Road to Nowhere

One of our members, Ted Lightbown, wrote a booklet on the putative Roman Road into the Fylde known as the Danes' Pad.  A copy of it can be downloaded here.

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  - a 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!


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.


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.


Lancaster Canal

The possibility of a canal joining the coal fields of Wigan to the limestone quarries of North Lancashire had long been mooted.  By the 1790's the funding was in place and James Rennie was hired to survey the route.  A "contour" canal was decided upon for the majority of the route in order to avoid the use of locks.  This meant that there was a large meander into the Fylde.  Thanks to Lancashire Archives for permission to publish all the map images on this page.


  (DDPR 144/9)

The final route differs in a number of places.  One important one, in terms of our digs, is the section near Hollowforth.  Rennie took his route further to the East whereas the actual route has the raised embankment complete with the culverted leet.

When the canal opened in 1797 much of the infrastructure in the centre of Preston was missing.  The Tulketh cutting was still under construction so, if coal was transported up to Lancaster another route was needed.


This map gives one possible route.  The coal being brought into the wharves by the side of the river and then transported up to the canal.  An alternative is given by the Cragg diary of Ortner.  In that there is mention of coal being brought from "Savock" to Lancaster.  Savock is the alternative spelling of "Savick" and thus coal must have been brought up Savick Brook.  This does not appear in any of the canal histories (as far as I can tell) but there is some circumstantial evidence to support it.  For further information on this in the article on Savick Brook.

In 1827 an extension to the canal was proposed that would link the main canal to Kirkham and Poulton-le-Fylde.  Although a number of businessmen supported the proposal it came to nothing.

The map (DP175 Courtesy of Lancashire Archives) does contain a number of interesting features.  A route is taken up the Douglas, on to the Ribble and then up the Dow to Kirkham.  In the last 200 years the Dow hasn't been navigable but there is a long held view that it could have been used in Roman times to get to the fort in Kirkham.  The section from Kirkham to Poulton looks very familiar - almost the same route as the putative "Danes Pad".

A series of posts on the Facebook site "Preston Past & Present" appears to have solved an interesting question regarding pumping water from the Ribble into the canal to top up the water levels.  One of the members discovered a book is called "Topographical, Statistical & Historical Account of the Borough of Preston" by Marmaduke Tulket.  Published in 1821.  It can be found online at


This isn't the sort of book I look at for factual information but since he describing contemporary situations it should be acceptable.  It contains the following comment regarding Canal St Cotton mill "Upon the North-West bank of the canal, stands the large steam-engine house....built in 1805 for the express purpose of conveying water into the canal when deficient".  It continues that the water comes "out of subterraneous tunnels, forming a communication with the River Ribble".  The geological maps show a number of boreholes in that immediate area so, I suspect that was the meaning of "subterraneous tunnels" rather than a long tunnel directly to the Ribble - over 1km away.  A view of old maps seem to confirm the position of the pump-house.
The first map was passed to me by a friend but it looks like the 1846 6 inch to the mile OS map.
The arrow (above) points to a building which probably contains the pump.

The second map is described in the Lancashire Archives as "Lancaster Canal. Roll No 1, sheets 1 - 13. Preston to Brock Aqueduct. Pertaining to land agreements. Revised 1880, updates to 1967."  The LA reference is DDX 1844 ACC 6736A 49.  This is shown below.  At this stage the shaft appears to have been capped and covered with a manhole.