A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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There is little to state regarding the history of the parish apart from what is recorded under the townships and the church. An isolated patch of land fit for cultivation lying between the sea and the sandhills on one side and Martin Mere and the mosse; of Scarisbrick and Halsall on the other, it was not an attractive place of residence in former times, and the sweeping away of Argar Meols by the sea cannot have added to its charms. In more modern times the draining of mere and mosses and the growth of Southport have wholly transformed it, and it has become one of the favourite health resorts of the country. The agricultural land of the parish is thus occupied: Arable land, 5,166 acres; permanent grass, 1,449; woods and plantations, 38. The surface of the underlying rock, the red keuper marl of the new red sandstone, or trias, is completely obscured by blown sand for a width inland from the shore of one and a half to two miles, by tidal alluvium at Crossens, and on the landward side by glacial deposits.
To the county lay the parish used to pay the same amount as Aughton, viz. £2 1s. 8d. towards £100 for the hundred; North Meols with Crossens paid five-sixths, and Birkdale only a sixth. To the fifteenth it paid 22s. of £106 paid by the hundred. (fn. 1)
In 1628 the only landowners contributing to the subsidy were Thomas Hesketh, Richard Bold, and Jane Bold, widow. (fn. 2) The hearth tax of 1666 shows a total of 111 householders with 138 hearths; the only considerable houses were the two halls—North Meols Hall with twelve hearths, and Bold House with eight: the parsonage at Crossens had three, and no other house had more than two. (fn. 3) Bishop Gastrell about 1725 records 200 families, including five of 'Papists.' (fn. 4) In 1901 the population numbered 64,105.
Crossens was in 1715 the scene of a skirmish between the royal troops and the Highlanders; small cannon balls, bayonets, and other relics have frequently been dug up, some being preserved in the vestry of the church.
The church of St. Cuthbert is a plain edifice, built in 1730 on the site of the older building, which had been burnt down. (fn. 5) It cost £1,292. It is almost square in plan, with a short western tower and spire erected in 1739. In 1836 it was 'a small building without side aisles, having nave, chancel, and north transept: lighted by three windows on the south side, and two semicircular ones in the chancel.' (fn. 6) In 1860 it was to some extent rebuilt and enlarged, the north aisle and part of the chancel being of this date, and now consists of chancel, nave with north aisle, and west tower with spire. It is faced with wrought stone throughout, and has a slate roof of low pitch over nave and chancel. The chancel has diagonal angle buttresses of pseudo-Gothic design added in 1860, surmounted by plain octagonal pinnacles without finials. The east window is of three lights, divided by two columns, with Ionic capitals and bases, carrying architrave, frieze, and cornice over the side-lights; the central light has a semicircular head with keyed voussoirs springing from the level of the cornice over the side-lights; the sill projects on brackets. The side windows of the chancel are single lights, wide and tall, with semicircular heads, of plain square section, with a projecting keystone. The nave has precisely similar windows and a plain south doorway, over which are inscriptions as to the building and enlargement. Above is a sun-dial. The roof is of one span over nave and north aisle, its centre line being consequently some way north of that of the chancel roof; all gables have plain copings and small gable crosses of poor design. The tower is of three stages with an octagonal stone spire, with a vane, but no finial; and having two tiers of spire lights and three plain strings. It rises from within a parapet with shallow pilasters at the middle and angles of each face. The belfry stage is surmounted by a heavy cornice, and has on each of its four sides a singlelight window with semicircular head and projecting keystone and imposts, and wooden luffer-boards. There are drafted angle quoins on all three stages of the tower. The second stage is divided from that above by a moulded string, and has on its south face a tablet with an arched head. At the top of the ground stage is a plain square string. (fn. 7)
There are two bells in the tower: a small one without inscription of about 18 in. in diameter at the rim, and a larger one, presented in 1750 by John and Henry Hesketh, wine merchants in Preston. (fn. 8)
The church plate consists of two chalices, a paten, and a large flagon. (fn. 9)
The first register begins in 1594; the second in 1600.
There are some Fleetwood and Hesketh monuments. In the churchyard is a brass plate commemorating Thomas Rimmer, mariner, who had been 'captive in Barbary for sixteen years and six months.' He died in 1713.
