A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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Overton occupies the southern end of the peninsula between the Lune and Morecambe Bay, and is itself divided into two parts by an arm of the river. The western and smaller part is called Sunderland, formerly one of the landing-places of the port of Lancaster; the eastern part is Overton proper, with Bazil Point jutting into the Lune at the south and Colloway on the higher land, 100 ft. above sea level, at the north. From the village of Overton, lying near the centre of the main part, roads spread out in various directions—north to Heaton, south to the church and river-side, where there is a ferry to Glasson; south-west to Sunderland, across the sands, impassable when the tide is in; and north-west to Middleton. The area is 1,837 acres (fn. 1) including 43 of salt marsh. The population in 1901 was 346.
The village of Overton has an old-world air and consists largely of stone-built whitewashed cottages of 18th-century date, but some of the houses are older. That known as the North Farm has a doorway with a shaped head which bears the initials and date R. H. E. H. / T. H. / 1674. The house itself is of two stories with low mullioned windows, but most of the mullions have been cut away.
On the west shore of Sunderland is a stone with a copper plate inscribed to the memory of 'Poor Sambo, a faithful negro, who attending his master from the West Indies died on his arrival at Sunderland.' Verses added give the date as about 1720. Of Sunderland itself it is stated that after the opening of Glasson Dock in 1787 the trade and people deserted it and the sailors called it 'Cape Famine.' Later, however, it became a popular sea-bathing place. (fn. 2)
The rush-bearing used to take place on Holy Thursday. (fn. 3)
In 1066 Earl Tostig held OVERTON, assessed as four plough-lands, as a member of his Halton lordship. (fn. 4) Later it formed part of the demesne of the honour of Lancaster, (fn. 5) the manor descending with the duchy to the Crown. Charles I in 1630 sold it to Charles Harbord and others, (fn. 6) who in turn sold in 1636 to trustees for the tenants, among whom, therefore, it became divided. (fn. 7)
The services due from the tenants were similar to those in Skerton. (fn. 10)
For the year ending Michaelmas 1440 John Westfield, the greave of Overton, rendered a net sum of £18 17s. 7½d. to the king's receiver, partly in money and partly in wheat at 6s. 8d. the quarter. Of this Robert Green paid 2s. for 2 oxgangs of land held by serjeanty, and John son of John Rycons paid 8s. 1½d. for an oxgang of free land held in socage; Richard Berwick paid 2d. for 3 acres of free land, which was perhaps the land later held by the Lawrence family. The bond tenants paid 40s. in lieu of services in ploughing, &c., 16½d. for cowmale, £4 for twelve messuages and 10 oxgangs of land, each of 12 acres, 16s. for 2 oxgangs of 8 acres each, 29s. for 1 oxgang of 18 acres, and 32s. for another oxgang of 22 acres. The demesne tenants paid £9 4s. 2d. Inhabitants having no tenement paid 7½d. 'bone silver' in lieu of reaping the corn. There were a number of fisheries, some held by the community, others, as Kile (or Keel), Irneston and Sunderland 'at the foot of the water of Lune,' in the hands of Agnes Lawrence and others. The greave himself, in right of Alice his wife, daughter of Robert Groby, held a third part of the lands attached to the serjeanty, paying nothing; but he accounted for 26s. 8d. for the other two-thirds formerly held by Edmund Lawrence. The perquisites of courts amounted to 2s. 2d. (fn. 11)
A new rental was made in 1562; the total amount was £19 4s. 1d. (fn. 12)
Later the Cansfield family held land (fn. 13); their inheritance became divided between Southworth and Charnock. (fn. 14) A dispute as to a fishing called Thoresholme is mentioned in 1561. (fn. 15) Cockersand Abbey had land in Overton. (fn. 16)
The court of the manor is said to have enjoyed the privilege of proving wills under the seal of the manor in virtue of an immemorial right, but the custom ceased in the 18th century. (fn. 17)
The chapel (fn. 21) or church, of which the invocation is unknown, stands on an eminence about a quarter of a mile to the south-east of the village overlooking the Lune estuary, and consists of a transeptal chancel 23 ft. by 12 ft., nave 35 ft. by 15 ft., and north transept 32 ft. by 16 ft., all these measurements being internal. There is also a small bell-turret over the west gable. The church dates from the 12th century, and from discoveries made during the restoration of 1902 seems to have terminated originally at the east in a semicircular apse, (fn. 22) the total length of the building being 45 ft. The east end, however, was rebuilt in 1771, to which date the present chancel belongs, and the long north transept was added in 1830. The building is very plain in character, and, with the exception of the south doorway, has little architectural interest. At the same time that the chancel was built the original 12th-century windows, which, from the testimony of people living in 1820, were 'small, round-headed and without mullions,' (fn. 23) were removed and the present square-headed ones substituted (fn. 24); but traces of the old openings have been found in both the north and south walls. The church, which was then filled with high pews arranged anyhow, and was described as 'desolate and uncomfortable,' (fn. 25) was restored in 1902, when the old pews were removed, the chancel rearranged and new seating erected.
