Restraining the River

The River Ribble was an important shipping route to and from northwest England for centuries and various quays and ports had been established along the estuary in places such as Lytham, Freckleton, Tarleton, Preston and Southport.  The shape of the estuary has changed over the centuries but prior to the nineteenth century these changes were as a result of natural processes and some minor human modifications.  For the most part the River Ribble was free to move as it wished restricted only by the movement of the north and southern river channels. 

 

The most significant changes however occurred during the nineteenth century as a result of pressure for better port facilities to meet the needs of the expanding cotton trade.  The unpredictable nature of the estuary channels and poor facilities for unloading cargoes in Preston led to proposals to straighten and deepen the river channel and create a dock in Preston.  The construction of training walls either side of the navigation channel began in the 1840s.  As silt was excavated to open up the new channel, it began to fill up off shore channels.  Landowners seized their chance and began to reclaim large areas of former salt marsh, foreshore and mudflats; a process that has continued until fairly recently.

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