A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Lying on the west bank of the Irwell between Clifton and Pendleton, but with a detached part—the ancient Shoresworth—to the south of Pendleton, this township has an area of 1,030½ acres. (fn. 1) The town proper lies in the north-west part of the district, while Agecroft Hall stands apart upon the Irwell in the north-east corner. The surface of the land slopes generally from west to east, from nearly 300 ft. to about 120 ft. above the ordnance datum. The population in 1901 was 8,493.
The principal road is that from Manchester to Bolton, from which the ancient Wigan road parts company near the southern boundary; a cross road leads through Agecroft by a bridge over the Irwell to Prestwich, and near the bridge another road from Manchester joins it. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's line from Manchester to Bolton runs north-westward, and that from Manchester to Hindley also crosses the township, and has two stations— Irlams-o'-th'-Height and Pendlebury. The former nearly follows the line of a fault which brings up the Coal Measures to the west, leaving the New Red Sandstone in evidence to the east. The Manchester and Bolton Canal runs along the easterly side of the former line, between it and the River Irwell.
There were thirty-five hearths liable to the tax in 1666. Agecroft Hall was the only large house, having eleven hearths. (fn. 2)
Pendlebury was joined with Swinton in 1875 to form a local board district; it is now governed by the Swinton and Pendlebury Urban District Council. (fn. 3) The Public Hall was built in 1870. The detached portion of the township was, with Pendleton, included in the borough of Salford in 1852. One of the Salford cemeteries is at Agecroft and another at New Barns. The great children's hospital on the southwest side was erected in 1873.
An ancient Campfield exists in the detached part of Pendlebury near Salford; and a neolithic hammer axe was found at Mode Wheel in the excavations for the Manchester Ship Canal. (fn. 4)
The manors of PENDLEBURY and SHORESWORTH were in 1212 held of the king in chief in thegnage by a rent of 12s. (fn. 5) The tenant was Ellis son of Robert de Pendlebury, to whom King John had granted Pendlebury while he was Count of Mortain, confirming or renewing the grant when he obtained the throne. (fn. 6) Ellis was also master serjeant of the wapentake of Salford, and this office, like the manor, was to descend to his heirs. (fn. 7) Ellis was a benefactor of Cockersand Abbey. (fn. 8) He died in or about 1216, and his son Adam succeeded him in his manors and serjeanty. (fn. 9) But little is known of him, and his son Roger appears to have been in possession in 1246 and 1254. (fn. 10) He also was a benefactor of Cockersand. (fn. 11) At this stage of the descent there is some difficulty. In 1274 Ellis son of Roger came to a violent death, (fn. 12) and Amabel, as widow of Ellis son of Roger the Clerk, claimed dower in various lands against Roger de Pendlebury. (fn. 13) Again, a short time afterwards, Amabel having received her dower, she and Roger de Pendlebury had to defend a suit brought by one Adam de Pendlebury, who satisfied the jury of his title to the manor. (fn. 14)
Ellis had a brother William and daughters Maud, Lettice, and Beatrice. Maud married Adam son of Alexander de Pilkington, and had a daughter Cecily. (fn. 15) The manor was sold before 1300 to Adam de Prestwich. (fn. 16)
The new lord of Pendlebury married Alice de Woolley daughter of Richard son of Master Henry de Pontefract, (fn. 17) the eventual heir being a daughter Alice, wife of Jordan de Tetlow. Her heir also proved to be a daughter, Joan, who married Richard de Langley, (fn. 18) and the manor descended regularly in this family until the end of the 16th century. Joan de Langley died in or before 1374, and her son and heir Roger being a minor the sheriff took possession of the manors. Roger himself died in 1393, holding the manor of Pendlebury as one plough-land by a rent of 16s., and a messuage called Agecroft, the family seat, by a rent of 6s. 8d. Again the heir was a minor, Roger's son Robert being fifteen years of age, but already married to Katherine daughter of Sir William de Atherton. (fn. 19)
Robert Langley died in April 1447, seised of the manors of Pendlebury and Prestwich, and various other lands; Thomas Langley his son and heir was then forty years of age. (fn. 20) Another son, Ralph, was rector of Prestwich and warden of Manchester. There was a third son, John. (fn. 21) Thomas had a son John, who succeeded him (fn. 22) in the manors and died in 1496, leaving a son and heir Robert about forty years old. (fn. 23) Dying in 1527, holding the manor of Pendlebury in socage by a rent of 16s. yearly, besides other manors and lands, he was succeeded by his grandson Robert son of Thomas Langley, the last of the male line in possession. (fn. 24) Robert was made a knight in 1547, (fn. 25) and died 19 September 1561, leaving four daughters as co-heirs. (fn. 26) On the division of the estates, Agecroft and lands in Pendlebury became the portion of Anne, (fn. 27) who married William Dauntesey, springing from a Wiltshire family. (fn. 28) The 'manor' of Pendlebury also was claimed by the Daunteseys for some time, (fn. 29) but was afterwards said to be held with Prestwich, descend ing in the Coke family (fn. 30) until about 1780, when it was sold to Peter Drinkwater of Irwell House, Prestwich. (fn. 31)
