A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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The greater part of this township is hilly, the land sloping north from Clougha Pike and Ward's Stone, 1,836 ft. above sea level, to the wooded valley of Artle Beck, then rising again to Caton Moor, where over 1,000 ft. is reached, and then descending to the Lune. By the riverside is a level tract of land, where the pleasant village is placed, with the church at Brookhouse a mile and a half to the east of it and the hamlet of Caton Green still further east on higher ground. Artle Beck, already mentioned, rises near the centre of the eastern border, flows west and north-west for over 3 miles, passing Crossgill and Hawkshead and receiving various tributary brooks, the chief being Foxdale and Udale Becks from the southern side; it then turns north by Grassyard, reaching the Lune to the east of the village. By the church Tarn Beck, joined by Kirk Beck, runs down to the Lune. The hill-side district south of Artle Beck is called Littledale. Apart from the wooded land named there are some other plantations in this part of the township. The area of the whole is 8,395 acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 there was a population of 1,181.
The principal road, that from Lancaster to Hornby, passes through the northern end of the township, having branches north to Halton by a bridge over the Lune, and south to Quernmore. Nearly parallel to it, but on higher ground, is another road, from the village past the church and Caton Green to Claughton, where it joins the main road again, and from it a road branches off to Crossgill on the southeast. The Midland Company's railway from Lancaster to Hellifield runs through the township on the north side of the main road, and has a station at the village named Caton.
Mason, the friend of the poet Gray, thus described the view looking east from Caton: 'The scene opens just 3 miles from Lancaster. To see the view in perfection you must go into a field on the left. Here Ingleborough, behind a variety of lesser mountains, makes the background of the prospect: on each hand, up the middle distance, rise two sloping hills, the left clothed with thick woods, the right with variegated rock and herbage; between them in the richest of valleys the Lune serpentines for many a mile, and comes forth ample and clear through a well-wooded and richly-pastured foreground. Every feature which constitutes a perfect landscape of the extensive sort is here not only boldly marked, but also in its best position.' (fn. 2)
A Roman milestone was found in Artle Beck. (fn. 3)
William Gibson, one of the early Quakers, was born at Caton in 1629. He served in the Parliamentary army, endured much suffering for refusing to take oaths and pay tithes, and published some theological books. He died in 1684. (fn. 4) Michael Jones, an anticjuary and genealogist, son of Michael Jones of Caton, was born about 1775 and died in 1851. (fn. 5)
In the village is the Victoria Institute and Reading Room, built in 1888. In 1826 there were cotton mills, and the coal and slate of Littledale were worked. (fn. 6) A cotton mill and bobbin mills still exist, and tiles and bricks are made. Bobbins used to be made at Littledale. The land is mostly in grass; the soil is a loam. An attempt made in 1804 to find coal near Grassyard Hall proved a failure.
In 1066 CATON was one of the twelve manors held by Torfin. (fn. 7) The ancient assessment is not recorded separately. Afterwards it was held of the honour of Lancaster by a thegnage rent of 20s. Adam Gernet, lord of Heysham, held it till his death in 1200–1, (fn. 8) and his son Thomas in 1212 (fn. 9); Vivian, the son of Thomas, succeeded in 1221 (fn. 10) and held till his death in 1246. (fn. 11) After a time the mesne lordship of the Gernets of Heysham and their successors was neglected, and Caton was held by a younger branch of the family, which adopted the local name.
Matthew Gernet in 1199 obtained the king's confirmation of a former grant of pasture land in Caton afterwards known as Littledale. (fn. 12) Matthew, who died in 1202, (fn. 13) was succeeded by John Gernet, (fn. 14) whose son Roger de Caton succeeded him in 1241, (fn. 15) and dying ten years later was followed by a son John, only three years old. (fn. 16) He held the whole manor in 1297 of the Earl of Lancaster, paying 26s. 8d. a year, (fn. 17) i.e. 20s. for Caton and 6s. 8d. for Littledale.
