Townships: Houghton, Middleton and Arbury

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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'Townships: Houghton, Middleton and Arbury', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (London, 1911) pp. 166-168. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section


Hoghton, 1420; Houghton, 1608. Midelton, 1212. Herbury, 1242; Erthbury, 1246; Erbury, 1420; Arbury, xvi cent.

This township has resulted from the combination of Middleton and Houghton, originally united, with Arbury. This last is a narrow strip of land along the eastern boundary of Winwick; the rest of the area is divided unequally between Middleton on the north, and Houghton on the south, there being no defined boundary between them. The total area is 853½ acres, made up thus: Houghton, 336; Middleton 244¼ Arbury, 273¼. (fn. 1) It is situated on gently sloping ground, rising from south to north to about 100 ft. above sea level. The country is open, portioned out into fields of light sandy loam, with clay in places, producing good potatoes, wheat, oats, clover, and turnips. The land is divided by low hawthorn hedges, and contains a little timber, seldom extending beyond small clumps. The geological formation consists of the Bunter series of the New Red Sandstone, the Pebble Beds in the northern part, the Upper Mottled Sandstone in the southern. Some of the roads are little better than cart-tracks, and badly metalled. Houghton Green is the only village; Middleton has a hall of that name, and Arbury is only a farm-house. In 1901 the population was 214.

A road from Winwick Church leads through Arbury to Croft and Culcheth; it is joined by another from the south, coming from Warrington and Fearnhead through Houghton and Middleton.

In the north of Middleton there is a tumulus, near the Arbury boundary. (fn. 2) A spa well is also used.

Blackbrook divides Houghton from Fearnhead.

In 1852 a number of Civil War notices were found concealed in a cavity in an old farm-house at Houghton Green. (fn. 3)


The manor of MIDDLETON, from which HOUGHTON became separate in later times, was included in the fee of Makerfield. (fn. 4) It was assessed as a plough-land and a half, and in 1212 was held in thegnage by a total rent of 20s. in four equal shares, each of which appears to have been responsible in turn for providing a judge at the court of Newton. (fn. 5) The manor, thus early divided, was further partitioned later, and as the shares are not usually recorded in the deeds, nor the services due to the chief lord, it is impossible to trace the separate parts. (fn. 6) The greater part was early acquired by the Southworth family, (fn. 7) and their lordship is the only one appearing in the later records, apart from that of the barons of Makerfield.

Southworth. Argent a cheveron between three crosslets sable.

Two junior branches of the dominant family were seated at Middleton and at HOUGHTON PEEL. They seem to have descended from Matthew de Southworth, (fn. 8) a brother of Gilbert de Southworth, living in the early part of the reign of Edward III. Their possessions were acquired by the Southworths of Samlesbury in the 16th century. (fn. 9) Middleton appears to have been retained with Southworth, and to have descended like it to the present time. Houghton (fn. 10) was sold in 1605 to James Bankes of Winstanley, (fn. 11) and descended like Winstanley till the end of the 18th century, when it was sold; (fn. 12) Maire, Claughton, Greenall, (fn. 13) and Comber being successively owners. (fn. 14)

Henry Brookfield of Longbarrow in Knowsley had some land here in 1530 and 1547. (fn. 15)

The manor of ARBURY was held in 1212 by the lord of Lowton by knight's service, its rating being half a plough-land. It had been granted by Adam de Lawton to Geoffrey Gernet, who in turn had enfeoffed Thurstan Banastre. (fn. 16) Half of it was given by Thurstan to Cockersand Abbey in alms. (fn. 17) Afterwards the manor came into the possession of the Southworths, (fn. 18) and has descended exactly like Southworth, to the Brooks family. There is practically nothing on record concerning it. John Corless of Arbury as a 'papist' registered his house in 1717. (fn. 19)


