Townships: Orrell

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

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'Townships: Orrell', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (London, 1911) pp. 89-91. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section


Horul, 1212; Orel, 1292; Orhull, 1294; Orul, 1307.

This township, sometimes called Orrell in Makerfield, to distinguish it from Orrell in Sefton parish, has an area of 1,617½ acres. (fn. 1) It is divided from Upholland on the west by Dean Brook, flowing through a pleasantly-wooded dingle to join the Douglas, which forms the northern boundary. It is situated on the eastern slope of the ridge of high ground stretching north from Billinge to Dalton. The country is open and varied, and consists of pasture land and fields, where the crops are chiefly potatoes, wheat, and oats. Towards the south the country is even more bare and treeless as it merges into the colliery district. The soil is clay with a mixture of sand, over a foundation of hard stone. The town of Upholland is partly situated in this township, and the Abbey Lake, a small sheet of water, is the rendezvous of picnic parties and excursions from the larger towns in the neighbourhood, such a lake being attractive on account of the scarcity of water in the district.

The principal road is that from Ormskirk to Wigan, which passes through the township from west to east, and is crossed by a road leading northwards from St. Helens to Standish. Orrell Mount, over 300 ft., and Orrell Post are to the east of the point where the roads cross; to the south-west is Far Moor, and to the north Ackhurst. Lamberhead Green lies on the eastern edge, partly in Pemberton. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's Liverpool and Wigan line crosses the southern corner of the township, having a station there called Orrell; the same company's Wigan and Southport line passes through the northern portion, close to the Douglas, with a station called Gathurst.

The population in 1901 numbered 5, 436.

Nail-making is carried on, and there is a cotton mill. Roburite is made at Gathurst. In 1787 there were coal mines working under five different ownerships. (fn. 2)

A local board was formed in 1872. (fn. 3) The township is now governed by an urban district council of twelve members.


Before the Conquest, as afterwards, ORRELL was the extreme north-west berewick of the manor or fee of Newton in Makerfield, (fn. 4) and it remained a member of it until the 17th century. (fn. 5) The available materials for its history are but scanty. At the survey of 1212 it was held in thegnage by Richard de Orrell as half a ploughland, by the service of 10s. rent and finding a judge; this was an arrangement 'of ancient time.' (fn. 6) There was an ancient subordinate holding, William holding half an oxgang after giving Thomas de Orrell two oxgangs in free marriage in the time of King Richard. Richard de Orrell himself had recently given one oxgang to his brother John, and previously 4 acres to the Hospitallers. (fn. 7) Soon afterwards grants were made to Cockersand Abbey by Richard de Orrell and John his son. (fn. 8)

Before the end of the century, in what way does not appear, the manor was acquired by the Holands of Upholland, (fn. 9) from whom it descended, like their other manors, to the Lovels, (fn. 10) and, after forfeiture, to the Earls of Derby. (fn. 11)

William, the sixth earl, sold it to William Orrell of Turton, (fn. 12) and the latter soon after sold to the Bisphams, lords of part of the adjacent manor of Billinge; (fn. 13) then by marriage it descended to Thomas Owen, (fn. 14) and to Holt Leigh of Wigan. (fn. 15) His son, Sir Roger Holt Leigh, of Hindley Hall in Aspull, left it to his cousin, afterwards Lord Kingsdown, for life, and then to the present owner, Mr. Roger Leigh of Aspull. (fn. 16)

The Orrell family had numerous offshoots, but the relationships cannot be traced. The survey of 1212, quoted above, shows that there were then two subordinate holdings of one-eighth and a quarter of the manor. The former may have descended to the Orrells of Turton, (fn. 17) and the latter may be the holding of Alexander Orrell of Orrell Post, whose land in 1607 was held by a rent of 3s. (fn. 18)

The freeholders in 1600 were the Alexander Orrell just named, William Prescott, and Thomas Tipping. (fn. 19) James Bankes of Winstanley also held lands here in 1618. (fn. 20)

About the same time another family, the Leighs of Ackhurst, are mentioned, continuing down to the middle of the 18th century. (fn. 21) They were recusants and incurred the usual penalties. Emma, or Emerentia, Leigh, widow, Margaret and Catherine Leigh, spinsters, and their sister, Anne Sandford, widow, registered their estates in 1717. (fn. 22) Thomas Duxon and William Tarleton were the other 'papists' who did the same. (fn. 23)

Orrell was formerly considered part of the chapelry of Upholland. Recently, in connexion with the Established Church, St. Luke's Chapel-of-ease has been erected.

The Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists have chapels in the township, as also have the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists.

Salem Chapel, built in 1824, belongs to the Congregationalists, who formed a church here about 1805 and erected a temporary chapel about 1810. The building is still called John Holgate's Chapel, from the name of one of the early ministers, 1820–50. A later minister conformed to the Established religion, an occurrence which almost ruined the Congregational interest. (fn. 24)

The Roman Catholic mission was founded at Crossbrook in 1699 and removed to the present site at Far Moor in 1805; the church of St. James was enlarged in 1841, and a bell-tower erected in 1882. There is a burial-ground attached. (fn. 25) Anne Sandford in 1740 gave £100 to the mission with an obligation to say mass for herself, her mother, and two sisters. (fn. 26) A convent of French Benedictine nuns, driven out of their country by the Revolution, in the first half of last century occupied the house at Orrell Mount, but afterwards removed to Princethorpe, Warwickshire.


  • 1. Including 7 acres of inland water; Census of 1901.
  • 2. Land tax returns at Preston. The owners were William German, Blundell & Co., Hardcastle & Co., Rev. Thomas Holme, and Richard Culshaw & Co.
  • 3. Lond. Gaz. 21 June 1872.
  • 4. V.C.H. Lancs. i, 286.
  • 5. See the various inquisitions of the Langtons; e.g. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc.), i, 138; ii, 99; ibid. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 105.
  • 6. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 76. Richard de Orrell occurs from 1201 in the Pipe R. (Lancs. Pipe R. 152, 179, &c.), but it appears from the Survey that he had been in possession in the time of Henry II.
  • 7. Lancs. Inq. and Extents, loc. cit. The grant to the Hospitallers is not mentioned in the list of their lands in the Plac. de Quo War. (Rec. Com.), 375, nor in the rental of 1540; but in 1617 James Bankes of Winstanley held a messuage and various lands in Orrell, with common of pasture, of William, Earl of Derby, as of his manor of Woolton, by 12d. rent; these were probably the Hospitallers' lands; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc.), ii, 98.
  • 8. Cockersand Chart. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 651–4. Richard de Orrell granted a piece of land between Clamsclough and Bradley Brook, and between the Douglas and Osbernlea. John son of Richard de Orrell granted Haselenhurst; from Bradley Brook where Small Brook enters it, up to the syke dividing the Cockersand land from that of William de Orrell, following the syke to Small Brook, and down this to the start. This land had been previously granted to Adam son of Robert; the charter states that Bradley Brook flowed down from Swithel Hills. William son of Leising released his claim in these lands to the canons. In 1501 Robert Orrell held a portion of the abbey's lands, and the heirs of Robert Holland the remainder, for a total rent of 12d.; Cockersand Rental (Chet. Soc.), 4, 5. The Cockersand lands here, as elsewhere, appear to have been granted to Thomas Holt.
  • 9. Robert de Holand was lord in 1292; Assize R. 408, m. 37; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 173. In 1307 Robert de Holand desiring to give a plough-land in Orrell to the chaplain of Upholland, inquiry was made on behalf of the king; the manor of Orrell was found to be held of John de Langton and Alice his wife by the service of 10s. 6d. —an increase of 6d.—and doing suit at the court of Newton in Makerfield from three weeks to three weeks; Lancs. Inq. and Extents, i, 322. At a later inquiry in 1324 the same statement was made as to the tenure; the value of the manor was £6 6s. 3¾d.; Inq. a.q.d. 18 Edw. II, no. 68. See also Inq. p.m. 47 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 19.
  • 10. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 2.
  • 11. Pat. 4 Hen. VII, 25 Feb.; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. v, no. 68. In 1597 the deforciants of the manors of Orrell and Dalton were William, Earl of Derby, and Edward Stanley; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 58, m. 254.
  • 12. Bridgeman, Wigan Ch. (Chet. Soc.), 257; see further below.
