A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The township of Church or Church Kirk lies on the eastern bank of Hyndburn Brook, into which, at the northern boundary, flows another brook running north-west from Accrington, and the older part of the town lies between these brooks. At the north end of it is Ponthalgh. The surface slopes down from east to west. The area measures 528 acres. (fn. 1) The population in 1901 was 6,463. The chapelry embraces Oswaldtwistle and Huncoat also.
The principal road is that from Blackburn to Accrington, crossing the southern end of the township. The road from Blackburn through Oswaldtwistle enters the south end at Alleytroyds, (fn. 2) crosses the main road mentioned, and winds north to the church and then turns west to Rishton. From the main road another goes north, as Henry Street, by Church Hall and Dill Hall to Clayton-le-Moors. Elmfield lies to the east of it. The Blackburn and Accrington line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway crosses the southern end of the township, where there is a station named Church and Oswaldtwistle. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal goes north on the west side of the township.
A local board was constituted in 1878, and in 1894 this became an urban district council; there are twelve members. The town is supplied with gas and water in conjunction with Accrington. The outfall works of the Accrington and Church Joint Sewerage Board, formed in 1884, (fn. 3) are at Coppy Clough in this township. The cemetery in Dill Hall Lane belongs to Church and Clayton-le-Moors, and is controlled by a board of eight members. (fn. 4)
Calico printing and dyeing are the principal industries (fn. 5); there are several cotton factories, also chemical, naphtha and soap works, and iron foundries. Collieries are worked. The agricultural land is returned as 156½ acres in grass. The soil and subsoil are clay.
Windham William Sadler, one of the earliest of British aeronauts, was killed at Parsonage Field, Church, on 29 September 1824, his balloon being dashed against a tall chimney by the wind during its flight from Bolton to Blackburn. (fn. 6)
To the county lay of 1624, when the hundred was called upon for £100, Church paid 17s., Oswaldtwistle £1 5s. 6d., and Huncoat 17s. 4¼d.—a total of £2 19s. 10¼d. from the chapelry. (fn. 7)
In the 13th century CHURCH was held of the lords of Clitheroe by a rent of 6s. (fn. 8); it was assessed as one ploughland. There is nothing to show how it was first obtained by the Church family, but in 1202 Uctred de Church acquired half a plough-land there from Henry de Clayton. (fn. 9) There are charters showing later generations of the family, (fn. 10) but before the end of the 13th century the lordship had been acquired by the Rishtons, probably by marriage, and they retained it for more than 300 years. From the site of their residence the manor was in later times named PONTHALGH. (fn. 11)
The earlier descents of the lords have been related in the account of Rishton, (fn. 12) a manor forfeited about the time Church was acquired. The first to appear at the latter place was Gilbert de Rishton, who made various grants to Robert his eldest son, (fn. 13) Adam son of Uctred de Church, in one place styled 'formerly lord of the vill,' (fn. 14) giving releases both to Gilbert and Robert. (fn. 15) Robert occurs in pleadings from 1291 onwards (fn. 16) in 1311 he held the plough-land in Church of Henry de Lacy by 6s. rent and doing suit to the court of Clitheroe. (fn. 17) A number of his charters have been preserved. (fn. 18) His son Gilbert in 1325–6 obtained lands in Church from Roger de Altham. (fn. 19) Robert son of Gilbert prosecuted the claim for the manor of Rishton in 1356 (fn. 20); in 1376 he received from his trustees lands in Oswaldtwistle which had belonged to Robert son of Henry de Rishton. (fn. 21) Ralph de Rishton acquired further lands. (fn. 22) He died in 1417, leaving a son Richard, on whose death without issue in 1425 a younger son Roger succeeded. (fn. 23)
Roger Rishton was then thirty-three years of age. He was outlawed in 1447, (fn. 24) and an inquiry into his possessions was made. (fn. 25) He no doubt obtained pardon, for in 1453 Thurstan Rishton, rector of Stanhope, gave Dutton Place in Church to Roger Rishton, Richard his son and Alice Harewell daughter of Richard son of Henry Rishton. (fn. 26) Richard son of Roger Rishton in 1473 granted the mese place in Church called Ponthalgh to Henry Rishton, (fn. 27) and he occurs as late as 1488, in which year he gave the manor of Ponthalgh to Ralph his son and heir at a rent of £7. (fn. 28)
Ralph Rishton (fn. 29) died in 1527 holding the capital messuage called Ponthalgh Hall and various messuages, rents, &c., in Church of the king as Duke of Lancaster by 6s. rent; he had other lands, &c., in Oswaldtwistle and Rishton. His son Roger, then twenty-two years of age, had been married to Anne daughter of Giles Livesey. (fn. 30) Roger was living in 1561 (fn. 31); he had two sons, of whom the elder, Ralph, acquired Dunkenhalgh, (fn. 32) but left no legitimate issue, (fn. 33) and Ponthalgh passed to the younger, William, (fn. 34) who died in 1589, holding it as before, and leaving a son and heir Ralph, aged ten. (fn. 35) At Ralph's death in 1625 the estate passed to his son William, then nineteen years of age. (fn. 36) In the Civil War time Ponthalgh was sequestered by the Parliament (fn. 37) and in 1652 declared forfeit and sold. (fn. 38) William Rishton, however, survived his troubles, and was living in 1664, when he recorded a pedigree; his son William was then thirty-one years old. (fn. 39) The family from that time falls out of notice.
