A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Dalton occupies hilly ground south of the River Douglas. The highest point is Ashhurst Beacon, known locally as the 'Beetle,' 569 ft. above sea level. From it the land slopes away gradually on every side. The district is extensively cultivated, fields of corn, potatoes, and other root-crops alternating with pastures. Plantations of trees appear more especially on the north-east under the lee of the hill and away from the assault of westerly sea winds. A few insignificant brooks find their way towards the Douglas, which forms the northern boundary of the township and divides the Hundred of West Derby from that of Leyland. The view from the top of the hill near the Beacon is an extensive one, affording a fine panorama of the surrounding country. The preponderance of holly trees and hedges on the sheltered side of the district is a noticeable feature. There are many picturesque stone-built houses in the neighbourhood. The soil appears to be loam and clay, over solid sandstone rock. The area is 2,103½ acres. (fn. 1) The population in 1901 was 422.
The road from Upholland to Newburgh crosses the township in a north-west direction, ascending and descending; Ashhurst Hall and the church lie on the western slope of the ridge; to the north are Hawksclough and Dalton Lees, and to the south lies Elmer's Green. Prior's Wood is in the north, and Cassicarr Wood on the eastern boundary.
Ashhurst Beacon was erected a century ago, when a French invasion was regarded as imminent. Watchers were stationed day and night to be ready to light the beacon fire, and thus give notice of the enemy's landing.
At the death of Edward the Confessor, DALTON was held by Uctred as one plough-land; its value was the normal 32d. (fn. 2) On the formation of the Manchester fee Dalton was included in it, and probably about 1150 Albert Grelley the elder enfeoffed Orm son of Ailward, of Kirkby Ireleth, of a knight's fee in Dalton, Parbold, and Wrightington, in marriage with his daughter Emma. The heirs of Orm held it in 1212. (fn. 3) Dalton was reputed part of the Manchester fee down to the 17th century. (fn. 4)
The descent of the mesne lordship it is not possible to trace clearly. The descendants of Orm were the Kirkbys of Kirkby Ireleth, who long retained an interest in part of the fee of Dalton, Parbold, and Wrightington. Dalton and Parbold as half a knight's fee seem very early to have been granted to the Lathom family, (fn. 5) and Parbold and part at least of Dalton were in turn granted to younger sons. In the 13th century Dalton was held by Richard de Orrell, Richard le Waleys of Aughton, and Henry de Torbock, but how their interests had arisen there is nothing to show, though the Torbocks no doubt held their quarter of the manor by a grant from the Lathoms.
The Orrell portion, called a fourth part of the manor, (fn. 6) was like Orrell itself acquired by the Holland family, (fn. 7) and descended in the same way to the Lovels, (fn. 8) and, on forfeiture, to the Earls of Derby. (fn. 9) The latter sold it about 1600 to the Orrells of Turton, (fn. 10) who soon afterwards sold all their rights to the Ashhursts. (fn. 11) The Dalton family, who took their name from this township, but who are better known as lords of Bispham in Leyland and afterwards of Thurnham, probably held under the Hollands and their successors. (fn. 12)
The Waleys portion was divided, half being given to a younger branch of the family. Richard le Waleys had a brother Randle, whose son Richerit was a benefactor of Cockersand Abbey. (fn. 13) Adam the son of Richerit sold his quarter share to Robert, lord of Lathom, who granted it to the priory of Burscough. (fn. 14)
The priory continued to hold this quarter of the manor to the Suppression, after which its fate has not been ascertained; but all or most was probably acquired by the Earls of Derby, (fn. 15) and remained with this family till the sale of Lady Ashburnham's estates. (fn. 16)
The fourth part retained by the Waleys family descended like Uplitherland to the Bradshaghs, (fn. 17) and was sold in 1546 to Matthew Clifton, (fn. 18) and then apparently to the Ashhursts, who before that seem to have been the tenants under Waleys and Bradshagh.
