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



Blackpool Gazette & Herald, September 14th, 1956

When the roads of the Fylde were mud or dust baths.


I HAVE just been reading an account of what must have been one of the first trips by motorcar between Yorkshire and Morecambe. Among other adventures the veteran tells how, for part of the journey at least, they proceeded in a cloud of dust. I was going to say that that was one of the trials of the early motorist, but it is scarcely the truth. He, stout fellow, was usually able to keep in front of the dust-storm that he created that is, unless he had the doubtful benefit of a following wind. In which case he was never able to emerge from the dust-cloud until he changed his direction.


MOTORING in those days involved a working knowledge of reading a compass. Some of us remember those "happy!" pioneering days, when most of the main roads of the Fylde were metalled with limestone and plentiful quantities of dirt, or muck as the locals called it.

That part of the mixture was intended to gum the stones together. It was not always successful. But even that was about as big an improvement as the jet-plane is on the dog-cart so my father said. When he was "nobbut a lad" the lanes that connected the various villages of the Fylde were little more than tracks.


In summertime the iron-tyred carts cut deep tracks into the lanes, often a foot deep. It was almost impossible to get out of them when the cart was laden. But it was in winter that the 'fun' began. After heavy rain the tracks were brimming full of water and those on foot, who could not climb the hedge into a neighbouring field, were splashed up to the ears with muddy water.

When the frosts came the tracks were in an even worse state. The ruts were frozen iron-hard and filled to the top with blocks of ice. Yet it was on these tracks that somehow, our hardy ancestors contrived to get about the Fylde, to market in Garstang and Poulton and to the dance in the near-by village. It was, too, on such tortuous Tacks that. my father first launched his way into the cycling world on a penny-farthing bicycle.


THOSE were the days when Billie the Dryster (the man who looked after the kiln) at Pilling windmill was experimenting with one of the new safety-bikes. Before Billie ventured on to the track he had the new bike slung between the beams of the barn that belonged to Mr. Gornall, one of the pioneers of motoring in the Fylde.

It is on record that on his first venture Billie ran down the steep incline at the kiln and through the hedge at the bottom. Things had improved by the time that I began "to knock the bark off my shins" on a bicycle. But there were still, all over the Fylde, places where the solid-tyred cars and charabancs were bumping and bouncing out of one pot-hole into the next.


ON a summer's day you were loft choking and gasping in a cloud of dust that blanketed the hedges and rolled away over the fields of the Fylde like a sand-storm. After a thunder shower the hedges were dripping mud and the pot-holes were full of water. The method of repairing these tracks was a simple one. At convenient places along the lane a heap of stones was tipped. From these a man with a wheel-barrow replenished his stocks as he filled the pot-holes with the aid of a shovel. It was around these heaps of stone that you would often see the old-time stone-breaker.

During the summer months he would sit on the heap of stones cracking the stones with a hammer. It looked a hard and blistering job. But not for the expert. He could do it at easily as feeding the chickens. Not all the stones were broken on the spot. Stone-breaking was one of the penalties of being a tramp in the Fylde, 40 and 50 years ago. Some of these wanderers, who drifted in at the gate of the Garstang Union Workhouse, were invited" to work their passage by breaking a heap of stones.



SOME of them looked twice at the heap of stones and rued the day that they ever became a tramp. They were hustled before a magistrate and sent to prison where they usually found an even greater heap of stones to tackle. The evidence of those tearful times. today, lies buried beneath the smooth coating of tar-mac on most of the roads of the Fylde.

We should be grateful for that tar. The only man that it almost put out of business was the village tailor. After a trip to Garstang market in the old days you needed a new suit. If you went in summer you got a dust-bath. If you were brave enough to face the perils of the road in winter you got a mud-bath. There was little to choose.

Search in local history