A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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Before the Conquest Melling was the seat of a compact lordship occupying the tongue of land between the Lune and the Wenning. Later Hornby was made the head of a fee or barony, with castle, borough and monastery, and the history of the parish becomes bound up with that of Hornby. Gressingham was originally part of the parish, but was transferred to Lancaster early in the 13th century. The number of ancient churches and chapels around Melling suggests that this part of the Lune valley was at one time relatively far more populous and important than it is to-day. Thus Melling has Arkholme and Tatham close by, with Gressingham, Claughton and Hornby to the south-west, and Tunstall and Whittington to the north—seven or eight churches within limits of six miles by two.
In 1349 and 1350 the district was disturbed by a private war between Sir Thomas de Dacre and Sir Robert de Nevill. The former went to Arkholme with several companions and assaulted Nevill's servant, while Sir Robert assembled 'an immense multitude' of armed men at Hornby, 'to the number of about 30,' and for half a year led them hither and thither to waylay his adversary. (fn. 1)
The people of Melling in 1536–7 joined in the Northern Rebellion. (fn. 2) At the Reformation some of the leading families remained faithful to Roman Catholicism, and in the Civil War to Charles I, but there is little to show how the people in general regarded these events. The Revolution and the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745 passed over quietly, though on the former occasion the Highland forces passed through the parish on their way from Kirkby Lonsdale to Lancaster, and demanded aid from Hornby Castle. (fn. 3)
The agricultural land is now mostly in grass, as the following details will show (fn. 4):—
|Arable land||Permanent grass||Woods and plantations|
|Melling with Wrayton||42½||830||10½|
|Wray with Botton||122||3,114||286|
When the hundred had to raise £100 this parish contributed as follows to the county lay of 1624: Melling and Wrayton, 17s. 7½ d.; Hornby and Roeburndale, 12s. 1¾ d.; Farleton, 6s. 10¾ d.; Arkholme with Cawood, 22s.; Wennington, 10s. 8¼d.; Wray with Botton, 17s. 1¾d.; or £4 6s. 6d. in all. (fn. 5)
The church of ST. WILFRID (fn. 6) stands on the west slope of an elevated plateau, the top of which forms an ancient earthwork known as Castle Mount, (fn. 7) and consists of a chancel 36 ft. by 20 ft., with short north and south aisles and north vestry, nave 49 ft. by 18 ft. 8 in. with north and south aisles 10 ft. wide, south porch, and west tower 12 ft. 6 in. square, all these measurements being internal. There is no structural division between the nave and the chancel, the nave consisting of the first three bays of the arcade from the west and the quire seats occupying the fourth, beyond which the chancel is continued 21 ft. eastward between external walls beyond the aisles.
The building is largely of 15th-century date, but some fragments of an older structure are built into the walls, and others have been found in more recent times, indicating a church on the same site at a very early period. A portion of a pre-Conquest sepulchral slab found 6 ft. below the tower floor is preserved in the vestry, together with a short portion of a cross shaft with basket-work interlacing ornament, which a few years ago was taken out of the churchyard wall. (fn. 8) In 1858, on widening the splay of the west window of the north aisle, a fragment of Norman stonework with zigzag moulding, probably belonging to a 12th-century doorway, (fn. 9) was found, and there are fragments of 12th-century masonry in the walling near the north-west entrance. There is also in the vestry a fragment of a 13th-century stone crucifix found at the same time and place as the fragment of the Norman doorway, the lower part of the figure below the waist alone remaining. (fn. 10)
The oldest part of the structure is the west window of the south aisle, which is of 13th-century date, being a single-pointed trefoiled light 5 ft. high and 1 ft. 7 in. wide, with external hood mould and plain chamfered jambs. The corresponding window to the north aisle, in the jamb of which the fragments just mentioned were found, is also a single-pointed light, but without foliation or hood mould, and is probably of 15th-century date or later, built to match in some measure the corresponding south window. The 13th-century window, however, may not be in its original position, and nothing therefore can be said as to the development of the plan. The whole structure seems to have been rebuilt some time towards the end of the 15th century, when it assumed more or less of its present aspect. The nave and aisles were originally, however, under one wide spanned roof, which is said to have been covered with thatch, and so remained till 1763, when the church was new roofed and a clearstory added to both nave and chancel. A plaster ceiling was erected at the same time, but was removed in 1856, when a vestry was added at the east end of the north aisle and new clearstory windows were inserted.
