A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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Thurnham, from its position on the south side of the Lune estuary and cut off from Ashton by the Conder on the north-east, belongs rather to Cockerham than to Lancaster; yet the larger part of its area of 2,096½ acres (fn. 1) lies within the latter parish— viz. 1,315½ acres. This part also includes Glasson, at the mouth of the Lune, which forms a port for Lancaster, having since 1787 had a dock; it has the terminus of the single-line railway from Lancaster, opened in 1887, and also that of a canal branching at Galgate from the Preston and Lancaster Canal, formed in 1826. The hamlet of Higher Thurnham is in Lancaster parish, but Lower Thurnham, with the hall, is in Cockerham. Cockersand Abbey, extra-parochial, is sometimes considered a hamlet of Thurnham. The population numbered 540 in 1901.
The principal road is that from Lancaster to Cockerham going south through the eastern side of the township. To the west of this road the land is flat and lies very low, but to the east, between the road and the canal and Conder, is a tract of higher land, 100 ft. above sea level being attained, in which are the hamlets just named and the hall with its wellwooded grounds. Other roads connect Glasson with Conder Green and with Thurnham, and from Upper Thurnham a minor road leads west to Cockersand Abbey. The railway and the canal, which is little used, have been mentioned. There is a ferry across the Lune from Glasson to Overton.
Wheat, oats, potatoes and clover are grown. The soil is loam with clay subsoil, but on the north clayey with marl subsoil. There is a graving dock at Glasson and ships are repaired there. The first vessel built at it was launched in 1838. (fn. 2) There is also a custom-house.
Simon George Bordley, a priest-schoolmaster of some note, was born in Thurnham in 1709 and died in 1799. (fn. 3)
Before the Conquest THURNHAM, which was assessed as two plough-lands, was a member of the Halton fee, being held in 1066 by Earl Tostig. (fn. 4) Afterwards it is found to belong to the lordship of the Lancaster family, (fn. 5) and was held of them by the Flemings of Aldingham in Furness. (fn. 6) Their tenure was sometimes described as knight's service and sometimes as socage. A rent of either 20s. or 13s. 4d. was payable to the heirs of Lancaster; afterwards it was 6s. 8d. only perhaps by composition with some of the heirs. (fn. 7) It thus descended to the Harringtons of Aldingham, (fn. 8) and through Bonvill to Grey, being held by Henry Grey Duke of Suffolk, executed for treason in 1554. The duke had in 1552 sold it to Thomas Lowne, citizen of London, (fn. 9) who transferred it at an advanced price to Robert Dalton of Bispham in 1556. (fn. 10)
The earlier history of the Dalton family has already been told. (fn. 13) Robert Dalton, by his marriage with Anne daughter of John Kitchen of Pilling, obtained the site of Cockersand Abbey, adjoining Thurnham, and in 1558 added Aldcliffe and Bulk by purchase from the Crown. A pedigree was recorded in 1567. (fn. 14) Robert Dalton died in 1578 without issue, and left his estates to his namesake, son of his brother Thomas, an infant two months old. (fn. 15) The younger Robert, a recusant in religion, (fn. 16) grew up and held possession till his death in 1626, (fn. 17) when he was succeeded by his son Thomas, born in 1609. Like the Roman Catholic gentry in general, he proved himself an ardent Royalist at the outbreak of the Civil War, raised a troop of horse, (fn. 18) and was fatally wounded at the second battle of Newbury, 27 October 1644; he died at Marlborough a week later. (fn. 19) His estates were of course seized by the Parliament for his recusancy and delinquency (fn. 20); but Robert his son and heir being only five years of age, there was probably some delay, and no record of the proceedings has been preserved.
Robert Dalton, who recorded a pedigree in 1664, (fn. 21) left two daughters to inherit at his death in 1700. (fn. 22) Elizabeth, the elder, married William Hoghton of Park Hall in Charnock, and had Thurnham, Bulk and other estates; Dorothy, the younger, married Edward Riddell of Swinburne Castle, Northumberland, and received Caton and a moiety of Aldcliffe. John the son of William and Elizabeth Hoghton assumed the surname of Dalton in 1710, and succeeded his father in 1712. (fn. 23) He was a strong Roman Catholic and Jacobite, (fn. 24) and on the invasion in 1715 joined the Pretender's forces at Lancaster and marched with them to Preston, where he was taken prisoner. His life was spared, (fn. 25) and his estates, in which he had only a life interest, were redeemed by him for £6,000. (fn. 26) He died in 1736 and his son Robert in 1785. (fn. 27) John Dalton, son of Robert by his first wife, had several children, (fn. 28) but the heirs at his death in 1837 were two daughters, Lucy wife of Joseph Bushell, who died without issue in 1843, and Elizabeth, who died at Thurnham in 1861 unmarried.
