Townships: Great Sankey

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

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'Townships: Great Sankey', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907), pp. 409-410. British History Online [accessed 13 June 2024].

. "Townships: Great Sankey", in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907) 409-410. British History Online, accessed June 13, 2024,

. "Townships: Great Sankey", A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907). 409-410. British History Online. Web. 13 June 2024,

In this section


Sanki, 1202, 1212; Schonke, 1288; Sonky, 1242, and usually.

Great Sankey is a flat country with open fields, mostly under cultivation, where crops of potatoes and wheat are raised on a loamy soil. Sankey Brook forms the south-eastern boundary. On the north-east a brook flowing into the Sankey divides it from Burtonwood, and the Whittle Brook on the south serves for a partition from Penketh. The area is 1,922½ acres. (fn. 1) The surface gradually rises from the low land by Sankey Brook to the north-west. The upper mottled sandstone of the bunter series of the new red sandstone is in evidence throughout this township and Penketh, except where obscured by alluvial deposits in the immediate vicinity of the River Mersey. The village is situated on the border of Penketh. The population numbered 1,034 in 1901.

The principal road is that from Prescot to Warrington, which is joined by others from Penketh and from Burtonwood. The Cheshire Lines Committee's railway crosses the centre of the township, having a station (Sankey) at the village, opened in September, 1873. The London and North-Western line from Liverpool to Warrington crosses the southern corner, and has a station (Sankey Bridges) opened about the year 1852.

The canal which winds along beside the Sankey Brook has the credit of being the first work of the kind in modern England, the Sankey Navigation being formed in 1755. (fn. 2) The canal, which was afterwards extended to Widnes, has been since 1864 under the control of the London and North-Western Railway Company.

The occupation of the inhabitants is still largely agricultural. Wire mills and white-lead works have been established on the Warrington side.

The township is governed by a parish council of five members.

The Warrington Corporation has a sanatorium, built in 1903.


This township, with Penketh as a hamlet, was included in the demesne of the lords of Warrington. The manor of GREAT SANKEY is mentioned in several Boteler settlements and inquisitions, (fn. 3) and on the sale of their estates about 1585 became the property of the Bolds of Bold. (fn. 4) Sir Thomas Bold in 1610 granted it to Thomas Tyldesley and Thomas Orme; the latter shortly afterwards resigned his interest, so that Thomas Tyldesley was solely seised in 1613. (fn. 5) Within fifteen years it had passed to Sir Thomas Ireland of Bewsey, (fn. 6) and has since descended, with other estates of this family, to Atherton, Gwillym, and Powys, Lord Lilford being the present lord of the manor. (fn. 7) Manor courts were held yearly until 1888. (fn. 8)

A branch of the Rixton family settled here; (fn. 9) and are said to have lived at the Peel. (fn. 10) A family named Whethull or Whittle appear during the fourteenth century, and long remained here. (fn. 11) The Leghs also held lands here, as may be seen by their inquisitions. (fn. 12) Others whose names occur in various pleadings are Ford, (fn. 13) Whitfield, (fn. 14) and Croston. (fn. 15)

Powys, Lord Lilford. Or, a lion's pawerased in bend between two crosslets fitchy gules.

The freeholders in 1600 were James Whittle, Randle Rixton, and Thomas Taylor. (fn. 16) In 1628 the contributories to the subsidy were Thomas Ireland, for Whittle House; Thomas Rixton, Peter Slynehead, and Margaret Ashton, widow. (fn. 17)

The Commonwealth surveyors of 1650 reported that the inhabitants of Great Sankey and Penketh had recently, at their own charges, built a chapel, and they recommended that it should have a separate parish. (fn. 18) After the Restoration its use, if used at all, was confined to the Presbyterian worship, but in 1728, Mr. Atherton, the lord of the manor, having conformed to the Established Church, handed over the chapel to the bishop of Chester, retaining the patronage, which has descended to Lord Lilford. (fn. 19) It was rebuilt in 1765, a collection towards the cost being made by brief. (fn. 20)


