The story of Ince Blundell begins like the rest of the British Isles with the ending of the Devensian ice age and the start of the early Holocene about 10,500 years before the common era.(BCE)
At this point in our prehistory the coastline of south west Lancashire extended much further west beyond the Isle of Man and the British Isles were not isles at all but were still attached to continental Europe. The sea level at this time was 164 feet or 50 metres lower than at present but this began to change as the massive ice sheet covering northern Europe and Britain melted. The sea level began to rise quickly at a rate of about 30mm (1 inch) per year between 8000 BCE and 3700BCE submerging the coastal plain. It is recognised that there have been at least four occasions when the sea submerged the land around Ince Blundell and the evidence for these marine transgressions can be seen in the deposits of Downholland silt that show that there were esturine and salt marsh environments 2.2km inland. It had been thought in the past that the melt water formed a new coastline twenty five feet or 8 metres above the present one and it was argued that an ancient coastline could be traced throughout much of south west Lancashire. This coastline can most clearly be seen locally at Hillhouse Farm in Altcar and is known as the 'Hillhouse coastline' or the Hillhouse contour. This theory however, has been rejected and it is known that the sea was 50m below this contour when the sands at Hillhouse were deposited by glacial melt water rather than by the sea.
The sea however, eventually began to retreat to somewhere near its present level as another important factor came into play. The land now relieved of its massive ice sheet began to rise up. (follow link to see raised beaches in Arran ) This movement continues to the present day at a rate between 2 and 4mm per year. The north is rising up as the south is lowered into the sea in a gigantic see-saw movement. It was not until approximately 3500 BCE that the sea level arrived at somewhere near its present level.
Gradually in the warmer post ice age climate a new landscape and a new coastline 4-5 miles west of the present one emerged. The newly exposed land began to form forests of oak, alder and birch. The climate at this time approximately 5000 BCE was predominantly warm and dry and the forests flourished from Fleetwood to Hilbre Island. Gradually the climate changed yet again and the warm and dry conditions gave way to much wetter conditions with substantial water logging of the River Alt floodplain. This led to the end of the oak forests as the roots and vegetation began to rot forming a layer of peat. The evidence of this forest can still be seen as local farmers regularly plough up moss stocks or bog oaks from the fields on the moss lands. The buried forest can also be seen occasionally at Hightown due to erosion at the mouth of the Alt. In 1663 the Reverend Richard James wrote in his book Iter Lancastrense “ and in some places, when ye sea doth bate down from ye shore, tis wonder to relate how many thousands of trees now stand black broken from their roots , which once dry land did cover, whence turfs Neptune yields to show he did not always to these borders flow.”
Another tantalising glimpse of prehistoric life came to light in the late 1980’s when Gordon Roberts came across hoof prints in some ancient sun hardened mud along the Formby foreshore. Footprints have now been identified as those belonging to deer, wolves, aurochs an ancient breed of huge wild cattle now extinct, and of people. Although these people did not live settled lives in our village we do have evidence that they spent time around the sandy ridge that was to become Ince Blundell and on other areas of higher ground in the marsh.
The first settlers of this part of the country were probably part of an extended family group of no more than twenty five people. They lived by hunting and gathering along the coastline and in the fen carr environment of Ince Blundell. They almost certainly lived a nomadic life moving with the seasons in a territory of up to fifty square miles. They would have visited what was to become Ince Blundell to perhaps hunt for ducks and other wild fowl or to fish in the river Alt. The evidence we have of this is very thin indeed but small flint blades and arrowheads have been found in and around the fields of Ince Blundell. The landscape around the Ince Blundell ‘ridge/island’ was low lying, poorly drained, marshy and subject to flooding by both the sea and the River Alt. As mentioned above a fen-carr environment predominated and although it was rich in wildlife for a hunter gathering lifestyle it was not attractive to settlement and agriculture. It is thought that hunting and gathering persisted much longer in south west Lancashire than in the rest of the country. This is not to say that the people were backward, but simply that the area was so rich in food sources that they had no need to turn to agricultural methods of food production. Having said this an incredibly interesting archaeological find just down the Road in the neighbouring Village of Lunt during the summer of 2011 may re-write this account of history. Evidence of a Mesolithic settlement, that appears to suggest a resident group of peopleliving in the area has come to light during earthworks to create a managed wetland adjoining the River Alt. Timber from the dig has been carbon dated to 5800 BCE dating the site to almost 8000 years ago. Ron Cowell curator of prehistoric archaeology at Liverpool Museum and a good friend of Ince Blundell Local History group said "this find is fascinating, it's far way above in importance than any find I have worked with in more than 30 years of archaeology," Follow this link for additional information....http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20344575
Eventually though the Neolithic hunter gatherers did become farmers and it is perhaps not too much of a mental leap, to imagine them clearing the trees on the higher ground for cultivation and to see them tending their cattle in the meadows. Evidence for this can be seen in charcoal particles and a fall in the levels of tree pollen in nearby Little Crosby. This would appear to point to forest clearance by fire. There is also some evidence of cereal cultivation a little further away at Martin Mere. Read more....