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.