Under a settlement made by John Dalton with the object of barring out of the estate his halfbrother William Hoghton Dalton, who was a Protestant, and his descendants, the manor then went to a cousin, Sir James George Fitzgerald, (fn. 29) who on succeeding took the additional surname of Dalton. He died in 1867, and was followed by his brother Gerald Richard, who likewise prefixed Dalton to his surname. At his death in 1894 Thurnham went to William Henry Dalton, son of the above-named William Hoghton Dalton of Park Hall, (fn. 30) half-brother of John Dalton. Mr. W. H. Dalton, who had a good deal of litigation on succeeding, died in 1902, and was followed by his son Mr. John Henry Dalton, aged twenty-eight.
THURNHAM HALL stands on slightly rising ground about a quarter of a mile from the left bank of the River Conder in the eastern part of the township, and is a three-story stone-built house, erected probably by Robert Dalton soon after his purchase of the property. The front of the building faces west, and is said to have had originally three gables with an embattled porch and mullioned windows, and in front a 'spacious courtyard protected by six square embattled towers, three on each side, connected by lofty curtain walls.' (fn. 31) In 1823, however, the old front was pulled down and the present pseudo-Gothic facade erected, with corner turrets and embattled parapet. Of the courtyard and inclosing walls, if ever they existed, there are now no remains. The front, which is faced with ashlar, is about 100 ft. in length, with square and four-centred headed windows, the middle part slightly projecting, with a porch, or vestibule to the hall, 34 ft. in length, on the ground floor, projecting 9 ft. from the main building. The house has been for long unoccupied, and is now in a state of dilapidation. It had apparently undergone some process of restoration or rebuilding before the addition of the new front, some of the work in the older part at the back being apparently of 18th-century date, very few of the original mullioned windows remaining. There have been additions at the north-east end, the first an extension or rebuilding northwards of the original east wing, and later, but apparently in the 17th century, a long two-story brick wing at right angles, now used as a residence for the caretaker. The brick wing has, however, been restored in recent times and new windows inserted. A domestic chapel in the Gothic style was added at the south end of the house by Miss Dalton in 1854–5.
The hall, which is 39 ft. by 24 ft., is probably a reconstruction of the original 16th-century apartment and is 12 ft. high, with plastered ceiling and flagged floor. The walls are panelled to a height of 8 ft. 3 in. with grained deal wainscot, but the hop pattern plaster frieze above appears to be of 17thcentury date. The arms of Dalton and Gage, which appear on the porch outside and again in the vestibule, have been introduced on to the frieze in 1823, and the fireplace, over which are two shields with the arms of (1) Dalton quartering Fleming and (2) Dalton and Fleming impaling Middleton, is modern. The ceiling is supported by two modern classic columns, and the west side of the room, the wall of which is 4 ft. thick, is open by two arches to the vestibule, which measures internally 31 ft. 3 in. by 6 ft. 9 in. The rooms north and south of the hall are now dilapidated, but preserve the classic decoration of the early 19th-century rebuilding, in contrast with its pseudo-Gothic exterior. Most of the rooms on the first floor are also neglected, the floors in many cases being broken. The drawing-room is immediately over the hall and of the same dimensions. Two hiding-places have been discovered in the upper floor in recent times, one entered through a square opening about 4 ft. from the floor covered with a large stone moving on a pivot. (fn. 32)
The chapel is 34 ft. 3 in. by 14 ft. 9 in., and has a turret containing a bell on the south side. The sanctuary is at the west end, and there is an eastern gallery approached both by stairs from below and from the first floor of the house. On the north side, at the level of the first floor and approached from it, is a recessed pew containing a fireplace. The chapel, like the rest of the building, is now in a state of dilapidation. A carved chest formerly kept in the chapel is now at the priest's house at Thurnham. (fn. 33)
The family portraits are now at Bygods Hall, Essex. (fn. 34)
The Historical Manuscripts Commission has reported on the deeds at Thurnham Hall. (fn. 35)
Robert Middleton of Thurnham, who had lands in Lancaster (the Friars) and Warton, suffered sequestration in 1643 for his recusancy. He died in 1652, having bequeathed all his estate to William Cobb, who then petitioned for the removal of the sequestration. (fn. 36) Several 'Papists' registered estates in 1717. (fn. 37)
The canons of Leicester allowed Michael de Furness to build a chapel in Thurnham, (fn. 38) but it is not known that worship was maintained there. The hall was probably a refuge for the missionary priests in the times of the penal laws against the Roman Catholic religion, (fn. 39) and in the Tyldesley Diary there are notices of 'prayers'—i.e. mass—being said there in 1712. (fn. 40) The churchwardens of Cockerham in 1738 reported to the Bishop of Chester that there was 'a place where it is supposed Papists resort to hear mass at Thurnham Hall.' (fn. 41) The continuous history of the existing mission begins in 1785, and the old chapel was built in 1810. The present church of SS. Thomas the Apostle and Elizabeth of Hungary was built in 1847–8. (fn. 42)