A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The larger part of this township is known as Great Singleton with 1,575½ acres; it contains the village and chapel near the centre, with Enam or Avenham to the south-west and Brackinscal to the south-east. Little Singleton occupies the northern part, bordering the River Wyre with its picturesque scenery; it is divided near the centre by a small area known as Pool Foot, which, with a detached plot to the west, measures 53½ acres. Little Singleton has an area of 1,294. acres; the hamlet or village is near its centre, with Mains to the north-west, while Singleton Grange and Bankfield are in the eastern portion. The total measurement is 2,923 acres, (fn. 1) and there was in 1901 a population of 373. The surface is almost level, but falls away to the north and to the west; on the latter side are the low-lying Carrs, drained by a dyke cut some years ago at the expense of the landowners. It goes along near the western boundary of the township, and empties into the Wyre, near Skippool, Poulton. (fn. 2)
A road from Kirkham and Weeton leads north to Great Singleton and then to Little Singleton, where it turns westward, crossing the boundary brook at Skippool Bridge and turning south to Poulton. From this road a branch goes north past Mains to cross the Wyre by Shard Bridge. From Little Singleton another road turns off to the east towards St. Michael's, while from Great Singleton other roads go east and west to the adjoining townships.
The village is said to have been the residence of Mag Shelton, a famous witch. 'The cows of her neighbours were constantly milked by her, the pitcher in which she conveyed the milk away, when stolen, walking before her in the shape of a goose.' A neighbour, suspecting, once struck the 'goose,' and the pitcher was broken, the milk flowing out. (fn. 3)
The soil is clayey, with marl subsoil; oats, potatoes and turnips are grown. Sixty years ago almost all the land was under the plough, but about three-fourths of the land is now pasture, for the dairy farms.
The Gillow family, formerly seated in this and adjacent townships, produced several noteworthy men. (fn. 4) Henry Lushington, at one time chief secretary to the Government of Malta, was born here in 1812. He died in 1855. (fn. 5) John Bilsborrow, D.D., born at Singleton Lodge in 1836, was Bishop of Salford from 1892 till his death in 1903.
Before the Conquest Singleton was included in the great lordship held by Earl Tostig in Amounderness; it was then assessed as six plough-lands. (fn. 6) Afterwards it was retained as demesne by the lords of the honour of Lancaster, (fn. 7) except that half a plough-land was given to the hereditary bailiff of the wapentake by way of fee, and two plough-lands more were granted to Cockersand Abbey.
Singleton is named in the Pipe Roll of 1168–9 as contributing to an aid, (fn. 8) and in similar ways later. (fn. 9) The demesne rendered 28s. to the farm of the county in 1226, (fn. 10) but this had been greatly increased by 1258, (fn. 11) and the value of the vill to the Earl of Lancaster was in 1297 estimated at £21. (fn. 12) Accounts of the halmotes in 1325 have been printed. (fn. 13) A brief extent made a few years later states that there were then twenty-one messuages and 26 oxgangs of land in the hands of bonders; the total value to the lord was £24. (fn. 14) A more elaborate extent of the year 1346 has been preserved. There were then 28 oxgangs of land, held by bondmen or natives, each containing 12 acres and rendering 14s. 3½d. yearly. The payment was made up of 5s. rent and 9s. 3½d. in lieu of various services, including the carriage of the lord's victuals at any time of the year by three suitable beasts. An additional service was the carrying of victuals whenever the lord travelled from Ribble Bridge to Lancaster Castle and back. Merchet for sons and daughters and letherwit for sons were due. At death the lord took all the bondman's goods, reserving the best beast for himself, paying debts, and returning to the widow and children two-thirds of the remainder. In 1346 there were also a few cottagers and three tenants at will. There was an ancient custom that an unmarried woman living by herself in the township should par the lord 3d. yearly in the name of advowson. (fn. 15)
About 1510–15 disputes arose between the king's tenants of Singleton and those of the Abbot of Whalley's manor of Staining as to boundaries, and particularly as to the carr. It was decided that the carr belonged to the king alone, but the tenants of Todderstaffe and Hardhorn had right of common. (fn. 16)
Singleton proper, or GREAT SINGLETON, remained in the hands of the Earls and Dukes of Lancaster, and eventually of the Crown, until 1623, when this manor, with Ribby and Wrea, was sold to Edward Badby and William Weltden. (fn. 17) Within a few years it seems to have been purchased by William Fanshawe, auditor of the duchy, (fn. 18) descending to Simon Fanshawe, who in 1748 sold it to William Shawe of Preston. (fn. 19) His son, William Cunliffe Shawe, who succeeded in 1771, sold it to Joseph Hornby of Ribby about 1800. In 1852 it was purchased from the trustees of Hugh Hornby by Thomas Miller, one of the great cotton manufacturers of Preston, (fn. 20) who resided at Singleton and did much for the material improvement of the district. Dying on 24 June 1865, he was followed by his son, Mr. Thomas Horrocks Miller, the present lord of the manor, who resides at Singleton Park, having built the mansion there. He also owns the Avenham estate. (fn. 21)
LITTLE SINGLETON, as half a plough-land, was, as above stated, granted in serjeanty. (fn. 22) The holders adopted the local surname, but their principal manor was Broughton in Preston, with which Little Singleton descended to the heirs and representatives of the Balderston family. (fn. 23) On the partition in 1565 it was assigned to the Earl of Derby. (fn. 24) In 1602 it was sold by Alice Countess of Derby and the heirs of Ferdinando the fifth earl to William Hesketh of Little Poulton, (fn. 25) who was probably already the occupier.
