A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The parish of Penwortham occupies a comparatively level area on the south bank of the Ribble from opposite Preston westward to the River Douglas. The highest points, about 100 ft. above sea level, are near the eastern boundary, from which there is a gradual slope westward to the 50-ft. level, and then, at least on the northern boundary, a steep descent to the low lands by the Ribble. In this parish, as elsewhere, the 25-ft. level appears to indicate the limit anciently habitable, the old hamlets and mansions standing above it. The parish has an area of 11,249 acres, including 1,323 acres of tidal water, and in 1901 had a population of 6,754.
The growth of Preston has affected Penwortham as a residential district, but apart from agriculture the principal industries are a cotton factory at Farington and breweries at Longton. The agricultural land in the parish is thus divided: Arable, 2,521 acres; permanent grass, 6,455; woods and plantations, 156. (fn. 1)
To the ancient 'fifteenth' the parish paid thus: Penwortham, 9s.; Howick with Farington, 23s. 8d.; Hutton, 13s. 4d.; Longton, 28s. 9d. (fn. 2) For the county lay of 1624 it was divided into three 'quarters' as follows: Penwortham and Hutton, Farington and Howick, and Longton, each paying equally. (fn. 3)
Leland, writing about 1536, says: 'Penwortham seemed to me more than half a mile from Preston; and there goeth Ribble; standing in respect of the town of the further side of Ribble, the which there divided the diocese of Chester from the diocese of York. Penwortham is a parish church and cell to Evesham Abbey, and standeth in Chester diocese.' (fn. 4) At that time the various branches of the Farington family were the chief landowners. (fn. 5)
Probably owing to its being so largely in the hands of religious orders the parish had, it would seem, a very peaceful history; and since the Reformation there is but little to relate. The chief resident family, the Fleetwoods of the Priory, were Protestants, and the main body of the population seem to have conformed without resistance, (fn. 6) though for a short time there was a Roman Catholic priest at Farington Hall. In more recent times Nonconformity has been very popular in the district. An observant writer remarked some thirty-five years ago: 'The soil all along this part of the western coast of Lancashire seems to be very favourable to the growth of Dissent. At Longton this is apparent; at Bretherton we have much of it; at Tarleton it is strong; at Hesketh Bank it is predominant. In fact, all along the coast from Southport to Longton the Dissenters have a strong hold; the Established Church is "nowhere," taking the entire range; and as for Roman Catholics, why you can't find a single church or chapel of theirs in any part of it.' (fn. 7)
An old survey-plan of Penwortham, Hutton and Howick is preserved at the Record Office, London. (fn. 8)
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN (fn. 9) is situated on elevated ground commanding an extensive view of the Ribble valley, slightly to the south of the Castle Hill, from which it is separated by a deep fosse, (fn. 10) and about 300 yds. to the north-east of the site of the priory. (fn. 11) The building, which stands at a considerable distance from the road, is approached from the south by a fine avenue of trees, and consists of chancel 30 ft. 6 in. by 17 ft. 9 in., nave 60 ft. 6 in. by 25 ft., with north and south aisles 14 ft. wide, south porch and west tower 12 ft. 6 in. square, all these measurements being internal. Only the chancel and tower, however, are old, the nave having been rebuilt in 1855–6, at which date also the chancel roof was restored, the tower arch opened out, and a west gallery removed. (fn. 12)
Little or nothing can be said as to the development of the plan, but there was probably a building in the 14th century covering approximately the present area, with the exception of the west tower, of which the chancel is a portion. The windows on the north and south sides of the chancel are of this period, and though the walls themselves appear to have been rebuilt, either wholly or in part, at a much later date, there is no reason to suppose that the present chancel is not substantially that of the 14th-century church. The tower is of 15th-century date, to which period or later the destroyed nave seems to have belonged. The church was repaired in 1812, when a north gallery was erected and 'the higher part of the body of the church was fronted and castellated in the latest style of Gothic architecture.' (fn. 13)
