Townships: Penketh

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

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'Townships: Penketh', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, ed. William Farrer, J Brownbill( London, 1907), British History Online [accessed 16 July 2024].

'Townships: Penketh', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Edited by William Farrer, J Brownbill( London, 1907), British History Online, accessed July 16, 2024,

"Townships: Penketh". A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Ed. William Farrer, J Brownbill(London, 1907), , British History Online. Web. 16 July 2024.

In this section


Penket, 1242; Penkith, 1293; Penketh, 1290 and usually. Also occur: Penecke, 1285; Pentketh and Pentekech, 1302; Penkeheth, c. 1360.

This township, originally formed from Great Sankey, has an area of 1,003½ acres. (fn. 1) It has the typical features of the districts situated along the Mersey, being decidedly flat, sparingly timbered, with open fields. The soil is loamy, with clay lying below the surface, the crops raised being principally barley, oats and wheat, with occasional fields of potatoes. The ground by the riverside lies very low, and consists of marshy pastures, jutting out into the numerous bends of the river. The southern portion of the township is not destitute of trees; the landscape is pleasantly varied by fields of corn and roots. The geological formation here and in Great Sankey is the same. The eastern boundary is partially formed by Whittle Brook. In 1901 the population was 1,735.

A road from Farnworth to Warrington runs eastwardly through the centre of the township; along it the village is built. The London and North-Western Company's Liverpool and Warrington line traverses the southern part of the township, having a station near the river side, called Fiddler's Ferry and Penketh; it was opened about 1852. On the river side of this railway is the Sankey Navigation Canal between St. Helens and Widnes, entering the Mersey below Fiddler's Ferry. The Liverpool and Manchester section of the Cheshire Lines Committee's railway crosses the northern corner.

Penketh of Penketh. Argent, three kingfishers azure.

Forty years ago there were about one hundred acres of waste or common land, called the Greystone Heath and Doe Green. An award for enclosure was made in 1868 and confirmed in 1869, ninety acres being divided among the freeholders, while six acres were reserved for a recreation ground, and five acres for a cemetery for Penketh.

The township has a parish council of seven members.

The ancient ferry across the Mersey called Fiddler's Ferry (fn. 2) was owned in 1830 by Mrs. Hughes of Sherdley Hall, Sutton; there was an acknowledgement due to Sir Richard Brooke for permission to pass over his land. (fn. 3)


PENKETH, originally a hamlet in Great Sankey, (fn. 4) was part of the demesne of the lords of Warrington. It is not clear when the manor was first granted out, (fn. 5) but in 1242 Roger de Sankey held the twentieth part of a knight's fee here under the heirs of Emery le Boteler. (fn. 6) The descent from Roger is obscure. About 1280 Gilbert de Penketh and Robert de Penketh were joint lords of the manor; (fn. 7) later records prove that the descendants of the latter held under those of the former.

Ashton of Penketh. Argent, a chevron between three mascles gules.

Gilbert de Penketh had two sons, Henry and Richard. (fn. 8) The inheritance went to seven daughters, or grand-daughters, upon whom in 1325 the succession was settled. (fn. 9) Margery, the eldest of these, married Richard son of William de Ashton, (fn. 10) and their descendants retained the lordship of the manor down to the seventeenth century. (fn. 11) John Ashton, who died in 1620, had the distinction of being one of the very few who were 'soundly affected in religion' in 1590. (fn. 12) He left five daughters, coheiresses; but Christiana, who seems to have been the eldest, married Hamlet Ashton of Glazebrook, and thus the succession continued in a line bearing the old name. (fn. 13)

Their son Thomas, who died in 1645, (fn. 14) had a numerous family. The eldest son, John, was killed at Bolton in 1643, on the Royalist side; (fn. 15) Thomas, who succeeded to the manor, also bore arms for the same cause, but very quickly surrendered, took the National Covenant, and compounded for his estates. (fn. 16) He was succeeded by his son Colonel John Ashton, who was buried at Ormskirk in 1707. (fn. 17) As he does not appear to have had any connexion with Penketh, the manor had probably been alienated before his time.

