How the origin of Blackpool’s name evolved from the Ice Age

Deed relating to Richard Layton of Blackpoole in Layton. Copyright Blackpool Heritage Service

The story begins around ten thousand years ago during the last Ice Age. When the ice receded, it left in its wake a body of water now known as Marton Mere. The original mere before drainage was a lake formed after the debris carried by the glacier was washed out by the streams fed by the melting ice. If a large block of ice is surrounded and covered by the debris, when the ice eventually melts, it leaves a hollow which often fills with water. This feature is known as a kettle-hole. It is believed this is how Marton Mere was formed.

Organic sediments are present some 14,000 years in age. Men have hunted the area for some 10,000 years. The Anglo-Saxon settlements of Staining, Layton (Lay-tun) and Marton (Mere- tun) came into existence around the seventh century, dependent on the mere for food and water. The mere once had great economic importance; in 1120, for example, Theobald Walter, Baron of Amounderness, granted rights to the Abbey of Stanlaw to take a stream for the Monks’ mill at Staining and the fishery rights were frequently the subject of grants.

Petitions of 1655 and later call attention to the flooding of the mere in bad weather; they ask for £30 to build a bridge near Cornwall Place and to improve the dykes. After 1700 dykes were cut out to join the Skipton stream and drain it to the east into the Wyre at Skippool; another was Spen Dyke. This job was tackled in earnest in 1731, and by the mid-18th century the mere was reduced to the 15-acre site.

Ancient Briton coracles were found during the course of the drainage works. The area around the mere remained as rough pasture, boggy in places, and a lack of easy access made it a natural sanctuary for birds and wildlife, greatly appreciated by naturalists.

The original banks of the mere are very evident by Chain Lane, by the Marton Mere caravan site, and by the southern entrance to Stanley Park. It extended some 2 miles east to west (Chain Lane to West Park Drive playing fields of Stanley Park) and half mile North to South (Whinney Heys to Lawson Road).

Although many streams (such as David’s slack) fed the mere, there was only one outlet, running from Cornwall Place to the sea, which on its way drove great Great Marton water mill (near Rectory Road). This stream was joined by the Spen. At Spen Corner the Marton Mere outlet joined with floodwater draining Marton Moss. This outlet was known locally as the Spen Dyke. The combined waters then proceeded from Spen Corner (located by Waterloo Road School) through saturated meadows, churning up fragments of peaty sub-soil and discharging at length into the sea at Manchester Square forming a dark black pool, thereby giving rise to the origin of our town name, Blackpool.

Today the stream forms part of the sewage outfall, but in the 18th century the dark-hued waters were clearly visible discharging into the oncoming tides. The aforementioned saturated meadows would have flowed along the present Ansdell Road, Queen Victoria Road and Rigby Road.

Properties along sections of these roads have partially subsided into the Spen Dyke. Spen Dyke has now been culverted but the source of the original dyke can still be seen in the Bambers Road area of rural Marton Moss. A name stone ‘Spen Corner’ can be seen today on a building at the corner of Ansdell Road and Waterloo Road. A British rail signal box once located by Rigby Road was known as Spen Dyke Box. Today the mere, a freshwater lake of around 40 acres, is still drained by the Little River Skipton, which enters the River Wyre at Skippool. Between 1945 and 1973 land on three sides nearest to Blackpool was the site of the corporation refuse tip.

Streets and locations that take their name from the mere include Mere Road, Mereland Ave, Mere Park Court, Mere Park Hotel and Mereside Estate. Marton Mere was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1979 (one of 2000 lakes in the country). It is one of the only remaining natural lakes in Lancashire. In 1991 the mere and its surrounds were declared a local nature reserve. Modern day visitors to the Marton Mere Caravan Park do not always realise the ancient nature of the Fylde.

Barry Shaw

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