A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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ASHTON WITH STODDAY
This composite township occupies the eastern side of the Lune estuary from the Conder north to Aldcliffe. The surface for the most part stands from 50 ft. to 100 ft. above sea level, being varied by depressions through which small brooks run down west or south to the rivers named. The area of Ashton proper is 1,661½ acres (fn. 1); it contains the hamlet of Conder Green. Stodday occupies the northern end of the township, with an area of 287½ acres; so that the whole measures 1,949 acres. The population in 1901 was 181.
The principal road is that from Lancaster south to Cockerham; on the west it has the wooded lands of Lunecliffe (fn. 2) and Ashton Hall, and from Conder Green at the south end a road goes east to Galgate. There are minor roads leading east and west. The Preston and Lancaster Canal goes north near the eastern side, between steep banks covered with trees; the towing-path is a pleasant walk. The single-line railway from Lancaster to Glasson Dock runs through the lower ground beside the Lune and has a station at Conder Green; it is owned by the London and North Western Company.
The soil is gravel, with clay subsoil. The park around the hall was formerly celebrated for its fine sylvan scenery. (fn. 3) At Stodday there is a snuff mill, long disused.
In 1066 ASHTON was one of the three manors of Cliber, Machern and Gillemichael, and appears to have been assessed as two plough-lands. (fn. 6) Afterwards it was granted to Count Roger of Poitou, (fn. 7) and a little later formed part of the lordship held by the Lancaster family, being held by knight's service. In the time of Henry II William de Lancaster I granted half a plough-land there to Gilbert de Ashton to hold by the service of half a mark yearly. (fn. 8) Its subsequent history resembles that of Nether Wyresdale, the manor being held in moieties in the 14th century by the Gynes family (fn. 9) and the heirs of Bellew and others. (fn. 10) The former moiety eventually came to the Crown (fn. 11); it was in 1411 held by Philippa widow of Robert de Vere by knight's service and 10d. rent, (fn. 12) and in 1509 by Margaret Countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII. (fn. 13) It was granted out on lease from time to time, (fn. 14) and in 1574 was sold by Queen Elizabeth to Sir Gilbert Gerard, sometime Master of the Rolls. (fn. 15)
The second moiety was shared or inherited by the families of Stapleton (fn. 16) and Metham, (fn. 17) Thweng (fn. 18) and Pedwardine, (fn. 19) and appears to have been acquired by the Lawrences of Lancaster. Lawrence brother and heir of John son of Thomas son of Roger de Lancaster appears in 1292 putting forward a claim to land in Skerton. (fn. 20) Then in 1 317 Lawrence son of Thomas de Lancaster granted lands in Skerton, Ashton, Brantbreck, Grisehead, &c., to his son John Lawrence and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 21) From this time Lawrence was used as the family name. John Lawrence in 1331 complained of trespass on his fishery at Ashton. (fn. 22) He in conjunction with Elizabeth his wife and Edmund their son held the Stapleton part of Ashton manor in 1338 for life. (fn. 23) The family then or a little later obtained, apparently by marriage, the estate of the Gentyl and Washington families in Carleton, Scotforth and elsewhere. (fn. 24)
Edmund Lawrence in 1357 made a feoffment of lands in Lancaster, Skerton, Ellel, Ashton and Preesall, (fn. 25) and in 1373 it was found that he held for life three plough-lands of Thomas de Stapleton by a rent of 20 marks. (fn. 26) He died at the end of 1381 (fn. 27) holding burgages in Lancaster and lands in Skerton and Overton, and left a son and heir named Robert, only ten years of age. (fn. 28) What holding was retained in Ashton is not clear, but in the reigns of Henry IV and Henry VI certain lands, in later times called 'Lawrence lands,' were demised to the family by the Methams. (fn. 29) Robert Lawrence, who was escheator of the county in 1404. and later, (fn. 30) complained of disseisin in 1407, (fn. 31) and it was alleged against him that Edmund had left no heir. (fn. 32) He was made a knight, (fn. 33) and had a son and heir of the same name who in 1429, having married Agnes daughter of Nicholas Croft of Dalton, received lands in Middleton, Heysham and Lancaster. (fn. 34)
Robert Lawrence died in 1450 holding in Ashton four messuages, &c., of the king as duke in socage by a rent of 4d.; his son and heir James was twentytwo years of age. (fn. 35) This son was made a knight in Scotland during the expedition of 1482, (fn. 36) and died in 1490 holding the manors of Ashton and Stodday— the former of the king as duke in socage by a rent of 2d. and the latter by a rose yearly. Thomas Lawrence, his son and heir, was then twenty-four years old. (fn. 37) He was made a knight at the marriage of Prince Arthur in 1501. (fn. 38) Dying in 1504, (fn. 39) he was succeeded by a brother John, (fn. 40) after whose death ten years later (fn. 41) the inheritance was divided among a number of families, representatives of his aunts Elizabeth, Margaret, Agnes and Alice, daughters of Robert Lawrence. (fn. 42)
Traces of the Lawrence estate in Ashton appear in the inquisitions of some of the heirs, though the tenures are not always recorded, (fn. 43) but by some agreement the manor descended through Boteler of Rawcliffe (fn. 44) to Radcliffe of Winmarleigh, and so by marriage to the Gilbert Gerard (fn. 45) who, as has been already shown, purchased the other moiety from the Crown. Thus the whole became reunited in him (fn. 46) and his descendants, the Gerards of Bromley and the Dukes of Hamilton. (fn. 47) Ashton Hall became one of their principal seats (fn. 48); it had a noted picture gallery, and was surrounded by a beautiful park extending to the Lune. (fn. 49) Archibald, the ninth duke, died there in 1819. (fn. 50) At the sale of the Hamilton estates in 1853 the manor of Ashton was purchased by the late Le Gendre Nicholas Starkie of Huntroyde, whose second son John Piers Chamberlain Starkie had this estate. He represented North-East Lancashire in Parliament from 1868 to 1880, and died in 1888. (fn. 51) There is a memorial to him in Lancaster Church.
