A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The ancient parish of Eccleston is noteworthy as the only one in the hundred which had no dependence on the barony of Penwortham, for its northern half was part of the forest fee, while the southern half belonged to the barony of Manchester. This detachment may have had an influence in determining or preserving its parochial unity.
The area of the parish is 8,406½ acres, and the population in 1901 numbered 4,234. To the ancient fifteenth it paid £3 13s. 8d. when the hundred paid £30 12s. 8d. (fn. 1) and to the county lay of 1624 it paid £11 2s. 2½d. when the hundred gave £100. (fn. 2)
Though at one time the courts for the wapentake appear to have been kept at Eccleston, (fn. 3) the history of the place has been quite uneventful, nor have any families of eminence been seated there. The manors were much divided among non-resident lords, and the Lathoms of Parbold seem to have been the principal residents until the 17th century. Thus William Lathom was the chief landowner contributing to the subsidy of 1525, the others being Gilbert Banastre, Thomas Wrightington, John Dicconson, Richard Edmundson, Henry Rawe, William Alanson and Nicholas Rigby. William Fleetwood also paid, but not for lands. (fn. 4)
The wake was held on the Sunday next after 8 September. (fn. 5)
In 1836 there were no manufactures in the parish, except 'hand weaving for the cotton manufacturers in Preston and Chorley, and a furniture calico printing work recently established.' The coal-mines and quarries were worked. (fn. 6) The agricultural land in the parish is now occupied thus: arable, 2,577 acres; permanent grass, 4,832; woods and plantations, 259. (fn. 7)
The Ven. John Finch was one of the victims of the Elizabethan persecution, being executed at Lancaster 20 April 1584 for rejecting the queen's religious supremacy. (fn. 8) Sir William Fleetwood of Heskin, recorder of London 1569–94, and Edward Dicconson of Wrightington, vicar apostolic of the Northern district 1740–52, are noticed in the Dictionary of National Biography.
The church of THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY (fn. 9) stands at some little distance from the village on the north side in a pleasant situation among flat meadows on the left or south bank of the Yarrow about 20 yds. from the stream. The building consists of chancel 30 ft. by 17 ft., with south aisle its full length, and 14 ft. 6 in. wide, nave 51 ft. by 24 ft. 9 in., with south aisle 10 ft. 6 in. wide, west tower 11 ft. 6 in. square, and south porch 10 ft. 6 in. square, all these measurements being internal. There is also a small modern vestry and hearse-house north of the chancel.
The building seems to have been erected at two periods, the south aisles being an addition to an aisleless church consisting of chancel, nave, and west tower apparently of 14th-century date. Nearly all the original detail of this period has, however, disappeared in the reconstruction and alterations of the 18th century and the later restoration, but the chancel and tower arches and the belfry windows are of 14th-century type, and the two windows on the north side of the chancel, one of which has been restored, apparently belonged to the same period. (fn. 10) The south aisle of the chancel appears to represent the chantry of the Blessed Virgin, and the south aisle of the nave may have been built at the same time. There is evidence also of the nave and aisles having been erected at different times in the plinth, which round the nave and chancel has a chamfer 9 in. deep, whereas that to the aisles, the south walls of which are continuous, is only 3 in., the projection, however, being the same. The buttresses at the east end of the chancel appear to have been rebuilt when the aisle was added, and have the later plinth. On the north side the old plinth is almost entirely covered up by the raising of the level of the soil, and the plinth round the tower is about 12 in. below the present ground level on the north side and something less on the south. It is probable, therefore, that the present plan without the south aisles is that of the 14th-century church, and that it obtained all through the 15th century down to the time of the foundation of the chantry. A rough plan of the church and churchyard as they existed in 1716 (fn. 11) shows the building at that time the same as now, except that the vestry and hearse-house did not then exist (fn. 12) and the buttress on the south side of the chancel aisle was not then built. The 18th century, however, saw great changes in the structure of the building if not in its plan, and left it externally pretty much as it remains at present. In May 1721 the 'taking down and rebuilding of the parish church' was resolved upon, and it was agreed that £300 be raised that year 'towards providing materials and other common uses relating to the church.' The determination to pull down and rebuild, however, must have been subsequently modified, as during the next sixteen years there are almost continuous payments recorded in the churchwardens' accounts for work done to the structure, and various sums are agreed upon from time to time to be levied on the parish for this purpose. (fn. 13) The payments extend from 1721 to 1737, and in 1743 there are further disbursements for pointing the steeple and for a new clock face. The work then done seems to have consisted principally in the raising of the nave walls all round and the erection of the present roof, which on the south side consists of one span over nave and aisle, as well as the reconstruction of the lower roofs to the chancel and chancel aisle, which were similarly treated on the south side, producing the present ugly effect of a wide lop-sided gable at the east end. The top of the tower was also rebuilt and the exterior of the church embellished with classical urn ornaments. The effect is rather incongruous, but interesting and not a little picturesque.
