A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In this section
Werkesleia, 1195; Wyrkedele, 1212; Whurkedeleye, c. 1220; Worketley, 1254; Worcotesley, Workedesle, 1276; Wrkesley, Wrkedeley, Workedeley, 1292; Wyrkeslegh, Workesley, 1301; Worsley, 1444; 'Workdisley alias Workesley alias Worseley,' 1581.
The ancient township of Worsley measures 4½ miles from east to west, the breadth varying from 1 mile to 4 miles; the area is 6,928 acres. (fn. 1) Land 300 ft. and more in height divides it from Clifton and Kearsley; the slope in general is towards the south. Ellenbrook in the west divides it from Tyldesley and Astley, while another brook, rising near the boundary of Clifton and flowing south to the Irwell, divides Worsley proper from Swinton on the east. Swinton has now grown into a small town, lying on the road from Manchester to Wigan; to the north and northeast are Newton and Hope Mill; to the south-east Deans and Lightbown Green; to the south Moorside, Sindsley, Broad Oak, and Dales Brow; Little Houghton, in the same quarter, has now disappeared from the maps; Drywood and Westwood occupy the south-west corner. The Worsley or western section of the township has Worsley Hall almost in the centre; to the west lie Booths Hall, part of Boothstown, Ellenbrook Chapel and Parr Fold; Walkden, now a town, and Linnyshaw occupy the north-west corner. Kempnough Hall, Daubhole, and Whittle Brook lie to the north of Worsley Hall; Hazelhurst, Roe Green, and Wardley are in the eastern portion. The southern half of this part of the township—the 100-ft. level being roughly the boundary—was formerly within Chat Moss, so that it has no ancient houses. To the south of the Bridgewater Canal and to the south-east of Hazelhurst, the Geological Formation consists mainly of the Pebble Beds of the New Red Sandstone. North of Boothstown and Winton the Coal Measures are everywhere in evidence. An intervening band of the Permian Rocks extends from Monton to Astley. In 1901 the population of Worsley was 12,462, and of Swinton 18,512.
The chief road is that from Manchester to Wigan, through Swinton, Wardley, and Walkden, along or near the track of a Roman road. From this a road branches off to go west through Worsley to Boothstown and Astley, and this has southerly branches from Swinton and Worsley to Eccles. There are numerous cross roads, including one from Worsley to Walkden. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's railway from Manchester to Hindley runs west through the northern part of the township, with three stations — Swinton, Moorside and Wardley, and Walkden. The London and North Western Company's line from Manchester and Eccles to Wigan, begun in 1861, has stations at Worsley and Ellenbrook; from it the Bolton line branches off at Rose Green, with a station at Walkden. There is also a single-line branch from Eccles to Clifton through Swinton. Down to 1860 passengers were taken from Worsley to Manchester by the canal.
In 1666 the hearth-tax returns show that Wardley Hall was the largest residence, having nineteen hearths; Worsley Hall and Booths had seventeen each. The total number of hearths in the township was 276, of which Worsley proper had 191. (fn. 2)
A century ago the collieries and the Duke of Bridgewater's canal were the notable features of the township, but the spinning and manufacture of cotton were also actively pursued. The same industries continue, the latter advancing. The south-west portion is agricultural.
In 1826 an archery society was established at Worsley.
Queen Victoria visited Worsley Hall in 1851 and 1857, and King Edward VII in 1869 when Prince of Wales.
At Worsley is a monument to the first Earl of Ellesmere, an octagonal shaft 132 ft. high. At Walkden an 'Eleanor cross' stands as a memorial to his countess. The Bridgewater Estate Offices are at Walkden. At Swinton is the Manchester Industrial School.
At Daubhole is a great boulder known as the Giant's Stone, the legend being that it was thrown from Rivington Pike by a giant.
A local board for Swinton and Pendlebury was formed in 1867. (fn. 3) The district was afterwards extended to include part of Barton township. (fn. 4) Since 1894 it has been governed by an urban district council of fifteen members. The remainder of Worsley, except a small part in the borough of Eccles, has also an urban council of fifteen members.