The estate was in 1884 sold by him and his father's trustees to Mr. James Williamson (fn. 52) of Lancaster, manufacturer, who was high sheriff in 1885 and member for the Lancaster division of the county from 1886 to 1895. On his elevation to the peerage in the latter year he took his title from this manor as Baron Ashton of Ashton. (fn. 53) No manor courts have been held for a great number of years.
In 1340 a charter of free warren was obtained by William de Coucy for various of his manors, Ashton and Scotforth being among them. (fn. 54)
The free tenants in 1301 (fn. 55) were Roger de Slene (fn. 56); another who had a messuage and 5 acres for a rent of 20d. (fn. 57); Lawrence son of Thomas, who rendered 6s. 8d. yearly (fn. 58); John de Ashton, who held a messuage and 4 oxgangs of land and paid 6s. 8d. rent (fn. 59); and Randle, who paid 7d. (fn. 60) In a list compiled perhaps forty years later the free tenants are thus recorded: William son of Lawrence, 6s. 8d.; the same William, for Brantbreck, 1d.; Alan de Ashton, 17½d.; John Ward, 2s. 6d.; John son of William the Clerk, 20d.; Gervase del Green, 20d.; Henry Alcock, 5½d.; in all, 14s. 6d. (fn. 61)
ASHTON HALL lies about 3 miles to the south of Lancaster overlooking the estuary of the Lune to the west. With the exception of the mediaeval tower, which forms the southern wing of the building, the whole of the house is modern, having been rebuilt by Mr. Starkie in a castellated Gothic style in 1856. Views of the hall before this date (fn. 62) show the main wing to have been of two stories above a lofty basement, with the principal entrance on the west side facing what is known as the Green Court. Dr. Whitaker (fn. 63) was of opinion that the walls throughout the building, not only those of the tower, were of the age of Edward III, but whether this was really so it is now impossible to say. The probability is, however, that if any buildings originally existed on the north side of the present tower, which appears to be of late 14th-century date, they were of wood or erections of a more or less temporary nature. The original structure consisted probably of the tower alone, a good example of a tower-built house with a turret at each angle set diagonally to the main structure, but what additions were made to the fabric before Jacobean times, or whether there were any at all, cannot now be well determined. The view of the west front, as it was previous to 1856, shows a slightly projecting porch of Renaissance design going up the full height of the building and terminating in a strapwork gable with ball ornaments. The doorway, which was raised well above the ground and approached by a broad flight of steps, was roundheaded under a square label and flanked by coupled Ionic columns supporting an entablature, and above was a mullioned and transomed window of four lights between coupled columns of the Corinthian order. On either side of the porch modern square-headed windows had been introduced, and the embattled parapet appears to have been modern. On the east side the whole of the elevation had been modernized as well as the north wing, the appearance of the work suggesting an early 19th-century date. Probably the whole building, apart from the tower, was substantially of early 17th-century date, erected on the usual plan of central hall and through passage and a projecting wing at the north end, the tower forming the corresponding south wing. This Jacobean building appears to have been altered more than once before it was pulled down, and externally little but the west entrance remained to indicate its architectural character. The modern rebuilding has followed more or less the original lines, the hall lying at the south end of the main wing next the tower. The main wing is now of one story only above the basement, the hall going its full height and having a lofty opentimbered roof. The through passage or screen is retained in substance as a modern entrance hall, with a doorway at each end on both east and west fronts, and the kitchen and offices are in the north wing.
The approach to the Jacobean house was from the west side through a stone gateway, which still remains in a mutilated form, into the Green Court, which was inclosed on the left by the north wing of the house and on the south by a high fence wall running west from the outer angle of the tower. This portion of the lay-out still obtains, though probably altered in detail, but otherwise the surroundings of the house have been modernized. A fish pond which formerly lay on the north side, formed by the damming of a small stream, has now been drained, (fn. 64) and no signs of a moat such as probably surrounded the tower now exist. The gateway has a wide segmental arch, flanked on its west side by coupled Tuscan columns supporting an entablature, and has an entrance 13 ft. wide by 7 ft. deep, with groined roof and stone seats.