The chancel roof is of framed spars and at the time of the restoration was covered with blue slates. The walls appear to have been originally built of gritstone, but have been a good deal patched with red sandstone, the whole of the middle part of the east wall from some 4 ft. above the ground being so constructed. The east window is of three lights, the jambs, head and mullions being new, but the tracery is apparently original, though later in date, probably early 16thcentury work. On the south side are two pointed 14th-century windows of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in the head, and between them two buttresses and a priest's door, the jambs and head of which have the wave moulding. Above the door is a stone with the date 1653 and the initials of John Fleetwood and Anne (Farington) his wife. This date probably indicates the year in which the chancel walls were rebuilt or repaired, the inscribed stone and the walling on each side of it being of red sandstone. There is also some brick patching under the eaves, and the bottoms of the buttresses have been renewed. At the east end of the north side is a similar 14th-century window, but the other north window of the chancel is of a nondescript character, apparently made up of fragments from two later windows in another part of the church. There are two buttresses on the north side of the chancel similar to those on the south, and diagonal buttresses at the angles. Internally the chancel walls are of bare stone, and the floor, together with that of the nave and aisles, was tiled in 1884. The chancel arch is modern. (fn. 14)
The nave is of four bays and has a clearstory of five two-light windows on each side. On the east wall of the tower are the lines of two former roofs, the lower one of steep pitch coming down below the springing of the tower arch and apparently indicating the original roof of the church. The other, of flatter pitch, would appear to be that of 1812. There is a gallery at the west end. The tower arch is of two chamfered orders, the inner one dying into the wall at the springing. The arch is open to the nave, but is filled in under the gallery by a modern wood screen.
The tower was restored in 1884. Its stages are unmarked externally by any string course except below the west window. There is a projecting vice in the south-east corner, and the top terminates in an embattled parapet with angle pinnacles. The belfry windows are of two lights with cinquefoiled heads and tracery under a pointed arch with hood mould. The west window is of three cinquefoiled lights with tracery and hood mould, and above is a niche with canopied head. The buttresses are of six stages, placed diagonally, and terminating below the level of the belfry windows. The west door is pointed with continuous moulded jambs and head and hood mould. There is a clock on the south side, and on a gargoyle on the same side is a shield with coat of arms, much defaced.
The fittings are almost entirely modern, but a small four-sided font, dated 1667, yet remains (fn. 15) in addition to a modern octagonal one, and in the chancel windows are some fragments of old glass. In the easternmost window on the north side is the emblem of the Trinity and in the other window are a female head, portions of lettering and other fragments. The west window on the south side has a small shield with the arms of Fleetwood impaling Legh, with crests above, and below the inscription, 'Richard Fleetwood and Margery his wife 1595.' In the same window is part of an inscription in black letter in which the words 'Harewood,' 'Botelier' and 'fieri fecit matris sue' occur. There are two helmets suspended from the chancel roof, one with the Fleetwood crest.
The organ is in the westernmost bay of the north aisle. In the chancel is a mural monument to Sir Christopher Musgrave, bart., of Edenhall (d. 1735), and there are memorials in the church to members of the Rawstorne family.
In the churchyard north of the chancel is a stone slab with a floreated cross within a circle and sword on dexter side, and there are a number of 17th and early 18th-century stones with good raised lettering.
There are six bells cast by Abraham Rudhall in 1712, but the treble seems to have been recast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1858, and again by Mears & Stainbank in 1891, it bearing both names and dates. (fn. 16)
The registers began in 1586, but perished in a fire in 1856. (fn. 17) The present registers, therefore, do not begin till 1857.
The church, which was a parish church, was granted by Warine Bussel, lord of Penwortham, to the abbey of Evesham about the year 1140. (fn. 18) The monks on their part undertook to place at Penwortham three of their number, together with a chaplain, for the service of God, and thus the cell or priory of Penwortham came into existence. (fn. 19) The church was served by the monks, and thus no institutions were necessary, and the successive priors may be regarded as incumbents of the benefice. (fn. 20) On the Dissolution, the Fleetwoods, having obtained possession, (fn. 21) held the tithes as lay rectors, and placed a stipendiary minister in charge, regarding the cure as a donative. Thus there were no institutions and first-fruits were not paid, the curates or ministers being licensed by the bishop. This continued until a century ago, when a grant of £,640 from Queen Anne's Bounty having been obtained the benefice became an ordinary perpetual curacy. (fn. 22) In the 18th century the 'advowson' was sold by the Fleetwood trustees in 1749 to John Aspinall, who sold it to John Barton. About 1810 it was purchased by Lawrence Rawstorne of Hutton, and has descended to the present patron, his namesake.
