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The great flood of 1719/20

A disastrous flood washed away part of the Ancient Parish of Lytham in 1719/20. The storm which broke down the sea defences did enormous damage in the Lytham area wrecking all manner of buildings, destroying cattle, crops and household goods. It was estimated that this damage amounted to £2,055 and upwards. This was a huge sum in those days for not a century earlier the whole of Lytham and St. Anne’s as we know it today and the manor had been purchased by Sir Cuthbert Clifton for £4,300 in 1605. The Fylde Coast has been subjected to these disastrous inundations throughout its history.

There are very few documents from that time and the coastline was different so it isn't easy to picture exactly how it affected the residents. So we need to look at the geography then and subsequent floods to help imagine it.

It was such a disaster and is picturesquely recorded in a petition. Robert Bawbell, Richard Gerrard, Thomas Wilkinson, James Carter, Thomas Bell, Robert Bennet, Thomas Dewhurst, Robert Hardman, John Ball, John Heys and Richard Fisher, inhabitants, farmers and tenants within the township of Lytham, Warton and Westby-cum-Plumptons within the County Palatine “sufferers by the dreadful inundation of the sea,” in a Petition which they afterwards presented to the Justices of the Peace for the County Palatine of Lancaster at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, held at Preston in and for the said county on the 12th day of January, 1719, for the grant of a Brief or Royal Warrant authorising the collection of charitable donations in the following words:

That upon Sunday and Monday the eighteenth and nineteenth days of December last past at the change of the moon and very height of the Spring Tide there happened to be a violent tempest of wind which occasioned such an extraordinary and uncommon flood that it broke down and washed away the Banks , Rampets and Sea Fences in the said towns and overflowed the greatest part of Land lying there utterly destroying their winter corn thereon growing and doing very great damage to all their houses, with the barns and outhousing thereto belonging and all their corn, hay and household goods and a great number of their cattle. And your petitioners being ready to make appear to your worships not only by their own oaths but also by oath of several credible persons who have viewed the premises that the damages done to your Petitioners by the said inundations amounts to £2,055.

A slight complication is that New Year's day in 1719 was March 25th as we were using the Julian calendar then. Some sources give the year as 1719 and other as 1720.

The Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire have published quite a detailed description of the event.

The local geography at that time gives an idea of the area was occupied. It must be born in mind that the shoreline was not the only place that flooding could occur, but also the tide coming up the Liggard brook and also where we now have the main drain.

"Great losses sustained in Lancashire in December, 1720 by the violent overflowing of the sea". (Diary of Nicholas Blundell). Storm tides (wind-driven surge) had flooded 6600 acres of land, washed out 157 houses, and damaged 200 more. The main areas of damage were on low-lying land at Pilling Moss and Marton Moss near the Fylde Coast and the West Lancashire Moss between Formby & Tarleton. At Ince Blundell sea banks were breached, the River Alt floodgates were broken & more than 100 acres of productive farmland were damaged by seawater (salt contamination). Roads and bridges were also affected, including a public bridge in Great Crosby known at 'Foremost poole bridge' (Far Moss Pool bridge).

Other floods

  • 1852
  • 1907 Storm, high-tide & floods.
  • 1927
  • 1977
  • In the 1980s part of a tree became jammed in the gates at Dock Road bridge allowing the tide to run up the Liggard Brook. This caused flooding on Park View playing fields.

Lytham Charities

Sadly the resulting collection raised only £103 which was a disappointment to the expectations of these desperate men. They met to decide how the money should be divided, and because agreement could not be reached these humble and good-hearted folk considered how best the money could be used to the advantage of the villagers. It decided to add the £103 to certain charitable gifts that had been made a few years earlier and use this to educate the children of the parish. This became the Lytham Charities. Over time this was used for a number of schools.

They also provided funding to some other local schools.


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