A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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The parish of Halsall is about ten miles in length, and has a total area of 16,698 acres, (fn. 1) of which a considerable portion is reclaimed mossland.
Judging by the situation of the various villages and hamlets it may be asserted that in this part of West Lancashire the 25 ft. level formed the boundary in ancient times of the habitable district. All below it was moss and swamp, which here formed a broad and definite division between Halsall parish on the east and Formby and Ainsdale on the west.
The parish used to contribute to the county lay as follows:—When the hundred paid £100, it paid a total of £6 5s. 0¼d., the townships giving—Halsall, £1 8s. 1½d.; Downholland, £1 5s. 9½d.; Lydiate, £1 5s. 9½d.; Maghull, 17s. 2¼d.; Melling, £1 8s. 1½d. To the more ancient fifteenth the contributions were: Halsall, £2 4s. 1½d.; Downholland, £1 12s.; Lydiate £1 8s. 8d.; Maghull, 12s.; and Melling, £1 13s. 4d. or £7 10s. 1½d. when the hundred paid £106 9s. 6d. (fn. 2)
Before the Conquest the whole of the parish, with the exception of Maghull, was in the privileged district of three hides. Soon after 1100 the barony of Warrington included the northern portion of the parish, Halsall, Barton, and Lydiate; while Maghull was part of the Widnes fee, and Downholland and Melling were held in thegnage.
The history of the parish is uneventful. During the religious changes of the Tudor period, Halsall is said to have been the last parish to adopt the new services. This, of course, cannot be proved; but the immediate reduction of the staff of clergy, the partial or total closing of the chapels at Maghull and Melling, and the careful dismantling of that at Lydiate, are tokens of the feeling the changes inspired.
The freeholders in 1600 were Sir Cuthbert Halsall of Halsall, who was a justice of the peace; Lawrence Ireland of Lydiate, Lydiate of Lydiate, Richard Molyneux of Cunscough, Richard Hulme of Maghull, Richard Maghull of Maghull, Robert Pooley of Melling, Robert Bootle of Melling, Gilbert Halsall of Barton, Henry Heskin of Downholland. (fn. 3) In the subsidy list of 1628, the following landowners were recorded:—At Halsall, Sir Charles Gerard and Mr. Cole; Downholland, Edward Haskayne and John Moore; Lydiate, Edward Ireland and Thomas Lydiate; Maghull, Richard Maghull; Melling, Robert Molyneux, Robert Bootle, Lawrence Hulme, the heir of William Martin, Anne Stopford, widow, and the heirs of John Seacome. (fn. 4) George Marshall of Halsall, Edward Ireland, and Robert Molyneux paid £10 each in 1631 on refusing knighthood. (fn. 5)
The recusant and non-communicant roll of 1641 names five distinct households in Halsall; large numbers in Downholland and Lydiate; several at Maghull, and at Melling. (fn. 6)
During the Civil War there is little to show how the people of the district were divided. The principal manorial lord, Sir Charles Gerard of Halsall, was a Protestant but a strong Royalist; he probably did not live much in the place. His son and successor was an exile. Ireland of Lydiate was a minor; Maghull was in the hands of Lord Molyneux, a Royalist; and Robert Molyneux of Melling was on the same side. The Gerard manors were of course sequestered by the Parliament, and in 1653 orders were given to settle a portion of them, of the value of £600 a year, upon the widow and children of Richard Deane, later a general of the fleet. (fn. 7) Radcliffe Gerard, brother of the late Sir Charles, described as 'of Barton,' petitioned for delay in paying his composition because his annuity had not been paid for twelve years past. (fn. 8) John Wignall, of Halsall, was allowed to compound in 1652. (fn. 9)
The troubles of the Irelands are narrated under Lydiate; the estate of Edward Gore there was sequestered and part sold. (fn. 10) Confiscations at Maghull and Melling are related in the account of these townships; in the former place also Richard Mercer, a tailor, had had his estate seized for his 'pretended delinquency,' but it had never been sequestered and he obtained it back. (fn. 11)
The hearth tax of 1666 shows that very few houses in the parish had three hearths. In Downholland the Haskaynes' house had seven hearths and the hall five. In Lydiate the hall had ten; in Maghull James Smith's had nine and Richard Maghull's six; in Melling Robert Molyneux's house had ten hearths, William Martin's six, Thomas Bootle's five, and John Tatlock's, in Cunscough, eight. (fn. 12)
The connexion of Anderton of Lydiate with the Jacobite rising of 1715 seems to be isolated; the squires and people generally took no share in this or the subsequent rising of 1745.
