A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Physically this township may be described as consisting of two ridges or westward spurs of the chain of hills dividing Lancashire from Yorkshire. Down the central valley between them flows the Don, which at the extreme south-western corner joins with the Swinden and Brun. The two parts are named Briercliffe and Extwistle, to north and south, and have areas of 2,324½ and 1,903 acres respectively, or 4,227½ acres (fn. 1) in all. The northern boundary is formed in part by Catlow Brook, in which two reservoirs (fn. 2) have been formed. The highest points, ranging up to 1,400 ft. and 1,500 ft. above sea level, are near the eastern end; at the Brun, in the west, the height is only 450 ft. above the sea. The population in 1901 numbered 2,324.
A good deal of the land is moorland; the soil is clay, overlying clay and slate, and the agricultural land is mostly used for pasturage. There are cotton mills in Briercliffe, and stone quarries are worked.
The principal road is that from Burnley eastward through Briercliffe, passing through the hamlets of Harlesyke, Haggate and Lane Bottom. Towards the eastern end of the township it turns north towards Colne, but sends off a branch south-east by Higher Ridihalgh across Thursden and the Don Valley where is a ford, past the remains of Widdop Cross (1,286 ft.) on the boundary, into Yorkshire. At Haggate the road is crossed by another from Nelson, continuing south-east as Cockden Lane into Worsthorne. In the northern part of Briercliffe are the houses called Windle House, Folds House, Burwains, Hollin Greave and Pighole; in its southwest corner are Mustyhalgh, Walshaw and Widow Green. Extwistle lies near the southern boundary on the slope above Swinden Water. Monk Hall is on higher ground some distance north-east. There was a skirmish at Haggate in 1644 between Prince Rupert's forces and the Parliamentarians. (fn. 3)
The township, now called Briercliffe simply, is governed by a parish council. A small part of the west end was added to Burnley in 1894. (fn. 4)
In the Extwistle part, on the high moorland, are some tumuli and the sites of supposed British and Roman camps; there is another camp above Thursden. Nogworth Cross stood halfway between Extwistle Hall and Monk Hall; there is a tradition that a mischievous 'boggart' which frequented Holden to the south was 'laid' under this cross. (fn. 5) Another cross stood at Thursden.
There was no separate manor of Briercliffe, the place being regarded as part of the manor of Ightenhill, but a number of the tenements come into notice as the holdings of yeoman families of long continuance. In 1242, after the death of John de Lacy, the value of Briercliffe was returned as 40s. 8d. a year. (fn. 6) Sixteen years later some further particulars are recorded, the following holding land by charter: Adam de Windhill or Windle, half a plough-land and 30 acres, rendering 17s. a year; Henry de Windle, 24 acres at 18s.; and Michael de Briercliffe, 3 oxgangs of land and 12 acres, rendering 21s. (fn. 7) There or elsewhere in the manor Roger son of Peter de Briercliffe held 5 acres, paying the usual rent of 4d. an acre. (fn. 8) The fuller survey after the death of Henry de Lacy in 1311 shows that 166½ acres were held by tenants at will at 4d. an acre; Robert son of Mocock de Briercliffe held 58 acres in fee, rendering 21s., and Adam de Walshaw (Wolleshagh) held 51 acres, freely rendering 17s.; a total rental of £4 13s. 6d. (fn. 9) In 1323 the receipts were almost exactly the same, for though the nominal total was £6 3s. 1d., there were tenements in the king's hands which had formerly yielded 29s. 4¾d. (fn. 10) Briercliffe was named in the charter of free warren granted to Edmund de Lacy in 1251.
Robert de Lacy near the end of the 12th century granted to Osward Brun half a plough-land in Briercliffe and 30 acres of assart in the wood of Richlie or Rudgelie, rendering 17s. a year to the lord. (fn. 11) Michael son of Award Brun granted all his right in Briercliffe to Adam son of Ellis de Walshaw, (fn. 12) and though Adam de Windle is named as tenant in 1258 he was probably the Adam de Walshaw of other deeds. A later Adam, as above recorded, held 51 acres by the ancient 17s. rent. The surname of Walshaw long continued in the township, (fn. 13) but the estate appears to have been acquired by the Townleys of Royle, Edmund Townley, who died in 1598, holding three messuages, &c., in Walshaw and Briercliffe. (fn. 14) It has descended to Mr. Reginald Arthur Tatton, who is also the owner of Mustihalgh, Bend Hill, Lower Cockden, Hanson's tenement and Herd House.
