A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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Beneford, (fn. 1) 1200–21; Bedeford, 1200, 1296.
The ford of Beda, probably through Pennington Brook where it is now spanned by Breaston Bridge, gave name to this place. The township is traversed by four considerable streams coming from the north, west, and east and uniting a little to the south of Bedford Hall to form the water of Glazebrook, which on its southward course forms for some little distance the south-western boundary of the township. From this stream to Chat Moss on the east, the elevation of the land is barely 50 ft. above mean sea-level, but rises gently until over 125 ft. is reached on the northern boundary near Atherton Grange. The trees surrounding Atherton Hall afford to the eye welcome relief from the unpicturesque surroundings and unbending lines of factories and cottages. The main road from Manchester to Leigh and the Bridgewater Canal traverse the township from east to west. There is also a branch road leading southward to Warrington. The London and North-Western Railway from Manchester to Liverpool traverses the southern angle of the township, and the Tyldesley and Leigh branch of the same company's railway has a station called Leigh and Bedford, serving these contiguous places. (fn. 2) The township has an area of 2,826 acres, and lies partly upon the new red sandstone, and to the north-east partly upon the coal measures. The permian rocks are mostly absent owing to a fault which extends from south-east to north-west. There is a great deposit of alluvium in the lower ground traversed by the Glazebrook and its tributaries. The soil is largely composed of clay; the land consists mainly of meadow and pasture, and some vegetables are grown.
The township was formed into a district chapelry in 1843 (fn. 3) out of the civil parish of Leigh. The Local Government Act, 1858, was adopted in 1863, (fn. 4) but by 38 and 39 Victoria, cap. ccxi, the district was dissolved and merged in that of Leigh. In 1901 the population of the township, including Lately Common, numbered 11,163, chiefly employed in the Bedford collieries, agricultural implement works, brick-fields, an iron foundry, brewery and maltings, cotton, silk and corn mills.
Dependent before the Conquest upon the chief manor of Warrington hundred, BEDFORD was afterwards included in the barony of Warrington, upon the creation of that fee. It was not held by knight's service, but by a yearly rent of 10s., which suggests a continuity of the pre-Conquest drengage tenure, and possibly to uninterrupted ownership by Englishmen after the Conquest. The place is first mentioned in 1200, when Simon de Bedford proffered 10 marks and a hunting horse that he might be 'inlawed' and restored to the benefit of the law in any proceedings taken against him for the death of G. de Spondon. (fn. 5) Contemporary with Simon was William de Bedford, his brother and under-tenant of the manor in the time of Richard I, John, and Henry III, who had issue a son Henry and two daughters, Hawise and Avice. (fn. 6) Henry had issue an only daughter Agnes, who died without issue, when the manor was divided between Henry's two sisters. (fn. 7)
Hawise married a Sale and had issue Adam de Sale; (fn. 8) Avice married one William, and was sued in 1231 by Hawise the relict of Henry de Bedford, for dower in a third part of one plough-land in Bedford. (fn. 9) Agnes, daughter of William and Avice, married a Waverton, and was mother of John de Waverton. (fn. 10) In 1292 Henry de Kighley and Ellen his wife were in possession of one-half of the manor, Adam de Sale or his son William of one-quarter, and John de Waverton of the other quarter. (fn. 11) At some previous date Jordan de Hulton had been enfeoffed for life of one-half of the manor by Adam de Sale, who was also possessed of another fourth part, which he appears to have given before 1292 to his son William and Margaret his wife. (fn. 12) It therefore appears that Henry de Kighley acquired one-half of the manor from Adam de Sale. (fn. 13) One-sixteenth part of Kighley's half of the manor was held by Thomas de Shuttleworth, and represents the ancient messuage known as Shuttleworth House. (fn. 14) For many generations the manor descended in the representatives of these four families, but the manor court, with view of frankpledge, was vested in the Kighley family, whose estate was usually described in legal instruments as the manor. (fn. 15)
In 1296 Henry de Kighley gave the manor to Richard de la Doune for life, (fn. 16) who withheld the chief rent until 1301, when Alice le Boteler obtained a verdict against him. (fn. 17) The subsequent descent of the manor follows that of the manor of Inskip in the parish of St. Michael on Wyre. Henry Kighley, esq., the last male representative of the family in the direct line, died in 1567, leaving issue two daughters, Anne and Katherine, aged respectively four years and four months, and fourteen days. (fn. 18) Anne afterwards married Sir William Cavendish, Baron Cavendish of Hardwick 1605, earl of Devonshire 1618, ancestor of the present duke of Devonshire; Katherine married Thomas, subsequently of Hovingham, co. York, esq., son and heir of Robert Worsley of Booths, esq. In 1585, upon attaining her majority, Anne