A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The little town takes its name from the Roman station founded by the Ribble. The township has an area of 2,211½ acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 there was a population of 1,237. The general slope of the surface is down from north to south, the greatest height on the side of Longridge Fell being nearly 900 ft. above the ordnance datum. Boyce's Brook flows south-east through the township to join the Ribble.
Roads branch out from the town eastward to reach the bridge across the river about a mile away, northward to join the road from Longridge to Mitton, near the hamlet of Knowl Green, and northwestward to join the same road nearer Longridge. Buckley is central.
Few relics of the Roman occupation remain in the town. In the main street, forming a portico to the 'White Bull Inn,' are four columns with debased capitals, said to have been taken out of the river. They rudely resemble the Roman Doric in appearance and are 6 ft. 7 in. high; their dressing also admits the possibility of their Roman origin. In the rectory grounds are three Roman vases, said to have been dug up in the churchyard, and there is a fourth at Lower Alston Farm. At the rectory there is preserved also a Roman altar, without inscription and focus, which was found in 1888 built into a cottage wall. (fn. 2)
There are some 17th-century houses remaining, one with an interesting stone door-head dated 1680, and in the main street is a block of two houses of some architectural merit, the lead rain-water heads of which are dated 1745. The building, which is of brick, with moulded stone architraves to the windows and a stone cornice, is well proportioned and simple in design.
Three fairs used to be held in Ribchester, but have been discontinued. (fn. 3)
The stocks were used as late as 1829. (fn. 4)
In 1066 RIBCHESTER, assessed as two plough-lands, was a member of the Preston fee held by Earl Tostig (fn. 5); it then probably included Dutton also. After the Conquest it was given to Roger of Poitou, (fn. 6) and later is found, together with Dilworth and Dutton, as a member of the honor of Clitheroe. (fn. 7) Through the Lacys the manor descended to the Earls and Dukes of Lancaster, and thus to the Crown.
Robert de Lacy gave a moiety of Ribchester to Robert son of Henry in or before 1193. (fn. 8) John Constable of Chester early in the 13th century granted to Walter Moton a moiety of the vill of Ribchester with all its wood and the mill, just as the grantor's father and brother had held it, two gloves or 4d. being payable at Michaelmas. (fn. 9) About the same time Alan de Windle granted all his land of Ribchester and of Dilworth to Walter Moton in free marriage with Amabel his daughter, (fn. 10) and John de Lacy gave Walter all the farm, aid and service which had been due from Alan de Windle for the same rent as for the above-named moiety. (fn. 11) Thenceforward the whole manor was held by the Moton family.
Walter Moton was a benefactor to Stanlaw Abbey (fn. 12) and also to the hospital at Stidd. (fn. 13) He died in or before 1246, when his widow Amabel, who had married Robert de Ribchester, was suing his son William Moton in respect of her dower. (fn. 14) This son also was a benefactor of Stanlaw, (fn. 15) and gave land to Sawley (fn. 16); others of his charters are known. (fn. 17) He was described as lord of the whole vill. (fn. 18) He died about 1278, (fn. 19) and in 1282 and again in 1292 his widow Edusa or Edith appears in the records. (fn. 20) He seems to have left several sons. (fn. 21) Robert Moton, a son or grandson, succeeded to Ribchester, (fn. 22) but in 1305 Robert's son William occurs. (fn. 23) The exact succession at this point is obscure. Henry son of William Moton in 1317 gave a release to the Abbot of Whalley. (fn. 24) William Moton, son of Robert, and Isabel his wife occur in 1331. (fn. 25) William died in or before 1342, in which year his widow Isabel was suing Robert Moton his brother for two-thirds of the manor of Ribchester. (fn. 26) In 1337 Robert Moton, perhaps the same or else son of William, was stated to hold the manor of Isabella Queen of England by the service of 5s. yearly. (fn. 27) Robert was again in 1346 called chief lord of Ribchester. (fn. 28) Katherine, the heiress in 1361, was apparently his daughter, or perhaps a granddaughter. (fn. 29)
In or before 1373 she married William de Lynalx, (fn. 30) and was living, a widow, in 1407, being then described as lady of Ribchester. (fn. 31) Their son John Lynalx succeeded (fn. 32); but though the family retained the lordship till I 581, when Robert Lynalx sold it to Hugh Shireburne, second son of Sir Richard Shireburne of Stonyhurst, (fn. 33) practically nothing is known of their history. (fn. 34) From Hugh the manor passed to Sir Richard Shireburne, (fn. 35) and descended in the same way as Stonyhurst (fn. 36) until 1831, when it was sold to Joseph Fenton of Rochdale, and it has since descended with Dutton. (fn. 37)
A manor of Rochester is named among the Osbaldeston estates in 1625. (fn. 38)
A number of the neighbouring landowners had estates in Ribchester, including Hoghton, (fn. 39) Singleton, (fn. 40) Southworth, (fn. 41) and Talbot. (fn. 42) Of the minor families some used the local surname, (fn. 43) but the most noteworthy was that of Boys, which can be traced back to the 13th century. (fn. 44) John Boys died in July 1551 holding three messuages and various lands in Ribchester of Robert Lynalx in socage by a rent of 2s. 3d. (fn. 45) His daughter Grace, then aged twelve, was first married to Robert Talbot, but separating from him was married to John Dewhurst of Wilpshire, (fn. 46) and carried the Boys' estate to this family. (fn. 47)
Roger Shireburne of Buckley died in 1605 holding various lands of the king by knight's service, and leaving as heir a son Richard, then aged six. (fn. 48) Buckley Hall, which stood about a mile to the north-west of the town, was pulled down in 1895. It was a picturesque gabled stone house with mullioned windows, but for some time before its demolition had been spoiled externally by a thick coating of whitewash. On the front was inscribed:
new buckley is my name,
ric sherbvrne bvilt the same
anno 1662, aged 62. (fn. 49)
The Walmsleys of Dunkenhalgh (fn. 50) and Showley (fn. 51) acquired estates, and other owners occur in the inquisitions. (fn. 52) The late T. H. Rymer of Calder Abbey inherited in 1902 a considerable estate here.
