Warton is situated on the Fylde coast, close to Lytham and St Annes on Sea. It lies along the Ribble Estuary, and up to the late 19th century there was a ford from Warton to Hesketh, with a guide to conduct travellers across.
The village is named as Wartun or Wartuna in the Domesday Book, and the current spelling is first seen in 1227. Up to the 1800’s it was primarily an agricultural and fishing community, expanding into Cotton Spinning and the manufacture of sacking, sailcloth and cordage with the coming of the Industrial Revolution.
By the 1920s dairy and poultry farming were among the main industries, employing whole families and workers in the production of milk and cream, Lancashire cheese, poultry and eggs, for the quickly growing holiday trade of the Fylde coast.
In November 1927 came an unusually high tide and a very violent storm, causing the Fleetwood Flood Disaster, which claimed several lives and extended as far as Warton with the loss of livestock and poultry cabins.
As well as farming, the Lytham shipyard provided skilled work for many Warton men, who cycled the three miles to work as platers on the African river boats which were made there (the most famous of these being the derelict one used in the film, The African Queen starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart).
The cotton mill, one mile away in Freckleton, employed many young Warton women who either walked or cycled to weave 'Regina', a very strong cotton sateen used in the manufacture of velveteen - the looms making a deafening din and unfortunately causing much deafness. This mill, the 'Balderstone' as it was called, was demolished to make way for a large housing estate.
The river Ribble, scarcely polluted at all in the 1920s, held many good-sized salmon and 'flukes' and provided a good harvest for the shrimpers, and regular work for river pilots, lamp lighters and fishermen.
Up to the late 1800’s Warton was the site of one of the few “peg-and-post” mills left in the UK. It is called a peg-and-post mill from the fact that the whole structure stands on a peg or strong central shaft of wood driven into the ground, on which the whole structure was turned round, so as to bring the sails facing the wind, by a wheel running on the ground, worked by a long pole as a lever. Regrettably it was allowed to decay into disrepair and demolished, but Mill Lane and Post Lane in the village commemorate its passing and now only its millstone and the old anvil are preserved at the former smithy.
Ruins of the Peg Mill
From 1930 onwards, tourists from Manchester and the East Lancashire cotton towns were beginning to enjoy themselves - motoring through Warton en route for the Fylde coast and Blackpool.
Farming families used to stand en masse in their fields, adjoining the main road, getting their entertainment from the constant stream of traffic passing through the village at weekends, dressed in their hessian 'Brats' (sacking aprons) and clogs. The 'grannies' wore beautifully made cotton sun bonnets, intricately tucked, generally heliotrope colour and most becoming!
Towards 1930, the 'Glasshouse Industry' developed in Warton and the whole Fylde - the climate and conditions being particularly suitable for the growing of 'Blackpool' tomatoes and lettuce. This flourished for many years, through the Second World War, in spite of enemy bomb damage and the vibration from the USAAF 'Liberator' bombers stationed here. Through the 1960s-70s, the ever-increasing price of glasshouse heating, foreign competition and freak gales and hailstorms brought this industry to a close and a way of life ended.
During the Second World War, all available land in Warton and Freckleton was commandeered by the Air Ministry and an enormous aerodrome was constructed with the biggest hangar (six acres!) and the longest runway in Europe. Thousands of USAAF personnel arrived and were based here until the war ended.
On 29th November 1944 a large force of brand-new Douglas A-26 Invaders were taking off from Base Air Depot 2, Warton, bound for the 409th Bomb Group, 9th USAAF base at Bretigny, France. Two of the planes 43-22298 and 43-22336 collided in mid-air whilst joining the formation. The aircraft then crashed on Warton Marsh, where they remain to this day buried under the mud and grass. There were no survivors.
After the Second World War ended, the entire aerodrome was taken over by British Aerospace, which employs thousands of workers and is the biggest employer in the area, along with the Fylde Office of the Land Registry which is also based in Warton.
