Townships: Cuerdley

Pages 394-395

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.

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Kyueredeleye, 1275; Keuerdele, Kyuyrdele, 1292; Kyrdeleye, 1295; Keuerdelegh, 1328—a frequent spelling.

This township has an area of 1,573½ acres. (fn. 1) A considerable portion of it lying by the Mersey is marshy. It is situated in extremely unpicturesque flat country between the manufacturing towns of Widnes and Warrington, and presents little of interest so far as its natural features are concerned.

The soil is a stiff clay, and the chief produce wheat and oats, and many acres afford good pasturage. The geological formation consists of the upper mottled sandstone of the bunter series of the new red sandstone or trias, which is covered by alluvium in Cuerdley Marsh. The principal road is that from Widnes to Penketh. The Cheshire Lines Committee's Liverpool to Manchester railway crosses the northern angle, where it is joined by a branch line from Widnes. The St. Helens Canal passes through the southern part of the township.

Cromwell's Bank is the name given to an ancient dyke in the marsh. In this marsh the Bold Dragon is said to have been slain.


Only the name seems to survive of Cuerdley Cross. (fn. 2)

Early in the twelfth century CUERDLEY formed part of the demesne of the Widnes fee, and before 1117 right of common in the woods and pasture was granted by William Fitz Nigel to the priory of Runcorn; which right continued to be enjoyed by the canons of this house after their removal to Norton. (fn. 3) By the marriage of William's daughter Maud to Albert Grelley II, the manor came into the possession of the barons of Manchester, (fn. 4) and is usually stated in the extents of the barony of Manchester to be held of the honour of Halton by the eighth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 5)

Early in the fifteenth century it seems to have been granted to the Cistercian abbey of Jervaulx in Yorkshire. (fn. 6) A few years after the dissolution of that house it was sold by the crown to Richard Brooke, (fn. 7) said to have been a Hospitaller, who after the suppression renounced his vows, married, conformed to the new religious system, and founded the house of Brooke of Norton Priory. (fn. 8) Cuerdley manor, with practically all the land in the township, has descended regularly to the present head of the family, Sir Richard Marcus Brooke, baronet. (fn. 9) Manor courts were still regularly held about 1830. (fn. 10)

Brooke of Norton Priory. Or, a cross engrailed per bale gules and sable.

Apart from occasional disputes between members of the Grelley family, (fn. 11) or between the lords of the manor and their tenants, (fn. 12) the history of the township has been obscure and uneventful.

Among the freeholders whose names occur at different times are Holand and Ireland, (fn. 13) Bury, (fn. 14) and Smith. (fn. 15) To this last family belonged William Smith, bishop of Lincoln, 1495 to 1515, the founder of Farnworth Grammar School, and co-founder of Brasenose College, Oxford. (fn. 16)

The hearth-tax list of 1662 shows that John Houghton and John Rutter were the principal residents. (fn. 17)


