Townships: Winstanley

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

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'Townships: Winstanley', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (London, 1911) pp. 87-89. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]

In this section


Winstaneslege, 1212; Wynstanesleigh, 1252; Wynstanlegh, 1292; Winstanislegh, 1293.

Winstanley is situated on the eastern lower slopes of Billinge Hill, 440 ft. above sea level being reached, on the edge of an extensive colliery district, several coal-mines being found in the township itself. The principal object in the landscape is the mass of trees surrounding Winstanley Hall, the grounds of which occupy nearly one-third of the whole area of the township. The rest of the country is divided into fields, usually separated by thin hedges, and sometimes by low stone walls. The arable fields produce crops of potatoes, oats, and wheat, whilst there are pastures and meadows, with isolated plantations. The surface soil is sandy, mixed with clay in places, with sandstone rock not far from the surface.

The park is bounded on two sides by the roads from Billinge to Wigan and from Haydock to Upholland, which cross at its southern point. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's Liverpool and Wigan Railway passes through near the northern boundary. A colliery railway goes south-west through the township.

Withington lies in the north-west corner, and Longshaw on the western boundary; south of this is Moss Vale. Two detached portions of the township lie within Billinge Chapel End; one of these is called Blackley Hurst.

The township has an area of 1,859 acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 the population numbered 564.

Thomas Winstanley, an Oxford scholar of some distinction, was born in the township in 1749. He became Camden Professor of History in 1790 and held other university and college appointments. He died in 1823. (fn. 2) James Cropper, 1773 to 1840, philanthropist, was also a native of Winstanley, (fn. 3) and Henry Fothergill Chorley, 1808 to 1872, musical critic and general writer, of Blackley Hurst. (fn. 4)


The earlier stages of the history of the manor have been described in the account of Billinge. (fn. 5) There are no materials at present available for tracing the descent in the family of Winstanley, which continued in possession until the end of the 16th century. (fn. 6) Early in 1596 Edmund Winstanley and Alice his wife sold the manor of Winstanley, with the coal mines and view of frankpledge, to James Bankes. (fn. 7) The purchaser, who belonged to a Wigan family, (fn. 8) died 4 August 1617, leaving a widow Susannah, and a son and heir William, then twenty-four years of age. The manor was held of Sir Richard Fleetwood, baron of Newton, in socage by a rent of 3s. 6d.; the other possessions of James Bankes included the manor of Houghton in Winwick, and lands in Winstanley and adjacent townships. (fn. 9) William Bankes, the heir, represented Liverpool in Parliament in 1675; (fn. 10) his son, another William, represented Newton in Makerfield in 1660; (fn. 11) the latter's son, also William, represented Wigan in 1679. (fn. 12) The last William Bankes dying in 1689, the manors passed to his brother Thomas's son and grandson. (fn. 13) Thomas had also a daughter Anne, who married Hugh Holme of Upholland in 1732, and their descendants, assuming the name of Bankes, (fn. 14) ultimately acquired possession, retaining it until the death of Meyrick Bankes in 1881. His daughter, Mrs. Murray, was left a life interest in the estate, and it was entailed in tail male on her sons. She resumed her maiden name and died December 1907, when her only surviving son George Bankes came into the property. (fn. 15)

Winstanley. Or two bars azure and in chief three crosses formy gules.

Bankes. Sable a cross or between four fleurs de lis argent, a canton of the second.

Another branch of the Winstanley family (fn. 16) is found at Blackley Hurst, a detached portion of the township. Their lands were sold to Richard or William Blackburne in 1617, (fn. 17) and Blackley Hurst was later acquired by the Gerards, owners of the adjacent Birchley.

In 1600 the freeholders were James Bankes, Edmund Atherton, and James Winstanley of Blackley Hurst. (fn. 18) William Bankes and William Blackburne contributed to the subsidy of 1628. (fn. 19) William Bankes, Thomas Blackburne of Blackley Hurst, clerk, and the heirs of James Winstanley of Hough Wood, contributed in 1663. (fn. 20) A number of Winstanley Quakers were in 1670 convicted as 'Popish recusants,' two-thirds of their properties being sequestrated. (fn. 21) Thomas Marsh, John Buller, William Jameson, and Thomas Appleton, as 'papists,' registered estates here in 1717. (fn. 22)


