A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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The boundaries of this parish, situated on the borderland of two hundreds, are peculiar. Before the Conquest the Cocker was the boundary of Amounderness, and thus Crimbles, Forton and Cleveley were in that hundred, while Cockerham proper, Hillam and Ellel were outside it. After Crimbles had been acquired by the canons of Leicester it became merged in their manor of Cockerham and was joined to Lonsdale. The parochial boundaries of Cockerham and Garstang are much intermixed, apparently the result of a compromise between the two abbeys of Leicester and Cockersand as appropriators of the rectories. Thus Forton is in Cockerham, but Holleth to the north forms a detached part of Garstang, except a fringe of land on the border of Forton, which lies in Cockerham. Part of Cleveley is in Garstang, but three-fourths, including Shireshead Chapel, is in Cockerham. The canons of Cockersand acquired a small piece of land adjoining their demesne and it was accounted a detached part of Pilling, yet remaining in the parish of Cockerham. Thurnham was divided between this parish and Lancaster. The area of the parish is 13,975½ acres, including 2 acres of tidal water.
The land having been to a great extent in the hands of religious houses, the mediaeval history is quite uneventful, the devastation by the Scots in 1322 (fn. 1) and by the plague in 1349 (fn. 2) being the most noteworthy occurrences. In 1441 William Neef was accused of selling wool at Cockerham to Philip Duke of Burgundy, the king's enemy, but he said he had never been in the place and was acquitted. (fn. 3) After the Reformation the land became divided among many small proprietors, the Daltons of Thurnham and Calverts of Cockerham being the principal residents. (fn. 4) These families, it may be noted, though they held the estates of the suppressed monasteries, retained or reverted to Roman Catholicism at the Reformation. Between 1629 and 1632 the following compounded by annual fines for the twothirds of their estates liable to sequestration for their religion: Cockerham—Robert Calvert, £63 6s. 8d.; Elizabeth Calvert, £1 13s. 4d. Ellel—Alice Preston and Robert Cansfield, each £3. Thurnham— Thomas Dalton, £15; Lawrence Copeland, £3 6s. 8d. (fn. 5) These families suffered further under the Commonwealth, all or most of them being Royalists, and only the Daltons appear to have retained their position. To them the Revolution and the Jacobite insurrection of 1715 brought fresh troubles; otherwise the district appears to have accepted the change with equanimity.
Pippin, pippin, Paradise,
Tell me where my true love lies;
East, west, north, or south,
Pilling brig or Cocker mouth. (fn. 6)
Formerly the making of salt was an important industry, (fn. 7) and the fisheries also produced wealth. Leland thus described his visit to the place about 1536: 'From Garstang I passed partly by moor ground, partly by pasture and some corn; and so riding over Cocker river, that maketh no great course ere he come to the sands by Cockerham village not a mile off. Upon the which sands I passed over Cocker river once or twice again, not without some fear of quicksands. At the end of the sands I saw divers saltcotes, where were divers heaps of sands taken of salt strands, out of the which, by often wetting with water they pike out the saltness, and so the water is derived into a pit, and after sodde.' (fn. 8) At present the parish is chiefly agricultural, though there are old-established silk mills at Galgate. The following table (fn. 9) shows how the land is occupied:—
|Arable land ac.||Permanent grass ac.||Woods and plantations ac.|
|Thurnham (all) and Cockersand Abbey||532||1,187½||16|
To the ancient fifteenth Cockerham paid £1 3s. 9d., Ellel £1 13s. 4d., Thurnham 4s. 4¼d., Forton and Cleveley being omitted, the Lonsdale part of the parish yielding £3 1s. 5¼d. when the hundred paid £43 9s. 1¼d. The county lay of 1624 was assessed in the same proportion. (fn. 10) In 1717 the parish was divided into three parts—Cockerham and Thurnham, Forton and Cleveley, Ellel. (fn. 11)
The church of ST. MICHAEL (fn. 12) stands amidst fields in an isolated and exposed situation about a quarter of a mile to the south-west of the village, and consists of a chancel 35 ft. 6 in. by 20 ft., nave 58 ft. 6 in. by 40 ft., south porch, and west tower 13 ft. by 12 ft., all these dimensions being internal. Only the tower is ancient, and belongs probably to the end of the 15 th or beginning of the 16th century, the rest of the church having been rebuilt in 1814 in the Gothic style of the period with wide aisleless nave galleried on three sides, and a chancel measuring 31 ft. 6 in. by 22 ft. 3 in. (fn. 13) In 1910 the chancel was rebuilt in its present form, and it is proposed to rebuild the nave.