The building underwent another 'thorough repair' (fn. 14) in 1828, and in 1868–9 was restored and reseated, (fn. 15) at which latter date the old 17th-century pews, which were 'of every shape and size,' (fn. 16) were removed, a gallery which formerly stood at the west end was pulled down, the north windows of the nave, which were described by Glynne in 1859 as 'square-headed and late,' were replaced by the present ugly pointed ones, and the old west door of the tower was done away with and a window inserted in its place. The north window of the chancel and the east window of the chancel aisle would also appear to belong to this date, but the old east window of the chancel was retained till 1907, when it was replaced by the present one. The vestry, which is of brick, was built in 1775, a stone hearse-house being afterwards added on the east side.
The church is built of red sandstone with grey slated roofs, and the south side is partly covered with ivy. The 18th-century work, however, including the top of the tower, was carried out in grey gritstone from Harrock Hill, which now produces, after a century and a-half's weathering, a not unpleasing contrast. The south aisle wall is embattled its full length, but on the north side the roof overhangs, and the gables to both nave and chancel finish with plain copings.
The chancel has a five-light east window with trefoiled heads under a four-centred arch with external hood mould, all the work outside being new, but internally preserving the original moulded jambs. (fn. 17) Over the window on the outside is an old sculptured head, probably a fragment of the earlier building, and the apex of the gable has now a modern cross, replacing the old 18th-century urn. The 18th-century ornaments, however, were retained at the north and south angles of the east end. The line of the old chancel gable on the south side is still plainly seen, the wall necessitated by the later wide roof being simply built against it, the east ends of the aisle and chancel being flush. On the north side the chancel had originally two pointed windows of two lights, the easternmost of which has been replaced by a modern copy, the old internal segmental arched head alone remaining. The head of the other window is still visible from the inside, but the opening has been used as a doorway to the vestry, the wall being cut out below. The north wall is plastered, but on the south side the chancel is open to the aisle, except for 4 ft. of straight wall at the east end, by an arcade of two pointed arches 12 ft. wide, of two plain chamfered orders springing from brackets at each end, and a central octagonal shaft 20 in. in diameter with moulded cap and base. In the short length of wall to the east of the arcade is a piscina with semicircular moulded head, the opening 1 ft. 9 in. wide and 11 in. high. The front of the bowl formerly projected, but has been cut away. The floor of the chancel, which, like the rest of the church, is flagged, is level with that of the nave, and there is only one step to the altar pace, 10 ft. from the east wall, the chancel, therefore, losing much of its effect when seen from the west end of the building. The roof is modern and boarded. The chancel arch is 12 ft. 6 in. wide, of two plain chamfered orders of sharply pointed type struck from centres below the springing. The imposts are new.
The south chancel aisle has a new three-light window at the east end and two three-light windows similar to those in the nave aisle on the south side. Between the windows is a priest's door 2 ft. 3 in. wide, with moulded jambs and head. (fn. 18) The piscina in the east end of the south wall has a pointed head, with all the outer mouldings cut away, a hollow chamfer alone remaining. The east end of the aisle has a raised boarded floor and is seated, the west end being occupied by the organ. There is a stone arch of two chamfered orders between the aisles, and they are now further separated by a solid modern oak screen inclosing the organ.