The Windle family occur in Briercliffe and in Worsthorne. Henry de Windle gave to Richard brother of Robert de Orm part of his land in Old Briercliffe, for which 2s. was to be paid at St. Giles's Day. (fn. 15) From a pleading of 1284 it appears that Henry de Windle's estate descended to granddaughters. (fn. 16) In 1313 Robert son of Yacocks de Briercliffe granted to Adam de Windle land in Seneintacks in the Holt as it lay by Annot Cross on the south side. (fn. 17) The place is named in a charter of 1324 by which Thomas son of Hugh del Holrenhead granted land on Windle in Briercliffe to his son Adam. (fn. 18) Windle House was long in the possession of the Halstead family. Mr. William Halstead is now the owner.
The place provided a surname for one or more of the families dwelling there. A Briercliffe family of long continuance, descended probably from the Michael de Briercliffe of 1258, had Burwains. Robert son of Matthew, named as holding in 1311, received from Agnes daughter of Richard de Bernesete lands which had belonged to Michael son of Matthew de Briercliffe, (fn. 19) and other lands from Ilbota daughter of Michael de Briercliffe. (fn. 20) Other members of the family occur. (fn. 21) Robert Briercliffe of Burwains died in 1617 holding his messuage and land there of the king as of his manor of Ightenhill in socage, by a rent of 7s. 4d.; his son Lawrence was eleven years of age. (fn. 22) Mustihalgh, which is named in a charter made about 1300, (fn. 23) was at one time held by the Briercliffe family. (fn. 24) Mr. William Edward Robertshaw is part owner of Burwains, Yeomans, Batty Hole and Broad Bank.
High Ridihalgh or Redehalgh also gave a surname to the owners. (fn. 25) In 1589–90 Robert Ridihalgh of Ledsham in Yorkshire, John his son, and their wives joined in the sale of High Ridihalgh to Simon Haydock, (fn. 26) who in 1600 sold the same to James Folds of Trawden, (fn. 27) and it descended with the purchaser's other estates till the early part of last century. Mr. Catlow Birtwistle is the present owner. The copyhold messuage of The Folds (del Foldes) was in the tenure of Henry del Foldes in 1443 (fn. 28) and was sold by his son Lawrence in 1446 to John Banastre of Walton-in-le-Dale, whose son Thurstan married Alice daughter of Henry Rishton and was described in 1485 as of Clayton-le-Moors, gent. His estate of Swinden in Great Marsden, Henfield-in-Colne, and The Folds in Briercliffe passed to William Lister, son of Christopher Lister of Middop, co. York., in marriage with Elizabeth daughter and heir of Thurstan Banastre. (fn. 29) Their son Christopher Lister sold The Folds in 1544 to Richard Akeroyd of the family of that name possessed of lands in Haworth, Dewsbury and Foggathorpe, co. York.; and Henfield in Colne to the same purchaser in 1556. (fn. 30) The estate of The Folds, now Folds House, descended in the family of Akeroyd, afterwards Ecroyd, until 1803, when it was sold, but was acquired in 1907 by the great-grandson of the vendor, William Farrer, formerly Ecroyd, one of the editors of this work. In the orchard adjoining Folds House is an ancient burial-place of the Society of Friends, where are gravestones inscribed to the memory of Elizabeth wife of John Vipont, relict of John Ecroyd, and of Edward Vipont her son, both dated 1681. The dwelling-house, which is a good example of the ancient domestic architecture of the district, was built about the year 1600 by John Akeroyd, son of the original purchaser.