The chancel has a pointed east window of four lights and is open on the north side by two arches to the aisle, and on the south by two smaller arches to the organ chamber. There is no chancel arch, and the roof is of flat pitch 36 ft. 6 in. in height to the ridge. The nave is built of coursed red sandstone with quoins at the angles, the exterior, together with that of the old chancel, having been covered originally with rough-cast, but this has been long removed. (fn. 14) The roof is covered with stone slabs finishing behind a plain low parapet, and the windows are all pointed and of three lights, the mullions crossing in the head. The south porch is no longer used, the entrance being by the doorway opposite on the north side facing the village. The nave retains its early 19th-century square pews, galleries and flat ceiling, and has no architectural interest. (fn. 15)
The tower is built of gritstone, and has a moulded plinth and embattled parapet, the height to the top of which is 61 ft. 6 in. Its stages are unmarked externally by any string course or horizontal moulding, and the north and south sides below the belfry windows are quite plain, except for a small square opening to the ringing chamber. There is a projecting vice in the south-east corner, and on the west side diagonal buttresses of seven stages going up the full height. The round-headed west door is now built up, and the upper part made into a window to light the vestry, which occupies the bottom story of the tower. The west window is of three pointed lights under a low four-centred head, and has double hollowchamfered jambs and hollow-chamfered mullions. The belfry windows are of three pointed lights under a segmental head and hood mould, and have hollowchamfered mullions and jambs and stone louvres The tower arch is built up.
There is a ring of six bells by Abel Rudhall of Gloucester, 1748. (fn. 16) They were rehung in 1888.
The silver plate is all modern, and consists of a chalice and paten of 1875 and a small paten of 1877. There is also a plated set of two chalices, two patens and a flagon, presented by Mrs. Bird of Crookhey, 1858.
The registers begin in 1595. The first volume (1595–1657) has been printed. (fn. 17) The tithe maps are kept at the bank at Lancaster.
Together with the manor the church was given to Leicester Abbey by William de Lancaster about 1153. It was agreed at a later time that there should be four canons regular resident in the church. (fn. 18) This agreement was perhaps never fulfilled completely, and in the end the canons ceased to minister there. (fn. 19) A perpetual vicar had been appointed as early as 1290, the entire altarage and the tithe of hay being assigned as his portion. (fn. 20) He was appointed by the Abbot and convent of Leicester.
In 1291 the value of the rectory was estimated at 26 marks and that of the vicarage at £5; but after the destructive raid by the Scots in 1322 the former was reduced to £5 and the vicarage became too poor to be taxed. (fn. 21) In 1341 the value of the ninth of sheaves, &c, was 100s. 4d. (fn. 22) In 1527 the rectory was said to be worth £80 yearly and the vicarage £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 23) Some eight years later the rectory and manor together were at farm for £83 6s. 8d., (fn. 24) while the net value of the vicarage was £10 16s. 7d. (fn. 25) The rectory and right of presentation were sold with the manor after the dissolution of the monastery, and at present the lords of the manor nominate in turn to the vicarage, (fn. 26) Mr. Bird having two presentations out of four. In 1650 the rectory was held by two 'Papist delinquents'; the value of the vicarage had been £60, but was then only £35, 'by reason of the decay of sheep.' (fn. 27) The value was certified as £38 10s. in 1717 (fn. 28); it is now given as £593 net. (fn. 29) An Act was obtained in 1825 commuting the vicar's tithes, &c., to a corn rent, estimated to produce £6oo a year. (fn. 30)