The tower measures internally in the basement 50 ft. 10 in. by 25 ft. 10 in., the greater length being from west to east, and is 42 ft. in height to the top of the battlements from the present ground level, but this has been raised at least 5 ft. (fn. 65) The walls are 6 ft. thick, constructed of rubble masonry of mixed sandstone and gritstone in large irregular blocks with gritstone quoins and ashlar parapet. Little but the shell of the tower now remains, the interior being wholly modernized and divided up, and all the original features either destroyed or concealed. The ancient plan and arrangements are, therefore, to a great extent lost, but probably consisted of a large room on each of the two floors above the basement, with smaller apartments in the turrets, one of which may have contained a staircase. The turrets vary slightly in size, but average 14. ft. 6 in. square externally with walls 3 ft. 9 in. thick, and rise about 6 ft. above the top of the parapet of the main walls. The parapet is embattled and carried all round the building between the turrets on a corbel table; the merlons and embrasures being moulded all round. The turrets terminate in similarly corbelled battlements. The leaded roof and the floors are modern. Few of the old window openings remain, three large square-headed sash windows having been introduced into the long south front on each floor, and there are two similar windows, one to each floor, on the shorter east and west fronts. The north side is now hidden by the modern building, but in the basement are the embrasures of two loopholes and two doorways now giving access to the basement story of the middle wing. From the easternmost of these doorways there was a passage-way 2 ft. 9 in. wide in the thickness of the wall which may have contained a staircase to the upper floor, but it is now built up. There is a similar passage in the thickness of the north wall at the first floor level, which was, no doubt, the means of communication between the turret rooms without going through the chief apartment. The basement has a segmental barrel vault and is 11 ft. 6 in. high in the middle and 5 ft. at the sides. It has a wide four-light mullioned window at its east end and one of three lights at the west, both probably 17thcentury insertions. On the long south side there are three loopholes 1 ft. 8 in. by 5 in. wide, now built up but otherwise perfect, splaying out inside to a width of 3 ft. 4 in. with segmental heads, and there are similar built-up loopholes in the basement of the turrets. The upper windows of the turrets were small square openings, and most of these remain, but modern windows, now built up, however, have been introduced, those in the north-east turret being circular in shape. On the south side the evidence of the masonry of the main wall seems to show that originally there were two windows of some size to each floor, but no indication of their architectural character remains. There is a modern stone staircase 9 ft. in diameter in the south-east turret to both floors, but the leads are approached directly from the garden by a wooden stair in the south-west turret. The whole of the internal arrangements being modern are without architectural or antiquarian interest.
STODDAY gave a surname to a family of which some records have been preserved. Hugh son of Bernard, Gilbert, Roger and William de Stodagh were benefactors of Cockersand Abbey. (fn. 66) Gervase de Stodagh occurs in 1301. (fn. 67) His son and heir (by Helewise) was named John de Appletreehead; with Alice his daughter he granted in free marriage to John de Alburgh, clerk, land in the hamlet of Stodday and a fishery in the Lune, together with the homage of William son of Gervase. (fn. 68) Others of the name occur, but their exact position in the township does not appear. (fn. 69) John son and heir of Alan Stodagh (fn. 70) was in 1434–5 the husband of Agnes daughter and heir of John Lambert of Lancaster and Ellen his wife. (fn. 71) He died in or before 1445, (fn. 72) and was followed by a son Lambert Stodagh, (fn. 73) to whom in 1462 were granted two messuages with land held partly of the chief lord of the fee, viz. the lord of Ash ton, by the service of 3s. 4d., partly of the heir of Sir John Hotham by 3s. 4d., and partly of the lord of Goberthwaite, i.e. Nether Wyresdale, by 12d. (fn. 74) Lambert Stodagh died in 1511 holding lands in Stodday, Lancaster, Scotforth and elsewhere; that in Stodday was held of the king in socage. (fn. 75) The estate was acquired by the Southworths of Highfield in Lancaster, (fn. 76) and gradually dissipated. A century ago the chief landowner in Stodday was Dr. Lawson Whalley. His estate was in 1843, after his death, acquired by Robert Bousfield, through whose elder daughter it has descended to the present owner, Mr. E. B. Dawson of Aldcliffe. (fn. 77)
Lancaster Priory had sites for granges at Ashton and Grisehead. (fn. 78) Cockersand Abbey received a considerable number of benefactions in the township (fn. 79); after the Suppression the whole or a large part was purchased by Sir Thomas Holt of Gristlehurst. (fn. 80)
John Green of Ashton paid £10 in 1631 as a composition after declining knighthood. (fn. 81) Philip Wenman of Ashton, who had married Dame Elizabeth Gerard, had his estate sequestered in May 1651 'for some supposed late acting against the state.' (fn. 82) Richard Taylor of Aldcliffe and Eleanor his wife, in her right, registered a house at Ashton as 'Papists' in 1717. (fn. 83)
William de Lancaster granted 12d. a year from the mill at Stodday to the monks of Lancaster on their consent to his having a chapel at Ashton. Nothing further is known of it. (fn. 84)