Townships: Birtle-with-Bamford

Pages 174-176

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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In this section


Brithull, 1243; Birlcil, 1246; Birkhill, 1334, 1573; Birtle has become the usual spelling, but Bircle appears in the Manchester Diocesan Directory.

Baunford, Baumford, 1330.

The main portion of this scattered township lies about 5 miles north north-west of Middleton Church. It is separated from the central portion of the parish by the township of Heap in Bury, with which it is much intermixed, having no fewer than five detached portions to the south, east, and north. Birtle hamlet, near which is Sillinghurst, is in the western half of the main part of the township; much of Bamford lies in Heap. The area is 1,429 acres, (fn. 1) of which Birtle has 1,200. The surface is hilly; the highest portion of the main part of the township, over 800 ft. above sealevel, lies on the northern side. The population in 1901 was 1,447.

Two roads cross it from south to north, leading from the road between Bury and Rochdale, which passes through the south-east corner of the main part.

The soil is loam, with stone below; the land is chiefly in pasture. Bleaching, dyeing, and papermaking are carried on. In Bamford are large woollen and cotton factories. There are several stone quarries, and coal-mining was formerly carried on.

In 1882 Cobhouse Farm in Walmersley and Diggles in Heap were added to Birtle-with-Bamford. (fn. 2) A number of changes were made in 1894; the township was greatly extended by the inclusion of a part of Heap and the whole of Ashworth; parts of it were cut off and included in Heywood, Bury, and Walmersley. (fn. 3)

In 1666 there were fifty-six hearths liable to the tax. The only large house was that of Holt of Gristlehurst, with thirteen hearths. (fn. 4)

Castle Hill and Gallows Hill adjoin each other in Birtle proper. (fn. 5)

The township is governed by a parish council.


There does not seem to have been at any time a manor of BIRTLE, the land being held in parcels of the lord of Middleton. (fn. 6) The local surname was at one time in use, for in 1246 Roger de Birtle, whose tenement was said to be in Bury, complained that Geoffrey de Middleton had raised a mill-pool to his injury and to the injury of Adam de Bury. Adam's claim was rejected by the jury, but they admitted Roger's, for the course of the water had been altered so that the water laid waste his land. They at first ordered that the old state of things should be restored, but the parties having agreed, they ordered that Geoffrey should pay half a mark yearly to Roger, and leave the mill-pool as it was. (fn. 7)

The Bury family in the 16th century held part of Birtle. (fn. 8)

The most prominent residents were the Holts of GRISTLE HURST, (fn. 9) who were in possession in the first part of the 15th century, succeeding a family named Wood, (fn. 10) and in the 16th century acquired large portions of the monastic estates, and flourished (fn. 11) for a brief period. In 1562 the capital messuage called Gristlehurst was found to be held of Richard Ashton of Middleton in socage, and by the rent of 17d.; part of the land, called Fernhurst, was held of the queen in socage by a rent of 4d., and the rest of the demesne lands, being in Bury, was held of William Bamford also in socage, by the rent of 18d. (fn. 12) The estate was acquired about 1660 by another branch of the family, (fn. 13) and after some descents in this line was conveyed in marriage by Elizabeth daughter and heiress of William Holt to Richard Beaumont of Whitley Beaumont, by whom it was, in 1758, sold to Mr. Milne of Flockton Manor House. It was in 1849 the property of James Fenton of Bamford Hall. (fn. 14)

Daniel Leach died in 1638 holding a messuage and lands in Birtle of Ralph Assheton of Middleton. (fn. 15)

SMETHURST gave a surname to its owners; (fn. 16) they were succeeded by the Meadowcrofts, who continued to hold it throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 17)

At Castle Hill resided for some time a family named Lomax. (fn. 18)

The greater part of BAMFORD lies within the township of Heap in Bury, but part lies in the detached eastern part of Birtle-with-Bamford. (fn. 19) 'Nacfield ' in Middleton, perhaps near Nat Bank (now Gnat Bank) in Bamford, with the rent and service of the Earl of Derby, was included in the share of Ralph Standish on a division of the Chaderton estates in 1534. (fn. 20) Francis Chadwick died in 1622 holding a messuage and land in Bamford of Richard Assheton of Middleton; Edmund his son and heir was about fifteen years of age. (fn. 21) Edmund and several other Chadwicks were living in this part of Bamford in 1650. (fn. 22) Kenyon Fold commemorates a branch of the Kenyon family which had an estate in Bamford and Crimbles. (fn. 23)

The land tax return of 1788 shows that the land was much subdivided. The most important contributor was William Bamford, who paid about a tenth part. (fn. 24)

For the worship of the Established Church, St. John the Baptist's, Birtle, was built in 1845, and consecrated the following year; the rector of Middleton has the patronage. (fn. 25)

There are Wesleyan and United Free Methodist chapels in Birtle, also a Wesleyan Methodist chapel at Kenyon Fold in Bamford, opened in 1836.