|Instituted||Name||Patron||Cause of Vacancy|
|oc. 1207||Reginald (fn. 31)||—||—|
|oc. 1275–92||Mr. Hugh (fn. 32)||—||—|
|oc. 1324||Adam (fn. 33)||—||—|
|oc. 1350||John (fn. 34)||—||—|
|oc. 1365–75||John Scraptoft (fn. 35)||—||—|
|oc. 1392||John de Ansty (fn. 36)||—||—|
|oc. 1430–56||John Tunstall (fn. 37)||—||—|
|c. 1525–7||Peter Gerard (fn. 38)||Leicester Abbey||—|
|oc. 1535||Gabriel Rayne (fn. 39)||—||—|
|oc. 1554||Robert Baynton (fn. 40)||—||—|
|oc. 1562||Ralph Bolton (fn. 41)||—||—|
|13 Nov. 1571||John Calvert, M.A. (fn. 42)||John Calvert, &c.||—|
|20 Dec. 1626||Rowland Thicknesse, M.A. (fn. 43)||Thomas Humphreys||d. J. Calvert|
|1 Apr. 1633||Robert Shaw, M.A. (fn. 44)||Roger Downes||d. R. Thicknesse|
|oc. 1650||William Calvert (fn. 45)||—||—|
|c. 1651||Gerard Browne (fn. 46)||—||—|
|1659||George Shaw (fn. 47)||—||—|
|8 Apr. 1662||Lawrence Shaw, B.A. (fn. 48)||The King||—|
|27 Mar. 1695||John Winter (fn. 49)||Walter Frost||d. L. Shaw|
|2 July 1722||Thomas Barbon (fn. 50)||Francis Charteris||d. J. Winter|
|7 Sept. 1737||Thomas Winder, B.A. (fn. 51)||Edmund Starkie||d. T. Barbon|
|4 May 1781||Josias Lambert, M.A. (fn. 52)||Hon. Francis Charteris||d. T. Winder|
|17 Jan. 1799||John Widditt (fn. 53)||John Dent, &c.||res. J. Lambert|
|1 Sept. 1821||John Lindsay Young, M.A. (fn. 54)||"||d. J. Widditt|
|15 May 1823||Thomas Armitstead, B.D. (fn. 55)||Bp. of Chester||d. J. L. Young|
|11 Mar. 1828||Richard Hudson, M.A.||Robert Dent, &c.||d. T. Armitstead|
|14 Apr. 1835||John Dodson, M.A. (fn. 56)||John Dodson||d. R. Hudson|
|1849||Francis Hill Sewell, M.A. (fn. 57)||— Dent||res. J. Dodson|
|1858||Richard Atkinson-Grimshaw, M.A. (fn. 58)||R. Atkinson||res. F. H. Sewell|
|29 Nov. 1881||Arthur Frederick Clarke, M.A. (fn. 59)||—Clarke||res. R. A.-Grimshaw|
|5 Dec. 1905||Herbert Prince, M.A. (fn. 60)||H. D. Greene||res. A. F. Clarke|
There was no chantry at Cockerham, but the chapels of ease at Ellel and Shireshead had to be served, so that a staff of three priests would be required before the Reformation. This number appears in the visitation lists of 1554 and 1562, (fn. 61) but even then their actual residence is uncertain. What happened after the Elizabethan settlement is doubtful; probably the vicar was the only minister (fn. 62) until the time of the Commonwealth, when additional ministers were appointed, and from that time until the beginning of the 18th century. (fn. 63) In 1717 Bishop Gastrell found that the same curate served Shireshead and Ellel. (fn. 64) Later in the century each of these chapels had its curate.
There are no endowed charities apart from sums of £52 16s. 10d. a year for the schools at Cockerham and Ellel. Anne Cawson in 1669 left a rent-charge of 5s. a year for the poor of Ellel, afterwards paid from lands called Brandrigg in Scotforth and Ellel. It ceased in 1798. William Hynd in 1698 left £5 for the poor of Forton or a charge of 5s. a year on his land. The land so charged was sold in 1726 to Francis Crossfield, and the 5s. was paid until about 1810. An unknown benefactor left £10 for the poor of the same township; this was spent on a cottage, afterwards burnt down. The overseers rebuilt the cottage and in 1826 allowed two paupers to live there; but nothing is now known about it. These particulars are derived from the reports of the official inquiries of 1826 and 1899, issued in 1900.