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.