Lytham through history - East Beach Lytham in 1904

Lytham through History

Did you know that the Fylde Coast is believed to have been populated since the Bronze Age? Have a look at our potted version looking back at Lytham through history.

Thanks go once again to Nick Moore, author of the History of Blackpool, for some of the information in this page. It might inspire you to find out more!

Back in the Mists of Time…

Lytham through history has had a number of different names. They include Lidun, Lithun, Lithum (around 1190) and Lethum (around 1347).

Medieval Ages

The name is thought to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon “Hlidtun”, which means “town in the hills” – sandhills? Historians think that the Anglo-Saxons first settled in the Lytham area round about the year 600.

In Anglo-Saxon and Medieval times the Fylde Coast was known as Amounderness. The Hundred of Amounderness is one of the six subdivisions of the historic county of Lancashire. If you’re curious about this old name, there’s a full explanation here on Wikipedia.


In 907 those Vikings from Ireland attacked Chester but were defeated and moved off to the Wirral. From there, they slowly moved northwards into West Lancashire and beyond. Formby was a large Viking settlement. After moving, these Vikings later became overlords of the Lytham area, and Viking place names such as Kilgrimol and Kellamergh date from now.

Like a number of other places on this coast, Lytham was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. ‘Lidun’ is its name at this point of Lytham through history.

Arrival of the Monks

In 1199, Richard Fitzroger gave his estate, by then known as Lethun, to Durham’s Benedictine Monks. They established a small priory at the site of the present Lytham Hall. It remained until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, when ownership passed to the Crown.

Richard Fitzroger is also known as Richard of Woodplumpton. He’d been granted Lytham by King John. The last of Lytham’s overlords to be descended from a Viking, his new name being evidence of the Anglicisation of Viking names.

Many of the Benedictine and other monks came to Lytham by crossing the River Ribble from Hesketh Bank. The Ribble has always had crossing points, although never bridged to the west of Preston.

For many years crossings were made from Lytham to Longton and Hesketh Bank – both guided and unguided. Many privately owned ferries also sailed across the estuary until their trade petered out in the 1840’s. When the Ribble was dredged to allow bigger ships into Preston, all crossings from Lytham ended.

The Boundary with Blackpool

In the 12th century, a boundary was drawn between the Saxon fishing village of Lytham and the Manor of Layton. A Boundary Cross on what is now Division Lane marked it. Division Lane itself used to run right down to the sea and its remains can still be seen near the hump-backed bridge on the St Anne’s Nature Reserve. Lytham and St Anne’s are traditionally separated by an unseen boundary – at Smithy Lane in the east and King Edward Avenue in the west.

The estate of Lethum – known as the Hawes – amounted to over 5,000 acres of land stretching from Lytham to the Black Pool (Manchester Square). Richard gave 3,600 acres of this to his daughters Maud and Quenelda. It’s that portion – stretching as far north as “the cross in the Hawes” (Cross Slack) – which was eventually confirmed in 1230 as having been granted to the new priory.

The Priory

The monks built a cell, or priory, that was inhabited for many years by a small cell of just 3 monks (although in 1307, there was just one), a few servants, and a prior. The priory was dedicated to “The Blessed Mary and Saint Cuthbert”, and was designed like a manor house. When dissolved, it was listed as having a hall, bakehouse, brew house, granary, horse mill, and a windmill.

Richard’s grant states “all my land of Lytham with the church of that town and all things appurtenant to that church, for the establishment there of a house of their order”. That priory, on the site of Lytham Hall, replaced the original one, which had stood near to the future site of St Cuthbert’s Church.

In the mid-13rd century, the monks were granted a great deal of land in Warton, Kellamergh, and Freckleton, after the deaths of several landowners from those villages. By 1338, the cell had clearly expanded, as the priory is shown as owning “55 cows, 39 plough oxen, 213 sheep, 1 bull, 28 bullocks, 46 pigs, 60 geese, 80 chickens, and 10 horses”. There was still only the prior and two monks, but they were served by many pages and other staff.

Plague hits the Fylde

Did you know? That in 1349/50 The Black Death, which had hit Southern England in 1348, reached the Fylde area. Between September 1349 and January 1350, the plague killed many people – including 800 known to have died in Poulton, 3,000 in Kirkham area, 500 in Lytham, 300 in St Michael’s, and over 1,000 in Cockerham. At least half the local population are known to have died, but the disease was mainly confined to centres of population where sanitation was worst.

Hostilities with the Locals

The Benedictine priors at Lytham were initially under the purview of Durham Priory. But in 1443, the monks at Lytham severed their links with Durham and began to manage their own affairs. Documentary evidence suggests that the Priory was on hostile terms with the locals. Several priors asked to be returned to Durham during the late 14th century because the hostilities became too much for some.

The priory was dissolved in 1534, but until 1539, a single monk remained. After that lone monk left, they still controlled coastal matters for many years. A 10-year spell followed where the manor lost 600 acres of land to the encroaching sands. At the dissolution of Durham, Lytham priory was taken over by the Crown and let to the sitting tenant, Thomas Dannet, on the 4th of March 1539. In 1545, he sold his lease to Ellen Rogerly, who was born a Clifton, and then, in 1554, Queen Mary granted the manor to Thomas Holcroft. His heir sold it in 1597, to Sir Richard Molyneux, and in 1606, Molyneux sold it to Cuthbert Clifton, the owner of the nearby Westby Hall.