William Dauntesey of Agecroft, who died in 1622, (fn. 32) was succeeded by a son (fn. 33) and a grandson, also named William. The last-named, a minor at his father's death in 1637, was succeeded by his brother John, who, dying about 1693, (fn. 34) was succeeded in turn by his sons William and Christopher. (fn. 35) The latter of these married Mary daughter of Sir Edward Chisenhale or Chisnall, and had several children. (fn. 36) Edward, the eldest son, was subject to fits of lunacy, and his younger brother Christopher had the management of the estates, and succeeded. (fn. 37) He left a son John, in holy orders, who resided at Agecroft (fn. 38) till his death in 1811, and bequeathed his estate to cousins, the Hulls of Chorley. (fn. 39) John son of Richard Hull had but a short enjoyment of Agecroft, dying in 1813, when he was followed by his brother-inlaw, the Rev. Richard Buck, who had married Margaret Hull, and their son Robert succeeded. (fn. 40) His younger brother, John Buck, the next owner, took the name of Dauntesey in 1867, (fn. 41) and was followed by his sister Katherine Dauntesey Foxton, who died in 1878, when Agecroft Hall passed to Robert Brown, grandson of Thomas Hull. Mr. Brown took the name of Dauntesey on succeeding. Dying in 1905 he was succeeded by his brother, Captain William Thomas Slater Hull, who also adopted the surname of Dauntesey. (fn. 42)
Agecroft Hall stands on slightly rising ground on the west side of the Irwell valley, where the river flows southwards towards Manchester between the high ground of Kersal and Prestwich on the east and north, and Irlams-o'-th'-Height and Pendlebury on the west. The surroundings of the house are now greatly altered from what originally obtained, the colliery workings of the neighbourhood and the immediate proximity of railway and canal having almost entirely destroyed the former picturesqueness of the scenery. The hall, however, yet stands in grounds which preserve to the building something of its original country aspect, though the trees have suffered much damage from the smoke and fumes of the surrounding district.
The house is a very interesting example of timber construction standing on a low stone base with portions in brick, built round a central courtyard. The ground on the west side of the building falls precipitously, the walls standing close to the edge of the cliff. The three remaining sides are said to have been protected by a moat, but there is no trace of this, and the position of the house, being not far from the River Irwell on the east side, does not make the probability of the moat having existed very great. (fn. 43)
The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway from Bolton to Manchester and the Bury Canal both pass close to the house on the north side. (fn. 44)
The entrance to the court is on the east side, and the great hall is at the south end of the west wing, with the former kitchen and scullery at its north end. The chief living rooms are in the south wing, and the north and east wings were occupied by the offices and servants' quarters. The building appears to be of two main dates, but has been very much modernized both inside and out in the middle of the last century, considerable repairs and alterations having taken place there about the year 1865–7. There have also been subsequent additions and alterations, the last having taken place in 1894 after a fire which destroyed the roof of the greater portion of the east and south wings.
The house was probably begun at the end of the reign of Henry VII, or the beginning of that of Henry VIII, and much of the carving under the bay windows on the east side is very Gothic in detail, and of excellent design. The south wing and the greater part of the west wing appear to have been rebuilt about a century later, though the south wing has been so much modernized that its original date is somewhat difficult to determine. The great hall shows toward the courtyard a wealth of ornament in the timber framing and gables, in great contrast to the very plain construction of the east front, which consists entirely of horizontal sill pieces and straight uprights with a cove under the eaves. The building is of two stories throughout, about 18 ft. to the eaves, and the roofs are covered with grey stone slates, which offer a charming contrast to the black and white work of wood and plaster. The chimneys are of red brick, giving a welcome note of colour, but they are largely rebuilt or covered with ivy. The west side of the house is wholly faced with small 2-in. bricks, and has two projecting plain gables and a large central chimney. The general external appearance of the building, however, lacks some measure of that picturesqueness which is common in many other Lancashire timber houses, owing to the monotony of its main roof-lines, one gable only (that at the end of the south wing facing east) breaking the long perspective of the eaves. The roof of the south elevation, which is 96 ft. in length, is broken by three chimneys, but there is little diversity in the long line of wall, the projections of the chimney, bay windows, and the brick in the walling being very slight. The east or entrance elevation, which is 101 ft. in length, had formerly only one chimney at the junction of the old and later work of the two wings, but a modern brick chimney added in the north end has had the effect of breaking the straight line where most needed, and giving a balance to the original elevation which it formerly lacked. The windows are for the most part slightly projecting wooden bays carried on carved brackets, the carving along the west wing being mostly original, but in the south side modern copies. Over the entrance archway is a small oriel, the corbel beneath it richly carved with Gothic tracery in a series of radiating panels springing from a shaft which rises from a small blank shield on the crown of the four-centred entrance archway. The projecting sills of the other first-floor windows exhibit equally good carved tracery, and one has the figure of a hart couchant, a fine piece of work. (fn. 45)