The known history of the church goes back to the time of King Stephen, when Warin Bussel granted it to Evesham, the abbey to provide a chaplain. Warin's son Richard confirmed his father's gifts, including '2s. from the chapel of Meols.' (fn. 10) Down to the suppression of the monasteries the abbots of Evesham continued to be patrons, presenting the rectors and receiving the pension of 2s. a year, later increased to half a mark. (fn. 11) The church was not taxed in the valuation made by order of Nicholas IV, about 1291, 'on account of its insignificance.' In 1341 the value of the ninth of sheaves, fleeces, and lambs was stated to be 40s., for which Meols with Crossens answered. (fn. 12) In 1534 the income from lands, tithe, and all sources was estimated at £8 19s., out of which a pension of 6s. 8d. was paid to the prior of Penwortham, and 8s. 8d. for synodals and procurations. (fn. 13)
In 1543 the patronage was granted by Henry VIII to John Fleetwood of Penwortham, (fn. 14) in whose family it descended until, on the death of Henry Fleetwood in 1746, without issue, it passed under a settlement of 1725 to his grand-nephew Walter Chetwynd of Grendon, Warwickshire. In 1748 a private Act of Parliament was procured by the trustees, enabling them to sell parts of the estates, and in the same year they presented John Baldwin to the rectory; this was no doubt by arrangement with his father, Thomas Baldwin, rector of Liverpool, who next year bought the advowson. The latter died in 1752, and the right descended to his son Thomas, vicar of Leyland, who in 1793 sold the next presentation to John Ford of Bristol, who immediately nominated his son. Two years later the advowson was sold to Thomas Woodcock for £933, and not long afterwards was again sold, this time to Robert Hesketh of North Meols; it has since descended with his moiety of the manor, Mr. C. H. Bibby-Hesketh being the present patron.
The gross annual value is now given as £800.
The following is a list of the rectors:—
|Date||Rector||Patron||Cause of Vacancy|
|oc.||1178||Adam the Clerk (fn. 15)||—||—|
|c.||1190||Osbert (fn. 16)||—||—|
|c.||1250||Robert (fn. 17)||—||—|
|before 1281||Mr. Thomas le Boteler (fn. 18)||—||—|
|16 April, 1300||Henry de Hampton (fn. 19)||Evesham Abbey||—|
|13 May, 1300||Nicholas de Hercy (fn. 20)||"||—|
|20 Dec. 1314||Robert de Preston (fn. 21)||"||res. N. de Hercy|
|22 Sept. 1339||John le White (fn. 22)||"||res. R. de Preston|
|8 May, 1342||Stephen de Claverley (fn. 23)||"||res. J. le White|
|before 1352||William Abel (fn. 24)||"||—|
|3 May, 1358||Adam del Meols (fn. 25)||"||res. W. Abel|
|10 Nov. 1369||Thomas de Seynsbury (fn. 26)||Evesham Abbey||d. A. del Meols|
|8 May, 1389||John de Liverpool (fn. 27)||"||d. T. de Seynsbury|
|7 Aug. 1424||Richard Brekell (fn. 28)||"||res. J. de Liverpool|
|14 Dec. 1436||John Ireland (fn. 29)||"||d. R. Brekell|
|17 Sept. 1474||William Fowler (fn. 30)||Thomas Wulton||d. J. Ireland|
|21 May, 1477||Thomas Bolton (fn. 31)||Evesham Abbey||res. W. Fowler|
|2 July, 1505||John Wallys, LL.B. (fn. 32)||"||res. T. Bolton|
|25 May, 1519||John Pryn, Decr. D. (fn. 33)||"||d. J. Wallys|
|c.||1524||Thomas Copland (fn. 34)||"||res. J. Pryn|
|1 Nov. 1530||Robert Farington (fn. 35)||"||d. T. Copland|
|21 Oct. 1537||Lawrence Waterward (fn. 36)||"||res. R. Farington|
|15 Aug. 1554||Peter Prescot (fn. 37)||Henry Forshaw||depr. L. Waterward|
|23 Dec. 1557||Thomas Stanley, bishop of Sodor (fn. 38)||John Fleetwood||d. P. Prescot|
|c.||June, 1569||Peter Clayton (fn. 39)||—||(d. Bp. Stanley)|
|23 June, 1591||John Hill (fn. 40)||Rd. Fleetwood||d. of P. Clayton|
|c.||May, 1595||Robert Bamforde (fn. 41)||"||—|
|21 April, 1600||Matthew French (fn. 42)||"||res. R. Bamforde|
|26 Jan. 1614–15||Henry Wright (fn. 43)||"||d. Mat. French|
|18 Mar. 1638–9||James Starkie (fn. 44)||King Charles||d. H. Wright|
|28 May, 1684||Henry Rycroft (fn. 45)||Edward Fleetwood||d. J. Starkie|
|15 Nov. 1688||Richard Hardy (fn. 46)||"||d. H. Rycroft|
|24 July, 1708||Ralph Loxam (fn. 47)||Hy. Fleetwood||d.R. Hardy|
