Fylde’s boggy marshes punctuated with islands of solid land

Good article and map showing that the ‘post-glacial flooding’ lasted even up to the Roman invasion and Iron Age Britain!! 🤓

Local historian Barry McCann takes a fascinating look at ancient Fylde

By Claire LarkThursday, 3rd September 2020, 3:45 pm

Territory of the Setantii tribe of pre-Roman Britons on the Lancashire coast

Geological evidence indicates that in ancient times the Fylde was an island, isolated by a River Wyre that stretched from Fleetwood to the River Ribble.

It is known that the region was encircled by thick and almost impenetrable forests, practically cutting it off from the rest of the world. If this was the case, what kind of people lived here?

The earliest records come from the 3rd Roman Invasion of Britain in AD 43, when the Fylde was a landscape of boggy marshes islands of solid land and pathways. Giant trees of fir, oak and yew formed the surrounding woodland, the animals that roamed it including red deer, wild boar and wolves.

Historian William Ashton’s 1920 map illustrating Roman roads in mid-Lancashire around 400AD showing possible location of Portus Setantiorum or Portus Setantiihttps://2f5db3a012933cd52d1d24067f6b53ae.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The ancient tribe of the area were the Setantii (or Segantii), referenced by the Greco- Egyptian writer, Ptolemy, in his second century geography of Britain. They were a clan of the Brigantes who dominated northern England during this period.

They lived tribally in crudely erected shelters of clay, mud and wicker. They dressed scantily in animal skins and painted their bodies with blue woad. The men had long flowing hair and were traditionally clean shaven except for their upper lip.

The Setantii are thought to be Brythonic Celts descended from the Iberian “beaker folk” and were known as the “dwellers in the country of water”. Their existence in the marsh conditions of the Fylde was made evident in the 1800s with the unearthing of canoes from the main dyke of Marton Mere.

The vessels were light wooden frameworks covered in animal hide and used to both traverse the waters and marshes, and for fishing. Their discovery was supplemented by further finds including Celtic hammers, stone cutting implements, axes and spears that lay buried in the moss for centuries.

According to the Roman Dion Cassius, the tribe survived on hunting prey and foraging fruit. He recorded how they lived in virtual amphibious conditions, commenting how they would “continue several days up to their chins in water, and bear hunger many days.”

This was the great advantage the Setantii had over the Roman outsiders. They knew the lay of their waters and marshes and could negotiate their way with no danger to themselves.

To anyone else without that knowledge, this territory was a potentially treacherous one.

The tribe practised a sun worshipping Druidical religion, presided over by a chief Druid. Apart from spiritual duties, the Druids also functioned as judges settling disputes or criminal cases. They also believed that after death, the human soul transferred to another body. Consequently the Setantii seemingly did not fear death which made them even more formidable in battle

Two attempts by Julius Caesar in B.C. 54 and 55 failed to subjugate the Setantii or Brigantes. It was not until A.D. 79 that Britain was conquered by Julius Agricola. The Setantii gave vigorous resistance under the Brigantine chief Venutius, but their undisciplined valour finally proved less than a match for the well drilled Romans.

Conquering was one thing but keeping the intrepid spirit of the Setantii subdued was quite another. Agricola realised the best way of quelling any outbreak was to offer them the benefits of civilisation as an alternative to their heathen, primitive existence.

Thus, the mud huts and wicker shelters gave way to more comfortable habitations, and the rule of Druids replaced by Roman law and temples. It is thought the Romans may have drawn up an alliance with the Setantii to exploit the tribe’s marine ability to mutual advantage.

Ptolemy wrote that the Setantii had the only pre-Roman port on the western coast of Britain at Portus Setantiorum, thought to have been situated off Rossall Point if his map of the coast during the time it to be believed.

But it seems the ancient Fylde tribe did not simply cease to exist by assimilation into Roman culture. Welsh myths suggest the Setantii were still active in the Dark Ages and their form of Celtic tongue survived until the twelfth century.

By then, wooden Saxon built structures stood on the more habitable locality of a Fylde largely drained of swamp and open to Norman occupation.

The age of the Setantii was over.