A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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This township, stretching from east to west for over four miles, has a total area of 3,150 acres. (fn. 1) The portion of it in the south-eastern corner was called Hardshaw, 269 acres, and here, around St. Helen's chapel, the modern town of this name has sprung up, the borough including, since 1893, besides Hardshaw proper, a portion of Windle amounting to 720 acres. North of the town is Windleshaw, and to the west are Cowley Hill and Denton's Green. On the south a brook divides it from Eccleston, and is joined by the Rainford Brook, which runs across Windle. The highest point to the west of the latter brook, 185 ft., is at the northern boundary of St. Helens; but to the east over 260 ft. is attained at Moss Bank.
For the most part the country is rather bare and undulating. Windle Hill from the north looks fairly steep, but from the south its height is completely dwarfed. As a rule the hills of South Lancashire have their steepest incline to the west, but Windle Hill is an exception. The land is principally divided into cultivated fields, where potatoes and corn are chiefly produced. On the east the township possesses more timber trees than westward, and there are more pastures. The eastern boundary line runs through Carr Mill Dam, a large sheet of water, with strictly preserved plantations surrounding it. In the extreme north-west there is a narrow band of mossland, where the surface soil consists of clay and peat. The township lies mainly upon the lower (gannister beds) and middle coal measures, but at Windle Moss and Blindfoot in the north-western corner, there intervenes the belt of lower mottled sandstone of the bunter series which, superimposed upon the coal measures, extends from Rainford village to the Chase in Knowsley Park.
The principal road is that from St. Helens to Ormskirk. From St. Helens, where there is a station, the London and North-Western Company's line; branch out in four directions—to Ormskirk, with stations at Gerard's Bridge and Moss Bank; to Wigan, with one at Carr Mill; to Liverpool, and to Widnes. The Liverpool. St. Helens, and South Lancashire Railway has its terminus here.
John William Draper, chemist, and author of scientific and historical works, was born at St. Helens in 1811. He was president of New York University from 1850 to 1873, and died in 1882. (fn. 2)
The Local Government Act of 1858 was adopted in 1864, but disapproved. (fn. 3) The existing township is governed by a parish council.
The manor of WINDLE was among those granted to Pain de Vilers, the first baron of Warrington, and continued to from part of this fee until the dispersal of the estate about 1585. The customary rating was two ploughlands, and in 1346 it was held of the earl of Lancaster by the service of the third part of a knight's fee, £2 rent, and the usual suit to county and wapentake courts. (fn. 4)
Pain de Vilers, the original grantee, gave one plough-land, in marriage with his daughter Emma, to Vivian Gernet; their inheritance seems to have been divided between daughters and granddaughters before 1212, when Alan son of Alan was holding this half of Windle of Robert de Vilers. (fn. 5) Robert de Vilers perhaps resigned his rights, for in 1242 his lordship was in the hands of the earl of Ferrers. (fn. 6) About 1260 Robert de Ferrers granted his right in Windle to William le Boteler of Warrington, thus abolishing the mesne lordship formerly held by Vilers. (fn. 7) Robert de Vilers appears to have left an heir of the same name, who some years later attempted to recover the lost rights, claiming suit from Peter de Burnhull and Alice his wife between 1274 and 1278. (fn. 8)
Alan de Windle, the father of the Alan who was tenant in 1212, died before Easter 1200. (fn. 9) Shortly afterwards his widow Edusa claimed from the son her power in lands in Skelmersdale, Syfrethley in Dalton, Pemberton, and Windle. (fn. 10) The younger Alan, sometimes called 'Le Styward,' (fn. 11) perhaps survived until about 1240, when he was succeeded by a son of the same name. (fn. 12)
Alan de Windle III, later called Sir Alan, (fn. 13) was acting as juror at various inquests from 1242 onwards. (fn. 14) In 1252 William de Ferrers, earl of Derby, was pardoned for a false claim against him, (fn. 15) and next year Alan de Windle and Thurstan de Holand joined in resisting an encroachment by the earl. (fn. 16) Alan died between 1256 and 1274, and was succeeded by the above-named Peter de Burnhull and his wife Alice, the daughter and heir of Alan. (fn. 17) The new lord died before 1292, (fn. 18) leaving two sons, both under age; Peter, the elder, died without issue before 1298, and Alan his brother succeeded. (fn. 19) He was living in 1318, (fn. 20) but did not enjoy the manor long, for his son Peter was in possession in 1324, (fn. 21) but died soon afterwards, when his sisters Joan and Agnes inherited his manors. The former married William Gerard, of Kingsley, in Cheshire, and the latter David de Egerton. (fn. 22) Ultimately the whole inheritance was held by the Gerards, so that it may be presumed there was no issue by the other marriage. The manor has descended regularly to the present Lord Gerard of Brynn (fn. 23) in Ashton.