|28 Dec. 1726||James Whitehead, M.A. (fn. 48)||"||d. R. Loxam|
|20 Nov. 1733||Christopher Sudell, M.A. (fn. 49)||"||d. J. Whitehead|
|8 Dec. 1735||Edward Shakespear, M.A. (fn. 50)||Hy. Fleetwood||d. C. Sudell|
|17 June, 1748||John Baldwin (Rigby), M.A. (fn. 51)||Richard Harper, &c.||d. E. Shakespear|
|21 Nov. 1793||Gilbert Ford, M.A. (fn. 52)||John Ford, M.D.||d. J. Rigby|
|6 May, 1835||Charles Hesketh, M.A. (fn. 53)||Peter Hesketh||d. G. Ford|
|4 Oct. 1876||Charles Hesketh Knowlys, M.A. (fn. 54)||Mrs. Anna Maria Hesketh||d. C. Hesketh|
|6 Oct. 1894||James Denton Thompson, M.A. (fn. 55)||"||res. C. H. Knowlys|
|26 July 1905||Robert Bibby Blakeney, M.A. (fn. 56)||C. H. B. Hesketh||res. J. D. Thompson|
Apart from the conduct of James Starkie the list of rectors has few points of interest. In 1541–2 there were in addition to the rector two stipendiary priests, Edmund Hodgson and James Hodgkinson, both paid by Sir Richard Aughton. (fn. 57) All three appeared at the visitation of 1548. (fn. 58) There was no endowed chantry. In 1554 the rector had been deprived, and only Edmund Hodgson was left in charge; (fn. 59) the late rector, having married, was probably inclined to the new opinions in religion. In 1556 it was found that the church wanted repairs, and that books and ornaments were lacking. (fn. 60) Bishop Stanley, a nonresident pluralist, was scarcely likely to make much improvement, and in 1561 the church was still out of repair. By 1563 things had become worse; the chancel was not repaired and there was no curate, so that children were not baptized and burials had to wait six days—presumably till some one came to take the Sunday duty. (fn. 61) Henry Charnley was immediately afterwards appointed curate, and in 1565 the clergy summoned to the visitation were Bishop Stanley, who appeared, but was not examined, and Henry Charnley, who did not appear. (fn. 62) The chancel remained out of repair, it was even 'ruinated,' but in 1592 the executors of the late rector, Clayton, were compelled to put it right; the churchyard at this time required attention, and there was neither Bible nor Communion Book in the church. (fn. 63) It thus appears that the new services were not regularly performed. In 1598 the chancel was once more out of repair, the windows wanted glass, and the roof was ready to fall. (fn. 64)
In 1605 only one recusant (Ellis Rimmer) was reported, and but two others who 'came slackly to church.' In 1625, Cuthbert, the son of Ellis Rimmer, was considered 'a dangerous person for seducing of good protestants,' but in spite of the example of the squire's family there seems to have been little refusal to attend church for religious reasons. (fn. 65) The fewness of such presentations may have been due to the indifference of the ministering clergy, for in 1665, after the Commonwealth persecution, a considerable number of recusants were found at North Meols. (fn. 66)
Protestant Nonconformity appears to have had few adherents in the district until the rise of Southport.
Anciently the rectory house was at Crossens, (fn. 67) some distance from the church. In 1803 the rector stated that it was entirely unfit for residence through no fault of his, and he therefore desired leave to reside outside the parish; he had a resident curate. In 1825 the old parsonage house and some glebe were exchanged for lands of Peter Hesketh, and a new house was built for the rector in Roe Lane. This in 1879 became the property of Mrs. Hesketh; it is known as the Rookery, and is the local residence of the Hesketh family. In return a new rectory was built, and land given with it.
A grammar school was founded near the end of the seventeenth century. (fn. 68)
Peter Rimmer, formerly clerk, about 1773 left £80, the interest to be spent on clothing for the poor; in 1828 the overseers paid £4 a year as interest on this money, which was spent as nearly as possible in accordance with the founder's wishes. In 1898 no trace of this charity could be found in the books of the overseers or churchwardens. (fn. 69)