A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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This township, the largest in the parish, has an area of 4,341 acres, (fn. 1) having an average breadth of over 2 miles from north-east to south-west, and an extreme length of nearly 3½ miles from northwest to south-east. The highest ground is that along the north-eastern border, over 480 ft. being reached in one place; the surface slopes generally downwards to the south-west, the lowest point, about 120 ft., being in the extreme southerly corner. Borsdane Brook separates it from Aspull; another brook divides it from Hindley, and joins a stream rising on the northern edge of Westhoughton and flowing south through Leigh to Glazebrook.
The road from Manchester to Chorley goes through the northern side of the township, passing the hamlets of Chequerbent, Wingates, and Fourgates. Westhoughton village is near the centre of the township, on the crooked road from Wigan, through Hindley and Hart Common, to Bolton. From the village roads go north to Wingates, east to Chequerbent, and south to Daisy Hill and Leigh; there are numerous cross roads. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway has several lines; the main line from Liverpool to Manchester crosses the township north-easterly, with a station, called Westhoughton, to the north of the village; a branch runs north to join the Bolton and Preston line, and has stations called Dicconson Lane and Hilton House; a second branch runs east to Pendleton, and has a station at Daisy Hill. The London and North-Western Company's Kenyon and Bolton line crosses the eastern corner of the township, with a station called Chequerbent.
Agriculture is still one of the principal industries of the township; the soil is clay, and oats and potatoes are the chief products. Cotton and other goods are manufactured, and there are coal mines. Bobbin spindle, and shuttle making, and nail manufacturing were engaged in in 1825. A once flourishing trade is now extinct.
It appears to have been at Westhoughton that Adam Banastre and others made their confederacy in October 1315. (fn. 2)
A battle was fought on the common in 1642 between Lord Derby's forces and the Parliamentary levies; (fn. 3) and Prince Rupert is stated to have mustered his troops there prior to the attack on Bolton in 1644.
A token was issued at Daisy Hillock in 1652. (fn. 4)
The hearths liable to the tax in 1666 numbered 98. The largest house was that of William Worthington, having six hearths; Ralph Brown and William Leigh had five each. (fn. 5)
A local board was formed in 1872. (fn. 6) In 1894 an urban district council was formed, having twelve members elected by four wards. In 1898 part of Over Hulton was added, Hulton ward returning three members to the council. Mr. Carnegie has given a library building.
Peter Dodd's Well was regarded as an indicator of the weather. (fn. 7)
It is difficult to trace the early descent of WESTHOUGHTON. The whole township seems to have been held of the lords of Manchester, chiefly by the Barton family, (fn. 8) but partly by the Pendleburys. The latter also held lands in the Barton portion. About the middle of the 13th century Sir Gilbert de Barton granted to Henry de Sefton, clerk, and his heirs or assigns the whole lordship of Westhoughton, with escheats, wardships, &c.; the homages of Roger de Pendlebury and others; escheats and liberties of the tenement of Thomas the Small; with all liberties of the lordship in pastures, woods, and plain, sor-hawks and deer, waters and pools, ways and paths, mill pools, and others. Further, he granted that Henry and his successors should be quit of all suit of the court at Barton as well for Westhoughton as for Aspull. (fn. 9)
Henry de Sefton quickly bestowed the lordship upon the abbot and canons of Cockersand, who had already come into possession of a considerable estate in the township by a series of grants beginning about 1200. Beside the lordship he granted them the third part of the vill, which he must have held in demesne, with all its appurtenances, including fishponds, honey, and hawks. For this the canons gave him 50 marks. (fn. 10)
BRINSOP, in the extreme north-western corner of the township, also came into the possession of Cockersand. In 1235 it was granted by Gilbert de Barton to Richard de Bracebridge, being reckoned as three oxgangs of land. (fn. 11) Probably it reverted to the Bartons and was included in the grant of Henry de Sefton. The manor-house of the canons seems to have been at this place.
In a suit of some seventy years later it was declared that in 1261–2 Adam, Abbot of Cockersand, had held half the oxgang at which the vill was assessed; and Roger son of Ellis de Westhoughton and John de Rylands each held a moiety of the remainder. In the year named the said Roger granted his fourth part to the abbot, so that three parts of the lordship were in the hands of the canons in 1334. (fn. 12) It is probable that the Rylands' share was subsequently acquired by the canons; but this family long afterwards continued to hold land in the township. (fn. 13) The Byrons also had lands in the township. (fn. 14) In 1320 the Abbot of Cockersand was said to hold the fortieth part of a fee in Westhoughton, paying 2d. for sake fee and 6d. for ward of the castle; (fn. 15) and the same tenure continued in 1473. (fn. 16)
As in the case of most monastic estates, possession by the canons was marked by few disputes or incidents of note. In 1272 they procured a delimitation of the boundary between Westhoughton and Lostock on the north. (fn. 17) The abbot made complaints in 1343 and 1359 concerning the cutting down of his trees. (fn. 18) An inquiry was made in 1385 concerning the surrender of lands to find a lamp to burn for ever in the choir of the abbey church. (fn. 19) A few years before the Dissolution disputes broke out between the abbot and his tenants as to the right of renewing their nineteen-year leases. (fn. 20) The manor was farmed to Sir Thomas Langton in 1538. (fn. 21)
Some years after the suppression the manor of Westhoughton was granted by the king to James Browne, citizen and haberdasher of London, for £1,035 11s. 8d., to be held by the tenth part of a knight's fee and a rent of £5 14s. 8½d. (fn. 22) His descendants continued to hold it for about a century. (fn. 23) They resided at Brinsop.