  • 1. The census report of 1901 gives 855.
  • 2. This appears to be the Highfield tumulus described by Dr. Robson in Trans. Hist. Soc. xii, 189.
  • 3. Trans. Hist. Soc. iv, 18. The occupier of the house about 1640 was Thomas Serjeant, then constable of the township.
  • 4. V.C.H. Lancs. i, 366 n. The manors of Middleton and Houghton, held in socage, and Arbury, held by knight's service, continued to be recognized as parts of Newton fee; see Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 99.
  • 5. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 77. The four tenants were Robert de Middleton, Henry son of Siward, William de Middleton (who is not stated to be responsible for a judge), and Richard son of Henry. Under the first of these John de Middleton held one oxgang and discharged the service due to that quarter, i.e. a rent of 5s. and the fourth part of a judge. There were thus already five tenants.
  • 6. In a suit of 1334 John son of Geoffrey Henne, John son of John son of Robert de Middleton, Gilbert de Southworth, and Quenilda and Agnes daughters of Thomas Wrych, were stated to be lords of the vill; Coram Rege R. 297, m. 20. This throws some light on the following charters:— Elias son of Robert de Ainsworth granted to Gilbert de Southworth and his heirs his lordship of a whole fourth part of the vill of Middleton, in return for a mark of silver; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1713. It is curious that Ainsworth is a hamlet of Middleton, near Manchester; Robert de Ainsworth may have been the Robert de Middleton of 1212. Adam son of Richard de Middleton granted to Adam son of Richard son of Quenilda de Middleton land in Houghtongreves, being his part of two and a half oxgangs, lying between the land of Andrew son of Richard and that of Robert son of John; Rodley Carr is named among the bounds; the rent was a pair of gloves; ibid. no. 1829. Hugh de Haydock and William his son were among the witnesses. Robert son of Molle or Maud de Middleton gave to Gilbert de Southworth an oxgang of land in the vill of Middleton and Houghton, previously let to Benet de Hulme and Henry le Waleys, the oxgang being the twelfth part of the vill. Rents of a barbed arrow to the grantor and 20d. —the due proportion—to the lord of Makerfield were payable; ibid. no. 1822. The same Robert granted to Peter de Middleton, chaplain, land in the Stall of Houghton; ibid. no. 1817. This placename occurs long afterwards in 1436, when John Houghton granted to Simon Pierpoint the Stall in Houghton adjoining the Peel; ibid. no. 1801. John the son of Robert son of Molle granted land in Blackwell Shaw to Gilbert de Southworth; one of the boundaries was Egatishurst Brook; ibid. no.1818. Blackwell Hey is named in a grant by William son of Richard de Middleton in 1296 to his chief lord, Gilbert de Southworth; no. 1816. In 1292 William Post of Houghton complained that he had been disseised of an acre from the waste assigned to him as belonging to an oxgang in Middleton and Houghton; the defendants, who lost the case, included Andrew de Middleton and Ralph the Serjeant of Newton; Assize R. 408, m. 5. William Post, described as son of William de Fairdale, afterwards granted his lands in the vill to Gilbert de Southworth; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1941. William son of William Post in 1310 released to Gilbert son of Gilbert de Southworth his claim on land approved by the latter in Cumberhale Carr; ibid. no. 1928. Richard son of William Post granted land in Houghton to his brother Robert in 1345; ibid. no. 1630. Emmota daughter of William Post in 1370 granted to Gilbert son of John de Houghton lands which descended to her on the death of Gilbert son of Richard Post; ibid. no. 1585. John son of John de Bultham granted to John son of William de Middleton, his uncle and chief lord, half an oxgang in Middleton, which William son of Richard de Middleton granted to Alice his daughter; ibid. no. 1828. The witnesses include John son of Richard de Middleton, William son of Richard de Middleton, Andrew de Middleton, and Peter, vicar of Budworth. Richard son of Henry de Middleton granted to Richard son of Austin de Middleton half an oxgang in the vill which his mother Margery had held in dower, to be held as the twenty-fourth part of Middleton, by the service of a pair of gloves or ½d.; ibid. no. 1841. He