Townships: Lower Darwen

Pages 275-278

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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Derewent, 1227, xiii-xiv cent.; Netherderwent, 1335; Netherderwend, 1332, 1339; Netherderwynd, xv-xvi cent.; Nether Derwyn, Darwine, xvi-xvii cent.; Lower Darwen, xix cent.

This like the adjoining township of Over Darwen takes its name from the River Darwen, which flows through it. Lower Darwen formerly contained an area of 2,666 acres, now reduced to 655 acres by the inclusion under the Blackburn Improvement Act, 1879, of the central and northern part of the township in the municipal borough of Blackburn, which part was added to the civil parish of Blackburn under the Blackburn Corporation Act, 1892, and now forms an integral part of the county and parliamentary borough. The reduced portion was added to the Over Darwen municipal borough in 1879 and incorporated in the civil parish of Darwen in 1892. The population is included in that of the boroughs of Blackburn and Darwen.

The ancient township extended from the banks of the River Darwen over the moorland heights which inclose the valley to the east and west. Eastward the ground rises to an elevation of 850 ft. above the ordnance datum near Belthorn on Yate Bank; westward a height of 750 ft. is reached on Bank o' th' Hey, now Bank Hey; and where the boundary of the township skirts Winter Hill in Tockholes the elevation exceeds 775 ft. On this side the township is divided from Over Darwen by Earnsdale Brook, which falls into the River Darwen where Dobhole Bridge formerly stood. The geological formation consists of the Coal Measures, but on the western side of the valley the lower part of the hills consists of the Millstone Grit with the Coal Measures above. The soil varies from sand to clay. The land is parcelled out in numerous farms entirely under grass. (fn. 1) The principal industry is the manufacture of cotton cloth; there are also two paper-mills and colour works. The high road from Blackburn to Over Darwen and Bolton runs on the western side of the valley, on higher ground on the eastern side is the main road from Blackburn to Holcombe and Bury, along which are traces of the Roman road which led from Blackburn to Manchester. On the same side is the Bolton, Blackburn and Hellifield branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's railway, with a station at Lower Darwen.

Within the township is the hamlet of Guide at the cross roads leading between Nether Darwen and Accrington and between Blackburn and Haslingden. Upon an acclivity near the village are the Guide and Fishmoor reservoirs of the Blackburn Corporation.

Close to Blackburn and separated from it by the River Darwen is the village of Ewood, where are several cotton factories.

The first cotton mill in the village of Lower Darwen was built about the year 1774 by Mr. Thomas Eccles, yeoman and manufacturer. (fn. 2)

By an Inclosure Act obtained in 1779 the common called Lower Darwen Moor, containing 600 acres, was allotted and inclosed. (fn. 3)

The boundary between Nether Darwen and Blackburn was thus described by Henry de Blackburn, living in the time of John: 'Beginning at Knousedene (Knuzden), thence to Byrchinlache, to Ruddelache and so straight to Grimesputtes, thence to the old cross, to the Asheneclogh and so down to the water of Derewent.' (fn. 4)

Edward Harwood, D.D., a noteworthy Nonconformist divine and Biblical critic, was born at Lower Darwen in 1728. He taught school, preached and wrote, spending the last twenty years of his life in London, where he died 14 January 1794. (fn. 5)


This was another of the manors granted with Walton-le-Dale about the year 1165 by Henry de Lacy to Robert Banastre, baron of Makerfield, to hold by the service of one knight. Like Mellor and Eccleshill it was in the possession of the Marsey family until early in the reign of Henry III either by subinfeudation from Banastre or by infeudation prior to that to Banastre. As related in the account of Mellor the manor passed from the Marseys by sale to the lords 'between Ribble and Mersey,' of whom it was subsequently held by the yearly rent of 14s. payable to the bailiff of Salford Hundred.