A dispute occurred in the early part of the reign of Henry VIII, the Gerards wishing to escape the dependence on Warrington. Sir Thomas Boteler, however, succeeded in enforcing a claim for an annual castle-guard rent of 12d., and a relief of 10s. (fn. 24) In September, 1516, at the general sessions, Sir Thomas Gerard did homage for the manor, as for the tenth part of a knight's fee, in the great hall of the castle of Lancaster, 'where the justices of our Lord the King were wont to dine and sup when they came to hold session there,' and the names of the witnesses were carefully recorded. (fn. 25)
Among the suits of the time of Edward III relating to Windle was one between the families of Hindley and Urmston. (fn. 26) A family of longer standing was that of Colley, or Cowley as the name was spelt in later times. They appear from the end of the thirteenth century to the beginning of the seventeenth. (fn. 27) The families of Harflynch (fn. 28) and Eccles (fn. 29) also appear in the sixteenth century; and others of the neighbourhood, like the Byroms, Parrs, and Woodfalls, were also owners of land.
The Gerards appear to have made a park, and this portion, WINDLESHAW, is sometimes described as a manor. (fn. 30)
Manor courts are still held for Windle. (fn. 31)
Adam Martindale, a puritan divine, born near Mossbank in 1623, has recorded some interesting details as to the neighbourhood. (fn. 32)
In the time of the Commonwealth the estate of William Mainwaring in Windleshaw was sequestrated for his delinquency and recusancy, and two thirds of the estate of Janet Ball, widow, were under sequestration for recusancy. (fn. 33)
In 1717 the following 'Papists' registered estates here: Henry Tyrer, Thomas Unsworth, Alice Leadbetter, and John son of Thomas Fletcher. (fn. 34) The land tax returns for 1785 show that the township was then divided into Moss End, Moss Bank End, and Hardshaw. The principal contributor to the tax was Mr. Bailey, paying about an eighth.
The early history of HARDSHAW is quite unknown. It was the property of the Hospitallers and ranked as a separate manor. (fn. 35) It seems to have been held of them by the Orrells, (fn. 36) and from about 1330 until the seventeenth century by the Travers family. (fn. 37) It was afterwards acquired by Edward and Richard Egerton, holders about 1633, under the earl of Derby. (fn. 38) Towards the end of the eighteenth century it was held by John Penketh Cotham, (fn. 39) from whom it has descended to Mr. Alfred Angelo Walmesley-Cotham. (fn. 40) Certain manorial rights are still connected with it. Old Hardshaw Hall was pulled down about 1840; the new hall is used by the Providence Hospital. Another house, called the Manor House, was pulled down about 1870. No courts are now held.
A grant of land in Hardshaw was made by Bartholomew Ford to Sir Richard Bold in 1483; (fn. 41) the inquisitions show that his descendants held it a century later. A family named Roughley resided here in the seventeenth century; one of them was founder of the school. (fn. 42)
ST. HELENS being situated at a point at which various roads intersected, as from Widnes or Warrington to Lathom and Ormskirk, and from Prescot to Wigan and Newton, it is probable that there has for centuries been something of a village here, clustered round the chapel. (fn. 43) The King's Head Inn, formerly on the site of the post office, was built in 1629. (fn. 44) A school was founded about the same time, and before the end of the century a monthly meeting of the Society of Friends was established, followed by an Independent chapel in 1710. (fn. 45)
The progress of coal-mining in the neighbourhood, which led to the formation of the Sankey Canal in 1755, also promoted the growth of St. Helens, as the most convenient centre of trade and residence. By 1800 it had become a small town, comparable with Ormskirk. (fn. 46) A Saturday market was established 'by custom,' and two annual fairs, on Easter Monday and Tuesday and the first Friday and Saturday after 8 September. (fn. 47)
The Liverpool and Manchester Railway, opened in 1830, passed about a mile and a half south of the town, and two years later the St. Helens and Runcorn Gap line was constructed. Both are now parts of the London and North Western system, and the latter was extended through the town to Ormskirk in 1849 and 1858. (fn. 48) A new railway, known as the Liverpool, St. Helens, and South Lancashire, was begun in 1888; the eastern portion is worked by the Great Central Company, having been opened in 1895. (fn. 49) There is also communication with neighbouring places by the electric tramways.