In 1524 Robert Walmersley and Henry Boys contributed to the subsidy for their lands in Ribchester and Dilworth. (fn. 53) In 1543 Robert Linalx, Henry Boyes and Robert Walmsley the elder so contributed. (fn. 54) John Rodes and Richard Ward were freeholders in 1600. (fn. 55) In the 1626 Subsidy Roll no landowners are named; John Osbaldeston was a convicted recusant, and a large number paid as noncommunicants. (fn. 56) John Ward paid £10 on refusing knighthood in 1631. (fn. 57) The Civil War does not seem to have affected any of the resident landowners, (fn. 58) but in 1717 two or three had to register estates as 'Papists.' (fn. 59)
A rental of the wapentake compiled in 1662 (fn. 60) shows that Richard Shireburne paid 2s. 4d. for the manor of Ribchester and 1s. for a house there; another Richard Shireburne paid 11d. for Buckley, Richard Ward 6d. for Ward Green, Richard Darwen 1s. for Swinglehurst, William Dewhurst 7d. for Boys House, Richard Dewhurst and Thomas Shaw 3d. for Idesforth and Edward Walmsley 3d. for Rodes Mill. There were other tenants.
In 1354 Adam Bibby demised land in Ribchester to William de Bradley, ferryman, who was to hold it by paying 12d. rent and ferrying men across the river. If the men of the place should wish to build a wood or stone bridge, then the rector of Ribchester or the lord of Osbaldeston might sell the lands and apply the money to the bridge. (fn. 61) The date of the building of the bridge is uncertain (fn. 62); the ferry continued in use until 1903. The ferryman was the occupant of Boathouse Farm, about half a mile south-west of the church and opposite Osbaldeston Hall on the other side of the Ribble. (fn. 63)
From the land tax return of 1788 it appears that Mr. Walmsley and esquire Hinks were the chief landowners. (fn. 66)
The history of the Congregational cause at Knowl Green goes back to preaching begun at Lum Mills in 1814, but afterwards discontinued, (fn. 69) and the chapel, 1827–31, owes its rise to the zeal of an artisan. A new chapel was built in 1867. (fn. 70)
Of the persistency of the Roman Catholic religion in the township and district there are numerous tokens. Various persons were presented to the Bishop of Chester in 1622 as 'seducers and harbourers of seminary priests.' (fn. 71) Again in 1635, when trade rivals sought to check one John Cutler, a Ribchester shopkeeper, they said he was 'by his confession a convicted recusant, an utter enemy of the blessed word of God both in argument and life,' who 'commonly, for the most part weekly, used to go to where priests of his profession [were] harboured to say mass,' and they wished him to be summoned before the assize judges and required to take the oath of supremacy, to discover 'whether there be in him any loyalty to his majesty or not.' (fn. 72)
James Standford, the benefactor, in 1695 left £500 for the maintenance of a good priest for ever at Stidd or Bailey Hall Chapel, if times permitted that public service could there be had; otherwise to be for one who should serve in the country two miles round about the places of Stidd and Bailey Hall; and he desired that the privilege of nominating one to enjoy the benefice should remain to Mr. Tempest and Mr. Westby and their families for ever, if they remained in the Catholic faith, otherwise should redound to some eminent Catholic of good repute in the said circuit; provided that he whom they nominated should be a very exemplary, virtuous, careful, vigilant and sufficiently learned person, and that he should not be absent from his flock for above two or three days and that only upon extraordinary business; and he obliged him who enjoyed the benefice to say four masses every year for him and his family. (fn. 73)
The mission was served from Showley during the times of proscription. It is worthy of note that in 1706–10 some baptisms and marriages are entered in the parish church registers as performed by a Roman, Romish, or Papist priest. The present chapel of SS. Peter and Paul, situated close to the boundary of Stidd, was opened in 1789. The priest in charge acts as chaplain to the adjacent almshouses. (fn. 74)