  • 1. The census of 1901 gives 2,410 acres, including 17 of inland water; this is the area after the changes made in 1882 and 1894.
  • 2. Divided Parishes Act. Cobhouse is a detached part of Walmersley lying within the northerly detached part of Birtle. Diggles lies to the east of Dixon Fold, in the detached part of Bamford.
  • 3. Loc. Govt. Bd. Order 31671. The effect of these changes has been to abolish the old fragmentary condition of the township.
  • 4. Subs. R. bdle. 250, no. 9, Lancs.
  • 5. a The story that the manor court for Tottington fee was formerly held here appears in Aikin, Country round Manch. 269.
  • 6. a The fact that Birtle-with-Bamford and Heap have a number of detached portions is probably due to that 'common of pasture,' shared by the tenants of Bury and Middleton, which is named in the Inq. p.m. of Roger de Middleton in 1324; Inq. p.m. 16 Edw. II, 49. Birtle was an original constituent of the manor of Middleton, but the portion of Bamford held by Richard Assheton in 1612 was found to belong to the lordship of the Earl of Derby; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), ii, 105,107. Some account of Bamford will be found under Heap in Bury. In a fine of 1592 respecting a messuage and lands in Cobballs, Elbight (nowElbutt), and Birtle, Richard Holland and Ralph Assheton were plaintiffs and the Earl of Derby and Richard Assheton (lords respectively of Bury and Middleton) were deforciants; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 54, m. 25.
  • 7. b Assize R 404, m. 7 d. Thomas son of Adam de Birkhill did not prosecute a claim made in 1334 against Agnes de Middleton, Maud, her daughter, and others; Assize R. 1417, m. 7 d.
  • 8. a James Bury held lands in Bury, Middleton, and Tottington; Ralph, his son and heir, was an idiot. On Ralph's death in 1538 it was found that he held a messuage called Birtle (Byrkehill) and two called 'Golden' of Sir Richard Ashton by fealty and a rent of 14½d. yearly; Duchy of Lanc Inq. p.m. v, 34; viii, 24. A messuage and lands in Birtle and Middleton were in 1573 purchased by James Lomas from Lawrence Bury, Agnes his wife, and Richard his son and heir; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 35, m. 115.
  • 9. a Gristlehurst was partly in Middleton and partly in Bury. Thus the mediety of Gristlehurst was granted by Adam de Bury to Thomas de Bamford for a rent of 10d.; the bounds included Stockley Clough, Petekesdene, Navedene, Kochet, and Tacleibrook; Raines MSS. (Chet. Lib.), xi, 113. In 1336 Helewise de Hull granted to Robert son of Adam de Bamford all her right in land at Gristlehurst (Gristelyhyrst) in the vill of Bury; Raines MSS. (Chet. Lib.), xi, 26. William son of John de Barton in 1367 complained that William son of John del Wood, of Gristlehurst, had caused waste of houses, &c.; De Banco R. 426, m. 285 d. In 1370 William del Wood of Gristlehurst attested an Ashworth charter; ibid. 265, 261. Land in Gristlehurst had belonged to Geoffrey de Hopwood, outlawed for felony in or before 1370; L. T. R. Memo. R. 166, m. 118.
  • 10. b Gristlehurst 'was obtained before the year 1449 by Ralph Holt, who (according to a curious parchment roll, in my possession, of the time of Henry VII) married Ellen, widow of James Bellairs, who died in France, and daughter and co-heiress of John Sumpter of Colchester, by his wife Margery, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Geoffrey Brockholes, kt. It appears that Geoffrey had married Eleanor, the heiress of Sir John Roos, kt., who inherited large estates in Essex from her mother, Alice, the sole heiress of Sir Robert Asheldam. The property of Sir Geoffrey, which descended to him from lis mother Alice, one of the heiresses of Sir Guy de Mancetter, lord of Mancetter, in the county of Warwick, also came to the Holts, which gave them a position and rank not enjoyed by the elder branches of the house'; Canon Raines in Noti'ia Cestr. ii, 100. Nothing is positively known as to the ancestry of Ralph Holt In 1441 Ralph Holt summoned Thomas and John Kay of Bury, Ralph, John, and Peter Lomax of Heap, and others to answer why they had disseised liim of his free tenement in Bury and Middleton-no doubt Gristlehurst. They replied that William Wood, who formerly he.d it, had enfeoffed Thomas Kay and Richard Lomax; but Ralph claimed by a charter of William's made before that