A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The township of Horwich has an area of 3,254½ acres, (fn. 1) and measures about 3 miles from north to south, by 2 miles across. The highest point, 1,475 ft., is in the extreme north; from this the ground slopes downward to the south, but most rapidly to the west, where about 350 ft. is reached. Along the southwestern border the Coal Measures occur, on Wilders and Horwich Moors the Millstone Grit, and in the intermediate slopes the Gannister Beds or Lower Coal Measures.
A little to the south of the Rivington Reservoirs lies the town of Horwich, built at the junction of two roads from Bolton, which are the principal ones traversing the township. To the south-east of the town are the great locomotive works of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, the main industry of the place. The company has a short branch from the Bolton and Preston line, with a terminus at Horwich, opened in 1870. There is an electric tramway to Bolton. The Thirlmere aqueduct passes through the township.
To the hearth tax of 1666 the largest house contributing was that of Thomas Anderton, with six hearths; the total number was seventy-six. (fn. 2)
Great bleach works and cotton mills have long been carried on here, also calico printing. There are firebrick and tile works, important stone quarries, and several collieries. The northern part of the township is moorland; the chief crop is grass.
A local board was formed in 1872; (fn. 3) this in 1894 became an urban district council, the township being divided into four wards, each returning three members. The meetings are held in the Public Hall, built in 1878. The Railway Mechanics' Institute was built in 1887–8.
The two pyramidal cairns called the Two Lads are variously supposed to mark the resting-places of two sons of early kings, or of two boys who lost their way on the moor and died of exposure. (fn. 7)
HORWICH was the forest or chase of the barons of Manchester, (fn. 8) by whom it had been afforested perhaps as early as the reign of Henry I. Hence it first appears in the records as the scene of poaching raids, headed sometimes, it would appear, by neighbouring gentry. (fn. 9) Various surveys have been preserved, (fn. 10) that of 1322 being very full. It states that in Horwich there were sixteen plots of pasture, not measured because of their extent in wood and open ground, and two of these plots made a vaccary or booth. After describing the eight vaccaries, the extent proceeds: 'The wood of Horwich contains a circuit of sixteen leagues, and is yearly worth in pannage, aeries of eagles, herons and goshawks, in honey, millstones, and iron mines, in charcoal-burning, and the like issues, 60s.; of which the vesture in oaks, elms, and wholly covered with such, 160 marks. The said wood is so thoroughly several that no one may enter there without licence, and of every beast found there without licence the owner shall give for that trespass 6d., by fixed custom.' (fn. 11)
In course of time the woods were cleared and Horwich became an ordinary agricultural township; but the survey of 1473 gives only four tenants' holdings. (fn. 12) Among the tenants were the Heatons of Heaton and other neighbouring families. (fn. 13) In the Subsidy Lists of 1541 (fn. 14) and 1622 (fn. 15) no landowners are named in Horwich.
At the Court Leet of Manchester in 1598 the constables of Horwich presented a number of persons for tithing men. (fn. 16)
The Andertons of Lostock, successors of the Heatons, acquired the manor of Horwich and held it in the 17th century and onwards. (fn. 17) Henry Blundell was the chief landowner in 1788. (fn. 18) The minor family of Anderton of Horwich sprang from Thomas Anderton, a younger brother of Christopher Anderton of Lostock (1592), who settled in this township. His son Lawrence, who became a Jesuit, was the author of the famous hymn, 'Jerusalem, my happy home,' and, under the alias of John Brereley, of various controversial works, such as The Protestant's Apology for the Roman Church, printed at the secret press at Lostock. (fn. 19) Lawrence's brother Christopher was prothonotary of the common pleas at Lancaster by patent dated 1607. Administration of the goods of Thomas Anderton of Horwich, apparently son of Christopher, was granted in 1669 to his brother William. The horrible death of this William (Dr. Anderton of Wigan) is described by Oliver Heywood (Diaries, iii, 211). His will was proved in 1675; his executors were to bring up his son Thomas, aged eight, in the 'knowledge of the true Catholic church.' The guardianship was entrusted to Anne Anderton, widow (grandmother), and Anne Tootell (aunt).