The manor-house, known as MAINS, thenceforward became the chief residence of this branch of the Heskeths. George Hesketh, who has already occurred in the account of Aughton as half-brother of Gabriel son of Bartholomew Hesketh, (fn. 26) had a considerable estate in the town of Kirkham and the neighbourhood, and in 1566 was described as of Rossall. He died in 1571, and was succeeded by his son William, aged thirty. (fn. 27) This William died at Mains in 1622, but as nothing is said in the inquisition as to his holding land in Little Singleton, the purchaser in 1602 may have been his son William, aged sixty at his father's death. (fn. 28) William died in 1623 holding the manor of Little Singleton, and was succeeded by his son Thomas. (fn. 29) Pedigrees were recorded in 1613 and 1664. (fn. 30)
The family were distinguished by their fidelity to Roman Catholicism even in the days of Elizabeth. (fn. 31) In the Civil War it was a matter of course that they took the king's side; one of the sons was killed in a skirmish at Brindle in 1651, (fn. 32) and the family estates were by the Parliament sequestered for recusancy as early as 1643. (fn. 33) A later William Hesketh registered his estate as a 'Papist' in 1717. (fn. 34) His son Thomas, inheriting the manor of Claughton in Garstang, took the name of Brockholes; and ultimately Mains, like Claughton, was devised to a relative by marriage, and has thus descended to its present owner, Mr. W. J. Fitzherbert-Brockholes.
MAINS HALL stands in a pleasant situation close to the bank of the River Wyre, and was originally a house of very considerable interest, being built on three sides of a quadrangle which was open to the south. To some extent this disposition still obtains, though the west wing has disappeared and the building has been so much altered and pulled about from time to time that it has lost nearly all its architectural interest, and having been for a long time used as a farm-house has suffered much in other ways.
The north side facing the river preserves something of its 17th-century appearance, having a large middle gable and a smaller one to the east; but all the windows are modern, and additions have been made from time to time. All the external walls of the main building are covered with rough-cast and whitewashed and the roofs are covered with modern grey slates. The south side, or garden front, was rebuilt in the 18th century, and is a rather uninteresting two-story elevation with sash windows, central doorway and a projecting gable at the east end. The doorway, however, is a good piece of 18th-century work with flat canopy supported by carved brackets. The hall has been 'altered and re-altered, modernized and re-modernized,' alterations carried out in 1846 having almost gutted the interior. (fn. 35) The west wing, which contained the kitchen and offices, was pulled down in the first quarter of the 19th century, (fn. 36) and is said to have contained a 'hall part' having a huge open chimney and wainscoted with 'fluted oak of the reign of Henry VIII. (fn. 37) The west end of the main building has been rebuilt three stories in height in a very plain manner, detracting in a very large measure from the otherwise rather picturesque appearance of the south front, a picturesqueness produced mainly by the long line of 17thcentury red brick buildings on the east side and the inclosing brick wall to the garden. The wall is about 10 ft. 6 in high, with triangular buttresses on the outside, and steps down at each end to the front, where it forms a dwarf wall with wood railings, the entrance being flanked by tall brick gate-piers surmounted by balls. The garden is about 90 yds. long by 50 yds. in width, extending some feet beyond the house on either side, and is inclosed for its greater length on the east by the outbuildings already men tioned, which stand detached from the main building. Towards the north end of these facing the garden are the initials, roughly worked in the brickwork, of Thomas and Margaret Hesketh and the date 1686. The building on which the initials occur is now a stable, but the upper part is usually known as the 'chapel,' though no signs of its having been used as such are now visible. It is described as being 'desolate' in 1845, when 'the picture of the Virgin and Child had fallen from the altar and the altar rails were in decay.' (fn. 38) The outside staircase which formerly led to the 'chapel,' which is now a hayloft, has long been removed. In the north-west corner of the garden is a brick pavilion measuring 13 ft. 6 in. by 11 ft. internally, with pointed slated roof, now in a state of dilapidation. The lay out in front of the house must have been originally very effective, and even yet in its decay and semi-wildness is not without beauty. On the north side, between the house and the river, is an octagonal brick pigeon-house with pointed roof.
