Townships: Simonswood

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

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, 'Townships: Simonswood', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907) pp. 56-57. British History Online [accessed 22 May 2024].

. "Townships: Simonswood", in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907) 56-57. British History Online, accessed May 22, 2024,

. "Townships: Simonswood", A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907). 56-57. British History Online. Web. 22 May 2024,

In this section


Simundeswude, 1207; Simundeswod, 1297; Symondeswode, 1391. (fn. 1) The i is short.

This township, placed within the forest, and so becoming extra-parochial, (fn. 2) measures about three miles by one and a half, with an area of 2,626 acres. (fn. 3) It is a flat open agricultural country, consisting chiefly of arable fields, with but few plantations. The soil is partly sandy and partly peaty, with traces of old mossland. A large patch of moss still exists in the east of the township, with the characteristic vegetation of white-stemmed birch-trees waving above bracken, sedges, and rushes. Peat is dug, dried and stacked ready for fuel, the grounds thus cleared being converted into valuable arable fields, where potatoes and other root crops, cabbages and some corn grow luxuriantly. Copses and plantations afford cover for much game. The district is very sparsely populated, the farm-houses and cottages being too scattered to be described as a village.

Simonswood Hall

The Simonswood brook and another of equally insignificant size, rising in mossland to the east, flow through the township westwards towards the River Alt. The geological formation is triassic, similar to that found in Kirkby, with a small area of the middle coal measures extending across the north-eastern portion of the moss. The population was 358 in 1901. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's railway from Liverpool to Wigan crosses the township.

There is a parish council.


Simonswood was taken into the forest after the first coronation of Henry II, and therefore the knights who made the perambulation of the forest in 1228 declared that it ought to be disafforested and restored to the heirs of Richard son of Roger, lords of the vill of Kirkby. (fn. 4) Hugh de Moreton, who had married Margaret, daughter and coheir of that Richard, had in 1207 proffered a palfrey for the pasture of Simonswood, which ought to belong to his wife's manor of Kirkby; but though he undertook to cause no injury to the forest, his offer was at length declined. (fn. 5)

The wood was not disafforested, and until the beginning of the sixteenth century remained parcel of the forest and demesne of West Derby. It was placed under the care of a forester, who permitted pasturage and the taking of estovers by the people of Kirkby, and safeguarded the vert and venison. The yearly issues probably no more than covered the wages of the forester and his bailiff; in 1257 the issues from hay sold, turbary and perquisites amounted to 16s. 2d.; (fn. 6) in 1327 the gross income was £3 6s. 8d.; (fn. 7) and in 1348 had risen to £4 5s. 6d. (fn. 8)

The office of keeper of this chase was united with that of keeper of Toxteth Park. (fn. 9) In 1507 the king granted 'a waste ground' called Simonswood to William Molyneux, (fn. 10) one of the esquires of his body, at a yearly rent, according to the custom of the manor of West Derby. (fn. 11) The township has since continued in the possession of the Molyneux family. (fn. 12)

Molyneux, Earl of Sefton. Azure, a cross moline or.

It appears to have been customary for the landowners of the district to obtain wood here for fencing their properties. Edward Moore of Bankhall describes how his great-grandfather in the time of Elizabeth used to keep two strong ox teams, with two men and two boys, employed during the greater part of the winter carrying hedging wood from Simonswood for the fencing of his demesne lands. (fn. 13) Some idea of the recent progress of agriculture may be gathered from the scanty amount of 'corn rent' or tithe due to the rector or farmer of the tithes of Walton in 1658; the total was £2 7s. 6d. (fn. 14)

William Johnson of West Derby, and William Fleetwood 'as papists' registered estates in Simonswood in 1717. (fn. 15)

In 1571 there was a dispute as to the boundary between Simonswood and Cunscough in Melling. (fn. 16)

There was an ancient rent called the Priest Rent, paid by fourteen messuages in Simonswood to the curate of Kirkby; it amounted only to 8s. 4d. in all. (fn. 17)

In the eighteenth century the justices began to appoint overseers of the poor instead of the inhabitants, who had formerly appointed them. There were no churchwardens (or church tax), constable, or highway surveyor. Collectors of the land tax were appointed as elsewhere, and the assessor of this tax also assessed the poor-rate. (fn. 18)


