WALNEY ISLAND HISTORY

 

ISLAND FORMATION:

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The Bedrock of Walney-Island is referred to as 'Red-Sandstone' and is estimated to be approx' 150 million years old. Both a mixture of speculation and evidence suggest that Walney-Island was formed during the recession of the last Ice Age (approx 24000 years ago) when the ice melted and at a time when the River Duddon was a large inland glacial lake with a 'finger like' outlet protruding down through what is now Walney Channel. 

When the ice began to melt this 'finger like' body of water pushed its way southward allowing 'three' small bodies of land to be parted from the mainland each forming a small islet, evidence of which remains in the name 'Earnse' meaning Eagle Isle now better known as Earnse Bay. As each glacier movement deposited large amounts of rock, clay and sand in its wake the three islets became eventually merged to become one. Although the force of the Irish sea, during storm conditions has managed on a number of occasions to breach the island, most recently during February of 1983.

There are many reports of both large and small erratic/s on and around the island's coastline indicating a westward movement of the ice out of the Lake District 'an example of which can be seen on the 'James Dunn Park' page of this site. Red boulder clay has become exposed through erosion of the island and can be seen along it's west shore, more evident than anywhere else would be that of the 'High Cliff' areas west of Biggar Village. In recent years man-made 'Tipping' deposits make up large amounts of the Island's surface areas, and again because of erosion problems these are now becoming evident along the island's coast line, 'an example of this can be seen on the 'Thorny Nook' page of this site.

 

WHAT'S IN A NAME:

This site would not be complete without a description of where the name Walney was derived no matter how subjective some of the suggestions are. Over the years people and even authors have taken various views and angles of the name, each with their own thoughts and beliefs added to by their own descriptions, but what can not be varied is the of the meaning of the word. I reserve any of my own thoughts on this subject and will therefore leave it to your own discretion: 

The Norse term for "island" was known to be "ey", "ay", "ai",  which seems to 'with little doubt' make the suffix of Walney, so what about the that the remaining "Waln"? again if you were to maintain the Norse theme then it can be questionable that "Wal-Ney" was originally know as "Vogn-ey", meaning that of "Island of the Killer Whale", which ironically is the way in which Arthur Evans describes Walney Island.

"WALNEY ISLAND, a long, low hump of grass, boulder clay, sand dunes and sea-borne stones, is shaped like a gigantic, stranded whale". (LOST LANCASHIRE - EVANS, Arthur).

The Domesday Book gives the first written evidence of the Island's name as "Hougenai" suggestively meaning "Manor of Hougon". The Island has recorded name changes throughout it's history. Thomas West in his 1774 book - "Antiquities of Furness" believed 'himself' that of "The Walled Island", "A Wall in The Water" made up of "Wall" and "Eau", but I can find no other evidence to accept this. 

Within his book (Walney A Wall In The Sea - TRESCATHERIC, Bryn) describes name variations with a "Bewildering variety of subtle changes: 1127 - Wagneia, 1246 - Wannegai, 1336 - Waghenay, 1404 - Wawenay and 1537 - Wauay. 1127 being the first recorded use of the Walney name. If you desire more information regarding Walney, I recommend Bryn's book for both it's content and it's simplicity. 

 

POPULATION:

Little is known about the pre-historic times and mans quest to populate Walney-Island, however during the 1930's discoveries were made in the form of flint arrow heads and other similar items, amongst the North End sand-dunes and various other areas of Walney. The artifacts that have been discovered prove without doubt that Walney-Island has in the least been a constant habitat for man since neolithic times. 

Suggestions have been made that the Norsemen were the first immigrants to arrive at Walney-Island, coming from their homes of  the Isle of Man and Ireland toward the latter end of the ninth century. 

During the 1600's Walney-Island was taken over by the dreaded plague, which had been reported as beginning at Biggar Village and which went on to claim the lives of over 50% of Walney's 250 (approx) population. Most of the local population to this day believe that the burial site for plague victims is on the banking behind the Ferry Hotel, which itself was once the site of the 'old vicarge' 

Today the Island has a population in the region of 12000 people and is still growing as new properties are being constantly constructed to accommodate them. The latest construction site to be discussed is that on the meadow lands between the Barnes estate and Channel side at North Scale, the site itself was once home to 'Cassidy's' coal yard and Croft Kennels, both of which no longer exist.

 

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