A bit further back! - Extract from Village New Letter Spring 2020
What lies beneath the Kellamergh mound? It was a thought that occupied the mind of David Hoyle - Chairman of the Warton History Society and it concerns a field with an interesting contour in our quiet village. Here is his account……… Rumours and legends hover like a thick cloud over this green bump on the landscape and you will scarcely meet a living soul in the vicinity who is not convinced in the belief that this was the burial mound following mass slaughter during some great battle. The corpses, all. 538 or 835 of them (according to who happens to be reminiscing) were piled into a heap and covered over and the field and ever after was regarded as consecrated ground. So, at any rate, runs the tale. During the WW2, I was told a man turned up there to plough he was forcibly run off by the locals before he had completed two circuits. That is how strongly the people of Kellamergh felt then and reaction might the same today.
Back in time
If you look on the map you will find that this district is known as Bryning -with-Kellamergh. Angles settled there sometime after 570 AD and perhaps four centuries later the Norsemen came and founded another settlement at Kellamergh. It is not known how few or how many skirmishes took place before the two sides settled down to amicable coexistence, but the grass grows mighty green on Kellamergh mound! Could it be the Romans that were responsible? Their conquest of the North West Brigantes was complete by AD 78, at what cost to both sides remains a mystery. After centuries of occupation they withdrew by about AD 420, leaving pensioned off Roman veterans settled on the Fylde and Lune Valley smallholdings and a partially Romanised nation prey to the wild hordes North of the border. The Picts and Scots now swarmed undeterred over Hadrian’s Wall, ravaging, plundering and terrifying the unprotected people. Was there possibly a head-on clash where the grass grows green? Outright, I asked the tenant, Mr Bryan, for his theory. He is a Southerner and a fairly new-comed-'un but when you have heard the tale repeated as often as he has, you are unlikely to dispute it. " It was the Battle of Kellamergh," he said, in sixteen-hundred-and-something." and the blame this time was inevitably laid on poor old Cromwell.
In order to get to ‘the bottom of it’ I consulted E. Broxap's The Great Civil War in Lancashire, 1642-1651," which is regarded as a standard work, and discovered that Lancashire for the first time became Involved in the general course of Tile war," in May and June, 1644. Encouraged by the Siege of Lathom House, Prince Rupert, command of almost 10,000 mostly cavalry, marched through Cheshire, collecting reinforcements and the Earl of Derby en-route, and pressed on wards towards Bolton. The slaughter was terrible, horror without parallel and the whole bitter incident was stained with the blood of the innocent. Wigan was next reoccupied then Prince Rupert took Liverpool by storm. Leaving a Garrison of Fylde men under Colonel Cuthbert Clifton Of Westby and Lytham, the Royalist army headed for York and a sound defeat at the Battle of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644). The Lancashire Royalists so lately in high spirits, were glad to get back to their native county (Rupert was just as anxious to get away). and when Sir John Meldrum in August was sent from York with 1,000 horses to clear the Royalists out "about 2,700" of them were "encamped about Lytham and Kirkham" and, by Broxap's telling, were " plundering greatly." Was there. perhaps. some vigorous defence of personal property and loss of life in the Kellamergh area in that summer of 1644?
Where was it?
Numerous theories have been propounded about Brunanburgh whose "field was dyed with warriors' blood since the sun up at morning tide. " Day-long. the armies clashed, and groaned until they were made to flee Figures like 10,000 lives lost have been mentioned but you know how they grow in the telling. A more interesting question is where this battle was fought that welded a nation, brought peace in its wake and established Athelstan as King of the English. Yet, Bromborough, Banbury. Burnham. Bourne, Brunton. Brownedge, and Burn (near Blackpool) where, Porter tells us, "a quantity of human bones were ploughed up", have all at some time pressed their claims. So, the mystery remains which one day (perhaps soon) will be solved. The tenant, Mr Bryan is willing for an excavation to take place and I have been informed by the Lancashire County Council that objection will not be raised, subject to certain wise and reasonable conditions—one, being that the work must be supervised professionally by the archaeology department of a university
Will there be an answer?
Your guess is as good as mine. The whole legend, from start to finish, could be a colossal hoax started centuries ago and handed down by word of mouth through the generations. Or the mound could be a tumulus where local folk were interred after succumbing-to an attack of old age.
We will know when we go a-digging where the grass grows green!
By David Hoyle taken from Kathleen Eyre July 1962