Townships
Widnes

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Victoria County History

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William Farrer & J. Brownbill (editors)

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1907

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386-392

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'Townships: Widnes', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3 (1907), pp. 386-392. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=41352 Date accessed: 24 October 2014.


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WIDNES

Wydenesse, Wedenes, 1300; Wydnes, 1347.

Apelton, 1180; Appelton, 1198; Apulton, 1332.

Widnes appears at first to have been the name of the district, the township name being Appleton. This hamlet lies close to the centre, with Farnworth, the site of the chapel, on the extreme north, Upton to the north-west, and Denton to the east. Simm's Cross and Lugdale have recently become hamlets or suburbs of Widnes town. The marshy district by the Mersey was interrupted by a projecting piece of higher land, whence a crossing could be had to Runcorn on the Cheshire side. On this ground the town of Widnes has sprung up.

The flat and open country close to the town itself is absolutely devoid of anything beautiful; a district more lacking in attractive natural features it would be difficult to conceive. A great cloud of smoke hangs continually over the town, and choking fumes assail the nose, from various works. In the face of such an atmosphere it is not to be wondered at that trees and other green things refuse to grow. Even the riverside is unpicturesque and rendered unpleasant by the unsavoury mud which the tide leaves stranded upon rocks and stones. The more remote and countrified parts of the township consist of open fields, with the minimum share of trees. Crops, such as oats, potatoes, and turnips, thrive in a clayey soil. The township lies upon the three sandstone and pebble beds constituting the bunter series of the new red sandstone or trias. The lower mottled sandstone occurs at Upton in the west, the upper mottled sandstone at Denton in the south-east. In the low-lying ground towards the river the strata are obscured by alluvial deposits.

The area of the township is 3,039½ acres. (fn. 1) It is divided by a brook from Ditton on the west. The roads are numerous. Probably the most ancient is that from Rainhill through Farnworth, and south and south-west to the crossing-place into Cheshire. It is joined, to the north of Farnworth, by another ancient road, the name of which, Chester Lane, shows its use. From the meeting-point there is a more direct road to Widnes, also roads to Cronton on the west, Upton and Ditton on the south-west, and Penketh on the east. From Widnes a road leads west to Hale and Garston.

The London and North Western Company's railway from Liverpool to Manchester passes through the town, where there is a station. To the west there is a junction with the same company's main line from London to Liverpool, which here crosses the Mersey by a great bridge built in 1868, at one side of which is accommodation for foot passengers. (fn. 2) The St. Helens line branches off from Widnes station; there is another station at Appleton, and a third at the northern boundary, called Farnworth and Bold. The Cheshire Lines Committee's Liverpool and Manchester section crosses near the centre and has a station called Farnworth, to the south of this village; there is also a branch line to Widnes town, with stations there and near the eastern boundary, called Widnes (Central) and Tanhouse Lane. The St. Helens Canal has its terminus in the docks at the eastern side of the town. Runcorn Gap was the old name of the part of the Mersey between Widnes and Runcorn.

Sixty years ago there were but a few scattered dwellings by the side of the Mersey, but the establishment of chemical works there about 1850 speedily brought an increase of population, and the busy industrial town—the centre of the alkali trade—has grown up among and around the works. There are also soap, oil, and paint factories, iron foundries, and copper-smelting works. There are toolmaking and some minor industries at Farnworth.

Plumpton's Cross, Simm's Cross, and Whitfield's Cross show where the crosses have stood. (fn. 3)

BARONY

This district gave its name to the Lancashire portion of the fee of Halton, known as the lordship or barony of WIDNES. In 1086 William son of Nigel, lord of Halton, held a hide and a half in West Derby hundred, and two hides and four plough-lands in Warrington hundred. (fn. 4) This was shortly afterwards largely increased, (fn. 5) and at his death in 1211, Roger, constable of Chester, held the lordship by the service of four knights' fees. (fn. 6) In 1242 the earl of Lincoln, a minor, held half a fee in demesne in Appleton and Cronton, which had been assigned in dower to his mother the countess. (fn. 7) Early in 1311, on the death of Henry de Lacy, the whole fee passed to Thomas earl of Lancaster, (fn. 8) and has since been held by the successive earls and dukes of Lancaster and the crown. (fn. 9)

From patents of the seventeenth century the manor appears to have been assigned as part of the dowers of the queens. (fn. 10) In 1699 it was leased to Richard, Earl Rivers, and in 1728 to George, earl of Cholmondeley; (fn. 11) from the latter the right has descended to the present marquis of Cholmondeley as lessee. (fn. 12)

Appleton was held in bondage as three ploughlands in the time of Edward II. (fn. 13) In 1351 Henry, newly created duke of Lancaster, granted that each of his tenants should in future hold severally and freely the tenements hitherto held in bondage or at will. (fn. 14) The history of the township is undistinguished until the modern establishment of chemical works. The courts appear to have been usually, or often, held at Farnworth. (fn. 15)

Upton (fn. 16) and Denton gave surnames to local families, the name Denton appearing down to recent times. (fn. 17) The Wright family was also of importance, and their residence was known as Widnes Hall. (fn. 18) Matthew Gregson states: 'There are [1817–24] four estates in the townships of Appleton, Widnes, and Upton, which have long been known by the names of Upper House, Lower House, Carter's House, and Peel House … . The Upper House belongs to Mr. Cowley, who resides upon it; the Lower is the property of John Leigh, esq., and Carter's House that of Mr. Taylor, both of Liverpool.' (fn. 19) A family named Hawarden were resident in the seventeenth century; (fn. 20) they are supposed to have acquired the estate by marriage with an heiress of the Appleton family. (fn. 21)