Another Matthew Gernet, ancestor of the lords of Burrow, held 3 oxgangs of land in Caton in 1212 by grant of the first-named Adam Gernet, paying 6d. rent, (fn. 18) and his son Roger succeeded him in 1215. (fn. 19) In this way there were three lords of the place in 1230, when they renounced any right to the advowson of the chapel there in favour of Lancaster Priory. (fn. 20)
The John de Caton of 1297 (fn. 21) was succeeded by a son or grandson Thomas, (fn. 22) whose daughters Alice (or Aline) and Agnes succeeded before 1317, (fn. 23) and thus the manor became divided into moieties. (fn. 24) Alice married William son of Sir John de Lancaster of Howgill in Westmorland. Agnes married John de Culwen or Curwen, and this moiety descended in the Curwen family till the 17 th century. (fn. 25)
The Lancaster moiety descended to William son of William de Lancaster, who proved his age in 1365, he having been baptized at Caton Church in September 1344. (fn. 26) Sir William de Lancaster died at the beginning of 1399 holding the moiety of the manor of Caton and of the pasture of Littledale by rents of 10s. and 3s. 4d. respectively. His heir was his son John, aged thirty and more. (fn. 27) This part of the manor was afterwards acquired by the Harringtons of Farleton and Hornby, (fn. 28) and so passed to the Lords Mounteagle, by whom it was held in the 16th century. (fn. 29) Their seat was called Caton Hall. (fn. 30) The estate was dispersed about 1600, (fn. 31) and this part of the manor was sold to William Croft, (fn. 32) after which it can be traced for about a century. Sir Henry Compton of Brambletye, the purchaser, (fn. 33) was a Royalist and recusant, (fn. 34) and had his estates sequestered in the Civil War; they included a manor of Caton and part of the lordship, for which he compounded. (fn. 35) He died in 1649, and his younger son George appears to have succeeded. (fn. 36) He may have purchased the other moiety of the manor, (fn. 37) which was afterwards in 1673 sold to Richard Biddulph, (fn. 38) and in 1688 the manor was held by Robert Dalton of Thurnham. (fn. 39) With Dorothy, one of his daughters, it went to Edward Riddell of Swinburne Castle. (fn. 40) It was purchased by Henry Rawlinson in 1780 and by his son Abraham's representatives sold to Thomas Edmondson in 1806. (fn. 41) The new owner settled at Grassyard two years later, and at his death in 1835 the manor passed to his only son John, who died in 1868. Thomas Grassyard Edmondson, his only son, succeeded, and on his death in Scotland in 1900 the manor went to his three sisters, the Misses Edmondson. The manor courts have been revived, and they are held at Caton in December. (fn. 42)
Caton Hall was acquired by the Baines family, but the Mounteagle manor appears to have been separated from it. (fn. 43) The Crofts of Claughton would not require a manor-house in Caton. A messuage called Ellers was in 1562 claimed by Peter Barwick in right of his wife Margaret daughter of Richard Curwen against William White (grantee of Lord Mounteagle) and the jurors of Caton Court. (fn. 44) Ellers is now owned by Mr. B. P. Gregson, together with other lands in the township.
The Curwen moiety descended from John and Agnes de Culwen, married between 1329 and 1331, (fn. 45) to Roger de Curwen (fn. 46) who died in 1403 holding a moiety of the manor of Caton of the king as of his duchy by a rent of 10s., also the moiety of Littledale by 3s. 4d.; his son Walter was aged twenty-four. (fn. 47) The seat of this part of the manor, in later times at least, was at Gresgarth or Grassyard. Walter died in 1457 holding similarly, and leaving a son and successor John, aged forty. (fn. 48) The next step is uncertain, but Gilbert Curwen died in 1483 holding the moiety of the manor, and was succeeded by his son John, twenty-seven years of age. (fn. 49) John Curwen died in September 1500 holding one ploughland in Caton of the king as duke by services unknown to the jurors. His son Richard was twelve years old. (fn. 50) The pedigree recorded a century later states that Richard had a son Thomas, who was succeeded by a son Nicholas, living in 1613, and whose heir was apparently a sister Elizabeth wife of Thomas Morley of Wennington. (fn. 51) It seems to have been acquired by the Girlingtons of Thurland, whose issue probably sold the manor to George Compton in 1666.
