Townships: Clifton

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

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'Townships: Clifton', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (London, 1911) pp. 404-406. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section


Clifton, 1184; Cliffton, 1278.

This township stretches along the Irwell for some two miles and a half, having a breadth south-westward from the river of three-quarters of a mile. Its area is 1,194½ acres. (fn. 1) The highest land, over 300 ft. above sea level, lies at the western end, near the Worsley boundary, and is moss land. The population in 1901 numbered 2,944. The main road from Manchester to Bolton passes through the township, and along it the village of Clifton has sprung up. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's railway between the same places also runs through it near the Irwell, and has two stations near the east and west ends, named Clifton and Dixon Fold. Worsley Fold is a hamlet to the east of Clifton village. The Manchester and Bolton Canal passes through part of Clifton, crossing the Irwell. A strip of the New Red Sandstone formation is traceable up to Ringley. All the rest of the township lies upon the Coal Measures.

There are several collieries in the township.

There were in 1666 forty-nine hearths liable to the tax. The largest dwellings were those of Elizabeth Holland and Daniel Gaskell, with six hearths each. (fn. 2)

The township is now governed by a parish council.

An urn or 'incense cup' with ashes, &c. was discovered here. (fn. 3)

Robert Ainsworth, the lexicographer, was born at Woodgate in 1660. He kept a school at Bolton, but removed to London, teaching at Bethnal Green and Hackney. His Latin Dictionary was published in 1736; and he wrote some smaller works. He died in 1743 and was buried at Poplar. (fn. 4)


The earliest record of CLIFTON by name is that in the Pipe Roll of 1183–4, the sheriff giving account of 8s., the issues of Clifton, which had belonged to Hugh Putrell, outlawed; (fn. 5) in the following half-year 4s. was received. (fn. 6) Hugh was probably pardoned, for a few years later Richard, 'the heir of Clifton,' son of Hugh the Hunter, made grants to Cockersand Abbey. (fn. 7) 'The heir of Richard de Clifton' paid half a mark to the scutage in 1205–6. (fn. 8) He was probably the Robert de Clifton who in 1212 held four oxgangs in Clifton of the king in chief by a rent of 8s.; at this time Roger Gernet held three of the oxgangs of Robert by 8s., thus discharging the service due from the whole. (fn. 9) Hugh son of Robert was in possession in 1246, (fn. 10) and seems to have left a family of daughters—Ellen, Alice, and Margery being named in 1276–8. (fn. 11)

About this time the manor passed to the Traffords, apparently by Alice's marriage, (fn. 12) and descended in this family for half a century or more. (fn. 13) In 1346 William son of Thurstan de Holland and Roger son of Richard de Tyldesley held one plough-land in Clifton by a rent of 8s. (fn. 14) Shortly afterwards William de Holland had possession of the whole. (fn. 15) He was succeeded by his son Otes, (fn. 16) and by another Otes living about 1440. (fn. 17) This last had a son and heir William, who died in 1498, and his son Ralph being childless Clifton passed to a cousin, William Holland son of Thomas son of Otes. (fn. 18) The new lord, or perhaps another William, died in 1521 or 1522, (fn. 19) leaving, among others, sons named Thomas and John. The elder's heir was his daughter Eleanor, (fn. 20) who married Ralph Slade, and retained the manor till her death in 1613. (fn. 21) It then went to John Holland's grandson Thomas, (fn. 22) whose estates were sequestered by the Parliamentary authorities during the Civil War for his own delinquency and that of his son William, who had served with the king's forces at Lathom and elsewhere. (fn. 23)

The Holland family do not appear to have been able to overcome their losses. The manor was sold a number of times. (fn. 24) It afterwards came into possession of the Heathcotes, Captain Justinian Heathcote EdwardsHeathcote being the lord of it. (fn. 25) The hall was sold to Lawrence Gaskell in 1652, and was his family's chief residence for some generations. It has descended regularly to the present owner, the Rt. Hon. Charles G. Milnes Gaskell of Thornes House, near Wakefield. (fn. 26) About 1800 Ellis Fletcher, coal proprietor, acquired an estate in Clifton; he was succeeded by his son Jacob, whose daughter, Mrs. Wynne Corrie, is the present owner. (fn. 27) In 1786 Sir John Heathcote owned nearly twothirds of Clifton, Daniel Gaskell having the remainder. (fn. 28)

Gaskell. Gules a saltire vair between two annulets in pale and as many lions passant in fesse or.

Clifton Hall stands close to the Clifton railway station and is a red brick house of plain 18thcentury type. During its occupation as a private asylum in the 19th century it underwent considerable alterations. About 1825 Benjamin Heywood, one of the founders of Heywood's Bank, lived here.

St. Anne's was built in 1874 for the Established Church; Mrs. Wynne Corrie is patron. (fn. 29) It has a mission chapel—St. Thomas's.