The church is built throughout of uncoursed rubble masonry, without plinth except to the tower, and has externally little architectural detail. The roofs are covered with stone slates, and have overhanging eaves, except that of the chapel forming the east end of the south aisle, which has a modern straight parapet and coping. At the junction of the nave and chancel roofs there is a flat stone coping, but the roofs are of equal height and pitch, and there is a straight joint in the walling below the coping with quoins on the chancel side, apparently indicating the erection of the nave clearstory to be subsequent in date.
The east window of the chancel is a modern pointed one of three lights with traceried head, and there is a modern segmental-headed two-light window on the south side. Owing to the slope of the ground from east to west, the chancel floor at the east end is raised by ten steps spaced in groups to a height of 5 ft. 8 in. above that of the nave, with striking effect viewed from the west end. The western half of the chancel is open to the aisles by round arches, 13 ft. 6 in. wide, of two chamfered orders. The east end of the north aisle is used as an organ chamber, and that of the south is the ancient chapel of St. Katherine, now known as the Morley chapel. On the south side there is a diagonal opening, or squint, through the wall to the chapel, but there are no remains of mediaeval ritual arrangement in the chancel. The whole of the interior walls of the church, however, are now plastered. The chancel roof is a continuation of that of the nave and consists of plain king-post principals constructed out of the timbers of the former roof in 1763 and plastered between. There are two clearstory windows to the chancel on the north side, but only one on the south, both of two trefoiled lights and square-headed, similar to those in the nave.
The Morley chapel is 20 ft. long by 9 ft. 6 in. wide and is raised 2 ft. 6 in. above the floor of the nave. It is divided from the rest of the aisle by a modern wood screen reproducing the design of an older one, of which two fragments of tracery remain and are incorporated with it. The chapel is now fitted with modern seating and is open to the chancel on the north side. It is lit at the east end by a modern square-headed three-light traceried window and a square-headed window of three trefoiled lights with external hood mould on the south side, to the west of which, within the screen, is a pointed priest's door In the south wall is an aumbry, the door of which has gone, but the east wall below the window is covered with modern boarding. During the restoration of the chapel in 1851, when the seating was erected, a raised step at the east end was found and marks of the chantry altar. (fn. 11)
The nave arcade consists of three pointed arches of two chamfered orders springing from octagonal piers 8 ft. high, with moulded capitals and bases. All the stonework has been rechiselled and otherwise rewrought and the cap to the easternmost pier on the south side is new. The arches vary in size, the easternmost being 14 ft. 7 in. in width, and the two western ones 12 ft. 9 in. and 13 ft. 3 in. respectively. There are three clearstory windows on each side of the nave, and the north aisle is lit by two squareheaded windows of two trefoiled lights and with external hood moulds, and has a plain semicircular-headed doorway opposite the first bay from the west. The easternmost window of the north aisle, now lighting the organ chamber, which is separated from the rest of the aisle by a modern wood screen, is of three trefoiled lights with square traceried head going up its full height of the wall below the eaves, and may be the only original 15th-century window remaining, the rest being perhaps insertions of a later date. The two windows of the south aisle are similar to those in the north. The porch has an open pointed outer arch and stone seats on each side, with a plain gabled stoneslated roof and overhanging eaves.
The west tower, which has a moulded plinth, is 55 ft. in height to the top of the embattled parapet, and has a projecting vice in the north-east corner and diagonal buttresses of five stages going up its full height. The west door has a pointed arch of two hollow-chamfered orders with hood mould, and above is a four-centred window with three plain pointed lights and external hood mould. The belfry windows are of three pointed lights under a four-centred head with hood mould and stone louvres, and there is a clock on the west side. The north and south sides are plain. The tower arch is of two chamfered orders dying into the walls at the springing, the opening being filled in to a height of 8 ft. by a solid modern oak screen. The line of the former roof shows above the arch.
