A Short History of Banks
The village of Banks is situated 6 miles north of Southport just off the A565 bypass to Preston. Although Banks is shown on a chart of 1730, real development didn’t begin until after 1800 when Southport itself started to grow.
The name itself may be derived from the mounds of earth used to trap salt for the preservation of meat. There was a 13th century settlement of monks in Banks producing salt from seawater before salt was developed in Cheshire. Or the name may have derived from the fortifications to stop the sea flooding the rich agricultural land.
In the early days farming and fishing were the main occupations and some hand weaving was done making sailcloth. Fishermen spent their time cockling, shrimping and mussel gathering and cockling was the main source of income for “Bonksers” for 60 years. Shrimping, which is still carried on today was a huge industry and involved the women as ‘shillers’ – shellers of shrimp. The speed they accomplished this is amazing to see.
The black fertile soil of the area made it ideal for growing lettuce, celery, tomatoes and potatoes and produce was taken by cart to Southport and Preston. This was helped by the advent of the Southport to Preston branch of the railway and the link from Banks was opened in 1878.
The abundance of produce did not make Banks wealthy and many lived in poverty in wattle and daub cottages. Potatoes were the mainstay of the diet with buttermilk and eels added variety with a pig often kept by the family.
There were three pubs in Banks and the last was demolished in 1910. In 1922 the Farmer’s Arms was built as a private house but the strong Methodist tradition of teetotalism prevailed until 1961 when it was opened as a pub. The name has now changed to The New Fleetwood.
The village has its own Brass Band founded about 1875 as the Banks Rechabite Band and it still plays regular concerts throughout the year.
There are 2 churches in Banks with associated schools – St Stephens-in –the-Banks and the Methodist Chapel. Some of the old white washed cottages still remain but there is a mix of the old and new with new houses and estates being built in recent years. Street names are a delight with New Lane Pace, Square House Lane, Sugar Stubbs Lane and Ralph’s Wife’s Lane to name a few.