feoffment; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 3, m. 19. The roll above referred to was given to the Chetham Library by Canon Raines. James Holt, the son of Ralph, married before 1481 Isabel, one of the daughters and co-heirs of Gilbert Abram of Abram and Grappenhall, and had certain lands with her; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), iii, 139; Duchy Plead. (same Soc), i, 39–41; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxvii, App. 683. Constance, daughter of James son of Ralph Holt, was in 1477 contracted to marry Oliver Holt of Ashworth; Raines MSS. xi, 273. With James the pedigree recorded in 1567 begins; Visit. (Chet. Soc.), 22. A son of his named Gilbert occurs in 1502; Raines, op. cit. 113.
  • 11. c James Holt, in the recorded pedigree, is stated to have had a son Ralph, father of Sir Thomas Holt of Gristlehurst, who obtained from Henry VIII darge grants of the estates of Whalley and Cockersand Abbeys. In 1542 he obtained the manor of Spotland in Rochdale, with its appurtenances, which had belonged to the former abbey, together with rents from Coleshaw in Chadderton and other lands which had probably belonged to the Hospitallers, for £641 16s. 8d.; Pat. 33 Hen. VIII, pt. 6. During the following year he obtained Stidd, which had also belonged to the Hospitallers; Alt Grange in Ince Blundell, Cronton, and Staining, the property of Whalley; Cunscough in Melling, Forton, Ellel, and other lands which had belonged to Cockersand, the price being £1,727 15s.; Pat. 35 Hen. VIII, pt. 1. Thomas Holt is noticed in the Visit. of 1533 (Chet. Soc. 53). He was made a knight by the Earl of Hertford during the expedition into Scotland in 1544; Metcalfe, Book of Knights, 76.
  • 12. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xi, 46. Sir Thomas died 8 March 1561–2, leaving as heir Francis his son, then aged thirtyeight. The inquisition gives a full list of his lands, and also recites his will dated 1554. By this he left his 'head house or capital messuage called Gristlehurst, with a mease and two mills in the tenure of Thomas Shay; also three cottages on the moor side called Tarkelee [Tack lee] . . . and all such lands and tenements in Bury and Middleton which were taken to be of the demesne lands of the said capital messuage, of the yearly value of £10,' to his wife Dorothy for her life, with remainder to Francis Holt his son and heir and heirs male, and in default to Ralph Holt, his younger son, and heirs male, &c. An annuity was granted to Robert Holt his brother. Another will, made just before his death, is printed in Piccope's Wills (Chet. Soc.), i, 131; it concerns chiefly his household stock, &c.; it mentions Thomas the son of Francis his heir, the fourth best gelding being left to him. Of Francis Holt little is known. His will, dated 1599 (Raines MSS. vi, 252) was proved in 1604. He made a settlement of his manors of Spotland, &c., in 1578; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 40, m. 137. His son and heir Thomas died in December 1609, leaving as his heir his son Francis, then aged twenty-four. Some of the estates had by this time been sold, but he held the 'manors ' of Gristlehurst, Spotland, Forton, and Stidd, and various lands. His father had in 1588 settled the manor of Gristlehurst and messuages, water-mill, fulling-mills, and lands in Gristlehurst, Bury, Middleton, Bamford, Spotland, and Rochdale to the use of himself (Francis) and Ellen his wife, then for Thomas Holt and Francis his son and heir and heirs male; in default, to Thomas and to Edward, younger sons of Francis, &c. Constance, the widow, and Francis, Ralph, John, and Edmund, the sons of Thomas, were living at Gristlehurst in 1610; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 157–63. The manor, &c., of Gristlehurst was held of Sir Richard Asshcton of Middleton, in socage; no rent is named. Francis Holt died 28 September 1617, leaving as heir his son James, then nearly seventeen. By a settlement of 1603 the manor of Gristlehurst had been given to the use of Thomas Holt (the father) during the life of Francis Holt (the grandfather), and then to the use of Katherine Holt, wife of the younger Francis, for life, with remainder to heirs male. Another settlement of 1609 mentions James, William, and Theophilus as sons of the younger Francis. The tenure of Gristlehurst was stated as before; ibid, ii, 81–6. For the settlement