A free passage over the Mersey was allowed very early, two acres being granted as the fee of the ferryman. (fn. 22)

In the time of Mary and Elizabeth there were various disputes between Roger Charnock, the royal farmer, and the tenants of Widnes regarding marsh lands called the Warth and Plocks, and Appleton mill. (fn. 23)

The estate of Henry Wood of Widnes was sold by order of the Parliamentary authorities in 1652. (fn. 24) In 1666 there were in Widnes twenty-six dwellings with three hearths and more paying to the tax; the principal residents were Hawarden, Ditchfield, Appleton, Plumpton, and Wright. (fn. 25) John Chaddock of Burtonwood, as a 'Papist,' in 1717 registered his cottage at Upton. (fn. 26)

An interesting report on the state of the river bank about 1828 was made by Edward Eyes on behalf of the duchy. (fn. 27)

BOROUGH

It would appear that in the middle ages a borough and market had been established at Farnworth; for there are incidental notices, such as the eight 'burgages,' &c., in Denton held by Randle Bold at his death in 1447, and the 20d. for stallage collected in 1426 from tailors, mercers, and others, trading at Farnworth on Sundays. (fn. 28) Coming to the present day, the Local Government Act of 1858 was adopted by WIDNES in 1865, (fn. 29) and further powers as to water, gas, &c., were afterwards secured by various Acts. A borough, with mayor and council of 24 members, was created in 1892. (fn. 30) The gas and water works were acquired under an Improvement Act in 1867; (fn. 31) the water pumping stations are at Stockswell and Netherley, and the reservoirs at Pex Hill. St. John's Market was opened in 1875. The Libraries Act was adopted in 1885, and the present technical schools and free library were opened in 1896. The Appleton House estate was acquired and opened as the Victoria Park and Recreation Ground in 1900, the Victoria Promenade at West Bank being opened at the same time. The cemetery was opened in 1898. There are hospitals for accidents, opened in 1878, and infectious diseases, 1887. The population numbered 28,580 in 1901.

CHURCH

Farnworth church, now called that of St. Luke, but anciently dedicated in honour of St. Wilfrid, consists of chancel 33 ft. by 22 ft. with north vestry and south chapel, nave 60 ft. by 25 ft. with aisles, south transept, north and south porches, and west tower 10 ft. square inside, and has grown to its present form from an aisleless nave and chancel church of which part of the west wall alone remains. It belonged, as far as can now be ascertained, to c. 1180–1200, and its nave was of about the same dimensions as that now standing. There are no evidences of alteration till the fourteenth century, though such may of course have taken place. In this century a tower was added at the west end of the nave, and the north and south walls of the nave were moved about six feet northwards, thus throwing the tower out of centre. The story of this alteration has been obscured by the rebuilding of the north side of the church, but from accounts previous to this rebuilding, which took place about 1855, it appears that the north arcade of the nave was of earlier detail than the still existing south arcade. The tower as it stands at present has no work which seems to point to a date before 1340, but as there remains on its east face the weathering of a roof which belonged to the old nave before its axis was moved northwards, it is evident that this part of it at least must be older than either of the arcades. In the north-west angle of the nave is a two-light window of mid-fourteenth-century date, which is set in the northward extension of the west wall, outside the lines of the old nave, and may be coeval with the alterations. This points to a date of c. 1350 for the original north arcade. The nave roof, destroyed c. 1855, seems to have been a good specimen of fourteenth-century work, little if at all later than 1350, and unless we are to suppose that it was transferred from the old nave to the new (as indeed it might have been, the widths of the two being approximately the same), it gives another reason for assuming that there was very little difference in date between the two arcades, and that the whole rebuilding may be set down to the middle of the century. (fn. 32) The chancel must of necessity have been rebuilt about the same time—unless some previous alterations to it had changed its axis and suggested a like alteration in the nave (fn. 33) —and the existing work probably follows the lines then laid down, though nothing in the chancel seems older than the end of the fifteenth century.

The aisles are probably on the same lines as those which must have been built with the fourteenth-century arcades; the north aisle is completely modern but the south retains one window which may be original. The eastward extension of this aisle, partly overlapping the chancel, seems to be of the same date as the late work in the chancel.

The south transept is the last development in the plan, having been built by Bishop Smith of Lincoln, c. 1500, to accommodate the inhabitants of Cuerdley. The chancel arch may have been inserted at the same time to give abutment to the western arch of the south chapel.

The chancel has an east window of five lights with tracery, and a south window of three lights, the stonework being for the most part modern. In the north wall is a three-light window, cinquefoiled, with quatrefoiled tracery in the head, of late fifteenth-century type. The chancel arch is of two chamfered orders with half-octagonal responds, and of later date than the walls of the chancel; its probable origin has been noted above. The roof of the chancel is flat, divided into square panels with heavy moulded beams having bosses at the intersections and diagonal ribs across the panels; a fine piece of late fifteenth-century work.