The lords of the manors have in many cases been men of distinction, as will be seen by the following record of them. Another 'worthy' of the place was Christopher Walton, 1809–77, of Wesleyan training, but ultimately a mystic or theosopher; his collections are in Dr. Williams's Library, London. (fn. 5)
The earliest record of WORSLEY is in the Pipe Roll of 1195–6 in the claim of one Hugh Putrell to a fourth part of the fee of two knights in Barton and Worsley. (fn. 6) Worsley, as half a plough-land, was held of the king by the Barton family in thegnage, (fn. 7) and of them by a family which took the local name. The earliest known member of it is Richard de Worsley, who in 1203 was defending his right to twenty acres of wood in Worsley, (fn. 8) and as Richard son of Elias in 1206 gave a mark for a writ. (fn. 9) Six years later he held a plough-land of Gilbert de Notton and his wife Edith de Barton, half of the land being in Worsley. (fn. 10) It appears that Hugh Putrell had granted 'to Richard son of Elias de Worsley the manors of Worsley and Hulton, i.e. half a plough-land in Worsley, which was the whole of Worsley, and half a plough-land in Hulton, rendering for all services 10s. for Worsley and 6s. 8d. for Hulton,' these being the rents paid by Hugh to the king or chief lord. (fn. 11) The mesne lordships were very quickly ignored, and the Worsleys were said to hold directly of the Earls or Dukes of Lancaster. Richard was a benefactor to the canons of Cockersand, (fn. 12) and two other of his charters have been preserved. (fn. 13)
His son Geoffrey succeeded and was in possession in 1254; (fn. 14) he died before 1268, leaving a widow Agnes. (fn. 15) His son and heir Richard de Worsley made several grants and acquisitions of land, (fn. 16) and was still living in 1292. (fn. 17) He had many children, including Richard, who seems to have died about the same time as his father; (fn. 18) Henry, who succeeded, and held Worsley for about ten years, dying in or before 1304; (fn. 19) and Jordan, who had Wardley. Henry de Worsley was twice married, and left two sons, Richard and Robert; the latter, by the second wife, (fn. 20) had a share of the manor, known as Booths, assigned to him in 1323, so that in future, out of the free rent, he and his heirs were to pay 2s. to the chief lord, leaving 18s. to be paid by the lord of Worsley. (fn. 21) Richard, who was living in 1332, (fn. 22) was succeeded by his son Henry, dead in 1350; (fn. 23) and Henry in turn was followed by his grandson Sir Geoffrey de Worsley, son of Geoffrey. (fn. 24)
Sir Geoffrey de Worsley, who fought in the French wars, married Mary daughter of Sir Thomas de Felton, about 1376; but a divorce was procured in 1381, and Mary retired to a nunnery. (fn. 25) Thereon Sir Geoffrey married Isabel daughter and eventual heir of Sir Thomas de Lathom, but died shortly afterwards leaving a daughter by her named Elizabeth, only one year old. His former wife then left her convent, asserting that she had only entered it by compulsion, and as she also established the validity of her marriage, the infant daughter of Sir Geoffrey lost the inheritance as illegitimate, the manors of Worsley and Hulton passing into the hands of Alice sister of Sir Geoffrey and wife of Sir John Massey. (fn. 26)
Sir John was the son of Hugh Massey of Tatton, who died about 1371, and by his elder brother's death succeeded to the paternal estates. (fn. 27) His marriage with Alice de Worsley took place in or before 1372. (fn. 28) He was sheriff of Cheshire in 1389. (fn. 29) He sided with Richard II in 1399 and was imprisoned in Chester Castle; (fn. 30) four years later he joined in the Hotspur rising and was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury. (fn. 31) Thomas his eldest son incurred forfeiture on the like account, (fn. 32) but was restored, and dying in 1420, was succeeded by his brother Geoffrey. (fn. 33) Their mother Alice died eight years later, Geoffrey being then forty years of age. (fn. 34) On his death in 1457 without lawful issue (fn. 35) the Worsley manors went to his nephew William son of Richard Massey. (fn. 36) William died eleven years later; (fn. 37) his son and heir Sir Geoffrey (fn. 38) left an only child Joan, who by her first husband, William Stanley, (fn. 39) also left an only daughter Joan, heiress of Worsley, aged eighteen at her mother's death in 1511. (fn. 40)
By John Ashton, her first husband, who died in 1513, Joan Stanley, the daughter, had no issue; but by her second, Sir Richard Brereton, a younger son of Sir Randle Brereton of Malpas, she had two sons and a daughter. (fn. 41) The eldest, Richard, died without issue, before his parents; (fn. 42) the second, Geoffrey, died in 1565, leaving an only son Richard, who at his grandfather's death in 1570 succeeded to Worsley. (fn. 43) He married Dorothy daughter of Sir Richard Egerton, of Ridley in Cheshire, but their only child Richard died in infancy. It was no doubt by Dorothy's influence that the Worsley manors were then granted by will to her father's illegitimate son, Sir Thomas Egerton, a distinguished lawyer, who rose to be Lord Chancellor, and was created Viscount Brackley in 1616. (fn. 44) Richard Brereton died in 1598; his widow Dorothy afterwards married Sir Peter Legh of Lyme, and dying in 1639 was buried at Eccles with her former husband. (fn. 45)