  • 13. See Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc.), i, 200, in 1607. William Bispham died in 1639 holding the manor of Orrell of the king as of his manor of East Greenwich; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxx, no. 97.
  • 14. See the account of Billinge.
  • 15. See the account of Aspull.
  • 16. Burke, Landed Gentry.
  • 17. In 1292 Adam son of William de Orrell, asserting that he was lord of an eighth part of the vill, complained that Robert de Holland and Robert his son had disseised him of his free tenement in Orrell. Some of the waste had been improved by the elder Robert, and it was shown that sufficient pasture had been reserved for the commoners; thus Adam lost his case; Assize R. 408, m. 37. In 1334 William Hert and Emma his wife, Roger Hert and Agnes his wife—the wives being granddaughters (or daughters) and heirs of Adam de Orrell—claimed lands in Orrell against Henry de Orrell and the brothers Roger and William de Orrell, Henry alleging a grant by Adam; Coram Rege R. 297, m. 103.
  • 18. In 1530 there was a recovery of the manor of Orrell by William Orrell, sen., against William Orrell, jun.; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 151, m. 1. William Orrell of Orrell claimed against John Orrell of Turton in 1551 a messuage and lands in Orrell, as heir of a certain Robert Orrell, giving his pedigree thus: Robert —s. John—s. Peter—bro. Henry—s. William; ibid. R. 191, m. 12. In disputes which arose in the time of Elizabeth are numerous details regarding this manor. It was stated that William Orrell of Orrell was seised of a capital messuage called the Hall of Orrell, a water cornmill, and lands in Orrell, by descent from his ancestors. About 1558 he conveyed the estate to Hugh Anderton, from whom it passed to Richard Chisnall of Gray's Inn, and then to Sir Robert Worsley, who gave it to his son Robert. The younger Robert, at the desire of William Orrell, assured the premises to Gilbert Sherington of Gray's Inn, who about 1570 sold to Francis Sherington and Katherine his wife. Two years later William Orrell was charged with forging deeds to regain possession, his son John being an accomplice, and 'they went to the said premises, shooting arrows at the said Katherine and her servants'; Duchy of Lanc. Plead. Eliz. lxxxviii, S. 18. From another document it appears that Sir Robert Worsley, about 1558, was the owner of Orrell Hall and conveyed it to William Orrell, who bought out the interest of Thomas Molyneux in part of the estate. It is not clear whether Sir Robert's title arose from a purchase from the grantee of Upholland Priory, or from a sale (or mortgage) by William Orrell; ibid. lxxiii, O. 4. The money to be paid to Sir Robert Worsley was £280. Gilbert Sherington paid this; William Orrell was to be tenant for life, and his son Thomas released all his interest in the estate; ibid. xciii, O. 1. Somewhat earlier, in 1549, James Anderton had purchased lands in Orrell from William Orrell; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 13, m. 66. James died shortly afterwards holding lands in Orrell of the Earl of Derby by a rent of 3s. a year; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. ix, no. 14. In April 1555 Hugh Anderton, the son and heir of James, purchased a messuage, water-mill, &c., from William Orrell; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 15, m. 21. Two years later Richard Chisnall secured the same from Hugh Anderton and Alice his wife; ibid. bdle. 17, m. 71. A settlement by William Orrell and Thomas his son and heir-apparent was made in 1561; ibid. bdle. 23, m. 193. Sir Robert Worsley, his son and heir Robert, whose wife was Elizabeth, made a settlement two years later; ibid. bdle. 25, m. 225. Gilbert Sherington's purchase took place in 1569; the deforciants being Robert Worsley and Elizabeth his wife, William Orrell and Margaret his wife, and William Stopforth and Blanche his wife; ibid. bdle. 31, m. 200. There were perhaps two estates; Orrell Hall held under the priory and then under Worsley, and sold to Sherington; and another held under the Earl of Derby and sold to James Anderton. If so, the latter was perhaps regained by the Orrells, the rent (3s.) being the same in 1552 and 1607. In 1567 John Orrell conveyed an estate to feoffees; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 29, m. 85. He seems to have been the great-grandfather of Alexander (son of John) Orrell, who, as a minor, in 1587 complained that Elizabeth, wife