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The Story of Freckleton
The village of Freckleton is situated in an area of Lancashire known as The Fylde, on the North shore at the mouth of the river Ribble. The rivers Dow and Douglas also join the Ribble nearby. Freckleton was used by the Romans as a port serving their fort at Kirkham, a few miles inland. The name Freckleton however is an Anglo-Saxon name and was given to the township of Freckleton. "Freck" doubtless alluded to the temperament of the inhabitants, as they were known to the people of the surrounding districts – and while it can mean "lusty", it can also mean "eager to be quarrelsome, or defend a dispute". Maybe it continued from their Roman period, when they would make forays to rescue young men being taken away from their port as conscripts. "Ton" is the Saxon word for "an enclosed place".
From the medieval period the place has certainly belied the later meaning, as history has shown it a peaceful oasis away from the turmoil of the times – just away from the north road and surrounded by marshes. Before the Conquest by William in 1066 the land formed part of Earl Tosig’s Lordship of Preston and "was held by a family assuming the name of Freckleton".
After the Conquest William had an inventory of his newly conquered lands made. This was done in 1086 and known as the Great National Book of Winchester – but generally known as The Domesday Book, Freckleton is recorded there though the name is spelt FRECHELTON, and is written as Frechelton Manors. Which consisted of four caracates of land. These would normally be ploughed or "worked" land. Four caracates would equate to 400 acres. On the scale of the times that would constitute a very thriving place.
Early records show the spelling as FREQUELTON –1212, FREKELTON – 1242 and FREKILTON – 1244. Roger de Freckleton is the first recorded member of the family in 1199. In 1201, the second year of King John’s reign, a record occurs in the Lancaster Records – a personal property of the monarch – that one R de Frekelton made a payment of five marks, (Approximately Three Pounds thirty Pence) for the use of the pasture "Brechemor", (Breckmoor). This is quite a large sum for that period, and the land must have been extensive and of value. This R de Frekelton may have been either Ralph or Richard, since both names often occur in the family at this time.
Not until the 13th century do we find an extended list of local landowners, again the "Freckeltons", who had by now become several different related families: Richard, John, Ralph, Ivan, etc.
It should be understood that in medieval England the only "Landowner" was the King. Various parcels of England were then passed down, or leased, for services or "enfoeffed" as it was called. A whole county or two may be leased to an Earl and payment may be in men for the King’s army or in cash, raised as taxes. The Earl would then continue to sub-divide the county and receive the promise of men, goods or money for it. Records show that the heirs of Adam de Freckleton held their lands from Alice, daughter of the Earl of Lincoln, owner of the manor. Another de Freckleton, Robert, also had extensive land holdings, while the family also held Wittingham Hall from the same Alice Lacey, daughter of the Earl of Lincoln. In 1199 a water mill was in existence owned by Sir Richard Freckleton, son of Roger. By 1242 he held more than half the land in Freckleton.
The Hall was no doubt passed on to the various, Richards, Adams, Ralphs, Johns, Henrys and Roberts until about 1427, when Joan, daughter of a Ralph de Freckleton carried it to her husband, William Muddleston. This seems to be the last direct Freckleton connection with the Manor. The manor did pass to various families and the last recorded occupier appears to be the Sharples family in 1618. It then disappears from records. However records show that in this period a Thomas Freckleton married Alice Sharples and his sister Elizabeth Freckleton married Alice’s brother George Sharples. So undoubtedly the Freckleton’s remained connected to the Hall.
In 1615 a new Mill and house were built and in 1699 were sold to the Earl of Derby. It later passed to the Clifton family in 1850. Farmers from all over the Fylde brought corn to be ground at this mill and it was still in full working order until 1915! Incidentally, in hard winters villagers would skate on the millpond to violin and melodeon music. This musical tradition has continued through the years and Freckleton has had a prize-winning brass band for over a hundred years. The current band is in the Championship Brass Band Category and has recorded a CD; they also have a "Home Page" on the Internet!