Shortly after Lord Brackley's death in 1617 his son John was created Earl of Bridgewater; (fn. 46) he succeeded to Worsley in 1639, as above, and died ten years afterwards, (fn. 47) being succeeded in turn by two namesakes, the second and third earls, who died in 1686 and 1701 respectively. Scrope, the son of the third earl, was created Duke of Bridgewater in 1720. He died in 1745, leaving three children—John, second duke, who survived his father but three years; Francis third duke, the great canal-maker, who died in 1803' and Louisa, who married the first Marquis of Stafford and whose son was the first beneficiary under the Bridgewater trust. On the death of the third duke the title of Earl of Bridgewater and part of the family estates passed to a cousin, Lieut.-General John William Egerton, seventh earl, (fn. 48) who died without issue in 1823, and was succeeded by his brother, the Rev. Francis William, eighth earl, originator of the Bridgewater Treatises. On his death without issue in 1829 the earldom expired. (fn. 49)
The second Earl of Bridgewater divided the Worsley and Tatton estates between two of his younger sons, Sir William and Thomas. The latter became ancestor of the Egertons of Tatton, but the former leaving no sons, Worsley reverted to the main line of the family. Sir William's widow married Hugh, Lord Willoughby of Parham, and they lived at Worsley Hall, though not happily. (fn. 50)
Scrope, first Duke of Bridgewater, devised a navigation system for Worsley, but it was not carried out. (fn. 51) His son Francis, the third duke, on breaking off his match with Elizabeth widow of the fourth Duke of Hamilton, devoted himself to carrying out his father's plans. He lived at the Brick Hall in Worsley, now pulled down, and limiting his personal expenses to £400 a year, employed the remainder of his income in canal-making. He obtained Acts of Parliament in 1758 and 1759 for the construction of a canal from his collieries in Worsley and Farnworth to Salford and to Hollinfare. Starting from the underground colliery workings, the canal reached the surface near the centre of Worsley, (fn. 52) and was carried, without locks, by a circuitous route and by the famous aqueduct over the Irwell, to Castlefield in the south of Manchester. The engineer was the celebrated James Brindley; John Gilbert, the duke's agent, also took an active part in the work. The subterranean canal extends nearly 6 miles in a straight line, its terminus being near Deane Church, 550 ft. below the surface of the ground; it has numerous branches intended to serve the collieries; and though no longer used for carrying coal, it is useful in draining the workings. Before the first canal was finished the duke, in 1761, obtained an Act for the construction of a more important one from Manchester to Runcorn, at which point a descent is made to the Mersey by a series of locks. By these undertakings the duke, who took the keenest personal interest in the works, rendered important help to the rapidly growing commerce and manufactures of the Manchester district, and enormously enriched himself. By his will he left his estates in Lancashire and Cheshire, and at Brackley, with Bridgewater House, London, its art treasures and valuable library, on trusts for the benefit of his nephew the Marquis of Stafford, afterwards Duke of Sutherland, with remainder to his second son, Francis Leveson-Gower, and his issue; he directed that in case Lord Francis or his issue should succeed to the marquisate of Stafford, the Bridgewater estates should pass to the next in succession. The trust came to an end in 1903, but in 1872 the canals had been transferred to a company, and were purchased in 1887 by the Manchester Ship Canal. (fn. 53)
Lord Francis in 1833, in accordance with the duke's will, took the surname and arms of Egerton, on succeeding his father as the beneficiary of the trust. He determined to reside at Worsley, conceiving, as he said, that 'his possessions imposed duties upon him as binding as his rights.' He found it 'a God-forgotten place; its inhabitants were much addicted to drink and rude sports, their morals being deplorably low. The whole district was in a state of religious and educational destitution; there was no one to see to the spiritual wants of the people, and teaching was all but nullity itself.' The women working in the coalmines were at once withdrawn, and helped to maintain themselves till they could find more suitable occupation. Churches and schools were built; a lending library instituted; the cottages of labourers and artisans repaired and rebuilt; and Lord Francis and his wife afforded a suitable example of life. He built Worsley Hall, rebuilt Bridgewater House, and added to its literary and artistic collections, and also made his mark in literature; nor did he neglect public duties, serving the state in Parliament and in office. He was created Earl of Ellesmere in 1846, refusing the offer to revive the earldom of Bridgewater. (fn. 54) Dying in 1857 he was succeeded by his son George Granville Francis, who only lived till 1862, being followed by his son Francis Charles Granville, born in 1847, the third earl, who in 1903, on the close of the trust, became not only the beneficiary, but the owner of the estates in Worsley and elsewhere.
At the beginning of last century courts baron were held at Easter and Michaelmas. (fn. 55) They continued to be held regularly until 1856, but only two have been held since, in 1877 and 1888. Some court rolls are extant for the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries; the regular series begins in 1722. (fn. 56)
Worsley Hall is a large house built in 1840–6 by Lord Francis Egerton as above stated, Edward Blore being the architect. It stands on high ground looking southward over Chat Moss, and is a spacious stone building of florid Gothic style, with a skyline which from the lower ground is very imposing. It replaces Brick Hall, which was pulled down in 1845.