The Towneley family acquired land here as in other places in the neighbourhood. (fn. 31) Other names that occur are Haydock of Heysandforth, (fn. 32) Radcliffe (fn. 33) and Gerard (fn. 34) of Winmarleigh and Tattersall of Ridge End in Burnley. (fn. 35) One or two other references occur. (fn. 36) Pighole has long been in the possession of the Smiths of Hill and of Hill End, (fn. 37) the present owner being Mr. William Stephenson Smith, who is also the owner of Hill End, Higher House and Lane House. (fn. 38)
The list of freeholders in 1443 includes some of those already named; also Finnays and Wymmens. (fn. 39) In 1594 the freeholders were Simon Haydock, Edmund Townley of Royle, Edmund Tattersall, Robert Briercliffe, John Woodroffe, John Towneley of Towneley, and the Fairmanfield (4 ac.). The first five were copyholders also, the other copyholders being John Ecroyd, John Halstead (two), James Paley, John Smith (two), Stephen Smith and Bernard Whitwham. (fn. 40) In 1624 a division of the commons was made, when the Limestone Scarr in Thursden was thus divided among the freeholders and copyholders of Briercliffe for the purpose of washing the glacial drift for limestone to burn for lime:
The uppermost part or east part, from the top or north end to the water, to Richard Towneley, — Haydock or William Pollard (whosoever of them of right should have it), John Tattersall of Briercliffe, John Halstead of High Halstead, Edward Robinson of Old Laund, and to John Smith, alderman, to be divided rateably. The midmost part, likewise from the upper end to the water, to James Folds of Trawden, Lawrence Briercliffe, Richard Acroid for Hollingreave lands, Richard Halstead of Windle House, William Sagar and John Smith of Pighole. The low-most part, or west, to Nicholas Townley of Royle and Isabel his wife. A dam of water was to be drawn between the middlemost and lowest parts, 'with water, all that falleth from heaven or cometh without the leave of any must run to either of the said parts one week after another week, viz., to the lowmost part one week and to the middlemost part another week for ever hereafter.' (fn. 41)
EXTWISTLE was assessed as one plough-land and held by knight's service, variously described as the eighth or the tenth part of a fee. The descent is obscure, but Richard Malbisse (fn. 42) appears to have held it in the time of Richard I, for he granted half a ploughland in Extwistle to the canons of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Newbo by Grantham in alms, which grant was confirmed by the superior lord, Robert de Lacy, who died in 1194, (fn. 43) and by Henry III in 1235. (fn. 44) The other moiety, which was perhaps charged with the whole of the knight's service, was probably granted in fee to a lay tenant, for in 1242 Adam de Preston held the tenth part of a knight's fee in Extwistle, this manor being included in the dower of the Countess of Lincoln. (fn. 45) By 1302 it had been acquired by Gilbert de Legh, who was stated to hold it by the eighth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 46) But before 1287 the Abbot of Kirkstall had a share of Extwistle, (fn. 47) and in 1311 was recorded to hold half a plough-land there, rendering 9½d. at Midsummer and doing suit to the three-weeks court at Clitheroe. (fn. 48) This abbot's holding was called half a plough-land in 1322, and he was said to hold it by the sixteenth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 49) In 1349 the Abbots of Kirkstall and Newbo were each said to hold half a ploughland in Extwistle, where eight plough-lands made a knight's fee. (fn. 50) A few years later, in 1355, the Abbot of Kirkstall was stated to hold the tenth part of a knight's fee which Adam de Preston had formerly held. (fn. 51) A similar record occurs in 1361. (fn. 52)
There is no record of the acquisition of Extwistle in the Kirkstall chartulary, but from the above it seems clear that the superior moiety had been granted to the abbey before 1300, and that the monks had demised it to Gilbert de Legh, ancestor of the Towneley family. In 1446 it was returned that John Parker of Monk Hall and Richard Towneley held the tenth part of a knight's fee in Extwistle, Parker declaring that he held by feoffment. (fn. 53) The later history does not afford much light on the matter, for though the Towneleys had the mill with its rights, (fn. 54) the Parkers claimed the manor. On the suppression of the monasteries the Newbo part of Extwistle was sold by the Crown to William Ramsden, (fn. 55) who then sold to Robert Parker. (fn. 56) A rent of 8s. reserved to the Crown was afterwards remitted. (fn. 57)
Before that time, however, John Parker, who died in 1507, held a capital messuage called Monk Hall with other messuages and lands in Extwistle and Briercliffe. The Extwistle lands were held of the king as of his duchy of Lancaster by the tenth part of a knight's fee, the ancient service for the whole of the manor. (fn. 58) His son John Parker, aged forty-eight in 1529, succeeded, and was followed by his son Robert and grandson John. (fn. 59) The last-named John died in 1635 holding Extwistle Hall, Monk Hall, Netherwood, and various lands, &c., in the township as before, by the tenth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 60) His son John, then fifty years old, had a son Robert, who died in 1636, leaving a son John, aged two years. (fn. 61) The grandfather was a member of the Presbyterian Classis established in 1646, and acted as high sheriff in 1653, (fn. 62) but does not appear to have taken any active share in the Civil War. The grandson, who recorded a pedigree in 1664, (fn. 63) had a son Robert, high sheriff in 1710, (fn. 64) who married a co-heir of Christopher Banastre of Bank, and acquired the manor of Cuerden thereby. The more recent descent has been given in the account of Cuerden; later marriages brought the estates of Royle and Astley in Chorley into the family. Extwistle is no longer reputed a manor, and no courts are held. The present owner is Mr. Reginald Arthur Tatton of Cuerden, a younger son of T. W. Tatton of Wythenshawe Hall, Cheshire, by his wife Harriet Susan, sister of the late Thomas Townley Parker. (fn. 65) Mr. Tatton is the owner of the principal part of the township; Mr. Wilkinson Parker is the owner of Holden.
