A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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This township occupies the northern slope of Pendle Hill. At the foot is the village of Downham, in a vale lying east and west, and bounded along the north by a ridge of high land, along which ran a Roman road. Still further north of this ridge the surface descends to Ings Beck, which is the county boundary. The area measures 2,300 acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 the population numbered 246.
From the village several roads branch out. Westward goes one to Chatburn and Clitheroe; north-east goes another, by Downham Green and Newfield Barn, towards Gisburn in Yorkshire; south goes one to Radbrook and Worston; while east and south-east go two roads into Twiston, and then south round Pendle towards Newchurch and Burnley. The railway from Blackburn to Hellifield passes through the north-west corner, but there is no station.
Annel or Hannel Cross once stood in the south-east corner on a spur of Pendle. (fn. 2)
Cromwell's men were quartered at Downham 15 August 1648 on their way to the battle of Preston. (fn. 3)
A supposed case of demoniacal possession is reported in 1694. (fn. 4)
To the county lay of 1624 Downham paid £1 13s. 11¾d. and Twiston 11s. 4d., when £100 was required from the hundred. (fn. 5)
The agricultural land in Downham, Twiston, Chatburn and Worston is thus occupied: arable, 7 acres; permanent grass, 3,642½ woods and plantations, 139. (fn. 6) In Downham itself the land is mostly in pasture; the soil is light, overlying limestone and freestone. Crystals known as Downham diamonds are found.
From later notices it seems that DOWNHAM was anciently assessed as three plough-lands and a half. (fn. 7) It formed part of the honor of Clitheroe, and in 1241 was assigned, as the fourth part of a knight's fee, to the Countess of Lincoln, widow of John de Lacy, in dower. (fn. 8) In 1242 it was held by Robert de Chester. (fn. 9) Later it seems to have reverted to the Lacys, who are found to hold a plough-land and a quarter in demesne, this being the manor proper, while the remainder was held by a number of tenants, (fn. 10) of whom Henry de Downham was in 1302 said to hold the third part of a knight's fee there. (fn. 11) The extent made in 1311 shows that the lord held 117 acres of arable land, receiving 59s. a year from tenants at will, while 10 acres of meadow yielded 20s. The 10 oxgangs of land were held in bondage by natives, who paid on St. Giles's Day at the rate of 3s. an oxgang, and rendered at Midsummer in common an additional 3s. in all. Cottagers held nine tofts at 6d. each toft. The water-mill was worth 26s. 8d. a year. The free tenants rendered 17s. 9d. The halmote was held in conjunction with Pendleton and Worston. (fn. 12)
In 1354 Henry Duke of Lancaster granted the manor to John de Dinelay, excepting the rents of the free tenants, then amounting to 38s. 2d.; he was to render the services due for the fourth part of a knight's fee and pay a rent of £12 6s. 7d. yearly, also render 2s. for ward of Lancaster Castle and puture. (fn. 13) The grant was confirmed by the king in 1357. (fn. 14) John de Dinelay died in 1367 holding the manor of Downham and lands in Yorkshire; he was succeeded by his son Richard, aged forty-eight. (fn. 15) Richard died a little over two years later, in September 1369, Henry his son and heir being twenty-six years of age. (fn. 16) John of Gaunt in 1380 made a lease of 40 acres at Downham Green to Henry de Dinelay grandson of John de Dinelay at 13s. 4d. a year, (fn. 17) and he appears to have intended to repurchase the manor from Henry, paying 80 marks. (fn. 18) Henry died in 1390 in possession of two-thirds of the manor, of which John Parker of Foulridge took possession, but the heir was Henry's half-brother John de Dinelay, aged twenty-two. (fn. 19) The other third part was probably in his mother's possession as dower. (fn. 20)
John de Dinelay obtained possession, and about 1412 paid 25s. as relief. (fn. 21) He died in 1416, when his heir was a son Richard, aged fifteen. (fn. 22) Here the detailed evidence ceases for a time. (fn. 23) Richard Dinelay died in 1511 seised of the manor of Downham, which was held of the king in chief by the fourth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 24) His son John having died before him, he was succeeded by his grandson William Dinelay, then aged twenty-five. (fn. 25) At William's death in 1535 he was found to have held the manor of the king as Duke of Lancaster, not in chief as before. (fn. 26) His son Henry was then twelve years old, and sold the manor to Ralph Greenacres in 1545. (fn. 27) He in 1558 sold it to Richard Assheton, (fn. 28) the purchaser of Whalley Abbey, who in 1563 transferred it to Edward Dauncey, (fn. 29) but subsequently regained it. (fn. 30) He died in 1579, having directed a partition of his estates between the sons of his nephew Ralph Assheton of Great Lever, (fn. 31) so that while the eldest obtained Whalley at his father's death in 1587, (fn. 32) the younger son Richard Assheton succeeded to the manor of Downham.
