The history of Poulton-le-Fylde is a lot more interesting than you might think. It’s a popular, small market town today, somewhat overshadowed by it’s bigger neighbours along the Fylde Coast. But hundreds of years ago it was the busiest place on the Fylde, long before Blackpool became so popular.
The photo above is an old view of Breck Road Poulton, thanks to Mel Jones. It dates to the early 1900’s.
12,000 Years in the History of Poulton-le-Fylde
Poulton-le-Fylde has a long history, with evidence of human habitation from 12,000 years ago and a number of Roman archaeological finds have been found in the area.
The complete 12,000 year-old skeleton of an elk was found in the area. It’s the earliest ever evidence of human habitation so far north, going back to a time when England was still connected to Europe.
Fast Forward to the Middle Ages
Poulton was recorded in 1086 as Poltun, from the Old English words pull or pōl + tūn meaning “farmstead by a pool or creek”. It’s near to Skippool and Wardleys creeks, and both were busy trading ports at the time. St Chad’s Church was recorded in 1094 when it was endowed to Lancaster Priory.
In the 11th Century at the time of the Norman Conquest, Poulton was a small farming settlement in what was known as the ‘Hundred’ of Amounderness. Most English counties were divided into ‘hundreds’ from the late Saxon period onwards. The Saxon period lasted from 410 to 1066, a time when people kept to small tribal groups, forming kingdoms and sub-kingdoms. With a few exceptions, the hundreds were abandoned as administrative areas in the nineteenth century.
By the end of the Medieval period in the 1450’s, the area was thriving. Poulton was a busy place with weekly and triannual markets held there.
The Metropolis of the Fylde
Goods were brought in and traded through harbours at Skippool and Wardleys Creek on each side of the River Wyre until in 1837. At this point in the history of Poulton-le-Fylde, it was known as ‘The Metropolis of the Fylde’.
Imported goods came from all around the world, from as far afield as Russia and North America. Flax was imported from Ireland and the Baltic, timber came from across the Atlantic, and tallow from Russia.
Records from 1806–08 show that Poulton imported limestone and oats from Ulverston and coal from Preston. Local Cheese was exported back to the same places. By the 18th century, markets for cattle and cloth were being held in the town in February, April and November, with corn fairs every Monday.
The Fylde area had a large linen industry so the importation of flax through Poulton was essential. Large warehouses at Skippool and Wardleys creeks were owned by linen merchants from Kirkham. By the 19th century, craftsmen in Poulton were an important part of the industry. The increase in mechanisation with the start of the industrial revolution in the early 1800s started a significant decline in the craft industries.
The Origins of the name Poulton-le-Fylde
Over the years it’s had a number of different spellings including Pultun, Polton, Potton, Poolton and Poulton.
Le-Fylde (“in the district called the Fylde”) came later in 1842 with the arrival of the Penny Post. It was a way to distinguish our Poulton from the more northern village of Poulton-le-Sands, which is now part of Morecambe.
It’s not clear where Poulton got its market town status from as it was never granted a market charter. Markets were held by prescription. The market cross probably dates from the 17th century.
The Fading History of Poulton-le-Fylde
As Blackpool and Fleetwood began to grow and develop in the mid 1800’s, the importance of Poulton started to fade.
The construction of the railway line connecting Fleetwood with Preston was completed in 1840, and Poulton was one of the stops.
However, Fleetwood immediately superseded Poulton as a port, and the Customs House was also moved to Fleetwood. But Poulton did get an initial commercial benefit from the rail link. The importation of Irish and Scottish cattle through Fleetwood meant that a fortnightly cattle market could be held in the town.
The Growth of Blackpool
At the same time as all this development, Blackpool was growing as a resort.
For a few years while the railway network was being developed, visitors travelled by rail to Poulton. They carried their journey on to Blackpool by horse-drawn charabancs or omnibuses.
Finally the railway line between Poulton and Blackpool was completed in 1846. Now, visitors could travel by train straight to the country’s finest seaside town. And so, as they say, the rest is history.
Find out More
If this brief overview of the history of Poulton has whetted your appetite, why don’t you find out more?
Poulton Historical and Civic Society is the local group which are involved in the history and heritage of the area, and making the past accessible to all.
There’s much more information on their website at www.poulton-le-fylde-hcs.co.uk
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