The land tax returns of 1794 show that, except in Lydiate, the land was in the possession of a large number of freeholders.
The making of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at the end of the eighteenth century did something to open up the district, which has, however, remained almost wholly agricultural.
The geological formation consists entirely of the new red sandstone, or triassic, series. Taking the various beds in rotation from the lowest upwards, the pebble beds of the bunter series occur to the eastward of the canal in Melling, and to the south of a line drawn from Maghull manor-house to the nearest point on the boundary of Simonswood. To the east of a line drawn southward from Halsall village to pass a quarter of a mile or so to the eastward of the villages of Lydiate and Maghull, following the line of a fault, the upper mottled sandstones of the same series occur, whilst to the west of the same line the formation consists of the lower keuper sandstones. To the north-west of a line drawn from Barton and Halsall station to Scarisbrick bridge, spanning the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the keuper marls occur, whilst the waterstones, which elsewhere intervene between these two members of the keuper series, are entirely wanting.
There are stone quarries at Melling and Maghull, producing good grindstones. About 1840 some of the inhabitants were employed in hand - loom weaving. (fn. 13) The agricultural land is occupied as follows: Arable, 13,337 acres; permanent grass, 1,515; woods and plantations, 10.
The church of St. Cuthbert consists of a chancel with north vestry and organ chamber, nave with north and south aisles and south porch, west tower and spire, and to the south of the tower a late sixteenth-century building, formerly a grammar school. It stands finely on rising ground on the edge of the broad stretch of level land which once was Halsall Moss, and is, as it must have been designed to be, a conspicuous landmark for miles round. Two roads join at the west end of the churchyard, from which point a raised causeway runs across a depression in the ground in which is a little stream flowing northward, and joins the outcrop of sandstone rock, facing the church, on which the hall and part of the village stand.
No part of the church as it exists to-day is older than the fourteenth century, and its architectural history seems to be as follows. The nave with north and south aisles and south porch were begun about 1320, doubtless replacing the nave of an older building, whose eastern portions were left standing till 1345–50, when they were destroyed and the present fine and stately chancel built. The work seems to have gone on continuously, but there were several alterations of the first design, which will be noticed in their place. When the new chancel was complete— it was no doubt built round the old chancel after the usual mediaeval fashion, beginning at the east—it is quite clear that the intention of the builders was to go on and re-model the nave, if not to rebuild it, although it was barely thirty years old at the time. But the work came to a sudden stop when the east wall of the south aisle was being built, and nothing more was done to the fabric for some fifty or sixty years, when the west tower and spire were added, and the church assumed substantially its present appearance. About 1520 a large three-light rood window was inserted high up in the south wall of the nave, and in 1593 Edward Halsall's grammar school was built at the west end of the south aisle. The north and south aisles were nearly rebuilt in 1751 and 1824, and in 1886 the north wall of the north aisle and vestry was rebuilt throughout its length, as was the greater part of the south aisle wall, with the south porch and doorway, though both this doorway and the outer arch of the porch have been reconstructed with the old stones as far as they would serve.
Remains of mediaeval arrangements are plentiful. In the chancel are triple sedilia and a piscina, a large piscina and a locker in the vestry, and there are piscinae at the eastern ends of both nave aisles. Traces of the roodloft are to be seen, and the roodstair remains perfect, but the nave altars below the loft have left no trace. The patron saint's canopied niche exists on the north of the altar, and in the north wall of the chancel is a fine sepulchral recess which was doubtless made use of in Holy Week for the purposes of the Easter Sepulchre. A wood screen on a low stone wall stood in the chancel arch, and against it the stalls were returned. Some of these stalls, of the fifteenth century, still remain, but the return stalls, for which evidence was found some years ago, have disappeared. A turret for the sanctus bell stands on the east gable of the nave.
