A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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This township occupies both slopes of a ridge from 1,000 to 600 ft. high which shoots out from Pendle south-west towards Whalley. Fine views over Ribblesdale may be had from it. The south-eastern slope, extending down to Sabden Brook, contains Wiswell Moorhouses, once a hamlet of several cottages now pulled down; the north-western slope has on it the village of Wiswell with Wiswell Eaves to the northeast and Barrow to the north-west. The township contains 1,693 acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 had a population of 627.
The principal road is that near the western border, from Whalley to Clitheroe, through Barrow. A minor road from Whalley passes through Wiswell village and goes on to Pendleton and Chatburn. Near Sabden Brook another road from Whalley goes north-east to Sabden. The railway from Blackburn to Hellifield crosses the extreme western corner, but there is no station.
Near the highest point of the ridge above mentioned is a stone called Jeppe Knave Grave. (fn. 2) A tumulus stands at Harlow near by.
Wiswell Shay cross has an ancient pedestal, the cross itself being modern. (fn. 3)
From a confirming charter of the end of the 12th century it is known that the lords of Clitheroe had granted with Hapton and Osbaldeston to the ancestor of William de Arches, (fn. 4) whose widow Albrey de Tilly in 1207 claimed dower in two plough-lands there against Henry de Blackburn. (fn. 5) In 1242 Adam de Blackburn and Reyner de Arches held Wiswell and Hapton by the service of the fourth part of a knight's fee, (fn. 6) these manors being included in the dower of the Countess of Lincoln. (fn. 7) In 1311 the two ploughlands were said to be held of Henry de Lacy by the fourth part of a knight's fee, a rent of 16d., and doing suit to the court of Clitheroe. (fn. 8)
William de Arches had granted the two ploughlands in Wiswell to Henry de Blackburn, one ploughland being in demesne and the other in service; also an oxgang of land in Wolvetscholes. Henry was to render to William the service due from the fourth part of a knight's fee, i.e. he was to discharge the knight's service due for both Wiswell and Hapton. (fn. 9) The next possessor of the lordship of the manor is the above-named Adam de Blackburn (1242), who may have been son or grandson of Henry. His daughter was perhaps the Beatrice who married Richard son of John de Pontchardon, and had lands in Wiswell and elsewhere. (fn. 10) The lordship of the manor passed to John de Blackburn, (fn. 11) whose son Adam was in possession in 1278, when he complained that Beatrice and others had disseised him of common of pasture in Wiswell, by the raising of two cottages, though she had no share of the vill. The jury decided in her favour, stating that she had raised them on her own soil, it being the custom of the country that each neighbour might make such cottages on his arable land adjacent to his messuage or village. (fn. 12) Adam acquired some minor holdings in the township (fn. 13) and died before 1292, when his son John was in possession, though his widow Alice, who had married Adam de Pemberton, had the third part of the manor as her dower. (fn. 14)
John married Margaret sister of Sir Robert de Holland and by her left three daughters who became co-heirs of his manors; they were Alice wife of Robert de Shireburne, Agnes wife of Sir Henry de Lea and then of Robert de Horncliff, and Joan wife of Thomas (or Robert) de Arderne, and then of William Touchet. (fn. 15) Agnes in 1337 transferred her part of the manor to the Shireburnes, (fn. 16) who thus became possessed of two-thirds, (fn. 17) though in the inquisitions they are stated to have had a moiety only (fn. 18); and Thomas de Arderne the son of Joan in 1339 gave his third part to the abbey of Whalley. (fn. 19) Hence in 1361 the Abbot of Whalley, Richard de Shireburne and Gilbert de la Legh held of the duke the fourth part of a knight's fee in Wiswell and Hapton. (fn. 20) After the suppression of the abbey its third part was sold by the Crown in 1584 to various persons, (fn. 21) and their right was in 1610 transferred to Richard Shireburne, (fn. 22) who held the remainder by inheritance. Another estate called the third part of the manor was held by the Watson and Crombock families in succession. (fn. 23) From its tenure it must have been part of the abbey's estate, (fn. 24) and it appears to have been sold by Richard Crombock (or his trustees) to Sir Nicholas Shireburne in 1709. (fn. 25) The whole manor was thus reunited, and descended in the same way as Stonyhurst to the Welds. (fn. 26) By Thomas Weld it was sold in 1830 to Robert Whalley of Clerk Hill. (fn. 27)
