The Fylde’s own ‘drowned village’

The Clifton Arms inn at Westby Mills, near Wrea Green.'Historical undated
The Clifton Arms inn at Westby Mills, near Wrea Green.'Historical undated

WAS a South Fylde village once deliberately flooded many years ago to make a reservoir?

Mrs L B, Newton

Yes. The village (more of a hamlet) that you are referring to was Westby Mills, which was situated between the main Blackpool to Preston Road and the M55 motorway, more or less midway from Wrea Green to Weeton.

It was comprised of the Roman Catholic Church of St Anne, a school, the Clifton Arms Inn, a couple of farms, a few cottages, and the remains of the two postmills (windmills) that gave it half of its name, presumably to distinguish it from its near neighbour Westby.

In 1873, the Fylde Water Board announced it was considering building a reservoir, which would mean the removal of the village.

The site was chosen because it was on high ground, but the plan did not go ahead, due to cost.

The main route from the coast to Preston was by a lane between the two mills, and one of the cottages developed into a successful ale house, so much so that the Clifton Estate replaced it with a new building, called the Clifton Arms Inn, in the early 19th century.

The Catholic church was erected in 1860-61 and later a presbytery and graveyard added, and in 1869 a school. During the First World War, the inn was a popular destination for the soldiers of the nearby Weeton Army Camp.

Bad news, however, struck in 1923, when the Fylde Water Board revived its plan for the reservoir, and the villagers were given notice to quit. The inn closed its doors for the last time in 1924, and the reservoir came into use in 1929.

A roof was added in the 1960s, but, prior to this, it was said that a full-time seagull scarer was employed!

The reservoir is 650ft in diameter, the sides slope two in one, and it has a capacity of 38m gallons.

The school finally closed in 1977 and is now a private house. However, the church is still going strong after 150 years,despite a disastrous fire on New Years Day 1965.

The current signpost, outside the church, was erected by Fylde Borough Council at the request of the then Fylde Councillor Mr C Butler in order to avoid confusion with its near neighbour Westby.

Much of this information is taken from Yesteryear in Westby and Great Plumpton published in 1992, written by Mrs Margaret M Yates. It is a delightful little history book full of memories contributed by local residents.

Alex Maitland and Matt Warhurst