Southport is a hamlet and chapelry in the parish of North Meols, 9 miles N.W of Ormskirk; 22 miles S.W. of Preston; 20 miles W.N.W of Wigan; 22 miles N. of Liverpool, 31 miles N.W. of Warrington; and 41 miles N.W. of Manchester, situated on the coast of the Irish Sea opposite Lytham, at the mouth of the Ribble. Southport, which is a modern name, is included in the district of Southhawes, the name formerly given to a few straggling cottages which stood there. The foundation of the prosperity of this village as a sea bathing place, was laid by Mr Sutton, of North Meols, who duly appreciating its local advantages, built the first Inn, called the Royal Hotel, in the year 1792. Of this speculation the people expressed their opinion by calling it Dukes Folly in allusion to a name given to the proprietor. The experience of six years seemed to justify the popular censure, but in 1798 symptoms of prosperity began to appear, and a few cottages in closing district areas were built in the vicinity of the hotel, on sites considerably elevated above the level of the sea. Since that time Southport has continued to rise in importance; and no doubt, owes its present celebrity to the combined influence of fashion, easy communication with some of the principal towns of the county, and a salubrious air from which invalids every year derive essential benefit. The village consists of one main street, 88 yards wide, composed of handsome brick houses with large gardens in front, and two back streets running parallel to the principal street are now rapidly forming. Meols or Sandhills, as the Saxon word imports, present themselves on every side resembling small tumuli, from whence the ancient name of the parish is probably derived. At present there are about 200 houses and cottages, of which number one-half at least have been erected during the last four years. Several of the cottages are furnished and fitted up in a handsome style for the reception of families, and are let at from two to eight guineas a week, according to the number of beds, half-a guinea being generally charged for each, without any separate charge being made for furniture, parlour & c. There are also many respectable boarding and lodging houses, and three large and commodious hotels, the Royal Hotel, the Union Hotel and the Hesketh Arms. The visitors have thus the choice of accommodation and take up their residence either at a furnished cottage, a boarding house, or at one of the hotels as best suits their health or inclination. The terms are – at the hotels, board and lodging, exclusive of wines 6s. per day; at the respectable boarding houses 5s.; and at those of an inferior class 4s. per day. During the season the coaches run everyday from Liverpool and Manchester, and three times a week from Bolton, Chorley, Warrington and St. Helens. To such as are more disposed to economies money than time, the canal packets offer a cheap conveyance from Liverpool and Manchester as well as on the whole line of the intermediate country to Scarisbrick Bridge, where a number of handsome carriages are stationed to convey passengers to this place of fashionable resort, being a distance of about 5 miles. The amusements of the place are those afforded by the theatre, the news rooms and libraries, the billiard rooms, the repositories and the assemblies. The bathing machines used at Southport, of which there are at present forty are on a superior construction, being mounted on four wheels and made to return to the shore without turning in the water; from these causes they conduce as much to the comfort and security of the bathers as the rules and regulations enforced upon the shore do the maintenance of order and decorum. The parish of North Meols and Hesketh with Beconsall, would be much benefited by a bridge over the Douglas neat Hesketh Church; for many ages the poor fishermen, on their way to the markets of Amounderness and Blackburn hundred, have stood in need of this accommodation, but the rising consequence of Southport has now rendered another passage over the river indispensable.
A church or rather chapel of Ease, a several benevolent institutions have risen up in Southport with the increase of numbers and wealth. This chapel is called Christs Church and is a neat, unostentatious structure; it was erected n the year 1820, chiefly through the exertions of the Rev, William Docker, the present incumbent, and the agents of the late Robert Hesketh, of Rossal-Hall, and the late princess Sapieha, of Bold-Hall, the lord and lady of the manor. The patronage was vested in Mr Hesketh, in consequence of his advancing a certain sum of money towards the endowment, and undertaking further improve to living. Though this church will accommodate from six to seven hundred persons, it is already in contemplation to enlarge it, by building two new galleries, one exclusively for strangers, and the other for the scholars of the Sunday schools. There population of the parish of North Meols, in 1801, was 2096; in 1811 2887; in 1821 – 3177; and in 1824, when the census was taken by the resident clergyman, 3920, the increase being principally occasioned by the prosperity of Southport, and about one-half the whole number is comprised in that village. It is estimated that the average number of visitors during the bathing season is from 1200 to 1400. The Sunday school attached to the church contains from 200 to 300 scholars, and since the erection of the church The Sabbeth, which formerly was almost disregarded, has been observed with exemplary solemnity. The erection of the independent chapel in 1823, and of a Methodist Meeting-house in 1824, each of which is capable of accommodating a congregation of from 400 to 500 persons, has tended to promote this salutary change. In this village there is a seminary for the students to preparing for either of the Universities or for the church, under the superintendence of the Rev. William Docker, the term of which are 100 guineas per annum.
The benevolent institutions of Southport are ‘The Strangers’ Charity,’ for the relief of the sick poor whose recovery sea air or bathing may be conducive, and the allowance dispensed is seven shillings a week to each of the objects, all of whom are required to be recommended by a subscriber. The revenue amounts to about four hundred pounds a year, and the institution has the honor to rank amongst its patrons a considerable number of persons of distinction. A neat pile of buildings for Dispensary, Baths &c. was erected in the year 1823, at a cost of 449l5. 11d. where medicines are dispensed gratuitously to the poor, and where, when their state of health requires it, they have the advantage of warm sea water baths. Similar benefits are afforded to the resident poor by the North Meols Local Dispensary in this place. The Marine Fund provides rewards for such fishermen and others as venture, at the hazard of their own lives, to save the lives of mariners wrecked on this coast.