A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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This township, distinguished by the prefix from Downholland near Halsall, is the largest in the parish, having an area of 4,685 acres. (fn. 1) The population in 1901 numbered 4,773. (fn. 2) From the northern and eastern boundaries, formed by the River Douglas and its affluent the Dean Brook, the surface rises rapidly to a point near the middle of the western boundary, where a height of about 550 ft. is attained. From this a ridge extends southerly, the ground to the southwest falling away continuously to the boundary, which is formed by Raw Moss and Holland Moss. The southerly aspect of the township is open and bare; on the north there are more trees as the land dips down to the romantic valley of the Douglas. The arable fields, many divided by stone walls, are sown with oats and wheat, and potatoes are very extensively grown. On the south and west there are collieries and fire-brick works, whilst stone quarries give work to a section of the inhabitants. The soil appears to be chiefly sandy, clayey in places, a shaley rock appearing now and again on the surface, but the solid base is sandstone.
Upholland village, where the priory formerly stood, lies on the eastern slope of the ridge, near the Orrell boundary. Through it pass from east to west the road from Wigan to Ormskirk, and from north to south that from Chorley to St. Helens. The village has a steep main street, with the church at the south end, overlooking a wide open space of churchyard on the north and east. Immediately south of the church is the site of the claustral buildings, but their remains, with a single exception, are buried in the ground and have never been explored. The houses of Upholland are from an architectural point of view of little interest, except one, an early 17th or late 16th-century house on the south side of the main street, with mullioned windows and a panel with the Stanley crest. To the north lie Walthew Green, Roby Mill, and Holland Lees; to the west are Holland Moor, Birch Green, Digmoor, and Tawd Bridge, the River Tawd forming a portion of the boundary at this point, and being joined by Grimshaw Brook; to the south and southwest are Tontine, Pimbo, and Crawford. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's railway from Liverpool to Wigan passes through the southern part of the township, with a station at Pimbo Lane now called Upholland.
Edward II stayed at Upholland for a fortnight in October 1323, on his way from the north to Liverpool. (fn. 3)
The Local Government Act of 1858 was adopted by the township in 1872. (fn. 4) The local board was, in 1894, replaced by a district council of fifteen members.
A figure, probably of Cupid, dating from Roman times was found here. (fn. 5)
In 1066 the manor of HOLLAND or Upholland was held by Steinulf; it was assessed as two plough-lands and worth 64d. (fn. 8) Nothing further is known of its tenure until 1212, when it together with Melling was held in thegnage by Henry de Melling; of him Matthew and Alan held the two plough-lands in Upholland by a rent of 12s. a year. (fn. 9) Ten years earlier Matthew de Holland—or Holand, as the name was usually spelt—held fourteen oxgangs here, to which Uctred de Church quitclaimed all his right. (fn. 10) Nothing further seems to be known of Alan, the joint tenant with Matthew. The latter was a benefactor of Cockersand Abbey. (fn. 11)
In 1224 Simon de Halsall quitclaimed to Robert de Holland all his right in the two plough-lands in Upholland. (fn. 12) The relationship of this Robert to his predecessor Matthew does not appear in the records. He was the ancestor of the great Holand family. His last appearance was to answer a charge of setting fire to one of the rector's houses in Wigan in 1241; he and his son Thurstan were lodged in prison, but released till the trial. (fn. 13)
Thurstan is said to have married a daughter of Adam de Kellet; eventually the lordship of Nether Kellet descended to his heirs by this wife. (fn. 14) He also acquired lands in Hale, and large grants in Makerfield. (fn. 15) Sir Robert de Holland, the son of Thurstan, who succeeded about 1276, married Elizabeth daughter and co-heir of Sir William de Samlesbury. (fn. 16)
Robert's son and namesake, Sir Robert de Holland, became one of the leading men in the county, being a favourite official of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, from whom he secured an alteration in the tenure of Upholland, which does not seem to have been permanent. (fn. 17) He extended his possessions by a marriage with Maud, daughter and co-heir of Alan de la Zouch, (fn. 18) and had many grants from his patron the earl; (fn. 19) some of these were held to be invalid. He was summoned to Parliament as Lord Holland from 1314 to 1321. He took part in the earl's rebellion, and all his lands were forfeited; (fn. 20) he himself was murdered in October 1328, it is said by followers of the earl who regarded him either as a coward or a traitor. (fn. 21) Among his other acts was the foundation of the priory at Upholland in 1310 to 1317. (fn. 22) This was practically the conclusion of the family's active interest in the manor.