  • 1. 1,860, including 29 of inland water; census of 1901.
  • 2. a Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Roger de Winstanley held the manor under the lord of Billinge in 1212; Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 76. He was a contributor to aids, &c. in the time of King John; Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 205, 230. As Roger de Winstanley, son of Outi, he made grants to Cockersand Abbey: (1) Witlow Hurst, the bounds of which were the Syke, Green Lache, Thornhurst Brook, and Kempesbirines; (2) another piece, the bounds beginning at the road from Northcroft to Sandyford on Budshaw Brook; and (3) another, bounded by Eldeley Brook and Thornhurst Brook to Green Lache; Cockersand Chart. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 654–8. The lands were granted by the abbot to William de Burley, by a rent of 12d., and 10s. as obit; William de Whitlow held them in 1268, and James de Winstanley, paying 2s., in 1461; ibid. 655–6.
  • 6. Adam de Winstanley was in possession in 1252; Final Conc. i, 114. By the agreement he appears to have secured a practical enfranchisement of his manor. It was probably Roger his son who made a grant to Cockersand of certain land marked out by crosses; this had been exchanged for other land held by Henry de Billinge, and the exchange and donation were confirmed by the lord of Newton in 1283; Cockersand Chart. ii, 658–60. Roger de Winstanley was a plaintiff in 1292 against Henry de Huyton; Assize R. 408, m. 44 d.; and in the same year Henry son of Roger de Winstanley and Adam son of William de Winstanley were defendants; ibid. m. 36 d. In 1305 Roger son of Roger de Winstanley recovered messuages and lands from Richard son of William the Lewed, Alice his wife, and Amota daughter of Alice. Alice, it appeared, was the real defendant; her title came from a grant by Robert de Huyton and William de Winstanley; Assize R. 1306, m. 19. In 1332 Roger de Winstanley contributed to the subsidy; Exch. Lay Subs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 26. Roger son of Roger de Winstanley and Isolda his father's widow had disputes in 1352; Assize R. 435, m. 29. Particulars of various suits will be found in the account of Billinge. Hugh de Winstanley contributed to the poll tax in 1381; Exch. Lay Subs. bdle. 130, no. 24. In 1388 he had licence for an oratory for two years; Lich. Epis. Reg. Scrope, vi, fol. 124. Henry de Winstanley and Malin his wife made a grant of land in Houghton in Winwick in 1400–1; Towneley MS. GG, no. 1007. At the end of 1433 James de Winstanley the elder granted to trustees all his lands, &c., in Wigan, Winstanley, Pemberton, and Billinge; these in the following year were regranted to him with remainder to his son James and Agnes his wife; ibid. no. 2857, 2224. In 1490–1 Gilbert Langton (of Lowe in Hindley), as trustee enfeoffed Gilbert Langtree, James Molyneux, rector of Sefton, and Robert Langton, son of the grantor, of his manor of Winstanley and all his lands in Winstanley, Wigan, Orrell, and Billinge, then occupied by Agnes mother of Edmund Winstanley, and by Randle and Robert Winstanley. After Edmund's death the manor and lands were to descend to James the son and heir of Edmund, with remainder to James's brother Humphrey; ibid. no. 2537. Edmund Winstanley was tenant of the Cockersand lands in 1501; Rentale de Cockersand (Chet. Soc.), 5. Richard Crosse of Liverpool in 1493 agreed to marry Elizabeth daughter of Edmund Winstanley; Towneley MS. GG. no. 2250; Visit. of 1567 (Chet. Soc.), 107. Humphrey Winstanley was recorded among the gentry of the hundred in 1512. A marriage agreement between him and Evan Haydock in 1505 is in Towneley MS. GG. no. 1534. For the child marriage of Humphrey Winstanley and Alice sister of James Worsley, see F. J. Furnivall's Child Marriages (Early Engl. Text Soc.), 2.
  • 7. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 59, m. 348. The remainder of the holding included forty messuages, five watermills, two dovecotes, 300 acres of land, 100 acres of meadow, common of pasture for all cattle, and various houses and lands. Edmund Winstanley is mentioned in the Visit. of 1567, pp. 24, 107. He was steward of the rector of Wigan in 1575; Wigan Ch. 145. There is a deed of his in Towneley MS. GG, no. 2635.
  • 8. A pedigree was recorded in 1664 (Dugdale, Visit. [Chet. Soc.], 26), and there are later pedigrees in Gregson's Fragments (ed. Harland), 232; Burke, Commoners, iv, 213; Baines, Lancs. (ed. Croston), iv, 306. In 1588 William Bankes purchased a house and lands in Wigan and Ince from Miles Gerard and Grace his wife; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 50, m. 171. Five years later James Bankes made a purchase in Aspull and Wigan, and in 1597 he and Susan his wife made a sale or mortgage, Francis Sherington being the plaintiff in the fine; ibid. bdles. 55, m. 127; 58, m. 220.