reserved two messuages and the croft in Houghton. In 1307 William Gillibrand and Margery his wife recovered against Gilbert de Southworth 12 acres of land and ½ an acre of meadow; and as this was owing to the default of Andrew de Middleton, when called to warrant, Roger the son of Andrew granted to Gilbert de Southworth half an oxgang in Middleton and Houghton as compensation; Hultley Hurst in Middleton is named in the charter; ibid. no. 1819. Roger de Ashton and Alice his wife in 1318 claimed an eighth part of the manor of Middleton, less an oxgang, from Andrew de Middleton, who granted it to them, receiving 20 marks; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 31. In the same year Thomas son of Richard son of Hulcock (or Hugh) de Houghton leased to Gilbert de Southworth half an oxgang in the vill of Middleton and Houghton, together with six butts of land between Leveng Bridge and Houghton Riddings; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1933, 1788. Six years later he sold it outright; ibid. no. 1790. A suit of July 1354 shows the subdivisions. It concerned the partition of 4½ acres approved; John son of William de Middleton had received 1 acre; John son of John de Middleton, 1 acre; William son of John de Middleton, 1½ acres; Richard son of John de Middleton, ½ acre; and Richard Post of Middleton, ½ acre. Richard de Fearnhead complained that he had been deprived of his common of pasture; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 3, m. 4d. William son of Robert Ormsson was one of the defendants. An Orm de Middleton occurs in the 12th century; Inq. and Extents, i, 73. The name seems to have continued, as Robert son of Orm made a grant of land in Houghton in 1309, attested by Simon son of Orm; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1798.
  • 7. Some of the grants have been recited in the previous note. William de Winwick, son of Robert formerly rector of Winwick, granted to Gilbert de Southworth, his chief lord, all his land in Middleton and Houghton; ibid. no. 1699. Geoffrey son of Adam Henne of Houghton granted to Gilbert de Southworth Henne Croft in Middleton in 1316; ibid. no. 1796.
  • 8. Robert the Tailor of Winwick and John his son acquired lands in Middleton and Houghton in 1315 and 1322; ibid. no. 1783, 1794. In August 1329 John son of Robert granted to Matthew de Southworth his capital messuage and other houses and lands, in all a twenty-fourth part of the vills of Middleton and Houghton, with remainders, in default of heirs, to a number of Matthew's children, apparently illegitimate; ibid. no. 1701, 1709; see also no. 1659, 1686. Practically the same remainders are recorded in 1346; Final Conc. ii, 122. In this the estate is called an oxgang of land, &c. By an inquiry made in 1330 it was found that the hamlet of Houghton was held by Gilbert de Southworth, Matthew de Southworth, and other co-parceners; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1814. In 1332 Matthew was described as 'senior' in a grant of lands in Middleton, Houghton, and Arbury to Robert de Hornby, his trustee; no. 1658. A Matthew de Southworth was in 1343 regarded as 'a common maintainer and receiver of evil doers': he acquired a commission in the name of certain good men of Warrington, by virtue of which he caused 10 marks to be levied, which he kept for his own use. He pleaded guilty and was punished; Assize R. 430, m. 22. Robert son of Matthew de Southworth appears to have succeeded to his father's estate in Middleton; he is named last of his brothers in the fine of 1346. In 1369 he acquired from Richard son of John de Middleton land in Middleton called Impland; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1842; and at the same time made an exchange with Gilbert del Moss; no. 1952, 1549. Matthew son of Robert de Southworth and Matthew son of Gilbert de Southworth are named in remainders in a deed of 1392; ibid. no. 1548. Three years later a Matthew de Southworth had a grant of Crossends in Middleton from Richard son of John de Soudall senior; no. 1626. Matthew de Southworth, aged 30, gave evidence in the Scrope-Grosvenor trial; Roll, 292. In 1430 settlements were made by John de Southworth and Ellen his wife; he held the manor of Houghton Peel for life, the remainders being to Thomas Southworth his brother, to William son of Gilbert de Southworth the younger, Richard, Nicholas, Humphrey, Cecily, and Joan, brothers and sisters of William; to Henry son of Robert de Southworth, to John de Clegge, son of Gilbert son of Godith daughter of Matthew de Southworth, and to Henry and Elizabeth de Clegge, other children of Gilbert; and then to the right heirs of Matthew de Southworth; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1687, 1683. 