It was subsequently in the possession of the Athertons, and has descended, in the same manner as Great Sankey, to Lord Lilford. (fn. 18)

The manor held of the Ashtons by the Penketh family descended from Robert de Penketh, living in 1284, (fn. 19) to his son Jordan, (fn. 20) his grandson Richard, (fn. 21) and his great-grandson Roger. (fn. 22) The Penkeths recorded pedigrees in 1567 and 1613, (fn. 23) but afterwards seem to have fallen into obscurity. (fn. 24) They remained faithful to the Roman Church, (fn. 25) and some of their descendants were priests in Lancashire during the centuries of proscription. (fn. 26)

Mrs. Hughes of Sherdley about the year 1830 claimed manorial rights, and courts had been held; her claim was not generally acknowledged. (fn. 27)

Various families are mentioned in the early pleadings and charters as holding lands in Penketh, as the Quicks (fn. 28) and Wetshaws. (fn. 29) The prior of Norton also possessed certain rights here. (fn. 30) Henry Russell of Penketh, hanged for felony in 1292, had lands in Wigan. (fn. 31)

The freeholders in 1600 were John Ashton and —Penketh; (fn. 32) in 1628 Thomas Ashton, Thomas Ireland, and Robert Ryve were assessed to the subsidy. (fn. 33)

The Wesleyan Methodists built a chapel in Penketh in 1818.

The Society of Friends early had a meeting here; it was duly certified and recorded in 1689. (fn. 34) A day school was carried on from 1678 to 1878; (fn. 35) a boardingschool was founded in 1834 and still flourishes. (fn. 36)