The forfeiture of the estates was in 1328 reversed by Edward III, (fn. 23) and Holland descended regularly to Sir Robert's son, Robert, who distinguished himself in the French wars, and died 16 March 1372–3; (fn. 24) and to the latter's granddaughter Maud, who married John Lovel, fifth Lord Lovel of Titchmarsh. (fn. 25) She survived her husband, and died 4 May 1423, holding the manor of Upholland of the king as Duke of Lancaster in socage by the ancient rent of 12s.; also the manors of Halewood, Walton in West Derby, Nether Kellet, half of Samlesbury, Orrell, and a quarter of Dalton, burgages in Wigan and Lancaster, and lands in Aughton, Cuerdley, and Ditton. The other estates had descended to her father Robert's brother John, as heir male, and he was succeeded by Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter. (fn. 26)
Lady Lovel's son John having died in 1414 Upholland was inherited by her grandson William, seventh Lord Lovel and fourth Lord Holland. It descended on his death in 1455 to his son John, Lord Lovel, who died ten years later, and then to the latter's son and heir Francis, created Viscount Lovel in 1483. Adhering to the cause of Richard III he had many offices and honours bestowed upon him; but was attainted by Henry VII in 1485 and his honours and lands were forfeited. Two years later he fought on the Yorkist side at the battle of Stoke, and was either killed there or died soon afterwards. (fn. 27)
Upholland and the other forfeited manors were retained by the Crown until 25 February 1488–9, when they were granted to Thomas, Earl of Derby, with the lands and manors of other Yorkists. (fn. 28) It continued to descend with Lathom and Knowsley until 1717, when it was sold by Lady Ashburnham, as heir of William, the ninth earl, to Thomas Ashhurst of Ashhurst in Dalton. (fn. 29) In 1751 Henry Ashhurst sold it to Sir Thomas Bootle of Lathom, (fn. 30) and it has since descended with his manors, the Earl of Lathom being the present lord. (fn. 31)
After the foundation of the monastery the prior were the chief residents within the manor. As in the case of most other religious houses the external history was uneventful. (fn. 32) After the suppression of the house by Henry VIII in 1536 the site and all the lands were granted to John Holcroft, (fn. 33) who soon transferred them to Sir Robert Worsley of Booths. (fn. 34) Seventy years later the site was owned by Edmund Molyneux of London, (fn. 35) who bequeathed it to his nephew, Richard Leigh. (fn. 36) It is said to have been acquired by the Bisphams of Billinge, and descended with their estates to the Leighs of Orrell and Aspull. (fn. 37)
Little can be said of the remains of the monastic buildings. They were on the south of the church, but did not, as it seems, join it except as regards the western range of the claustral buildings. Part of the west wall of this range is standing, enough to show that it was of two stories with a row of narrow windows on the west side. In the deed of grant to John Holcroft in 1546 a chamber at the west end of the church is mentioned, which may be that on the south face of the tower, the roof corbels of which still remain.
