Townships
Birkdale

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Victoria County History

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Author

William Farrer & J. Brownbill (editors)

Year published

1907

Pages

236-238

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'Townships: Birkdale', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3 (1907), pp. 236-238. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=41327 Date accessed: 20 October 2014.


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BIRKDALE

Erengermeles, Dom. Bk.; Argarmeols, xiv. cent.; Birkedale, 1311.

The greater part of the area of this township, which measures 2,214½ acres, (fn. 1) consists of a broad band of sand-hills, fringing the sea-coast and raising the surface of the land to some fifty feet above sea-level. The seashore itself is flat and sandy, and a large expanse of sand is uncovered at low tide. The sand-hills are covered with a dense growth of dwarf willow and star-grass, or sea marram, which by their long subterranean stems and roots bind the shifting sands together. The sand-hills are so strictly preserved on account of 'game,' that the naturalist has little chance of searching the hills for the many uncommon wild plants which grow there. Inland from the shore it is quite flat, and the land is occupied by cultivated fields yielding crops of corn and potatoes in a sandy soil. There are no brooks, but numerous ditches drain the lower portions of the district.

The northern portion of the township is occupied by the residential district of Birkdale, the houses being usually surrounded by gardens. Two railways cross it going north to Southport, viz. the Lancashire and Yorkshire, with a station named Birkdale; and the Cheshire lines, by the shore, with a station called Birkdale Palace, near the large Hydropathic Hotel. The population in 1901 was 14,197.

A local board was formed in 1863, (fn. 2) and a school board in 1883. (fn. 3) The township is now divided for local government into four wards, each returning three members to the urban district council. The town hall was built in 1872. A recreation ground was opened in 1886.

MANOR

Wibert held the manor in 1066, when it was assessed as two plough-lands and its value was 8s. It was placed at the head of the privileged district of three hides comparatively free from the interference of the reeve of the royal manor of West Derby. (fn. 4)

It was certainly made a portion of the Bussels' fee of Penwortham, and may have been held by Warin Bussel under Roger of Poitou before 1100. Of the barons of Penwortham it was held by Roger son of Ravenkil, and descended to his son Richard, lord of Woodplumpton and founder of Lytham Priory. Two only of Richard's five daughters left issue—Maud, wife of Sir Robert de Stockport, and Amuria, wife of Thomas de Beetham; (fn. 5) their heirs continued to hold it down to the time of Edward II.

By this time there had probably been an infeudation in favour of the Halsall family. In 1346 (fn. 6) the fourth part of a knight's fee in Argar Meols was held by Otes de Halsall; he rendered 10s., but it was stated that the place 'had been annihilated by the sea and there was no habitation there.' (fn. 7) From an inquisition taken in 1404 it appears that the manors of Argar Meols and Birkdale had been held by Otes' father, Gilbert, so that the transfer from the old lords to the new must have taken place about 1320. (fn. 8) The matter is somewhat complicated by the statement in a feodary compiled about 1430 that 'Thomas de Beetham and his parceners' held the fourth part of a knight's fee in Argar Meols, (fn. 9) while in a later feodary (1483) it is stated that Hugh de Halsall held it of the king in chief. (fn. 10) The more correct statement would appear to be that from the beginning of Edward III's reign the Halsall family held it of the king as of his barony of Penwortham, though this intermediate barony is usually omitted in the inquisitions. (fn. 11)

The manor descended regularly with the Halsall estates until their dispersal early in the seventeenth century by Sir Cuthbert Halsall. (fn. 12) The most interesting incident in connexion with their tenure was an inquiry in 1503, when the escheator was endeavouring to prove that Sir Henry Halsall held lands and tenements in Argar Meols of the king, as duke of Lancaster, in chief, Sir Henry in reply asserting that the place had long ago been swallowed up by the sea. (fn. 13)

It was about 1632 that Birkdale, Meandale, and Ainsdale were sold by Sir Cuthbert Halsall to Robert Blundell of Ince. Boundary disputes at once began with Sir Charles Gerard, who had purchased Halsall and Downholland. The latter's son, created earl of Macclesfield after the Restoration, carried on the dis pute with much bitterness, (fn. 14) and it was not settled till 1719. The Gerards had then died out, and their representative, Colonel Charles Mordaunt, having brought an action against Robert Blundell of Ince, a minor represented by his mother and guardian, a final decision was given in favour of the defendant. The manor has since descended with Ince Blundell, and the lord of the manor, Mr. Charles Joseph WeldBlundell, owns the whole township.

In 1246 the township was amerced in 22s. for a wreck which had been concealed. (fn. 15)

There appears to have been no manor-house or resident lord, nor did the place give a surname to any family of note. It was not rated separately for subsidies, &c., and for the hearth tax of Charles II's time it ranked only as a hamlet of North Meols; in 1673 there were twenty-seven houses charged, only one of which had more than a single hearth.

In connexion with the Established Church there are three places of worship in Birkdale. The earliest is St. James's, opened in 1857 (fn. 16) ; St. John's, at first a mission church in connexion with it, became a parish church in 1905; St. Peter's, preceded by a school-chapel in 1870, was consecrated in 1872. (fn. 17) The vicars are appointed by different bodies of trustees.

The Wesleyan Methodists have a large church in Aughton Road, called Wesley Chapel; there are also two mission chapels. The United Methodist Free Church has a place of worship. The Congregationalists acquired a building here in 1877.

There are two Roman Catholic churches, St. Joseph's, built in 1867, and St. Teresa's, opened in 1884. The convent of Notre Dame is served from the former. There is also the Birkdale Farm Reformatory school.

