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At that time, doctors recommended bathing in the sea to help cure aches and pains.In 1792, William Sutton, the landlord of the Black Bull Inn in Churchtown (now the Hesketh Arms) and known to locals as "The Old Duke", realised the importance of the newly created canal systems across the UK and set up a bathing house in the virtually uninhabited dunes at South Hawes by the seaside just four miles (6 km) away from the newly constructed Leeds and Liverpool Canal and two miles southwest of Churchtown.Southport lies on the Irish Sea coast and is fringed to the north by the Ribble estuary.

The alluvium provided fertile agricultural land and the river itself stocks of fish.

It was here, it seems, that a primitive church was built, which gave the emerging village its name of Churchtown, the parish being North Meols (pronounced "meals", not "mells").

When a widow from Wigan built a cottage nearby in 1797 for seasonal lodgers, Sutton quickly built a new inn on the site of the bathing house which he called the South Port Hotel, moving to live there the following season.

The locals thought him mad and referred to the building as the Duke's Folly, but Sutton arranged transport links from the canal that ran through Scarisbrick, four miles from the hotel, and trade was remarkably good.

A particular feature of the town is the extensive tree planting.

This was one of the conditions required by the Hesketh family when they made land available for development in the 19th century.Parts of the parish were almost completely surrounded by water until 1692 when Thomas Fleetwood of Bank Hall cut a channel to drain Martin Mere to the sea.From this point on, attempts at large-scale drainage of Martin Mere and other marshland continued until the 19th century, since when the water has been pumped away.The hotel survived until 1854, when it was demolished to make way for traffic at the end of Lord Street, but its presence and the impact of its founder are marked by a plaque in the vicinity, by the name of one street at the intersection, namely Duke Street, Southport grew quickly in the 19th century as it gained a reputation for being a more refined seaside resort than its neighbour-up-the-coast Blackpool.In fact Southport had a head start compared to all the other places on the Lancashire coast because it had easy access to the canal system.Hesketh Park at the northern end of the town is named after them, having been built on land donated by Rev. The earliest recorded human activity in the region was during the Middle Stone Age, when mesolithic hunter gatherers were attracted by the abundant red deer and elk population, as well as the availability of fish, shellfish and woodland.

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