  • 1. The census of 1901 gives 1,008 acres, including 12 of inland water, with 35 acres of tidal water and 17 of fore-shore.
  • 2. Perhaps from Vieleur, the (supposed) original grantee of the manor.
  • 3. Trans. Hist. Soc. xxii, 215.
  • 4. It was included with Great Sankey in the subsidy collections; Exch. Lay Subs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 23. In an agreement between Sir Richard de Bold and John son of John de Penketh, made in 1371, the former granted John all his rent from 'Penketh, a hamlet of Sankey,' during the life of Margery daughter of Richard de Ashton of Penketh; Dods. MSS. cxlii, fol. 205, n. 86.
  • 5. Penketh may be the plough-land granted to Adam le Vieleur by Pain de Vilers, about 1160; in 1212 it was held by knight's service by Robert son of Robert, Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 10.
  • 6. Ibid. 147.
  • 7. This appears from the suits brought by Richard de Samlesbury and his son to recover common of pasture in Great Sankey and Penketh. The defendants in 1284 were Henry son of Gilbert de Penketh, Richard his brother, Margaret de Penketh, and Robert de Penketh; Assize R. 1268, m. 12. Four years later they were Adam del Bruche and Margaret his wife, Robert de Penketh, Richard son of Jordan de Kenyon, Henry son of Gilbert de Penketh, and Richard his brother; Assize R. 1277, m. 32a. Margaret was the widow of Gilbert; Adam del Bruche was son of Dulcia. Adam and his wife in 1292 brought suits for dower against Richard son of Gilbert, and others; Assize R. 408, m. 32d. 71. Richard's portion is described as 2 messuages, 40 acres of land, 50 acres of moor, and reasonable estovers in 20 acres of wood for housebote and heybote, and acquittance of pannage for his demesne pigs. At the same time Henry son of Gilbert was plaintiff, claiming as heir of his father various lands in Penketh from William le Boteler of Warrington. William replied that Penketh being a hamlet in Sankey and not a vill by itself, he, as son and heir of Emery, lord of Sankey, had approved from the wastes of the vill and hamlet; further, Gilbert had common of pasture not solely but together with one Robert de Penketh; Assize R. 408, m. 22. William de Penketh occurs as a witness to several early charters; e.g. Dods. cxlii, fol. 193b, n. 7, 8 (about 1240). Hugh son of William de Penketh witnessed a charter of about 1270; Bold D. (Warr.), F. 350; and as Hugh de Penketh his name occurs more frequently. His son Adam, a clerk, claimed lands in Penketh from Richard and Henry, sons of Gilbert, in 1301 and 1302; Assize R. 1321, m. 9d.; 418, m. 13d.
  • 8. Henry is usually named first, as if he were the elder, but by an agreement made in 1290 Richard was acknowledged to be lord of the messuage, plough-land, and 20s. rent; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 165. See also Cal. Close, 1288–96, p. 283. Henry had a son Richard, whose wife was Agnes, and who was defendant in pleas in 1292 brought by Adam del Bruche, and in 1301 by Richard son of Gilbert; Assize R. 408, m. 32d.; 419, m. 10. The younger Richard seems to have been living in 1323, as a suit was in that year brought against Richard de Penketh, senior; De Banc. R. 250, m. 17d.
  • 9. Final Conc. ii, 61. The names of the heiresses were Margery, then married to Richard son of William de Ashton; Margaret, Cecily, Joan, Christiana, Alice, and Godith. The last-named married John de Dalton, clerk, from whom Richard de Dutton (son of John) claimed a messuage and land in 1325–6; and who in 1329 was one of the defendants in a plea by Henry del Bruche; De Banc. R. 263, m. 133; R. 277, m. 95d. It does not appear who their father was, but Henry son of Gilbert was living and put in his claim. The deforciant was Thomas son of Adam, son of Alan de Abram, who may have been a trustee; he claimed a rent of 6s. 5½d. in Penketh and Great Sankey from Richard son of Gilbert in 1331; De Banc. R. 286, m. 348.
  • 10. Richard de Ashton of Sankey was one defendant in suits brought in 1328 by Thurstan de Holland; De Banc. R. 273, m. 45d., &c. He paid 3s. 4d. to the subsidy in 1332; Exch. Lay Subs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 23. Licence for an oratory was granted by the bishop of Lichfield to Richard de Ashton of Penketh in 1361; Lich. Reg. v, fol. 4b.