Thomas Willoughby, a descendant of the second Lord Willoughby of Parham, married Eleanor daughter of Hugh Whittle of Horwich, and lived at Shaw Place in Charnock. Being erroneously supposed to be the heir male he was summoned to Parliament as Lord Willoughby of Parham. He died in 1692, and was buried at Horwich. His son, two grandsons, and a great-grandson followed him in the title. They were Presbyterians. The last of them, Hugh Willoughby, enjoyed the title from 1715 to 1765; he was president of the Society of Antiquaries in 1754. (fn. 20)
In 1322–3 the herbage of the wood called Le Twecheles, now Twitchills, could not be agisted, through the deficiency of cattle in the district, owingto the Scottish raid at midsummer, 1322. (fn. 21)
Among those whose estates were sequestrated for 'delinquency' by the Parliament in the time of the Civil Wars was Philip Martindale of Horwich, chapman. (fn. 22)
A chapel of ease existed at Horwich before the Reformation, for in 1552 it was found provided with the ornaments for saying mass. There were also three bells, 'which are the poor men's of the town, bought with their own money, and the said bells not yet hanged up.' (fn. 23) In 1565 the commissioners for removing superstitious ornaments reported to the Bishop of Chester that they had taken from this chapel 'vestment, alb, altar-cloth corporas, and other idolatrous gear.' (fn. 24) There was then a curate there, (fn. 25) but the chapel seems afterwards to have fallen into obscurity and is not mentioned again (fn. 26) till the survey of 1650, when Mr. Henry Pendlebury usually preached there on Sunday without any stipend beyond the people's offerings. (fn. 27) The recommendation to make Horwich a separate parish was not acted upon, and it is probable that down to the Revolution nothing more than a Sunday service was performed by the vicar or curate of Deane. In 1669 numerous meetings of Nonconformists were reported in this parish, and at Horwich Chapel there was a 'conventicle,' but the ringleaders had been prosecuted. (fn. 28)
After the Revolution, with the connivance of the vicar, the chapel was used by Nonconformists, but in 1716 Bishop Gastrell recovered it for the Established Church, and it has since been retained. There was a chapel stock of £190, in the hands of Nonconforming trustees, who refused to pay the interest when the chapel was taken from them. In 1723, however, £100 was given by the vicar of Deane and £100 by Lady Moyer, and in the following year £200 for the old chapel stock was recovered from the trustees by a decree of the Commissioners for Charitable Uses. (fn. 29)
The old chapel was rebuilt in 1779, (fn. 30) and the new one having fallen into decay was taken down when the present church of the Holy Trinity was opened in 1831 (fn. 31) on an adjacent site. It is in the decorated Gothic style, with western tower. A separate ecclesiastical district was assigned to it in 1853. (fn. 32) The patronage is vested in the vicar of Deane, and the income is £370 a year.
The following is a list of curates and vicars (fn. 33) :—
|oc. 1671.||John Barton|
|1702.||John Horobin, B.A. (Jesus College, Cambridge)|
|1720.||Nathan Pierpoint, B.A.|
|1724.||Robert Harvey, B.A. (fn. 34)|
|1732.||John Norcross, B.A. (fn. 35) (St. John's College, Cambridge)|
|1765.||John Norcross, B.A. (fn. 36)|
|1788.||Samuel Johnson, M.A. (fn. 37) (Brasenose College, Oxford)|
|1826.||David Hewitt, B.A. (Trinity College, Cambridge)|
|1853.||Henry Septimus Pigot, M.A. (fn. 38) (Brasenose College, Oxford)|
|1901.||George Henry St. Patrick Garrett (fn. 39)|
Methodism was introduced into Horwich by a preacher from Bolton about the beginning of last century. A room in a mill at Wilderswood was used for a time; but a chapel was opened in or about 1810. (fn. 40) The Independent Methodist chapel in Lee Lane was built in 1867, the congregation having originated some years earlier in a gathering of teetotallers. (fn. 41) The Primitive Methodists once had a chapel on Horwich Moor, (fn. 42) and the Independent Methodists also have a place of worship.
A large proportion of the population refused to conform at the Restoration, but nothing is known as to their ministers or organization, (fn. 43) until, as stated above, the chapel at Horwich came into their hands about the Revolution. (fn. 44) On being ejected in 1716 the Dissenters erected a meeting-house called the New Chapel; this was enlarged in 1805, and other alterations have been made more recently. It is now in the hands of the Congregationalists, though for a short period in the 18th century the ministers are said to have been Unitarian. (fn. 45) A second Congregational church, known as Horwich Lee Chapel, was erected in 1856, replacing one built in 1774. (fn. 46)