Townships: Burscough

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.

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'Townships: Burscough', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907), pp. 258-260. British History Online [accessed 12 June 2024].

. "Townships: Burscough", in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907) 258-260. British History Online, accessed June 12, 2024,

. "Townships: Burscough", A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907). 258-260. British History Online. Web. 12 June 2024,

In this section


Burgastud, c. 1190; Burgche stude, Boureghe stide, Burrestude, Burgaschou, Borchestuoe, early xiii cent.; Burcho, Burscho, Burschou, Borescou, later xiii cent.; Buresco, 1235; Burschehou, 1241; Burschou, 1303; Burschogh, 1324; Burscogh, 1327. Sometimes the first letters are transposed, as Bruscow for Burscow.

This township extends northward from Ormskirk about 4½ miles. The northern half is, properly speaking, the demesne of Martin or Marton; but this name has long since fallen into disuse, though Martin Hall and Martin Mere preserve it. Bordering on the mere is the hamlet of Tarlscough. The area is 4,960 acres. (fn. 1) The population in 1901 was 2,752. The highest ground lies on the south, where Greetby Hill (177 ft.) stands at the meeting point of the three townships of Lathom, Ormskirk, and Burscough. The main road through the township is the Liverpool and Preston road, running north-westward; there are numerous cross roads. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal passes through the township from east to west, and at the point where the highway crosses it a village has grown up, called Burscough Bridge, but as the road is here the boundary between this township and Lathom, the village lies partly in both. The railway from Liverpool to Preston runs parallel to the main road and to the east of it, with a station at Burscough Bridge; at this point also there is a junction with the railway from Southport to Wigan, which crosses the township to the north of the canal and has a station called New Lane. Burscough village lies to the south of the above.

In Burscough the sites of several ancient crosses are known. Manor House Cross stood between Lathom and Martin; Burscough Priory Cross was to the south, and Pippin Street Cross to the north of the priory; Bathwood Cross near the boundary of Burscough and Lathom. The pedestal of the second of these remains. (fn. 2)

For local government purposes Burscough is joined with Lathom.

In common with adjacent districts the surface is very flat, whilst the country is portioned out into both pasture and arable fields, where the principal crops raised are potatoes, wheat, and oats. The northern part embraces a portion of land originally covered by the waters of Martin Mere. An effective system of drainage and constant pumping operations keep the ground from becoming once more inundated. The soil consists of peat, in places, and sand, whilst the clay in parts of the district is used in the manufacture of bricks and tiles; the tall chimneys of several brickworks being prominent features of a landscape but barely clad with timber. The geological formation consists of the upper mottled sandstone of the bunter series of the new red sandstone, with a small overlying patch of lower keuper sandstone immediately around Martin Hall.

There are steam flour mills here. Formerly there was cotton spinning.


The earliest mention of BURSCOUGH is in the foundation charter of the priory granted by the lord of Lathom in or about 1189. (fn. 3) At that time some clearing of the woodland had probably commenced by the course of Eller Brook where it was crossed by the road from Alton in Lathom to Hurleton; and the canons, fixing their residence to the northwest of the ford at this point, would continue the improvement of the land. (fn. 4) During the tenure of the place by the canons its history was uneventful. Some families in the neighbourhood acquired lands in it, and one or more took the local name; thus Richard son of John de Burscough sued Robert de Lathom in 1292 concerning a tenement here, but was non-suited. (fn. 5) The prior of Burscough appears as plaintiff or defendant in suits from time to time, sometimes as landowner, at others as trustee, but there are no points of interest. (fn. 6)