'Peel Croft' is named in a 13thcentury grant by William son of Robert de Winwick to Gilbert son of Gilbert de Southworth; no. 1653. In 1437 Ellen widow of John de Southworth leased the manor of Peel to James de Langton, rector of Wigan, at a rent of 5 marks; in addition 2s. 6d. was to be paid to the chieflord, so that this estate was an eighth part of the whole vill; no. 1714. In 1449 Richard Southworth, lord of Southworth, was in possession, but William Southworth, probably the William named already in the remainders, made some claim to it, and had goods therein; the dispute was referred to Sir Thomas Stanley, who decided in favour of Richard, he having a lease for the above-named Ellen's life; after her death William was to have peaceable possession; ibid. no. 1715. The dispute came to blows; within a year Sir Thomas Stanley was called upon to award the damages due to Ellen widow of William Southworth for the death of her husband, and he ordered Richard Southworth to pay her £20, she agreeing not to prosecute; Dods. MSS. liii, fol. 24, no. 17.
  • 9. About 1520 Peel was sold to Thomas Southworth of Southworth by Margaret widow of James Carr and Thomas her son; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1591, 2011, 2021. Disputes as to the title to Houghton Peel occurred in 1534 between Sir Thomas Southworth and the daughters of James Carr son of Margaret Carr; Ducatus Lanc. ii, 59. Lynnall in Middleton was in 1428–9 regranted by the feoffee to Henry de Southworth and his wife Elizabeth daughter of John de Worsley senior; HH, no. 1702. In 1452 Henry de Southworth of Middleton acquired lands in Culcheth; no. 1640. Thomas son of Henry Southworth of Middleton occurs in 1460; no. 1984. Humphrey son and heir of Thomas Southworth in 1491 received from the feoffees certain lands in Warrington and Winwick, the remainder being to Nicholas son of Ralph Langton; no. 1984 (2). The remainder came into operation, for in 1515 Humphrey son and heir of Nicholas Langton sold lands in Middleton, &c., to Sir John Southworth; no. 1578. In May 1521 Thomas Southworth son and heir of Sir John Southworth, deceased, granted to feoffees his capital messuage called Middleton Hall, with the Ryecroft, Lynnall, Cumbrall, Branderth, &c., lately of Henry Southworth, deceased; no. 1515. Robert Southworth of Middleton was witness to a deed of 1488; ibid. no. 2037. He made his will in August 1500, desiring to be buried in Winwick; Henry Southworth his son and Isabel his daughter are named; Dods. MSS. liii, fol. 19, no. 35. In 1502 a free rent of 3s. 2d. was payable to the lord of Newton by Robert Southworth; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. iii, no. 101. The feoffees of Henry Southworth the son in 1518 sold his lands to Thomas son and heir of Sir John Southworth; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1539; see also no. 1682, 1922, 1946. Richard Southworth son and heir of Henry, described as 'late of the parish of Shenstone in Staffordshire,' seems to have concurred in the sale; Dods. MSS. liii, fol. 18, no. 16.
  • 10. This place gave a surname to one or more families dwelling there. About the middle of the 13th century Adam son of Richard de Houghton—possibly the Richard son of Henry of 1212— granted to Gilbert de Southworth a messuage in Middleton, with land in the Peasecroft, acquittance of pannage in the woods of Middleton and Houghton, and all his rights within these bounds: Beginning at the head towards the south of the Causey of Houghton Lache, following Fulshaw between hard and soft to Houghton Brook, along this brook to Egedeshurst Brook, up this brook to the bounds of Southworth, along them westward to Arbury Mere, and along this mere south to the starting point. This description shows that Middleton and Houghton were one whole, but that Arbury had clearly defined limits; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1779. The bounds of Houghton are similarly given in another grant: Houghton Lache, and by the