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A church called St Cuthbert's is still at the centre of Churchtown.With a booming fishing industry, the area grew slowly and hamlets became part of the parish of North Meols.
The Leeds and Liverpool canal brought people from Liverpool, Manchester, Bolton and Wigan amongst others.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").This left behind a legacy of fine agricultural soil and created a booming farming industry.In the late 18th century, it was becoming fashionable for the well-to-do to relinquish inland spa towns and visit the seaside to bathe in the salt sea waters.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.
The first real evidence of an early settlement here is in the Domesday Book, in which the area is called Otergimele.
The name is derived from Oddrgrimir meaning the son of Grimm and is linked to the Old Norse word melr meaning sandbank.
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.
By 1820 Southport had over 20,000 visitors per year.