After the dissolution in 1536 the manor remained for ten years or more in the king's hands, and the accounts which have been preserved throw some light on its value and previous management, and likewise record the tenants' names. (fn. 7) The first grant by the crown was made in May, 1547, to Sir William Paget; it included the site of the priory, all the demesne lands, Martin Grange, rights of pasture, fishing, mills, and so forth; but no mention is made of manorial rights. (fn. 8) Shortly afterwards (1549) the grantee sold the estate to the earl of Derby, from whom it has descended to the present earl. (fn. 9) The manor was granted in August, 1560, to Sir George Stanley of Cross Hall, in reward for the 'great, painful, and valiant service' done by him in the wars in Ireland and foreign countries. (fn. 10) After his death (1570) it passed to his sons, Edward, who died in 1576, and Henry, who died in 1590 without male issue, when it reverted to the crown. It was in 1591 granted to the earl of Derby, (fn. 11) and has since passed with the earldom. In 1651, when the rights of the crown were in the hands of trustees for the Commonwealth, a report was made that certain profits had never been attended to or collected. (fn. 12)

Immediately after the surrender it was ordered that the buildings of the priory should be demolished. The earl of Derby was very reluctant to destroy the church, his ancestors having been buried there, and offered to maintain a priest if permission were granted. (fn. 13) This must have been denied as the buildings have been demolished, the only conspicuous fragments now remaining being the northern piers of the central tower; portions of old walls remain just below the surface of the ground. In 1886 a systematic exploration of the ground on which the church stood was carried out, and many interesting details and remains of the building were found. (fn. 14)

The church was cruciform with a presbytery 42 ft. by 24 ft.; central tower 22 ft. 6 in. square; north transept 26 ft. 6 in. by 25 ft. 6 in.; south transept 24 ft. by 23 ft.; and nave 100 ft. by 24 ft. 9 in. with a north aisle 12 ft. wide. On the south side of the nave were the claustral buildings, the cloister being about 67 ft. square. The eastern and southern ranges were not cleared, but the approximate size of the frater, 54 ft. by 21 ft. was ascertained by sounding with a bar. About half the western range was uncovered, and the foundations of a building were cleared adjoining the north side of the north transept. The parts now above ground are the north-east and north-west piers of the central tower of the church, which stand to some height above the springing of the crossing arches, though the voussoirs of the arches themselves have been removed. The work is plain but good in design and workmanship, its date being c. 1280, and both transepts and the presbytery appear to have been of the same date.

Whether any part of the older church was discovered is not stated, but the gap between the east wall of the cloisters and the south transept suggests that the former is on the site of the twelfth-century cloister, and preserved the old arrangement after the eastward enlargement of the church c. 1280. The plan of the nave also may represent that of the twelfth-century church. A careful and complete excavation of the site is much to be desired.

Court rolls of the period during which the manor was held by the crown have been preserved. In 1536 the tenants claimed that they had by custom a bull, a boar, and a stallion, found by the priory, and they desired its continuance. They had 'followed scythe and sickle' with their cattle in the pastures until Candlemas, and in return they had given a hen for every cow, and calf calved. (fn. 15)

The lands of John Fletcher of Burscough were confiscated by the Parliament and sold in 1652; this seems to have been for recusancy only. (fn. 16) In 1717 estates in the township were registered by William Bradshaw, Richard Cropper, George Culcheth, and Edward Tristram of Ince Blundell, as 'Papists.' (fn. 17)

Burscough Priory Church: Northern Piers of the Crossing

John Houghton in 1733 left £10 for building a public school on the brow near the pinfold, and £100 as endowment. (fn. 18)

The reference in Domesday to MARTIN (fn. 19) shows that before 1066 one-half of it had been united to Harleton; (fn. 20) the other half is not mentioned, but it had probably been merged in Lathom. It is this latter portion which was bestowed by Robert de Lathom upon the newly-founded priory of Burscough in 1189, (fn. 21) and which apparently is the 'plough-land' referred to in the survey of 1212 as thus granted. (fn. 22) It appears, however, that the same Robert de Lathom had already granted land here to his nephew (nepos) Henry, from whom it descended to Henry de Radcliffe. The latter exchanged it for lands in Oswaldtwisle held by his brother Matthew, (fn. 23) whose son Richard about 1240 resigned Martin to the prior and canons of Burscough. (fn. 24) After its acquisition by the canons, this half of the original Martin became part of Burscough; yet as late as 1366 the whole is called Burscough-with-Martin. (fn. 25) Agreements were made in the latter part of the thirteenth century as to the boundaries between Burscough and Martin on the one side and Scarisbrick and Harleton on the other. These were supplemented by others a century later. (fn. 26) Martin Grange was retained by the canons among their demesne properties, and the earl of Derby had rented it of the king's commissioners in 1538. (fn. 27) Others of their lands there had been leased out just in the same way as those in Burscough described above. (fn. 28)

Wrightington of Wrightington. Sable, a chevron argent between three cross crosslets fitchée or.