The nave arcade consists of four pointed arches of two plain chamfered orders springing from octagonal piers with moulded caps and bases and from corbels at either end. The walls are of dressed stone and on the north side are three modern two-light windows with a doorway in the west end, now made up on the inside, under an external pointed arch, with hollow chamfered jambs and head and retaining an old oak nail-studded door. The nave roof is substantially that erected in 1722, but the timbers were re-cased in 1868–9, an 18th-century plaster ceiling taken down, and the spaces between newly boarded. Portions of a 16th-century roof were apparently used up in the 18th-century reconstruction, one of the beams having on each side the date 1534. (fn. 19) The roof is divided into six bays by five main principals and one at each end against the wall resting on 18th-century stone corbels. The raising of the nave walls shows internally, more especially on the south side, over the arcade where the two new courses of gritstone come just above the arches, and part of the line of the old roof shows on the east side of the tower. At the west end of the nave, as well as from the outside, part of the south-east buttress of the tower can be seen, but it has been cut away when the west wall of the aisle was built. On the north side of the tower outside the lower slope of the old roof was originally behind the north-east buttress, but when the wall was raised and the new roof erected the buttress, which also formed the west wall of the nave north of the tower, was left unaltered, the result being that the new roof showed awkwardly above the slope of the second stage, and so remains. The aisle has two windows on the south side with three uncusped pointed lights under a four-centred head, without hood moulds, and a similar window at the west end. The roof is plastered between the spans, and the principal rafters like those of the nave have been recased. The porch has an outer four-centred low arch springing from moulded imposts, and a gable over with flat coping and a small niche. The apex has a ball ornament but the ends classic urns. The roof has overhanging eaves and the side walls, which are without windows, have stone scats. The inner doorway is pointed with continuous double-sunk chamfered jambs and head. The door is modern.
The tower is of two stages with diagonal buttresses, the lower part being quite plain on the north and south sides. The west window is modern of two lights, replacing, as already stated, a former door, and the tower arch, which is filled with a glazed screen, is, like that of the chancel, a sharply-pointed one of two chamfered orders running down the jambs to the ground. The upper or belfry stage sets back about a foot and has a pointed window with external hood mould of two trefoiled lights and quatrefoil above on each face. The walls terminate in a string course and straight parapet with square angle pinnacles formerly surmounted by urns and cock vanes. There were originally also intermediate ornaments on each side, but only that on the north remains, the others lying broken on the roof. On the south side of the parapet is the date 1733, the year of its erection. There is a clock (fn. 20) on the west side and it also has a face on the inside to the nave. (fn. 21) There is no staircase in the tower, the upper floor being reached only by a ladder. The roof was newly leaded in 1884.
The font is octagonal, at the west end of the aisle, and is probably of late 15th or early 16th-century date, its sides being panelled and carved with the emblems of the Passion and the Stanley badge (eagle's claw) and legs of Man. Preserved in the chancel is a circular block of stone now in two pieces, 18 in. in diameter and 13 in. deep, ornamented with the cable moulding and with a small hole through the centre, which may be part of an ancient font.
On the south side of the chancel is a late 15thcentury altar tomb, the sides divided into three panels with trefoiled heads, on which is a small brass representing a priest in cassock, surplice and cope. The only part of the marginal inscription remaining is '. . . alis anno,' and whom the figure represents is not known. (fn. 22)
A number of carved panels from the old 17thcentury oak seats have been preserved and are introduced into the modern seating, with the coats of arms, crests and initials of the families of Wrightington, Mawdesley, Rigbye, Rector Pickering and others, two of which bear the dates 1634 and 1638. A carved inscription from the churchwardens' pew dated 1693, with the names of the wardens, has also been preserved.