  • 9. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 97–9.
  • 10. Pink and Beaven, Lancs. Parl. Representation, 191. He was then 91 years of age. William Bankes in 1631 paid £12 on refusing knighthood; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 213.
  • 11. Pink and Beaven, op. cit. 281.
  • 12. Ibid. 229; he was a Whig. Some of his letters are printed in Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. iv, 128, &c.
  • 13. Thomas's son Robert was sheriff in 1742; his grandson William (son of William) in 1784; P.R.O. List of Sheriffs, 74. William Bankes died in 1800, without issue, and the estates passed to his cousin, the Rev. Thomas Holme of Upholland, whose mother's monument in Upholland Church states that she died 2 June 1799, aged 93; Wigan Cb. 747. Thomas Holme was incumbent of Upholland from 1758 to 1767; ibid. 749. Several of the family have been benefactors to the poor.
  • 14. Meyrick son of Thomas Holme took the surname of Bankes in 1804; he was sheriff in 1805; P.R.O. List, 74.
  • 15. A view of the hall, about 1816, is given in Gregson, Fragments (ed. Harland), 231.
  • 16. An undated fragment of a pedigree in Piccope's MS. Pedigrees (Chet. Lib.), ii, fol. 18, gives the succession: James—3s. Ottiwell—s. James, 'said to be an alms knight at Windsor.' A Humphrey Winstanley about 1560 married Jane, a daughter of William Heaton, and had disputes with the Andertons and Heatons; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), ii, 236; iii, 12, 13.
  • 17. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 90, no. 41; bdle. 91, no. 27; in the former James Sorocold was plaintiff, and in the latter Richard Blackburne was joined with him. James Winstanley and Margaret his wife were deforciants; the property is described as the manors of Winstanley and Billinge, with various lands, &c., in these townships and in Ashton. William Blackburne in 1631 paid £10 on refusing knighthood; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 213. The Blackburnes, a Protestant family, near relations of those of Newton, Orford, and Hale, long continued in possession. They had an estate—Crow Lane—in the parish of Winwick, and a burial place there, for in the registers are records of the burials of Thomas Blackburne of Blackley Hurst, 9 Feb. 1664–5; John, 18 Dec. 1666, see Roger Lowe's Diary; William son of John (of Billinge), 14 July 1719; William, 21 Dec. 1724; Anne wife of John, 1 May 1745; and John, 2 Apr. 1766, aged 89; then Blackburne son of Mr. Gildart of Blackley Hurst, aged 2, 23 Dec. 1767; John Gildart of Billinge, 13 Feb. 1771–2; and Jane Creighton, of Blackley Hurst, aged 86, 20 Jan. 1795. Sophia daughter and sole heir of John Gildart of Blackley Hurst married Major Richard Jones, a son of the fourth Viscount Ranelagh; Gent. Mag. 1785, ii, 747. She died in 1803 without issue. The following members of the family matriculated at Oxford, Brasenose College: William son of William Blackburne of Billinge, plebeian, 1626, aged 17 (afterwards vicar of Chartbury); Richard son of William, 1633, aged 21; Thomas son of William, of Blackley Hurst, 1639, aged 18 (B.D. 1661); John son of William, of Billinge, 1640, aged 18 (B.D. 1662); Foster's Alumni. William son of Thomas Blackburne occurs in 1673 in the account of Newton in Makerfield. William Blackburne, of Blackley Hurst, John his son and heir apparent, and William the son of John, are all mentioned in a lease enrolled in 1718; Piccope MSS. (Chet. Lib.), iii, fol. 200, from 2nd R. of George I at Preston. A Roger Rigby of Blackley Hurst, brother of Edward Rigby of Burgh, was in 1590 reported as 'evil given in religion'; Lydiate Hall, 250.
  • 18. Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 239, 242. Edward Winstanley and Humphrey Atherton had a dispute concerning lands in Winstanley in 1593; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), iii, 291, 319. A settlement of lands in Billinge was made in 1596, Humphrey Atherton and Alice his wife, and Edmund, the son and heir, being deforciants; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 59, m. 21. Edmund Atherton of Winstanley died in 1613 holding land in Billinge of the Baron of Newton; Humphrey his son and heir was four years old; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 277. From deeds in the possession of W. Farrer it appears that Romeshaw House was part of the Atherton estate.
  • 19. Norris D. (B.M.).
  • 20. Schedule in possession of W. Farrer. A William Blackburne of Blackley Hurst is also named.
  • 21. Local Glean. Lancs. and Ches. i, 234, where lists referring to this and neighbouring townships are printed.
  • 22. Engl. Cath. Nonjurors, 97, 125, 135, 151. Appleton's house was called The Riddings.