Lytham Windmill, The Fylde Coast, Lancashire
The Fylde is a an area of the Lancashire Coast that looks out across the Irish Sea. Bordered to the North by the River Wyre and here at Lytham in the south, the River Ribble. Across the sands that are a feature of the Ribble estuary, lies the resort of Southport.
Today the attraction of Lytham’s seafront is a long promenade edge by a broad grass ‘green promenade’.
Lytham Windmill is a distinctive landmark for the town. Whilst windmills have long featured in the Fylde’s history, Lytham Mill was only built in 1805 (though suggestions are that an early mill was on this location). It was built as a grain mill. The interior shafts and milling equipment supposedly were from other mills. By all accounts it was a productive mill.
Lytham Mill is a Four Sail Windmill. Only 3 on the images, as one ‘replica’ sail was lost in high winds a few years ago. Nor are those replica sails the correct size. Originally they were much longer….. and that is why there is a plinth around the base – built to keep both people and animals away from the dangers of the rotating sails.
Whilst Lytham started to prosper and become both a ‘new’ home for Lancashire Industrialist and as a Seaside Resort, thanks to the Railways. The Mill continued its work. But it was also became an added, and interesting visitor attraction.
Fortunes changed in 1919. A sudden severe Gale sent the giant sails into a uncontrolled spin. The brakes wouldn’t hold and in the process became hot and set the building alight. Interior, Cap and Sails all destroyed.
In 1921 the Stump of the windmill was given to the people of Lytham. Restoration work was undertaken. A new replica Dome or Cap fitted, sails added and interior workings for demonstration installed.. It became at times a museum, cafe and at one point an electric substation. But age and damp became an issue.
So in 1987 the Council attracted funds and refurbished the Windmill as we see it today. Still attracting visitors as it did in Victorian days.
Sheltering in the lea of the Windmill is another very important building… The Lytham Lifeboat Station. Important both in terms of Local History but also a very significant moment in the history of the Royal Life Boat Institution.
In severe gales on the 9th December 1886, the Lytham Lifeboat was launched. It was summoned to take part in an attempt to rescue a German Cargo Boat ‘The Mexico’. Mexico had departed Liverpool on its way back to the Americas. The gales blew it relentlessly toward the River Ribble and the extensive sandbanks that straddle the estuary from Southport to Lytham.
The Lytham Lifeboat was not alone. Sister Lifeboats from Southport and St, Annes on Sea were also sent to the rescue. The weather was described as extremely sever and the task of reaching the distressed vessel near impossible. Boats who’s only power was the brute strength of the manpower, with long oars, supplied by the volunteer crews manning each of the boats, it was indeed a tough task and a very big ask..
The Lytham Lifeboat managed to rescue 12 crew from the wreckage of the Mexico (I believe this was the entire crew) and returned them to the safety of dryland.
But the event does not reach a happy conclusion. Both the Southport and the St. Annes Lifeboats were overwhelmed by the rough seas. All Lifeboat crew drowned. 14 volunteers for the Southport boat and 13 from St. Annes…. all of course, like all Lifeboat men today…. Volunteers.
The Mexico Disaster is still the worst in the history of the Lifeboat Service.
The wreck of the Mexico was later found washed up on sandbanks in the estuary. Interestingly, some many years later, the Anchor above, was snagged in the nets of a fishing vessel working off the coastal estuary. It is believed to be, and may well be, the anchor from the Mexico.
Not sure just why the Lifeboat Station was built here in the shadow of the Mill…. but it seems to be ‘just right’. Today the building houses a restored Lifeboat of a similar era and is also a Museum for the RNLI and related local history.
The Building also has the additions of weather shelters for visitors to Lytham Promenade…. a venue of rescue of a very different form.
The RNLI is there for those who need help on the seas and sands around our coast… So lets
Please Remember ….
Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other
(C) David Oakes 2021