No ancient glass remains with the exception of two diamond quarries now in the vestry which have the Stanley badge (eagle's claw). Below the altar is an inscribed stone to the memory of 'Richarde Radclyffe whoe was a paynefull & profitable teacher att Heskin schole xi years.' He died in 1623. The stone was probably placed in its present position at one of the restorations.
The chancel contains mural monuments to Anne Rigbye of Harrock (d. 1716); Thomas Crisp of Parbold (d. 1758), M.P. for Ilcester, Somerset, 'during one of the Parliaments of the late reign'; and to three former rectors, John Douglas (d. 1766), Thomas Whitehead (d. 1812), and William Yates (d. 1851). In the south aisle are tablets to Edmund Newman Kershaw of Heskin Hall (d. 1810) and to the Rev. Rigbye Rigbye of Harrock Hall (d. 1827). On the north wall of the nave is a small brass to the memory of William Dicconson 'sometime stewarde over that most honorable householde of the highe and mightie Princes Anne Duches of Somerset, 1604,' and on the east wall north and south of the chancel arch are marble tablets to Meliora wife of William Dicconson of Wrightington (d. 1794) and Mary Dicconson of Wrightington (d. 1746). There is also a monument on the north wall of the nave erected in 1845 to members of the Hawkshead family which came to Eccleston parish in 1737.
There is a ring of six bells, four (fn. 23) cast by Abraham Rudhall in 1727, the fifth dated 1802 with the name of Wm. Breres, churchwarden and initials RB. W. The sixth bell was given in 1888 in memory of William Hawkshead Talbot by his widow and is by Taylor of Loughborough.
The plate consists of a chalice and paten of 1633, the chalice inscribed 'This Cupe and cover Douth beelonge to the Parish Church of Eckelston in Lankicshire,' with the maker's mark [I-B]; a chalice of 1661, inscribed 'This Cupp and Cover (fn. 24) Belongs to the Parish Church of Eccleston in Lancashire,' with maker's mark, PP within a heart; a large 17thcentury paten, made at Norwich, with a maker's mark which occurs elsewhere in 1661, and engraved with the arms of Ward; a flagon of 1779–80, 'The Gift of Eleanor Rigbye the daughter of Nicholas Rigbye Esqre of Harrock To the Parish Church of Eccleston 1780,' with the maker's mark H B; and an almsdish of 1781 'The Gift of Eleanor Rigbye of Harrock 1781,' with the same mark.
The registers begin in 1603. The first volume (1603–94) has been printed by the Lancashire Parish Register Society. (fn. 25)
The churchwardens' accounts begin in 1712. The first volume, which ends in 1800, contains many entries of great interest referring to the 18th-century restoration, and there are frequent payments for foxheads, magpies, jays and hedgehogs.
The churchyard is of irregular shape, and lay formerly principally on the north and south sides, the wall on the west side being only about 16 ft. from the tower. It was approached from the south by a field path (fn. 26) from the village green, which is still used, but since its extension westward in 1891–2 to the high road and the erection of a lych-gate the principal approach to the church is now from that side. The plan of 1716 shows a cross or sundial with stepped base about 12 ft. from the south aisle wall nearly opposite the priest's door, but this has now disappeared. There is, however, a slab with incised calvary cross and sword on the south side of the building, and at the east end a 16th-century slab 9 in. thick with two incised figures and marginal inscription to the memory of William Stopford (d. 1584). The inscription is nearly illegible, and the slab was re-used and relettered in 1812.
A moiety of the church was in 1094 granted by Roger of Poitou to the abbey of St. Martin of Sées, (fn. 27) and the other moiety was about 1240 given to Lancaster Priory, (fn. 28) so that in times of peace the Priors of Lancaster presented to the whole. During the long-continued wars with France, however, the kings were accustomed to seize the temporalities of alien monasteries, and thus it often happened that the rectors of Eccleston were presented by the Crown. (fn. 29) At length the forfeiture seems to have been considered absolute, and the king, about 1430, granted the advowson to Sir Thomas Stanley, (fn. 30) whose successors, the Earls of Derby, continued to present until 1596, when Thomas Lathom of Parbold purchased the patronage from William, sixth earl. (fn. 31) The Lathoms held it for about a century, (fn. 32) and it has since been sold several times. The present patron is the rector, in succession to his father, William Bretherton of Runshaw.