  • 1. 1,267 acres, including 45 of inland water, and 72 of an unnamed area; Census Rep. 1901.
  • 2. Subs. R. Lancs. bdle. 250, no. 9.
  • 3. a V.C.H. Lancs. i, 252.
  • 4. See account in Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 5. Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 52. For Hugh Putrell or Pultrell see further in the account of Worsley.
  • 6. Ibid. 54.
  • 7. Cockersand Chartul. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 724. By one charter he gave 2 acres of the demesne, with a toft sufficient for building houses. By another he gave 3 acres adjoining Asseley Ford.
  • 8. Lancs. Pipe R. 205.
  • 9. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 69. The rent of 8s. continued to be paid for Clifton (ibid. 138, 301), but later the vill was assessed as one plough-land. Of the Gernet holding nothing further appears, but there may have been a connexion by marriage with the Masseys (ibid. 119), so that Henry son of Hamlet joined as defendant in a Clifton suit of 1278 mentioned below, may represent the Roger Gernet of 1212.
  • 10. David son and heir of Richard de Hulton recovered from him 4 acres in Clifton; Assize R. 404, m. 13.
  • 11. Alice widow of Hugh de Clifton claimed dower in 1277 against Henry de Trafford and Alice daughter of Hugh; she also made claims against Robert son of Beatrice, and Ellen and Margery daughters of Hugh de Clifton; De Banco R. 21, m. 18, 82 d. In the former case Robert de Brumscales and Maud his wife were called to warrant, and Margery and Cecily, Maud's sisters, were also summoned. Alice daughter of Hugh de Clifton was prosecuting a suit in 1292; Assize R. 408, m. 32, 44. She granted to Alice daughter of William the Clerk of Eccles the house and grange, with adjoining land, formerly held by Diota, Hugh's mother, at the rent of a pair of white gloves; Ellesmere D. no. 223. Alice daughter of William the Clerk was defendant in a Clifton plea in 1274; De Banco R. 5, m. 102.
  • 12. See the preceding note. Alice de Eccles complained in 1278 that she had been disseised of her common of pasture in Clifton by Henry de Strafford (Trafford) and Henry son of Hamlet. The former Henry stated in reply that Clifton was of his fee and demesne and that he approved for himself what he liked, by the Provision of Merton. The jury found that Alice had a several tenement, and that by Henry's improvement she had lost free entry and egress; she therefore recovered and damages of 12d. were allowed; Assize R. 1238, m. 32; 1239, m. 37. Henry de Trafford in 1280 purchased land in Clifton from Hugh the Mey and Alice his wife; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 157.
  • 13. In 1292 Richard son of Henry de Trafford claimed lands in Crompton, Edgeworth, Quarlton, and Clifton against his brother Henry, and against Lora his father's widow; Assize R. 408, m. 5, 36. The settlement effected did not touch Clifton; Final Conc. i, 170. It seems to have been the younger Henry who was the husband of Alice. In 1307 the manor of Clifton was by Henry de Trafford settled upon his sons in succession—Henry, Richard, Robert, Ralph, and Thomas; ibid. i, 210. These were probably younger sons. In 1324 Henry de Trafford held a plough-land in Clifton by the yearly service of 8s.; Dods. MSS. cxxxi, fol. 38. This Henry died about ten years later. In 1338 the fine of the township for the goods of Henry son of Henry de Trafford, a fugitive, was 40d.; Coram Rege R. 312, m. 50.
  • 14. Add. MS. 32103, fol. 146; they obtained it by marrying respectively Margery and Cecily, daughters and coheirs of Henry de Trafford, i.e. Henry son of Henry.
  • 15. In 1353 William de Holland prosecuted William Bridde for cutting down his trees at Clifton; Assize R. 435, m. 11. In the following year Thurstan and William de Holland were plaintiffs; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 3, m. vi.
  • 16. Thurstan de Holland, the father of William, seems to have been the ancestor of the Denton family. William de Holland was son of Alice de Pusshe; he and his son Otes are mentioned in 1368; Final Conc. ii, 165, 174. Otes son of William de Holland occurs in 1397; Towneley's MS. CC (Chet. Lib.), no. 854.
  • 17. Extent of 1445–6; Duchy of Lanc. Knights' fees, 2/20. He held one ploughland in socage, rendering 8s. yearly. Ralph son of Otes Holland of Clifton was with others charged with trespassing in the wood of Sir John Pilkington in 1444, and taking three hawks, worth £20; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 6, m. 5b.
  • 18. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 134–7; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxix, App. 539. The succession is stated also in Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 119, m. 11.