Sir John de Dalton and his accomplices, after carrying off Margery de la Beche in 1347, took refuge for a time in Dame Maud de Holland's manor at Upholland, which was then vacant; but fled north on the arrival of the king's writ for his arrest. (fn. 38)
Among the landowners in the township may be named Hesketh, (fn. 39) Orrell, (fn. 40) Standish, (fn. 41) Crosse, (fn. 42) and Fairclough. (fn. 43) In 1600 the only freeholder recorded was Robert Smallshaw. (fn. 44) In 1628 William Whalley, Roger Brownlow, and Richard Smallshaw, as landowners, contributed to the subsidy. (fn. 45) A family named Holme were also settled here. Hugh Holme of Upholland House in 1732 married Anne daughter of Thomas Bankes of Winstanley, and her descendants ultimately succeeded to the manors and lands of the Bankes family. (fn. 46) Pimbo was held of the Earl of Derby. (fn. 47) Though the Recusant Roll of 1641 contains but few names of residents here (fn. 48) the Ven. John Thewlis, a priest, executed for religion at Lancaster in 1617, was a native of this township. (fn. 49)
The earliest record of a church of any kind is that concerning Sir Robert de Holland's endowment of his chapel in 1307. (fn. 50) This was succeeded by the priory church, which, after the destruction of the monastery, was preserved for the use of the people, as a chapel of ease to Wigan. (fn. 51) It appears to have been well fitted, but the church goods were seized by the Crown, as part of the priory, (fn. 52) and in 1552 it was but poorly furnished. (fn. 53)
The church of ST. THOMAS THE MARTYR stands at the south-east end of the village on sloping ground, the churchyard, which lies on the north and east sides, falling rapidly from west to east and allowing the introduction of the vestry under the east end. The building consists of chancel 32 ft. 6 in. by 22 ft. 6 in., nave 80 ft. by 22 ft. 3 in., with north and south aisles 11 ft. wide, and west tower 14 ft. by 16 ft., all these measurements being internal. With the exception of the chancel and the tower the building is of 14th-century date, the original structure having been planned as a T-shaped church with large central western tower and transepts, the present nave forming the chancel. Whether this plan was ever carried out is extremely doubtful, and only excavation on the west end could determine the extent of the original building, if it were ever greater than at present. It is probable, however, that the building came to a standstill somewhere about the middle of the 14th century, perhaps during the Great Pestilence, and that in this unfinished state it remained till late in the 15th century, when the present west tower was added in the rather clumsy manner now apparent. In this form the church continued till late in the last century, the sanctuary being formed in the easternmost bay, inclosed on the north and south by low walls, the evidence for which may still be seen in the arcades; but in 1882 (when a drastic restoration was commenced), a new chancel was begun to the east, and the building was brought to its present condition.
It may be assumed that the original chapel founded here in 1307 was a small building, and that it stood for some years after the foundation of the priory twelve years later. There is no record, indeed, of the erection of a church by the convent, but probably a larger and more important building would be thought necessary, and the present structure begun towards the middle of the first half of the 14th century. The conditions of the site, which rises steeply at the west end, preclude the idea that the building was ever intended to extend much further in that direction, and the evidence of the masonry at the west end of the nave and aisles makes a transeptal T-shaped plan the only likely one.
The walls are constructed of rough sandstone, finishing with a plain parapet, and the nave and aisles are roofed in one rather low span, which detracts somewhat from the external dignity of the building. This roof, which is covered with stone slates, is however not the original one, the line of which may still be seen on the exterior of the east face of the tower. The old pitch is only slightly more acute than the present one, and it may be assumed that the original aspect was not very different from that which now exists, the height of the aisle walls precluding the idea of there having ever been a clearstory.
There seems to have been a restoration in the middle of the 18th century, the present roof dating from 1752 according to a date roughly cut on it, with the initials P T on one of the principals, and T W on another. The tower also appears to have been repaired at this time, and many of the bench-ends put in during the previous century renewed. Galleries were also inserted, and in 1799 a vestry was built on the north side at the east end of the aisle, a door being cut through the wall in the north-east angle of the aisle. The galleries, which were on the north, south, and west sides, projected in front of the nave piers, which were much damaged in being cut away to receive them. The interior remained in this state, with square pews and no chancel, down to the time of the restoration of 1882–6. In this restoration, in addition to the erection of the new chancel, the tracery of all the old windows which had not been already restored was renewed. A plan of the church with the seating as it existed in 1850 now hangs in the vestry.
The chancel is built in 14th-century style, and is lit by a large five-light traceried window at the east and two windows on the north and on the south. On the north side a stone circular staircase leads down to the vestry beneath, access to which is gained on the outside by two doors at the east end. To obtain room for the vestry the chancel is raised four steps above the level of the nave, which makes it dominate the interior rather aggressively. The chancel arch is modern, of three moulded orders, and takes the place of a very poor east window, inserted in 1840, after a former 14th-century window had been blown out. The older window is shown in Buck's drawing of 1727.