see also Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 75, no. 37. A pedigree was recorded in 1613; Visit. (Chet. Soc), 39. James Holt died without issue in 1623, and his brother William having died before him, the heir was the younger brother Theophilus, about fourteen years of age; Lancs. Inq. (ut sup.), iii, 371–8. No fresh dispositions of the estates appear to have been made by James Holt. Theophilus Holt, who thus succeeded his brother, died 21 July 1628. His mother Katherine was still living and in possession of Gristlehurst with various messuages and lands, which were to revert to Theophilus and his heirs male, held of Ralph Asshcton and others. Alice, the widow, gave birth to a son three weeks after the father's death; he was called Thomas Posthumus; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxvi, 25. The heir married and had two sons, but they died young, and the father squandered his whole estate, dying in great poverty at Tattenhall in Cheshire in 1679. There is a pedigree of the family in the Piccope MSS. (Chet. Lib.), i, 346. There was published ' A Plant of Paradise; being a sermon preached at St. Martin i 1 the Fields at the funeral of John Goodhand Holt, the young son, only child, and hopeful heir of Thomas Holt of Grislehurst, co. Lanc, Esqr., March 19, 1659, by R. Mossom, minister of St. Peter, Paul's Wharf, London,' with an epistle dedicatory to Thomas and Anne Holt, the mournful parents, &c.; Pal. Note Bk. i, 203. Thomas P. Holt recorded a pedigree at the herald's visitation in 1664–5; Dugdale's Visit. (Chet. Soc), 150.
  • 13. Alexander Holt, a London goldsmith, was called 'cousin' of Thomas P. Holt, being, it was said, descended from the Gristlehurst family; Lond. Visit. 1633 (Harl. Soc.), i, 393; Whitaker, Whalley, ii, 23–4 ; Piccope, ut sup.
  • 14. Raines in Notitia Cestr. ii, 100; Burke, Commoners, ii, 323. About 1750 the estate comprised 127a. 1r. 24p. of pasture land, and 42a. 1r. 20p. of old timber. The purchase was made by Joseph Fenton, the father of James. For the family see Burke's Landed Gentry— Fenton of Dutton Manor.
  • 15. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxx, 90. His heirs were his daughters, Elizabeth, wife of Peter Lomax, and Jane, wife of James Carr.
  • 16. Henry son of Robert, son of Alice de Smethurst, in 1357 and later made a claim against Roger son of Roger de Pilkington concerning two messuages, 20 acres of land, &c., in Middleton and Bury; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 6, m. 3, 1 d. The defence was that the tenement was entirely in Bury, and that Alice had a son Gilbert, elder brother of Robert, who had granted to Henry de Bury, his lord, all his right in Smethurst, 'Falsedchirist,' and Coppedhurst. It was replied that Gilbert had been imprisoned at Smethurst by Henry de Bury, and had only made the grant adduced under that duress; further, that the lands claimed by Henry were in Middleton. Henry de Smethurst gained his case; Assize R. 438, m. 5. Arthur Smethurst the elder made a settlement of an estate in Middleton, Bury, and Manchester in 1568; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 30, m. 117.
  • 17. The Meadowcroft family early appear in Middleton. Thomas de Meadowcroft in 1347 complained that various persons had been digging in his quarry at Middleton and otherwise trespassing; De Banco R. 351, m. 27; 352, m. 368. Adam del Meadowcroft was a defendant in 1351; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 1, m. v. Geoffrey son of Nicholas de Meadowcroft was charged with waste in Middleton in 1368; De Banco R. 431, m. 168. Robert son of Roger de Meadowcroft was in 1387 found to have enjoyed for a time the profits of lands belonging to John son of Roger de Meadowcroft in Kearsley, and to John son of John de Ainsworth in Middleton; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc.), i, 27. Roger de Meadowcroft of Middleton, gentleman, was defendant in a plea of trespass by Rose widow of Richard de Bamford in 1441 and 1442; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 3, m. 16; 4, m. 6b. Ralph Meadowcroft in 1559 made a settlement of his estate of five messuages, &c., in Bury and Middleton; Pal. of Lane. Feet of F. bdle. 21, m. 71. Richard Meadowcroft was plaintiff in 1574 in a plea concerning Birtle and other lands; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), iii, 23. Francis Meadowcroft of Smethurst was a freeholder in 1600; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 247. In 1622 he contributed in Bury to the subsidy for his 'goods,' while Richard Meadowcroft contributed for 'lands' in Middleton; ibid. 161, 158. On a summons of the heralds a pedigree was recorded in 1664, showing three generations: Richard Meadowcroft of Smethurst, d. 1660; s.