of John Rivington, and widow of the elder John Orrell, was detaining part of his estate; Duchy of Lanc. Plead. Eliz. cxlii, O. 2. This is no doubt the Alexander Orrell who died in 1607, leaving a son and heir Ralph, aged eighteen in 1612; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 199. The former, Orrell Hall, was retained by the Sheringtons. In 1601 William Orrell of Turton, having purchased the manor, had disputes with Katherine, widow of Francis Sherington, as to her coal mine in Harre hey adjoining the High Street in Orrell. The latter complained that William Orrell had dug a pit in the highway and made a passage to her mine, had caused the water from the ditch to flow into it, and had stopped up the gate through which her coals were carried. He replied that Katherine's messuage was held of the manor, which he had demised to his brother Richard, of London; and that she had taken coals from his land; Duchy Plead. Eliz. cxcv, S. 10; cciv, O. 1; ccv, S. 27. In 1650 Edward Rigby, who held Orrell Hall of Francis Sherington of Booths at a rent of £38, petitioned the Parliamentary Commissioners for relief. Sherington's estate had been sequestered in 1643, and from that time Rigby paid his rent to the sequestrators; but when Prince Rupert was in the county (1644) Sherington took him prisoner, made him pay £11 5s., and seized his goods, &c., the place being within 3½ miles from Lathom. He desired that Sherington might not be allowed to compound until he had satisfied him; Cal. of Com. for Compounding, ii, 1192.
  • 19. Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 242–3. Thomas Prescott died in 1591, holding a messuage, shop, and lands in Orrell and Upholland of the queen as of the late priory of Upholland, by a rent of 13½d. His son William was thirty-five years of age; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xv, no. 7. William Prescott occurs 1597; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 58, m. 223. He died in 1601 leaving a son Thomas, one year old; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xviii, no. 21.
  • 20. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc.), ii, 97; part was held of Richard Fleetwood, and part, as already stated, of the Earl of Derby.
  • 21. The inheritance of this family was derived from Edmund Molyneux, mercer of London, lord of Vange in Essex, who died 31 Jan. 1615–16, seised of lands in Orrell and Upholland, held of Richard Fleetwood and of the king respectively. His heir was James Leigh, son of his sister Agnes, aged forty in 1618; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 99. He was a benefactor of Wigan and Upholland. His will is printed in Gisborne Molineux's Molineux Family, 143; it shows that he was related to the Molyneuxes of Hawkley. An Edmund Molyneux and his wife Agnes had lands in Orrell (apparently in the latter's right) in 1532; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 11, m. 192. James Leigh and Margaret his wife, with their daughters Alice, Jane, and Ellen, were fined for recusancy in 1616. James and Alexander Leigh also appear on the recusant roll of 1641. James Leigh had a small copyhold estate at Barking in Essex sequestered for his recusancy by the Parliamentary authorities, and sold in 1648 to Abraham Webb, apothecarygeneral to the army; Alexander Leigh, the son and heir of James, afterwards for £220 concurred in the sale. In 1619 he charged his lands in Orrell with a rent of £6 13s. 4d. for the maintenance of the grammar school at Wigan. Under the Parliamentary rule, two-thirds of his estate was sequestered for his recusancy. He died in or before 1649, when his son Alexander succeeded; Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iv, 86–91; Cal. of Com. for Compounding, iv, 2564. Alexander Leigh appears in the recusant rolls down to 1667, and Richard Leigh, probably his son, to 1680. Two of Alexander's sons, Philip and John Joseph, became Jesuits; the former was the author of a Life of St. Winefride. See Gillow, Bibl. Dict. of Engl. Cath. iii, 191; Foley, Rec. S.J. vi, 518, 516; vii, 448–50.
  • 22. Engl. Cath. Nonjurors, 135, 124.
  • 23. Ibid. 149, 126.
  • 24. Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconformity, iv, 37. Daniel Rosbotham of Rainford in 1858 left £200 towards the endowment; Wigan End. Char. Rep. 1899, p. 57.
  • 25. Liverpool Cath. Ann. 1901.
  • 26. Gillow, op. cit. iv, 191.