor - a 58ft square

head flatt.

Ship - The Betsy - 1793 - John Briggs merchant of preston - 52 ft squared sterned sloop

Far more of the ships were built in Freckleton, Warton, Tarleton or even Newborough!


To be found in SS 8/1.  Might be good to photograph.

 

19th Century

Prior to the development of the docks the original course of the Ribble flowed closer to Ashton/Tulketh as can be seen in the next image.

 

Produced around 1838, the wharves on the North side of the river now correspond to part way along Portway.  This may have been the way that coal was ferried up to the canal prior to the completion of the wharves in the centre of Preston.

The development of the docks (opened in 1892) meant that the river was diverted closer to Penwortham and the original course used as the basis of the docks.

Ashton & Lea

Both Ashton & Lea appear in the Doomsday Book (as Estun and Lea respectively).  Within a couple of hundred years Lea was split into French Lea and English Lea.  Victoria County History lumps Ashton & Lea with Ingol & Cottam.  It gives the following description:-

This composite township lies to the west of Preston. It is divided into two nearly equal parts by the Savock or Savick Brook, flowing west to the border, and then turning south to become itself the boundary at that point. The Ribble's old course is the boundary on the south. The river is tidal here, and the land by it is level, but the surface rises to about 60 or 70 ft. above the ordnance datum, and then falls again to the Savock. North of this stream the ground again rises and over 100 ft. is attained on the border of Woodplumpton.

Lea forms the western part of the township. It was formerly divided by the Savock into French Lea on the south and English Lea, now Lea Town, on the north, but the old names have long been forgotten. On the northern border is Cottam or Cotham, while Ingol lies in the north-east corner, on the border of Broughton. Sidgreaves is or was on the boundary of English Lea and Cottam. South of the Savock the eastern part of the township is called Ashton, or Ashton-upon-Ribble, having Tulketh to the northeast on the border of Preston, and Ashton Bank on the south-west by the Ribble. Greaves lies between Ashton and (French) Lea. A large part of Ashton has now become urban; the dock of the Preston Corporation's Ribble navigation scheme is situated there in what was formerly the bed of the Ribble, the course of which stream has been straightened. The township boundaries also have been altered so as to include about half of Ashton within the township of Preston.

Historically, much of the land has been divided between two families; the Cliftons & De Hoghtons with Savick Brook being the dividing line.

 TITHE MAPS IN HERE

Industrial Revolution

The early years of the 19th Century saw a massive growth in the population of Preston and, with it, the gradual merging of Ashton with Preston.

The Tulketh Estate was put up for auction in 1850 and the only around Watery Lane was there any major habitation - all probably caused by the proximity of the wharves on the Ribble.  Cotton mills were built on the edges of the town and dwellings for the workers added.  The image below shows a portion of the Maudland estate.

 

Hollowforth - background

Several individuals & organizations have added to our knowledge and understanding of Watermills & Kilns. We thank them and include some of the information below:-

Wigan Archaeology have excavated Standish Hall Corn Mill over a number of years. They discovered that the kiln was built into a pit. At the moment we haven't found anything like this.

They have also provided us with an image of a kiln in North Wales. The slate and the kiln tiles look familiar.

 

Another source of information is Janet Edmunds who lived in the cottage adjacent to Goosnargh Mill for several years and produced a number of articles on the Mill. Extracts and personal communications follow.

After discovering the "French Burr" millstone an article called "Milling through the ages at Goosnargh Mill" by Janet Edmunds was discovered. In it we find:-

There were different types of [mill]stone - top meal stone, bottom meal stone, bottom shilling stone.. and French stone. The wear on the stones in 1836 was charged to the tenent.

10s per inch for wear of the meal & shilling stones £4-10s per inch of wear for the French stone [and the wear on the French stone was much less than the "normal" stone.]

Meal stones were used for oats, shilling stones for husking. The French stones (of French burr stone) were used for grinding wheat as millstone grit though adequate for oats, was too soft for wheat. The equivalent cost of the French stones would be in the order of several thousand pounds today.

Janet Edmunds (personal communication) in response to a query re cellar in Kilns & kiln tiles.

Kilns were on two floors, but I think it most unlikely there was a cellar, it would have been too damp and not enough draught. The fire would have been on the ground floor and the drying floor supported on the first floor. I expect you have either got a collapse of the drying floor, or else where tiles have been discarded. More recent kilns have metal supports for the tiles, but older ones must have had some sort of stone or slate beams. The drying floor is usually wider than the floor with the fire, so there was a sort of 3 dimensional arch from the floor, like a vault in reverse, going to the corners. This allowed the heat to disperse; they needed a gentle heat. The floor was covered with a horse-hair cloth to stop the grain blocking the holes. Kilns are normal in the west of the country, as not only is there more rain, but oats need to be dried as they are a soft grain that absorbs moisture. They are not threshed like wheat, as the husk doesn’t come off easily, but shelled using the mill stones. Sometimes just the normal stones set further apart, otherwise the mill had separate shelling or shilling stones.