joined with her husband in conveying one moiety of the manor to trustees, (fn. 19) and in 1589 in a release of the manor and the whole of the Kighley estates in the parish of Leigh to her sister Katherine and her husband Thomas Worsley, (fn. 20) who at the same time conveyed to trustees the moiety of the Kighley estates within the county. (fn. 21) Thomas and Katherine Worsley afterwards conveyed the manor, consisting of eighteen messuages and ten cottages with orchards and gardens, one water-mill, and 640 acres of land, meadow and pasture, and 2,560 acres of moss and turbary, to trustees appointed to effect a sale or conveyance of the manor and other estates to Sir Richard Shuttleworth and Sir Richard Brereton, knts., in discharge of a recognizance of debt due to them by Thomas Worsley. (fn. 22) By a partition of these lands the manor fell to the share of Richard Brereton, who settled some portion of the estate, including the manor, upon his sister Anne Brereton, wife of Sir William Davenport, who in 1599 conveyed the manor, thirty messuages, and 670 acres of land, meadow, pasture and moor, to Jervase Wyrrall, esq., and he in turn conveyed it the following year to Sir Thomas Egerton, knt., lord keeper of the Great Seal, (fn. 23) afterwards Baron Ellesmere (1603), and Viscount Brackley (1616), ancestor of the Earl of Ellesmere, the present lord of the manor. (fn. 24)
In 1548 the following persons held the manor, paying in all 9s. 11d.: Henry Kighley, esq., 4s. 6d.; Lawrence Asshawe, 2s. 3d.; William Serjeant, 16d.; Richard Shuttleworth, 12d.; William Sale, 6d.; and George Pemberton, 4d. (fn. 25)
In 1587 the following held lands here of Robert earl of Leicester, (fn. 26) as of his manor of Warrington: The heirs of Henry Kighley, esq., Thomas Lathom of Bedford Hall, James Pemberton, the heirs of Peter Serjeant, Hugh Shuttleworth of Shuttleworth House, Gilbert Sale of Hopecarr and Henry Speakman. (fn. 27) In 1598 Sir Thomas Ireland, knt., baron of Warrington, sold the superior manor, parcel of his barony, with all the royalties, liberties, and services of the free tenants, to Richard Brereton, then of Worsley, esq. (fn. 28)
Other portions of the manor were held in 1628 by Dame Dorothy, widow of Sir Richard Brereton, (fn. 29) and after her marriage to Sir Peter Legh, knt., she and her husband in 1630 conveyed the manor, together with those of Worsley and Hulton, and certain free rents in Bedford, to John Egerton, (fn. 30) who had been created earl of Bridgewater in 1617, shortly after his succession to his father, the first Viscount Ellesmere. It remains the property of his descendant, the third earl of Ellesmere.
There are court rolls of the manor dating from 1802. Courts were held regularly twice a year from 1821 to 1866, but since have been held on only two or three occasions. (fn. 31)
BEDFORD HALL is now a farm-house. In 1291 it was in the possession of Adam de Sale, (fn. 32) who, by Maud his wife, was father of William. Between 1320 and 1330 William de Sale held the fourth part of the manor, (fn. 33) and by Margaret (fn. 34) his wife had William, (fn. 35) who died s.p., and John, living 1350, (fn. 36) father of another John, who married Ellen, daughter and heir of John le Jeu of Hindley. (fn. 37) James, their son and heir, was father of another James of Bedford, gent., living in 1445, (fn. 38) father of John, living in 1474. (fn. 39) Arthur, son and heir of John, died childless in 1480, (fn. 40) when the estate appears to have passed to his kinsman Henry, whose son Henry was killed at Flodden Field, leaving issue Margaret, his daughter and heir, then four years of age. (fn. 41) By her guardian she was married to Lawrence Asshawe, of the Hall-on-the-Hill, in Heath Charnock, who held the fourth part of the manor in 1548. The previous year he had acquired part of the Athertons' estate here, (fn. 42) which his grandson Leonard held at his death in 1595. (fn. 43) But he appears to have alienated the fourth part of the manor and the Hall of Bedford to Thomas Lathom of Irlam, (fn. 44) who held it in 1587. (fn. 45) It descended in the family of Lathom of Hawthorne Hall, county Chester, and Irlam, in this county, until the end of the seventeenth century, when it was sold by John Finney of Fulshaw Hall, county Chester, gent., and Jane his wife, ultimately sole heiress of Thomas Lathom, (fn. 46) to John Leigh, (fn. 47) afterwards of Hawthorne Hall, who in 1719 settled Bedford Hall with tenements in Bedford and Westleigh upon himself for life, with remainders to George, earl of Warrington, and Henry Mainwaring, then to the Hon. Langham Booth of Thornton, county Chester, in tail male, then to Hannah Merry-weather, niece of the said John Leigh in tail male, then to the Hon. Henry Booth of the Middle Temple, London, in tail male, then to Leigh Page, (fn. 48) son and heir of Humphrey Page, alderman of Chester, (fn. 49) to whom the estate ultimately passed in remainder. (fn. 50) By his descendant, Thomas Leigh Page, the estate was sold to John Greaves of Highfield in Farnworth (?), esq., apparently the well-known banker and merchant, afterwards of Irlam. (fn. 51) Early in the last century Bedford Hall was the property of Thomas Speakman, by whose executors it was sold about 1853 to the father of the Rev. Kenelm H. Smith of Ely, the present owner.
