For the Love of Lancashire- Focus on Fleetwood.

Historically speaking the origins of Fleetwood might go back to Roman times but the Fleetwood you and I know really dates back to the nineteenth century when the area was developed as a fishing port and seaport.

The manor house at Rossall had been notable back in the 16th century and it was later taken over by the Fleetwood family, they were a respected baronial family whose lineage dated back to the 14th Century.

It was Peter Hesketh, a Fleetwood descendent through his maternal lineage, who effectively created what we know as Fleetwood. He was Lord of the Manor, High Sheriff of the County of Lancashire and MP for Preston, and he had designs on creating a port at Fleetwood an extension and link to what was the existing port at Skippool. He commissioned an architect to plan the town and envisioned a thriving port at the sheltered mouth of the River Wyre. It seems so strange to think that it was entirely a planned town unlike so many of the other towns that flourished and grew during the Industrial revolution.

Fleetwood for a short time became a well-travelled routeway to Scotland, and folks would board ferries at Fleetwood to take them to Ardrossan where there was a rail link to Glasgow. It also began to flourish as a market town and seaside resort, the market was established in 1840 and the rail links enabled it to became a popular day trip resort especially at Whitsuntide Week where thousands of trippers travelled to Fleetwood on the half fares offered by the railways. Fishing also became an important part of Fleetwood’s economy and by the late 1870’s Fleetwood had become the third largest fishing port in the country. It was the Cod wars of the 1960’s that caused the collapse of the fishing industry.

There were maritime tragedies and one of the saddest was the sinking of the trawler Michael Griffiths which got into difficulties on January 30th 1953 during the great storm. She put out a mayday just eight miles South of Barra Head, but the wreck was never found.  All 13 hands on deck were lost despite the search efforts of lifeboats aircraft and a destroyer and a combined maritime effort from both England Scotland and Ireland.

Ferries from Fleetwood took travellers to Ardrossan, Belfast and the Isle of Man, but the ferry services gradually went in to decline towards the end of the twentieth century.

No story of Fleetwood would be complete without mentioning “Fishermen’s friends”, and the very first ones were developed James Lofthouse, a Fleetwood pharmacist in 1865 to help with a variety of respiratory complaints suffered by fishermen working in the extreme conditions of the Northern deep-sea fishing grounds. The mixture was originally a liquid but he then began to manufacture it in a lozenge form that was easier for the fishermen to carry around. In the 1960’s Doreen Lofthouse (a Lofthouse by marriage), turned the lozenges nicknamed Fisherman’s friends into an international renowned product/business with global exports and reportedly still producing 5 billion lozenges annually.

Doreen Lofthouse was a philanthropist as well as a shrewd businesswoman and always contributed to the upkeep and maintenance of Fleetwood and funded many charitable projects including a Lifeboat for the Fleetwood RNLI and the Welcome Home statue on the Promenade. For her charitable works she was awarded both and OBE and an MBE in her lifetime. She passed away in March this year at the grand old age of 91. She bequeathed £41.4million to the Lofthouse foundation to continue to support efforts to revitalise the town. A true gem, she has often been referred to as the Mother of Fleetwood.

©Alison Jean Hankinson.

The sinking of the Michael Griffith, Fleetwood 1953.

She set sail from Fleetwood with 13 hands on deck

The fishing trawler Michael Griffith, for Scotland her course was set.

Skipper Charles Singleton made the ship return to dock

A faulty pump valve changed their course and caused the trip to stop.

Repaired and ready to be on her way as Friday morning dawned

She put to sea in stormy winds so the journey was not prolonged.

The storm was brewing in the north and forced the tide to rise

The seas were rough, the night was long, and no-one heard her cries

The winds were wild the waves washed high up on the deck

And soon after midnight the mighty Michael Griffith floundered and became a wreck

The last message was received just eight miles south of Barra Head

Will some ship please come help us, full of water, no steam. Am helpless is what it said.

Lifeboats searched in heavy seas but no wreckage could be found

All lives were lost without a trace and in the storm they’d drowned.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

 

This is for Day16 of Napowrimo and is in memory of the lives lost in the storm of 1953.

The image is of Fleetwood and is from Wikimedia under CCSA licence:

Dr Neil Clifton [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The thirteen lives lost-

Skipper  Charles Singleton, Mate Leonard Grundy, Bosun J T Wilson, Chief engineer Harry Anderson, Second Engineer Thomas Burns, Firemen W Hargreaves and R Bodden, Deckhands J Tucker, S J Johns, J Cryson, C Murdoch and G Palin. Cook A Bidle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Storm…reflections on the storm of 1953.

It was England’s worst natural disaster of the twentieth century. A combination of a winter windstorm and high spring tides brought disaster and flooding to Scotland, England, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Between January 31 and February 1st a storm tide in the North Sea raised the water level by as much as 5.6metres above sea level in parts of the East coast. There was catastrophic flooding on a massive scale and huge loss of life.

In the Netherlands there were approx 1836 deaths, In England in the east coast counties of Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Essex 307 lives were lost, a further 19 in Scotland and 28 people lost their lives in the Flanders region of Belgium. A further 230 people lost their lives at sea, on small craft, fishing vessels and with the sinking of the MV Princess Victoria. Many of those on shore were drowned in their beds as they slept. Thousands of people were made homeless.

The entire crew of 13 from the fishing trawler the Michael Griffith from Fleetwood were lost to the storm along with two crew from the Islay rescue lifeboat. They had set sail on the Thursday from Fleetwood under skipper Charles Singleton with the youngest crewmember being the deckhand George Palin. The boat vanished south of Barra Head in the early hours of Saturday morning following a stark radio message in morse- “Full of water – no steam – helpless”. Eleven women were widowed and 20 children were left fatherless.

The car ferry MV Princess Victoria, travelling from Stranraer to Larne was also lost of Saturday 31st January. Just 90 minutes after she left Stranraer a wave burst through the stern doors and despite all efforts the car decks were flooded. There were 44 survivors but 133 others perished. Not a single woman or child survived the disaster. They had all been put together in one lifeboat and it was lifted by a wave and smashed against the hull of the ship and they were all lost to the water. Portpatrick, Donaghadee and Cloughy lifeboats all made attempts to locate and help rescue those aboard. The Donaghadee lifeboat, the Sir Samuel Kelly joined the frantic search for survivors after the ship went down finally at approx 13.58 with her Captain still bravely at the helm. Its crew eventually plucked 33 men to safety. Bravery medals were awarded to many for their valiant rescue efforts that day.

This still remains one of the most little-known tragedies of the twentieth century. Thank you dad for telling me about it.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

399px-A_tribute_to_the_Lifeboatmen_of_Portpatrick_-_geograph.org.uk_-_26385

The featured image is from Wikimedia and is in the public domain- By Wrecksite (www.wrecksite.eu) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

the other image is the memorial at Portpatrick again in wikimedia- andy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Guardian, the storm in pictures

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