The vestry on the north is modern. The south chapel has an east window of three lights, like that on the north of the chancel, and two three-light windows on the south, with uncusped tracery. There is a small four-centred doorway in its east wall, and another near the west end of the south wall. Its roof is modern, and the chapel is now used as an organchamber.

The south transept has a four-light east window, containing a few squares of old glass, with the letters SG, and a five-light south window with modern uncusped tracery. The west window is of somewhat earlier type, square-headed with three trefoiled lights, but is probably not older than the wall in which it is set. Beneath it is a blocked doorway, and in the south-west angle of the transept is a vice. The roof is old, cleaned and repaired at a late restoration, 1894–5, up to which time the base of a screen with linen pattern panels remained in this transept. It was then removed, and the panels re-used in the altar table now in the chancel.

The nave is of five bays; the north arcade is modern (c. 1855), the two eastern bays, which form the south enclosure of the Bold chapel, being more elaborately treated than the others, in late thirteenthcentury style, while the south arcade, though much patched and repaired, belongs to the fourteenth century, and is of plain detail. (fn. 34) The nave roof is of deal, and replaces a fine fourteenth-century roof with principal and intermediate collar beam trusses, the former having arched braces under the collars. It was destroyed in 1855, under the mistaken impression that it was thrusting out the north arcade.

The north aisle was rebuilt in 1855 and no ancient features were preserved; it formerly had a good panelled roof and moulded cornice with paterae. The Bold chapel was enclosed on south and west with oak screens, and had a flat panelled oak roof with diagonal ribs on the panels, after the fashion of that still existing in the chancel.

The south aisle has been more fortunate, and retains a fifteenth-century south doorway, fitted with an old door, a square-headed window west of the doorway, with three trefoiled lights and perhaps coeval with the aisle, and a second window east of the doorway of two trefoiled lights under a square head, of the beginning of the sixteenth century. The roof also is old, with an embattled cornice, and was repaired in 1894–5.

The tower arch is plain, and was formerly built up; it is now filled with a seventeenth-century screen with turned oak balusters in the upper part. The west window is of three cinquefoiled lights with quatrefoil tracery, and the belfry windows are square-headed of two lights. There is a vice in the south-west angle. The lower courses of the old west wall of the nave, before the building of the tower, remain under the floor, and part can still be seen, with a plain chamfered plinth. Until 1894 the church was filled with galleries and pews of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many of which had the names of their owners and the dates cut on them, and some of these inscriptions have been preserved and set up as panelling against the walls. A good many pieces of fifteenth and sixteenth-century bench ends, &c., were found when these pews were removed, but were unfortunately in too damaged a condition to be re-used.

The font, which originally stood in the south aisle, (fn. 35) and was afterwards set at the west end of the north aisle, is now at the west end of the nave. It is octagonal, with a roll at the base of the bowl, but otherwise perfectly plain, and may be of the fifteenth century.

In the Bold chapel are the marble figures of Richard Bold, 1635, and his wife, and an armed effigy of very poor workmanship, holding a book, which from its details appears to date from the beginning of the seventeenth century. (fn. 36) Near it at the west end of the chapel is a white marble monument to Mary Bold, Princess Sapieha, 1824.

There are six bells, all of 1718, by Richard Saunders.

The registers begin in 1538.

About the end of the thirteenth century an attempt seems to have been made to sever the dependency of Farnworth on Prescot. In 1291 Richard de Buddeswall, archdeacon of Chester, holding his visitation at Prescot, caused a number of those who customarily heard divine service and received the sacraments in the chapel to appear before him and assert publicly that Farnworth was not an independent parish, but that the people within the chapelry were bound to contribute to the repairs of the church of Prescot, the maintenance of the service there, and other charges, in the same manner as the rest of the parishioners. (fn. 37) Farnworth is called a church in 1323, (fn. 38) and seems to have enjoyed almost full parochial rights.

Some prosecutions resulting from the church spoliation of the time of Edward VI are recorded at Farnworth, (fn. 39) as well as an affray in the church itself. (fn. 40)

Few of the names of the pre-Reformation clergy have been preserved. Baldwin Bold was there at the beginning of the sixteenth century, (fn. 41) and Richard White was curate in 1542, 1548, and 1554. (fn. 42)

A small yearly payment, called the Duchy money, has long been made to the incumbent by the crown. Its origin is uncertain. (fn. 43)

A parish was assigned in 1859. (fn. 44) The vicars are presented by the vicar of Prescot. The following is a list:—

1562Thomas Hill (fn. 45)
1567John Walbank (fn. 46)
1576Thomas Roebuck (fn. 47)
1581William Cross (fn. 48)
1589William Sherlock (fn. 49)
1641Nathaniel Barnard (fn. 50)
1647John Walton, M.A. (fn. 51)
1649(?) William Garner (fn. 52)
oc.1675–9Milo Marsden (fn. 53)
1687Christopher Marsden (fn. 54)
John Foxley (fn. 55)
oc.1705–9Radley Ainscough (fn. 56)
oc.1718–32Henry Hargreaves (fn. 57)
1733Charles Bryer (fn. 58)
1733Edward Pierpoint
1742Richard Nightingale (fn. 59)
1747Thomas Moss (fn. 60)
1792William Thompson (fn. 61)
1832William Jeff
1881George Bond, M.A. (Lincoln Coll. Oxford)
1892John Wright Williams