Under the Banastres the family of Blackburn of Wiswell were lords of this manor before the period of the first local evidences. (fn. 6) So much as is known of the early history of this line will be found in the account of Wiswell. After the death of John de Blackburn, kt., his widow Margaret daughter of the elder Robert de Holand married secondly Robert de Hepwall, who died in 1304, and thirdly Adam Banastre, kt., who was returned in the inquest after the Earl of Lincoln's death in 1311 as tenant of two plough-lands in Nether Darwen by the service of a quarter of a knight's fee and 2s. 10d. for castle-guard rent. (fn. 7) After his execution at Martinmas 1315 for rebellion against Earl Thomas of Lancaster his widow probably remained in possession for her life, and at her death was succeeded by her three daughters, co-heirs of Sir John de Blackburn, her first husband. Agnes the second daughter in her widowhood passed her third part of the manor by fine in 1339 to Thomas de Arderne, chivaler, (fn. 8) son of Robert de Arderne, who had married Joan the youngest of the three co-heirs. (fn. 9) One-third of the manor descended for a few years in the heirs of Alice the eldest of the three co-heirs, who had married Robert de Shireburne of Aighton, kt., and was living a widow in 1342. In 1349 Agnes relict of Robert de Horncliff, but described as Agnes de Lea, her first husband's name, answered for the rent of the manor to the sheriff. (fn. 10)

Robert de Arderne appears to have been connected with the Ardernes of Rothley, co. Leic., and not with the Cheshire family. He was father of Thomas de Arderne, kt., who was indicted in 1338, on complaint of Queen Isabella, of hunting with many of his neighbours in Bowland Chase. (fn. 11) He was probably the Thomas de Arderne, kt., of Roxton and Barford who received pardon in 1350, in consideration of good service long rendered, for complicity with several noted Lancashire knights in abducting the lady of a Berkshire squire from her manor-house where the king's son Lionel was then staying. (fn. 12) Sir Thomas died before 1362, and six years later his daughter Joan de Arderne released to her uncle John de Arderne her right in estates in Roxton, co. Beds, and Nether Darwen. (fn. 13) The succession during the next thirty years is not clear, but in 1391 John Arderne put his estates in this county and in Bedfordshire in trust, (fn. 14) and died 31 May 1392 seised of eight messuages and 8 oxgangs of land and other tenements in this place and in Chorley and Bolton-le-Moors, leaving as his heirs four young daughters of ages ranging from ten to seven years, two of whom had been married in his lifetime. (fn. 15) These were Joan wife in 1392 of William son of Adam de Lever, from whom she was divorced and afterwards married Nicholas Ainsworth; Margaret wife of Hugh Duxbury, and after his death of Hugh Bradshaw; Agnes wife of John Chorley, and after his death without issue of Edward Charnock; Eleanor wife of John son of Elias Bradshaw in 1392. (fn. 16) Katherine widow of John Arderne married Geoffrey Bold of Whittleswick in 1393. Ten years later his manors of Whittleswick and Nether Darwen and lands in Roxton, co. Beds., were seized for his adherence to Hotspur's rebellion in the north, but were quickly restored upon payment of a very moderate fine and the loss of his goods. (fn. 17)

Half of the Arderne share seems to have been alienated to Talbot, for in 1445–6 John Bradshaw, Edward Charnock, Hugh Bradshaw and Joan relict of Nicholas Ainsworth each held a fourth part of one-third of the manor, Edmund Talbot holding the remainder. (fn. 18) The Charnock pourparty of the manor appears to have been divided and dispersed in the time of Edward IV, and cannot afterwards be traced. (fn. 19) Nicholas Ainsworth died without issue, so that eventually his pourparty merged in the others. The other two shares are untraceable; one was held by William Bradshaw at his death in 1511 as the ninth part of the manor. (fn. 20) Thomas his son died childless four years later, when his brother Lawrence succeeded and was in possession at his death in 1523, leaving as heir a son Nicholas, aged five years. (fn. 21) In 1554 Nicholas Bradshaw, gent., passed a messuage and 240 acres of land here by fine to Ralph Lomax, and the following year passed nine messuages to ten local yeomen, probably dispersing his whole estate here by these alienations. (fn. 22)