HOPECARR was another estate of note. Adam de Sale, who was living in 1291, had, besides William of Bedford Hall, another son, Alexander, who by his wife Amice, living a widow in 1315, had sons, Adam, (fn. 52) a minor at the date named, and John. (fn. 53) Gilbert, living in 1350, (fn. 54) son either of Adam or John, was the father of Matthew, living in 1358, from whom descended Henry, who died in 1419, leaving issue a son Henry, aged fourteen years. (fn. 55) His kinsman, Gilbert Sale of Bedford, gent., who obtained a charter of pardon in 1452, (fn. 56) had issue by Dulcia, his wife, sons Matthew (fn. 57) and Gilbert. The latter, as Gilbert Sale of Bedford, gent., had letters patent of pardon from Edward IV in 1479, (fn. 58) and was probably father of Matthew Sale of Hopecarr, who did homage for his lands in Bedford in 1504, and died in 1509, when William his son was aged seven years. (fn. 59) This William appears at the head of the pedigree of the family entered at the Visitation of 1664–5 by Richard Sale, great-grandson of William. (fn. 60) In 1630 William Sale, father of Richard, obtained a grant of his patrimony, which had been forfeited for his recusancy, for a term of forty-one years. (fn. 61) In 1674 Richard Sale, his then wife Sylvestra, Gilbert and John his sons, and Anne his daughter were recusants. (fn. 62) The son Gilbert died about 1717, his widow then surviving at Hopecarr. Their son William married Jane daughter of Edmund Tristram of Ince Blundell, yeoman, by whom he had issue Richard and Gilbert, both of Liverpool, who sold the estate in 1770 to Randal Gorton of the city of Chester, merchant. (fn. 63) Hopecarr Farm is now the sewage farm belonging to the Leigh and Atherton Joint Sewage Board.
In 1557 the Sales possessed a several fishery in the water of Breton, (fn. 64) a name which still survives in Breaston Bridge, spanning Bedford Brook.
The descent of a fourth part of a manor which John de Waverton held in 1315 by inheritance from his grandmother, Avice de Bedford, (fn. 65) has not been ascertained. For a few generations it passed with the estate of Cleworth in Tyldesley. (fn. 66) Possibly it was the estate held temp. Henry VII, by John Sale, which passed before 1518 to his daughter Joan, the wife of Henry Serjeant of Newton in Makerfield. At her father's death she inherited lands here worth 20 marks a year. (fn. 67) In 1530 John Sale, citizen of London, draper, brother of Henry Sale of Bedford Hall, conveyed the fourth part of the manor with several messuages to Alexander Standish. (fn. 68) In 1548 William Serjeant, probably son of the above Henry, held the fourth part of the manor, (fn. 69) of which in 1592 Peter Serjeant, probably his son, who had married a Standish, died seised, Thomas his son being then aged nine years. (fn. 70) Thomas Serjeant afterwards sold the estate to Adam Mort of Dam House in Tyldesley, gent., (fn. 71) in whose line it descended with the other family estates. (fn. 72)
SHUTTLEWORTH was for several centuries in the possession of the Shuttleworth family. Thomas de Shuttleworth held it in 1315 (fn. 73) and was father of William and Robert, living in 1353. (fn. 74) William had sons—Thomas, living in 1371; and Roger, (fn. 75) who married Alice daughter of Adam de Kinkenhale, by whom he had John and Thomas. (fn. 76) During the fifteenth century the descent is not clear, but in 1504 Hugh Shuttleworth did homage for his lands here, (fn. 77) and again in 1523, (fn. 78) and was probably father of Richard who held the estate of the lord of Warrington in 1548, by the yearly quit-rent of 12d. (fn. 79) Before 1587 Richard was succeeded by another Hugh (fn. 80) (died 1606), father of Richard, who died in 1620 seised of the thirty-second part of the manor, 4 messuages, a free fishery in the waters of Bedford and Glazebrook, moss on Chat Moss, the liberty of a mill, and to be hopper-free in all mills in Bedford, all of which he held of John, earl of Bridgewater, by fealty and 12d. rent. Richard his son was aged thirty years (fn. 81) in 1620, and died at Dublin about 1647. He was the father of Richard, who married Frances, one of the daughters and coheirs of Richard Urmston of Westleigh, in whose right his eldest son became owner of a fourth part, and ultimately of the whole of the manor of Westleigh, and the parsonage of Leigh known as the Kirk Hall. He died in or about 1650, when his son Richard was eight years of age. (fn. 82) The latter appears to have taken some part in the Stuart rebellion of 1715, in consequence of which his estates were forfeited to the crown and subsequently dispersed. (fn. 83) He had a brother John, whose children were Richard, living 1697, a Frances then the wife of John Sampson, and a sister Margaret, in 1697 the widow of John Billinge of Grave Oak in Bedford, gent.
