Townships: Huncoat

Pages 409-411

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

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Hunnicot, Dom. Bk.; Hunecotes, Hunnecotes, 1241; Honkotes, 1311; Huntcotes, 1322; Huncote, 1324.

This township occupies the north-western slope of Great Hameldon Hill, the altitudes ranging from about 1,200 to 450 ft. above sea level. The hamlet of Huncoat lies in the lower land in the northern part of the township. The area is 990 acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 the population numbered 1,281.

The road from Accrington to Burnley goes northeast through the hamlet of Hillock Vale and the centre of the township, and has a branch north through the hamlet towards Altham. The Accrington and Burnley line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company crosses the township parallel to the north-west boundary, and has a station called Huncoat. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal passes through the north end of the township.

Near the Accrington border are reservoirs for the water supply of that town, also the cemetery.

The soil is light, overlying rock, and the land is almost entirely in pasture, there being 802 acres in permanent grass; there is no arable land, but 22 acres are devoted to woods and plantations. The cotton manufacture has long been carried on. A colliery is worked and bricks and fire-clay goods are made.

There is a parish council.


In 1066 King Edward held two plough-lands in HUNCOAT. (fn. 2) The later Huncoat may have been but a part of it, for it was assessed as one plough-land only. It was included in the honor of Clitheroe, and a large part was granted out to free tenants; these gave part of their holdings to the Abbot of Kirkstall, (fn. 3) and on his surrendering them to Henry de Lacy in 1287 (fn. 4) only 2 oxgangs of land remained to the free tenants, who in 1311 were John de Shuttleworth and John de Clayton. (fn. 5) The remainder has continued to descend with the honor of Clitheroe. (fn. 6) Huncoat was considered a member of the manor of Accrington. (fn. 7)

Both the free tenancies of 1311 are traceable to Ellis de Pleasington, who in 1241 held 2 oxgangs of land in the township. (fn. 8) He granted one of them to Henry de Clayton, who was to pay a rent of 12d. at St. Oswald's Feast. (fn. 9) Henry de Clayton gave the oxgang to James his son for the same service. (fn. 10) The gift may have failed, for Henry son of Henry de Clayton gave to Richard de Birtwisle all his lands in Huncoat. (fn. 11)

Ellis de Pleasington also gave an oxgang of land to Henry de Shuttleworth, rendering the same rent of 12d. on St. Oswald's Day, and the service of the fortieth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 12) Henry son of Henry de Clayton gave part of his land to John de Shuttleworth for the rent of a pair of white gloves. (fn. 13) This tenement descended in the same way as Shuttleworth in Hapton. (fn. 14)

The John de Clayton of 1311 was no doubt the mesne lord between Birtwisle and the Earl of Lincoln, for in 1316 William de Birtwisle obtained land in Huncoat from John de Huncoat in exchange for Bradley in Hapton, (fn. 15) and in 1330 William gave his son Richard all his lands in Huncoat and Hapton. (fn. 16) The descent can be traced only imperfectly (fn. 17) to Oliver Birtwisle, who died in 1509 holding three messuages, 40 acres of land, &c., in Huncoat of Richard Rishton and Thomas Grimshaw in socage by a rent of 1d. yearly. Richard Birtwisle, his son and heir, was forty years of age. (fn. 18) Richard and Agnes Birtwisle in 1527 held Huncote Hall, paying 14s. rent. (fn. 19) Richard Birtwisle in 1531 gave his son Oliver a rent of 8s. (fn. 20) Richard was living in 1540, when he agreed to an arbitration regarding a claim for Hancock field by Edmund Ashton of Shuttleworth, (fn. 21) but Oliver had succeeded by 1545, (fn. 22) and in 1560 obtained a grant of arms. (fn. 23) He recorded a pedigree in 1567, showing that his son James, who had married Agnes daughter and heir of George Ormerod, had a son John and other children. (fn. 24)

Birtwisle of Huncoat. Sable a cheveron ermine between three weasels proper.