  • 1. 1,563, including 17 of inland water; there are also 50 acres of tidal water and 62 of foreshore; Census Rep. of 1901.
  • 2. Lancs. and Ches. Antiq. Soc. xix, 212.
  • 3. Ches. Sheaf (3rd Ser.), v, 28; Ormerod, Ches. (ed. Helsby), i, 691.
  • 4. Ibid. i, 691; Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), xvii, 33; Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 43, 240.
  • 5. The inquest after the death of Robert Grelley, taken in 1282, has the following description of Cuerdley: 'A manor house with a garden and two plats, worth 6s. 8d. a year; 120 acres of arable land of the demesne, worth £4 a year, and 13 acres of meadow worth 32s. 6d. a year; a pasture called the Warthe with the Woodhey, worth 13s. 4d.; pannage and dead wood were worth the same. A certain free tenant held 12 acres of land, and 2 acres of wood and meadow for one clove gilliflower; the tenants in bondage rendered 58s. 10d. and the cottars 3s. 4d. a year. The windmill and water-mill were worth 20s., and the pleas of the halmote 4s. The manor, which was of the constablewick of Chester, was held of Edmund, earl of Lancaster, and £2 a year was paid to him; it did suit to the county and wapentake'; Inq. and Extents, 247. In the extent of the manor of Manchester in 1322, Cuerdley was recorded to be held of the earl of Lancaster, as of the manor of Halton, for one-eighth of a fee; there was a dovecote. In the marsh were 50 acres of land worth 50s. Fifteen messuages had been built upon lands leased out. The two mills were also in operation, the tenants of the lord being bound to grind there to the sixteenth measure. The arable acreage was 223¾ Mamecestre (Chet. Soc.), ii, 381, &c. Some field-names are given—Salt lode, &c. The fishery in the Mersey, formerly rented at 2s., had become valueless, as the 'kiddles' could not be rented; nor could the bank be rented, as from the depth of the water and other causes, it could not be fished; ibid. 393. Cuerdley is mentioned in the inquisition after the death of John la Warre in 1347; Inq. p.m. 21 Edw. III (1st Nos.), n. 56. In that after the death of his grandson and heir, John la Warre in 1370, the tenure is stated as before, and a brief extent is given: 'There is in the manor of Cuerdley the site of the manor, containing 2 acres; also 220 acres of arable land, worth £11; 10 acres of meadow, 20s.; 60 acres of pasture, 15s.; a windmill, 20s.; a fishery in the Mersey, 2s.; the rent of free tenants amounted to 40s. and of natives to £4 3s., and the halmote was worth 10s. a year'; Inq. p.m. 44 Edw. III (1st Nos.), n. 68. In 1398 the tenure is given as before; the value of the manor being £20 a year; Inq. p.m. 22 Ric. II, n. 53. From 1420 the feoffees of Thomas la Warre paid him £36 5s. 6½d. yearly from this manor; Inq. p.m. 5 Hen. VI, n. 54, and Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxiii, App. 27.
  • 6. At the dissolution the abbey received a rent of £32 8s. 4d. from Cuerdley; Mon. v, 577. It is probable that the gift to the abbey was made by Thomas la Warre, the rent the abbot received being much the same as that of 1420. Suits between the abbot and tenants occurred in 1516 and 1517 concerning the customs of the manor; the new owner had to meet similar complaints in 1554; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), ii, 16, 18, 192. One of them, an inquiry into a complaint by the tenants in 1517 that the abbot had taken away the court rolls, has been printed in Duchy Pleadings (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 72; it shows that the manor had been given to Jervaulx before 1480, and gives some account of the holding of courts. A lease of 1485 by the abbot to Henry Watt is given in the Arch. Journ. xvii, 163.
  • 7. Pat. 7 Edw. VI, pt. xi; 24 Feb. 1552–3; the price named is £1,343 10s. 10d.
  • 8. Ormerod, Ches. i, 680. The inquisition taken after Richard Brooke's death, 1569, states that Cuerdley was held as the twentieth part of a knight's fee; the heir was his son Thomas, aged nineteen; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiii, n. 21. The patent of Edward VI described the tenure as socage.
  • 9. Ormerod, op. cit. i, 680–4, where an account of the family, with pedigree, may be seen. Various settlements by fine have been made from time to time; e.g. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 45, m. 82, in 1583, the deforciants being Thomas Brooke and Elizabeth his wife; and bdle. 282, m. 66, in 1718, when the deforciants were Sir Thomas Brooke, bart., Grace his wife, and Richard Brooke.
  • 10. Edward Eyes' report in Trans. Hist. Soc. xxii, 216. No rights of fishery were exercised. The boundaries were occasionally perambulated. The marsh, of about 260 acres, was divided into 500 cowgates.
