Beside the Seaside
Right on to the End of the Road
For want of further evidence, it is necessary to move on to journey's end, Fleetwood. Here in 1837 Thornber had said that an agger was visible on the Warren, near the spot called the “Abbot's walk”. This name, incidentally, had been mentioned by T. D. Whitaker as early as 1823, well before the town of Fleetwood and its similarly named street had existed. John Porter, wrote in 1876 that, soon after Thornber's book had been published, workmen engaged in excavating for a sea wall foundation came upon the road in the sand on the margin of the Warren. Porter, who died a young man, gives no authority for this discovery, which must have occurred before his birth.
In more recent times, during low tides, long straight ridges of pebbles have been noticed across the bank north of Fleetwood. J. C. Plummer has photographed parallel ridges which seem to him to form a harbour. There have also been reports of masonry on the North Wharf near the Wyre Light. In 1948 the site was visited by a party which included Fleetwood's Borough Surveyor, W. Melville. He reported that they found what may have been a harbour for shallow draughted boats, silted up, and a clay and boulder enbankment about half a mile long.
In 1977 members of the Fleetwood Aqua Club reported finding there a 15 ft. high retaining wall, apparently constructed of stone blocks, just two feet below the water. They had visited the spot by boat in response to stories of fishermen snagging their nets on the wall. To assess these accounts, it is necessary to consider how the coastline here is likely to have changed since Roman times.
Getting the Drift
According to geologists, the north of Britain has been gradually rising since the release of the weight of ice on it following the last ice-age, over 10,000 years ago. Meanwhile, the sea level has also been rising as ice melted, but, south of a line from Barrow to Edinburgh, the land has risen less than the sea. Fleetwood being quite close to this line, the sea level there has probably changed little during the last 2,000 years.
There is, however, another factor to consider. It is well known that there was a great deal of erosion along the Fylde Coast between North Shore, Blackpool, and Rossall Point before sea walls were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the main agents was longshore drift, which would have then deposited the material eroded from the cliffs further round the coast near Fleetwood. Therefore, it would seem that on the Fylde's northern coast a great deal of accretion, rather than erosion has taken place. On this basis alone, the North Wharf would have been an unlikely place for a harbour.
One interesting effect of longshore drift is the formation of shingle spits running in the direction of the drift. These can be so long and straight as to give the appearance of being man-made. This phenomenon adequately explains the ridges seen on the North Wharf. Similarly, the “road” on the Warren seen by Thornber and that discovered by workmen are likely to have been older spits, later covered by sand. It is significant that Thornber, a keen amateur geologist, did not mention a road on the Warren in his later writings. As for stone walls on the North Wharf, Captain Denham's plan of the Wyre Navigation, of 1840, shows some sort of wall stopping up a minor channel at the northern end of Black Scar, about ¾ of a mile out. Irrespective of whether or not this was actually put in place, is it possible that other walls were built further out at this period? Stones, the ballast of wrecked ships, are to be seen on the North Wharf during low tides.
After so much uncertainty, there is the hard evidence of the Rossall and Hackinsall coin hoards to consider, and it is nice to end the journey with something both Roman and real. They, of course, cannot be explained away and do show that the Romans were not unfamiliar with this peninsula. But, people have traditionally buried their treasure in remote desolate spots. Would locations near the Roman equivalent of a seaport at the end of a motorway have been sufficiently isolated?