  • 1. The origin of the name is traditionally referred to one Simon, who defeated in a race a famous runner of King John's, and in consequence received the custody of the wood; Trans. Hist. Soc. vi, 45.
  • 2. It was sometimes said to be in the parish of Lancaster like other forest land.
  • 3. The Census Rep. of 1901 gives 2,645 acres. A small detached portion of Melling was added to Simonswood in 1877; Loc. Gov. Bd. order 7,218.
  • 4. Whalley Coucher (Chet. Soc.), ii, 372; this, like some other portions of the finding, is not found in the enrolment of the Perambulation in the Close R. of 12 Hen. III; Cal. of Close, 1227–31, p. 100.
  • 5. Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 217. A debt of 2½ marks in lieu of the palfrey was cancelled in 1211, the record stating in explanation that Hugh had not, nor could have, the pasture for which he had bargained. Ibid. 240.
  • 6. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 210. They were not given separately in 1297; Ibid. 287, 300. Thomas, earl of Lancaster, gave this with other demesne lands of the hundred to Sir Robert de Holand, but these after the forfeiture were not restored to him; Parl. R. ii, 29b. For the verderer see Cal. Close R. 1330–3, 74.
  • 7. Inq. p.m. 1 Edw. III, n. 88.
  • 8. Duchy of Lanc. Var. Accts. bdle. 32, n. 17, m. 7 d. The details are thus given:—Of the herbage, winter and summer, £4; of wood blown down by the wind, 5s. 6d.; of the pannage of swine, perquisites of the wood-motes, farm of a smithy, honey and woodland wax, alders, dead wood, crop (twigs), bark, sparrowhawks, escapes and waifs, nil. That there were deer in the wood is shown by the pardon granted in 1391 to Sir Richard de Clifton; he had entered the duke's chase of Simonswood in August, 1386, with his harriers and taken a hind of the duke's beasts of the forest; Kuerden MSS. ii, fol. 174.
  • 9. See the account of Toxteth.
  • 10. Hereditary master forester of the hundred; Croxteth D. W. 2.
  • 11. Ibid. F. 2. Croxteth Park was joined in the grant. The rent payable for both was £16, of which £6 and £2 represented the old farms of Croxteth and Simonswood, and £8 the new yearly increase; i.e. the rents were doubled. Simonswood was reported as overgrown with wood, in those parts of little or no value, and as a watery, moorish and mossy ground having little or no grass growing upon it. The grants were next year enrolled on the court rolls of the manor of West Derby; ibid. F. 3–5.
  • 12. See the account of Sefton. From an abstract of title preserved at Croxteth it appears that the tenure of Simonswood and Croxteth Park was sometimes regarded as freehold, but more usually as copyhold, down to the beginning of the eighteenth century. Counsel's opinion, obtained in 1834, was that they had become enfranchised, even if they had ever been copyhold; nothing was then known as to the payment of the £16 rent. According to the abstract the act of 7 James I, regarding copyholds of West Derby, etc., applied to these manors; and it is said: 'Until King William's time the family seemed to know nothing to the contrary but that they held the said forest lands either by the said admittance from the duke of Gloucester within the time of memory, or by virtue of their office of master forester—which were either of them but a precarious tenure; and it some way coming out as if they had been so held, one Dr. Kingston obtained a grant from the crown, came down into the country, and claimed these lands, and got attornments from some of the tenants in Simonswood. Whereupon the family being much alarmed, John Case, being an old gentleman in the neighbourhood, advised the then Lord Molyneux to search the Parliament rolls; one Mr. Lawton, who was then concerned for the family, being then at London and searching accordingly, the Act of Parliament above mentioned was then discovered, and Dr. Kingston gave up his pretensions.' The insecurity of the tenure as forester was due to Lord Molyneux's recusancy; he had already been deprived of the Constableship of Liverpool Castle for this reason; see the hint in Norris Papers (Chet. Soc.), 160.
  • 13. Moore Rental (Chet. Soc.), 125.
  • 14. Lathom House D. Melling box.
  • 15. Eng. Cath. Non-jurors, 148, 111.
  • 16. Croxteth D. Richard Leyland of Great Crosby, aged 60, deposed that the bounds were the White Syke and the Rail Ditch. The inheritors of Cunscough had had the right to cut wood in Simonswood to make staff and rails, upon the Rail ditch. Beasts had been agisted and stored upon the disputed ground as in the rest of Simonswood; and a beast gate was paid for at 4d. a year, to Richard Fleetwood for Sir Richard Molyneux his master. He knew the North Brook, but it was never the boundary. He knew Thorpe's Brook, a continuation of the North Brook, lying anends certain ground called Thorpe's Fields. Peter Fleetwood and his father before him, with tenants in Simonswood, used to dig turf in the disputed ground without any protest from the owners of Cunscough. The White Syke lay between Ormskirk and Halsall parishes, and Simonswood within the parish of Lancaster; Simonswood Brook ran into the White Syke. Simonswood Lane was near this brook, going to Simonswood Moss. 'Dirty Alt' ran between Aughton and Cunscough.
  • 17. From the Croxteth D. The list was prepared in view of fresh claims for tithe by the rector of Walton. The 'fourteen ancient tenements' in 1769, with some of the field names, were as follows: 1. William Tatlock, 'South Heads;' Brick kiln hey, Chorley mounts; 42a. 2. Nicholas Stopard and Anne Barnes; Barrow heys, Crich croft; 44a. 3. Jane Wareing; Rice or Rye hey, Crumberry hey, 52a. 4. Thomas Basford, 'Cots Bobs'; and Jonathan Mallinson (made two tenements barely within memory); 36a. 5. Edward Stockley, 'Fairclough's' or 'Platt's house'; 18a. 6. Edward Stockley, 'Balls'; 43½a. 7. William and Joshua Cropper; hemp yard, workhouse hey, burnt ale, bathing pit hey; 28a. 8. Richard Fleetwood, 'Salthouse'; house of correction; the ancient messuage had been burnt down, and a new one built on or near the old foundations; 10a. 9. William Woods; 23a. Said to have been anciently part of the last; 23¼a. 10. Thomas Rawlinson, sen. 'Yate house'; hemp yard, pinfold heys, owlers; 27½a. 11. Thomas Rawlinson, sen. 'Shepherd's'; hemp yard, pingate; 19a. 12. Edward Woods, 'Moseses;' tewit heys; 11½a. 13. Edward Woods, 'Rigby's'; hemp yard; 10½a. 14. John Bullens; Great and Little Mount; 17a. The ancient mease had been taken down and a new one built on or near the old foundation. 'These fourteen tenements pay 8s. per annum "Priest's money" to the curate of Kirkby chapel, which is supposed to be a modus in lieu of all small tithes except Easter dues.' A later list shows a 'flax meadow' in No. 9.
  • 18. Croxteth D.