There was a chantry founded here by Sir John Bold, an annual rent of £4 being assigned to it from the lordship of Bold. (fn. 62) In 1534 the cantarist was Richard White, and later Thomas Johnson. There was no plate. (fn. 63)

There appears to have been a resident curate maintained at Farnworth after the Reformation, but he was only 'a reading minister.' The Parliamentary Committee in 1645 assigned £50 a year out of the sequestered tithes of the earl of Newcastle, who farmed them from King's College, to augment the stipend of the curate. They estimated that there were 2,000 communicants within the chapelry. (fn. 64)

The school was founded in 1509 by William Smith, bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 65)

More recently in connexion with the Establishment there have been erected three churches in Widnes. St. Mary's was built in 1856; (fn. 66) the patronage has recently been transferred to the bishop of Liverpool. St. Ambrose, in the gift of trustees, was built in 1883; St. Paul's, to which the bishop of Liverpool collates, in the following year.

A Wesleyan Methodist church was built at Widnes in 1863, and two others more recently; one at Farnworth, built in 1849, was replaced by a new one in 1891; there is an iron chapel at Appleton. The Welsh Wesleyans also have a church. There are two Primitive Methodist chapels, and one of the United Free Methodists, called Zion.

The Congregationalists have a church at Simm's Cross; (fn. 67) and the Welsh Congregationalists have a place of worship. (fn. 68) The Welsh Presbyterians, or Calvinistic Methodists, also have one. The Baptist chapel at Appleton dates from 1890, but a congregation is said to have been formed in 1872. The Salvation Army has a barracks. The Unitarians also have a meeting-place.

Roman Catholic worship was maintained during the period of persecution (fn. 69) in one of the houses of the Hawarden family in Appleton and Widnes, and some of its members were among the officiating priests. In 1750 a public chapel was opened in Appleton, replaced by the present church of St. Bede in 1847. (fn. 70) In 1865 the church of St. Mary was opened in Widnes, followed in 1888 by St. Patrick's.