The architectural details of the chancel are exceedingly good, and in common with the rest of the church it is faced with wrought stone both inside and out. Its internal dimensions are 47 ft. long by 20 ft. 6 in. wide, and it is 46 ft. high to the ridge of the roof. It is divided into three bays, having three-light windows in each bay on the south side, and a five-light east window. There are no windows in the north wall. The stone used is a sandstone of local origin, but of a quality very superior to the ordinary. The jambs and heads of the windows are elaborately moulded, internally with the characteristic roll and fillet, and hollow quarter-round; while externally the orders are square, each face being countersunk, the effect being to leave a raised fillet at the salient and re-entering angles. This detail also occurs on the east window of the south aisle. The tracery of the east window is mainly original, and that of the south windows a modern copy of the former work; it is very late in the style, and shows a distinct tendency to the characteristic upright light of the succeeding style. Above the head of the east window, inside, is a hand carved in low relief, somewhat difficult to see from below. It is said by those who have seen it at close range to be an insertion.
The sedilia, in common with nearly all the masonry details of the chancel, are original. They are triple, with cinquefoil arches and moulded labels which mitre with the string running round the chancel walls. The three seats are on the same level, and the piscina forms a part of the composition, being under an arch similar to the other three, and adjoining them to the east. Its bowl is elaborate, with a cusped sinking of some depth, but the drain is not visible, though the bowl seems to be part of the original masonry. It projects from the wall, and is carved on the underside with foliage and a small mitred figure. The niche north of the altar, which probably held St. Cuthbert's image as patron saint, has a fine crocketed canopy, with flanking pinnacles and a central spirelet and finial. The corbel to carry the figure projects as three sides of an octagon, and is carved below with oak foliage and acorns. The image itself was bonded into the back of the recess at half height, and the head dowelled to the wall. On either side of the shafts of the pinnacles which flank the niche are two pin-holes, probably for the fastenings of iron rods.
The first ten feet of the north wall, from the east, are blank, but about opposite to the sedilia is a recess 6 ft. 6 in. wide, and 14 in. deep, under a beautiful feather-cusped arch set in a crocketed gable and flanked by tall crocketed pinnacles; the pinnacles and gable finish at the same level, about 17 ft. from the floor, with heavy and deeply-cut finials of foliage, whose flattened tops seem designed to serve as brackets for images. It is to be noted that the arch is not constructive, but all joints are horizontal and part of the walling. In the recess is a plain panelled altar tomb, on which lies an ecclesiastical effigy of alabaster, wearing a fur almuce with long pendants over an alb and cassock; the head rests on a cushion, on either side of which are small winged figures, and at the feet is a dog. The effigy is of much later date than the recess, and both effigy and recess have been injured by a process of adaptation, the back of the recess being hollowed out, and the head and feet of the effigy cut back to get them to fit the space. The effigy is not later than 1520. A tomb in this position in the north wall of the chancel was often used as the place of setting up the Easter Sepulchre, and adjoining the recess to the west is a curious masonry projection, splayed off at a height of 2 ft., and dying into the wall face at 3 ft. 9 in. from the floor. It is 4 ft. 8 in. long, with a maximum projection of 12 in. There are no traces of fastenings or dowel-holes on it (in which case it might have formed a backing for the wooden framework of the sepulchre), and its purpose is hard to understand. It is of the same date as the recess, for the stooling of the western flanking pinnacle is worked on one stone of its sloping top, and the masonry joints range with the surrounding walling. Close to it on the west is the vestry doorway, of three orders with continuous mouldings and a hood mould formed by carrying the chancel string round the arch, an admirable piece of detail, retaining its original panelled door, with reticulated tracery in the head, and lock and handle of the same date. To the west of this doorway is a modern arch for the organ. The chancel arch is of three orders with engaged shafts, moulded capitals and bases, and a well-moulded arch with labels. It is 26 ft. high to the crown, and 15 ft. 8 in. to the springing. The central shaft shows the almost obliterated traces of the coping of a dwarf stone wall 10 in. thick, and about 3 ft. high, which served as a base to a wood screen across the arch; a 3 in. fillet on the central shaft has been cut away for the fitting of this screen.