The other Bradshagh estate descended in the main line of the Bradshaws of Bradshaw to John, who died in 1543 holding an estate of twelve messuages and the third part of a fulling mill, parcel of the manor, by the service of one-sixth of a knight's fee. (fn. 23) In 1580 and 1582 his great-grandson, the fourth of four successive John Bradshaws, lords of Bradshaw, sold a considerable estate, clearly his entire property here, to various local landowners. (fn. 24) The principal local families who derived their estates by purchase from the Bradshaws were: Astley of Stakes in Livesey, Haworth of ' Th'urcroft,' i.e. Highercroft, (fn. 25) a branch of the family of Haworth of Haworth Hall in Rochdale; Harwood of Lower Darwen, of which line was the Edward Harwood, D.D., already named, and Marsden of Oakenhurst. Mr. Abram gives full accounts of these families in his History of Blackburn. Before 1779 Nicholas Marsden and others answered to the bailiff of Salford Hundred for the ancient yearly rent of 14s.; in 1779 Henry Marsden answered for it. (fn. 26)

Bradshaw of Bradshaw. Argent two bendlets.

Highercroft House, formerly the residence of the Haworth family, is a 17th-century stone two-story gabled building with projecting end wings standing near a wooded hollow on the rise of the hill between Blackburn and Darwen. Over the porch are the initials of Peter Haworth and the date 1634, but the building has been modernized internally and all the old windows have been replaced with sashes. Otherwise the exterior has suffered little alteration. (fn. 27)

The third part of the manor, which Robert de Shireburne and his wife Alice de Blackburn held, probably descended to the heirs general of Richard Shireburne, kt., who died about 1391. Early in the 15th century this part and a moiety of the Arderne part passed to Thomas Talbot of Bashall, kt., who enfeoffed his son Edmund thereof at his marriage to Anne, of unknown family, before 1446. (fn. 28) In that year 11s. 1d. was required from Edmund in respect of the ninth part of a knight's fee which he held here, the heirs of John Arderne holding the eighteenth part of a fee, representing the remaining third part of the manor. Edmund Talbot, kt., died in 1462 and Thomas Talbot, kt., his son, the betrayer of Henry VI, died 16 February 1500 seised of the manors of Rishton and Nether Darwen, Edmund his eldest surviving son being then aged thirty years. (fn. 29) Edmund Talbot, esq., died seised of these manors in 1520 and was buried at Westminster. Thomas his son, who was aged three at his father's death, (fn. 30) received knighthood in 1544 and died in 1559. Henry his son, who succeeded at the age of twenty-five, (fn. 31) married in 1550 Milicent daughter of John Holcroft, kt., and died in 1570, leaving Thomas his son, aged thirteen years. (fn. 32) Thomas Talbot married Elizabeth daughter and coheir of John Bradley of Bradley Hall, was sheriff in 1588 and 1595, and died without heir in 1598, having sold a portion of his estate here in 1585. (fn. 33) He was succeeded in 1598 by his brother John Talbot, (fn. 34) who sold the manor in 1601 to Thomas Walmsley of Dunkenhalgh, judge of Common Pleas (1581), knighted in 1603, (fn. 35) from whom it has descended in the families of Walmsley and Petre until in 1852 it was left to the father of the present owner, Mr. Oswald Henry Petre.

Talbot. Argent three lions salient purpure.

Fernhurst, near Ewood, was the chief messuage of the Talbots' part of the manor. (fn. 36) In 1788 the Right Hon. Lord Petre paid land tax amounting to £6 7s. 4d. out of a total of £15 14s. 9d. charged on the township. (fn. 37) In 1524 James Livesey and William Marsden were assessed to the subsidy in respect of land; twenty-nine persons were assessed upon goods in 1543 valued at £71, and James Livesey upon lands valued at £4. (fn. 38) In 1626 the wife of William Marsden and the wife of William Duckworth were returned as non-communicants. In 1666 there were ninety-one hearths taxed. (fn. 39)

For the Church of England St. James's was begun in 1826 and completed in 1829, (fn. 40) in which year the registers commence. A parish was formed for it in 1842. (fn. 41) The benefice is a vicarage in the gift of the vicar of Blackburn. The National schools adjoining the church, built in 1837, were rebuilt and enlarged in 1873. The school at Guide, 1855–90, is licensed for divine service.