The value of the rectory in 1291 was £12. (fn. 33) The ninth of sheaves, wool, &c., in 1341 was worth 13 marks, the diminution of 5 marks being accounted for by the altarage. (fn. 34) By 1534 the income of the rector had, as was estimated, risen to the clear value of £28 16s. (fn. 35) The Parliamentary surveyors of 1650 valued the parsonage house, glebe and mill at £30 a year and the tithes at £140, but out of this the rector paid £50 to the curate at Douglas Chapel. (fn. 36) By 1720 the value had risen to £260, (fn. 37) and it is now given as £835. (fn. 38)
|Instituted||Name||Patron||Cause of Vacancy|
|c. 1260||John de Attilgre (fn. 39)||Lancaster Priory||—|
|oc. 1292||Mr. Richard (fn. 40)||—||—|
|16 May 1299||Mr. William de Lancaster (fn. 41)||Lancaster Priory||—|
|5 Mar. 1310–11||Mr. Ralph de Tunstall (fn. 42)||"||res. W. de Lancaster|
|22 Oct. 1319||Richard de Wamberge (fn. 43)||"||—|
|22 July 1320||Nicholas de Sheppey (fn. 44)||"||res. R. de Wamberge|
|28 May 1321||John de Ellerker (fn. 45)||"||res. N. de Sheppey|
|27 June 1322||John Travers (fn. 46)||"||res. J. de Ellerker|
|31 Dec. 1334||Peter Giles (fn. 47)||"||d. J. Travers|
|8 Oct. 1337||Henry de Haydock (fn. 48)||The King||d. P. Giles|
|13 Dec. 1369||William de Hexham (fn. 49)||"||d. H. de Haydock|
|3 Aug. 1399||Thomas de Langton (fn. 50)||The King||—|
|25 Apr. 1400|
|14 June 1401||Roger Tidiman (fn. 51)||Lancaster Priory||d. T. de Langton|
|31 Aug. 1403||John Thoralby (fn. 52)||The King||res. R. Tidiman|
|19 May 1404|
|23 Apr. 1408||George Radcliffe (fn. 53)||"||res. J. Thoralby|
|22 June 1430||John Mapleton (fn. 54)||"||d. W. Radcliffe|
|Aug. 1430||Hugh Huyton (fn. 55)||Sir T. Stanley||—|
|4 May 1463||Edward Mascy (fn. 56)||Lord Stanley||res. Hugh Huyton|
|28 Mar. 1467||Mr. Roger Standish (fn. 57)||"||d. E. Mascy|
|6 July 1478||Gilbert Shirlacres (fn. 58)||"||d. R. Standish|
|10 Feb. 1481–2||James Stanley, jun. (fn. 59)||"||res. G. Shirlacres|
|12 Aug. 1485||Ralph Blacklache (fn. 60)||"||res. J. Stanley|
|Aug. 1493||William Wall (fn. 61)||Earl of Derby||cess. of last incumb.|
|10 Apr. 1511||Peter Bradshaw, D. Decr. (fn. 62)||"||d. W. Wall|
|19 May 1541||Richard Layton, LL.D. (fn. 63)||Bishop of Durham, &c.||d. P. Bradshaw|
|10 July 1544||John Moody (fn. 64)||Earl of Derby||d. R. Layton|
|1562–3||Gilbert Towneley (fn. 65)||—||d. J. Moody|
|15 June 1601||Adam Rigby, M.A. (fn. 66)||Richard Lathom||d. G. Towneley|
|21 Nov. 1627||Edward Brouncker, D.D. (fn. 67)||The King||d. A. Rigby|
|6 Feb. 1628–9||Richard Parr, D.D. (fn. 68)||"||res. E. Brouncker|
|1644||Edward Gee (fn. 69)||—||—|
|23 Nov. 1648|
|6 Sept. 1660.||Thomas Mallory, D.D. (fn. 70)||The King||d. E. Gee|
|3 Jan. 1671–2||Robert Pickering, M.A. (fn. 71)||John Crisp||d. T. Mallory|
|19 Apr. 1704||James Egerton, B.C.L. (fn. 72)||William Lathom||d. R. Pickering|
|23 Nov. 1706||John Mercer, M.A. (fn. 73)||"||res. J. Egerton|
|30 Dec. 1736||John Pearson||Thomas Mercer||d. J. Mercer|
|17 Mar. 1740–1||John Douglas, M.A. (fn. 74)||John Douglas||res. J. Pearson|
|11 June 1766||Thomas Walker (fn. 75)||Martha Horncastle||d. J. Douglas|
|19 June 1770||Thomas Whitehead, M.A. (fn. 76)||Ric. Whitehead||res. T. Walker|
|17 June 1812||William Yates, M.A. (fn. 77)||William Yates||d. T. Whitehead|