There were various minor families in the township, but little can be recorded of their estates. The names of Radcliffe, (fn. 42) Church, (fn. 43) Cattlow, (fn. 44) Rodes, (fn. 45) Aspden, (fn. 46) Wallbank (fn. 47) and Collinson (fn. 48) occur among the earlier deeds, and the inquisitions show that the Nowells of Read (fn. 49) and other neighbouring landowners had small estates. (fn. 50) William Hindle died at Church in 1616 holding a messuage, &c., there of the king and another in Over Darwen; his heir was a nephew John Hindle, aged forty-four, son of William's brother Michael, but he left the messuage in Church to John son of Christopher Duckworth on condition that he married one of the daughters of his eldest brother Thomas Hindle. (fn. 51)
The Subsidy Roll of 1626 shows the landowners contributing to be the heir of Ralph Rishton and William Carus in right of his wife; Dorothy Rishton and three other women were convicted recusants. (fn. 52) Only thirty-one hearths were liable to the tax in 1666; Matthew Tootel had six hearths and Richard Walmesley of Ponthalgh had five. (fn. 53)
From the name of the township it might be supposed that the chapel there was of ancient origin and of independent standing. At the first positive record, however, the Survey of 1296, it was no more than a chapel, served by a priest who had 4 marks a year; the altarage was worth 5 marks, the demesne lands 10s., and the tithes of the chapelry (fn. 54) £12. In 1334 the chapel was in such bad condition that the priest could not celebrate mass therein on a rainy day, and the parishioners were ordered to keep in repair the chancel as well as the nave, according to old custom. (fn. 55) At the same time they were ordered to find and pay a clerk to serve the priest at mass, for it had sometimes happened that the chaplain had been unable to say mass on Sundays and festivals through the lack of an assistant. (fn. 56)
The church of ST. JAMES stands on high ground to the north-west of the town, and consists of chancel with north organ chamber, nave and western tower, with vestry on the north side. Only the tower is ancient, and belongs probably to the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century, the rest of the church having been pulled down in 1805, in which year the present nave, which is 81 ft. 6 in. long by 41 ft. wide internally, was erected. A chancel was added in 1870, but was rebuilt on a larger scale in 1895. In 1848 the church was re-roofed, and in 1881 it underwent a thorough restoration, when the old galleries were taken down and new ones erected, a new chancel arch was built, the floor renewed and new seating inserted.
The chancel, which measures 30 ft. by 25 ft. 9 in., is in the style of the 14th century, and has a pointed east window of five lights. The nave retains its flat ceiling and has galleries on each side and at the west end. There are two tiers of semicircular-headed windows on each side. The original plain woodenbarred frames, with bars crossing in the heads, were removed in 1881, and modern wood frames with traceried heads substituted. The walls are built in coursed blocks of dressed stone, the whole of the work being of the plainest description. There were originally two doorways on the south side, but when the chancel was built the easternmost one was made into a window. The roofs of both chancel and nave are covered with blue slates and have overhanging eaves.
