Settlement and Stability

Little is known of the Iron Age (800 BC – c.70AD) population of the area, although in the latter part of the period a Celtic group called the Setantii, part of the larger Brigantian tribe, may have been present, having displaced earlier settlers.  Archaeological evidence suggests that settlement is likely to have occurred where suitable sites existed, with little change from the earlier periods.  There may well have been some limited Roman military activity in the area prior to the formal 'conquest' in the 70s AD, when the River Ribble was used to bring in troops.  A small fort was established at Dowbridge, Kirkham, and was linked by a road running east to the major fort at Ribchester. Once the area was pacified, the Kirkham site was abandoned and a manufacturing and trading site was established at Walton le Dale, where the river was crossed by the Roman road running from Wigan to Lancaster.  West of this road, both north and south of the Ribble, Roman influence seems to have been minimal, and no doubt most of the existing 'native' population continued to live as they always had.

Following the end of Roman rule, successive waves of settlers from mainland Europe probably infiltrated, merged with and displaced the Celtic population, and, from perhaps 800-900AD parties of Scandinavian origin ('Vikings') came to the northwest coast via Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.  They set up home on islands within the moss land and meres evidenced by place names such as Kirkham, Ainsdale, Formby and Hesketh.  The pattern of such names does not suggest invasion, but a more gradual settlement, perhaps using areas that were not already occupied by the existing Saxon folk.  The Domesday Book (1086AD) records the land around the Ribble as "a place of forest and marsh, a few small towns and a scattering of villages held together by a primitive framework of feudal overlords and widely scattered churches."

After the Norman Conquest (1066) the kingdom needed to be secured from uprising and so land was allocated to the King's followers which in the case of land both sides of the Ribble was Roger de Poitou.  Lesser lords were quickly appointed and the Norman feudal system established.  There followed a period of relative stability and increased prosperity, as new land management and agricultural techniques allowed the establishment of new settlements and a significant increase of population. 




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