LIGHTOAKS is mentioned in a plea in 1356 in which John son of John del Lightokes obtained a verdict that William de Atherton, to whom Gilbert de Kighley had demised the manor of Bedford for a term, had pulled down a mill and rebuilt it upon land of the said John to his disseisin. (fn. 84) In the seventeenth century this estate was in the possession of Henry Travers or Travice, who by his will dated 1624 gave £200 in trust, the interest to be bestowed yearly upon forty poor persons of the parish. (fn. 85) He died in 1626, his widow Agnes (fn. 86) placing a memorial brass upon one of the pillars of the parish church to his memory. The estate appears to have been sold to Sir Henry Sclater, grandson of Richard Sclater of Keighley, Yorkshire, who entered his pedigree as of Lightoaks, at Sir William Dugdale's Visitation of 1664–5. (fn. 87) In 1700 Thomas Sclater, younger son of Sir Henry and Mary his wife, with Alexander Radcliffe, gent., conveyed the manor or capital messuage of Lightoaks with 115 acres of land, meadow, and pasture and 140 acres of moss and heath, and tithes of grain, hay, and flax in the parish of Leigh to feoffees, (fn. 88) probably for sale.
Graveoak, now a farmhouse, was in 1656 the residence, and probably the property of George Bradshaw, gent., and in 1690 of John Billinge, gent.
The estate of ECKERSLEY (fn. 89) is first mentioned in a deed of partition of lands made in 1371 between Hugh of the Crosse and Katherine his wife, who took the capital messuage of Eckersley and half the land lying on the western side, whilst John de Halghton and Siegrith his wife took two-thirds of the barn and the reversion of another third part dependent upon the death of Joan, wife of Simon de Byrom, with the other half of the lands in the field and in the hey of Eckersley. (fn. 90) In 1452 Nicholas Halghton was in possession of the estate. (fn. 91) In 1795 the duke of Bridgewater purchased part of this estate, then known as Limerick farm, from a Miss Houghton, and his trustees afterwards purchased another estate here from Sir Henry Dukinfield. (fn. 92)
In 1678 Francis Bradshaw, esq., and John Leathwaite, gent., both of Bedford, were indicted at Wigan for recusancy. (fn. 93)
The principal landowners in 1787 were the Rev. Dr. Baldwin, John and James Green, Thomas Patten, William Dumbell's executors, Alexander Radcliffe, and the executors of Atherton Legh Atherton. (fn. 94)
The church of St. Thomas, built in 1840, was a structure of brick. A new church has been erected upon the old site and is now (1906) nearing completion. The registers commence in the year 1840. The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £300 with residence, in the gift of the vicar of Leigh. Large and commodious elementary schools have recently been built at Butts End in connexion with the church.
Those who adhered to the Roman Church at the Reformation were occasionally able to hear mass at Hopecarr, the house of the Sale family, the Parsonage, the seat of the Urmstons, or at Hall House, the Jesuit fathers of Culcheth and Southworth serving from the latter part of the seventeenth century. (fn. 95) In 1778, before the first relaxation of the penal laws, a chapel was built and public worship resumed. Schools were opened in 1829, and rebuilt in 1871. The present church of St. Joseph was opened in 1855, a tower being added in 1884. The mission is still served by the Jesuits. (fn. 96)
In 1558 Lawrence Asshawe of Shaw in Flixton gave by his will 5 marks towards 'the paving of any horse causey [causeway] from the towne of Leighe unto the Sawter Buttes in Bedford.' (fn. 97) Richard Speakman and Catherine his wife in 1673 and 1679 left small sums for the benefit of the poor of Bedford and Tyldesley, of which the interest used to be distributed yearly on Candlemas Day at Speakman House in Bedford. (fn. 98) In 1679 Matthew Lythgoe bequeathed £50, and in 1727 Samuel Hilton gave £100, to the overseers of the poor, the interest in both cases to be distributed amongst the poor. (fn. 99) In 1872 William Eckersley gave £50 by his will for the benefit of the poor of Bedford church. (fn. 100)