In 1291 the value of the church was estimated at £20, (fn. 23) but fifty years later at only 20 marks, the difference being accounted for by the glebe of the church, worth 40s., and the tithe of hay, &c., 7 marks, belonging to the altarage. (fn. 24) It should be observed that Brindle was included in this valuation. The gross value of the rectory in 1535 was £36 11s. 10d. (fn. 25) The tithes were valued at £174 a year in 1650, and £60 a year was paid out of them to the minister. (fn. 26) The value of the incumbency had risen to about £100 by 1720, (fn. 27) and is now returned as £227. (fn. 28)
The following have been curates and incumbents, (fn. 29) styled vicars since 1868:—
|oc. 1542–63||Ralph Garstang (fn. 30)|
|oc. 1580–91||Thomas Spode|
|oc. 1600||Matthew French (fn. 31)|
|oc. 1601||Nicholas Bamford|
|oc. 1607–21||Nicholas Peele (fn. 32)|
|oc. 1634–40||Nathaniel Bradshaw (fn. 33)|
|oc. 1641||John Jacques|
|oc. 1647||James Chrichley (fn. 34)|
|oc. 1650||William Seddon (fn. 35)|
|oc. 1676–88||Henry Rycroft (fn. 36)|
|1689||Peter Gregory (fn. 37)|
|1696||James Butterworth (fn. 38)|
|1712||Ralph Loxam (fn. 39)|
|1753||William Loxham, M.A. (fn. 40) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1802||Robert Atherton Rawstorne, M.A. (fn. 41) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1809||James John Hornby, M.A. (fn. 42)|
|1819||William Birkett, M.A. (fn. 43) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1826||James Taylor Waring|
|1831–3||Robert Atherton Rawstorne, M.A. (fn. 44) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1852||Robert Atherton Rawstorne, M.A. (fn. 45) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1858||William Edward Rawstorne, M.A. (fn. 46) (Christ Ch., Oxf.)|
|1889||Daniel Holland Stubbs|
|1894||Augustus Manley Winter, M.A. (Hertford Coll., Oxf.)|
|1909||Oliver Burton, M.A. (St. John's Coll., Camb.)|
There was no endowed chantry at Penwortham, but there seem, nevertheless, to have been three or four resident priests in the parish before the Reformation, (fn. 47) one of whom would serve Longton Chapel. After the Reformation only one 'curate,' the incumbent of the parish church, appears in the visitation lists. (fn. 48) As the Fleetwoods quickly became Protestant the starveling's wage they paid him cannot be ascribed to hostility to the then newly-established order. About 1610 Penwortham was described as 'an old priory in the possession, by inheritance, of Richard Fleetwood, esquire, who maintaineth a stipendiary minister there.' (fn. 49) Even in 1650 there was only one, Longton Chapel being vacant. After the latter chapel in 1719 obtained a grant from Queen Anne's Bounty, there was probably an additional minister usually resident in the parish. The incumbents of Penwortham, however, were often beneficed elsewhere.
A school was founded at Longton about 1527 and refounded in 1552; though now situated in Hutton it is known as Penwortham Grammar School. (fn. 50)
Apart from the school endowments, there are three benefactions for the poor. The Penwortham Dole, with an income of over £64, the result of a number of ancient gifts, (fn. 51) is spent partly in apprenticing boys from Penwortham and partly in gifts to people residing in Penwortham and Howick. 'The number of recipients in 1898 was 176, of whom some three or four were in receipt of poor law relief, but most were ratepayers and in receipt of good wages, and very few were really poor persons. In defence of this system it was stated that it had the sanction of antiquity, and that the householders who have hitherto received a dole expect and claim one.' (fn. 52) For Longton, the poor's land, now represented by consols, produces an income of £38 4s. 2d., which is distributed once a year in money doles varying from 5s. to 35s (fn. 53). A stock for Hutton, founded by the gifts of several benefactors, has now an income of £6 1s. 4d.; of this £2 is spent on beef, and the rest is given in small money doles, the distribution being made about Christmas time. (fn. 54)