Now this page has been the subject of some debate. Are there still ramps at Cleveleys – or aren’t there? The jury is still out – read the evidence and see what you think…
What are Ramps?
Today you’ll probably think of disabled access, or bits of wood for kids to make skateboard jumps. But these ramps at Cleveleys were part of the original sea defences, built many years ago long before the days of concrete.
Where are the Ramps at Cleveleys?
From Thornton Gate heading towards Fleetwood, at the right hand side of the tram tracks, there are some mounds of earth (see the above photo at College Farm and close up of it below).
Thanks go to Mike Pollard, intrepid local historians and Visit Cleveleys reader for this information. Mike has researched the past of these unassuming piles of soil.
His investigations begin at the end of Thornton Gate with what turned out to be a false start. But it led him to the right thing, a little bit further along the line.
Here’s what Mike has found out, and our readers have helped to fill in some more of the gaps. If you can add anything please get in touch – email jane@theRabbitPatch.co.uk
Uncovering the Ramps at Cleveleys
Adjacent to the tram tracks at Thornton Gate, Cleveleys, behind Dorset Avenue, is what I originally thought appeared to be the last complete section of “Ramp”. The ramps were built in the 1800’s, probably by the Hesketh family to protect their Thornton Estate from high tides.
The vertical long sausage shape in the centre of the picture suggests there may be a ramp on Dorset Avenue, with the tramway to the left.
Note that this image dates back to 2010 and the compound is still in place dating back to the tramway works!
The mound is fenced off and appears to fall within the restricted area of a tramway electrical substation / yard, which is probably why it’s not been flattened by now.
Evidence in old maps
The 1912 O.S. map of the area (below) shows the full size of the ramp from Rossall to Thornton. But the remaining area which we see adjacent to the tram substation looks identical in both size and position.
The original ramp was about 2 miles long, running from nearly as far East as Meadows Ave. Thornton, (Rowland Farm) up to Rossall Road and then North as far as Rossall School. (Mike says) “I can just remember seeing some of it as a kid in the field where the A585 crosses Victoria Road now.
“The 1912 map shows it running alongside the tram track, but initially I wasn’t sure which was there first. It also looks redundant on this map as there are a number of gaps in it where roads have been built. Substantial concrete sea defences were added in 1927 but there must have been something before that.”
Below: the other smaller section of ramp slightly further North viewed from Rossall Road, it looks shorter in height than the other.
Evidence in Road Names
Victoria Road was given its name after Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Before that it was called Ramper Road as it ran alongside the ramp. The road called Ramper Gate in Cleveleys would have been a slope either side of the ramp to allow carts across, what was effectively a gate.
Thornton Gate near Cumberland Avenue would have been the same, and no doubt others. It looks like Thornton Gate on the 1912 map, the Google earth pics show the remaining ramp at Dorset Avenue and a smaller section in front of stables slightly further North along Rossall Road, after Milnthorpe Avenue.
The ramp is clearly seen on the 1912 map and would probably have been present at the time of the 1906 Cottage Exhibition. That was built on the westerly flank of the Thornton Estate, which the rampart was designed to protect.
Before this, the ramps would have protected the farms from high tides. By 1890 there were over 50 farms in the area, so there was a lot to protect.
After a bit more research and a dead end…
The tramway to Fleetwood opened around 1898 which must have been after the ramps were built.
At the time of the 1906 Cottage exhibition, and then the 1912 map, the ramp was opened up in a number of places to allow roads to pass through. It must have been redundant by that time, but stretches of it are still in place.
Mike then got in touch with Blackpool Transport who confirmed that the mounds of earth at the Thornton Gate yard are actually spoil from tramway works. That’s despite it being in the right position for the rampart. This dead-end wasn’t a complete waste of time as it led Mike to explore further up Rossall Road towards Rossall School where the remainder of a rampart is visible at College Farm.
Ramps at College Farm
Mike says “I visited the ramparts at College Farm and they are made of a different material to the tram yard, a very sandy soil. They’re in the same position as the 1912 O.S. map. I also spoke with the owner of College Farm who confirmed they had been there a long time and were there for “the tide”.
“It’s reasonable to assume that the ramparts at College Farm are part of the original scheme. The lady I spoke with saw no reason why earth would be put there other than for this, and the last section finishes at exactly the same spot as it does on the map.”
