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History and Recollections

Janet Dandy
Published in 1985 By Carnegie Press Copyright © Janet Dandy
Reproduced for reference only

Douglas Navigation

In the 15th and 16th centuries the river Douglas was busy with shipping. Cargoes were brought as far as a point near the Toll House at Bretherton.

In 1720 an Act of Parliament was passed for making the River Douglas navigable from the River Ribble to Wigan. The promoters were William Squire and Thomas Steeres, both of Liverpool. They claimed that it would be 'beneficial to trade, advantageous to the poor & convenient for the carriage of coal, cannel, stone and slate. Landowners to retain rights of fishing and fouling, also right to carry manure free in their own boats.'

There was opposition from the Hesketh family, also from 'Gentlemen & freeholders in Ormskirk and Preston and Gentlemen & Principle Inhabitants of Wigan'. Support came from inhabitants of Manchester, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Kirkham and also from 'Landowners and others from Croston, Newburgh, Parbold, Standish, Bretherton and Tarleton'. The project went ahead, but in 1783 the Douglas Navigation Company was bought out by Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company.

In the 18th and 19th centuries several schooners sailed from Tarleton to trade along the coast and to France. The types of cargo were slate from North Wales (previously houses had either been thatched or roofed with stone slabs), iron ore from Millom, gunpowder (used in quarrying) from Ulverston and coal from Wigan.

A footbridge over the canal at the bottom of Plox Brow. The boatyard in the background was moved at the beginning of the century from the end of Sutton Avenue. The stones to the right were often used for diving.
Canal Bridge at Tarleton

The gunpowder was stored in a stone building on the far bank of the canal, across from Mayor's boatyard. From there it was taken by barge to Parbold. Through disuse it became derelict and at the beginning of the 20th Century it was demolished.

Canalside Warehouse at Bank Bridge, Tarleton
A warehouse by the canal, just next to the main Southport road. This used to be used for storing cotton before it was taken to various towns in Lancashire to be worked. Although the main road here is still narrow, it was once widened, at which a tiny 1-up, 1-down cottage to the right of this picture had to be demolished.

Boats were constructed at the boatyard, which then was situated at the end of Sutton Avenue. One launch ended in tragedy. On the 11th February 1879 'The Tarleton Lass' was being launched, when a boat carrying sightseers came in contact with a mooring chain, capsized and four people were drowned, two being the children of Mr William Higham, captain of the Tarleton Lass.

The sailing trade gave rise to rope making, as much rope was used in sailing ships. The Rope Walk was situated near where Kearsley Avenue now is, and linked Hesketh Lane to Carr Lane. The twine was passed round a post at one end of the field and taken and twisted round one at the other end. The rope walker walked backwards twisting the strands until the required thickness was obtained. A public footpath ran alongside the Rope Walk, but was closed when Kearsley Avenue was constructed.

Canal barges plied between Tarleton and Wigan carrying coal and unloading at Ball's yard at Town End.

Quantities of raw cotton were brought by barge from Liverpool Docks and stored in a large warehouse on Bank Bridge. From here it was taken by road to various cotton manufacturing towns.

The canal traffic brought prosperity to the hamlet of Sollom. At Sollom Lock was a public house, a number of cottages, one of which was a tramps' lodging house, and in Sollom itself was the Cross, the base of which is still standing.

Old Trading Accounts show the following:
1565 5th July the boate Gud Lucke, of Liverpole, shipped 25 windles of (Avenax) oats for Mylthrop.
1565 8th July the boate Luke, of Liverpole, shipped 30 quarters of (Avenax) oats & two sacks of peas for Mylthorp.
1565 8th July the boate Elizabeth, of Liverpole, shipped xi quarters 10 windles of (Avenax) oats and 6 windles of wheat for Mylthorp.

Less wheat was shipped as wheat four was used by the richer classes, whilst the working people used oats. A windle was 'a measure of corn' used in the north of England. There being no registered standards at the time, the size of a windle was approximate, but is said by the Complete Oxford Dictionary to be 'about three bushels' and to weigh 'around two hundredweight'.


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