During the reigns of Elizabeth and James I there were great disputes between the lord of Downham and his tenants and the tenants of Chatburn also respecting Downham Green, which had been inclosed. (fn. 33) The following are examples of the complaints: Early in the former reign the tenants of the queen's manor of Chatburn alleged that all the people of the lordship had been accustomed to have common on 'one great waste ground thereto adjoining commonly called Downham Green,' but Richard Assheton 'of his malicious and covetous mind' had recently inclosed (fn. 34) 40 acres of it with a great ditch and a hedge. In 1570 Assheton was petitioner; the green belonged to his manor, and he had inclosed about 20 acres, leaving some 500 acres still unfenced within the manor of Downham, but some Chatburn people, 'envying and malicing the good and prosperous estate' of their neighbour, had assembled in warlike array, together with a great number of the women of Chatburn, and had broken down his wall of inclosure, so that he had no profit from it. (fn. 35) In 1590 only about 30 acres of the green were left open, and the people of Chatburn agreed with Richard Assheton, he allowing them 11 acres, 'to be measured after the rate of 8 yds. to the pole,' and to be taken on the Chatburn side of the land; the queen was asked to ratify this agreement and to allow her copyholders to occupy this addition to the manor at the rate of 4d. an acre. (fn. 36) Thomas Ryley, one of the leaders of the Chatburn tenants, made further complaint in 1593 that he had been prevented from digging for stones and burning them in lime-kilns on Downham Green. (fn. 37)
In 1591 Richard Assheton had agreed to a delimitation of the boundary of the township. (fn. 38) In 1609–15 inquiry was made on behalf of the Crown as to the right to view of frankpledge, &c., (fn. 39) and a royal confirmation was in 1615 given by James I. (fn. 40) A settlement of the manor was then made by Richard Assheton and Margaret his wife. (fn. 41) The family were Puritan in religion. (fn. 42) The eldest son of Richard Assheton died in 1596 by bewitchment, as was supposed, so that the inheritance devolved on the second son Nicholas, whose Journal for 1617–19 gives a vivid picture of the life of a country gentleman at that time—divided between society, church-going, farming, carousing and sport. (fn. 43) A settlement of the manor was made in 1624 by Richard Assheton, Margaret his wife, Nicholas Assheton and Frances his wife. (fn. 44) Nicholas died in 1626, and then his cousin Sir Ralph Assheton of Whalley appears as owner, (fn. 45) but Ralph Assheton son of Nicholas succeeded, and on his death in 1643 (fn. 46) his brother Richard came into possession. He was a member of the Presbyterian Classis in 1646, and died in 1657, having bequeathed his estates in Downham and Worston to his cousin Sir Ralph Assheton of Whalley, (fn. 47) who died in 1680. By his will Downham went to the representative of Radcliffe Assheton of Cuerdale, son of Ralph Assheton of Great Lever and nephew of the Richard who obtained Downham in 1587. (fn. 48)
Radcliffe Assheton died in 1645 (fn. 49); his eldest son John, differing in politics from his relatives, was a captain of foot in the king's service, and died at Bristol in 1643. (fn. 50) It was his son Richard who succeeded to Downham, and from him the manor has descended regularly to the present lord, Mr. Ralph Cockayne Assheton. (fn. 51)
DOWNHAM HALL is a modern rebuilding of an older house, standing on high ground to the west of the church at the north end of the village. The front faces north and consists of a central portion with pediment and Doric portico of four columns, flanked with projecting east and west wings. The house is of two stories and built of stone, but except for the central feature is architecturally uninteresting, the windows being plain square-headed sash openings and the roofs of flat pitch above a cornice. Portions of door arches and window jambs of the older house are to be traced on the south side, which was originally the front, (fn. 52) but the centre part of the present building and one wing were erected in 1835, the second wing following at a subsequent date. On either side of the windows over the portico are inserted ancient carved shields with the arms of Henry Lacy Earl of Lincoln and John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster, and in the grounds are fragments of mediaeval masonry, probably from Sawley Abbey, and a stone with the initials and date R.A. 1589. (fn. 53)
A house known as the Old Hall stands in the lower part of the village facing the road, and is a picturesque two-story building with low mullioned windows and projecting two-story gabled porch, over the doorway of which was formerly a panel, now removed. The roofs are covered with stone slates, and the building is now divided into three cottages.