|1854||John Sparling, M.A. (fn. 78)||W. C. Yates||d. W. Yates|
|1883||Humphrey William Bretherton, M.A. (fn. 79)||Wm. Bretherton||res. J. Sparling|
The rapid succession of incumbents at several periods is a noteworthy feature. In many cases the rectory appears to have been held as a stepping-stone to further promotion, and often with other benefices. The most noteworthy names among the pre-Reformation clergy are those of Travers and Mapleton; Dr. Layton points an aspect of the transition period, and among the later rectors Bishop Parr and Edward Gee are most prominent, the last-named, a Puritan of good type, being the only one of those mentioned who was intimately associated with the parish.
Before the Reformation, in addition to the rector, perhaps non-resident, the curate and the chantry priests at Eccleston and Parbold, there seem to have been one or two other resident clergy. The list of 1541 records no one but the curate. (fn. 80) The visitation lists of 1548 and 1554 show five or six names, but those from 1562 to 1565 contain none but those of the rector and his curate, William Brindle. (fn. 81) This was probably considered a sufficient staff under the new conditions, services at Douglas Chapel being neglected for a time, (fn. 82) and even in the Commonwealth period the rector and the curate of Douglas seem to have been the only ministers. (fn. 83)
There was a chantry at the altar of our Lady in the parish church, founded by the Earl of Derby and William Wall, rector from 1493 to 1511. Lawrence Halliwell was the cantarist in 1535 and at the confiscation in 1548, being at the latter date eighty years of age; probably therefore he had been the sole chaplain of the foundation. (fn. 84)
The parish has a share amounting to £313 a year in the charity founded by Peter Lathom in 1700. (fn. 85) The money in the townships of Eccleston and Heskin is distributed principally in money and school prizes, in Parbold chiefly in clothing and coal, and in Wrightington chiefly in clothing, under a scheme of the Charity Commissioners made in 1879, allowing great latitude in the application. (fn. 86) Adam Rigby, rector from 1601 to 1627, charged Bradley Hall and other lands with £20 a year for the use of 'the most religious, painful and honest poor inhabitants' of the parish, half the amount to be spent on 'grey coats or gowns,' and half on a Sunday distribution of bread. The rent-charge is still operative, and the distribution made according to the founder's wishes; but, while the cloth gift is shared by all the townships of the ancient parish, the bread is practically restricted to Eccleston and Heskin, the distribution being still made only in the porch of the parish church. (fn. 87)
Apart from these gifts, and some for educational or ecclesiastical purposes, there are few charitable endowments. The township of Eccleston has a small sum for clothing (fn. 88); the poor's stock of Heskin producing over £12 a year is applied to the apprenticing and advancement of children (fn. 89); Parbold has £2 18s. 8d. a year, derived from ancient gifts, and spent every two years in gifts of calico to poor persons (fn. 90); Wrightington has £1 a year distributed in money gifts at irregular intervals. (fn. 91)