Footnotes

1 3,110 acres, including 36 of inland water. There are about 85 acres of tidal water, and 223 of foreshore; Census of 1901.
2 A transporter bridge for goods and all kinds of traffic has recently been erected to the east.
3 Trans. Lancs. and Ches. Antiq. Soc. xix, 212.
4 V.C.H. Lancs. i, 280, 303.
5 Thus Cuerdley and Staining were granted before 1117, as may be seen in the accounts of those townships.
6 There appear to have been 2 fees of 12 plough-lands and 2 of 10; thus:— i. Appleton and Cronton, 6; Cuerdley, 1 or 1½ Maghull, ½ Astley, 1; Staining, 3. ii. Knowsley, 4; Huyton, 3; Roby, 2; Tarbock, 3. iii. Much and Little Woolton, 5; Kirkby, 2; Little Crosby, 3. iv. Sutton, 4; Eccleston, 4; Rainhill, 2. See Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 40–3. Cuerdley, having gone to the barons of Manchester, soon drops out of the reckoning; but an account of the rents paid to the bailiff of the wapentake about 1470, preserved among the Norris Deeds (B.M.), shows a total of 33s. 6d.
7 Inq. and Extents, 148; about the same time Appleton, with the appurtenances, was valued at £3 7s. 11d.; ibid. 157. Henry de Lacy, in 1302, paid 40s. for a knight's fee in 'Appleton with its members,' towards the aid for marrying the king's eldest daughter; ibid. 312.
8 V.C.H. Lancs. i, 312.
9 In the De Lacy Inquest (Chet. Soc.), 23, is an account of the rents received in 1311. The manor-house was worth 2s. a year; 96 acres in the demesne held by tenants at will, brought in 64s.; 16 oxgangs of land in bondage paid 8s.; and for works excused, and for a service called the 'brede,' 10s. 8d. The profits of the three-weeks court amounted to 6s. 8d. Richard de Donington held 24 acres, paying 2s. 8d.; and Richard de Denton and Roger son of Ralph held 2 acres and a water-mill for 10s. At Upton there were 8 oxgangs of land paying 16s., and a windmill and water-mill worth 26s. 8d.
The accounts of Henry de Lacy which have been published by the Chet. Soc. (vol. cxii) are of various years, some going as far back as 1295. They give many details of interest. Besides the 'brede' from Appleton, a rent called sakefee produced £1 16s. 1d.; rape silver, 6s. 8d.; 'cheminage' of 15 men, 1s. 3d., and of Randle de Widnes, 6s. 8d.; tallage of the bondmen, due every 3 years, £13 6s. 8d. Oxgalt was another tax payable every third year. Thistletake one year produced 12s.
Among the casual receipts were a mediety of the goods of Richard de Denton, serf of the earl, who had died, and the fine of his son Richard for his father's land; a fine of Philip de la Leigh, who had married the daughter of another serf, Roger de Widnes, on entering her father's lands; the merchets of Amabel daughter of William de Upton, Margery daughter of Richard de Denton, and others, amounting to 18s. There were also fines of freemen on entering land.
The men of Runcorn paid 2s. for having peat; pannage amounting to 9s. clear. The forester of Widnes paid £1 a year, and the serjeant of the free court £3. Henry le Waleys paid 7s. for a rood of land and a horse-mill, 'where before was a hand-mill.'
An extent of the Castle of Halton taken in July, 1328 (Inq. p.m. 2 Edw. III, 1st nos. n. 61), gives the following account of Widnes:—
There were in the vill of Widnes— here accounted separate—105 acres in demesne, farmed out at 70s., a water-mill and a windmill, worth 53s. 4d. Richard de Moore held his tenement at a rent of 7s. Certain customary tenants held 24 messuages, 2 cottages, 144 acres, &c., rendering 44s.
In the vill of Appleton there were 16 customary tenants, holding 32 messuages, 15 oxgangs of land and a third, 144 acres, &c., and paying 65s. 0¾d.
In the vill of Denton were 21 customary tenants, with 32 messuages, 206 acres, &c., and paying £4 2s.
In the vill of Upton were 19 customary tenants, holding in bondage 29 messuages and a cottage, 8 oxgangs of land, 128 acres, &c., and paying £4 7s. 0¾d.
All the tenants paid pannage, worth 6s. 8d. a year; and tallage every third year, worth £6 13s. 4d. The profits of the Halmote were worth 20s., and of the free court called the court of Widnes 13s. 4d.; the dues of the serjeants of the peace were worth 40s.
In 1300 the fee was reckoned as three knights' fees and the 8th and 40th parts of a fee; ibid. 63. In 1346 it seems to have been 3½ fees, and the 10th and 20th parts of a fee; Extent of 1346 (Chet. Soc.), 38, 40. See also Dods. MSS. cxxxi, fol. 33, where the service due from the lord of the fee is stated as 30s. for ward of the castle of Lancaster and sakefee, and doing suit to county and wapentake.
10 Pat. 5 Chas. I, pt. xv; 24 Chas. II.
11 Duchy of Lanc. Misc. Books, xxvi (2), 91.
12 Beamont, Halton Rec. 49; Baines, Lancs. (ed. 1836), iii, 722.
13 This appears from the accounts of Henry de Lacy cited above, as also from the Halton feodary in Ormerod's Ches. (ed. Helsby), i, 708. Originally Appleton and Cronton seem to have been reckoned as half a fee, or 6 plough-lands, and on division Appleton as 3 or 4, with Cronton as 3 or 2.
In 1181–2 Agnes Bonetable owed 3 marks for a recognition of her right in half a knight's fee in Appleton; 'she had nothing'; Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 47, 52. In 1198 Richard de Venables and Agnes his wife owed 2 marks for a brief 'de morte antecessoris' concerning the same; ibid. 106.
14 Duchy of Lanc. Misc. Vols. vol. cxxx, fol. 8; also Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), ii, 197. They were to pay the same rents as hitherto—usually 1s. per acre— do suit at the court of Widnes, pay heriot and relief, and 1s. and acre at an alienation. A bailiff was to be elected by them to collect the lord's due, and see that the decisions of the court were carried out. Turbary was to be allowed each tenant according to his holding, and 4s. a year was to be paid for this right. As an example, Robert de Ditton having acquired 5 acres 1 rood in Appleton, came to the court at Widnes in October, 1382, and paid his relief, 5s. 3d., according to custom; Norris D. (B.M.), n. 278.
Gregson remarks that in 1820 the farms were small, only 8 or 10 acres apiece; the tenure of the land was copyhold of inheritance at small annual rents, a year's rent being paid on transfer; Fragments, 178, 181.