  • 11. Pedigrees were recorded in the Visit. of 1567 (Chet. Soc.), p. 112, and 1613, p. 20. There is a continuation in Piccope's MS. Pedigrees (Chet. Lib.), ii, 79, bringing it down to Strange Ashton. The succession is given as Richard, Thomas, Hamlet, Thomas, and John. A Thomas de Ashton was witness to Bold charters of 1429 and 1438; Dods. MSS. cxlii. fol. 205, n. 88; fol. 203, n. 70. A settlement was made in 1457 by Thomas Ashton and Joan his wife, concerning messuages and land in Penketh; the remainders were to their sons Richard and Robert for life, and then to their grandson Thomas son of Hamlet, and his heirs; in default to Joan and Agnes, daughters of Hamlet, with further remainders; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 6, m. 12. John Ashton of Penketh did homage and service to the lord of Warrington in April, 1507, paying 10s. for relief; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 20. John Ashton was living in 1533; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), i, 142. He was succeeded by his son Thomas, who married Douce, daughter of William Mascy of Rixton before 1538; Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), iii, 106. In August, 1558, a settlement was made by Thomas Ashton, the remainders being to his sons William and John, his uncle Richard, Christopher Anderton, and the male heirs of his father John; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 20, m. 16. A later one was made in 1563; ibid. bdle. 25, m. 81. The inquisition taken after his death (1573) states that Thomas held the manor of Penketh and lands in Warrington and Martinscroft by the fourth part of a knight's fee, suit of court at Warrington from three weeks to three weeks, and a rent of 21d.; his heir was his son William, then thirty years of age; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiii, n. 1. William seems to have died soon after his father, being succeeded by his brother John, who in 1571 had married Juliana, daughter of John Grimsditch; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 229, m. 4; see also will of John Grimsditch in Wills (Chet. Soc. New Ser.), i, 211. John Ashton had various suits against his neighbours from 1572 onwards; James Ryve and Henry Rigby he accused of diverting a watercourse; Ducatus Lanc. iii, 2, 51, 120. He was among the freeholders in 1600; Misc. (ibid.), 239. He and Richard Penketh sold the fishery in the Mersey to Francis Bold in 1585, and he purchased land in Great Sankey in 1597; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 47, m. 167; 58, m. 215.
  • 12. Gibson, Lydiate Hall, 245 (quoting S.P. Dom. Eliz. ccxxxv, n. 4). There were only three names of recusants in the roll of 1628 in Penketh and eight in Sankey; Lay Subs. 131/318.
  • 13. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 303. He died 6 July, 1620; his daughters being Christiana, mother of Thomas Ashton, the heir, who was then over thirty years of age; Timothea, wife of John Crosby, aged forty-six; Margaret, wife of Robert Heywood, aged thirtyseven; Anne, wife of Andrew Mainwaring, aged thirty-nine; and Elizabeth, widow of Peter Harrison, whose son John was eight years old. Thomas Ashton, the grandson, was then in possession, the property including water-mill, windmill, dovecote, fishery in the Mersey, and common of pasture in Penketh, Great Sankey, Warrington, and Martinscroft. Penketh, which is not called a manor, is said to be held in socage by fealty and the rent of a silver penny, showing a commutation of the old services. From a deed recited in the inquisition it appears that Thomas Ashton had been married as early as 1612 to Katherine Brook, of Chester. For Hamlet, the father of Thomas, see the account of Glazebrook. His widow Christiana married Sir Arthur, second son of Sir Thomas Aston of Aston in Cheshire, by whom she had two sons; Funeral Certs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 9.
  • 14. He was buried at Farnworth in July, 1645; Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), ii, 9.
  • 15. Civil War Tracts (Chet. Soc.), 47, 51, 83.
  • 16. Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 112. He surrendered as early as November, 1644. The value of the estate appears to have been about £210 a year; he claimed reductions in respect of the annuities of younger brothers, Andrew and William, and a sister, Christian; the fine was fixed at £192 8s. 4d. It is added: 'As for his personal estate he hath nothing but the clothes to his back.' His mother, Katherine, was still living in 1646. He had been admitted to Gray's Inn in November, 1634; Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), ii, 11. He was buried at Farnworth 18 Feb. 1675–6; ibid. 9. The hearth-tax return of 1666 shows Mr. Ashton paying for 6 hearths, and Mrs. Ashton for 3; Lay Subs. 250–9. The will of his brother William, proved in 1669, is printed in Wills (Chet. Soc. New Ser.), i, 166. The will of Andrew Ashton, of Liverpool, was proved in 1679; it mentions his son John, who is believed to be the John Ashton described as 'late of Penketh in Lancashire,' who took part in the Jacobite plot in 1690, and was executed for it; see the paper, already quoted, by Dr. John Venn in Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), ii, 1–14.