Parts of the stalls are ancient, good and deeply-cut work of the end of the fifteenth century. They were re-arranged at the late restoration, and there are now six ancient stalls on the south side, and one on the north. All these retain their ancient carved seats, the subjects of the carvings being (1) wrestlers backed by two 'religious'; (2) an angel with a key in each hand, and wearing a cap with a cross; (3) a bearded head; (4) a flying eagle; (5) a fox and goose; (6) an angel with a book, wearing a cap with a cross; (7) fighting dragons. Some of the old desks remain, with boldly carved fronts and standards, the finials being a good deal broken; one of them has the Stanley eagle and child, another a lion standing. East of the southern stalls is an altar tomb with panelled sides containing shields in quatrefoils, which have lost their painted heraldry, and an embattled cornice. On the tomb lie two effigies, said to be those of Sir Henry Halsall, 1523, and his wife Margaret (Stanley). Besides the tombs already noticed there are a fragment of a brass to Henry Halsall of Halsall, 1589, memorials of the Brownells, Glover Moore, and others. (fn. 14)
The vestry on the north of the chancel was probably built in the first instance for its present purpose. Its north wall has been rebuilt, but the south and east walls show some very interesting features. The south wall, which is also, of course, the north wall of the chancel, was originally designed as an outer wall, and had a plinth like that of the rest of the chancel; but when the wall had been built to the level of the top of the plinth the design was altered and the vestry built as it now is, the plinth being cut away, leaving its profile in the east wall. A large piscina was placed in the south wall, and the east wall built against the west side of the second buttress from the east, with a locker at the south end and a central window of one wide, single cinquefoiled light with a trefoil in the head. This window is somewhat clumsy, and shows signs of having been rebuilt. It does not belong to the chancel work, but its details are those of the nave, and it is probably an adaptation of the east window of the north aisle of the nave. Under the first design for the chancel this window would not have been disturbed, but when the vestry was added to the east it became useless, and was probably taken down and rebuilt in an altered form in its present place. (fn. 15) The two rows of corbels in the south wall of the vestry show the line of former plates, belonging to a roof now gone.
Externally the chancel has a fine moulded plinth of two stages and a string at the level of the window sills. The buttresses set back 3 ft. above the string with weathered and crocketed gablets, with excellent details of finials and grotesque masks, and are carried up through a simple parapet projecting on a corbel course to crocketed pinnacles, which have at their bases boldly designed gargoyles, the most noteworthy being that at the south end of the east face of the chancel, a boat containing a little figure with hands in prayer. In the east gable, above the great east window, is a single trefoiled light which lights the space over the chancel roof. The roof is of steep pitch, covered with lead; the timbers are mainly ancient, and are simple couples with arched braces under a collar. At the western angles of the chancel are square turrets finished with octagonal arcaded caps and crocketed spirelets. The southern turret contains the rood stair, which is continued upwards to give access to the nave and chancel gutters on both sides of the roof in an original and interesting manner. The northern turret contains no stair from the ground level, and appears never to have done so, being built solid at the bottom. It could not therefore give access to the northern gutters or roof-slopes; and this was provided by taking a passage from the south turret over the chancel arch in the thickness of the wall, opening into the north turret in its octagonal story, whence doors east and west led to the gutters. The passage rises at a steep pitch from both ends, and is lighted by four small square-headed loops, two towards the nave and two towards the chancel. (fn. 16) On the apex of the gable above is an octagonal sanctus bell-cote with a crocketed spirelet, which is open to the passage, and it is quite possible that the bell may have been rung from here at the elevation, as anyone standing at the loops looking towards the chancel has a clear view of the altar. Access to the west end of the chancel roof is also obtained from the highest point of the passage, and in the west wall at this point, exactly over the apex of the chancel arch, is a short iron bar, which may be connected with the fastenings of the rood.