The Brothertons of Hey seem to have succeeded them. (fn. 24) The 'manor' was in 1836 said to be held by Lord Skelmersdale; but none is now claimed by Major Lionel Wilbraham, to whom this estate has descended. (fn. 25)
Brinsop Hall was in the first half of the 18th century in the possession of John Widdowes, who mar ried Margaret Roby. Their daughter Esther inherited it, and by marriage in 1749 conveyed it to her husband James Milnes of Wakefield; their son, also James Milnes, bequeathed it in 1805 to his cousin Benjamin Gaskell of Clifton in Eccles, whose grandson, Mr. Charles George Milnes Gaskell of Thornes House, Wakefield, is the present owner. (fn. 26)
The change of tenure from monastic to secular lords was accompanied by a number of lawsuits respecting the customs of the manor. (fn. 27)
The Pendlebury family, already mentioned, held SNYDALE of the lord of Manchester as early as 1212, (fn. 28) and appear to have retained it down to the end of the 16th century, (fn. 29) when it passed to the Worthingtons, who remained in possession for a century and a half. (fn. 30) On the bankruptcy of William Worthington in 1744 it was purchased by the Starkies of Huntroyde, who still retain it. No manorial rights are exercised. (fn. 31)
Other families holding land here were the Bradshaghs, (fn. 32) Hultons, (fn. 33) Leighs, (fn. 34) Reeves, (fn. 35) and Molyneuxes. (fn. 36) Many other names may be gathered from rentals and inquisitions. (fn. 37)
The only freeholders named in 1600 were James Browne, Robert Leigh, William Molyneux, and Thomas Richardson. (fn. 38) James Browne, James Worthington, and William Leigh contributed to the subsidy of 1622 as landowners. (fn. 39) In 1786 the principal owners were the Duke of Bridgewater, — Milne, R. Wilbraham Bootle, William Hulton, — Starkie, — Worthington, the Misses Molyneux, and Thomas Green. (fn. 40)
Westhoughton was the scene of Luddite riots in 1812; four men were executed for joining in them. (fn. 43)
The canons of Cockersand probably maintained a chaplain on their manor. A chapel existed in 1552. (fn. 44) It was a small thatched building, which in 1731 gave place to a brick church; (fn. 45) this again was replaced in 1869–70 by the present church, known as St. Bartholomew's, built at the expense of John Seddon. (fn. 46) There was 'no service' there in 1605, (fn. 47) but this may have been a temporary cessation. The Commonwealth surveyors recommended that it should be made a parish church, (fn. 48) but nothing seems to have been done until 1860, when a district chapelry was formed. (fn. 49) The income is given as £442. The vicar of Deane is patron. The following have been curates and incumbents:— (fn. 50)
|oc. 1627||John Ridgeley (fn. 51)|
|oc. 1630||Alexander Horrocks (fn. 52)|
|1651||John Isherwood (fn. 53)|
|oc. 1671||John Edleston|
|1700||Joseph Leese, B.A. (Christ's College)|
|1720||William Orme, B.A.|
|1732||Robert Harvey, B.A. (fn. 54)|
|1755||John Chisnall, B.A. (fn. 55)|
|1782||Thomas Whitehead, M.A. (Glasgow) (fn. 56)|
|1788||Thomas Heys, M.A. (Oxford) (fn. 57)|
|1816||Chris. Bateson, B.A. (Pembroke Coll.)|
|1825||Thomas Fogg, B.A. (St. John's College, Oxford) (fn. 58)|
|1842||James Richard Alsop, B.A. (Brasenose College, Oxford) (fn. 59)|
|1868||William Henry Rankin, M.A. (Corpus Christi College, Oxford) (fn. 60)|
|1869||Kinton Jacques, M.A. (Brasenose College, Oxford) (fn. 61)|
|1890||Christopher Cronshaw (fn. 62)|
|1908||George Henry St. Patrick Garrett, M.A., B.D. (T.C.D.)|
Also in connexion with the Established Church, St. John the Evangelist's, Wingates, was built in 1858, and had a separate district assigned to it in 1860; the vicar of Deane is the patron. (fn. 63) St. James's, Daisy Hill, was opened in 1881; the Bishop of Manchester presents to it. (fn. 64)
The Congregational Church at Westhoughton originated from preaching begun in 1811; a room was built in 1817, and another in 1826; after which a church was formed. In 1853 a chapel was built. (fn. 65)
The Society of Friends began meetings here in 1806; (fn. 66) the meeting-house was built in 1823. A graveyard is attached.
In 1586 the vicar of Deane presented that 'divers priests' were harboured at the house of Ralph Holme of Chequerbent, (fn. 67) but apart from this there seems no record of the survival of the old religion in the township. The church of the Sacred Heart was built in 1894, replacing one opened in 1873. (fn. 68)