A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The prefix Wood distinguishes this township from Field Plumpton, Great and Little, in Kirkham. The surface on the whole rises steadily from the low level of the more northerly parts of the parish. Thus the 50-ft. level crosses it from east to west when about a third of the length of the township has been traversed, and the 100-ft. level when the second third is reached going south. Two brooks flow through it, mainly to the north-west, towards the Wyre; that to the north comes from Barton through Hollowforth; that to the south is called Blundel Brook in Broughton, but here Woodplumpton Brook, for its course takes it through the centre of the township. The village of Woodplumpton lies on its northern bank, with Bartle to the south and Ambrose Hall to the north. Swillbrook and Catforth lie to the northwest, on the westerly side of the brook, and Woodsfold near the northern boundary, with Lewth to the east of it and Eaves to the north. The area is 4,970½ acres, (fn. 1) shared by the four hamlets thus: Woodplumpton, 949; Bartle, 1,341; Catforth, 1,828; and Eaves, 852½. In 1901 there was a population of 1,208.
The two principal roads meet near Woodsfold. One of them comes from the south, passing through Bartle and Catforth; the other from the south-east, passing Ambrose Hall, Moorside and Lewth. These are connected at the south by a cross-road from Bartle through Woodplumpton to Ambrose Hall.
Woodplumpton was visited by plague in 1631. (fn. 2)
Henry Foster, R.N., born at Woodplumpton in 1796, being son of the incumbent, attained distinction as a navigator and astronomer, and was elected F.R.S. in 1824. He took part in Parry's Polar expeditions of 1825–7 and did exploring work in the South Seas. He was accidentally killed in the River Chagres, near Panama, in 1831. There is a memorial tablet in Woodplumpton Church. (fn. 3)
Mag Shelton, the Singleton witch, is supposed to have been buried at Woodplumpton. A boulder stone, known as the Witch's Stone, marks the grave in the churchyard. Her spirit had to be 'laid' by a priest. (fn. 4)
In 1676 there were said to be 646 inhabitants, of whom 46 were 'popish recusants' and 3 Dissenters. (fn. 5) A more elaborate return in 1755 is as follows:—
|Eaves or 969 persons in all (fn. 6)||114||—||7||69|
Earl Tostig held WOODPLUMPTON in 1066 as part of his Preston fee. It was assessed as five plough-lands. (fn. 7) Afterwards it was held of the Crown or of the honour of Lancaster in thegnage by a family whose pedigree seems to connect them with the pre-Conquest owners. Raghanald, the earliest of them on record, must have lived about the time of the Conquest, for his son Ravenkil attested the grants made in 1094 by Count Roger of Poiton to the abbey of Sees, (fn. 8) and Roger son of Ravenkil, who gave Linacre to the Knights Hospitallers, (fn. 9) occurs from 1130 to 1171. (fn. 10) His son Richard, the founder of Lytham Priory, lived in the time of Henry II and Richard I, holding by knight's service Kirkby, Argarmeols, Kellamergh and Bryning, and in thegnage Woodplumpton, Lytham, Carleton, Bootle and part of Formby. (fn. 11)
Richard son of Roger left five daughters as coheirs, (fn. 12) but ultimately the inheritance became divided between two—Maud, who married Robert de Stockport, and Amice, who married Thomas de Beetham. Woodplumpton appears to have gone entirely to the former, (fn. 13) and as early as 1256 Robert de Stockport was sole lord, allowing John de Lea common of pasture on Bartle Moor. (fn. 14) The manor, which rendered 17s. 4d. a year to the Earl of Lancaster in 1297, (fn. 15) descended regularly to the Warrens of Stockport and Poynton, (fn. 16) but these, though among the great families of Cheshire, took little part in Lancashire affairs. (fn. 17) Sir John Warren (fn. 18) died in 1386 holding the manor of Woodplumpton of the Duke of Lancaster by a rent of 17s. 6d., and was succeeded by his son Nicholas, (fn. 19) whose son Lawrence held it in 1418. (fn. 20)
In later times the tenure was described as by knight's service. (fn. 21) Thus John Warren, who died in 1474, (fn. 22) was said to have held the manor. He had in 1445 granted various messuages and land in Woodplumpton to trustees for Isabel daughter of Robert Legh of Adlington, and other messuages, &c., in 1471 to Eleanor, who married his grandson Sir John Warren. (fn. 23) This Sir John was aged thirty-six in 1506, and died in 1518 holding the manor of Woodplumpton, with fifty messuages, lands, meadow, wood, turbary and moss of the king by the fifth part of a knight's fee and the rent of 17s. 6d. Lawrence his son and heir, was thirty-three years of age. (fn. 24) The tenure was recorded in the same terms in the inquisition after the death in 1540 of Sibyl widow of Lawrence, when his son Edward, aged thirty-five was found to be the heir. (fn. 25)