The tower, which is at the south-west corner of the nave, measures internally 13 ft. 9 in. by 13 ft., the longer length being from east to west, and is of two stages. The vice is in the south-west corner, and there are diagonal angle buttresses of four stages on the west side, stopping below the belfry string. There are also square buttresses north and south on the east side. The detail is poor, the masonry coarse, and the work generally of little architectural merit. The tower was restored in 1848, when the battlements were renewed and the present angle pinnacles erected. The belfry windows are of two lights with straight-sided pointed heads and labels, except on the west side, where there are three lights. The south window is now built up and a clock dial fixed in front. The west doorway has a flat arch with square label, and above is a three-light window similar in detail to those in the belfry. Between the west window and the string above are two small openings, one with rounded head and the other apparently of later date. The tower arch is of two chamfered orders, but is now only visible from the ringing chamber, the west wall of the nave having been built in front of it on the east side. The vestry was built in 1895 and enlarged in 1899.
The font is octagonal and apparently of the same date as the tower, and has a blank shield on each face. The rest of the fittings are modern, the wood pulpit dating from 1850 and the quire stalls from 1895. An organ was first provided in 1815. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1849 and again in 1895.
Some old stained glass, including a mutilated figure of St. Mary and the arms of the Walmesleys and Petres of Dunkenhalgh and the Whalleys of Clerk Hill, which was formerly in the east window of the 1805 building and was the gift of Mr. George Petre, (fn. 57) is now preserved in one of the lower south windows of the nave.
There is a ring of six bells by W. Blews & Sons, Birmingham, 1876. (fn. 58)
The old stipend of £4 (fn. 59) was before the Civil War augmented to £10, (fn. 60) and about 1650 the Committee of Plundered Ministers ordered £50 a year to be paid to the minister out of tithes sequestered from Thomas Clifton, a 'Papist delinquent.' (fn. 61) This would cease at the Restoration, and in 1717 the certified income was only £12 17s. 8d. (fn. 62) Soon afterwards an augmentation was secured from Nathaniel Curzon, (fn. 63) who thus obtained the patronage, and Queen Anne's Bounty; additional endowments were given, and the net annual value is now £610. (fn. 64) The Hulme Trustees acquired the advowson about 1837. Before the Reformation, though there was no endowed chantry, there seem to have been two priests to serve the chapelry, the names appearing in the visitation lists of 1548 and 1554; but in the lists of 1562 and later only one name is given. (fn. 65) Afterwards it is probable that Church was served in conjunction with some other chapel in the district, for in 1717 the curate of Altham read service and preached a sermon once a fortnight. (fn. 66) The following are the more recent curates and rectors (fn. 67):—
|1720||Edward Cort (fn. 68)|
|1726||Robert Mitton, B.A. (fn. 69)|
|1739||Christopher Hall (fn. 70)|
|1763||Thomas Armitstead (fn. 71)|
|1814||John Swainson (fn. 72)|
|1824||Richard Noble (fn. 73)|
|1840||Joseph Birchall, M.A. (fn. 74) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1879||Thomas Farmer Collins, M.A. (fn. 75) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1891||Joseph Glasson Denison, M.A. (fn. 76) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1903||Arthur John Morris, M.A. (fn. 77) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
Some Nonconformists were known in the chapelry in 1717, but they died out. The present Baptist church was built in 1870; a chapel had existed about 1850. (fn. 78)
Ellen Darwen, widow, in 1776 left money for a bread charity for Rishton and Church Kirk. About 1826 the sum of £60, a moiety, seems to have been given to the churchwardens of the latter place to continue the charity. The money, with other sums intended for the endowment of an organ, was invested in cottages, £5 being reserved from the rents as interest on the Darwen capital. The money is laid out in 4-lb. loaves, which are distributed after morning service on the first Sunday of each month among poor persons of all denominations; attendance at the service is not required.
Benjamin Walmesley in 1852 left £100 to found a similar charity at Oswaldtwistle; bread was to be given every alternate Sunday after morning service to old women members of the congregation. The fund produces £3 a year. For the aged poor of the same township George Walmesley in 1891 left £3,000, now producing £81 14s. yearly; this is given quarterly in groceries, clothing, &c., to the value of 5s. each gift, to poor persons over sixty years of age resident in Oswaldtwistle for at least five years.