The nave is of four bays with north and south arcades having octagonal bases, shafts, and capitals, 11 ft. 6 in. to the spring of the arches, which are of two orders with the characteristic fourteenth-century wave-moulding. There is no clearstory, and the whole work is much plainer and simpler than that of the chancel. The nave roof is 47 ft. high to the ridge, covered with stone healing, and the timbers are modern copies of the old work. At the east end of the nave the junction of the two dates of work is clearly shown in the masonry of both walls, and the plate level of the later work is considerably higher than that of the nave. On the south side the upper part of the wall has been cut away for the insertion of a three-light sixteenth-century window with square head, embattled on the outside, its object, as already mentioned, being to light the rood and rood-loft. There are many traces of the beams which carried the rood-loft, which was entered from the south turret by a still existing doorway. Access to the turret is from the south aisle, the lower part of its stone newel being treated as a shaft with moulded capital and base. About ten feet up the stair is lighted by three narrow loops at the same level, one on the south, looking out on the churchyard, one on the north-east, commanding the tomb in the north wall of the chancel, and one on the north-west, towards the nave, below the level of the rood-loft floor. From the north-east loop nothing but the tomb in the north wall can be seen, and it is evidently built for that object only. It was in all probability used for watching the Easter Sepulchre erected over the tomb. Anyone standing here could also command the entrance of the chancel from the nave and the south-east portion of the churchyard.
The south aisle of the nave has been largely rebuilt, but retains a piscina in the east end of its south wall. At the foot of the east wall a course of masonry of 3 in. projection runs southward from the angle by the turret doorway for 6 ft. 3 in., and its reason is not apparent, but it may show that the floor level here was originally higher, and it is further to be noted that this would go some way towards accounting for the curious fact that the base of the south nave respond is a foot higher than that of the north. (fn. 17) The east wall with its window and angle buttresses are of the chancel date, agreeing exactly in detail with the south windows of the chancel. There is a little ancient glass, some of it of original date, in this window. It is chiefly made up of fragments collected from other places, but the two angels in the tracery seem designed for their position. Owing to the projection of the stair turret the window is thrown considerably out of centre, and the roof timbers barely clear its head. It is conceivable that a gabled roof was contemplated in the projected rebuilding, which came to a sudden stop at this point. It naturally occurs to the mind that a stoppage of work on a building of this date, circa 1350, may be a result of the Black Death of 1348–9, which has left so many traces of its severity all over the country. The south doorway and porch entrance, mentioned above as partly rebuilt with the old masonry, are alike in detail, of three orders with wave moulding. Over the outer entrance is a modern niche with a figure of St. Cuthbert.
In the north aisle nothing ancient remains but the west wall and window of two lights with fourteenthcentury tracery and jambs and head with wave moulding. A little old glass is set in the window, a piece of vine-leaf border being of fourteenth-century date. The west face of this wall shows a straight joint, partly bonded across, on the line of the north arcade wall, which tells of a stage in the building of the nave when its west wall was built, but not that of the aisle. In this case it seems doubtful, as the masonry is so alike in both parts, whether the angle is much earlier than the aisle wall and represents an aisleless nave. The evidence at the corresponding western angle is destroyed.
Externally the nave has little of interest to show; the main roof has a plain parapet, much patched at various dates. On the north side is a tablet with churchwardens' names of 1700, (fn. 18) and another on the south, with the date illegible, but of much the same time. (fn. 19) The modern aisle-windows are good of their kind, square-headed, with tracery of fourteenthcentury style.