Sailcloth was made in the village for many years, for the early boating industry. Cargoes of wood, grain and slate arrived, mainly from Connah’s Quay on the river Dee and sometimes from Ireland. Coal was unloaded daily coming from Wigan up the river Douglas to Freckleton. In 1814 a shipyard was established and the first ocean going vessel was built in 1871. Six schooners, ten Sharking boats, a sailing yacht and five barges were built. In later years the shipyard serviced all the lifeboats in the North West of England.
The Freckletons last recorded connection with the village seems to be a Ralph de Freckleton who held what was termed a "meessuage" or dwelling house with outbuildings and lands. He died in 1632 but did leave an heir, Henry. A Sir Ferdinando Freckleton was knighted in Dublin castle on James I coronation day 10th of July 1603. Ferdinando also received a BA from Oxford University in 1573. How he came by the very Spanish name of Ferdinando would be an interesting story. Ferdinando probably accompanied the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, to Ireland in 1599. Essex was a magnet for young men of the time wanting adventure and looking forward to the day when the old Queen would be no more. Ferdinando was in some ways fortunate not to be knighted by the Earl of Essex. The Earl knighted some 59 young gentlemen during his Irish campaign. This was contrary to the Queens orders and it was one of the reasons that Essex was executed in 1601. These men who had been knighted by Essex were always referred to in a derogatory fashion as "Irish Knights". Ferdinando avoided this and was the recipient of a Coronation day honour given by James I. No doubt Ferdinando remained in Ireland and began the Irish branch of the family.
The family seems to have been originally established in County Armagh, in Keady, or close by in County Monahan. In 1900 they were still there and some of the family had lived in the same home for over a hundred years. By the 1700s this branch were firmly established in Co.Armagh, Co.Down and Co.Antrim. Due no doubt to their accents the name began to be spelt Frackleton by some of the family. In the early and mid 1800s as the famines swept over Ireland the family began to spread its wings again. Various members immigrated to Australia; New Zealand, Scotland, England and one branch of the family through a John Orr Freckleton established itself in Utah, USA. While others moved to Rhode Island, New York, Menard County Illinois and Montana Territory. One of the family in the USA, a Susan Frackelton took to the art of pottery in the late 19th century. Some of her work now is valued at $6.000 a piece.
In 1901 John Orr Freckleton returned to Co.Armagh for a visit and his diary records that he visited Keady and a Joshua Freckleton and the "house on the hill, the home of the Freckletons for over a hundred years". He writes, "In plain sight on an eminence a mile distant I see the ancient homestead of Samuel Freckleton, father of this family. The place is called Tullnagur and is in the county Monahan." The diary also records a meeting with Mrs. Margaret M Freckleton, the wife of Andy Freckleton. "Her husband was killed in a pit in Scotland. Some man squeezed him against the top of the mine where it was low until he died." It appears he and the other man were quarrelling about a car or trolley and the result was Andy’s murder. To day there are still Frackletons living in Northern Ireland, in Belfast.
During the 1400s the Freckletons show up in the Midlands of England where a Thomas Freckleton is shown in the Guild Book of Stratford on Avon and an Edmund Freckleton was admitted to the same guild in 1506. This line lists a George Freckleton as Vicar of Budworth in the County of Warwick and a John Freckleton of the Priory Warwick. However they seemed to have become centred in the little town of Spandon in Derbyshire from the early 1600s until about 1813. This branch is still located in the Midlands in and around Leicestershire. In the middle of the 19th century this branch was using Freckelton as the spelling of the name.
A Henry Freckleton born in Co.Armagh married a Margaret McCreary in Stirlingshire, Scotland and the Scottish branch of the family was founded. Again though the spelling of the name was changed, probably by accents or semi literate clerks. This time it became Frickleton and shows up in 1876 with a Robert Frickleton, one of the ten children of Henry that adopted this spelling. Subsequently some of this branch immigrated to New Zealand and one Samuel Frickleton, who was born in Slamannan, Stirlingshire, earned the Victoria Cross in World War I.
