A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Winstanley is situated on the eastern lower slopes of Billinge Hill, 440 ft. above sea level being reached, on the edge of an extensive colliery district, several coal-mines being found in the township itself. The principal object in the landscape is the mass of trees surrounding Winstanley Hall, the grounds of which occupy nearly one-third of the whole area of the township. The rest of the country is divided into fields, usually separated by thin hedges, and sometimes by low stone walls. The arable fields produce crops of potatoes, oats, and wheat, whilst there are pastures and meadows, with isolated plantations. The surface soil is sandy, mixed with clay in places, with sandstone rock not far from the surface.
The park is bounded on two sides by the roads from Billinge to Wigan and from Haydock to Upholland, which cross at its southern point. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's Liverpool and Wigan Railway passes through near the northern boundary. A colliery railway goes south-west through the township.
Withington lies in the north-west corner, and Longshaw on the western boundary; south of this is Moss Vale. Two detached portions of the township lie within Billinge Chapel End; one of these is called Blackley Hurst.
The township has an area of 1,859 acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 the population numbered 564.
Thomas Winstanley, an Oxford scholar of some distinction, was born in the township in 1749. He became Camden Professor of History in 1790 and held other university and college appointments. He died in 1823. (fn. 2) James Cropper, 1773 to 1840, philanthropist, was also a native of Winstanley, (fn. 3) and Henry Fothergill Chorley, 1808 to 1872, musical critic and general writer, of Blackley Hurst. (fn. 4)
The earlier stages of the history of the manor have been described in the account of Billinge. (fn. 5) There are no materials at present available for tracing the descent in the family of Winstanley, which continued in possession until the end of the 16th century. (fn. 6) Early in 1596 Edmund Winstanley and Alice his wife sold the manor of Winstanley, with the coal mines and view of frankpledge, to James Bankes. (fn. 7) The purchaser, who belonged to a Wigan family, (fn. 8) died 4 August 1617, leaving a widow Susannah, and a son and heir William, then twenty-four years of age. The manor was held of Sir Richard Fleetwood, baron of Newton, in socage by a rent of 3s. 6d.; the other possessions of James Bankes included the manor of Houghton in Winwick, and lands in Winstanley and adjacent townships. (fn. 9) William Bankes, the heir, represented Liverpool in Parliament in 1675; (fn. 10) his son, another William, represented Newton in Makerfield in 1660; (fn. 11) the latter's son, also William, represented Wigan in 1679. (fn. 12) The last William Bankes dying in 1689, the manors passed to his brother Thomas's son and grandson. (fn. 13) Thomas had also a daughter Anne, who married Hugh Holme of Upholland in 1732, and their descendants, assuming the name of Bankes, (fn. 14) ultimately acquired possession, retaining it until the death of Meyrick Bankes in 1881. His daughter, Mrs. Murray, was left a life interest in the estate, and it was entailed in tail male on her sons. She resumed her maiden name and died December 1907, when her only surviving son George Bankes came into the property. (fn. 15)
Another branch of the Winstanley family (fn. 16) is found at Blackley Hurst, a detached portion of the township. Their lands were sold to Richard or William Blackburne in 1617, (fn. 17) and Blackley Hurst was later acquired by the Gerards, owners of the adjacent Birchley.
In 1600 the freeholders were James Bankes, Edmund Atherton, and James Winstanley of Blackley Hurst. (fn. 18) William Bankes and William Blackburne contributed to the subsidy of 1628. (fn. 19) William Bankes, Thomas Blackburne of Blackley Hurst, clerk, and the heirs of James Winstanley of Hough Wood, contributed in 1663. (fn. 20) A number of Winstanley Quakers were in 1670 convicted as 'Popish recusants,' two-thirds of their properties being sequestrated. (fn. 21) Thomas Marsh, John Buller, William Jameson, and Thomas Appleton, as 'papists,' registered estates here in 1717. (fn. 22)