The free chase of Wiswell was included in the grant to Whalley by Sir Thomas de Arderne. (fn. 28)
A perambulation of the bounds between Wiswell and Pendleton was made in 1342. (fn. 29)
On the division of the wastes of Pendleton and Wiswell in 1619 an allowance of 50 acres was made to Richard Shireburne out of favour to him and the commoners of Wiswell, because of long usage. (fn. 30) An inclosure award for Wiswell was made in 1790. (fn. 31)
A number of the minor tenements can be traced. Swain son of Leofwine gave an oxgang of land to Henry son of Swain de Wiswell—i.e. to his son, (fn. 32) and Henry gave the same to Henry de Clayton. (fn. 33) Henry son of Henry de Clayton had 6 oxgangs of land in Wiswell. (fn. 34) Families named Wiswell, (fn. 35) Blackburn (fn. 36) and Banastre (fn. 37) appear later. James Marshall died in 1483 holding lands in Wiswell, apparently in right of Grace his wife, of the king as duke by knight's service. (fn. 38) Thomas Hesketh acquired the same in 1505, (fn. 39) but Sir Thomas Hesketh and Alice his wife sold in 1555 to Anthony Watson and Thurstan Mawdsley. (fn. 40) Walmesley of Coldcoats (fn. 41) and Banastre of Altham (fn. 42) also had lands in Wiswell.
One of the most noteworthy families connected with the township is that of Paslew, as it is believed the last Abbot of Whalley sprang from it. (fn. 43) Francis Paslew of Wiswell was a Shireburne trustee in 1422 (fn. 44) and occurs again in 1438–9. (fn. 45) A later Francis and his wife Alice gave a window to Whalley Church in 1510. (fn. 46) Thomas Paslew contributed to the subsidy in 1524. (fn. 47) Fifty years later John Paslew claimed a grange in Wiswell against Roger Nowell. (fn. 48) Francis Paslew or Pasley in 1589 obtained a lease of Wiswell Hall from Sir Richard Shireburne, (fn. 49) and purchased it in 1630 (fn. 50); in 1631 he compounded for having refused knighthood. (fn. 51) He died in 1641, (fn. 52) and was succeeded by a son John or by John's daughter Alice, who married Richard Townley of Barnside and died without issue in 1644. Her aunt Elizabeth daughter of Francis Paslew and wife of Thurstan Tomlinson of Bailey then obtained Wiswell, and her son John had it in 1666, when he paid the tax for six hearths. (fn. 53) His son Thurstan Tomlinson in 1708 sold it to Sir Nicholas Shireburne. (fn. 54)
Wiswell Hall stood about a mile to the northeast of Whalley on the lower western slope of Pendle Hill. It was described as being in bad repair in 1876, at which time it was used as a farm-house, and was demolished in 1895. It was a stone building with low mullioned windows, bold projecting chimneys, and a porch of two stories on the north side, over the door of which were the date 1636 and the arms and initials of Francis Paslew, the owner. The house, however, appears to have been of earlier date, the porch being an addition in the 17th century when the building underwent great alterations. An account of the house written in 1883 (fn. 55) describes it as being much patched and as having received in the course of years many barbarous and incongruous additions. An old font which used to be preserved in the hall is now in Whalley Church.
In 1626 there were twelve convicted recusants paying to the subsidy, (fn. 56) and under the Commonwealth Cuthbert Lowe (fn. 57) and Edward Parkinson (fn. 58) had their estates sequestered for recusancy. John Alston as a 'Papist' registered his freehold farm in 1717. (fn. 59)
The land tax return of 1788 shows that Thomas Weld and James Whalley were the chief holders. (fn. 60)
The Congregational chapel at Wiswell was built in 1831, preaching having begun some ten years before by the minister of Wymondhouses, and a Sunday school having been opened. Services were held there till 1879, and the building was afterwards sold. Preaching at Barrow is mentioned about 1827, but regular services began in 1875, and a schoolchapel was built in 1877. It is called Jollie's Memorial Chapel, and may be regarded as representing the older cause at Wymondhouses. (fn. 61)