In 1612 Martin Hall or Grange was granted to John Breres of Martin, who appears to have sold it to the Wrightingtons of Wrightington, under whom he became tenant. (fn. 29) It descended with the Wrightington estates until recently, when it was sold to the earl of Derby.

In 1694 an Act was passed for ratifying and confirming an indenture of lease of Martin Mere, made by the earl of Derby to Thomas Fleetwood. (fn. 30)

There is a Wesleyan chapel at Burscough.


  • 1. 4,965, including eighteen of inland water; Census of 1901.
  • 2. H. Taylor in Lancs. and Ches. Antiq. Soc. xix, 150–3. An old cottage is described in Addy's Evolution of the House, p. 48.
  • 3. The charter is printed in Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 349, from the Burscough Reg. fol. 1, 56. See also Inq. and Extents(Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 16. An account of the priory will be found in V.C.H. Lancs. ii, 'Religious Houses.'
  • 4. Some of the charters may be quoted:—Emma, daughter of Siward, son of Swain, had land between the highway of Wirples moss and the brook, adjoining land of Henry her brother, which her son, Robert de Burscough, gave to the canons in exchange for land in the town of Walton Lees (in Dalton); she gave the holme by the land of Richard the Smith, together with the water-course, for the site of a mill. Burscough Reg. fol. 9, 8b, 23b. Benedict the prior confirmed to Henry his man, son of Swain, land which Henry had bought from Sir Robert de Lathom in the underwood of Burscough, lying between Burnards Castle and other land purchased from Sir Robert; ibid. 26. Henry, son of Swain de Burscough (or de Hurleton), gave the canons land called Moorcroft on the south side of the Burnelds gate for the health of the soul of King John and for the soul of Richard, late lord of Lathom; ibid. 9b. He also gave three large and good acres of land bounded by ditches and four crosses, these limits being respectively near the Smith oak, the Forked oak, the Sty oak, and the Meangate close of Ormsdyke; ibid. 9b.
  • 5. Assize R. 408, m. 54d. See also the account of Burscough Hall in Lathom.
  • 6. Executors of the will of Nicholas de Wigan v. the Prior and others; De Banc. R. 21, m. 18. Ralph de Hengham v. the Prior and others, plea of debt; De Banc. R. 153, m. 435 d. to R. 164, m. 252. The Prior v. Gilbert the goldsmith and Christiana his wife; De Banc. R. 273, m. 104; a Preston case. John de Lancaster v. the Prior, withholding bonds; De Banc. R. 276, m. 144 to R. 282, m. 39. And similar cases. In 1442 Thomas and Henry Beconsaw of Burscough were charged with stealing forty bream, the prior's property, worth 20s.; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 4, m. 16.
  • 7. The priory rental of 1512 continued in use, the necessary corrections being made from time to time, though another was compiled in 1524. Duchy of Lanc. Rentals, bdle. 4, n. 7; bdle. 5, n. 16. The former begins with a list of over sixty tenancies at will—Thomas Such, 23s. 2d. &c.; and mentions Debdale, Dam head, Bild acre, Bradshaw ees, Dowe acre, Mere hey, and Batel holme; John Scarisbrick on account of Burscough mill paid 33s. 4d. The free tenants, who paid small quit-rents, usually sub-let their holdings; thus Thomas Atherton paid 12d. for Shakelady hey by Hugh Hulme, and Lord Derby paid 3s. for Edgeacre hey by the wife of Hugh Shaw and Henry Burscough. The survey made immediately after the suppression (Duchy of Lanc. Mins. Accts. bdle. 158, n. 33) gives a detailed statement of the demesne lands and crops and stock upon them. There were meadows and pastures called Cow hey, Battleholme or Batterholme, Bradshaw, Marsh, Highfield, Gorse hey, Crooked Acres, and Aspen shoute; the Rushyfield was sown with oats, Sandycroft with rye, and Bankfield with oats and barley. Walshe hey wood contained oak saplings, ashes, and underwood; Tarlscough wood, oak