The entrance to the court on the east side is under a plain timber arch, 10 ft. 6 in. wide, the old oak door and wicket still being in position. An inner wall, however, has been built, blocking the open way to the court; the present entrance therefore now only leads into the corridor which runs along the east side of the courtyard. Originally this corridor, which runs round the court on the east and south sides, was an open one carried on wood posts resting on stone bases, but the greater part of it is now inclosed. Its original appearance, however, can still be gathered from the north-east corner of the courtyard, where a length of about 20 ft. still remains as built, forming a very picturesque feature of the inner elevation. The old stone and wood posts are still in position the full length of the east side, the later wall being merely filled in between them, and continue for a distance of about 12 ft. along the south side, opposite the junction of the dining and drawing-rooms. The open corridor may indeed only have extended this far, and the dining-room (which is said to have been the ancient chapel) may belong to the earlier portion of the building. Its present condition is so entirely modern as to make it impossible to say whether this is so or not. The dining-room and drawing-room, however, are clearly of different dates, the division between them consisting of two walls side by side with a small space between, and their floors on different levels. Probably the rebuilding of the south wing was begun from this point westward at some time in the 17th century, and the old chapel converted to its later use at some subsequent date.
The courtyard is of irregular shape, and measures 43 ft. 6 in. across at its widest part from west to east, and 52 ft. from south to north. It presents a great contrast to the outer elevations of the house, the skyline being broken on the west side by three gables, two over the hall and one over the projecting bay formed by the old kitchen. The timber framing of the bay preserves something of the plainness of the garden fronts, but the vertical lines give place to diagonal tracings, and the upper story projects on brackets and a plaster cove. The gables over the hall, however, are richly ornamented with quatrefoil panels, and a panelled cove runs the full length of the hall, at the first-floor line, at a higher level than those of the old kitchen bay line, the lower portion of the wall being occupied by a long continuous window of fifteen lights on a moulded stone base 3 ft. 6 in. high. The gables are without barge-boards or hip-knobs, being quite plain, with overhanging slates. The only two gables in the building with barge-boards are shown at the ends of the south and east wings facing east and north, which have both been constructed in late years. The north side of the court preserves its old black and white wood and plaster construction, but in the west and south the elevations have been a good deal modernized, though in harmony with the old work, and much of the 'half-timber work' is paint or plaster. The east corridor runs right through the building to an outer door on the north side, and the south corridor leads direct to the great hall. A modern butler's pantry has been added in the south-east corner of the courtyard.
The rooms in the north and east wings, which are 9 ft. 6 in. high, are for the most part unimportant, being still used as the servants' part of the house, the present kitchen being immediately to the north of the entrance. North of the kitchen is a small staircase leading to the upper floor with good 17th-century flat pierced balusters. Another small staircase in the west wing north of the hall also preserves some 17th-century detail, but the main staircase in the south wing is modern. Internally the whole of the south wing is so much modernized as to be of little architectural interest; it contains the library, drawing-room, and dining-room, with the principal entrance and staircase. In the east window of the dining-room, which, like the oak panelling and other fittings, is modern, is preserved some ancient glass, some of which was formerly in other parts of the house. The initials R.L. (Ralph Langley) occur in several of the lights, either in a lozenge or circle, and sometimes with the Langley crest (a cockatrice). The centre light bears the Royal Arms (France and England) encircled by a garter, and surmounted by a crown, and in other lights are the badge of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York (a falcon in a closed fetter lock), a lion's head erazed gules collared and lined or, a red and a white rose with stalks entwined, and a crown and initials H.E. for Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and a daisy (root and flower) with the head of a greyhound over. The Langley crest also occurs twice by itself. The drawing-room preserves its original square-framed oak panelling on three sides, and over the north door are four full-length figures and four heads, said to be emblematic of peace and war, originally part of the pulpit in the private chapel. (fn. 46) On either side of the same door are carved panels, some with tracery, and others with a variety of linen pattern. The library, which is wholly modernized, has also some fragments of heraldic glass in the window, one showing part of a shield argent, two hunting horns gules, stringed or. The staircase window preserves some old diamond quarries, five of which bear the initials R.L., while on another is scratched the name of William Dauntesey, and the date 'June ye 12, 1645.'
