A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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This township, which gives its name to the parish, (fn. 1) extends for about 2 miles along the western bank of the Wyre, but its breadth seldom exceeds half a mile, and the area measures but 502½ acres. (fn. 2) The little town of Garstang lies along the main road from Preston to the north, which here crosses the Wyre by a two-arched stone bridge. (fn. 3) At the south end of the town is the modern church, and at the north end is a station on the single-line railway which branches from the London and North-Western main line to go to Pilling and Knott End. (fn. 4) Various roads lead to Cockerham, Pilling and Churchtown. The Preston and Kendal Canal comes into the township by an aqueduct over the Wyre and crosses into Nateby.
The relative importance of the place has greatly declined since the opening of the railway route to the North. There are no manufactures, and the land is entirely in pasture. The township is now governed by a parish council. Gas is supplied by a private company formed in 1880 (fn. 5) and water by the Fylde Water Board.
William Lancaster issued a farthing token in 1663. (fn. 6)
In 1690 Ogilby described Garstang as 'a good thoroughfare, with a market for corn, cattle, &, on Thursdays.' Pococke in 1750 thought it 'a very poor town'; he 'saw to the east the smoke of some iron-smelting houses, which are erected there on account of the great plenty there is of wood.' (fn. 7)
The market cross, restored in 1897, stands in the main street. Near it were formerly the well and pump and the fish-stones. The old stocks are preserved in the town hall. (fn. 8)
As already explained, Garstang usually denoted the lordship of Nether Wyresdale, but a smaller subordinate manor was created in 1246 in the present township of GARSTANG by one of William de Lancaster's death-bed gifts—that of 4 oxgangs of land, which he granted with his heart to Cockersand Abbey. (fn. 9) This manor, after the Suppression, was given by Philip and Mary to the Savoy Hospital (fn. 10); it afterwards reverted to the Crown, and was let on lease, (fn. 11) but was in 1750 sold to the lessee, the Hon. Edward Walpole, under a special Act of Parliament. (fn. 12) Through his daughter the lordship has descended to Mr. Bertram William Arnold Keppel of Lexham, Norfolk. (fn. 13) Courts baron have been held down to the present time.
In 1310 the canons of Cockersand obtained a royal charter for a market every Thursday at their manor of Garstang and a yearly fair on 28–9 June. (fn. 14) The right fell into abeyance, and Leland's statement that 'some said' it was a market town shows that markets had ceased to be held long before the Reformation. In 1597 Elizabeth granted the inhabitants a weekly market and two yearly fairs 'for the relief of the poor.' (fn. 15) In this way the distinction between Garstang Churchtown and Garstang Market-town became established, and now the latter is known as Garstang absolutely, the former being Churchtown.
In 1679 a charter of incorporation was granted by Charles II, constituting a free borough of Garstang with bailiff and burgesses. The charter appointed William Spencer the first bailiff, the office to be an annual one, and named the seven burgesses, who held for life. A common seal was allowed, and the market and two fairs, with court of pie powder, were ratified and extended. (fn. 16) Freemen were elected and a town hall was built. (fn. 17) The corporation was dissolved in 1886 under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1883, and the Garstang Town Trust was then formed to manage the property, viz. the town hall, with offices, warehouse and cottage, market tolls, piccage and stallage; fair tolls; furniture of the town hall; two constables' halberds, a silver-topped staff, the common seal and documents. The gross income is about £50 a year; any balance over expenses is to be applied to the establishment of a library or other institution for the benefit of the inhabitants. (fn. 18)
In 1654 Jane Hodgkinson, widow, of Garstang, desired to compound for the two-thirds of her estate sequestered for recusancy. (fn. 19) Roger Green and Richard Richardson registered estates in 1717 as 'Papists.' (fn. 20)
In 1437 the inhabitants obtained a licence for one year for the chapel of Holy Trinity in Garstang. (fn. 21) This is supposed to refer to a chapel in what is now called Garstang. No clear evidence of its continuance is forthcoming (fn. 22) till 1646, when the Committee of Plundered Ministers made a grant of £50 a year from Royalists' estates in order to provide a minister for 'the chapel of the Market town of Garstang.' (fn. 23) Bishop Gastrell in 1717 found that it had no endowment, but was 'supplied by the vicar.' (fn. 24) In 1734 the churchwardens reported that service was 'seldom performed' there. (fn. 25) It was rebuilt on a new site in 1770, and some endowments were obtained. It is now called St. Thomas's, and has been enlarged and restored. (fn. 26) A separate district was assigned to it in 1881, (fn. 27) and the vicars are presented by the vicar of Garstang. The net value is £197. The following have been in charge (fn. 28):—
|1723||Thomas Parkinson (fn. 29)|
|1736||John Sutton, B.A. (Trin. Coll., Camb.)|
|c. 1738||John Hunter (fn. 30)|
|1762||James Fisher (fn. 31)|
|1773||John Moss (fn. 32)|
|1800||William Wayles Thornton, B.D. (Emmanuel Coll., Camb.)|
|1822||James Pedder, M.A. (fn. 33) (Christ's Coll., Camb.)|
|1879||George Boys Stones, M.A. (St. John's Coll., Oxf.)|
A school was built in 1756, the lord of the manor, Sir Edward Walpole, granting a piece of land at the north end of the great street of Garstang at a rent of 2s. 6d. (fn. 34)
John Wesley visited Garstang in 1765 and 1770, but the Wesleyan Methodist chapel was not built till 1814. (fn. 35) He preached in the Congregationalist chapel, (fn. 36) which is of unknown origin, but the lease had thirty years to run in 1823. (fn. 37) A fresh beginning was made by the Congregationalists in 1829, and the chapel was altered and improved in 1868. A graveyard is attached. (fn. 38)
Roman Catholics during the time of the penal laws were served by the missionary priests harboured at a number of the houses in the district, such as Dimples in Barnacre (fn. 39) or Bowers House in Nateby. (fn. 40) They had a chapel in the town from 1784 until 1858, when the church in Bonds was opened. (fn. 41) The old building is now a public institute.