The west tower is 126 ft. high, of three stages with a stone spire, which is modern, replacing an old spire of somewhat different outline. The octagonal parapet at its base is also modern, with the four gargoyles representing the evangelistic symbols. They replace four ancient gargoyles in the shape of nondescript monsters, now to be seen set up among the ruins of the fourteenth-century building northeast of the church. The top of the parapet is 63 ft. from the ground. The tower is of the first half of the fifteenth century; whether the church had a tower before this time does not appear, but the foundations of the west wall of the nave are said to run across the tower arch, and there must have been a western wall of some sort, temporary or otherwise, before the building of the present tower, unless perhaps an older tower was preserved at the rebuilding of the nave. The design is that of the Aughton and Ormskirk towers, with square base and octagonal belfry and spire. In the belfry stage are four squareheaded two-light windows, with a quatrefoil in the head; the second stage contains the ringing floor, and forms the transition from octagon to square. The lowest stage has a two-light square-headed west window and boldly projecting corner buttresses, with raking gabled sets-off reminiscent of the chancel buttresses. In the head of the northern of the two western buttresses is a small roughly cut sinking which may have held a small figure. The tower stair is in the south-west angle, entered from within through a low angle doorway with jambs having the common fifteenth-century double ogee moulding; the stones of the jambs are marked with Roman numerals for the guidance of the masons in placing them. The tower arch of three orders is 26 ft. 4 in. high, with an engaged shaft on the inner order and continuous mouldings on the two outer, the detail being very good. Part of the walling above it may be of the nave date, and consequently a remnant of the former west wall.
The font has a circular basin panelled with quatrefoils on a circular fluted stem, which is the only ancient part, and appears to be of the early part of the fourteenth century. In the churchyard are several mediaeval grave slabs, turned out of the church during restoration; it would be a very desirable thing to bring them under cover, even if replacing in the nave floor is impossible. The octagonal panelled base of a churchyard cross is also to be seen, and the churchyard wall is of some age, probably sixteenth century, having a good deal of its old coping remaining. There is a picturesque sun-dial of 1725 with a baluster stem. Of wall paintings the church has no trace, except for a few remains of Elizabethan black-letter texts; and the piece of panelling with the Ireland arms and date 1627, at the east end of the south aisle, is the only old woodwork in the church, except part of the stalls and the chancel roof already described.
It remains to notice the gabled building running north and south, built into the angle of the tower and south aisle. It was built to contain a grammar school founded by Edward Halsall in 1593, and was originally of two stories, the main entrance being the now blocked doorway in the east wall, above which are the Halsall arms with 'E. H. 1593.' The west doorway, which is cut through the tower buttress, gave access to the stairs to the upper room, and the marks of their fitting remain in the tower plinth. Over this doorway are two panels, the upper having the Halsall arms and 'E. H. 1593,' and the lower a now illegible inscription, the words of which have fortunately been preserved:—
ISTIUS EXSTRUCTAE CUM QUADAM DOTE PERENNI EDWARDO HALSALLO LAUS TRIBUENDA SCHOLAE.
The windows, of which there are two on the west and one on the south, are of two lights with arched heads, churchwarden gothic of the poorest, inserted after the removal of the upper floor. A fireplace remains at both levels, and in the east wall is a modern doorway into the south aisle.
There are six bells, four recast in 1786, one cast in 1811, and another in 1887. The curfew bell is rung in the winter months. (fn. 20)
The church plate consists of several plain and massive pieces, all made in London, viz.: a chalice and paten, 1609; chalice and paten, 1641; flagon and paten, 1730; two small chalices, 1740. (fn. 21)
The register of baptisms begins in 1606, that of marriages and burials in 1609; but they are irregularly kept until 1662. From this time they seem to be perfect. (fn. 22)
From the dedication of the church (fn. 23) it has been supposed that Halsall was one of the resting-places of St. Cuthbert's body during its seven years' wandering whilst the Danes were ravaging Northumbria (875– 83). The words of Simeon of Durham are wide enough to cover this: the bearers 'wandered over all the districts of the Northumbrians, with never any fixed resting-place'; but the places he names—the mouth of the Derwent, Whitherne, and Craik (Creca) —point to Cumberland and Galloway rather than to Lancashire. (fn. 24)
The patronage, like the manor, was in dispute in the early years of Edward I between Robert de Vilers and Gilbert de Halsall, (fn. 25) but the latter seems to have vindicated his right, as his descendants continued to present down to the sale of the manor to the Gerards, when the advowson passed with it. In 1719 and 1730 Peter Walter, a 'usurer' denounced by Pope, presented; (fn. 26) and about 1800 the lord of the manor sold the advowson to Jonathan Blundell, of Liverpool, whose descendant, the late Colonel H. Blundell-Hollinshead-Blundell, was patron.