Savick Brook

The Cragg family diary contains the following quote "Lancaster canal which was opened on the 22nd of November (1797) and since that time several large loads of coals and cannel have been brought to Lancaster and Galgate from Savok a little below Preston."

The Record Society of Lancashire & Cheshire, in Volume 142 contains an interesting article on the Cragg family (together with a full transcription of the diary). In it the word "Savok" is presumed to mean "Salwick, five miles west of Preston."  This seems unlikely; the old maps and records often give the name "Savick" brook as "Savock/Savok".  

Whatever the meaning, the quote is intriguing. Why not use the wharves in the centre of Preston? In the "The old tram road: Walton Summit to Preston Basin" by Steven Barritt it is obvious that the tram road wasn't completed until 1804 so a different method had to be used to move coal from the Wigan coal fields through to Preston and onwards to Lancaster & Kendal. The traditional method was to to use the Douglas Navigation (ie the River Douglas) and down to the River Ribble.

In "Canals of North West England" by Hadfield & Biddle there is a comment on page 189 stating that coal was "carted down to the Douglas and so taken that way to Preston; there it had to be labouriously carted again up to the North End".  A further comment states "In 1796 and 1797 various proposals were considered for a short branch canal from Salwick or the North End to Savock followed by an inclined plane down to the Ribble or alternatively a tram road a tram road from the canal at Tulketh, the idea being to exchange traffic with the Douglas. The Leeds and Liverpool agreed to improve the Douglas but the Lancaster was unable to finance their work."

The National Canal Museum at Ellesmere has a "mersey flat" dating from the 1850's.  Something similar, and probably smaller, was no doubt used to transport coal down the Douglas.  It could then be transferred to a more stable boat for the journey across or along the Ribble.  In the "Lancashire Local Historian - No 16" there is an article covering the development of the Douglas.  In it there is the comment that flats were hauled by men - not horses - at least in the early days.  They were paid between 8d and 12d a day.  

 

 The modern view (taken from Mario Maps) shows the changes made when the Millennium link was put in. The northern section was the original line of the brook. There are at least two tracks going to the north towards Back Lane. Goodier bridge has all the features of a canal bridge.

This is the earliest OS map from the late 1840's. The footpath from Goodier bridge still exists but there is quite a steep slope - so not an obvious route for the coal. The two tracks to the west would be more likely as the high tide would reach there earlier.

.This, most detailed map, is from the 1890's. High water mark is shown near Goodier Bridge - anywhere to the west of this point would be possible.

 

So, at least in the early days of the canal, Savick brook was used as a way of getting coal on to the canal barges for transport up to and beyond Lancaster. The saving in distance between this point and the wharf in Ashton is a couple of kilometres - at least half an hour in time for the coal flats. The difference along the canal between Shelley road and Lea Town would be about 4 miles. More than an hour in time.

The map below has the fieldnames added.  Interestingly 107 is called "Road" with the Owner as John Smith and occupier as Thomas Mitchell.

In this tithe map (from 1838) the track from the brook almost looks like the main track as opposed to the one coming from Back Lane.

The 1840's and 1890's map show slightly different HW marks but the main criteria is that track should be as close to the canal as possible.

The above view shows the track as it reaches Back Lane in Lea Town. From the brook via this route there is a little less than 1 mile to the nearest point on the canal.

Looking from the other side ie Savick Brook side we see something equally fascinating.

 

Other possibilities include taking the coal on flats further up the Ribble and then transporting the coal to the wharf near Shelley road. In a letter dated March 1798, William Cartwright mentions problems with the Tulketh cut but it should be ready in the next month. This was found in "Transcripts of Reports on Lancaster Canal 1790-1800" by R.W.G. Bryant.

The question that should be asked is "Why is the basin there?". Most basins in the main part of the canal are just a bulge in the waterway; sufficient for turning around a barge. Timings for the construction of the aqueduct section of the canal would help pinpoint a reason.

 

The above photo shows the entrance to the wharf/basin. Now full of pleasure craft the basin looks like

An obvious track leads up from the Tulketh Brow roundabout. An alternative would be pass underneath the Canal cottages.

DDHO 486 contains, on page 7, the words an agreement for new road between clifton & lea - mentions "indemnified against charges for the purpose of wharfages, landing coal, limestones & other stone slate, timber...".  It is dated 1/5/1781 and needs photographing.  It isn't obvious if the wharfages refers to the Ribble or Savick Brook.