If you’re familiar with Lytham Green, you’ll know that the RNLI and the Ribble Cruising Club is at the western side of Lytham Windmill. But you might not know about the heritage of the Mussel Tanks which once stood there. Above photo: Sue Massey
Have you seen the Mussel Tanks?
Lytham St Annes Civic Society has carried out an improvement scheme which celebrates the heritage of the area. The Mussel Tank site was officially opened in May 2019, in a ceremony performed by David Cam, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire.
The base on which the RNLI and Cruising Club buildings now stand was two of the three sections of the former Mussel Tanks. There, shellfish was once cleaned before being sold. The tanks fell into disuse in the 1940’s before the industry ended in the 1950’s. Read on to find out more about its history.
For some time the remaining section of concrete tank became an informal swimming pool!
Fylde Council owns the site which had several commercial uses over the years – all of which had met with an unsatisfactory ending. Local people wanted to protect against commercial development of the seafront, and so the Civic Society stepped in with this project.
Views, History and Wildlife
The improved area is a lovely place to sit and admire the amazing views over the Ribble estuary. It also tells the story of the shellfish industry through interpretation, artwork and sculpture.
An ‘art wall’ displays ceramic tiles portraying local features produced by students at Lytham Sixth Form College as part of their coursework.
There’s also a large-scale mussel carved in stone by Sculptor Martyn Bednarczuk (sponsored by the Ribble Rivers Trust). You can just see it at the top right of this photo –
Information signs explain the history of the area and which flora and fauna you’re likely to see.
Improvements to the Mussel Tank site
Since as far back as 2010, Lytham St Annes Civic Society has been working on proposals for the improvement of the site. So they were pleased see their long-running plans to improve the prominent area on Lytham Green finally come to fruition.
Their vision is the new low-key design which retains the ambience of Lytham Green, improves the area and makes it usable by everyone when the weather is good. The Civic Society secured funding for the £130,000 project which includes information and photos about the tanks when they were in use, and various artworks.
Delivering the Project
Lytham St Annes Civic Society sponsored the improvement project. They gratefully acknowledge the support of the Tom Blasson Foundation, the Lytham Schools Foundation, and Fylde Council.
The design is by BCA Landscape (Chartered Landscape Architects). The contract was awarded to Landscape Engineering Ltd of Padiham.
The Friends of the Estuary and the RSPB assisted with the production of information signs which explain the history of mussel fishing and flora and fauna of the area.
Find out More about the Mussel Tank Project on the LSA Civic Society website
History of the Mussel Tanks
The Mussel tanks were built in 1934 to to enable fishermen to clean their catch after several outbreaks of food poisoning linked to eating shellfish caught in the Ribble Estuary.
They cost Lancashire County Council £8000 to build and were opened in 1935 by the Chair of the Mussels Purification Sub-Committee. They were for use by members of the Lytham and Banks Fisherman’s Co-operative Society.
The mussels were collected in bags, hosed off in three large tanks and left for about three days, to self-cleanse through their natural filtering process. Remember that the sea wasn’t as clean then as it is today. The bags stood on low brick pillars, echoed in the paving of the new design.
The three tanks were:
- Storage tank – now the Mussel Tank
- Chlorination tank – now the Ribble Cruising Club
- Cleansing tank – now the RNLI
- and a Storage area – since demolished
Up to 600 bags per week were harvested and taken to local markets to sell and by 1946 up to 12,000 bags of mussels were cleaned here each year.
Mussels were brought here from all over this coastline, some from as far away as Morecambe Bay. In those days before farming, shellfish was collected from wild beds on the seashore. Selling uncleaned mussels from the River Ribble was prohibited.
But by the mid 1950’s the beds had been closed down, mainly because of changes in the Ribble channel which made restocking the beds impossible.
While you’re here…
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