EXTWISTLE HALL, now a farm-house, stands on a high ridge of land between the valleys of the Don and Swinden Water in a bleak and commanding situation, and is a lofty three-story building with end gables and mullioned windows, said to have been erected by John Parker in the latter half of the 16th century. The principal front faces north, and the fall of the ground southwards allowing of a basement makes the house one of four stories on that side, where the chief feature is the massive chimney of the hall, which projects 5 ft. and has a width of 15 ft. The house, which is built of local gritstone with stoneslated roofs, consists of a rectangular block 34 ft. by 27 ft. 6 in. externally, and a north-west wing 19 ft. by 14 ft. 6 in., with a lower two-story building with plain gabled roofs on the east end. A former wing on the west side, however, fell down some time during the first half of the 19th century, destroying what is said to have been one of the best apartments and others known as the ladies' rooms. (fn. 66) In front of the house is a small flagged courtyard 43 ft. long by 33 ft. in width, partly inclosed on the west side by the north-west wing, and on the east by the lower buildings. The north side has a high fence wall with moulded coping and balled gate-piers fronting the road. The great hall, which is about 24 ft. by 21 ft., occupies the eastern end of the first floor of the main block and is approached from the forecourt by a wide flight of stone steps forming a very picturesque feature. The entrance in the north-west corner through a four-centred doorway with label and square panel over is now built up, but the north wall still retains unimpaired its lofty ten-light mullioned window with double transoms and hood mould. The floor of the hall is 7 ft. above the general level of the courtyard, to which there is a descent of five steps from the main gateway. The south wall of the hall is occupied almost entirely by the fireplace, the Tudor arched opening of which, however, is now built up, and the room is in a more or less dilapidated state. Portions of an ornamental plaster ceiling and of a carved oak beam are still to be seen, and above the fireplace is a fragment of ornamental plaster work with the words 'nescio cujus' remaining. The staircase, which is of stone, is in the west side of the house, and above the hall is a large room open to the roof and lit by two low mullioned windows of five lights each below the eaves on the north side. The north-west wing, which may be a 17th-century addition, is less severe in appearance than the main block, but is of equal height and of four stories, two of its floors ranging with the height of the great hall. The walls are finished with a plain parapet and balled gables which together with its many mullioned and transomed windows afford some relief to the otherwise rather bare west gable end of the main block. At the back is a small three-light window with round-headed lights under a square head, the only one of this type in the building.
By an explosion of gunpowder in the house in March 1717 much damage was done, and shortly afterwards the family finally quitted the hall, which has since been occupied intermittently by tenant farmers, who chiefly use, however, the basement or ground floor rooms and those in the lower east wing. The appearance of the building in its lonely and commanding position and its present state of semidesolation and abandonment is very striking.
In 1561 the 'byrelaw of Extwistle' was confirmed by John Towneley of Towneley, John Parker of Extwistle and others. (fn. 67) An agreement as to the inclosure of commons, moor, &c., was made in 1594. (fn. 68)
There was a family taking a name from the township, but no connected account can be given of it. (fn. 69) Lands in Extwistle were given for a chantry in Burnley Church by Peter Tattersall before 1388. (fn. 70) Some minor transactions are on record. (fn. 71)
In 1524 the following contributed to the subsidy for their lands: Lawrence Briercliffe, Edmund and John Parker. (fn. 72) In 1564 John Parker, Lawrence Briercliffe and William Halsted. (fn. 73) In 1597 John Parker and Robert Briercliffe. (fn. 74) In 1626 John Parker and Lawrence Briercliffe; John and Bernard Towneley and others paid as non-communicants. (fn. 75)
In this township in 1666 there were 122 hearths liable to the tax. John Parker's house had eleven; the next in size were those of Lawrence Briercliffe, John Vipan and Richard Wilkinson with five each. (fn. 76)
For the Church of England St. James's, Briercliffe, was built in 1840, and had a district assigned to it in 1843. (fn. 77) The Hulme Trustees are patrons.
The Baptist chapel at Haggate dates from 1763; in 1798 its 'faith and order differed somewhat from the other Baptist churches in England.' (fn. 78) Another was built at Hill Lane, to the east, in 1840; it is called Ebenezer, and is joined to the Baptist Union.
The Quakers, as above stated, anciently had a burial-ground at Folds House in Briercliffe. (fn. 79)