James Birtwisle made a settlement in 1594 (fn. 25) and died in 1597 holding his estate in Huncoat as before, and leaving his son John to inherit, he being then forty years of age. (fn. 26) John Birtwisle had married Dorothy sister of Thomas Worthington of Blainscough, (fn. 27) a union which probably explains the religion of their descendants if it does not show that of John himself. (fn. 28) John Birtwisle in 1614 made a settlement of his capital messuage in Huncoat, with remainder to his son and heir Thomas and four daughters. (fn. 29) He died in 1617, leaving Thomas, then nineteen years of age, to inherit the family estate. (fn. 30) Thomas Birtwisle in or about 1621 married Margaret daughter of Thomas Clayton, late of Church, (fn. 31) and about 1630 compounded by an annual fine of £10 for the two-thirds of his estate liable to sequestration for recusancy; his mother Dorothy at the same time compounded for £4. (fn. 32) His lands were, however, sequestered under the Commonwealth for his recusancy and delinquency, (fn. 33) and though he protested that he had never borne arms against the Parliament (fn. 34) they were at last declared forfeit and sold. (fn. 35) He survived his troubles and recorded a pedigree in 1664, (fn. 36) but the Birtwisles afterwards disappear from view, (fn. 37) and it is not clear what became of their estate. Huncoat Hall was in 1825 the property of Mr. Foot, but before 1839 had been acquired by the Towneleys, from whom it came to the present owner, the Earl of Abingdon. (fn. 38)

The Banastres of Altham held land in Huncoat of the king in socage. (fn. 39) Edmund Townley of Greenfield held half a messuage in 1598, but the tenure was not recorded. (fn. 40) John Ormerod of Huncoat in 1631 paid £10 for having refused knighthood. (fn. 41) Only a few other references to the township have been noticed. (fn. 42)

The Subsidy Rolls show the following owners of land: 1524, Matthew Jackson and the wife of Oliver Birtwisle; 1543, George Birtwisle, Christopher Jackson and the widow of Nicholas Grimshaw; 1600, John Birtwisle, John Jackson and Janet his mother; 1626, Thomas Birtwisle and his mother (both convicted recusants) and Christopher Jackson. (fn. 43) Thomas Birtwisle's house had seven hearths liable to the tax in 1666, another house had four and two had three; the total number for the township was thirty-seven hearths. (fn. 44) The chief contributors to the land tax in 1787 were Mrs. Chadwick and Messrs. Brewer and Carus. (fn. 45)

St. Augustine's mission church was built in 1886 as a chapel of ease to Church.

The Wesleyan Methodists have a chapel, built in 1844 and rebuilt 1869, (fn. 46) and the Baptists also have one, dating from 1817–18, and rebuilt in 1871. (fn. 47)