Footnotes

1 2,699; Census Rep. 1901. The foreshore measures 2,605 acres.
2 Lond. Gaz. 2 June, 1863.
3 Ibid. 28 Aug. 1883.
4 V.C.H. Lancs. i, p. 284b.
5 The inquisition after the death of Thomas de Beetham (1249) shows that he held 8 oxgangs of land here of the earl of Lincoln, rendering 12s. yearly, and 2 by knight's service from which he took nothing. In 1242–3 Thomas de Beetham and Robert de Stockport were said to hold the fourth part of a knight's fee here. See Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 149, 171. In 1254 the holding is said to be one plough-land, worth in all issues 16s. yearly, and the tallage of the tenants in bondage worth 2s. 6d.; ibid. 171. In 1311 Nicholas de Eaton and Joan his wife, daughter and heir of Richard de Stockport, are mentioned as tenants; De Lacy Inquest (Chet. Soc.), 22; while in 1323–4 Ralph de Beetham alone is mentioned, and he is said to have held it 'by fealty without any other service'; Dods. MSS. cxxxi, fol. 36b.
6 In 1345 there were cross-suits by Robert de Cowdray as lord of North Meols, and Gilbert de Halsall as lord of Argar Meols of which Birkdale was a part, each alleging that the other had trespassed; De Banc. R. 342, m. 374, 374d.
7 Lay Subsidies (Lancs.), 130/16. Argar Meols seems in fact to have disappeared, though the name survived in official documents and in tradition. Birkdale first appears as its substitute or successor in 1295 in the De Lacy Compotus. As a name Birkdale occurs in a charter of Cockersand Abbey about 1200; it was in Ainsdale or upon the border; Cockersand Chartul. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 575, 581.
8 Towneley MS. DD. n. 1456. It was Gilbert de Halsall who acquired from the Blundells of Crosby the adjacent manor of Ainsdale. In 1752 it was customary to assess the old Halsall estate in Ainsdale along with Birkdale; though Ainsdale was, properly speaking, in another township and parish; see Farrer, North Meols, 98. In 1377 accord was made at Halsall between Otes de Halsall and the lord of North Meols (William de Aughton) for pasturage of their lands of North Meols, Ainsdale, Birkdale, and Argar Meols, there being apparently no clearly defined boundaries; Dods. MSS. cxlii, fol. 233.
9 Dods. MSS. lxxxvii, fol. 59.
10 Duchy of Lanc. Misc. cxxx, fol. 8. The Beetham family had by that time lost their manors.
11 Argar Meols is included in a feodary of Penwortham made about 1505.
12 See the account of Halsall.
13 Duchy Pleas. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 23–4.
In 1508 Sir Henry had eight messuages and 20 acres of pasturage in Birkdale held of the abbot of Cockersand. This appears to be the Halsall estate in Ainsdale, of which mention has already been made as being considered part of Birkdale; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. v, n. 50.
A dispute between Edmund Hulme and Henry Halsall in 1555 revealed more clearly the uncertainty as to the boundaries and tenures; whereas the former claimed the 'manor' of Ainsdale and asserted that it was wholly within the parish of Walton, the 'manor' of Birkdale being wholly within North Meols; Henry Halsall fell back upon the statement that though there once was a place called Ainsdale it had long been washed away and lost. The land in dispute was called Meandale or Birkdale Hawes; the bounds were stated to begin at the spring wall near Ainsdale demesne and to follow certain stoups to the Brown Hill or Brown Brante and so to the Falcon Hawe, and then west to the sea. There had formerly been frequent disputes owing to cattle straying over the bounds; see Duchy Pleas, iii, 218–22. Edmund Hulme closed the dispute by selling his rights to Henry Halsall; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 16, m. 134.
14 Gibson, Lydiate Hall, 114–15, 121–4.
Many interesting points occur in the depositions. In 1662 William Norris of Ainsdale, bailiff in succession to Sir Cuthbert Halsall and the Blundells, stated that shipwreck and all things cast up by the sea were taken formerly to Sir Cuthbert's manor-house, but after the sale, to Robert Blundell. Once a sturgeon had been cast ashore at Ainsdale and it was removed in a wagon to Ince Blundell. Another witness remembered in the earlier period a porpoise being cast up at Birkdale; it was cut in pieces and carried on men's backs to Halsall.
The rector of North Meols in 1644 deposed that he received the tithes of corn and grain from Birkdale; Birkdale Brook was the boundary, and he received nothing from lands to the east of that. Confirmatory evidence was given by the constables of Halsall and the tithegatherer of Formby. For the Blundells it was stated that the boundary was further to the east than this; it began at Gettern Mere and so down the walk millhey ditch southward; out of this another ditch, called the division ditch, went northward between Halsall and Ainsdale, going toward Renacres (in Halsall) eastward to a place called Kettlesgreave; at the end whereof was another ditch running partly westwards to White Otter Mere, on the north side of which was another ditch between Renacres and Birkdale as far as Birkdale Cop. To some extent this is confirmed by a statement at the earlier trial that a boat having been cast ashore it was delivered to Robert Blundell, who refitted it and used it on White Otter Mere. There was a privilege of fishing, known as the Common Soynt, on the Halsall side of the boundary; Duchy of Lanc. Depos. 1664, n. 10, 10d.
In 1701 a fisherman of Meols described Birkdale as distinguished into several sections; the main portion in the centre was called 'the Heys,' from its enclosed land; here the dwelling-houses were situated. Between this district and the sea was the common called 'the Hawes,' where the starr hills were. To the east were the Mosses, divided from the Heys by a brook. Duchy of Lanc. Depos. 1701, n. 3. These and other depositions are printed in North Meols, 103–10.
15 Assize R. 404, m. 10.
16 A district was assigned in 1865; Lond. Gaz. 19 May.
17 For district ibid. 5 Feb. 1875.