The nave is of four bays with north and south arcades of pointed arches springing from piers, and responds composed of four rounded shafts with hollows between, with moulded capitals and bases. The arches are of two orders with the characteristic 14th-century wave-moulding. There is no clearstory, and the nave roof is ceiled with a flat plaster ceiling at the level of the crown of the arches, the aisles having plaster ceilings following the line of the roof. The 18th-century king-post roof above is of a very plain description, and not intended to be exposed. At the west end of the aisles are pointed arches springing from responds composed of three shafts, the moulded capitals of which range with those of the nave piers, and were designed to open to the transepts on each side of the tower. The arches are now filled in with modern windows, apparently reproducing early 16th-century work. The responds, both to nave and aisles, form on each side of the tower part of the great eastern piers of the crossing, the lofty clustered shafts of which, facing west, are now partly exposed on the outside of the building in the internal angles of the tower and aisle walls, and partly hidden by the later masonry.
The north aisle has four three-light pointed windows on its north side with net tracery, all modern copies of the original 14th-century work, and one similar window at the east end; the later window, already mentioned, on the west end is of four lights with poor tracery, and all the windows have external labels. The south aisle is similarly lighted except in the west bay, where there is a deeply-splayed window placed high in the wall. Originally the wall of this bay appears to have been pierced for an opening about 12 ft. wide which gave access to the western range of the priory buildings, which abutted here. The straight joints in the masonry on the outside wall show distinctly the extent of the former opening, and the present window must be a late insertion after the opening had been built up. At the east end of the south aisle is a good double 14th-century piscina, in the usual position, with trefoiled head, and on the corresponding side of the north aisle a square hole in the wall, probably an aumbry. Under the windows at a height of 6 ft. there is a moulded string, which is cut away for some distance on each wall on the west end. Below the string the walls have been cemented, but above it are of rough masonry. The capitals and upper parts of the western responds have also been much cut away at the time when the galleries were inserted.
The west tower is narrower than that originally designed, built of very friable sandstone, and having apparently been untouched since the 18th century is in a very bad state of repair. Some refacing appears to have been done on the west front on the north side of the doorway and at the belfry stage, and a scheme of restoration which it is proposed shortly to carry out will include the refacing of the tower. It has little architectural merit, being of low proportion and little in keeping with the rest of the building. Externally on the west face it is of four stages, with rather weak diagonal buttresses of nine stages at the north and south-west angles. On the north and south sides the walls are quite plain up to the string under the belfry windows. The west doorway, now much decayed, consists of a pointed arch with moulded head and jambs, with a series of hollows filled with carvings, and so weathered as to be unrecognizable. Between the buttresses a moulded string-course forms the lower member of the sill of a large three-light west window similar to those of the nave, with net tracery and external hood-mould. The tracery is modern, but the jambs appear to be old, and the window must have been moved here when the tower was built. Above this again is a string ornamented with four-leaved flowers which goes round the tower, breaking round the buttresses at the level of the belfry window-sills. The belfry windows, which are of similar detail on all three sides (north, west, and south) are of two lights under a pointed traceried head, and appear to be of 14th-century date. They seem to have been originally intended for glass, as the jambs and mullions are grooved, and probably belong to some part of the monastery building either destroyed or in decay when the tower was erected. They have now stone louvres. Above the belfry stage there is a singlelight narrow window on the north, south, and west sides, and on the east side one of two lights, but these are now hidden by the clock face. The present clock was given in 1907, replacing an older one. The tower ends in an embattled parapet with 18th-century angle pinnacles, one only of which is perfect. The roof is apparently of the same date, being in the form of a stone-slated gable running east and west. There is a door also on the north side of the tower in the east angle, and on the south side below the string underneath the belfry window are three corbels, showing that a building was set against it at this point. On the face of the north buttress is a niche now much decayed, with a trefoiled head. There is no vice in the tower, the first floor being gained by a wooden staircase, and the others by ladders, but at the belfry stage in the south-east corner is a stone staircase in the thickness of the wall, descending to a door which is now blocked. This must have been the original means of access to the upper part of the tower, and from this stage a stair in the south-east angle of the tower leads up to the roof. The tower was evidently meant to be open to the church up to 35 ft. from the ground, and at this level a chamfered string, with four-leaved flowers cut on it, shows on the inner face of the walls, marking the position of the original floor here.
