The Market Place. The property on the left was built after the fire of 1732
Life in Poulton would have been very hard for the average family. Most of the population,
probably in the region of 300, would have lived in small cobble-built cottages with
mud floors and thatched roofs which huddled round the Market Place and the six streets
leading off it. Parish registers and gravestones show the high death rate, particularly
amongst children. Poulton was badly hit by a 'plague' in the winters of 1622-24 during
which many people died; it decimated the population of nearby Kirkham and caused
havoc throughout the north west. Poor living conditions and an unhealthy diet meant
people were unable to withstand any epidemic and many would not survive a particularly
The area round Moorland Road, being close to the River Wyre and low lying, would
have been where local people gathered rushes and cut wood to be put to various uses
in their homes and the church - rushes for the floor, wood for furniture, agricultural
tools, etc. The lack of any large areas of woodland left the land of the coastal
Fylde unprotected from the salt winds and the bleak outlook was increased by the
starkness of the great mounds of black peat stacked by each cottage to be used as
During the Civil War people living in Poulton would have had divided loyalties as
men from Lancashire were drafted into the armies of both Parliamentarians and Royalists.
In 1642 a ship of Royalist supporters was stranded in the River Wyre.
Most inhabitants of Poulton at this time lived close to the Market Place, with a
small pocket of cottages in the nearly hamlet of Little Poulton. Each cottager would
have a small piece of land where produce for the family's use would be grown and
a few animals kept. Common grazing land situated on the outskirts of the town would
be used in the summer months, possibly the origin of 'Higher Green' and 'Lower Green',
known in the 19th century simply as 'The Green.
During the 18th century improvements were made in methods of agriculture across the
whole country which helped to raise the living conditions of the poorer people. Food
prices stabilised, methods of farming improved and the devastation caused by epidemics
ceased. Life in Poulton also improved for its inhabitants.
In late medieval times a Moot Hall (or town hall) stood at one end of the Market
Place and stalls ran down each side selling food and other produce. Stepping stones
enabled people to cross the unpaved streets without stepping into the mud. Small
cottages surrounded the Market Place, with the exception of the few grand three
storey town houses with their slate roofs, built by local gentry families such as
the Walmsleys and the Rigbys.
James Baines, a wool merchant whose house overlooked the stocks and whipping post,
left money in his will of 171 7 for free schooling and apprenticeships to be provided
for poor boys of Poulton, Marton and Thornton. All three schools still exist today.
James Baines’ house was originally larger with six bays (or windows) but when the
site next door became a bank a section of Baines’ house was taken. The house, with
its handsome front door, stands at the south end of the market place; it is unusual
in having two crucks on the second floor
The buildings on the west side of the Market Place were erected all at one time,
in contrast to those on the opposite side. The awful events which necessitated this
rebuilding must have remained in the memories of the inhabitants who witnessed it
all their lives. As the funeral procession of Geoffrey Hornby passed through the
Market Place to the church on March 5th, 1732, sparks from tapers set fire to the
thatched roofs of the cottages on the west side of the Market Place resulting in
the destruction of all the property. It was several years before the present buildings
were erected in their place. A national collection was organised - known as a 'brief'
- and the estimated cost of rebuilding was put at £1034. Timber which was re-used
after the fire of 1732 was recently exposed when re-roofing work was being carried
out on a shop on the west side, and has been preserved.
A tithebarn, a station and a chapel have all come and gone in Poulton, leaving only
street names to remind us of their presence. The tithebarn was replaced in 1969
by a car park. Its position so near to the centre of the town suggests it was an
Poulton's original railway line opened in 1840 running between Preston and the newly
built town of Fleetwood, with the station at the corner of Station Road and the Breck.
In 1896 it was rebuilt in its present position at the top of the Breck near to the
town centre. The original Methodist chapel stood on the corner of Chapel Street and
Queen's Square until a new one replaced it on Queensway in 1968.
THE PORT OF POULTON - SKIPPOOL
Poulton had two ports one on either bank of the River Wyre, on the south side at
Skippool and on the north side at Wardleys in Hambleton. During the 18th century
this was an important trading facility for Poulton, which had its own customs house,
dealing in mahogany and flax with Baltic ports and coastal trade with farm produce
to Liverpool, Lancaster and Cumbria. The rise of Glasson Dock and Fleetwood ended
Skippool's importance as a port. Today it is a popular venue for sailing.
In recent years Poulton has grown rapidly and it attracts many visitors throughout
the year. In early spring the churchyard is a carpet of purple and yellow crocuses. A
series of historical plaques on various sites and buildings in the conservation area
and a town trail will help the visitor to learn more of Poulton's history.