In the chancel is a stone with the matrices of four small figure brasses and inscriptions. (fn. 12) There are no ancient monuments. (fn. 13) At the east end of the north aisle are four traceried oak panels which originally formed part of a screen at the back of the vicar's pew. In the Morley chapel is a panel with the initials and date 'F. M. 1636'; a chest in the vestry is inscribed 'K/T E 1688,' and there is a small 18th-century brass chandelier.
There is a ring of six bells by Abel Rudhall of Gloucester, 1753. (fn. 14)
The plate consists of a chalice made at Newcastle inscribed ' The Gift of Henry Marsden Esq. of Wenington Hall administrator to his Mother 1759'; a chalice of 1767 inscribed ' Melling Parish 1767'; a breadholder on three feet, of the same date, inscribed 'Henry Marsden Sen' of Winington Hall,' and a modern Gothic silver-gilt chalice and paten presented by Canon Grenside in 1891. (fn. 15)
The church was in 1094 given to St. Martin's Abbey, Sées, by Count Roger of Poitou, (fn. 16) but was afterwards resigned in exchange for Gressingham, a chapel of ease, (fn. 17) which was transferred to the parish of Lancaster. About 1220 the advowson was granted to the Abbot and convent of Croxton, Leicestershire. (fn. 18) In 1246 the right of presentation was disputed between Margaret widow of Hubert de Burgh and the canons of Croxton. The right of the canons was (fn. 19) acknowledged and in 1310 the church was appropriated to them. (fn. 20) A vicarage was afterwards ordained, (fn. 21) but the incumbents were canons of Croxton. After the Suppression the advowson remained with the Crown till 1866, when it was sold to the Rev. Reginald Remington of Melling. (fn. 22) On his death in April 1909 his son the Rev. Henry Remington became patron.
The value of the benefice was in 1291 taxed at £40, but this was reduced to £20 after the devastation wrought by the Scots in 1322, (fn. 23) and in 1341 the ninth of the sheaves, wool, &c, was recorded as £20. (fn. 24) In 1527 the value of the rectory was estimated as £36, that of the vicarage being £13 6s. 8d., (fn. 25) but in 1535, while the abbey received £35 from the rectory, (fn. 26) the vicar's income was set down as only £7 1s. 9d. (fn. 27) Afterwards the rectory was purchased from the Crown by the lord of Hornby, (fn. 28) and in 1650 the tithes were said to be worth £250 a year, while 'the entire profits' of the vicarage were £30, to which £50 had been added by the Committee of Plundered Ministers. (fn. 29) The certified income of the vicarage was £28 5s. 2d. in 1717 (fn. 30); the net value is now given as £l64. (fn. 31)
The names of a few of the early rectors have been preserved. (fn. 32) The following have been vicars:—
|Instituted||Name||Patron||Cause of Vacancy|
|—||Br. John Leicester (fn. 33)||—||—|
|23 Nov. 1429||Br. Richard Boteler (fn. 34)||Croxton Abbey||d. J. Leicester|
|oc. 1488||Br. Edmund Green (fn. 35)||—||—|
|c. 1500||Br. Richard Docker (fn. 36)||—||—|
|oc.1548||John Andrew (fn. 37)||—||—|
|14 Dec. 1562||Richard Harris (fn. 38)||The Crown||d. last incumbent|
|oc. 1581||Thomas Burrow (fn. 39)||—||—|
|25 Apr. 1625||Richard Newton (fn. 40)||The Crown||d. last incumbent|
|26 May 1626|
|20 Sept. 1633||Robert Heblethwaite (fn. 41)||—||—|
|— 1648||John Smith (fn. 42)||—||—|
|15 May 1658||Thomas White, M.A. (fn. 43)||The Protector||—|
|27 Jan. 1661–2||The Crown||—|
|7 July 1663||Anthony Cooper||"||—|
|26 Oct. 1666||John Carr||"||—|
|25 July 1671||John Carr (fn. 44)||"||—|
|24 Dec. 1677||Thomas Kay, M.A. (fn. 45)||"||—|
|15 Oct. 1689||Daniel Armistead, B.A. (fn. 46)||"||res. T. Key|
|3 Aug. 1693||Thomas Kirkharam, B.A. (fn. 47)||"||d. last incumbent|
|3 Aug. 1695||William Gregson, B.A. (fn. 48)||"||d. " "|
|26 Jan. 1696–7||Andrew Forbes (fn. 49)||"||d. " "|
|13 Dec. 1742||Thomas Fell||"||d. " "|
|4 Apr. 1744||James Towers, B.A. (fn. 50)||"||res. T. Fell|