  • 17. Ibid. 10; for his will, 7. He had a son Strange, buried at Ormskirk in 1756, and three daughters, Anne, Elizabeth, and Catherine; ibid. 8, 10.
  • 18. This 'manor' may, however, be the superior lordship, and may have been acquired, with Bewsey, by Sir Thomas Ireland. In the inquisition after his death in 1625 he is said to have held the 'manor of Penketh' with its appurtenances; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxvi, n. 58.
  • 19. See the references given above. In Assize R. 1268, m. 11, there is also a complaint by Robert de Penketh that William le Boteler and others had disseised him of his free tenement in Penketh, viz. half of 100 acres of moor, but he failed to prove his case.
  • 20. Robert was still living in 1301, when he and his son Jordan made a settlement by fine concerning two oxgangs in Penketh; Final Conc. i, 193. In a Great Sankey case in 1308–9 Richard son of Gilbert de Penketh, Jordan de Penketh, and Agnes widow of Robert, held part of the lands in dispute; Assize R. 432, m. 2. Jordan's name occurs among the witnesses to local charters down to 1346. He and Robert son of Henry de Wetshaw, in 1339 made an exchange of land, described as lying on the Broomhill, on the north side of Jordan's windmill, for land in the Brandearth in Penketh, Robert being bound also to pay a grain of pepper yearly; Kuerden, fol. MS. 315, n. 473. Among the witnesses to this were Richard de Ashton and William de Penketh. Jordan de Penketh and Margaret his wife claimed the reversion of the Holland manor in Sutton in 1323; Final Conc. ii, 51.
  • 21. The above-recited exchange was ratified in 1339 by Richard son of Jordan; Kuerden, loc. cit. n. 415. William, son of Richard de Penketh, and Amice his wife occur in 1348; De Banc. R. 355, m. 226. Jordan had another son, Robert, to whom he granted certain lands, which Robert granted to his son John in July, 1359; ibid. n. 414, 416; also Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 7, m. 1.
  • 22. Roger being a minor, his wardship was claimed by Richard de Ashton, in right of his wife Margery; but the jury decided that Richard de Penketh had held this moiety of the manor in socage, and not by knight's service, so that Roger succeeded without wardship; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 3, m. jd. William de Penketh and John his son occur in July, 1359; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 7, m. 1. In 1374 there was a dispute between Alice widow of William de Penketh and John his son concerning land in Sankey; De Banc. R. 454, m. 132d. The poll tax of 1381 shows John de Penketh among the contributors; Lay Subs. 130–24. Thomas Penketh, an Austin friar, a zealous upholder of Richard III, is supposed to have been a member of this family; for an account of his career see Warr. in 1465 (Chet. Soc.), xxxix; Dict. Nat. Biog. and Cal. of Pat. 1476–85, p. 543. Hamlet de Penketh occurs in 1490; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 14. Also in the list of the gentry of the hundred, compiled about 1512.
  • 23. Visit. (Chet. Soc.) of 1567, p. 124, and of 1613, p. 132. Gillow, in Bibliog. Dict. of Engl. Cath. v, 258, mentions that a pedigree, 'copious, but very incorrect and unreliable,' was printed at Manchester in 1896. From the Hamlet or Hamon Penketh of the preceding note the 1567 pedigree traces the succession through Richard, Thomas, and Richard, to the Richard Penketh living at the time. This Richard had sons Richard and Thomas, and the latter, who succeeded, had a son and heir Richard, living in 1613. He had a numerous family, the eldest son, Thomas, having been born about 1610. The only inquisitions appear to be those taken after the death of Alice Penketh in 1541. Her father, John, had held lands in Penketh, Ditton, and other places; she was an idiot, and her heirs were her sisters, Joan, the wife of George Ward, and Elizabeth, wife of William Reeve; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. viii, n. 6, 7. The Reeves or Ryves continued to hold land here for a century at least; the inquest after the death of Robert Reeve in 1640 shows that his land was held of Margaret, daughter and heir of Thomas Ireland; ibid. xxx, n. 37. Richard Penketh was in 1553 involved in a dispute with Thomas Butler as to the title to Penketh Hall; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), i, 280. A settlement of his property in Penketh and Sutton, including 'pasture for three horses on Penketh Warth,' was made in 1556; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 16, m. 92. Another settlement, by his son Richard, was made in 1592; ibid. bdle. 54, m. 146.