  • 11. A suit or series of suits began in 1275 between Robert Grelley, lord of Manchester, and Peter Grelley, the latter being accused of wasting and selling portions of the plaintiff's inheritance. Robert had just come of age. Cuerdley is called a 'hamlet' of Manchester; De Banc. R. 11, m. 97 d.; 14, m. 30. Shortly afterwards, in 1277, Peter Grelley was plaintiff, demanding two messuages and three plough-lands in Cuerdley, or in Cuerdley Chorlton, which he asserted he held directly of the crown, and not of the earl of Lancaster. However, on inquiry, it was found that they were held of the earl, and so the matter was referred back to his court, in accordance with a writ from the king, it being contrary to Magna Charta for any one to be deprived of his court; De Banc. R. 18, m. 7 d.; 31, m. 55.
  • 12. William son of Roger de Sankey and Agnes his wife in 1292 complained that Thomas son of Robert Grelley, a minor, and others deprived them of the annual grant of a robe worth 20s. and competent sustenance for Agnes, which were to be afforded them at Cuerdley—'the vill is called Kyuyrdele not Kurtheley,' says the record—in compensation for the moiety of the manor of Barton which Agnes had released to Robert Grelley in 1281; Assize R. 408, m. 28. Eleven or twelve years later the claim took the form of 7d. or 6d. a week payable out of this manor; De Banc. R. 148, m. 41; 156, m. 197.
  • 13. John de Bellew and Joan his wife in 1318 claimed dower in six messuages and one plough-land in Cuerdley; De Banc. R. 225, m. 170d. Joan was probably the daughter of Thomas de Lathom; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 32. She had married before 1313 William de Holand, of Euxton, brother of Sir Robert de Holand, and was left a widow in or before 1318. After the death of John de Bellewe, her second husband, in or about 1322 (Cal. Close R. 1318–23, p. 587, 606), she married William de Scargill (ibid. 1323–7, p. 65), and shortly after William de Multon (Inq. p.m. 19 Edw. II n. 96), when she claimed dower in Cuerdley, Mellor, and Garstang; in the first-named place a messuage and 40 acres of land, part of the premises in which she claimed dower, were held by Robert de Ireland; De Banc. R. 257, m. 252; 275, m. 314. Roger la Warre brought a suit concerning lands here held by Robert son of Adam de Ireland in 1359; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 7, m. 1 d. Immediately afterwards he granted to Thomas de Booth 14 acres of land and meadow which had belonged to Robert de Ireland; it would appear that the grantor had been borrowing from Thomas; Dods. MSS. cxlix, fol. 159b. Robert de Ireland, on being ousted, claimed warranty from Sir Robert de Holand, and probably received an equivalent grant from the latter's possessions; Assize R. 441, m. 1.
  • 14. John de Bury contributed to the subsidy in 1332; Exch. Lay Subs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 20. The other surnames include Linacre, Plumpton, and Balshaw. Adam de Bury of Cuerdley and Cecily his wife were parties to a fine in 1344; Final Conc. ii, 121. Henry son of Nicholas de Bury was pardoned for an assault about ten or twelve years later; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxii, App. 336.
  • 15. Ducatus Lanc., i, 304; ii, 192, 401; iii, 28, 384, 406.
  • 16. William Smith was born about 1460, probably in Cuerdley, though Peel House, Farnworth, has been called his birth-place. He was educated at Oxford. Under the patronage of Margaret, countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII, he rose to be bishop of Lichfield in 1492, and of Lincoln three years later. He was president of the Council of Wales in 1493. In 1508 and 1509 he founded Brasenose College, Oxford, a fellowship at Oriel, and a grammar school at Farnworth. He died 2 January, 1512–13, and was buried in Lincoln Cathedral. Captain John Smith of Virginia was another and perhaps more famous member of the family; Pal. Note-Book, iv, 125. Lawrence Smith of Cuerdley, on entering the English College at Rome in 1627, stated that he was the son of Henry and Joan Smith, 'of respectable position'; he had three brothers, two of whom were on the continent for the sake of their education. 'Most of his kindred were Catholics. He had studied at Farnworth and St. Omer's College. He was always a Catholic'; Foley, Rec. S.J. vi, 315 He was ordained priest in 1632 and left for England two years later. The recusant roll of 1628 shows Henry and Joan Smith, their son Richard, and fifteen others fined for religion; Lay Subs. 131/318.
  • 17. Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), xvi, 134.