|11 June 1750||John Tatham, B.A. (fn. 51)||"||d. last incumbent|
|22 Aug. 1794||John Tatham (fn. 52)||"||res. " "|
|11 June 1851||John Beethom, M.A. (fn. 53)||"||d. " "|
|8 May 1855||William Bent Grenside, M.A. (fn. 54)||"||d. " "|
Before the Reformation the church was served by a canon of Croxton, who may have resided at Hornby, where there was normally a staff of three canons. The chapels of Arkholme and Hornby had also to be served. As late as the year 1548 the Visitation List contains the names of the vicar and five others, (fn. 55) two having been canons of Hornby at the surrender ten years before. The 1554 list gives five names, only two being the same as in 1548; while in 1562 the vicar was sick, Thomas Harris appeared, but did not subscribe, and George Holme, after showing himself contumacious, was brought to subscribe. (fn. 56) The subsequent story is obscure, the incumbents being of no note and the Visitation Records scanty. In 1623 it was presented that at the parish church Mr. Ellison, probably the curate in charge, ministered the communion to some who stood, and that at Arkholme there was no surplice. The clerical subsidy lists give no sign that there were curates for the chapelries, though there was one in 1610 to serve both, but in 1650, stipends having been provided out of Royalist sequestrations, Arkholme and Hornby had each its curate. The old state would return at the Restoration, but in 1717 it was stated that the curate preached every Sunday at Arkholme and read prayers there every holy day, while he preached every third Sunday at Hornby. (fn. 57)
There was no endowed chantry, but 'St. Katherine's choir' is mentioned in the will of Francis Morley of Wennington, dated 1540. (fn. 58)
Official inquiries were made into the charities of the parish in 1826 and 1899. The following details are taken from the later report. About £180 a year is derived from various benefactions, the greater part being appropriated to educational purposes, (fn. 59) and £6 17s. 6d. to the organist of the parish church. There are no almshouses or medical charities, but to the poor over £35 a year is given in money and £4 in kind.
Agnes Tatham of Lancaster in 1867 bequeathed £200 for Christmas gifts to the poor of the parish; the interest, £7 13s., is given by the vicar to poor women of the townships of Melling and Wennington in sums of 5s. to 42s. Rebecca Bland in 1759 bequeathed money to produce 10s. a year for poor housekeepers in Melling town, to be distributed on 21 December, but this is now added to her educational endowment. Reginald Remington of Crow Trees in 1853 bequeathed £100 to provide a weekly distribution of bread at the morning and evening services at the parish church for poor persons of Melling and Wennington; the dividend is £2 16s. 4d., and any surplus is distributed in bread at Christmas.
Jane Turner in 1734 gave a piece of land called Howgill Cragg in West Field in Kellet for the poor of Arkholme quarter. The land was sold in 1866, and the purchase money yields £14 10s. a year, distributed with Wraton's charity—a rent-charge of 20s. a year left in 1728 by Thomas Wraton. The latter benefactor also left a rent-charge of 26s. to provide a weekly distribution of bread to six widows or widowers of Arkholme. The poor's money is given in doles of 5s. to 20s., and the owner of Storrs sends three twopenny loaves to Arkholme Church every Sunday, and they are given to a widow.
For poor housekeepers of Hornby Elizabeth Thornton in 1742 left £50 for investment. Other charitable funds were added and land purchased, nearly all of which was sold in 1871. The purchase money produces £11 15s. 4d., and an acre of wood unsold yields 5s.; the whole income is distributed on Christmas Eve by the vicar, churchwardens and overseers of the township.
Several small funds have been lost. (fn. 60)