19th century water mill remains are discovered in Skippool as A585 Windy Harbour bypass work continues

Part of a 19th century water mill has been discovered during construction work on a new Fylde and Wyre bypass.

By James Graves
Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 12:44 pm

The watermill is the latest find at the A585 Windy Harbour to Skippool construction site as archaeology work continues to be carried out as part of the £150m new bypass, which is being built to reduce traffic jams on one of the county’s busiest roads.

Highways England who are overseeing the construction works, said the discovery is the partial remains of the Skippool Watermill.

A spokesman for HighwaysEngland said: “Although we do not have an exact date when the mill was constructed, it is shown on the first edition of the Ordnance Survey map in 1844.

The remains of the water mill

“The remains of a headrace channel leading to the watermill wheel were found along with a wooden filter.

“This was designed to stop debris clogging up or damaging the wheel.

“It looks as though the angle of the walls and the narrowing of the channel were designed to direct and increase the flow of water to the wheel.”

The archaeology work north of Garstang Road has now been completed, however work will be continuing south of Garstang Road and east of Lodge Lane, with the aim to finish all the scientific studies by June.

Work started on the bypass last year and it is expected to be completed by spring in 2023.

Hundreds of items have been recovered from the site since work began including some of them dating back thousands of years.

Professional archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology North, based in Lancaster, have been investigating nationally important prehistoric sites where the bypass is being built.

A piece of carinated bowl from the Neolithic era was found near Main Dyke late last year. This was the first type of pottery used in the British Isles.

A Highways England spokesman added: “The fragments of bowl had traces of dairy, and we believe that the Neolithic people used the pottery to make products, such as cheese and yoghurt. Stunning rock crystals were also found while investigating late Mesolithic and early Neolithic sites close to Windy Harbour.

The Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Ages date back between almost 14,000 and 5,000 years ago.

Some of the significant remains found during the digs have already featured in Highways England public information events held to update residents and drivers on progress at the site.

As well as archaeology work, workers have been carrying out tree and hedgerow removal along the project to create the needed space to build the new bypass. Highways England said it is working closely with environment and ecology teams, to carry out necessary surveys before any vegetation is removed.

It is putting in measures to minimise any impact on wildlife and habitats.

A spokesman said: “Bird boxes will be installed on trees at suitable locations across the project. This will help nesting birds during bird nesting season.

New planting is also proposed at locations along the project and we are also going to install bat boxes and bee posts, build new ponds and grassland areas, all of which will increase biodiversity.”

Ecological surveys have also found evidence of otters foraging around Main Dyke, south of Garstang Road

Spraints have also been found, which is how otters mark their territory.

Highways England said it would continue to work with our environment and construction teams to make sure the otters were not disturbed.

An historic local milestone marker was also recently moved from Mains Lane for safe keeping while construction continues at the site. A member from the Oxford Archaeology North team attended to oversee the removal of the marker, together with representatives from Fylde Council and Singleton Parish Council.

A spokesman for Highways England said: “The marker was safely lifted and transported to a safe storage place until such times it can be replaced in a suitable spot.”

Peter Wright, excellence programme co-ordinator at Blackpool Sixth Form College, teaches ancient history and he says the discoveries at the site provide a ‘much deeper historical story’ to the area.

He said: “The site is really interesting because it’s about the development of of settlements in our particular area.

“Around ten years ago, just across from Poulton Cemetery, there was an Oxford North dig with United Utilities and they found three sorts of Bronze Age round houses.

“They’re around first century BC because there was lots of Romano-British pottery coming out of there and Roman Mortarion, which are roof tiles and bits of pottery, which is really quite interesting because there’s not really that sort of very evident, ancient material around here.

“So the Bronze Age site was really interesting and when I found out what they were doing with the new bypass this way and that they actually found some even older material just down the road from there it was even greater.

“If you put the the discoveries that they’ve got from the Poulton round houses with the new bypass discoveries as well as the elk that was found opposite the sixth form in the 1970s, it does mean that there is a much deeper, ancient history to the area than what was originally thought around 40 to 50 years ago so it’s really quite fascinating what is being found during the bypass construction.”