15 There are over a hundred court rolls at the Record Office, extending from 1347 to the beginning of the last century, though with many years lacking; P.R.O. List of Ct. R. (No. 6), i, 1, etc. A report upon them was drawn up by Mr. Beamont in 1876 and printed at Warrington.
The earliest of these rolls shows that courts were held every four weeks, on Friday. Besides fines for various small offences, such as brewing ale, 'once,' assaults and trespasses, the rolls show something of the government of the manor and fee. On 21 Dec. 1347, "Roger de Denton appeared and took of the lord the serjeanty of the fee of Widnes this year, paying for the same £4' in July and September, and finding pledges 'for the farm and for faithful service.' At the same time Thomas de Wales and Richard de Denton appeared and took 'the little serjeanty of the homage of Widnes this year, paying for the same £4,' and offering pledges as before.
At other courts Sir Ralph de Beetham fined to the lord 2s. for his suit of Kirkby for the year; and William Gerard, senior, put in his place Henry the Serjeant to perform suit for him at the court of Widnes for his moiety of Kirkby. The judge of Astley fined 2s. for his suit of Astley; while the judge of Little Crosby appeared with the king's writ authorizing him to appoint an attorney, 'whereupon he put in his place Roger de Denton by his letters patent.'
'At the Widnes court in 1512 Robert Woodfall was charged with walking at night through the King's street in Farnworth, in front of the houses of the King's tenants, and with force and arms —namely, a staff and dagger—calling out "Whoever wishes to fight me, let him come out," whereby the King's subjects were disturbed and put in fear; whereupon he was fined by the court'; Beamont, Halton Rec. 27.
The punishments inflicted at Widnes included the pillory, cucking-stool, brank, tumbrel, stocks, and whipping-post; ibid. 36. For the right to imprison Widnes men in Halton Castle see Ducatus Lanc. ii, 132–5.
16 Richard de Upton occurs about 1240; Bold D. (Warr.), F. 178. Richard, the clerk of Upton, and William, the serjeant of Upton, about 1270; ibid. F. 350. William son of Richard, the clerk of Upton, about the same time married Annota, daughter of William del Marsh of Ditton; Kuerden, fol. MS. 260, n. 578.
17 John Tyrel in 1272 confirmed an acre in Denton to the monks of Stanlaw, which his grandfather Hugh Tyrel had formerly given them in alms, and which Richard de Denton his uncle then held from the abbot for life. About the same time Henry son of Thomas de Denton quitclaimed all right in this land; Whalley Coucher (Chet. Soc.), iii, 821–2.
The Bold deeds at Warrington preserve further particulars. About 1270 Simon, abbot of Stanlaw, granted this acre to Richard, son of Robert de Widnes—no doubt the Richard de Denton above-mentioned—at a rent of 12d. and half a mark for relief; F. 350. Richard de Denton afterwards gave it to Robert his son and his wife Maud, who regranted it to the father in 1306; F. 349, 348, 347. The acre was by this time known as the Abbot's Acre. See also Ducatus Lanc. i, 263. The same collection contains a number of the deeds regarding lands in Farnworth.
The Dentons have been named in preceding notes. Richard son of John de Cronton and Isabel his wife, and others, were plaintiffs in a suit against John, son of Randle de Denton, in 1337; Assize R. 1424, m. 11d. John Denton and Elizabeth his wife were recusants in 1641; Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), xiv, 241. This was probably the reason of the sequestration of the property in 1643–4, when the Parliament obtained power, though in 1651 the authorities were uncertain as to the cause; Royalist Comp. P. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 120. John Denton's land was afterwards declared forfeited and sold; Cal. Com. for Comp. iv, 3169; Index of Royalists (Index Soc.), 41.
M. Gregson states: 'Denton's house and lands are now (1817) the property of the editor [himself], and have been of his maternal ancestors ever since 1669; the last Denton, whose children sold it, died in 1661'; Fragments, 179.
Families named Donington and Leigh have been mentioned in the fourteenth century. In 1323, by fine, Richard de Donington and Emma his wife transferred to Robert son of Richard, and Margery his wife, a messuage and lands in Appleton; Final Conc. ii, 50. About five years later Maud, widow of Robert de Donington, claimed land held by Thomas, son of Robert de Denton; De Banc. R. 264, m. 115. Roger de Donington died in 1449–50, holding lands here; his heriot was an ox, valued at 6s. 1d.; the heir was his son Richard, who may be the Richard Donington, rector of Solihull, who in 1454 purchased lands in Denton; Duchy of Lanc. Ct. R. bdle. 5, n. 67, 69.
Lands here were in 1332 in dispute between Richard son of Philip de la Leigh, and Robert son of Robert, son of Philip de la Leigh; Assize R. 1411, m. 12. Eight years later the same Richard son of Philip granted a messuage and lands to his son William, on his marriage with Margery, daughter of Richard del Ditchfield; Dods. MSS. lviii, fol. 163b.
18 By a deed of 1437–8 Agnes, widow of William Wright, daughter and heir of Emmota de Denton, granted to Gilbert, son of Sir Henry Bold, all her hereditary lands, &c., within Widnes; Dods. MSS. lviii, fol. 163. Robert Wright in 1457 bought lands in Widnes, Denton, and Appleton, from William Wright and Agnes his wife, and afterwards sold them to Robert Bold; Duchy of Lanc. Ct. R. bdle. 5, n. 69. In 1666 Robert and John Wright had 5 hearths to be taxed at Appleton, and Margaret Wright 5 at Farnworth.
The house has over the porch 1670
TW: MW: HW
for Thomas, Martha, and Henry Wright. In 1895 the owner and occupier was a Mr. Cowley, said to be descended from the Wrights; Information from Mr. R. D. Radcliffe.
19 Fragments, 181. A view of Peel House in 1819 is given; ibid. 171. The Upper House appears to be that also called Widnes Hall or Widnes House. Lower House formerly belonged to the Hawardens; see Gillow.