Of the minor estates or manors there is little to record. (fn. 54) The most ancient estate known is that of Ralph le Rous, to whom about 1140 Ilbert de Lacy confirmed a grant of land already made by one Aufray; it was to be held by the eleventh part of a knight's fee. (fn. 55) This may have been represented by the later Heriz holding. (fn. 56) Thomas de Ravensholme died in 1370 holding a messuage called Ravensholme of Henry de Dinelay by knight's service and 12d. rent; also half an oxgang of land, viz. 4 acres, of the Duke of Lancaster by knight's service, and 20d. rent. His heir was John de Downham, son of Richard the Cook, aged fifty. (fn. 57) The estate, of which a fourth part was acquired by the Worsleys, (fn. 58) was afterwards much divided. (fn. 59) The estate of Henry de Down ham (fn. 60) passed to Dinelay by marriage and became merged in the superior manor. The Blackburn plough-land seems to have been acquired at the end of the 13th century from William de Featherston, (fn. 61) descending to the Blackburns of Garston (fn. 62) and the Irelands of Lydiate. (fn. 63)
William Dinelay and Richard Shuttleworth contributed to the subsidy of 1524 for their lands, and Richard Brotherton in 1543. (fn. 67) Sir Ralph Assheton and Christopher Banastre appear in 1626. (fn. 68) To the hearth tax of 1666 there were seventy-four hearths liable; the chief houses were those of Sir Ralph Assheton with ten hearths and Robert Bulcock with five; five other houses had three hearths. (fn. 69) William Assheton paid about half the land tax in 1787; James Whalley was the next important owner. (fn. 70)
The chapel of ST. LEONARD (fn. 71) at Downham existed in 1296, when its altarage was worth 4 marks, the customary stipend of the chaplain, and the tithes of Downham and Twiston were worth 10 marks. The land of the demesne was valued at 1 mark. (fn. 72) The church goods taken away by the commissioners of Edward VI included two chalices, a cross of latten and some vestments. (fn. 73) The church as it stood in 1800 was 'a plain Gothic building, with a tower, two side aisles, a north and south chapel, and a middle choir. (fn. 74) The south chapel belonged to the lord of the manor and the north chapel to the Starkies of Twiston.
The present building stands on high ground at the north end of the village, close to the high road, which skirts the churchyard on the north and east. The ground falls rapidly on the south side, from which there is a very fine view from the churchyard towards Pendle Hill. The old church, with the exception of the tower, was pulled down in 1800 and the present building erected. (fn. 75) It is an extremely plain stone structure in the poorest Gothic of the day, the plan being a simple rectangle 73 ft. long by 34 ft. wide inside without any structural division of quire or aisles, with a south porch at the west end and a slated roof with overhanging eaves. The tower is of late 15th-century date with diagonal buttresses of four stages stopping below a string course under the belfry windows and a projecting vice in the north-east corner. The west doorway is pointed, with hollow-chamfered jambs and head and label over, and retains, though in a very bad condition, its ancient oak door. The west window is of three cinquefoiled lights and tracery under a sharply-pointed four-centred arch, the mullions alone being new. The belfry windows are pointed and of two cinquefoiled lights with hood mould over, and have been partly restored. The tower terminates in an embattled parapet with poor angle pinnacles, and gargoyles on the north and south, on which sides also is a clock. The tower arch is of two chamfered orders and is only partly visible, the end wall of the new church having been built in front of it.
The east window is of five lights, and there are four three-light windows in the north and three on the south side, the mullions being carved in the heads. The font is octagonal and apparently of 16th-century date, but has been spoiled with paint; the sides are ornamented with shields, six of which, however, are blank, the others being carved with the Legs of Man and a cheveron between three fleurs de lis. There are some old square pews at the east end, and the original three-decker pulpit remains against the north wall. At the west end is a gallery, but there is no organ, and the interior remains substantially as it was when built. (fn. 76) A brass chandelier, presented by Ralph Assheton of Preston in 1802, hangs from the flat plaster ceiling. There are numerous mural monuments to members of the Assheton family, the oldest being those of Lady Dorothy Assheton, who died in 1635, and Sir Ralph Assheton of Whalley, who died in 1680.