A Methodist Society was founded here by John Wesley, who preached in the place in 1759 and 1761. Early preaching stations of the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion were in a farm-house at Top o' th' Coal Pits and at New Row (between Lower Darwen and Livesey), where a chapel was erected in 1828. The Wesleyan Association, afterwards the United Free Methodists, built a chapel replaced by the present one in 1873, when the old one was taken by the Primitive Methodists. (fn. 42)

The Congregational chapel was begun in 1884 and opened the following year. (fn. 43)

The Roman Catholic school-chapel of St. Edward in Blackburn Road was opened in 1872. The present church of the Sacred Heart and St. Edward was opened in 1883.


  • 1. The agricultural returns of 1905 give 1,908 acres of permanent grass and 1 acre of wood or plantation.
  • 2. Abram, Hist. of Blackburn, 466.
  • 3. Inclosure award at the county offices, Preston.
  • 4. Add. MS. 10374, fol. 150. The cross probably stood by the Roman road which was crossed by the boundary.
  • 5. Dict. Nat. Biog.; Abram, op. cit. 478.
  • 6. Whalley Couch. (Chet. Soc.), i, 102; iv, 1071.
  • 7. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 11; Feudal Aids (Rolls Ser.), iii, 85. See the account of Aighton.
  • 8. Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 111. She had already in 1335 settled her own third part of the manor, after her life and the life of Alesia widow of Adam de Blackburn, upon John son of Thomas de Arderne; ibid. 95.
  • 9. Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. ii, m. v d. For Robert Thomas is read in another place.
  • 10. Duchy of Lanc. Var. Accts. bdle. 32, no. 17, fol. 6.
  • 11. Whalley Couch. iv, 1085; Cal. Pat. 1338–40, p. 75.
  • 12. Ibid. 1345–8, p. 310, &c.; Cal. Close, 1348–50, p. 467; Inq. p.m. 21 Edw. III (2nd nos.), no. 60. Thomas de Arderne was one of the collectors of the subsidy levied in 1347 on all knights' fees; Cal. Close, 1346–9, p. 356.
  • 13. Inq. a.q.d. file 348, no. 15 (36 Edw. III); Dods. MSS. xxxix, fol. 140b. Sir Thomas was living 10 Aug. 1360; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxii, App. i, 347.
  • 14. On 25 Nov. 1391 he enfeoffed William de Wetherby vicar of Blackburn and Roger de Longlegh of his lands in Roxton, Chawston, Coldsden and Barford, co. Beds.; Agecroft D. no. 366. According to the pleadings in a suit in 1469 John Arderne was son of Thomas Arderne, kt., and entered into possession of Agnes de Lea's third part of the manor after her death; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 36, m. 12 d. Alice relict of Sir Thomas is said to have survived until Lent, 1424; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 9.
  • 15. Chan. Inq. p.m. 16 Ric. II, no. 35; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc.), i, 60; ii, 8. In the inquest taken in 1424 John Arderne was said to have held at his death sixteen messuages, a mill, 1,420 acres land, &c., in Nether Darwen of John Duke of Lancaster by knight's service and 2s. yearly rent; also fourteen messuages there and 682 acres land, &c., parcel of the manor, of Thomas la Warre, clerk, Baron of Manchester, in socage by the yearly rent of 13s. 4d. This latter estate may have represented Ewood.
  • 16. Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxiii, App. 25.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1401–5, pp. 255, 258; 1405–8, pp. 47, 179. Many Lancashire and Cheshire people were engaged in the conflicts of this year on either side. William Jenkynson alias the 'Taylleour's son of Derwent' was pardoned for rebellion in 1402; Pal. of Lanc. Chan. Misc. bdle. 1, file 12, no. 19.