Worsley Old Hall, which was abandoned as the residence of the lord of the manor when the 18th-century house was built, yet stands in the park to the north of the modern mansion. It is a picturesque low two-storied building, partly of wood and plaster, and partly of brick, but has been so much altered that it has now little or no architectural interest. It makes a very charming picture, however, with its level lawns, ivy-covered walls, and contrast of colour in black and white work, red-brick chimneys, and grey-slated roofs. The house was originally built round three sides of a quadrangle, the fourth, facing north, being open; but the courtyard has now been almost entirely built over, and the interior of the building so much altered that little or nothing of the original disposition of the plan remains. There is nothing to indicate the date of the building, but it would not appear to be older than the 17th century. Parts of an older structure, however, are possibly incorporated in it, some of the roof-beams and principals in the south and south-east parts of the house appearing to be of earlier date. The cellars under the central portion of the house, however, are vaulted in brick, and are certainly not earlier than the 17th century. The principal front faces south, and is of timber and plaster, with gables at the ends, and two brick chimney stacks breaking the long line of the outside wall and roof. The timber work is of simple construction, being composed almost entirely of uprights and diagonal bracings, two quatrefoils near the garden entrance being the only enrichments. The timber construction is continued round the gable at the east side. The hall is said to have been moated, but no signs of a moat now remain. The three sides of the original courtyard are set at slightly different angles. In modern times a corridor was set along the side of the courtyard, connecting the two ends of the old wings, but this has disappeared in subsequent alterations. The courtyard was first encroached on at the east side by the erection of a wide entrance-hall, the principal entrance to the house being on the north side. The quadrangle was by this means reduced to a space of about 34 ft. square, and this was almost entirely covered in 1905 by the erection of a billiard-room. The north entrance front of the house is entirely modern; it carries out the picturesque half-timber character of the garden front, but the black and white work is chiefly paint and plaster. About the middle of the last century (after 1855) a new west wing was added alongside the old one, with a timber gable at each end. This was originally of one story, but was afterwards raised. Further alterations took place in 1891, when the morning-room in the east wing was extended and a new bay added on three sides of the house, and in 1906 a further addition was made by the erection of a small north-west wing. There was formerly a bell turret over the west wing, but this has disappeared.
For a long time before the new Hall was built, Worsley Old Hall was divided into tenements, and it was not till the Hon. Algernon Egerton came to live there in 1855 and the house was entirely renovated, that it was again used as a residence. At the end of the 18th century when the Duke of Bridgewater was constructing his canal, James Brindley, the engineer, lived for some time at Worsley Old Hall, where the duke often consulted with him. The hall is now the residence of Viscount Brackley.
The carved oak panels which were brought from Hulme Hall, Manchester, at the time of its demolition, to Worsley Old Hall, have been removed to the new mansion and are now in Lady Ellesmere's sittingroom. They consist of a series of spirited grotesques, allegorical subjects, and ornamental devices, and are apparently 16th-century work. (fn. 57)
The formation of the estate or manor of BOOTHS in 1323 has been narrated. (fn. 58) Robert son of Henry de Worsley, the original grantee, was succeeded by his son William, (fn. 59) and the latter by Robert de Worsley his son, (fn. 60) who died 28 March 1402, seised of 'the manor of Booths,' which was held of the king as Duke of Lancaster in socage and by the yearly rent of 2s.; it was worth 20 marks. His son and heir Arthur was then of full age. (fn. 61) As already stated, the father had planned the reunion of the whole manor through the marriage of Arthur with Elizabeth daughter and heiress of Sir Geoffrey de Worsley, but was balked by the success of the Masseys in proving her illegitimate.
Arthur Worsley was stated to have been an idiot from his birth. He was entrusted to the guardianship of John Booth of Barton, who in 1414 was accused of having caused waste in the possessions in his charge; (fn. 62) the guardianship had been transferred to John Stanley. (fn. 63) Arthur did not long survive, dying in December 1415, and leaving as heir his son Geoffrey, then about six years of age. (fn. 64) Geoffrey appears to have been succeeded by a brother named Robert. (fn. 65) About 1460 Robert Worsley was in possession, he and his son Robert, with other gentlemen and yeomen, being accused of complicity in the death of Robert Derbyshire; (fn. 66) and at the same time he charged William Massey, Sir Geoffrey Massey, and others, with the death of William Worsley his brother. (fn. 67) Robert Worsley the son is probably the Robert Worsley who died at the beginning of 1497, leaving a son and heir of the same name, thirty years of age. His possessions are described as the manor of Booths, held of the manor of Worsley; also messuages, land, and pasture called the Rakes in Heaton Norris, held of the king as Duke of Lancaster. The services were unknown. (fn. 68)