Lancaster Priory, (fn. 52) Cockersand Abbey (fn. 53) and the Knights Hospitallers (fn. 54) held lands in Caton in connexion with which the Dobson family occurs. (fn. 55) The rectory of Tatham had a tenement. (fn. 56) A number of minor families occur in pleadings (fn. 57) and inquisitions, (fn. 58) including some bearing the local surname, but there are only fragmentary notices of them. (fn. 59) Nicholas Curwen was the chief resident freeholder in 1600, but there were a number of small holders. (fn. 60)
LITTLEDALE went with Caton, as has been shown, but it does not seem to have been regarded as a manor. In the 17th century the names of Smith, (fn. 61) Farthwaite or Faithwaite of Pott Yeats (fn. 62) and Foxcroft occur as owning land there. (fn. 63) Richard Walker in 1630 compounded for his recusancy by a fine of £2 a year. (fn. 64)
There is a local tradition that the estate called the Cragg in Littledale was by the first Lord Mounteagle granted in fee to the then tenant, Richard Baines, for his bravery at Flodden Field in 1513. (fn. 65) It afterwards belonged to a family named Parkinson, (fn. 66) from whom it descended by marriage to the Faithwaites. (fn. 67)
Ralph Fincham (fn. 68) and Robert Scruton (fn. 69) had their tenements sequestered by the Commonwealth authorities in the Civil War time. Robert Croskell and Edward Bullenwere indicted for recusancy in 1678, (fn. 70) and Elizabeth Wilson, widow, as a 'Papist,' registered her estate in 1717. (fn. 71)
The church of ST. PAUL (fn. 74) is situated on high ground at the east end of Brookhouse village, and consists of a chancel with north organ chamber, clearstoried nave with north and south aisles, south porch and west tower. There is also a small vestry at the west end of the north aisle to the north of the tower. The tower is the only part of the structure which is ancient, the rest having been rebuilt in 1865–7 in the style of the 15 th century. The old structure is described in a parish book of 1863 as 'a very poor building without the smallest architectural interest except the old church porch door, which is a remnant of a much more ancient church.' This doorway, which is of 12thcentury date, has been preserved, and is now built into the west wall of the vestry adjoining the tower. It is small in size, being only 3 ft. 7 in. wide, built of gritstone, and has circular angle shafts with cushion capitals, and square inner jambs with impost mouldings supporting a sculptured tympanum, with a single outer order and hood mould over. The tympanum has, however, been cut away in the form of a semicircular arch, so that only the outer portion of it remains, 9 in. wide at the top and 8 in. at the springing on each side. Enough of the sculpture is left, however, to show that the subject was the Temptation in Eden, the top of the tree and the heads of Adam and Eve, together with the serpent and the figure of an animal, being visible. Originally the tympanum has been about 4 ft. 3 in. by 2 ft. 6 in. The square jambs of the doorway have been carved with the trellis pattern, but are now very much weathered. The doorway, which is only 6 ft. in height from the bottom of the moulded bases of the shafts to the top of the caps or underside of the tympanum, is now built up with a number of old sculptured stones discovered in the masonry of the old church in 1865, one of which, probably of early 14th-century date, has a cross and sword and bears an inscription. (fn. 75)
The tower, which is 55 ft. high and 12 ft. square inside, appears to be of early 16th-century date, and is built of rubble with dressed quoins, and was at one time covered with rough-cast. (fn. 76) It has diagonal buttresses of five stages on the west side going up to the embattled parapet and flat buttresses at the east side facing north and south, with an internal vice in the south-west corner. The west door has a pointed arch of two hollow-chamfered orders and hood mould, and above is a segmental-headed window of three cinquefoiled lights with perpendicular tracery but without hood mould. The belfry windows are squareheaded and of three round-headed lights, with stone louvres and hood moulds. The battlements have a continuous moulding, and there is a good 18th-century iron vane. The north and south sides are quite plain up to the height of the belfry windows except for a single trefoil-headed light on each side and the slits to the vice on the south. The tower arch is of two chamfered orders dying into the wall at the springing. The floor of the nave is 18 in. above that of the tower.
