On this day … 24 March 1689

Thomas Bellingham’s diary included the following, ‘I walk’d wth ye officers att evening to see Walton Copp, which is so much damag’d by the flood that it is thought £400 will not repayr it.’ Walton Cop was the name given to the main road crossing the Ribble flood plain on the Walton-le-Dale side of the river, leading up to the old Walton Bridge. It can be seen clearly on the section of Robert Porter’s map of 1756 (pictured).

The cop was a raised embankment that carried the road and some properties above the flood plain. It’s a now obsolete word meaning, according to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘the top or summit of anything’. Does Cop Lane at Penwortham have a similar derivation?

The flooding of the Ribble at this point had long been a problem, and continued to be so for years after. Sometimes it was so bad that the bridge was marooned in the flood waters. Since this was the lowest bridge point on the Ribble and the next one was many miles upstream, these floods caused major disruption, cutting the main road through Lancashire.

Restoration was often delayed by disputes over the costs involved. The land was owned by the de Hoghtons, who felt that the cost of the repairs should be at least partly borne by the county. This led to protracted wrangling between the two parties, which could delay the restoration of the route for some considerable time.

On 12 July following the March flooding recorded by Bellingham, his fellow Preston diarist Lawrence Rawstorne was writing, ‘i2 at Preston & at prayers, went at 3 to Walton Mr. Patten wth mee to meet Sr Charles Houghton Mr. Asheton Of Cuerdale & others, about repaire of Walton cop’.

Rawstorne and Mr Patten (Thomas Patten of Patten House on Church Street) represented the county. Sir Charles Houghton (the ‘de’ affectation had not yet been assumed by the family) and Mr Asheton (Richard Assheton, who in 1680 had inherited the Downham estate on the death of Sir Ralph Assheton of Whalley) represented the landowners.

Aside from its recording of Walton Cop, Robert Porter’s map, which he titled ‘A plan of the River Ribble from the Red Scarr to the bottom of Cliffton Marsh’ and dated 1756, has a great deal of historical interest. Lancashire Archives has the map, which is in six sections, David Berry has photographed them and Barney Smith has put them on line on the Preston Digital Archive.

This section of the map shows the old Walton Bridge, several yards downstream of the present bridge. It was hump-backed and approached at an angle from the road on either side to lessen the steepness of the incline. It would have resembled the present Old Penwortham Bridge.

The map contains the following features:

The parish church with its tower and rather odd spire, which were taken down in 1813 and rebuilt as a slightly higher tower, using red sandstone from the bed of the Ribble at the stone delph on the map (see yesterday’s post).

The fish stakes in the river hark back to the time when an unpolluted Ribble supplied enormous quantities of salmon. The mill stream, now culverted, used to flow behind the White Bull and was crossed by a bridge at the bottom of Church Brow. The new warehouse could have been owned by the father of the temperance campaigner Joseph Livesey, who had a warehouse in the area at this time.

Ribble in flood at Fishwick Bottoms 1936
Ribble in flood at Fishwick Bottoms 1936. https://www.flickr.com/photos/rpsmithbarney/23719244933/

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