Robert Worsley recorded a pedigree in 1533; it shows that his eldest son Robert had married Alice daughter and co-heir of Hamlet Mascy of Rixton, and had left a son Robert, then married to Alice daughter of Thurstan Tyldesley. (fn. 69) The grandfather died later in the year, holding lands in Urmston, Hulme, Ashton under Lyne, Rusholme, and Farnworth; the manor of Booths was, as in the earlier inquisitions, found to be held of the king by a rent of 2s.; Robert, the grandson and heir, was twenty-one years of age. (fn. 70) He was afterwards made a knight, and acquired the lands of Upholland Priory; (fn. 71) but the family did not prosper, and though his son and heir Robert was appointed keeper of the New Fleet prison in Salford, while it was filled with recusants during the persecution which marked the latter half of Elizabeth's reign, (fn. 72) he sold the family lands, apparently piecemeal. (fn. 73) Afterwards little is heard of Booths as a manor. It was held by Charnock (fn. 74) and then by Sherington (fn. 75) in the 17th century. The house was in the latter part of the 18th century owned by the Clowes family. (fn. 76) It was eventually acquired by the Bridgewater Trustees, the Earl of Ellesmere being the present owner. (fn. 77)
WARDLEY, the possession of Jordan de Worsley in the first half of the 14th century, has been mentioned above. Jordan held part of Wardley of the Hospitallers by a rent of 8d.; (fn. 78) he had other lands in Wardley and Worsley, held of the lord of Worsley. (fn. 79) He left an only daughter Margaret as his heir; she was a minor and in ward to Richard de Worsley. In November 1330 a number of the neighbours carried her off from Richard's house and married her to Thurstan son of Richard de Tyldesley. (fn. 80) She was still living in 1401, when in conjunction with her son Thomas she made a settlement with the Masseys regarding her estate in Worsley. (fn. 81) This descended to another Thomas Tyldesley, who died in 1495, (fn. 82) leaving as his heir a son Thurstan. By his first wife Thurstan, who died in 1554, (fn. 83) had a son Thomas, (fn. 84) succeeded two years later by his son Thurstan, (fn. 85) who died in 1582, having between 1562 and 1568 sold Wardley and other lands in Worsley to William and Gilbert Sherington. (fn. 86) This family did not hold them long, selling to Roger Downes, who was living at Wardley in 1609. (fn. 87) He had various public employments (fn. 88) and was twice married. The eldest son by the first marriage having died before his father, (fn. 89) the heir at the latter's death in 1638 was found to be Francis Downes, eldest son by the second wife. (fn. 90) Francis also seems to have died without issue, (fn. 91) the heir being his brother John, who took sides with the king in the Civil War and died in 1648, (fn. 92) leaving by his wife Penelope, a daughter of Sir Cecil Trafford, two children—Roger, born about the year named, and Penelope. (fn. 93) The son, after a short and dissipated career in London—Lord Rochester was one of his companions—died from a wound received in a brawl with the watch, (fn. 94) and his sister inherited the estate. By her husband Richard Savage, fourth Earl Rivers, (fn. 95) she had a daughter and heir Elizabeth, who in turn left a daughter and heir Penelope by her husband James Barry, fourth Earl of Barrymore. (fn. 96) Penelope married General James Cholmondeley, but was divorced for adultery, and died childless in 1786. (fn. 97) Wardley was sold by her in 1760 to Francis Duke of Bridgewater, and now forms part of the Earl of Ellesmere's estate in Worsley. (fn. 98)
Wardley Hall is a quadrangular building of great interest, which, though very much restored, yet preserves many of its ancient features and retains to a great extent its original arrangement of plan. The house is situated about a mile north of Worsley village, and stands on high ground at the head of a wooded hollow. Its immediate surroundings are yet of a rural character, though the workings of collieries have entirely changed the aspect of the district around.
The house was formerly surrounded by a moat, but of this only a portion remains on the west side, where it has been formed into a small lake, adding greatly to the picturesqueness of the building.
The date of the first house is not known, but the oldest part of the present structure, containing the great hall, may belong to the end of the 15th or first half of the 16th century. The building has been so much altered and restored in the course of the 19th century, however, that it is very difficult to affix a date definitely to any portion of it. At the beginning of the last century it was in a very dilapidated condition, and some repairs were effected about 1811. A further repair appears to have taken place about 1849; and in 1894, the hall having fallen into decay, a further and more complete restoration was carried out. For about twenty years before this time the house was unoccupied, with the exception of the east wing, which had been made into three cottages, tenanted by colliers. During that period it had only been so far repaired as to be kept weather-proof, and had suffered some damage from the coal-workings beneath it. The only two living-rooms were those now called the boudoir and the dining-room; the lower part of the hall was a washhouse, and its upper part divided into several rooms, and the minstrels' gallery used as a dovecote. The principal entrance to the house from the courtyard had been built up and a later one made on the west side near to the staircase bay. Other rooms were used as places for firewood and rubbish, and the whole structure had been most cruelly mutilated. The work aimed at restoring as much of the building as possible to something like its former state, and reconstructing the remainder.
The house is of two stories throughout, and the entrance is under a gatehouse on the north side of the quadrangle. Immediately opposite, and occupying the whole of the south side of the courtyard, is the great hall. The family apartments were no doubt originally in the west wing, and the servants' rooms in the east wing. The west wing now contains the dining-room, kitchen, and offices, while the east wing, which has been successively used as cottages and stables, was converted into a drawing-room and study in 1903.