Although the ramps at Cleveleys aren’t of any archaeological interest it is of local historical interest. It was designed to protect the early urbanisation of Cleveleys and some road names today are still named after it. Namely Thornton Gate, Carr Gate, Ramper Gate, Way Gate.
The remaining section/s at College Farm aren’t going anywhere. But the absence of local knowledge as to it’s probable origins affords it no protection from being flattened!
Railways and Ramps
The Preston to Wyre railway was dated 1840, and the first station built at Thornton in 1842 was called Ramper Station.
Was it called Ramper Station because it was near Ramper Road?? If so then the Ramps must have already been there.
Then refer back to the Thornton Cleveleys 1910 maps (Lancashire sheet 42.12 and 43.09).
According to those maps,
- an earlier railway station called ‘Ramper Road’ and later ‘Ramper’ opened in 1842 and closed in 1843.
- Victoria Road was originally called Ramper Road after the earth mounds or ramparts that served as boundaries and probably flood defences to the Thornton Estate. They’re still seen on the north side of the road on sheet 43.09
- Was Ramper from another area of Thornton near Underbank Road where we still have Ramper Pot off Underbank?
- Apparently there is/was a Ramper Cottage near Underbank Road. So was Ramper Road named early on and before the ramps were built?
It’s all food for thought.
What you think about Ramps in Cleveleys
As is usual, at the time of original publication, Visit Cleveleys shared this article on Facebook. Quite a few of you contributed your own memories and knowledge on the subject.
John Davies-Allen shared this photo of ‘Garden City’. You can see the ramps near the end of Westbourne/College Farm. This postcard is believed to be originally from the collection of the late Phil Barker.
Dick Gillingham says “I remember in the early fifties, looking from the tram window. The embankments seemed more prominent and I seem to recall seeing large concrete kerb stones around the foot of the banks about a hundred yards north of the farm. There were clear tracks within them. There was severe damaging coastal flooding around that time. Had they been re built/ strengthened? They come to an end near Rossall Lane where the old tramway sidings were. Across the road an embankment- formerly carrying the tramway- is clearly visible going across Rossall School fields towards Rossall Hospital. That may also have served as a sea defence.
Wartime Rifle Range
“The tram sidings and the original tramway embankment were, I think to do with troop movement. They used the shooting range at the North end of Rossall School grounds for practice. There are references to training camps in 1914-15. Men were tented between the Hutment Barracks nr. the Queens Hotel and Rossall and used shooting ranges at both, for practice.”
Dave Hutchinson adds “Rossall School still has plenty of Ramp(ed) sea defences, somestill define the original route of the tram system, which took passengers virtually to the school gates. This was modified in 1925 to today’s track layout, I think to eliminate the steep curve of the original. There is still a long stretch at College Farm, which looks like all there is remaining of local ramps.
Bill Moorcroft comments “I think the enclosure of Thornton Marsh in 1805 must come into it somewhere, as Ramper Road was laid straight across it.”
Before Health & Safety!
Jenny Stocker emailed to explain “My parents built a house on Kendal Ave in 1950/51. I can’t remember exactly how many houses there were on the road but if you look at the aerial view just the houses with the red roofs.
“There was nothing but farmer’s field beyond that and the berm ran all the way along the side of the tram track up to the last house. I imagine they took down the berm to build Kendal Ave. I used to walk to the farm to get cream in the summer.
“Kids had built dens inside the berm. It really was rather dangerous as it was very sandy and could have collapsed at any time. We had a lot of fun playing there.
“I assumed it was built to protect the farming land from salt water until it became redundant when they improved the sea defences at Rossall. They could not have farmed successfully there without protection.”
Maxine Blundell “We live on Thornton Gate; this is really interesting. Thanks Mike. Our house, number 5, was built around 1909, along with number 1, number 3 (originally Wittscot) and number 7 (known as Windsor House). We think our house was known as Berkley House. I would love to find out more, hopefully I’ll have the time one day. Thanks again.”
Lizzy Stokes answers “Maxine. No 1 Thornton Gate was called Rosscot. We lived there from 1987 to 2000. Our neighbour at No 3 told us the houses were built for the Corporation of Rossall School. They will definitely have some stuff in the archive if you contact them.”
Amazing the things that people know.
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