Sir Edward Warren, made a knight during the Scottish expedition of 1544, (fn. 26) died in October 1558 holding the manor of Woodplumpton as before, and leaving as heir his son Francis, aged twenty-four. (fn. 27) Francis had, however, been disinherited by his father, (fn. 28) and so his brother John succeeded, and his grandson, another John Warren, mortgaged the manor to Sir Robert Banastre for £4,000, and, failing to pay, forfeited it. (fn. 29) Woodplumpton remained for some time in the hands of the Banastre family, (fn. 30) but in 1667 was recovered by Edward and John Warren from Banastre Maynard and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 31) The manor descended, with other Warren estates, to Lord de Tabley, but was sold to the Birleys of Milbanke, Kirkham, and became the property of Charles Birley of Bartle Hall, who died in 1891, leaving issue. The eldest son, Charles Addison Birley, succeeded, and at his death in 1908 was followed by his son Mr. Charles Fair Birley, the present lord of the manor. Courts leet and baron were held annually till recently. (fn. 32) The hall was sold to Dr. Thomas Calvert, Warden of Manchester 1823–40. (fn. 33)
In 1542 there arose disputes as to the wastes, (fn. 34) and an agreement as to the division of parcels of the commons and waste lands within the manor was made in 1573 between John Warren, lord of Woodplumpton, and the various charterers. The details are preserved in Christopher Towneley's MS. numbered OO; the lord received 210 acres and the charterers 168. (fn. 35)
The Singleton family or families had lands in the township, those of the senior branch descending in the usual way, (fn. 36) and those of the Chingle Hall, (fn. 37) Brockholes (fn. 38) and Staining branches (fn. 39) appearing in their inquisitions. Others of the neighbouring landowners also appear in the records, (fn. 40) with minor local families such as Beck, (fn. 41) Billington, (fn. 42) Duddell, (fn. 43) Gregson, (fn. 44) Harrison, (fn. 45) Mason, (fn. 46) Richardson (fn. 47) and White (fn. 48); but the chief residents in the 15 th century and later seem to have been the Ambrose family of AMBROSE HALL (fn. 49) and Catforth. Their estates passed by sale in 1650 to Richard Shaw, and about 1870 to Charles Birley. (fn. 50) CATFORTH, called a manor, was held by the Shireburnes of Stonyhurst, (fn. 51) and BARTLE gave a surname to a local family who in the 14th century had part of the manor of Great Eccleston. (fn. 52) In this part of the township is Moor Hall, which has for a long time been held by a branch of the Threlfall family. (fn. 53) Isolated references are all that can in most cases be given. (fn. 54)
George Nicholson of Woodplumpton in 1631 paid £10 on declining knighthood. (fn. 55) Several sequestrations for religion or politics marked the Commonwealth period, (fn. 56) while a number of 'Papists' registered estates in 1717. (fn. 57)
The piety of Richard son of Roger makes it probable that a chapel existed in his demesne before 1200. Though this is confirmed by remains in the building, there seems to be no direct documentary evidence (fn. 58) of the chapel till 1552, when its 'ornaments' were seized for the king. (fn. 59) About the same time it was locally styled a 'church.' (fn. 60) There was no endowment, but the vicar of St. Michael's allowed £4 a year to the curate, (fn. 61) and service there appears to have been maintained after the Reformation. In 1650 the minister had an allowance of £50 a year from the Committee of Plundered Ministers. (fn. 62) The certified income in 1717 was only £3, but further endowments were procured about that time, (fn. 63) and the net value is now given as £193. (fn. 64)
The church of ST. ANNE stands at the south end of the village, near the edge of the higher ground before its fall to Woodplumpton Brook, and consists of chancel and nave with north and south aisles forming a parallelogram measuring internally 72 ft. 6 in. long by 47 ft. 6 in. wide, with north-east vestry and small western tower with octagonal lantern. The oldest part of the building is the western half of the north aisle wall, in which there are a window of c. 1300 and a door of about 100 years later, the east part of the wall, together with the east wall of the aisle, being either of 15th or early 16th-century date, or an older wall restored with later windows inserted. The north and south arcades belong to the late 15th or early 16th-century period, but the rest of the structure, comprising the whole of the west and south walls and the east wall as far as the north side of the chancel, was rebuilt or refaced in the 18th century, probably in 1748, (fn. 65) at which time the tower was also erected. The development of the plan is not clear from the evidence of the building, but the present north aisle may represent the nave of a 14thcentury building which would be perhaps about 40 ft. long by 16 ft. wide. This