  • 24. Beamont says: 'Penketh Hall, the ancient seat of the Penkeths, seems to have changed owners much about the same time that Bewsey passed into the hands of strangers; for in the year 1624 we find Sir Thomas Ireland exchanging with Thomas Ashton the hall and demesne of Penketh, late the inheritance of Richard Penketh, but at the same time carefully reserving to himself . . . . the right to remove all and every the grafts, plants, and young trees of fruit there growing'; Warr. in 1465 (Chet. Soc.), p. xl. In 1682 Peter Bold wrote: 'Mr. Penketh was with me before I went to Yorkshire, and acquainted me that he had very hard usage from some of your officers, and, he believes, without your order. I know the gentleman very well; he is a near neighbour to me and his condition is not unknown to me. He faithfully served his majesty all the first war, and in that service behaved himself very gallantly and with great loyalty. He received many wounds and was so great a sufferer, that he was reduced to a very poor condition. He now lives an undertenant to a small messuage in Bold, not above 5 acres.' Kenyon MSS. (Hist. MSS. Com). 145. A Lieutenant Penketh was one of the defenders of Lathom House in the first siege, 1644; Civil War Tracts (Chet. Soc.), 173, 177.
  • 25. John Penketh, on entering the English College in Rome in 1651, gave the following account: 'My name is John Penketh alias Rivers. I am son of Richard Penketh of Penketh in the county of Lancaster, esquire, who married the daughter of Thomas Patrick of Bispham, in the same county, gentleman. I was born and bred up in my father's house, and am now twenty-one years of age. My father, before his death, had spent nearly all his fortune and left very little to my mother. … Most of my relations are Protestant, but my father, with all his family, one brother excepted, were always Catholic. I have made my studies in England under private tutors and at private schools. I was always a Catholic, and left England on 13 August, 1651, to proceed to Rome, where in the family of Christ I shall be more sure to avoid the vanities of the world and its dangers; being moved also to this by an ardent desire of gaining souls, if found worthy of the priesthood'; Foley, Rec. S. J. v, 330. The account which follows states that he had spent some time in the king of Spain's army in Belgium.
  • 26. The John Penketh above-named was ordained priest in 1656, and in 1663 entered the Society of Jesus, going on the English mission in the following year. He in 1678, in the excitement of the Oates plot, was betrayed, tried at Lancaster, and condemned to death for his priesthood. He was reprieved, but kept in prison for some years, being liberated on the accession of James II. The Revolution brought fresh troubles, but he continued his ministrations until his death in 1701. See the account in Foley, op. cit. v, 331; vi, 383; vii, 581, 1401. Other priests of the same family included William Penketh, then of Crossbrook, Orrell, convicted of recusancy in 1716; he was the author of Rivers' Manual, frequently reprinted, and died about 1762. See Gillow, Bibliog. Dict. of Engl. Cath. v, 257, 258; Foley, Rec. S. J. vi, 450, 455; v, 335.
  • 27. Report by Edward Eyes in Trans. Hist. Soc. xxii, 215. The boundaries had been walked about twelve years before. Fishing was free.
  • 28. In 1285 and later there were disputes between William de Quyke, clerk, and Adam son of Dulcia de Birches, who married Margery, as to the bounds of their lands in Penketh; Assize R. 1271, m. 12d.; 1277, m. 32a d., 31d. William also brought actions against Henry son of Gilbert de Penketh; Assize R. 408, m. 9; &c.
  • 29. The Wetshaws were a Ditton family. Robert son of Henry de Wetshaw had a daughter Aline, who sold her land to Henry de Ditton in 1349; Kuerden MSS. iii, P. 4, n. 613, 617. The purchaser was soon involved in disputes with Hugh de Kelsall and others, who broke into his houses in Penketh; De Banc. R. 362, m. 137, 26d. Shortly afterwards, in 1350, he made further purchases from William de Widnes and Margery his wife; Final Conc. ii, 128.
  • 30. In 1366 Richard, the prior of Norton, complained about a rescue of cattle here made by a number of people; De Banc. R. 462, m. 148.
  • 31. Inq. and Extents, 275.
  • 32. Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 239.
  • 33. Norris D. (B.M.).
  • 34. Kenyon MSS. 230. George Fox visited Penketh and Sankey in 1667 and 1669 and founded a meeting; Journ. This was held in Great Sankey until in 1681 a meeting-house was built on the land bought in 1671 for a graveyard; it was rebuilt in 1736.
  • 35. The schoolhouse was not built till 1692; it adjoined the meeting-house. This was the first school John Bright attended, 1821.
  • 36. This and other details about Penketh are derived from information supplied by Mr. J. Spence Hodgson of Didsbury.