  • 1. 991 acres, including 18 of inland water; Census Rep. 1901.
  • 2. V.C.H. Lancs. i, 286b.
  • 3. In 1241 Adam de Billington acknowledged the right of Ellis de Pleasington to 2 oxgangs of land in Huncoat, and that of Adam de Pleasington to 2 more; but at the request of Ellis he gave Adam de Pleasington's 2 oxgangs to the Abbot of Kirkstall, who was to pay 6d. a year; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 80. Geoffrey de Whalley and Avice his wife released to Roger de Witton 3 oxgangs of land in Huncoat in exchange for 40 acres in Billington, but Roger then gave the 3 oxgangs to the abbot, who was to render four barbed arrows yearly; ibid. 87. The land in Billington led to a dispute in 1243; ibid.; Cur. Reg. R. 126, m. 10; 127, m. 18. The remaining oxgang in Huncoat was probably held by the lord of Clitheroe. Richard de Altham claimed common of pasture in Huncoat, but the Abbot of Kirkstall demurred, seeing that Richard rendered no service for it and that the abbot had no common in his lands. In 1256 Richard resigned any right he might have, and the monks received him and his heirs to all the benefits and prayers to be made in the church of Kirkstall. At the same time the rector of Whalley, in respect of his chapel at Altham, put in a claim to common; Final Conc. i, 129.
  • 4. De Lacy Compoti (Chet. Soc.), p. ix.
  • 5. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 10. John de 'Scholesworth' held 10 acres by a rent of 20d. and John de Clayton 20 acres by 12d.; together they contributed 2s. for ward of Lancaster Castle. The tenure was by knight's service, for in 1302 John de Shuttleworth and his partners held the eighth part of a knight's fee in 'Hulton'; ibid. i, 319.
  • 6. In 1296 and 1305 the farm of Huncoat was £5 0s. 11d.; De Lacy Compoti, 12, 108. In 1311 the Earl of Lincoln had 309 acres, 3½ roods let to tenants at will, who paid at the rate of 4d. an acre, £5 3s. 3d. in all; Lancs. Inq. and Extents, ii, 10. In 1323–4 the rent and farm amounted to £5 5s. 11¼d.; 6 acres of the waste newly approved paid 2s., and the herbage of Brockholehurst was let to farm for 7s. Two plots of pasture were untenanted, so that 7s. was lacking, and the accountant was liable for £5 7s. 11¼d.; ibid. 193. In 1355 the Duke of Lancaster held 6 oxgangs of land in Huncoat, where 64 oxgangs made a knight's fee. Henry de Clayton and John de 'Snodesworth' held 2 oxgangs by a proportionate service, i.e. by the thirty-secondth part of a fee; Feudal Aids, iii, 88. A little earlier (about 1349) the Earl of Lancaster had held 6 oxgangs of land, the heir of John de Clayton 1, and John de Shuttleworth 1, by a similar service; Lansdowne Feodary in Baines' Lancs. (ed. 1870), ii, 693–4. William Birtwisle and John Legh held the thirtieth part of a knight's fee in Huncoat in 1445–6, the relief being 40d.; Duchy of Lanc. Knights' Fees, bdle. 2, no. 20.
  • 7. In 1323 the township was fined 18d. for default of service due to Clitheroe; Lancs. Ct. R. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 51.
  • 8. This is clear from the fine quoted in a former note. Ellis de Pleasington was dead in 1246 when his widow Alice claimed dower from the Abbot of Kirkstall in respect of 5 oxgangs of land in Huncoat; Assize R. 404, m. 6.
  • 9. Towneley MS. DD, no. 543.
  • 10. Ibid. no. 558. By another deed Henry son of Henry de Clayton gave land in Huncoat to James his son at 1d. rent, payable at St. Oswald's Day, but by another Henry son of Henry gave land to James his brother; ibid. no. 546, 571.
  • 11. Ibid. no. 545.
  • 12. Towneley MS. C 8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), P 7.
  • 13. Ibid. C 121. Among the witnesses to a grant by Henry de Clayton to John his eldest son were John de Shuttleworth and Henry his son; Dunkenhalgh D.
  • 14. This appears from former notes; see also Final Conc. iii, 139; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 230. In 1382–3 Richard de Shuttleworth made a feoffment of all his lands in the vill of Hapton; Towneley MS. C 8, 13, S 16.
  • 15. Towneley MS. DD, no. 563. A William son of John de Birtwisle obtained land at Bradley in 1310–11; C 8, 13, S 112. William de Birtwisle in 1324 paid 40d. for entry to 3 acres of waste in Huncoat and 12d. rent for the same; Lancs. Ct. R. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 35.
  • 16. Towneley MS. DD, no. 544. Alice widow of William de Birtwisle gave 10 acres in Bradley to Thomas de Simonstone in 1334; C 8, 13, B 261.
