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Slyne with Hest

Local History Group

The Hest Bank Wharf

The recent dramatic shift in the course of the Keer channel to within about 200 m of the shore at Hest Bank has revealed a long lost relic. In fact we had no idea that the old Hest Bank Wharf, presumably built in the early days of the canal, was such a substantial object. We are used to seeing the odd wooden stump rising from the sand but now you can visit the remains of the wharf where the boats would tie up to load and unload goods transshipped to the canal at the warehouse opposite the HB hotel. The wharf was constructed from huge dressed sandstone blocks with wooden beams still strapped to the walls. It is an amazing site and ought to be properly surveyed by experts. Does anyone have pictures of the wharf as it was when in use?
If you go down there please check the tide table and be very careful of quicksand. The bay is a dangerous place.

Click here for more information on the wharf and the canal warehouse (pdf format)

Here is a transcript of the report sent to us by Peter Iles of Lancashire County Archeology Department:

Hest Bank Wharf 19.7.04 

by Peter Iles (Special advisor, archaeology, Lancashire County Council)

Further to our notes about the Hest Bank jetty last week, I visited the site on Sunday and took a lot of photographs. The structure is in the form of an inverted 'V', very similar to the edge of the shading marked by the word 'Breakwater' on the OS first edition 1:10,560 map of 1848 (sheet Lancs 31, surveyed 1845).  I have taken a few rough measurements and compass readings and will try and get them to line up on a modern map tomorrow.

The wooden baulks attached to the north-eastern face of the stonework certainly look like rubbing strips or fenders.  These can be followed up into the salt marsh, but I was not able to tell if the ones closer to the shore were also fixed to stone blocks.  This suggests that the boats tied up to this side, and thus the probable railing (the rusty iron strips and the regular line of holes in the stonework, some with lead still in them) along the sloping western side of the stonework would not have been in the way of loading.  I am not sure quite what is going on with the wooden baulks high up on this western side, they look a little like a later alteration or adjustment to the structure using material scavenged from another part of the jetty, but I don't know what for - it may be significant that there appears to be a step or other incut in the upper stonework here.

The round post in the middle of the structure clamped between two blocks, looks like it might be the base of a davit or crane, given that they have gone to so much trouble to clamp the blocks together, but it could have held a pole with a light, flag or other marker on it, as an aid to navigation.

Also discovered (not by me but by the other people there at the same time) was a large number of spent bullets at the southern end of the sloping western masonry, fairly well concentrated in one place.  I recovered some, and was given a few, and have taken them to the County Museum Service where Dr Steven Bull (who is an expert in this field) has identified them as small-arms ammunition of the 1850s-1880s.  A large bullet with a hollow base was most probably a Martini-Henry 0.577/0.450 caliber rifle bullet of the later 1870's (think Michael Caine in 'Zulu'), whilst the many small bullets with the very flat front 'splashes' may well be revolver ammunition of 0.350-0.370 caliber perhaps of a similar or slightly later date.  Some of these smaller bullets have letters or numbers on their bases - presumably maker's information.  Dr Bull suggested that someone could have set up a steel or iron plate target just off the end of the jetty so they could shoot from the beach or marsh, without risking hitting anyone behind the target, and used the abandoned jetty as a convenient spot to site it.  They MAY have been related to a formal practice range of the county militias of the
period, or just an individual improving their marksmanship.  I have digital photographs of my recovered examples and the find- spot if anyone would like copies - Dr Ashworth, would you like the bullets for the City Museum and/or
would you like to send them off for further examination?