The Carters were a recusant family, Richard Banastre, an 'old priest,' being sheltered in their house 'by the Runcorn boat' in 1586; Lydiate Hall, 229. They appear in the roll of 1641, and suffered accordingly under the Commonwealth, Richard Carter's estate being absolutely confiscated; Cal. Com. for Comp. v, 3202.
Richard Smith, of the Peel House in Farnworth, was in 1582 reported to resort to Bold, probably for mass, a resident priest being his uncle; Lydiate Hall, 221 (quoting Dom. Eliz. cliii, n. 62), 226. About 1592 there was a dispute between John Ogle, of Roby and Whiston, and Alexander Standish, of Duxbury, respecting the Peel House in Appleton; Duchy of Lanc. Pleadings, Eliz. ccxiii, 228.
The Leigh family continue to be the chief landowners. See the account of Walton church.
20 They used a variant of the Eaton coat, one of those quartered by the Hawardens of Woolston. It should be noted, however, that a William de Hawarden was here as early as 1332; Exch. Lay Subs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 17.
Pedigrees were recorded in 1613 and 1664; see the printed Visit. (Chet. Soc.) of those years, 88 and 132 respectively. John Hawarden was a freeholder in Appleton in 1600; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 242. The Hawardens, with many others in Widnes, adhered to the ancient faith, and in the recusant roll of 1641 John Hawarden, gent., and three other members of the family occur; Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), xiv, 241. He does not appear to have taken arms for the king in the Civil War, two-thirds of his estate being sequestered 'for recusancy only' in 1654, when he petitioned to be allowed to compound; Royalist Comp. P. iii, 172.
The will of Edward Hawarden, of Ditton, dated in Nov. 1648, and proved at Chester in the following year, gave his property, after the death of his wife Ellen, to Edward Hawarden, youngest son of the testator's nephew John. In 1717 Mary Hawarden, widow, as a 'Papist,' registered an estate of £37 in Halebank for herself and her son John; Cath. Nonjurors, 120. The will of Caryll Hawarden, dated 20 Oct. 1757, is enrolled at Preston; Piccope MSS. iii, 372, from 32nd and 33rd rolls of Geo. II. Caryll was in 1727 called nephew and heir of Thomas Hawarden, deceased; Croxteth D. CC. iv.
'Towards the close of the last [xviii] century the family merged into that of Fazakerley, and ultimately into that of the Gillibrands;' Gillow, Bibliog. Dict. of Engl. Cath. iii, 168, where will be found a memoir of the most distinguished member of the family, Edward Hawarden, D.D., who died in 1735 (see also Dict. Nat. Biog.); and incidental notices of many others, including Thomas, eldest son of Caryll Hawarden, the subject of a 'miraculous cure' by the hand of the Ven. Edmund Arrowsmith in 1736; Foley, Rec. S.J. ii, 61 (from the account printed in 1737). In 1811 their estates were sold; Baines, Lancs. (ed. 1836), iii, 722.
21 See the pedigree of 1613. Disputes in 1578 as to messuages and lands in Widnes between John Appleton and John Hawarden are recorded in Ducatus Lanc. iii, 63, 492.
The Linacres of Widnes, with whom the Hawardens intermarried, were also recusants, and John Linacre's lands were sold by the Parliamentary authorities in 1654; Cal. Com. for Comp. v, 3182.
22 The passage over the Mersey between Widnes and Runcorn had with various lands been granted to the Hospitallers by John, constable of Chester; and in 1190 Garner de Nablous, prior, granted the same to Richard de la More. The latter and heirs were to maintain a boat for the purpose, and the gift was in the nature of an alms, for 'all who should ask to cross "for the love of God," were to have the passage'; Birch Chapel (Chet. Soc.), 190.
In 1311 it was found that Richard son of Henry del Shaw had held of the earl of Lincoln two acres in Appleton for maintaining the passage; he was to have a boat and employ two men for it, conveying freely all wishing to cross either way; Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 254 (from Inq. p.m. 4 Edw. II, n. 51).
At the beginning of 1366 the Black Prince, as earl of Chester, forbade any passage of the Mersey to be made except at the places which had always been used for crossing; those who chose new ways were to be arrested and imprisoned in Chester Castle; Add. MS. 32107, n. 227.
23 Ducatus Lanc. i, 293; ii, 122, 219; iii, 139, &c.
24 Index of Royalists, 41.
John Lawton and his wife had lands in Widnes, which were sequestered for their recusancy; their heir, John Croft, who had 'ever been conformable,' and took the oath of abjuration, petitioned the Parliamentary authorities for restoration; Royalist Comp. P. iv, 73.
25 Lay Subs. 250–9.
26 Eng. Cath. Non-jurors, 123.
27 Trans. Hist. Soc. xxii, 217. The ferry was owned by Lord Cholmondeley as lessee from the crown, but William Hurst of West Bank claimed the right of free passage by the ferry and a toll on goods passing over his land. The marsh land between the canal and the river was divided into sixty-nine cowgates.
28 Duchy of Lanc. Ct. R. bdle. 5, n. 66; 4, n. 57. John Jackson Alanson of Appleton, in 1395, granted to Robert Jackson of Ditton half an acre in Farnworth, half a rood being near the Standelues, and the rest 'near the burgage of Nicholas Pecket in Farnworth'; Bold D. (Warr.), G. 54.
29 Lond. Gaz. 1 Aug. 1865.
30 The date of incorporation is 26 May, 1892. The area of the borough is the same as that of the township. There are six wards, each with an alderman and three councillors, viz. Farnworth, Simm's Cross, Halton, Victoria, Waterloo, and West Bank.
31 30 & 31 Vic. cap. 126.
32 Difference in details between two nearly or quite contemporary nave arcades is not uncommon.
33 The development is of a somewhat uncommon type, and one rather more likely to cause interruption of services— a factor always to be taken into account in questions of mediaeval church enlargements—than any of the more usual processes. Bad foundations might account for it, but there is no evidence for such.
34 The galleries formerly here were responsible for much damage to the capitals and arches.
35 Provision for its drainage has been found here.