Other conveniences for the growing town were supplied from time to time. A gas company was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1832; a water company was also established, and in 1844 water pipes were laid in the town; these works have been taken over by the public authorities. Market sheds were opened in 1843, and a market hall in 1850; a covered market was built in 1889.
The government was popularized in 1845 by the creation of an urban sanitary authority, with a board of Improvement Commissioners. (fn. 50) A county court was granted about the same time. A townhall, built by an association of 'proprietors' in 1839, being burnt down in 1871, the present public town hall was built and opened in 1876. A charter of incorporation was granted in 1868; (fn. 51) the town became a parliamentary borough in 1885, and a county borough in 1889. A borough police force was established in 1887. The area comprises Hardshaw, the original seat of the town, parts of Windle and Eccleston, and the whole of Parr and Sutton—in all 7,284 acres. (fn. 52) The population in 1901 was 84,410.
A public library (fn. 53) and technical school, built and presented to the town by Sir David Gamble, bart., in 1896, are carried on by the corporation; the baths also belong to it. The St. Helens Hospital, established in 1873, and the Providence Hospital, opened in 1884 by Cardinal Manning, have been enlarged; there are also isolation hospitals at Peasley Cross and Haydock for infectious diseases. There are several parks, the principal being Victoria on the north, opened in 1887, and Taylor on the southwest, opened in 1893. (fn. 54) The cemetery is at Windleshaw.
The aspect of the town is uninviting. The factories rear a forest of tall chimneys, shafts, kilns, and other weird erections on every hand, and the fumes of acids and the smoke of furnaces render the atmosphere almost unbearable to a stranger. The soil is mostly clay, which in the north-westerly part of the district produces crops of wheat, oats, and clover.
The nature and progress of the trade and manufactures have been noticed briefly in the accounts of the component townships. The collieries led the way; the glass-making, for long the principal trade, began in 1773, and copper-smelting about the same time. The Pilkington works are the largest glass manufactory in the world. (fn. 55) The great chemical works began in 1829. An iron foundry was established as early as 1798. The breweries can be traced back still further, a malt-kiln at Denton's Green in Windle having existed early in the eighteenth century. There are several potteries. The pill factory is of recent origin.
The earliest mention of St. Helen's chapel by this name occurs in the inventory of church goods made in 1552. (fn. 56) It appears after the Reformation to have remained in use for service, with a 'reading minister.' (fn. 57) In 1613 Katherine Domville, 'patroness of the chapel of St. Helen,' with James her son and heir, delivered the building to certain trustees with power to nominate the minister, appoint seats and forms, &c. (fn. 58) The improvement effected was shown in 1622, when John Burtonwood was 'lecturer' there. (fn. 59) The Parliamentary Commissioners in 1650 recommended that it should have a separate parish attached to it. Mr. Richard Mawdesley was 'minister and teacher' there. (fn. 60)
After the Restoration no attempt, as far as is known, was made by the vicar of Prescot to recover the chapel, which accordingly remained in the hands of the Presbyterians for another thirty years. (fn. 61) The first move was made in 1687, when Bishop Cartwright records that 'Mr. Venables and his brother brought Mr. Byrom of Prescot to me, who desired to have a curate in St. Helen's Chapel, into which the Presbyterians are now intruded, which I promised him—Mr. Dalton.' (fn. 62) Nothing seems to have been accomplished; perhaps the political disturbances of the time interfered, but John Byrom persevered, and in April, 1692, its registration as a Presbyterian meeting place was prevented. (fn. 63) James Naylor, the existing incumbent, retained his position till his death in 1710.