may have been extended eastward in the late 15th or early 16th century and a south aisle added, and later again in the 16th century a further aisle added on the south side, the first aisle then becoming the nave. The evidence for this is, however, far from being conclusive, the chief reasons in support being the nature of the walling at the west end of the north aisle, the width of the aisle itself, which is greater than that of the nave, and the difference of detail of the two nave arcades, which seems to point to that on the south being later in date, though perhaps at no great interval of time, than that on the north. (fn. 66) The nave and aisles are under three separate and continuous gabled roofs, that over the south aisle and the north slope of the north aisle being covered with stone slabs and the others with modern blue slates. The older masonry is of red and yellow sandstone intermixed, but the 18th-century walling consists of squared blocks of gritstone with sandstone dressings. The south wall is a fairly good piece of classic work with semicircular-headed windows and doorways and angle pilasters and entablature, above which, however, the embattled parapet of the earlier wall has rather unfortunately been set. The doorways have moulded imposts and blocked keystones with a straight moulded weathering on blocked corbels above, and the windows have plain jambs and heads with blocked imposts and keystones. At the east and west ends the walling is of plainer character.
The church seems to have been repaired and reroofed in 1639, that date being on one of the principals of the north aisle, and was later filled with square pews; but there seems to have been no adequate restoration in modern times till the year 1900, when the interior was stripped of many coats of whitewash which covered the walls and the masonry laid bare, the old square pews removed and new seating erected, the chancel re-arranged, new quire stalls and other fittings being inserted, and the vestry enlarged by being extended westward. In the course of this latter work various fragments of an earlier church were discovered, including two portions of shafts with scalloped capitals, indicating the existence of a building here in the 12th century, some bits of 14th-century tracery, and a red sandstone slab with floreated cross. All these fragments are now built into the vestry wall.
The chancel and nave are without structural division, the chancel, which is inclosed by modern oak screens and is 27 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft., occupying the first and half the second bay from the east, a 6-ft. length of plain wall forming the original 15thcentury sanctuary at the east end. The east window is a modern pointed one of four lights with perpendicular tracery, and the roof, together with those of the nave and south aisle, is also modern. The north arcade consists of five pointed arches of two chamfered orders on octagonal piers, 20 in. in diameter, with moulded caps and bases, 6 ft. in height to the top of the caps, the arches all being of equal width. On the south side the arcade differs somewhat in the setting out, though the number of bays is the same and the detail somewhat similar. The work, however, is rather more rough in character and the piers are 6 in. more in height. There is a 4-ft. length of straight wall at the west end, and the two outer arches, east and west, are less, and the second one from the east greater, in width than those in the north and the remaining arches on the south side. The north aisle is 16 ft. in width and is lit at the east end by a three-light window with low four-centred arched head and external hood mould, and at the west by a new four-light squareheaded Gothic window inserted in the 18th-century wall. The north side had originally three windows, but the easternmost one was removed when the vestry was enlarged, the reveal alone remaining as a recess. Next to this, about the middle of the aisle, is a late two-light square-headed opening, and further west the interesting early 14th-century window already mentioned, of two pointed trefoiled lights with a rounded trefoil in the head and segmental rear arch. The north door, which may be c. 1400, has a pointed arch with plain sunk chamfered jambs and head on which are carved symbolic paterae, including three four-leafed flowers, a rose, fish, and the initial M (twice). The north wall has apparently been raised about three courses, probably in the 17th century, when the roof was renewed, and is built in the lower part of blocks of red and yellow sandstone 3 ft. to 4 ft. long, but of less size above, and is strengthened by two buttresses each of two stages. The roof retains some of the 17th-century oak principals, but is otherwise new, and has overhanging eaves, and on the south slope is pierced by two dormer windows of six lights each.