  • 19. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. v, 49. He was seised of the manor of Clifton with its appurtenances, and of lands in Clifton, Manchester, Swinton, Leyland, and Farington, and in 1517 made a settlement, providing for the dower of Alice his wife and for his younger children. Thomas the heir was sixteen years of age at the taking of the inquisition, the date of which is uncertain—'Saturday after Low Sunday, 14 Hen. VIII.' An agreement respecting the marriage of their children was made in 1517 between William Holland of Clifton and Robert Langley of Agecroft; Agecroft D. no. 97. At the Court of Clifton held in 1514 the bounds were thus described: Beginning at the Fennes stock at the end of Redford hedge and at the end of Cheping clough, and so following up Nordenbrook unto anends the Tynde oak, and so up the Fether snape as the water falls from the head, and so in again unto the [Qwab] head, and from thence unto the Black dyke, following this to the Butted birch, and thence down to the syke and sykeyard to Riddendenford, and down Riddenden Brook to the Irwell, and along the wator to the Parrok gate, and thence to the true mere between Clifton and Pendlebury, and so following up Norden Brook to the Fennes stock, where it began; Ellesmere D. no. 224. In 1533 the herald found that Mr. Holland of Clifton was 'not at home;' Visit. (Chet. Soc.), 214. A pedigree was, however, recorded in 1567; Visit. (Chet. Soc.), 16. As to a dispute about the mill at Prestwich in 1550 see Duchy Plead. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 72–4. It was followed by an agreement for an exchange of lands, made by Sir Robert Langley of Agecroft and Thomas Holland; among other things the former was bound to safeguard the Holland lands 'which might hereafter be hurted by the course of the water of Irwell by means of the erection of the weir therein made by the said Sir Robert, that is to wit, from two roods above the "Head of Holme" to the lowest end of the lands which the said Thomas now exchanges'; Agecroft D. no. 118.
  • 20. Settlements of the manor, &c. were made by Thomas Holland in 1565; of a messuage, &c., by Ralph Slade and Ellen his wife in 1592; and of the manor by Ralph Slade, Richard Holland, esq., Edward and Otho Holland in 1590; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 27, m. 122; 54, m. 138; 52, m. 165.
  • 21. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 284, where the descent is set forth. The manor and lands in Clifton were held in socage by the rent of 8s. Ralph Slade and Eleanor Holland were defendants in 1591 and 1592, at which time William Holland (father of Thomas) was living; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), iii, 256, 273.
  • 22. Thomas Holland of Clifton contributed to the subsidy of 1622; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 154. He was the only landowner named in the township. A settlement was made by him and Jane his wife in 1624; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 102, no. 40.
  • 23. Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 244–9. The estate, except the hall and demesne, had, about 1635, been mortgaged to Thomas, George, and John Sorocold of Barton, who had subsequently obtained half the demesne also; see Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 128, m. 19; 145, m. 22. The Sorocolds therefore prayed for a discharge of the sequestration, pending the payment due to them. The mortgage was raised on the proposed marriage of William Holland, son and heir apparent of Thomas, with a daughter of William Lever, but the marriage had not taken place. Besides the mansion reservation was made of certain liberties for digging for coal and cannel, and carrying away from the mines there open. As to the delinquency nothing is stated about the father's share, but William Holland had stayed some days in the garrison at Lathom House, and was one of the foot company under Captain Rawstorne; he had asked for a place of command. He had also been seen in a troop of horse at Wigan, when that town was kept by the Earl of Derby against the Parliament.
  • 24. In 1671 Humphrey Trafford and Elizabeth his wife made a settlement of the manor of Clifton and various lands, &c., there and in Manchester, Pendlebury, and Leyland; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 186, m. 138. The wife was the daughter and heir of William Holland of Clifton, but her children did not survive; Stretford Chapel (Chet. Soc.), ii, 142. The estate appears to have been mortgaged to James Butler and others about 1685 and eventually sold; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 215, m. 57; Exch. Deps. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 73, 75, 76. In 1731 and 1743 it was the property of Tobias Britland; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 305, m. 112; 331, m. 4. He died in 1750 and ordered his estates to be sold for the benefit of his daughters; Earwaker, East Ches. ii, 148. In 1687 Holland paid 6s. and Daniel Gaskell 2s. 3d. to the bailiff of the wapentake for Clifton. In 1777 Richard Edensor and Richard Ireland paid the Duchy 5s. 11½d. for the manor of Clifton, while James Gaskell paid 2s. 6d. for Clifton Hall; Duchy of Lanc. Rentals, 14/25. The total is rather more than the old rent of 8s.
  • 25. For pedigree see Burke, Landed Gentry.
  • 26. Information of Mr. Milnes Gaskell. For pedigrees of the family see Foster's Yorkshire Ped. and Burke, Landed Gentry, Gaskell of Thornes House; also Lancs. and Ches. Antiq. Soc. iii, 170, and Baker, Mem. of a Dissenting Chapel, 69, from which it appears that the Gaskells were worshippers at Cross Street Chapel, Manchester. There is a short notice of the family in Booker's Prestwich, 225.
  • 27. Ellis Fletcher was living at Clifton House in 1824. He died in 1834. His eldest son Jacob entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1807, aged 16; Foster, Alumni; see also Manch. School Reg. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 22, 23. For Jacob's daughter and heir, now Mrs. Wynne Corrie, see Burke, Family Rec. 181, and the account of Little Hulton.
  • 28. Land tax returns at Preston.
  • 29. For district assigned see Lond. Gaz. 5 Feb. 1865.