36 For an account of the chapel before the restoration see Glynne, Lancs. Churches (Chet. Soc.), 84; also Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), x, 193; and for the font, ibid. (New Ser.), xvii, 69. There is a view (from the west) in Gregson's Fragments (ed. Harland), 214. The monuments are described, and a view of the church (from the east) is given in the Gent. Mag. Aug. and Sept. 1824; and notes of monuments, glass, &c. taken by Randle Holme early in the seventeenth century, in Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), vi, 259; xiv, 211; also Dods. MSS. cliii, fol. 46b. The churchyard cross stands on ancient steps; Lancs. and Ches. Antiq. Soc. xix, 211.
37 Quoted in a decree made in 1620 by the bishop of Chester, wherein is also recited an ordinance of Bishop Coates in 1555; this ordered the election of eight men, who were to audit the accounts of the churchwardens and assess the inhabitants.
38 Whalley Coucher (Chet. Soc.), iii, 815, where the path from Cronton to the church of Farnworth is mentioned. A little later (1336) it is called a chapel; ibid. 817.
39 Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), i, 245; ii, 287. The latter case is printed in Duchy Plead. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 199. It contains a number of interesting particulars as to the 'great rank of iron, curiously wrought,' whereon many lights used to stand before the Blessed Sacrament. The few 'ornaments' belonging to the church in 1552 are recorded in Ch. Goods (Chet. Soc.), 81; also Raines, Chantries (Chet. Soc.), 276.
40 Ducatus Lanc. ii, 123.
41 Ch. Goods, 83.
42 Clergy List, 1541–2, (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 15; and Visit. Lists at Chester.
43 Lancs. and Ches. Rec. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 285. This time the amount is given at £3 12s. 10½d.; in 1650 it was said to be £3 6s. 8d.; now £3 13s. is paid. Canon Raines states that the payment dates from the dissolution of the chantry, being the net proceeds of the chantry revenue, viz. £4 less 7s. 1½d. as the tenth; Chantries, 77. For an addition to the endowment see End. Char. Rep. (Prescot) 1902, p. 78.
The vicar has given some information respecting the church and district.
44 Lond. Gaz. 12 July, 1859.
45 Visit. List of 1562 (at Chester). In 1564 he was presented to the bishop for 'shriving, and for suffering candles to be burned in the chapel on Candlemas day, according to the old superstitious custom'; Raines, Chantries, 77 (quoting his Lancs. MSS. xxii). He died in May, 1566; registers.
46 Lancs. and Ches. Rec. ii, 285; a pension of £3 12s. 10½d. granted him as curate of Farnworth, during pleasure.
47 Licensed as reader; Pennant's MS. acct. book at Chest. Dioc. Reg.
48 Lancs. and Ches. Rec. loc. cit. Thomas Hawkinson, curate of Farnworth, is said to have been buried 11 Mar. 1583–4.
49 Ibid.; the patent granting the pension was renewed in 5 Jas. I. It was William Sherlock who copied out the old register from 1538 to 1598. He was probably the curate of Hale also, but was 'no preacher.' See Ch. Goods, 84; Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), x, 183; Gibson, Lydiate Hall, 248, (quoting S.P. Dom. Eliz. ccxxxv, n. 4). He was only a 'reading minister' in 1610; Kenyon MSS. (Hist. MSS. Com.), 12. He died early in 1641 and was buried at Farnworth. His son William was a curate of Wigan.
50 Lancs. and Ches. Rec. loc. cit.
51 Plundered Mins. Accts. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 67. He had been appointed in 1647, by the choice of the inhabitants with the approval of the classis; and had served the cure without ordination. The Parliamentary Committee were 'fully satisfied of his piety and personal ability.'
52 Commonwealth Ch. Surv. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 76. In 1650 the curacy was vacant.
53 His name occurs in the registers of 1675 and 1679.
54 Kenyon MSS. (Hist. MSS. Com.), 229. He did not appear at the visitation in 1691, when the curacy seems to have been vacant.
55 Will proved at Chester, 1705.
56 Mentioned in N. Blundell's Diary, 74. He went to Manchester.
57 Will proved at Chester, 1732. His name occurs on one of the bells cast in 1718. He was a Cambridge man.
58 From this time the curates were always presented by the vicars of Prescot, though previously the parishioners had often nominated. Some of the names are due to the Rev. F. G. Paterson.
59 Died in 1747, aged 33, according to an inscription in the church.
60 Died in 1792; M.I.
61 Ibid.
62 In a note referring to the obsequies of Henry Bold, temp. Hen. VII, the first payment was to 'John Walton, chaplain, occupying the chantry of Sir John Bold'; Raines MSS. (Chet. Lib.), xxxviii, 284.
63 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), v, 220; Raines, Chantries (Chet. Soc.), 76. Thomas Johnson was buried 20 July, 1548; Ch. Goods, 1552, p. 84.
64 Plundered Mins. Accts. i, 67. It appears that £10 had been bequeathed by Thomas Vaus of Garston, the interest to be given to a 'preaching minister' here.
65 A history of it was published in 1905 by the head master, C. R. Lewis, M.A.
66 Chapelry formed in 1859; Lond. Gaz. 17 May.
67 Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. iv, 266; the chapel was built in 1875, after ten years' work.
68 Ibid. iv, 270; the chapel was built in 1878.
69 The recusant roll of 1628 shows eighteen names in this township; Lay Subs. 131/318.
Richard Rivers, vere Burscough, son of John Burscough and Anne Hitchmough his wife, was admitted to the English College, Rome, in 1673. He stated that he was born at Widnes in 1657, and baptized by Mr. Barlow, a secular priest; in 1672 he was 'sent to St. Omer's for his humanities, having studied rudiments at Widnes. His parents and relatives were of the upper class; his father was not rich, being a younger son, and had suffered much for the Catholic faith, which his parents had embraced; he had three brothers and two sisters, all Catholics'; Foley, Rec. S.J. vi, 421.
Lawrence Hill, falsely accused of the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey and executed 21 February, 1678–9, is supposed to have been a native of Widnes; Gillow, Bibliog. Dict. of Engl. Cath. iii, 307.
70 Ibid. iii, 168.


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