The Taxatio of 1291 gives the value of Halsall as £10. (fn. 27) The Valor of Henry VIII places it at £28 10s. (fn. 28) The rectors have from time to time had numerous disputes as to tithes and other church property. Rector Henry de Lea complained that in 1313 the lord of the manor had seized his cart and horses owing to a disputed right of digging turf. (fn. 29) A later rector, about 1520, leased the tithes of the township of Halsall to his brother Thomas Halsall, the lord of the manor, for 14 marks yearly. But seven years later he had to complain that Thomas would not pay the tithe-rent, and that he had refused the rector's tenants the common of pasture on Hall green, and common of turbary, which had been customary. (fn. 30)
Bishop Gastrell in 1717 found the rectory worth £300 per annum, Lady Mohun being patron. There were two churchwardens, one chosen by the rector and serving for Halsall township, the other by the lord of the manor and serving for Downholland. (fn. 31) From this time onward the value of the rectory increased rapidly. (fn. 32) The gross value is now over £2,100.
The following is a list of the rectors:—
|Institution||Name||Patron||Cause of Vacancy|
|c.||1190||Robert (fn. 33)||—||—|
|c.||1253–66||Gilbert (fn. 34)||—||—|
|oc.||1292–6||William de Cowdray (fn. 35)||—||—|
|7 Nov. 1307||Henry de Lea (fn. 36)||Gilbert de Halsall||—|
|24 Feb. 1336–7||Richard de Halsall (fn. 37)||"||d. H. de Lea|
|9 April, 1365||Mr. Roger Milnegate (fn. 38)||The bishop (by lapse)||—|
|—||John Spencer alias Claviger||—||—|
|22 Dec. 1395||Henry de Halsall (fn. 39)||Sir Gilb. de Halsall||res. J. Spencer|
|15 May, 1413||Mr.William de Neuhagh (fn. 40)||Rt. de Halsall||res. H. Halsall|
|oc.||1429||Mr. Gilbert Halsall, B.D. (fn. 41)||—||—|
|9 Feb. 1452–3||Edmund Farington (fn. 42)||Henry Halsall||d. G. Halsall|
|2 June, 1495||Hugh Halsall (fn. 43)||"||d. E. Farington|
|12 April, 1513||Richard Halsall (fn. 44)||Sir Henry Halsall||d. H. Halsall|
|15 July, 1563||Cuthbert Halsall (fn. 45)||Thomas Norris||d. R. Halsall|
|— 1571||George Hesketh (fn. 46)||Henry Halsall||d. C. Halsall|
|2 June, 1594||Richard Halsall (fn. 47)||Anne Halsall, widow||—|
|8 Feb. 1633–4||Peter Travers, B.D. (fn. 48)||—||d. R. Halsall|
|c.||1645||Nathaniel Jackson||—||expuls. P. Travers|
|— Dec. 1645||Thomas Johnson||—||—|
|20 Feb. 1660–1||Matthew Smallwood, B.D. (fn. 49)||Lord Gerard of Brandon||d. P. Travers|
|26 Aug. 1683||Nathaniel Brownell, M.A. (fn. 50)||E. of Macclesfield||d. M. Smallwood|
|3 April, 1719||Albert le Blanc, D.D. (fn. 51)||Peter Walter||d. N. Brownell|
|28 May, 1730||David Comarque, M.A||"||d. A. le Blanc|
|10 Feb. 1746||Edward Pilkington||C. Mordaunt||d. D. Comarque|
|2 April, 1750||John Stanley, D.D. (fn. 52)||"||d. E. Pilkington|
|8 Mar. 1757||Henry Mordaunt, B.A. (fn. 53)||C. Mordaunt||res. J. Stanley|
|20 Aug. 1778||Glover Moore, B.A. (fn. 54)||Charles L. Mordaunt||d. H. Mordaunt|
|20 June, 1809||Thomas Blundell, M.A. (fn. 55)||T. Blundell||d. G. Moore|
|26 Nov. 1816||Richard Loxham, M.A. (fn. 56)||Bridget and Alice Blundell||d. T. Blundell|
|6 Sept. 1843||Richard Leigh, M.A. (fn. 57)||R. B. B. H. Blundell||d. R. Loxham|
|11 Aug. 1863||Thomas Blundell Hollinshead Blundell, M.A. (fn. 58)||H. B. H. Blundell||res. R. Leigh|
|18 Feb. 1906||James Gerard Leigh, M.A. (fn. 59)||Col. Blundell||d. T. B. H. Blundell|
Halsall has obviously been regarded as a 'family living' from early times, as witness the promotion of mere boys to the rectory because they were relatives of the patron.