boundaries of Croft, Woolston, Warrington, and Arbury to the start; no. 1824. Woolston must then have included Fearnhead. The boundary between Middleton (not Houghton) and Warrington is named. Geoffrey son of Adam de Houghton, living in 1324, made a grant to Hugh son of Giles de Penketh; ibid. no. 1786, 1797. John son of Geoffrey de Houghton was in 1341 refeoffed of his capital messuage, &c. in Middleton and Houghton, with remainders to his son Richard and Alice his wife; no. 2156c. This Richard was living in 1386; no. 1804, 1708. The next to occur are Roger 'Jackson' de Houghton in 1382 and 1392 (no. 1506, 1809, 1548); and his son John in 1428; no. 1911. In 1432 Richard Johnson de Houghton granted lands in Houghton and Middleton to his son John, with remainders to other children—Robert, Margaret, and Joan; no. 1505, 1808. A settlement of lands in Middleton and Houghton was in 1488 made by John Houghton 'of Middleton,' the remainder being to his son and heir Robert; no. 1810, 2037. Seth Houghton died 10 March 1621 holding lands in Middleton, Southworth, and Arbury, his son and heir Henry being thirty years of age; Towneley MS. C. 8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), 507. A later Seth Houghton died in September 1635, leaving a son Richard, aged three years; ibid. 502.
  • 11. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 67, m. 33; Thomas Southworth, Rosamund his. wife, and John his son and heir apparent joined in the sale. After the death of James Bankes in 1617 it was found that the manor of Houghton and the lands in Houghton, Arbury, Middleton, and Croft were held of Richard Fleetwood, lord of Newton, in socage by 5s. rent, i.e. the old service for a fourth part of the manor of Middleton; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 99.
  • 12. The manor of Houghton was the subject of a settlement in 1657 by William Bankes, Sarah his wife, and William his son; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 160, m. 143. It is named in recoveries, &c., of the Bankes of Winstanley manors down to 1778; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 628, m. 7.
  • 13. Baines, Lancs. (ed. 1836), iii, 630.
  • 14. Ibid. (ed. Croston), iv, 368; this may refer not to the manor, but only to Peel.
  • 15. Towneley MS. HH, no. 2144, 1582; his daughter Elizabeth married Richard son and heir of Henry Bellerby of Prescot.
  • 16. Lancs. Inq. and Extents, i, 73; it is mentioned again in 1242 as part of the Lowton fee; ibid. 148.
  • 17. Cockersand Chart. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 674; one of these oxgangs Thurstan had in hand, the other was held by William the Carpenter. In 1246 the abbot of Cockersand granted his land in Arbury to John de Haydock and Agnes his wife, in exchange for land in Hutton; Final Conc. i, 105.
  • 18. The Southworth deeds do not explain how the family acquired it. In spite of the difference of tenure it seems to have become merged in Middleton and Houghton. By a deed of the first half of the 13th century, William de Rependun granted to Robert rector of Winwick one oxgang in Arbury (held by Henry Lawrence) for 12s. given by Robert de Winwick; a rent of a pair of white gloves or ½d. was payable; Towneley MS. GG, no. 1167. Gilbert de Southworth in 1341 granted to his brother Thomas all the portion which had fallen to him by reason of his coparcenary in Arbury; Dods. MSS. liii, fol. 18, no. 13. In 1362 it was found that Robert de Langton had died seised of the vill of Arbury, held of him by Thomas Southworth by knight's service; Inq. p.m. 36 Edw. III, pt. i, no. 116. Thomas Southworth of Middleton and Margery Watson his mother in 1460 granted to John Serjeant of Newton land in Arbury belonging to Margery and Joan Doykles; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1984. Four years afterwards Magota Abram, widow of John Abram of Woolston, and co-heir of Katherine wife of William Watson, her mother, granted her part of an oxgang in Arbury to John Serjeant; Add. MS. 32109, fol. 87. Magota Abram is clearly the same as Margery Watson. In 1509 Sir John Southworth made a grant of lands in Arbury, &c., to Henry Southworth of Middleton, for life; Towneley MS. HH, no. 1527. Thomas Southworth made a similar grant in 1518; Dods. MSS. liii, fol. 18. Stockley in Arbury was in the Southworths' lands.
  • 19. Engl. Cath. Nonjurors, 123.