  • 18. Duchy of Lanc. Knights' Fees, bdle. 2, no. 20, p. 9. Edward Charnock also held the estates in Roxton, Chawston, Colesden and Barford which he passed to trustees in 1451–2; Kuerden fol. MS. (Chet. Lib.), 75, no. 462. Nicholas and Joan Ainsworth made a settlement of a fourth part of a third of the manor and two mills in Nether Darwen in 1423; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 89.
  • 19. John Charnock son of Edward and Agnes had issue two sons who died young and daughters, Margaret the wife of Thomas Bouke of Chorley and Cicely the wife of Peter Chisnall of Charnock Richard in 1469. Agnes Charnock in her widowhood enfeoffed William her younger son of the third part of the third part of the manor. In 1475 this estate was in the hands of trustees; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 36, m. 12 d.; 43, m. 15.
  • 20. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. iii, 9.
  • 21. Ibid. iv. 31.
  • 22. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdles. 15, m. 87; 16, m. 101. The purchasers were James Cunliffe, James and Miles Fysshe, Richard Harwood, Edmund, Peter (jun.) and Ralph Haworth, Christopher and Richard Marsden and Lawrence Yate.
  • 23. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. vii, 33. His grandson John Bradshaw had a suit in the Duchy Court in 1562 with Henry Talbot and Ralph Lomax concerning tenements and right of common in Nether Darwen; Cal. Plead. (Rec. Com.), ii (2), 259.
  • 24. In 1580 he sold twenty messuages and the fourth part of eighteen other messuages to Henry Cunliffe, James Fysshe, Edmund Harwood, Giles, Lawrence and Richard Haworth, Henry and Richard Marsden, and William Yate; in 1582 he sold four messuages to James Asmoll (Aspinall) and Peter Waddington; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdles. 42, m. 46; 44, m. 113.
  • 25. In 1757 Richard Haworth left his estate to his kinsman Henry Baron of Knuzden Hall. In 1766 it was sold to Jonathan Haworth of Manchester, merchant, from whom it passed by purchase to Mr. Christopher Hindle, who died in 1818. It was the property of Major John William Hindle in 1875; Abram, Blackburn, pp. 470–3, 482–3; Bolton Hist. Gleanings, i, 283 et seq.
  • 26. Duchy of Lanc. Misc. 14–25 m.
  • 27. There is an illustration in Abram's Blackburn, 473.
  • 28. Duchy of Lanc. Knights' Fees, bdle. 2, no. 20, p. 9. He attorned to Henry VI in 1443 as free tenant of the honor of Clitheroe; Farrer, Clitheroe Ct. R. i, 499.
  • 29. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. iii, 69.
  • 30. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. v, 14.
  • 31. Ibid. xi, 69.
  • 32. Ibid. xiii, 38. The inquest records the names of the tenants of the Talbots in Nether Darwen in 1550 and 1559.
  • 33. He sold six messuages to Alex. Aspinall, Richard Aspden, John Baron, William Fysshe, Giles Haworth, sen., and Giles Haworth, jun.; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 47, m. 97. In 1595 he sold two messuages to Thos. Astley, gent., and Lawrence Haworth (ibid. bdle. 57, m. 129); and in 1593 to Lawrence Aspinall five messuages; ibid. bdle. 55, m. 104.
  • 34. Chan. Inq. p.m. cclxi, no. 29. Thomas Talbot made a settlement of the manor of Nether Darwen in 1597 and died 30 Apr. 1598, John Talbot being his brother and heir.
  • 35. Com. Pleas Recov. R. East. 43 Eliz. m. 2.
  • 36. Abram, Blackburn, 469.
  • 37. Land tax return at Preston.
  • 38. Subs. R. Lancs. bdle. 130, no. 82. Robert Waddington paid upon £15 in goods in 1543; ibid. bdle. 130, no. 125. Ibid. bdle. 131, no. 317 for 1626.
  • 39. Only five houses had more than two hearths, Peter Haworth, sen., had five, Roger and Elizabeth Harwood also five; ibid. bdle. 250, no. 9.
  • 40. Abram, Blackburn, 486; it was built out of a Parliamentary grant.
  • 41. Lond. Gaz. 20 Sept. 1842.
  • 42. Abram, loc. cit.
  • 43. A Sunday school was opened in 1862; Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. ii, 279.