Master Richard Halsall, a younger son of Sir Henry Halsall, was rector for fifty years, from 1513 to 1563, seeing all the changes of the Tudor period. (fn. 60) In 1541–2, besides the rector and the two chantry priests there were attached to Halsall parish three clergy, two paid by the rector, and perhaps serving the chapels of Melling and Maghull, and one paid by James Halsall. (fn. 61) In 1548 there was much the same staff, six names being given, though 'mortuus' is marked by the bishop's registrar against one. (fn. 62) In 1562 the rector appeared at the visitation by proxy (fn. 63) —probably he was too infirm to come. John Prescott the curate came in person; the third resident priest died about the same time. In 1563 the new rector was absent at Oxford; Prescott was still curate, but was ill—subsequently 'defunctus' was written against his name. Two years later Master Cuthbert Halsall (fn. 64) appeared by proxy, and the curate was too ill to come. (fn. 65) It would thus appear that the pre-Reformation staff of six—not a large one for the parish—had been reduced to an absentee rector and a curate 'indisposed' at the visitation. (fn. 66) George Hesketh, (fn. 67) the next rector, was in 1590 described as 'no preacher.' (fn. 68) The value of the rectory was £200, but the parson, 'by corruption,' had but £30 of it. (fn. 69) His successor, Richard Halsall, was in 1610 described as 'a preacher.' (fn. 70)
On the ejection of the Royalist Peter Travers or Travis about 1645 Nathaniel Jackson was placed in charge of Halsall. He soon relinquished it, and in December, 1645, 'Thomas Johnson, late of Rochdale, a godly and orthodox divine,' was required to officiate there forthwith and preach diligently to the parishioners; paying to Dorothy Travers a tenth part of the tithes for the maintenance of her and her children. (fn. 71) On 23 August, 1654, a formal presentation to Halsall was exhibited by Mary Deane, widow of MajorGeneral Richard Deane, the true patroness; she of course nominated Thomas Johnson. (fn. 72) He, as also William Aspinall of Maghull and John Mallinson of Melling, joined in the 'Harmonous Consent' of 1648. The Commonwealth surveyors of 1650 approved him as 'an able minister.' (fn. 73) Thomas Johnson stayed at Halsall until his death at the end of 1660. (fn. 74)
The later rectors do not call for any special comment.
Mention of a minor church officer, Robert Breckale, the holy-water clerk, occurs in 1442. (fn. 75)
There were two chantries. The first was founded by Sir Henry Halsall, for a priest to celebrate for the souls of himself and his ancestors; a yearly obit to be made by the chantry priest, and a taper of two pounds' weight to be kept before the Trinity. This was at the altar of Our Lady, and Thomas Norris was celebrating there at the time of the confiscation. There was no plate, and the rental amounted to £4 4s. 5d. (fn. 76)
A second chantry was founded about 1520 by the same Sir Henry Halsall in conjunction with Henry Molyneux, priest, (fn. 77) for a commemoration of their souls. This was at the altar of St. Nicholas, and in 1547 Henry Halsall was celebrating there according to his foundation. There was no plate, and the rental amounted to no more than 64s. 4d. (fn. 78) The chantry priest was aged fifty-six in 1548; the full stipend was paid to him as a pension in 1553. He died in 1561 or 1562, and was buried at Halsall. (fn. 79)
A free grammar school was established here in 1593 by Edward Halsall, life tenant of the family estates.
Apart from schools (fn. 80) and the benefaction of John Goore to Lydiate, the income of this amounting now to £136 a year, (fn. 81) the charities of Halsall are inconsiderable, (fn. 82) and are restricted to separate townships. (fn. 83)