Thomas Fleetwood was an eldest son of the Staffordshire branch of the Fleetwood family who married Ann, daughter and heir of Christopher Bannister, of Bank Hall, Bretherton. As a result of this marriage, which took place in Penwortham, he inherited Bank Hall and its estate which adjoined Martin Mere, then extending to some 3,132 acres within an 18-mile perimeter. He determined to drain the mere by cutting a channel to the sea and obtained the necessary leases and an act of parliament to enable him to do so. The project began in 1695 and involved a workforce of 2,000. The drainage scheme, which left Fleetwood with considerable debts, was breached by the sea after about 60 years.