The south aisle is 13 ft. wide, with a two-light segmental-headed window at each end and four windows and two doors on the south side. The west tower, or campanile, measures 6 ft. square inside, and is set towards the north side of the nave gable, to the height of which it is carried up square, finishing with a moulded cornice, above which is an octagon lantern with an open arch on each face, surmounted by a small stone dome with ball and fish weather-vane. The lower part of the campanile, which is open to the church with a modern arch filled in by a modern oak screen, has a round-headed west window with keystone and blocked jambs, and on the south side is an old disused clock-face.
The font now in use is a modern one (1901) of red sandstone. An old round font, found some years ago at the back of the church, fell into the hands of a local mason, by whom it was re-cut, re-chiselled and reduced to octagon form, all vestiges of its original character being destroyed. It now stands outside, to the north of the turret.
Many of the old 18th-century oak pew ends, carved with various initials and dates between 1716 and 1746, have been used as panelling round the walls, and at the east end of the south aisle is the 17thcentury oak communion table with the initials 'WA' and the date 1635.
The plate is all modern and comprises a chalice, paten and flagon of 1859, given by Mr. Charles Birley of Bartle Hall; a paten of 1896, 'The gift of Gertrude Emily Birley, Easter 1896'; and a small flagon of 1897, given by Richard Marsden in memory of his son James Marsden. There are also two chalices, two breadholders and two flagons of pewter, all inscribed 'I. Woods and R. Parker Churchwardens 1822.'
The register of burials begins in 1603 and those of baptisms and marriages in 1604, from which year they are complete with the exception of gaps between 1625 and 1628 and between 1648 and 1653. The first two volumes (1614–59) have been printed. (fn. 67)
The churchyard lies principally on the south and west sides. There is an octagonal stone shaft surmounted by a sundial, the plate of which is dated 1657, and on the south wall are traces of a large painted sundial with the motto 'Sic transit gloria mundi' on the architrave. Near the entrance on the south side are the remains of the stocks, on one pillar of which is cut AB/73.
The incumbents, styled vicars, are appointed by the vicar of St. Michael's. The following is a list of them (fn. 68):—
|oc. 1552–62||Nicholas Lawrenson (fn. 69)|
|oc. 1604–13||John Hollinworth (fn. 70)|
|oc. 1614||R . . . Lomax (fn. 71)|
|oc. 1621||Roger Farrand (fn. 72)|
|oc. 1629–30||John Dugdale (fn. 73)|
|oc. 1637–41||John Gregge (fn. 74)|
|oc. 1646–7||Peter Jackson (fn. 75)|
|oc. 1650||John Wright (fn. 76)|
|1651||John Haydock (fn. 77)|
|oc. 1669||Robert Wayte (fn. 78)|
|oc. 1676–80||John Harrison|
|1684||Thomas Kirkham, B.A. (fn. 79)|
|c. 1695||Thomas Cockshutt, B.A. (fn. 80) (Pembroke Coll., Camb.)|
|1700||Timothy Corles, B.A. (fn. 81) (Emmanuel Coll., Camb.)|
|1704||Ralph Loxam, B.A. (fn. 82) (Jesus Coll., Camb.)|
|oc. 1735||Matthew Worthington (fn. 83)|
|1797||Charles Buck, M.A. (fn. 84) (St. John's Coll., Camb.)|
|1836||Isaac Mossop (fn. 85)|
|1884||William Henry Ramsbottom (fn. 86)|
|1889||Ernest Turner Millard|
A free school was founded at Catforth in 1661–6. (fn. 87)
Roger Kitchen's house in Woodplumpton was licensed in 1689 as a meeting-place for Nonconformists, (fn. 88) but the congregation does not seem to have continued.
The Wesleyan Methodists have a chapel at Woodplumpton, erected in 1819 (fn. 89); the Primitive Methodists appeared at Catforth in 1815, and soon afterwards a chapel was built there, replaced in 1863 by the present one. (fn. 90)
St. Andrew's Roman Catholic church, at the south end of the township, is known as Cottam Chapel, as representing the old mission maintained by the Haydock family at Cottam Hall, close by. This had to be given up in 1717, on the estate passing into the hands of Protestants, but a new chapel was soon afterwards opened in Woodplumpton. It was destroyed in 1746, after the defeat of the Young Pretender, and again in 1768 by mobs from Preston. The present church succeeded it in 1793. (fn. 91) St. Robert's, Catforth, was opened in 1877. (fn. 92)