Benefactions were from time to time made for the benefit of the curate, (fn. 64) and in 1715 a grant was made from Queen Anne's Bounty.
The chapel was re-built in 1816 as St. Mary's. The incumbent is nominated by trustees. (fn. 65) A school at Denton's Green is used for services.
|1710||Theophilus Kelsall, B.A. (fn. 66) (Pembroke College, Cambridge)|
|1815||Thomas Pigot, M.A. (fn. 67)|
|1846||Edward Carr, LL.D. (Trin. Coll., Dublin)|
|1886||John Rashdall Eyre, M.A. (Clare College, Cambridge)|
|1891||John Wakefield Willink, M.A. (Pembroke College, Cambridge)|
|1904||Cyril Charles Bowman Bardsley, M.A. (New College, Oxford) (fn. 68)|
A school was built in the chapel-yard in 1670 by John Lyon of Windle. (fn. 69)
The chantry at Jesus Chapel—the exact position of which is unknown—was in 1535 in the hands of Richard Byland; the income was only 40s. a year. (fn. 70) It was said to have been founded by Sir John Bold; and in 1548 the royal commissioners recorded that there was no incumbent but at the pleasure of Lady Bold, widow of Sir Richard. Apparently it was not her pleasure at that time to pay a priest, and none was there. (fn. 71)
On the appointment of a curate in 1710 the congregation at St. Helens divided; part conformed, but the rest established an Independent meeting place, the origin of the present Congregational church. The worshippers in 1710–30 numbered about seven hundred, over fifty having the county vote. (fn. 72) A new chapel was opened in 1826, Dr. Raffles preaching. It has been enlarged. (fn. 73) There is another Congregational chapel in Knowsley Road. (fn. 74)
The Quakers, as already stated, have long had a meeting place; it was registered in 1689. (fn. 75)
The Roman Church retaining numerous adherents in the district, (fn. 76) its worship was no doubt celebrated as opportunity offered, but no record seems to exist until 1693, when Mary Egerton of Hardshaw Hall bequeathed £4 to Mr. Gerard Barton, so long as he helped the people in and about Hardshaw. (fn. 77) Soon afterwards Blackbrook House in Parr became available. When the Scarisbricks ceased to reside at Eccleston Hall the chapel there was closed, but Winifred, widow of John Gorsuch Eccleston, (fn. 78) a former owner, in compensation built Lowe House church (St. Mary's) on the border of Hardshaw and Windle, near her own residence on Cowley Hill, and it was opened in 1793. (fn. 79) It has, except for a brief interval, been in charge of the Jesuit fathers, who also serve Holy Cross Church, built in 1862. The church of the Sacred Heart, built in 1878, is in the hands of the secular clergy.
The ruined chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury at Windleshaw, popularly known as 'Windleshaw Abbey,' stands about a mile from St. Helens. The chantry was founded by Sir Thomas Gerard with an endowment of £4 16s. out of his lands at Windle, the priest to celebrate for the souls of the founder's ancestors for ever. (fn. 80) Richard Frodsham (fn. 81) was incumbent in 1548, celebrating according to his trust; there was no plate. (fn. 82) There was some dispute between the Gerards and the crown as to the liability to pay the £4 after the abolition of the chantry. (fn. 83) The unused building gradually decayed, and the ground around the ruined chapel was in course of time used as a burial place by the adherents of the ancient faith. (fn. 84) In 1824 adjoining land was purchased by Sir William Gerard, whose son in 1835 added a plot of land to the burial ground, and in 1861 the St. Helens Burial Board acquired adjacent ground for a public cemetery. (fn. 85)
There is a well, known as St. Thomas's, about three hundred yards from the ruin. (fn. 86) The water was said to be good for sore eyes. An ancient cross on three steps stands beside the chantry; on it is the date 1627.
Adjacent is the church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, built on land given in 1892 by Lord Gerard, a descendant of the founder of the old chantry. (fn. 87)