The tower arch is of two moulded orders springing from a 15th-century impost moulding, and is filled in at the ringing-chamber stage with modern glazed wooden tracery, and below with a modern wooden door screen to the porch under the tower.
The fittings are mostly modern, the pulpit and font, both of wood, dating from 1882. In the north and south aisles are the 17th-century bench-ends already mentioned, carved with initials, names, and dates, the majority belonging to the year 1635, (fn. 54) and at the west end of the nave is a good oak churchwardens' pew with the names of the wardens and the date 1679. There is a good 18th-century brass chandelier in the middle of the nave, suspended by a long ornamental iron rod. In the tower porch above the north door is the board with the royal arms, dated 1755; and on the opposite wall is an oak cupboard with doors inscribed with the churchwardens' names, Scripture texts, and the date 1720.
The church plate consists of a chalice 1706, a paten 1720, another paten 1738, inscribed 'The gift of Thomas Henry Ashhurst Esqr. to the Chappel of Upholland in Lancashire 1739'; two flagons of the same date; one with a similar inscription, but the other without, and a chalice 1817, with the inscription 'The gift of Meyrick Bankes Esqre. to the Chapel of Upholland 1817.'
The registers of marriages begin in 1600, those of baptisms in 1607, and those of burials in 1619. The first volume (1600–1735) has been printed. (fn. 55)
During the time of Elizabeth, and probably later, only a reading minister was provided; (fn. 56) but an improvement took place under Bishop Bridgeman, (fn. 57) and in 1643 Upholland was made a parish, the district including also the townships of Dalton and Orrell, and parts of Billinge and Winstanley. (fn. 58) The Act was treated as null at the Restoration, and Upholland remained a chapelry until 1882, when by Order in Council it was made a parish. (fn. 59)
The income of the minister appears to have been about £60 in 1650. (fn. 60) The principal tithes were owned by the Earls of Derby, who paid a small composition to the rectors of Wigan (fn. 61); the lands of the monastery were tithe-free. (fn. 62) In 1724 Bishop Gastrell found the curate's income about £40, of which half was paid by the rector. (fn. 63) Various grants and benefactions have since been added, and the gross income is now about £300. (fn. 64) The rector of Wigan is patron.
The following is a list of the curates and vicars: (fn. 65)
|1628||William Lewes (fn. 66)|
|1636||Richard Whitfield (fn. 67)|
|1646||Henry Shaw (fn. 68)|
|1650||Richard Baldwin (fn. 69)|
|1653||Samuel Boden (fn. 70)|
|bef. 1671||Gerard Brown|
|occ. 1681||John Leigh|
|1683||Roger Bolton, M.A. (fn. 71)|
|1719||John Allen, M.A. (fn. 72)|
|1726||Adam Bankes, M.A.|
|1728||William (Simon) Warren|
|1746||Thomas Winstanley, B.A. (fn. 73)|
|1758||Thomas Holme (fn. 74)|
|1802||Thomas Merrick, B.A.|
|1821||John Bird, B.A.|
|1844||Charles Bisset, B.D. (Clare Coll. Camb.)|
|1881||Frederick D'Austini Cremer, M.A. (Wadham Coll. Oxf.) (fn. 75)|
|1888||George Frederick Wills.|
The grammar school was founded in 1668 by Peter or Robert Walthew. (fn. 76)
At Walthew Park, in the north-east part of the township, is situated St. Joseph's College, the seminary for the Catholic diocese of Liverpool. After collecting a sufficient sum the foundation was laid in April 1880, and in 1883 the building was open to receive students preparing for the priesthood. The museum contains a rich collection of ancient furniture, china, &c. (fn. 77)