The gatehouse was formerly approached over a bridge, and is so shown in Philips's view of the house made about 1822, (fn. 99) the moat at that time coming right up to the walls on this side, if this view is to be taken as correct. The ground is now levelled right up to the building. The elevation on this side is of brick, and is about 60 ft. in length, standing in front of the rest of the house. The roof, which was formerly lower on the east side of the gatehouse, is now of uniform height and pitch with overhanging eaves and a plaster cove. The appearance of the house on this side, relieved only by the central gateway with its single gable and two tall chimney-stacks, is plain and uninteresting, the end gables of the two side wings of the quadrangle standing too far back to enter into the composition of the north front. To the west of the gatehouse, the recess formed by the junction of the north and west wings is now occupied by a low one-story addition erected in 1895–6.
The courtyard is of irregular shape, none of its sides being square with the others, and measures about 45ft. by 35ft., the greater length being from west to east. The east and west wings, which converge slightly to the south, are said to follow the lines of two streams which fed the moat. (fn. 100) All the outside elevations, with the exception of the central portion of the south front, which is of timber, are of brick with stone dressings and with timber in some of the gables, and all the windows are new, both in the brick and timber portions of the house. Three sides of the courtyard are of timber on a stone base, the north or gatehouse side only being of brick. The roofs are covered with stone slates.
The entrance to the house by the courtyard is by the door at the north end of the passage behind the screen. The passage is still retained and on the side opposite the hall has its two doors to the east wing. This part of the house has been entirely modernized, what was probably the buttery being now a gun-room, and the passage to the kitchen now leading to a modern drawing-room and study. The great hall, originally about 40ft. long by 21ft., (fn. 101) was, at a comparatively early date, divided into two by a wall about 12 ft. from its west end. A floor appears to have been inserted at the same time, and the staircase in the south-west corner of the courtyard built. The appearance of the open timber-roofed hall may, however, still be realized in the upper room, the whole extent of the original roof having been exposed in the last restoration. The roof is divided by two principals into three bays, and is of a plain king-post type with curved and moulded pieces underneath the tie beam. It has a flat wooden ceiling with moulded ribs at the level of the tie beams. The arrangement of the great hall followed the usual type. The screens were at the east end, with a gallery over, and the room was lit on the north side by a range of windows to the courtyard. On the opposite side was the inglenook and a window to the garden. Beyond the fireplace at the west end to the right of the high table was the bay window with a projection and width of about 10 ft. All these arrangements may still be seen, but the greater part of the dais end of the hall together with the bay window is now a separate room (boudoir), and the masonry fireplace is a restoration. The fireplace in the upper hall, however, has its old stone arch reinstated after having been repaired. Both these fireplaces were discovered and opened up in 1895–6. At the north-west end of the hall is the staircase occupying a projecting bay in the south-west angle of the courtyard, and beyond this a corridor giving access to the rooms in the western wing. These rooms retain their ancient ceiling beams, and the dining-room had a fine masonry fireplace, now rebuilt. The dining-room ceiling is crossed by four moulded beams, with moulded joists between, the mouldings of the beams being carried down the walls on oak posts 10 in. thick. In the upper room over the kitchen there is a roof similar in style to that over the great hall.
The timber framing on three sides of the quadrangle and on the south side of the house preserves its ancient character, and consists principally of uprights with diagonal bracings. There has been a good deal of reconstruction on both the east and west sides of the court, however, and many of the timbers are new, replacing old ones. A former doorway and recess on the west side of the quadrangle on the ground floor have been destroyed, and the whole of that side made of uniform character. At the same time a new staircase bay and entrance were added in the north-west corner of the courtyard. In the original plan there was a smaller projecting bay in the south-east corner of the courtyard with a small gable facing north, forming a kind of balancing feature to the large gable of the staircase bay, but in the reconstruction this feature has been merged into the general arrangement of the east side of the house by the rebuilding and advancing of the east side of the quadrangle to the line of the former angle-projection and the continuing of the little gable as a second and smaller roof along the whole length of the east wing. The courtyard is paved with stone sets.
