North Euston Hotel
'Welcome Home' One of the many monuments in Fleetwood
Commemorating the first train to Fleetwood in 1840
Memorial to lost fishermen in North Euston Gardens
A brief look back through time, to see how the historic port of Fleetwood evolved.
Three pages of Latin abbreviations and strange yet recognisable spellings tell that the region was sparsely populated, laid waste and the property of Baron Roger de Poictou, his share in the spoils as one of William’s mercenaries at the Battle of Hastings. He was later banished and Amounderness given to Theobald Walter, another Norman and founder of Cockersand Abbey, across the river from Fleetwood.
Over the centuries, the land passed to the Crown but Henry VIII sold it in the course of the dissolution of the monastries. Edmund Fleetwood was the first of the name to reside at Rossall Hall as lord of the manor but it was his descendant Peter Hesketh who put Fleetwood on the map. Interestingly, it was another descendant who with others signed King Charles I death warrant. He was called General George Fleetwood.
In the 1830s Peter Hesketh’s Rossall estate was a desolate tract, home of thousands of rabbits and sea birds. A line of marram-grass clad dunes culminating in the Mount of today disappeared, for the sea continually encroached. Extensive flooding occurred in 1833 when cattle and horses were drowned and outbuildings at Rossall Hall were damaged. The post of Fleetwood was not even on the map at this point, as fishermen and trawlers were unknown at the mouth of the River Wyre with sea trade using the nearby Poulton-le-Fylde for their sailings to the Americas.
However, Peter, lord of the manor, High Sheriff of the County of Lancashire and MP for Preston (later to be knighted and change his name to Sir Peter Hesketh Fleetwood) had good reasons for believing that the site held the makings of a busy sea port and popular resort, with a river mouth, a natural sheltered harbour (“safe as Wyre Water” passed into the folklore), golden sands, sea, air like wine and breath-taking views across Morecambe Bay on clear days. All that lacked was a railway from busy Preston.
Decimus Burton was hired by Peter Hesketh, and work on the railway and the first buildings commenced in 1836. A single line railway from Preston opened on 15th July, 1840, following the formation of the Preston and Wyre Railway, Harbour and Dock Company. In the meantime, houses, hotels and wharf had been built. It was essentially a planned town, unlike others flung up during the Industrial Revolution.
Burton's plan was to use largest of the sand-dunes on the north-facing shore as the focus of a half-wheel street layout. This was landscaped, and became known as The Mount. Originally called Starr Hill, the highest in the chain of dunes, it became a focal point. A summer house was placed on top from which Esau Carter Monk, one of the first town commissioners, dispensed refreshments.
The Mount served as the hub of Burton's half-wheel design, the main residential streets acted as the spokes, and the main commerce area of Dock Street was the rim of the wheel. The oldest surviving building in the town, once the custom house, then the town hall, and now Fleetwood Museum, dates from 1838 and housing from as early as 1839 still exists in the town.
The North Euston Hotel was built in 1841, and is a semi-circular building overlooking the bay and the river estuary. The hotel was built to serve overnight guests making the railway journey from Euston Station in London, and was close to the point of departure for the steamers to Scotland. At the time, there was no direct rail route from London to Scotland along the west coast. Travellers would have to alight at Fleetwood and take the sea ferry to Ardrossan and then travel by rail to Glasgow. The construction of the railway over Shap Fell in the Lake District in 1847 ended this sea/rail link andmeant that Fleetwood's role as a transport terminus was now obsolete.
Burton designed two lighthouses for the town, the Pharos and Beach Lighthouse, both opened in 1840. A third lighthouse, Wyre Light, was built in 1839-40 by Alexander Mitchell offshore on the northeast corner of North Wharf. Each year, the RNLI take a guided tour out into the estuary to the Wyre Light, which stands in dangerous waters to the casual walker.
As the new town grew with houses, shops, church, school and boarding houses visitors crowded in for sea-bathing, scenery, sands and dancing in the Mount hollow. Trips for workers’ regattas were planned. Wealthy visitors stayed on Upper Queen’s Terrace from three weeks to three months. Breakfast at the North Euston was two shillings, a bedroom four shillings a day.Fleetwood Market, still a prominent permanent market, first opened in 1840.
During Whitsuntide Week of 1844 thousands of trippers travelled on the half fares offered by the railway company. Figured topped 60,000, with the largest Sunday School trip in 1846 carrying 4,200 people, in 56 carriages pulled by two engines.
These were boom years, but a branch line to Blackpool later persuaded large numbers away from Fleetwood. Peter’s unscrupulous agent, Frederick Kemp, also contributed to his failing fortune.
Although never a declared bankrupt, that was to be the fate of his only surviving child Louis. Peter had expended so much of a large fortune he had to lease out and later sell Rossall Hall. The sale of goods lasted a fortnight. He went abroad and later settled in Brighton.
Control was rested in the township. Improvement Acts for starting the famous market, for paving, lighting and cleansing were passed. Isle of Man sailings were extended, steamers travelled to Londonderry, Belfast and Ardrossan. A fleet of fishing smacks built up the town’s reputation for hake catches, which until then hadn’t been a popular fish, and cemented Fleetwoods place as one of the top three fishing ports in the country. Plans for a pier were first made in the 1890s but building did not start until 1909 and it was opened in 1910 – at 150m long it was one of the shortest piers in the country and the last new seaside pier to be built in the UK. After withstanding a fire in 1952, it finally met its fate in 2008 after a fire on 9 September led to its demolition later in the same month.
The electric tram link to Blackpool was constructed in the 1890s and of course remains to this day, with 2012 seeing the return of the new Bombardier Trams to Fleetwood after major works to the line and infrastructure in recent years. The trams were routed along East Street and West Street (now Lord Street and North Albert Street) rather than Dock Street. Commercial trade followed, making those streets the commercial centre of the town. Fleetwood is the only town in Britain with trams running the full length of its main street, sharing road-space with cars.
Fleetwood became the third largest fishing port in the country. Two lighthouses and the fearless reputation of its lifeboat men made news in many a fierce storm. The Dock, costing £250,000, was opened in 1877, the sea defences completed in 1962. The worst flood occurred in 1927 when six people died. In 1933 Fleetwood became a Borough and with attractions and amenities increasing, it rated highly for a healthy family holiday.
Fleetwood was a hostage of the 1960’s and 70’s Cod Wars over fishing rights between Iceland and the UK, and commercial fishing has seriously declined. The last deep sea trawler left the town in 1982 and now only inshore fishing boats fish out of the port, although trawlers registered in other places can still be seen taking advantage of the fish market.
In 1973, the area around the old railway station was developed into a container port facility, with P & O operating a container service to Larne in Northern Ireland. In 1975, this became a Roll-on/roll-off service. Twice-daily container service continued until 2004 when Stena Line bought the route and increased the service to three times a day. Stena Line withdrew the service at the end of 2010, with the loss of 140 jobs.
In 1995, the deserted Wyre Dock was developed into a marina. The derelict dock landing area was developed into Fleetwood Freeport, a retail centre, and housing was built at the north end of the marina.
With thanks to www.lifeinfleetwood.co.uk for some of this information, and where you can find out much more about the history of the town. Other details taken from Wikipedia.
You can find out much more about the history of Fleetwood from the Museum against the docks. With lots of fascinating displays and age old artefacts it's a fascinating walk back through time and the heritage of the area.
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