  • 17. William de Birtwisle occurs in 1379 and 1384; DD, no. 549, 560. It does not appear what relation he was to the earlier William. In 1386 his feoffees granted him his lands in Huncoat and Hapton with remainder to his son Richard, who married Alice daughter of Thomas de Brownlow; ibid. no. 566. William de Birtwisle made another feoffment in 1387; ibid. no. 550. William and his son Richard occur in 1394; ibid. no. 568. In 1406 William was excused from serving on assizes; ibid. no. 575. Henry de Rishton and Margaret his wife, as owning a moiety of Clayton, in 1390–1 gave to feoffees various lands, &c., including the homage of William de Birtwisle, with half the annual rent due from him for his oxgang of land in Huncoat; Dunkenhalgh D. A Thomas de Birtwisle occurs in 1382–3; C 8, 13, B 279. William de Birtwisle attested a Dunkenhalgh D. in 1412; the same or a later William, as appears above, was in possession in 1445–6. Richard and Thomas Birtwisle were among the tenants of Huncoat in 1443; Farrer, Clitheroe Ct. R. i, 501. A Miles Birtwisle and Christian his wife had lands in Hapton in 1486; DD, no. 569. John Birtwisle of Huncoat in 1489 gave lands in Huncoat and Hapton to Ralph Waddington, priest, and Piers his brother; ibid. no. 564.
  • 18. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. vi, no. 40. Rishton and Grimshaw were the lords of Clayton. In 1512 Richard Birtwisle was ordered to give dower to Anne widow of Oliver Birtwisle; Pal. of Lanc. Writs, 3 Hen. VIII. In 1523–4 Richard Birtwisle and Margaret his wife occur (ibid. 15 Hen. VIII), and in 1525 Richard son and heir of Oliver Birtwisle and Anne the widow made an exchange of lands with Sir John Towneley; C 8, 13, B 270, T 98.
  • 19. Duchy of Lanc. Rentals, bdle. 5, no. 12.
  • 20. DD, no. 547.
  • 21. Ibid. no. 570.
  • 22. Ibid. no. 561–2; a grant by James son and heir of Edmund Ashton of Chadderton and Edmund James's son and heir to Oliver Birtwisle of Hapton concerning Wormeleve in Huncoat and Whiteridding. Oliver had leave from James Ashton and Giles Whitaker (Huncoat) to inclose a piece of waste in Huncoat, viz. the over end of Sabsal; ibid. no. 577. Other members of the family occur. Richard Towneley in 1555 gave land on lease to Edward Birtwisle of Hapton and Janet his wife; C 8, 13, T 162. John Towneley in 1574 gave land on lease to Leonard brother of Oliver Birtwisle of Huncoat, and again in 1583; ibid. T 163, 156.
  • 23. Towneley MS. DD, no. 578.
  • 24. Visit. of 1567 (Chet. Soc.), 32.
  • 25. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 56, m. 106. In 1592 he had released his interest in certain lands in Huncoat to James Ashton of Chadderton; Raines D. (Chet. Lib.).
  • 26. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xvii, no. 68; the lords of Clayton were Thomas Walmesley and Nicholas Grimshaw. James Birtwisle also had a messuage in Hapton.
  • 27. DD, no. 581; dated 1583, but long after the marriage.
  • 28. 'On 28 Dec. 1575 Oliver Birtwisle, an honest man, arrived at Douay from England, and after being reconciled to the church and well instructed in the duty of a Catholic man, he went away assisted by a collection of alms'; Knox, Douay Diaries, 99.
  • 29. Towneley MS. DD, no. 579.
  • 30. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc.), ii, 101–2; the estate was the same as before, Thomas Walmesley and Nicholas Grimshaw being lords of Clayton.
  • 31. Towneley MS. DD, no. 580.
  • 32. Trans. Hist. Soc. (new ser.), xxiv, 174.
  • 33. Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 182. He and his family were destitute in 1653.
  • 34. Cal. Com. for Advance of Money, iii, 1273.
  • 35. Index of Royalists (Index Soc.), 42.
  • 36. Dugdale, Visit. (Chet. Soc.), 35. Thomas Birtwisle was sixty-five years old and his son John forty-one.
  • 37. An Edward Birtwisle entered Douay in 1681, and was D.D. in 1694; Knox, Douay Diaries, 49, 86.
  • 38. Information of Mr. G. Ernest Gregson.
  • 39. So Nicholas Banastre in 1537 and a later Nicholas in 1612; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. viii, no. 31; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 236.
  • 40. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xvii, no.
  • 41. Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 217.
  • 42. In 1413 Richard son of John Collinson of Hillhouses agreed with Ralph son of Thomas Aspden, who had married his daughter Alice, that if he (Richard) had no issue by Agnes his wife his lands in Huncoat should go to Ralph and Alice, to be held according to the custom of the manor of Accrington; Dunkenhalgh D.; Towneley MS. HH, no. 75. James Ashton in 1545–7 had disputes with Joan widow of John Bulhalgh or Bullaugh respecting a messuage and lands at Whiteridding; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), i, 179; ii, 93. The Ryley family occurs later, when it appeared again that lands in Huncoat were held of the manor of Accrington; ibid. iii, 74, 425. Lands called Erlnefield and Simhole are named, ibid. iii, 329.
  • 43. Lay Subs. Lancs. bdles. 130, no. 82, 125; 131, no. 274, 317.
  • 44. Ibid. 250, no. 9.
  • 45. Land tax returns at Preston.
  • 46. Mannex, Dir.
  • 47. Ibid.