The west wall is thicker than those on the north and south, which are built up against it, and may be of rather earlier date. The evidence of the masonry, however, is inconclusive, though the walling differs in character from that in the north and south walls. It is built of roughly coursed and roughly dressed gritstone, with angle quoins, and has a chamfered plinth above which is a single course of dressed stone, while the north and south walls are constructed of sandstone rubble and boulders. The gritstone, however, on the south side extends to and includes the south doorway, which seems to point to the west wall being of 12th-century date. (fn. 26) The walling of the chancel and transept is of coursed stones with angle quoins, and the roofs are covered with stone slates and have overhanging eaves.
The south doorway is a good example of Norman work, with semicircular arch, and, being very much exposed, has weathered badly. The arch is of three orders and a hood mould, springing from plain chamfered imposts and square moulded jambs without shafts. The inner order shows traces of sculpture and cheveron ornament on the face and soffit, and the middle order has also the cheveron pattern, while the outer one is carved with beak heads now very much worn. The hood mould has a small cheveron on the soffit, and above the arch is a small stone very badly weathered, on which is carved what appears to be a figure with hands on hips, possibly the representation of the patron saint. The chancel has a round-headed east window and a square-headed two-light window north and south, but all the fittings are modern, and the chancel arrangement is continued 7 ft. into the nave. The walls of the chancel and transept are plastered, but those of the nave are bare, exposing the old rubble masonry; on the west wall are traces of colour and on the south wall a fragment of a blackletter inscription. The transept is separated from the nave by a semicircular plaster arch, and is divided at about half its length by a modern screen, its northern end being occupied by a wide gallery. The nave roof is probably of 18th-century date, divided into five bays by four plain principals, and at the west end of the nave is an 18th-century gallery 11 ft. wide, with grained panelled front lit by a two-light square-headed window inserted in the west gable below the bell-turret.
All the fittings are modern with the exception of the canopied oak pulpit, which is of 18th-century date and hexagonal in plan. It is recessed in the south wall and stands on a new base. In the vestry at the north end of the transept is the 18th-century oak communion table with moulded top and square legs.
On the south side of the churchyard is a cross shaft 3 ft. 9 in. high, to which height it appears to have been cut down in the 18th century to serve as a sundial. Two fragments of the cross are preserved in the church.
The plate consists of a silver chalice of 1708–9 inscribed 'The gift of Francis (sic) West relique of William West Esq. of Middleton to Overton Chappell'; a silver paten of 1873–4 inscribed 'The gift of George Blucher Heneage Marton of Capernwray to Overton Church, Feb. 1880'; and a pewter flagon 'The gift of Francis West of Middleton Relict of William West Esq. to Overton Chapel.' There are also a modern pewter paten and the foot of a large pewter breadholder with the maker's mark 'I. H.'
Lancaster Priory had the demesne tithes (fn. 27) and built a grange there, (fn. 28) and on the ordination of the vicarage in 1430 the vicar of Lancaster became responsible for the chapel services. From a statement of expenses in 1440 it appears that he was bound to send a chaplain each Sunday and principal feast to celebrate there, and the distance being 4 miles he was obliged to keep a horse for this chaplain's use. (fn. 29) Thus it was in the immediate charge of the vicar. Its fate after the Reformation is unknown; it was probably served by a lay reader and visited by the vicar or curate from time to time. It is not named in the list of 1610 and in 1650, the allowance from Royalists' sequestrations having been reduced, the minister had left for want of maintenance. (fn. 30) The place was so surrounded by the flowing sea twice in twenty-four hours that the people could not attend their parish church. (fn. 31) About 1670 an allowance of £10 out of the tithes was given by Hugh Cooper, and from that time a resident curate seems to have been appointed. (fn. 32) Further endowments have been obtained, and the benefice is in the gift of the vicar of Lancaster. The following have been curates and vicars:—
|oc. 1670||Thomas Lawson (fn. 33)|
|1684||John Hull, B. A. (fn. 34) (Jesus Coll., Camb.)|
|oc. 1732||William Jackson (fn. 35)|
|oc. 1740||Miles Gaythorne (fn. 36)|
|John Gibson (fn. 37)|
|1789||Samuel Bateman, M.A. (fn. 38) (St. John's Coll., Camb.)|
|1827||Henry Sharpe Pocklington, M.A. (fn. 39) (Christ's Coll., Camb.)|
|oc. 1833||John Dodson, M.A. (fn. 40) (Trin. Coll., Camb.)|
|1838||John Ralph George Manby, M.A. (fn. 41) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1880||Henry Edward Jones|
|1885||Walter James Locke, M.A. (fn. 42) (T.C.D.)|
|1895||Robert Leighton Atkinson, M.A. (Oxf.)|
|1896||Thomas Wright Greenall, M.A. (fn. 43) (Queens' Coll., Camb.)|
|1908||Arnold Hutchinson, B.A. (Oxf.)|