A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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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.
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.