Over the gatehouse was formerly the date 1625, which though usually taken to indicate some alteration or addition to the building, probably refers to the year of the erection of the gatehouse, or at any rate to its facing in brick. There may have been a wooden building on the site before, but the timber front to the gatehouse shown in old drawings of Wardley Hall, which was so characteristic a feature of the house in the view from the north, was not timber at all, but only a painted plaster covering in front of the brickwork. The old brick walls have now been restored to their original appearance. The other brick elevations are, perhaps, more rebuildings than restorations, and have no special interest. The room east of the gatehouse upstairs is said to have been a chapel, but there appears to be no documentary evidence for this, and the building itself at the present time offers none. The position, however, would be a convenient and likely one for the purpose, and a former tenant of the hall is stated to have said that he formerly saw evidences of the apartment having been a chapel. (fn. 102)
In an inventory of goods in Wardley Hall dated 10 July 1638, the following rooms and places are mentioned:— (fn. 103)
'The little parler, the old yeaman's chamber, newe flored chambers, buttery chamber, maydon's chamber, gatehouse chambr, mattdd chamber, garden chamber, steare head chamber, yellowe chamber, corner chamber, inner corner chamber, chamber over hall, chappell chamber, cookes chamber, masters' chamber, inner chamber, chamber over pantry, greate parlor, grounde parlor, the hall, servantes chambr, oxe house chamber, garner chambr, mylne, stable chamber, brewhouse, back house, dry larder, wett larder, dryhouse, cheese chamber, kytchein, Mr. Millington's clossett, storehouse, washe house, buttery and sellor, mylne.'
A peculiar interest has long been attached to the house on account of a human skull being kept there. The superstition is that if the skull is moved from its place great storms will follow, to the damage of the dwelling. The skull is in a niche in the wall on the staircase landing, carefully protected by glass and a wooden outer door. Concerning it there are several legends and traditions, but it is now supposed to be that of the Ven. Ambrose Barlow, who served the private chapel at Wardley along with other places in South Lancashire, but was arrested on Easter Sunday, 1641, and executed in the September following at Lancaster. After his execution it is thought that his head may have been secured by Mr. Francis Downes, and preserved by him at Wardley Hall. (fn. 104) The story of the skull being that of the last Roger Downes (died 1676) has been disproved.
The Hollands of Denton held another part of the Hospitallers' lands in Wardley by a rent of 4d. (fn. 105)
Another ancient estate in Worsley was KEMPNOUGH, (fn. 106) granted early in the 13th century by Richard de Worsley to Roger his brother (or son) at a rent of 2s. (fn. 107) Richard son of Roger appears frequently as a witness to local charters and in other ways during the second part of the 13th century. (fn. 108) Probably he was the father of Robert the Clerk of Worsley, whose grandson Richard in 1346 made a settlement of his lands in Worsley upon his son Robert, with remainder to his daughter Ellen. (fn. 109) The last-named seems to have succeeded. She married Richard de Parr, and in 1408 a further settlement was made, Oliver being their eldest son. (fn. 110) Oliver married Emma daughter and heir of Margery, widow of Henry Tootill; she had lands in Tyldesley, which descended to their son and grandson, each named Richard. (fn. 111) The estate descended to John Parr, who in 1560 made a settlement. (fn. 112) His heir was his daughter Anne, whose marriage with Nicholas Starkie carried Kempnough into this family, (fn. 113) and their descendants, the Starkies of Huntroyde, retained possession until 1876, when it was sold to the Bridgewater trustees. (fn. 114)
Kempnough Hall is a small black and white timbered building on a stone base, much renewed with brickwork, and said to have been almost entirely rebuilt in comparatively recent times. Much of the old timber work has been preserved, though the greater part of the 'timber' front is paint on plaster. The house is a two-story building with a slightly projecting gabled wing at each end, and is now divided into three cottages. It lies, surrounded by trees, about half a mile north-east of Worsley, near to Roe Green, but presents no remarkable features. The roofs are covered with stone slates and the chimneys are of brick. Two gates, with piers, which in the early part of the 19th century stood in front of the house have now disappeared. There is a large stone chimney at the east end of the house, and the ceilings of the lower rooms are crossed by oak beams. The back of the house shows the original timber framing. For some time during the latter half of the last century (c. 1850–75), a room in the building was set apart and maintained by the Countess of Ellesmere as a free medicine dispensary for the Worsley tenantry.
In addition to Wardley the Hospitallers had an estate in SWINTON. (fn. 115) The abbey of Whalley also had a considerable estate in Swinton and LITTLE HOUGHTON, (fn. 116) the monks regarding it as part of their manor of Monton near Eccles. On the Suppression Swinton and other of the abbey lands were granted to Thurstan Tyldesley. (fn. 117) Hope in Swinton (fn. 118) and Stanistreet (fn. 119) were other estates or portions of Worsley named in the ancient deeds. Westwood also was among the lands of Whalley Abbey. (fn. 120) Little Houghton gave a surname to a resident family. (fn. 121) This estate seems to have passed by descent or purchase to the Valentines of Bentcliffe in Barton. (fn. 122)
WALKDEN, down to the 15th century, appears to have had a wider meaning than at present, spreading into Farnworth and Little Hulton. (fn. 123) It also gave a surname to a local family. (fn. 124) Northdene in Worsley—probably 'the Deans' in Swinton, north of Little Houghton—was another estate. (fn. 125)
Many of the neighbouring landowners, as appears from the inquisitions, held estates also in Worsley and Swinton. (fn. 126) Until the end of the 17th century all the farms in the district were held on life leases; somewhat earlier it was customary for the leases to contain a provision that the tenants should rear one or more hunting dogs for the lord.