saplings; Greetby wood, oaks, 'spires,' and ashes. The windmill, water-mill and fishing in Martin mere were in the prior's hands. The only wheat growing mentioned was in the Mill field of eight acres, 'whereof four be sown with wheat and four lie leye.' There was common pasture in Tarlscough moss, alias 'Wirpulles' moss, and in Hitchcock moss. The first year's account of the profits of the lands is contained in Duchy of Lanc. Mins. Accts. bdle. 136, n. 2198. The assize or quit-rents of the free tenants are first given, amounting to 37s. 11½d. Then follow the rents of tenants by indenture and at will. In these cases the indentures are recited at length; they provide for an annual rent and a heriot at death, e.g. 'the second best animal or 6s. 8d.' The total of these was £32 7s. 7d. The demesne lands had now been let for £14 4s. 1d. Later accounts (nn. 2205, &c.) record the profits from various sources, such as fines for entry to lands, heriots and reliefs, 'top and crop' of trees and barks felled in the woods, or additional rents for improvements.
  • 8. Duchy of Lanc. lib. Edw. VI. xxiii, fol. 11. All was to be held by the yearly rent of 28s. 5d. The lands, late in the tenure or occupation of Edward, earl of Derby, are specially mentioned.
  • 9. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 13, m. 81. The property is described as 'the site, circuit, ambit, and precinct' of the priory, messuages, tofts, gardens, orchards, water-mill, windmill, dove-cote, 1,000 acres of land, with meadow and other lands including 10,000 acres of moor, moss and turbary; also a free fishery in Martin mere. Exactly the same property seems to have been again granted to William Tipper and others in 1588; Pat. R. 30 Eliz. pt. 16, ii.
  • 10. Quoted in the pleadings and in the subsequent patent. There was an annual rent of £46 5s. 7d. payable for it.
  • 11. Pat. R. 33 Eliz. pt. 5, m. 34; see also Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 31; Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 122, &c. The grant was to Henry, earl of Derby and the heirs male of his body, at the same rent as before. After the suppression of the priory disputes occurred from time to time as to manorial rights. In 1543 John Whittington, keeper of the woods, reported that William Stopford had taken six trees to make a new window in the side of his house and for other repairs; he had also 'discharged' the king's tenants of the hay and 'skowre' for their cattle they used to have in summer in the prior's time, so that they would be unable to keep a plough and pay their rents. A privy seal was sent to William Stopford, whose indignation and violent measures are vividly described in a subsequent letter. Countercharges of waste were made by Stopford, who was farmer at Martin Grange under the earl of Derby; he confessed that he had had timber from Walshaw and Tarlscough for his house and more from the hedgerows, which he claimed for ploughbote and cartbote; Duchy of Lanc. Mins. Accts. Misc. bdle. 158, n. 30. Dame Isobel, widow of Sir George Stanley, cut down an ash tree in 1575, but Robert Prescott and others refused to allow it to be carried away; he said his father had planted it 'for the safeguard of the house,' having held the premises on lease more than forty years; Duchy of Lanc. Pleadings, Eliz. xcviii, S. 4. Henry Stanley, younger son of Sir George, in 1586, wished to build a house upon land which the tenants of the manor claimed as part of the common. They accordingly assembled on Hitchcock moss, pulled down the portion erected and burnt the frame timber and trees collected; Duchy of Lanc. Pleadings, Eliz. cxl. S. 19.
  • 12. Aug. Parl. Surveys, Lanc. 6. These profits are described as 'all manner of reliefs, escheats, goods, and chattels of felons and fugitives' which had been excepted from the grants of the manor; also timber trees, pollards, saplings, and dotterels in Burscough wood.