The great hall is 14 ft. in height, and has a flat panelled ceiling divided into four bays by three wide oak beams, and with intermediate moulded ribs. It measures 29 ft. in length and 23 ft. 6 in. in width, and is lighted on the east side by the continuous ranges of mullioned and transomed windows already referred to, and has three similar lights in the return to the lobby at the end of the corridor in the southeast corner. In each of the top lights are the initials R.L. with an interlacing pattern between, surmounted by the cockatrice, and in the lower middle light are the arms of Dauntesey with helm, crest, mantling, and scrolls. The walls are mostly panelled to a height of 6 ft. 6 in. The hall appears to have always had a flat ceiling, and there are no signs now of either dais or gallery. The position of the screens is marked by the vestibule and passage on the north side, and the kitchen and pantry have now been made into a sitting-room and smoke-room. Neither of these rooms retains anything of its original appearance except the great twelve-light kitchen window overlooking the courtyard, which occupies the whole of the east side of the room. The fireplace opening, now modernized, is 10 ft. wide, the wall above carried by a beam 12 in. square at a height of 5 ft. 8 in. from the floor.
On the first floor corridors run round the inner sides of the north, east, and south wings, opening to a series of rooms which have little architectural interest. In the south wing the bed-room over the drawing-room, known as the 'panelled room,' preserves its original square oak wainscot mouldings worked in the solid, and contains a fine oak bedstead. Other rooms also contain good oak furniture, though much has been taken away, the house being at present (1910) unoccupied. The rooms in the east range exhibit their timber construction throughout, and their ceilings, together with those on the south side of the house, partly follow the rake of the roof. A small room at the west end of the north wing has a good 17th-century angle fireplace with plaster ornaments and egg-and-dart moulding.
The upper corridors on the east and south appear to have been originally open to the court and carried on posts, forming a kind of upper gallery. A portion of what appears to have been external quatrefoil panelling is still in position on the inner wall at the east end of the south corridor. The appearance of the courtyard as originally erected must have been exceedingly picturesque, and in marked contrast to the plain work of the outside elevations.
The house contains a valuable collection of paintings, including a so-called portrait of Jane Shore, attributed to Holbein. (fn. 47)
In a deed dated 26 June 1694, and an inventory of the same year, (fn. 48) the following rooms and places at Agecroft Hall are mentioned:—'The great parlor and chamber over it, the hall, the dyneinge roome, the chappell, the chappell chamber, the farther chappell chamber, the greene chamber, the porter's warde, the kitchen, the buttery, the seller and chamber over it, the seller and brewhouse and the chambers over them, the great barn commonly called the new barn, the stable, the garden and orchard behind the garden.'
An old painting of the house preserved at Agecroft shows a long building, either a stable or barn, standing at right angles to the east side of the house at the north end, apparently meant to be some distance away, with a stone wall and gate-piers along the east front. This building is said to have stood until the construction of the railway. The present stables and outbuildings are on the north side of the house, and are all modern.
SHORESWORTH, (fn. 49) though the name has long been forgotten, was the detached part of Pendlebury. In 1212 it was held as one oxgang of land by Ellis de Pendlebury in thegnage by a rent of 2s., and of him it was held by the same service by his nephews, or grandsons, Richard, Adam, Henry, and Robert. (fn. 50) From these descended one or more families taking the local surname, but no detailed account can be given of them. (fn. 51) Early in the 14th century the Radcliffes of Ordsall acquired it, and held possession for several generations. (fn. 52) The place-name occurs as late as 1590 in the inquisition after the death of Sir John Radcliffe, who held '20 acres of land, &c. in Showersworth in the town of Pendlebury,' but it was then included with Ordsall so far as the service was concerned. (fn. 53) On the alienation of the Radcliffe estates in the 17th century it was obtained by Humphrey Chetham, (fn. 54) and descended through the Chethams of Smedley and Castleton to Samuel Clowes, who owned it about 1800.
The principal landowners in 1798 were the Rev. John Dauntesey, Thomas William Coke, and Samuel Clowes, whose lands together paid three-fourths of the tax. (fn. 55)
In connexion with the Established Church, St. John the Evangelist's, Irlams-o'-th'-Height, was built in 1842; the patronage is vested in five trustees. (fn. 56) The Bishop of Manchester is patron of Christ Church, built in 1859, (fn. 57) and of St. Augustine's, built in 1874; (fn. 58) the latter has a mission hall—St. Matthew's.
The Congregationalists began preaching on Sundays in 1819, the population of the place having at that time an evil reputation for profligacy. The first chapel was built in 1821, and a somewhat larger one four years later. The congregation declined, but in 1832 a fresh start was made, and in 1882 a new church was built in Swinton, the old building being used for a school. (fn. 59)