A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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This township, sometimes called Orrell in Makerfield, to distinguish it from Orrell in Sefton parish, has an area of 1,617½ acres. (fn. 1) It is divided from Upholland on the west by Dean Brook, flowing through a pleasantly-wooded dingle to join the Douglas, which forms the northern boundary. It is situated on the eastern slope of the ridge of high ground stretching north from Billinge to Dalton. The country is open and varied, and consists of pasture land and fields, where the crops are chiefly potatoes, wheat, and oats. Towards the south the country is even more bare and treeless as it merges into the colliery district. The soil is clay with a mixture of sand, over a foundation of hard stone. The town of Upholland is partly situated in this township, and the Abbey Lake, a small sheet of water, is the rendezvous of picnic parties and excursions from the larger towns in the neighbourhood, such a lake being attractive on account of the scarcity of water in the district.
The principal road is that from Ormskirk to Wigan, which passes through the township from west to east, and is crossed by a road leading northwards from St. Helens to Standish. Orrell Mount, over 300 ft., and Orrell Post are to the east of the point where the roads cross; to the south-west is Far Moor, and to the north Ackhurst. Lamberhead Green lies on the eastern edge, partly in Pemberton. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's Liverpool and Wigan line crosses the southern corner of the township, having a station there called Orrell; the same company's Wigan and Southport line passes through the northern portion, close to the Douglas, with a station called Gathurst.
Nail-making is carried on, and there is a cotton mill. Roburite is made at Gathurst. In 1787 there were coal mines working under five different ownerships. (fn. 2)
A local board was formed in 1872. (fn. 3) The township is now governed by an urban district council of twelve members.
Before the Conquest, as afterwards, ORRELL was the extreme north-west berewick of the manor or fee of Newton in Makerfield, (fn. 4) and it remained a member of it until the 17th century. (fn. 5) The available materials for its history are but scanty. At the survey of 1212 it was held in thegnage by Richard de Orrell as half a ploughland, by the service of 10s. rent and finding a judge; this was an arrangement 'of ancient time.' (fn. 6) There was an ancient subordinate holding, William holding half an oxgang after giving Thomas de Orrell two oxgangs in free marriage in the time of King Richard. Richard de Orrell himself had recently given one oxgang to his brother John, and previously 4 acres to the Hospitallers. (fn. 7) Soon afterwards grants were made to Cockersand Abbey by Richard de Orrell and John his son. (fn. 8)
Before the end of the century, in what way does not appear, the manor was acquired by the Holands of Upholland, (fn. 9) from whom it descended, like their other manors, to the Lovels, (fn. 10) and, after forfeiture, to the Earls of Derby. (fn. 11)
William, the sixth earl, sold it to William Orrell of Turton, (fn. 12) and the latter soon after sold to the Bisphams, lords of part of the adjacent manor of Billinge; (fn. 13) then by marriage it descended to Thomas Owen, (fn. 14) and to Holt Leigh of Wigan. (fn. 15) His son, Sir Roger Holt Leigh, of Hindley Hall in Aspull, left it to his cousin, afterwards Lord Kingsdown, for life, and then to the present owner, Mr. Roger Leigh of Aspull. (fn. 16)
The Orrell family had numerous offshoots, but the relationships cannot be traced. The survey of 1212, quoted above, shows that there were then two subordinate holdings of one-eighth and a quarter of the manor. The former may have descended to the Orrells of Turton, (fn. 17) and the latter may be the holding of Alexander Orrell of Orrell Post, whose land in 1607 was held by a rent of 3s. (fn. 18)
About the same time another family, the Leighs of Ackhurst, are mentioned, continuing down to the middle of the 18th century. (fn. 21) They were recusants and incurred the usual penalties. Emma, or Emerentia, Leigh, widow, Margaret and Catherine Leigh, spinsters, and their sister, Anne Sandford, widow, registered their estates in 1717. (fn. 22) Thomas Duxon and William Tarleton were the other 'papists' who did the same. (fn. 23)
Salem Chapel, built in 1824, belongs to the Congregationalists, who formed a church here about 1805 and erected a temporary chapel about 1810. The building is still called John Holgate's Chapel, from the name of one of the early ministers, 1820–50. A later minister conformed to the Established religion, an occurrence which almost ruined the Congregational interest. (fn. 24)
The Roman Catholic mission was founded at Crossbrook in 1699 and removed to the present site at Far Moor in 1805; the church of St. James was enlarged in 1841, and a bell-tower erected in 1882. There is a burial-ground attached. (fn. 25) Anne Sandford in 1740 gave £100 to the mission with an obligation to say mass for herself, her mother, and two sisters. (fn. 26) A convent of French Benedictine nuns, driven out of their country by the Revolution, in the first half of last century occupied the house at Orrell Mount, but afterwards removed to Princethorpe, Warwickshire.