There are three bells: the first dated 1605, with the initials W. O. and the inscription in small Gothic letters 'In Dulcedine vocis cantabo tuo N[omin]i'; the second has the initials R. O. and is dated 1617, with an inscription in large Roman letters 'in ivcvnditate soni sonabo tibi deo'; the third is by Luke Ashton of Wigan, 1724, and is inscribed 'Gloria in excelsis Deo.'
The plate is all modern, and consists of two chalices of 1864–5; a flagon of 1862 inscribed 'Presented to Caton Church 1864 by Bryan Padgett Gregson as an affectionate memorial of Hannah his wife who died 8 January 1864'; and a breadholder of 1872.
A church or chapel existed at an early time, the lords of the manor renouncing any claim to the patronage as early as 1230. (fn. 77) Somewhat before this date there is mention of a hermit residing in one of the doughs. (fn. 78) By the ordination of the vicarage of Lancaster in 1430 the vicar was obliged to maintain a resident curate, (fn. 79) and this duty was probably fulfilled even after the Reformation, the vicar's income not having been affected by the changes in religion; but Caton is not named in a list of churches and chapels made about 1610. (fn. 80) In 1650 the curate, who had a small sum from the vicarage, had been allowed £100 a year from Royalist sequestrations. (fn. 81) This would cease at the Restoration, and in 1717 the certified income was only £9 10s., being tithes and dues allowed by the vicar of Lancaster; the curate was constantly resident. (fn. 82) The benefice was declared a vicarage in 1867. (fn. 83) The present net income is £189. (fn. 84)
|oc. 1674||Richard Myers (fn. 85)|
|oc. 1689–91||Anthony Procter, B.A. (fn. 86) (Camb.)|
|1748||Richard Capstick (fn. 87)|
|1755||Thomas Nicholson (fn. 88)|
|1798||Legh Richmond, M.A. (fn. 89) (Trin. Coll., Camb.)|
|1801||Payler Matthew Procter, M.A. (fn. 90) (Corpus Christi Coll., Camb.)|
|1803||Robert Gibson, LL.B. (fn. 91) (Trin. Hall, Camb.)|
|1841||Edward Thurtell (fn. 92)|
|1852||Arthur Christopherson, M.A. (fn. 93) (St. John's Coll., Camb.)|
|1876||Charles Edward Adams, M.A. (Sidney Sussex Coll., Camb.)|
|1878||Constantine Adolphus de Lusignan, M.A. (fn. 94) (T.C.D.)|
|1888||John Henry Humphrey, M.A. (fn. 95) (Clare Coll., Camb.)|
|1894||E. T. W. Gilbert|
|1895||Walter James Locke, M.A. (fn. 96) (T.C.D.)|
St. Anne's, Littledale, is a chapel of ease consecrated in 1755. (fn. 97)
A Presbyterian meeting was allowed at Caton in 1689 at the house of Richard Jones. (fn. 98) This does not seem to have continued. At present there are places of worship for Wesleyan Methodists, Congregationalists, (fn. 99) and Baptists. The Rev. John Dodson, vicar of Cockerham from 1835 to 1849, having seceded from the Established Church, retired to an estate he had in Littledale, and there opened a Free Church in which he ministered for thirty years. He died in 1890. (fn. 100) This building is still in use.