The Arrival of the Cliftons

The manor of Lytham had a number of owners until Cuthbert Clifton paid £4300 for it in 1606. He enlarged the manor house and made it the family seat, which was in use until 1757 when it was replaced with the present Lytham Hall.

Lytham Hall today
Lytham Hall today

On 18 and 19 December 1719, a flood disaster in Lytham washed away 175 houses and the “sea cops” (turf-covered bankings).

A new Seaside Town

By now, Lytham was a town in its own right, and had acquired a name as a seaside resort. At this point St Annes didn’t yet exist.

In 1873, the Cliftons built a chapel dedicated to St Anne to serve the tiny hamlet of Heyhouses. Heyhouses was at the northern end of Lytham among the sand dunes. Of course this became the parish church of St Annes, and the settlement around it continued to grow from the late 1800’s onwards.

Did you know? Whether they were introduced by the Romans or the Normans, the rabbits which lived in the warrens in the dunes at Lytham were caught for their meat and fur.

The Clifton’s remained the leading family in Lytham until the middle of the 1900’s. You’ll often see the name in the area, and two main roads are also named after them.

Clifton Street in Lytham town centre
Clifton Street in Lytham town centre

The Growth of Lytham through History

In 1846, a branch of the Preston and Wyre railway line made it to Lytham. Then in 1863 it was extended along the shore to Blackpool, with stations at Ansdell and St. Anne’s.

Did you know that an electric tramway once ran from Lytham, passing through St. Anne’s to South Shore?

Trams running along Clifton Street Lytham in 1909. Photo: Tuck Postcards.
Trams running along Clifton Street Lytham in 1909. Photo: Tuck Postcards.

There was once a small pool on the eastern side of Lytham, used when larger boats couldn’t make it any further along the River Ribble to Preston. A graving dock there led to the establishment of shipbuilding works. The nearby hamlet of Saltcotes is said to be named after a salt refinery once worked there.

The market-house was built in 1848. A cottage hospital was opened in 1871, and Lytham Institute, containing the library, opened the following year. At the same time Mr. Clifton gave the Lowther Gardens at the west end of the town. By this point the public baths are open on the central beach – now the Assembly Rooms.

Lytham Assembly Rooms
Front entrance to Lytham Assembly Rooms

The Rise and Fall of the Cliftons

Thomas Joseph Clifton (1788–1851) was the one who extensively remodelled the estate by extending the surrounding parkland.

Thomas Joseph Clifton - 1788-1851
Thomas Joseph Clifton – 1788-1851

A later Clifton, Colonel John Talbot, MP for North Lancashire, passed Lytham Hall to his 14-year-old grandson, the colourful John Talbot Clifton. During his time the railway was built along the estate’s southern boundary and part of the land sold for housing. The house was then used as a military hospital during the First World War.

The Cliftons went to live first in Ireland in 1919, then Scotland in 1922 and Lytham Hall became neglected. Clifton was a passionate traveller and died in 1928 on an expedition to Timbuktu with his wife, Violet Beauclerk. She was the last person to live in the house. Their wayward film producer son, Henry de Vere Clifton, squandered most of the family’s wealth.

Lytham Hall finally passed out of family ownership in 1979. It went through several corporate ownerships until the present day. It’s now managed by Heritage Trust for the North West. A major restoration programme began in 2012.

Built by the Industrialists

For many centuries, Lytham was dependent on shrimping and fishing. With the advent of tourism it became famous as a seaside resort and for health cures.

It became popular with wealthy industrialists from central Lancashire. They first came to visit Lytham for their health. Then then built holiday and retirement properties in the area.

East Beach Lytham in 1904
East Beach Lytham in 1904

Some of the oldest buildings are to be found on Henry Street and Dicconson Terrace. All over Lytham you’ll see attractive period properties and public buildings from the past. For example the schools which were opened for the sons and daughters of the industrialists.

Large scale development started to take place with the advent of the railways, and Lytham still has its own station. The railway enabled easier movement around the area than on the poor road network, and larger numbers of people came to visit.

The poor quality sand dunes had previously been of little commercial use, so they were levelled for residential building. Sale of the land shaped the Lytham that we see today and generated huge amounts of income and ground rents for the Cliftons.

More Old Photos of Lytham through History

Take a look at more old picture postcard views of old Lytham here

Are you on Pinterest? Visit Fylde Coast is. Why don’t you join us there? We’ve got boards for all the local areas, including this one of photos of Old Lytham.

'Old Lytham' Pinterest Board from Visit Fylde Coast
‘Old Lytham’ Pinterest Board from Visit Fylde Coast

What do you know?

We’re sure that there’s much, much more interesting information about the Lytham area. Have you got anything to add?

Simply leave a message below, or, if you’ve got photos to share, just email Full credit will be given.

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1 thought on “Lytham through History”

  1. I lived in Dock Road in the 1940″s and went to St Johns school (opposite the windmill) the shiyard in Dock Road was busy during the war. I remember watching the launch of a newly built ship in the early 1940″s. (the ship the Africa Queen used in the film of that name was also built there in 1910

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