There are four bells, three of which are said to have come originally from Whalley or Sawley Abbey, but one of these has been recast. The fourth is a new bell by Taylor of Loughborough, the gift of Ralph Assheton in 1881. The first of the old bells is inscribed 'Vox Augustini sonet in aure Dei,' and the second 'Sta. Margareta ora pro nobis,' and both have marks attributed to John Walgrave (c. 1408). The third bell was recast by Taylor of Loughborough, and is inscribed 'St. Katharine, mdccclxxxi,' (fn. 77) the old form of lettering being copied.
The plate consists of a chalice and cover paten of 1613–14 (the date 1614 being scratched on the bottom of the chalice); a flagon inscribed 'The gift of Mrs. Assheton, of Cuerdale, to Downham Church for the use of the holy altar. Anno Domini 1728'; with the arms of Assheton on the lid; and a breadholder of 1804.
The old allowance from the rectory of Whalley was £4 a year, (fn. 78) increased to £10 by the Archbishops of Canterbury before 1650, at which date £30 a year had been added out of sequestrations. (fn. 79) In 1717 the certified income was only £10 15s. 4d., the addition to the old £10 arising from fees (fn. 80); but in 1722 Nathaniel Curzon gave £200, in return obtaining the advowson, (fn. 81) which descended in his family till about 1845, when it was purchased from Lord Howe by the Hulme Trustees, the present patrons. (fn. 82) Some augmentations have been obtained, and the net income is now stated to be £190 a year. (fn. 83)
|oc. 1541||Thurstan Duckworth (fn. 84)|
|oc. 1565||Miles Carrier (fn. 85)|
|oc. 1617||James Whalley (fn. 86)|
|oc. 1645||George Whitaker, M.A. (fn. 87)|
|1655||Jeremiah Hey (fn. 88)|
|1674||Carus Philipson, M.A. (fn. 89)|
|1683||Richard Wright (fn. 90)|
|1695||George Barker (fn. 91)|
|1702||Richard Pollard (fn. 92)|
|1704||George Escolme, B.A. (fn. 93) (Hart Hall, Oxford)|
|1716||George Brown, B.A.|
|—||James Matthews (fn. 94)|
|1724||James Cowgill, B.A. (fn. 95) (Trinity Hall, Camb.)|
|1747||James King, D.D. (fn. 96)|
|1774||Thomas King, M.A. (fn. 97)|
|1774||William Kendall (fn. 98)|
|1802||Thomas Wilson, B.D. (fn. 99)|
|1813||Thomas Starkie, M.A. (fn. 100) (St. John's Coll., Camb.)|
|1818||Philip Abbott (fn. 101)|
|1853||Sampson Thomas Henry Jervois, M.A. (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1893||Edward Curling, M.A. (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1899||Harold Broadbent Moore, M.A. (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1908||Francis Thomas Bradshaw, B.A. (Wadham Coll., Oxf.)|
Depositions taken in 1563 showed that lands worth 17s. 8d. a year had been 'given for the maintenance of the service of a priest to do the morning mass within the church of Downham, and that part of the said lands were given by Sir William Hinde, priest, deceased, and . . . were bestowed to the use aforesaid by the space of fourteen years. Sir Robert Thomlinson, priest, now doing service at Downham, took the profits thereof' until the previous Martinmas, when the lord of the manor (E. Dauncey) 'restrained' him. There were also sixteen or seventeen stocks of money and kine belonging to the church. Another witness added that the morning mass endowment had lasted forty years, and that the priest had also to keep a school. (fn. 102)
Of the history of the chapel there is little more to tell. It appears to have been served by several priests before the Reformation. (fn. 103) Afterwards it was served by a single minister or curate, who had usually some other charge, the stipend being insufficient for maintenance by itself. An 'exercise' was allowed at Downham in 1617, but quickly forbidden. (fn. 104) In 1672 it was reported to the Bishop of Chester that there were monthly conventicles and many Quakers. (fn. 105)
A school free to the children of the township was founded in 1703; the curate was to be the master. (fn. 106)
Official inquiries into the local charities were made in 1826 and 1901, and the report of the latter, issued in 1902 with a reprint of the earlier one, shows that £8 10s. a year is available for the poor. The poor's land seems to be due to gifts by Richard Waddington (1671), Lady Elizabeth Assheton (1686) and Margaret Slater (1702) (fn. 107); it is now let for £5 a year, and this is given in doles of 2s. to 5s. on St. Thomas's Day. Sir Ralph Assheton's charity, as recorded in the account of Whalley, gave £4 to Downham, half for a sermon on 30 January and half for the poor; the latter part is given in money to five of the poor inhabitants. A rent-charge of 30s. on a farm called Nutshaw was by some benefactor unknown given for providing blue cloth for the poor; doles of flannel are now given out of it.