The principal landowner in 1786 was the Duke of Bridgewater, owning apparently over half the land; Samuel Clowes had a large estate at Booths, and the smaller owners included the Rev. Walter Bagot, James Hilton, and — Starkie. (fn. 127)
In 1686 an agreement was made as to the inclosure of Swinton Moor and Hodge Common in the parish of Eccles. (fn. 128) Walkden Moor, a great part of which is or was in Little Hulton, was inclosed about 1765. (fn. 129)
The chapel of ELLEN BROOK (fn. 130) owes its foundation to the lords of Worsley, and has remained to the present day a donative in their gift. The Abbot of Stanlaw, as rector of Eccles, between 1272 and 1295, granted his licence to Richard de Worsley to have a free chantry in his chapel of Worsley, provided that no loss was caused to the mother church, to which 6d. was to be paid yearly as oblations. (fn. 131) There is no continuous record of the chapel's existence, but in 1549 Sir Richard Brereton complained that his son Richard, among other lawless deeds, had recently taken a chalice from his chapel in the manor of Worsley, which chalice the inhabitants had purchased for use in divine service. (fn. 132) The fate of the chapel in the Reformation period is uncertain, but as the lords of Worsley appear to have conformed to the Elizabethan system without difficulty, service was probably continued in it with but little interruption. Dame Dorothy Legh in 1638 left the interest of £50 for its maintenance, and other small gifts were made; (fn. 133) but in 1650 it was found that there was no certain income, and that it sometimes had a preaching minister and sometimes not. (fn. 134)
In 1677 the Bishop of Chester made an order as to the payment of seat rents, the endowment of the chapel not exceeding £20 a year. (fn. 135) Lord Willoughby, on coming to live at Worsley about 1693, appears to have had a design to use this as a Nonconformist place of worship; he locked out the curate in charge and put a Mr. Cheney in as preacher, but was defeated by the feoffees, headed by Roger Kenyon, and the bishop. (fn. 136) In 1719 Bishop Gastrell found the income to be £23 6s. 3d., of which £17 was the rent or value of the house and ground attached to the chapel. (fn. 137) Though it was a donative the curates appear at times to have been licensed to it by the bishop. (fn. 138) The following are the names of some of them:— (fn. 139)
|oc.||1610||— Hunt (fn. 140)|
|oc.||1617–26||Thomas Johnson (fn. 141)|
|oc.||1646||Roger Baldwin, M.A. (Edin.) (fn. 142)|
|1647||Hugh Taylor, M.A. (Edin.) (fn. 143)|
|1648||—Boate (fn. 144)|
|1650||James Valentine (fn. 145)|
|oc.||1654||James Bradshaw (fn. 146)|
|1657||William Coulburn, B.A. (fn. 147) (St. John's Coll., Camb.)|
|oc.||1664||Joseph Hanmer, M.A. (Trin. Coll., Camb.)|
|?||1669||Samuel Hanmer (fn. 148)|
|1682||Miles Atkinson (fn. 149)|
|1709||Thomas Chaddock, B.A. (fn. 150)|
|oc.||1725–48||John Key (fn. 151)|
|oc.||1769||John Crookhall, B.A. (fn. 152)|
|1792||John Clowes, M.A. (fn. 153)|
|1854||St. Vincent Beechey, M.A. (fn. 154) (Caius Coll. Camb.)|
|1872||Constantine Charles Henry Phipps, (fn. 155) Earl of Mulgrave|
|1890||Frederick Carslake Hodgkinson, M.A.|
Since 1854 this chapel has been held with St. Mark's, Worsley, which was built by the first Earl of Ellesmere and opened in 1846; it has an effigy of the founder. St. Mark's is a vicarage, the Earl of Ellesmere being patron. Several other churches have been erected for the Established worship. St. Peter's, Swinton, built in 1869, replaces an older building erected in 1781; the vicar of Eccles is patron. (fn. 156) Holy Rood, Moorside, and the school-chapels of All Saints and St. Stephen, are also in Swinton. At Walkden is the church of St. Paul, opened in 1838, and rebuilt in 1848; the Earl of Ellesmere is patron. (fn. 157) St. John the Baptist's, Little Hulton, is also within Walkden, at Hill Top; it was built in 1874; the Bishop of Manchester is patron. (fn. 158)
There are Wesleyan chapels at Worsley, first built in 1801, and at Boothstown; also at Swinton and Walkden. The Primitive Methodists have two chapels at Swinton and one at Walkden. At Swinton there is also a Methodist Free Church. The Independent Methodists have a chapel at Roe Green, (fn. 159) and another at Swinton.
The Congregationalists have two churches at Swinton; also one at Sindsley Mount and another at Walkden. (fn. 160)
At Swinton is a Unitarian Free Church. (fn. 161)
The Swedenborgians built a church at Worsley in 1849.
At Swinton is the Roman Catholic church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, opened in 1859.