  • 1. 1,922, including 20 acres of inland water; also 2 acres of tidal water; Census Rep. of 1901.
  • 2. Act 28 Geo. II, cap. 8. 'The original intention of the undertakers was to deepen the Sankey Brook, but instead of making this the channel of communication, the navigation runs entirely separate from it, except that it crosses and mixes with that water in one place about two miles from Sankey Bridge. This navigation affords a medium of transit for various descriptions of merchandise and tillage, including slate, grain, timber, stone, lime, and manure; but the principal article is coal, which is carried in great abundance to Liverpool, Warrington, Northwich, and other places, from the mines in the parish of Prescot, and particularly from those of St. Helens. Vessels of 60 tons burthen can navigate this water, with 16 ft. beam and a draught of 5 ft. 1 in.'; Baines, Lancs. Directory, 1825, ii, 468.
  • 3. Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 40, 196. Some charters referring to this place are among the Bold deeds at Warrington. By one (E. 5) Gilbert son of Gilbert the Horse-keeper (Equarin ?) released to his lord, Sir William le Boteler, all his right in land near the new mill of Sankey. This may, however, refer to Little Sankey. By another, Richard son of Adam Baselx quitclaimed to Sir William all right in his messuage and land between the lands of Simon Dandy and Simon the Studherd; E. 18. Another, dated 1289, released to Sir William the lands of Giliana, widow of Nicholas de Erbond; E. 10. In 1313 William le Boteler granted to Thomas de Barrow and Silicia his wife lands, &c. in Great Sankey for the term of their lives; E. 13. In 1292 Christiana widow of Gilbert son of Walter claimed 6 acres in Sankey from William le Boteler; Assize R. 408, m. 17. William le Boteler in 1303 granted to William son of Henry de Hodelsden land in Great Sankey; Dods. MSS. cxlii, fol. 236b. Simon Tripe released to Sir William his right in Solmehooks, with the wood upon it; ibid. William le Boteler, lord of Warrington, about 1260 granted to Robert de Samlesbury 8 acres in Westey Hales and Arpley, with common of pasture in Great Sankey and Penketh. The right descended to Robert's son and heir Richard, otherwise called Richard de Bruche, and to Richard's son Henry de Bruche. The latter, in 1328, complained that the then lord, William le Boteler, and others, including the lords of Penketh, had disseised him of part at least of his right in Great Sankey, viz. common in 100 acres of moor and pasture and 84 acres of wood. The defendants urged that 'by the writ it is supposed that the said common is one gross by itself and not pertaining to any free tenement,' whereas the original charter concerned the common pertaining to the 8 acres granted; Assize R. 1400, m. 234d.; 427, m. 1. In 1551 Thurstan Tyldesley acquired lands here from Richard Bruche and Anne his wife; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 14, m. 238. Thomas Bruche sold land in 1563 to Sir Peter Legh; ibid. bdle. 25, m. 75.
  • 4. The grant of the manor to Coxe and Wakefield may have been one of the steps in the transfer; Lancs. and Ches. Rec. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 389.
  • 5. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 254–6. The manor is stated to have been held of the king by knight's service.
  • 6. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxvi, n. 58. The following rents and undertenants are named therein: 9s. 6d. from lands called Candish; 11s. 10d. from land of John Axon; 5½d. and a pound of pepper from Peter Slynehead; 3s. 0½d. from Thomas Ashton; 16s. 8d. from Thomas Rixton; 6d. from Christopher Phipps; 19d. from Margaret Ashton, widow; 1½d. and a half a pound of pepper from Richard Farrer; 3s. 6d. from John Hatton; all except Axon are said to have held by knight's service.
  • 7. See the account of Atherton; also Pal. of Lanc. Docquet R. 469, m. 5, &c.
  • 8. Information of Mr. John B. Selby, Leigh.
  • 9. In 1346 Richard de Rixton gave to Henry his son all his lands in Great Sankey; Kuerden fol. MS. 359, R. 424. See the account of Ditton. At the same time, Beatrice de Molyneux, widow of Richard, began a series of actions which lasted some years, against Sir William le Boteler and Elizabeth his wife, Robert de Wetshaw, Richard de Rixton, and Matthew his son, claiming lands which Richard le Gynour had granted her husband; De Banc. R. 346, m. 165d. &c. Henry de Atherton of Hindley, in right of his wife Agnes, continued the suits. So far as the Rixtons were concerned Sir William le Boteler said he was not interested except that he claimed the reversion after the death of Matthew, William, and Alan de Rixton, bastards, who had a life interest; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 1, m. iiij; to R. 5, m. 28d. Matthew de Rixton gave all his lands in Sankey to Sir John le Boteler in 1373; Dods. MSS. cxlii, fol. 237b. For Randle son and heir of Matthew Rixton, see Warrington in 1465 (Chet. Soc.), 70. The Rixtons of Sankey recorded a pedigree in 1567; Visit. (Chet. Soc.), 116; see also Piccope MS. Peds. (Chet. Lib.), ii, 15. Richard Rixton, who, according to this pedigree, was son of Randle and grandson of Matthew Rixton, did homage for his lands in Dec., 1511, paying for his relief 20s. as for the fifth part of a knight's fee; and his brother Thomas, who succeeded him early in 1514, paid the same; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i. 24, 28. Thomas Rixton, who married Margery daughter of Nicholas Butler, an illegitimate offshoot of the Warrington family, died about 1540. In his will he desired to be buried in the Rixton chapel in Warrington church, four torches to be made, two being for Warrington church and two for the chapel of Farnworth. He mentions his wife Margery; sons Thomas, the eldest, Stephen, and Edward; and daughters Dorothy and Margaret; Piccope, Wills (Chet. Soc.), ii, 255. For a settlement in 1567 see Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 29, m. 147; Thomas Rixton was the deforciant. A later settlement was made by Randle Rixton in 1596; ibid. bdle. 59, m. 131.