SINGLETON GRANGE, or Newbigging, was considered to lie in Little Singleton probably because, being the estate of Cockersand Abbey, (fn. 39) it was independent of Great Singleton Manor. In 1384 inquiry was made as to the tenure of part of the land held by the abbot, it being alleged that John Count of Mortain had granted a messuage and 12 acres to John Joy and his heirs to find a man with a horse to be ferryman on the water of Wyre—which alms had been withdrawn. (fn. 40)
The Grange was after the Suppression sold to William Eccleston of Great Eccleston, (fn. 41) and seems to have been alienated subsequently in small parcels. Hugh Hornby died in 1638 holding a messuage in Singleton Grange and leaving a son and heir John, aged forty. (fn. 42) William Leigh, clerk, who was rector of Standish, died at Preston in 1639 holding a capital messuage called Grange House in Singleton Grange, with various cottages and land in the township. Theophilus, his son and heir, was forty years of age. (fn. 43) His grandson Charles Leigh, M.D., said to have been born at Singleton in 1662, was author of the Natural History of Lancashire published in 1700 (fn. 44); he practised as a physician in Manchester, where he was living in 1704. (fn. 45) A pedigree of the family was recorded in 1664. (fn. 46) Richard Burgh of Larbreck also had land at the Grange in 1639. (fn. 47) Cuthbert Harrison, minister of Singleton during the Commonwealth and founder of the Nonconformist chapel at Elswick, had an estate at Bankfield, which has continued in his family. (fn. 48) The present owner is Mr. Charles Edward Dyson Harrison Atkinson.
Several 'Papists' registered estates in 1717. (fn. 49)
The earliest record of St. Mary's Chapel at Singleton occurs in 1358, when Henry Duke of Lancaster granted the custody of it to John de East Witton, hermit. (fn. 50) It remained in use (fn. 51) till the Reformation, but in 1547 a stipend of 49s. a year was paid to a priest to celebrate in the chapel. (fn. 52) It appears that there was a curate as late as 1578, but he was conspicuous for neglect of his duties and bad morals. (fn. 53) Afterwards the building ceased to be used, and was with the appurtenances sold by the Crown in 1618 to Sir James Auchterlony. (fn. 54) During the Commonwealth period a new chapel was built, and the people requested a minister and endowment. (fn. 55) It seems doubtful whether it was this building or some part of the old chapel which after the Restoration came into the hands of the Roman Catholics and was used for service as opportunity offered (fn. 56); but in 1749 the new lord of the manor, who owned the building, gave it to the Bishop of Chester to be used as a chapel of ease to Kirkham, (fn. 57) and, having provided a small endowment, the right of presentation was conceded to him. (fn. 58) This right has descended with the manor to Mr. T. H. Miller. In 1809 the chapel was pulled down and a new one was built; this lasted for fifty years, and was replaced by the present St. Anne's Church in 1861. (fn. 59)
The following have been incumbents (fn. 60) :—
|1754||John Threlfall, B.A. (Wadham Coll., Oxf.)|
|1797||Thomas Banks (fn. 61)|
|1842||William Birley, B.A. (Trinity Coll., Oxf.)|
|1843||Leonard Charles Wood, B.A. (Jesus Coll., Camb.)|
In 1689 there was a Quakers' meeting-house in Great Singleton. (fn. 62)
From what has been said about the Heskeths, who had a domestic chapel at Mains, (fn. 63) it might be inferred that all through the penal times the missionary priests were able to minister in the Singleton district, and direct evidence is available that even in the most bitter periods they carried on their work. Thus Thomas Robinson, born at Singleton, was baptized in 1651 by a secular priest named Holden, and on entering the English College at Rome in 1673 he stated that 'his parents had suffered both public and private spoliation of their property in the Civil War on account of their faith.' (fn. 64) Later than this, as above stated, an old chapel was used till about 1750. On being dispossessed a new one was built about 1768, (fn. 65) but the lease expiring was given up when St. John's at Poulton was opened in 1813. (fn. 66) It was again used from 1832 to 1860, by which time, through Mr. Miller's influence, very few Roman Catholics remained in the township. (fn. 67)