  • 13. Derby Correspondence (Chet. Soc. New Ser.), 128. Leland's brief note (Itin. vii, 46) mentions the burial place of the Stanleys.
  • 14. The exploration was made at the expense of the earl of Derby, under the direction of Mr. James Bromley. The latter's account of the discoveries, with plan and numerous drawings, is printed in Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser), v, 127–46d. For the masons' marks, ibid. vii-viii, 123.
  • 15. The series extends from 28 Hen. VIII (from which the above quotation is made) to 42 Eliz.; Duchy of Lanc. Ct. R. bdle 79, nn. 1059 to 1073. Ct. R. from 1639 onwards are at Knowsley.
  • 16. Index of Royalists, 42; Cal. Com. for Comp. iv, 2924.
  • 17. Eng. Cath. Nonjurors, 127, 111, 126.
  • 18. End. Char. Rep. Ormskirk, 1899, pp. 9, 57, 58.
  • 19. Merretun, Dom. Bk.; Mereton, 1205; Mertona, xiii century; Merton, 1303, 1398; Marton, 1494.
  • 20. V.C.H. Lancs. i, 284b.
  • 21. He gave 'the whole vill of Martin with all its appurtenances in wood and plain, in meadows and feeding grounds, together with Tarlscough and all other easements'; Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 350.
  • 22. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 16.
  • 23. Matthew de Martin paid ½ mark to the scutage in 1205–6; Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 205. His heir offered 20 marks for his relief in 1210–11; ibid. 242.
  • 24. Duchy of Lanc. Anct. D. L612 and L613. The grant was made as an alms, and included the suit and sequel of two men—Swain son of Dunning and Peter. About the same time a family holding lands here had assumed the name of the place. Thus Henry, son of Hugh de Merton, gave to Stephen his son and heir for his homage and service half the land he held in Martin from the priory for the rent of ¼ lb. pepper, ¼ lb. cummin, and 3d. The Oatcroft, 'Migge halch,' and the Plox riding are mentioned. Duchy of Lanc. Cart. Misc. 1, fol. 19.
  • 25. Exch. Lay Subs. 1332 (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 115; there is a long list of the inhabitants. For a dispute concerning land here in 1349, Challes v. Pettit, see De Banc. R. 358, m. 64d.; 360, m. 52d.
  • 26. Scarisbrick D. (Trans. Hist. Soc. New Ser. xii, and xiii), nn. 17, 44, 129, 133; also Duchy of Lanc. Anct. D. L592; Burscough Reg. fol. 28. The first, made about 1260 between Prior Nicholas and the lords of Scarisbrick and Harleton, traced the boundary from the corner of the ditch of Simon Tope, along the ditch in a straight line to Blakebank below Berewaldishal (or -hul) and to Cundlache Bridge, thence to Deepdale Head and to Longshow Head, then to Hondelache, and so to the starting point. The second was made in 1303 between Prior Richard and the lords of the same manors. It was agreed that Thoraldstub in Malle Lane should be the boundary between Ormskirk and Harleton; from this the bounds were traced to the corner of the field of Simon Tope, at which the last agreement had started. From Deepdale, where it ended, the boundaries were fixed to Martin Pool and on to the great lake, so that the plot of waste between Blakelache and Martin Pool was divided between the parties, certain common rights being allowed. The later arbitrations of 1395 and 1398 fixed the boundaries and pasture rights more definitely.
  • 27. Duchy of Lanc. Mins. Accts. bdle. 136, n. 2198. Disputes concerning it have already been related.
  • 28. Ibid.
  • 29. Pat. R. 10 Jas. 1, pt. ii, m. 1.; Commonwealth Ch. Surv. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 90, 91. James Starkey was there in 1682; Preston Guild R. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 195. M arti Hall and the demesne, worth £80 a year, occur in the Lancs. Forfeited Estates Papers, 2 L.
  • 30. 6 and 7 Will. III, c. 15. This was in connexion with the draining of the mere, for which see Farrer, North Meols, 119 et seq.