Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms
Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England



Preston Guardian, Saturday, February 24, 1844.


The dredging operations now going on in the Ribble, at the Marsh, have lately brought to light some very interesting relics of past ages. These consist of the antlers of stags, the horns of oxen, human, skulls, and the stems of large trees, mostly oak and yew.  All these objects have been brought up from the bottom of the river by the dredging machine.

The antlers, or deer horns, are large and finely branched, and must have belonged to animals of the most stately dimensions; not improbably to some such gigantic elks as those that at one time inhabited Ireland and the Isle of Man, where their skeletons are still found. The ox horns, again, are of extraordinary size—one of them measuring nearly three feet from the base at the skull to the tip, and in girth, at the thickest part,. about sixteen inches,--dimensions greatly exceeding those of the ordinary horns of the oxen of the present day, and, by consequence, indicating an animal of enormous size. In all the instances, portions of the skulls are attached to the horns—a circumstance which would seem to imply, that the animals had not been slaughtered, but had come by their deaths otherwise; very probably been drowned by an inundation of the river. Such supposition would also apply to the human skulls. 

The stems of trees which have been disinterred from the bed of the river, are, as already said, almost entirely oak and yew, though fragments of other kinds of wood are also turned up; but the former only meth, sufficient adhesion to resist the operations of the machine; the others breaking up into small pieces, The stems of oak brought on, shore are as black es ebony throughout their entire substance, and of the consistency of cheese, being easily cut with a knife, but becoming hard again on being exposed for some time to the action of the atmospheric air. Some of these trees are of considerable size, but their branches have all long since disappeared -  nothing remaining but the naked trunk.

From their appearance, they must have lain for many centuries at the bottom of the river, and there can be little doubt that they are remnants of the primeval forests with which Lancashire was covered till within a comparatively late period ; and, in all likelihood, the animals, whose remains have been turned up, have been denizens of their deep recesses. In almost every instance, the trees have their roots still attached, affording evidence that they were not felled, but had been undermined, probably by the current of the river, and therefore had grown at no great distance, from where they are found, as their branches would prevent their being carded far by the stream. Being held by the latter, the trunk would, in time, get water-logged, and gradually sink until it finally lodged in the bed of the river, the branches previously breaking away one after the other.

At the period when this process took place, the space of ground called the Marsh would, it is probable, be covered with a dense forest. In time, the river would become choked up with failing trees, and its waters diffused over the neighbouring low grounds, when the trees growing thereon, undermined and rotted by the inundation, would continue failing until the whole had disappeared. As the latter process went on, the river would again return to its channel. The prostrate trees would gradually sink into the moist soil, and would filially be overspread by a sort of semi-aqueous vegetation, and hence the formation of the Marsh. Thus, at any rate, it is well known, marshes have been formed in various parts of the world.

There is, then, little doubt that if the Marsh was dug into, to a considerable depth, it would be found filled with the trunks of trees, and many other relics of a former condition. Indeed, it is known that there are the remains of an entire forest, underground, extending all the way from the Ribble, at Penwortharn, near Preston, to the Mersey, at Liverpool. It would not be easy to assign the precise period of these changes; but it may give some idea of the probable time to mention, that a number of the bogs and marshes of Europe are known to have been formed since the time of Julius Cæsar,—many forests in Britain, described by that general, having wholly 'disappeared, leaving bogs and morasses in their place. Such changes as these are constantly going on on the surface of the earth. That is now sea which was formerly land, and that now bind which was formerly sea. Extensive morasses now spread their monotonous expanse where formerly waved stately forests, and again will stately forests wave where now are bogs, plains, and cultivated fields.