A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Withenhull, Wythenil, Whytenhull, 1290–2; Wythenull, 1306. Local pronunciation, Winnell.
In the centre of this township is a valley with a watercourse known as the Goit, flowing by a channel artificially constructed from north-east to south-west; here are the principal villages. To the north-west are the Heights, attaining 720 ft. above sea level, and descending on the other side to the valley of the Lostock, which is the north-west boundary of the township. By the borders of this stream is the hamlet of Withnell Fold and Ollerton is near it. Part of the township stretches north from the Goit, the land attaining 600 ft., and contains the hamlet of Stanworth; the eastern boundary of this part is a brook flowing north to the River Darwen. The part of the township to the southeast of the Goit is occupied by the northern slope of the Great Hill, a spur of the Rivington and Anglezarke hills, attaining a height of 1,249 ft. On the north-east slope is the hamlet of Roddlesworth, (fn. 1) and on the northern boundary are several reservoirs formed in 1857 and belonging to the corporation of Liverpool. The hamlet of Brinscall is in the southwest corner. The area is 3,260 acres. (fn. 2) In 1901 there was a population of 3,349.
The principal road is part of that from Chorley to Blackburn, going through the north-west part of the township, and crossed by another important road, that from Bolton to Preston. These roads are also connected by cross-roads through the Goit valley. Through this valley runs the Chorley and Cherry Tree (Blackburn) branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire and London and North Western Railway Companies, with stations named Withnell to the north and Brinscall to the south (on the border of Wheelton). The Leeds and Liverpool Canal passes along the north-western boundary.
The soil is varied and the subsoil rocky; grass is the chief crop.
There are quarries in the hills and in the valleys are cotton and paper mills and bleaching works.
In 1666 there were eighty-nine hearths taxed in this township. The largest houses were those of Richard Girlington with eight hearths and John Fishwick with six. (fn. 3)
The township is governed by an urban district council of twelve members. An isolation hospital was built to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII, chiefly by the Parke family. The Blackburn manure works are at Stanworth.
There is the pedestal of an ancient cross at Ollerton. (fn. 4)
This township was included in the district called Gunolfsmoors, an account of which has been given above under Hoghton; sometimes, indeed, Gunolfsmoors is described as in Withnell. The manor of WITHNELL, if it can be regarded as distinct, was long held with Hoghton. (fn. 5)
Formerly the township and its principal hamlets— Roddlesworth, Ollerton, and Stanworth—gave surnames to freeholders, but very little can be stated concerning them. (fn. 6)
Roddlesworth is often found joined with Withnell in the township name, (fn. 7) and is occasionally referred to as a township. (fn. 8) In the 13th century and later a family named Whalley were prominent there. (fn. 9) Their lands were sold to Sir Adam de Hoghton. (fn. 10) Ollerton also was transferred to the Hoghton family. (fn. 11)
Roger de Stanworth secured the favour of John Count of Mortain, who after his accession to the Crown in 1199 confirmed the charter of protection formerly given. (fn. 12) Roger afterwards sold Stanworth to the monks of Stanlaw, who were to pay the chief rents, viz. 12d. to Adam de Withnell and his heirs for the vill, and 6d. to Adam de Bury and his heirs for the site of the mill-pool and a moiety of the millstream. (fn. 13) The monks obtained other lands in the township, including Bradshaw in Stanworth, which had been given to Cockersand Abbey. (fn. 14) On the confiscation of the Whalley Abbey lands (fn. 15) Sir Richard Hoghton acquired their estate in Stanworth and the neighbourhood. (fn. 16)
Radcliffe Hoghton of Stanworth fell at Preston in 1643, fighting for the king, and his estate was sequestered by the Parliament. (fn. 20) A little later the estate of Elizabeth Girlington, widow, and her son Richard was sequestered for recusancy only. (fn. 21) Richard Anderton of Chorley, Abraham Bate, Andrew Bury and John Whittle, as 'Papists,' registered small estates in 1717. (fn. 22)
A manor of Withnell is stated to have been sold in the 18th century to Henry Sudell (fn. 23); after his death it was again sold, and more recently this lordship was held by William Bashall Park of Ollerton Hall. He and John Park owned nearly all the township. W. B. Park died in 1906, leaving considerable benefactions for Methodist and other charities. His estate at Ollerton, 226 acres, was purchased by Mr. Herbert Thomas Parke of Withnell Fold, owner of the Withnell Hall and Withnell House estates. (fn. 24)
The land appears to have become very much subdivided. Returns of 1783 show that William Talbot, paying double as a Roman Catholic, was the principal contributor to the land tax; in 1798 he, Thomas Dewhurst, William Clayton and Mr. Bilsborrow's heir contributed £8 6s. out of £30 raised in Withnell. (fn. 25)
There are Wesleyan Methodist chapels at Withnell Fold, Withnell Mill and Brinscall, and Free Methodist chapels at Brinscall and Abbey village.
The Roman Catholic church of St. Joseph was built in 1884. (fn. 28)