—Richard, aged 62; s.—Richard, aged 30; Dugdale, Visit. (Chet. Soc), 196. 'Francis Meadowcroft, gent., was living in the year 1702, and having married Alice daughter and co-heiress of James Lomax of Booth Hall, gent., had issue Richard and James, and two daughters.—Pleadings in the Rolls Court, 1702'; Raines in Notitia Cestr. ii, 100. It appears that in 1677 Francis Meadowcroft sold or mortgaged to Adam Gaskell 'a demesne called Smethurst, with all the housing and all the conveniences belonging, and the three tenements at Roughhill Street, which in all contains about 55 acres more or less,' situate in Middleton; a place called Bratshey Hill, containing about 12 acres, also in Middleton; and a tenement called Elbutt, under the Earl of Derby, containing about 60 acres; Exch. of Pleas, 29 Chas. II, Mich. m. 5, v, m. 17.
  • 18. The will of Peter Lomax of Castle Hill, proved in 1712, shows that he had a daughter Jane, wife of Thomas Tipping.
  • 19. Henry de Bamford in 1292 claimed land and wood and the eighth part of a mill in Middleton against Ellis Moscrop and Cecily his wife; Assize R. 408, m. 21 d. Roger de Bamford in 1363 claimed a messuage in Middleton against John son of John de Ainsworth; De Banco R. 413, m. 100. Thomas Langley of Agecroft, who died in 1472, had rents of 6d. each from Roger Bamford and Robert de Heywood for lands in Middleton; the latter had the Crimbles; Agecroft D. 80–1. A number of the deeds of this Bamford family are given briefly among the Birch charters in Harl. MS. 2112, fol. 178b, &c.; some will be found printed in full in Booker, Didsbury (Chet. Soc), 115, &c. Among these are:—A release of actions from Nicholas de Bamford to William de Birches in 1382–3; power of attorney from John Bamford to Richard son of Thomas Bamford to receive lands in Middleton and Spotland in 1450–1; Bartin Bamford in 1478 agreed that his son John should marry Margery sister of Sir Richard Longford (and for Bartin see also Mamecestre, iii, 482); George Bamford of Holt (in Rusholme) agreed in 1518 that his son John should marry Margaret daughter of Richard Scholefield; John son and heir of George Bamford is named in 1532. John Bamford of Rusholme, grandson of George, held in 1558 among other properties a messuage, &c., in Middleton called Bamford, of Richard Ashton in socage; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xi, no. 61, 38. His infant daughter and heir, Anne, married (1) George Birch of Birch and (2) Francis Duckinfield of Stockport; Earwaker, East Ches. ii, 19. There were claims to the estate made in 1562 and 1565; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Soc), ii, 207, 302. In 1580 Thomas Bamford of Leicester claimed as the heir male of Adam Bamford, seised in 1413. The pedigree he adduced stated that Adam had a son Thomas, and he a son John, who was succeeded in turn by his sons Bartholomew, Nicholas, and George; the last-named had a son John, whose son John was the father of Anne, in possession; Duchy of Lanc. Plead. lxii, B 7. Settlements of the lands were made by George Birch and Anne his wife in 1574 and 1575; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 36, m. 54; 37, m. 90. For disputes as to the inheritance in Bamford, see Ducatus Lanc, iii, 3; and Lancs, and Ches. Rec. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), ii, 257. Anne Duckinfield died in 1619 holding '20 acres of pasture in Middleton called Bamfold'; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), ii, 178.
  • 20. a Raines D. (Chet. Lib.). In 1522 the collector for the Earl of Derby accounted for 16s. 8d. rent from 'Nakfeld' in the parish of Middleton, which had been purchased from John Bamford; Roll in possession of the Earl of Lathom.
  • 21. Towneley MS. C. 8,13 (Chet. Lib.), 242.
  • 22. Commonw. Ch. Surv. (Rec. Soc Lancs, and Ches.), 43.
  • 23. An abstract of the title will be found in Raines MSS. (Chet. Lib.), xxxi, 49, &c.
  • 24. Returns at Preston.
  • 25. A district was assigned in 1848; Lond. Gaz. 28 April.