  • 10. Warr. in 1465 (Chet. Soc.), 5, note and p. lvii.
  • 11. This family held land before 1355, when William le Boteler brought a suit against Henry de Whittle concerning 16 acres in Great Sankey; next year William son of Henry was made defendant. It appeared that Henry's father, another Henry, had been in possession by virtue of an agreement with the plaintiff's father; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 4, m. 25; R. 5, m. 16d, 19. Thomas Whethill of Great Sankey did homage for his lands in April, 1507. He fought at Flodden in 1513, and died of his wounds at Newcastle soon afterwards, leaving a widow who survived him only a year, and an infant son Gilbert, whose wardship was claimed by Sir Thomas Butler; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 20, 28. In 1567 William Whittle of Great Sankey, son and heir of Thomas Whittle, married Frances, an illegitimate daughter of Sir William Norris; Norris D. (B.M.), n. 936.
  • 12. e.g. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xv, n. 38.
  • 13. Robert de Ford and Felicia his wife were engaged in suits concerning Great Sankey in the time of Edw. II; Assize R. 423, m. 2; R. 424, m. 7. Adam son of Thomas de Ford was defendant in 1346, in a suit brought by Henry son of Alan, son of Henry de Quyke; De Banc. R. 347, m. jd.; R. 349, m. 280d. Deeds concerning the sale of the lands of James son and heir of George Ford, in 1536, are among the Bold deeds at Warrington; G. 71–9.
  • 14. Robert de Whitfield, clerk, in 1288 granted the marriage of Henry, his son and heir, to Margaret daughter of Richard de Penketh, at the same time granting lands to the bride's father for a term of years; having ejected him, a suit was brought for restoration, in 1292; Assize R. 408, m. 29. Elizabeth, widow of Robert de Whitfield, claimed dower in houses and lands here from Richard son of Thomas de Hale in 1346; De Banc. R. 347, m. 292.
  • 15. This name occurs in a charter preserved by Kuerden (fol. MS. 137, n. 441), whereby Nicholas de Foulshurst, chaplain, demised to Richard de Croston, and Matthew, Henry, and Margaret his children, land in Great Sankey.
  • 16. Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 239, 242. Humphrey Taylor in 1562 and later purchased lands in Great Sankey and Penketh from Randle Law and others; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 24, m. 176; 25, m. 152; 26, m. 132. A settlement was made by Thomas Taylor in 1594, of lands here and in Penketh and Rainhill; ibid. bdle. 56, m. 25. Edmund Taylor of Burtonwood, who died early in 1624, held lands in Great Sankey of the king in chief; he left a widow Cecily and a son and heir Ralph, ten years old; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 418. For Ralph Taylor, who died in 1641, see Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p. m. xxix, n. 11; Edmund, his son and heir, was seven years old; Cecily, mother of Ralph and then wife of Richard Roughley, was living at Sutton. The Barnes family, though not named, also held lands here; Randle Barnes, who died in 1611, had a brother and heir Ralph, who died two years later, his heir being his son William; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 203, 267. Randle Barnes of Sankey Bridge in 1651 complained that his 'small vessel of the burthen of 14 tons,' while on a voyage for the herring fishery off the coast of Ireland, had been compelled to shelter in the Isle of Man, and had been confiscated by the Parliament on its arrival at Liverpool, the island being then held by the earl of Derby, and this 'notwithstanding the petitioner had always been faithful to the Parliament and Commonwealth of England and ready and active for the transporting of soldiers for Ireland'; Royalist Comp. P. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 142. The hearth tax of 1666 shows that William Barnes had the principal house here with nine hearths; Lawrence Callen, the next, having only four.
  • 17. Norris D. (B.M.). The Slyneheads were a Ditton family, but appear in Sankey much earlier than this. Thomas Slynehead purchased land from Hamlet Bruche in 1572; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 34, m. 53; 45, m. 149; see also Beamont, Lords of Warr. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 477. Of Peter Slynehead, a pamphleteer of the seventeenth century, and of the family generally there is a notice in Local Gleanings Lancs. and Ches. ii, 63. An assessment of Great Sankey, of the latter part of that century, is printed in the same volume, 200.
  • 18. Commonwealth Ch. Surv. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 77. The minister in 1653 was Hugh Henshaw, who appears to have been removed shortly afterwards to St. Helens and then to Chelford; Plund. Mins. Accts. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 136, 142; ii, 312. Bishop Gastrell's account agrees with this: 'It was never used but in Oliver's time'; the land it stood on was given by the family of Bewsey, and the building had by 1720 fallen out of repair; Notitia Cestr. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 215.
  • 19. Canon Raines states (loc. cit.) that it was consecrated (St. Mary's) in 1769.
  • 20. The monumental inscriptions in the chapel are given in Lancs. and Ches. Antiq. Notes, i, 67.