The remaining quarter, that of the Torbocks, descended for some time with the principal manor of Tarbock; but this portion of Dalton became, like Turton, the share of the Orrell family. (fn. 19) The estate was often called the manor of Walton Lees. A family named Lascelles, of long continuance in this township and Upholland, appear to have been the immediate holders. (fn. 20)
In 1598 William Orrell of Turton was called lord of 'three-fourths' of the manor, holding his hereditary share and that of the Holland family; and William Ashhurst lord of 'one-fourth,' i.e. probably the Waleys share. (fn. 21) The Burscough quarter does not seem to be accounted for. Shortly afterwards, as stated above, the Ashhursts acquired the Orrells' lands and rights, and became sole lords of the manor. In 1751 they sold it to Sir Thomas Bootle, and it has since descended with Lathom, the Earl of Lathom being lord of the manor.
In the absence of records it is not possible to give a satisfactory account of the Ashhurst family. (fn. 22) The earliest known is Simon de Ashhurst, who about the end of the reign of Henry III granted to his son Robert all his land in Dalton, and to his son John all his land in Ashhurst. (fn. 23) Robert son of Simon next occurs; (fn. 24) and in 1300 Richard son of Robert de Ashhurst made a release of lands in Pemberton. (fn. 25) This Richard acquired lands about the same time from Henry the Miller of Skelmersdale, whose daughter Alice afterwards released her right in the same. (fn. 26) Richard's son Adam was the most distinguished member of the family until the Commonwealth period. He fought in the French wars under Edward III and was knighted, receiving also a grant of lands in Essex and Hertfordshire. (fn. 27) He was succeeded by his son John, who married Margery, daughter of Henry de Orrell, (fn. 28) and had a son Roger. This Roger about 1385 married Maud, (fn. 29) daughter of Henry de Ince, leaving a son Robert, whose son John de Ashhurst about 1437 married a daughter of Roger de Dalton. (fn. 30) From this date there is an absence of documentary evidence until the middle of the 16th century, (fn. 31) about which time, as already stated, William Ashhurst acquired, probably from the Bradshaghs of Aughton, a quarter of the manor, and afterwards acquired the remainder from William Orrell.
This William Ashhurst was in 1590 reported to be 'soundly affected in religion'; (fn. 32) and the family continued Protestant, adopting Puritan and Presbyterian tenets. William Ashhurst died in 1618, (fn. 33) and was succeeded by his son Henry, who married Cassandra Bradshaw, (fn. 34) and had several children, including Henry, the draper and alderman of London, a wealthy man and a consistent Puritan. (fn. 35) The eldest son William was a member of the Long Parliament, and also of Cromwell's Parliament of 1654. (fn. 36) He died in January 1656–7, and was succeeded by his eldest son and heir Thomas, who recorded a pedigree in 1664. John Ashhurst, the brother of William and Henry, took an active part in the Civil War on the Parliamentary side, having a commission as captain and major. He engaged in the second siege of Lathom, and was present at the surrender in December 1645; he was subsequently governor of Liverpool. (fn. 37)
Thomas Ashhurst, aged twenty-five in 1664, (fn. 38) was succeeded in 1700 by his son Thomas Henry, who made a settlement of the manor of Dalton in 1706, (fn. 39) and about thirty years later succeeded also to the manor of Waterstock in Oxfordshire, which had been bought by the above-named Alderman Henry Ashhurst. In 1751 the manors of Dalton, Upholland, and Skelmersdale, with various lands, were sold to Sir Thomas Bootle by Henry Ashhurst, son of Thomas Henry, (fn. 40) and apparently an elder brother of Sir William Henry Ashhurst, the judge.
The Knights Hospitallers had land. (fn. 45)
In the 13th century an estate called Sifredlea is recorded; it disappeared later. (fn. 46)
About 1400, 2 acres of land in Dalton, granted without royal licence for the repair of Douglas Bridge, were confiscated, but restored. (fn. 47)
For the adherents of the Established Church John Prescott of the Grange, owner of the great tithes of the township, turned the tithe barn into a place of worship; a district was assigned to it in 1870, (fn. 48) and it was consecrated in 1872; but five years later the present church of St. Michael and All Angels was built on an adjoining site, and the old one destroyed. The patronage is in the hands of Mrs. Prescott. (fn. 49)