Lance Corporal, later Captain Samuel Frickleton, 3 Bn, 3rd N.Z (Rifle) Brigade, N.Z.E.F was gazetted on Aug 2nd 1917. His citation reads; "On 7th June 1917 at Messines, Belgium, Lance-Corporal Frickleton, although slightly wounded, dashed forward at the head of his section, pushed into our barrage and personally destroyed with bombs and enemy machine-gun crew which was causing heavy casualties. He then attacked a second gun killing all the crew of twelve. By the destruction of these two guns he undoubtedly saved his own and other units from very severe casualties. During the consolidation of this position he received a second severe wound." Samuel Frickleton survived the war and died in Wellington, New Zealand on September 1st 1971 aged eighty.
In the mid 1800s the family was also re-establishing roots in Lancashire, though this time not in a small rural village but the then booming port of Liverpool. At the time of returning members of the family were using both the spelling Freckleton and Frackleton and some used Frackelton. It was inevitable that members of the Liverpool group became involved in shipping, two members of the family lost their lives at sea in World War II.
Then on a late summer day in 1944 the village of Freckleton burst into the news. On Wednesday August 23rd of that year at 10:30 in the morning an American Air Force B24H was cleared for take-off from nearby Warton’s runway 08. Warton was the home of a USAF repair facility and this aeroplane was being test flown by Ist Lt John Bloemendal with T/Sgt Jimmie Parr as Co-pilot and Sgt Gordon Kinney as Flight Engineer. Shortly after the aircraft took off warning was received that a violent storm was approaching the area and an immediate recall was issued to Bloemendal’s aircraft and another that was also on a test flight. By the time the two bombers returned to Warton the storm was at it’s height. The two aircraft turned to hold clear of the storm.
Witnesses related that the rain was so heavy that it was impossible to see across the road. The wind uprooted trees and thunder and lightning rolled across the sky. However, John Bloemendal and his crew were caught in a massive downdraught as they headed away and the B24 plunged to earth in the centre of Freckleton. The aircraft totally destroyed the Sad Sac café on the north side of the Lytham Road where some American and RAF personnel had joined civilians sheltering from the storm. The bomber crossed the road and ploughed into the infant class of Freckleton’s Holy Trinity School, causing massive loss of life. Petrol from the aircraft tanks exploded and the centre of the village was engulfed in flames.
From the infant classroom only 3 children emerged alive, 35 children and 2 teachers died. One of the teachers, a Miss Jenny Hall, had only arrived at the school the day before the accident. Bodies of six Americans and four RAF members along with several civilians were recovered from the café. Several of the more seriously injured victims died within the next weeks. The total death toll was 61.
The majority of the victims were buried in a communal grave in the village’s Holy Trinity Churchyard. A year later two thousand people watched the official opening of a Memorial Playground constructed by American servicemen as a permanent memorial. A bronze plaque set into a seven-ton block of granite is the centrepiece of an ornamental garden. The money raised from a memorial fund became the centre of a prolonged and bitter wrangle and two fractions fought for thirty years over whether to build a new school or a village hall. Meanwhile the money was invested until finally the decision was made to build a village hall. A new school having been built in the meantime! By the time the decision was made the cash had dwindled in real terms to about a third of it’s original value and only provided a tenth of the 60,000 Pound cost of the new hall, which finally opened in September 1977.
In the 1990’s the village is being encroached upon by the city of Preston from the East and Lytham St Annes from the West. The major employer in the area is British Aerospace located at Warton, just a few miles West.
Today the tourists guide for the Fylde says, "Freckleton is one of the oldest and largest of the Fylde villages. It is a former port situated on the Ribble estuary and gives access to the Lancashire Coastal Way walking route. Freckleton is renowned for its annual Music Festival, which is the largest rural festival in the country."
From humble beginnings in a little town on the shore of the Irish Sea the name has spread to Ireland, Scotland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. A Dam in Australia and a bank Building in the USA carry the name. We probably speak a hundred different accents and our common name gets pronounced ten different ways. Some probably do know where the name comes from and some may not even care. But the name and the little village of Freckleton have survived for two thousand years, let us hope they can survive two thousand more.
E.C.Freckleton, Ontario Canada.