Townships: Kearsley

Pages 39-41

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

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Kersleie, 1268; Keyresley, 1443; Kyrsley, Kerseley, xvi cent. Kersley continues in use as an alternative spelling.

Kearsley, formerly a part of Farnworth, has become a separate township. Its north-eastern boundary is formed by the Irwell, and the road from Manchester to Bolton passes north-west through the centre, having a length of a mile and a half within the boundaries. The total area of the township is 997 acres. (fn. 1) The surface in general slopes from the higher land on the south west border to the steep banks of the Irwell. Lower Kearsley, by the bridge over that river, is often called Ringley, being considered part of Ringley in Pilkington.

Kearsley proper clusters along the south-east end of the main road mentioned; but Farnworth is extending over the Kearsley borders in the north, and Stoneclough is a hamlet near the Irwell on the road to Radcliffe. Clammerclough is a district to the north-west of the last - named, and lies between Darley in Farnworth and the Irwell. Kearsley Moss formerly occupied the south-west quarter of the township. The Manchester and Bolton line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company passes through Kearsley parallel to the high road, and has a station near Stoneclough called Kearsley.

In 1901 the population recorded was 9,218. (fn. 2)

The township is a busy industrial place. There are collieries, iron foundries, paper mills, powerloom mills, spindle works, and chemical works; (fn. 3) bricks and tiles are made and cotton-spinning carried on.

A local board was formed in 1865; (fn. 4) in 1894 this was replaced by an urban district council of twelve members elected by two wards, east and west.

William Hulme's house, with seven hearths, was the only large one in the township in 1666, when the total number of hearths liable to the tax amounted to thirty-nine. (fn. 5)

Dorning Rasbotham in 1787 wrote thus:—'Oak and alder trees have been found deeply embedded in the turf upon Kearsley moor. The timber was as black as ebony,' but not so well preserved as usual. (fn. 6)


There was anciently no manor of KEARSLEY, which was merely a part of Farnworth, itself a hamlet in Barton. The earliest deed relating to it is a grant of the whole by Edith de Barton to Cockersand Abbey. (fn. 7) A number of the neighbouring families had lands and common rights in Kearsley, and one of the lords of Farnworth appears to have been specially associated with it, so that it will be convenient to give the descent of his family in this place.

Richard son of Adam de Redford, who was living in 1276, is the earliest on record. (fn. 8) He was succeeded regularly by his descendants, Richard, (fn. 9) John, (fn. 10) and another Richard. The last-named, who married Alice daughter of Robert de Worsley, (fn. 11) left two daughters as co-heirs—Ellen, who married Adam son of Henry de Prestall, (fn. 12) and Alice, who married a Standish, and left a daughter and heir Joan, wife of Richard Seddon. (fn. 13)

The Prestalls' share descended to a son Richard (fn. 14) and granddaughters Joan and Isabel. Joan Prestall was three times married. Her first marriage, in infancy, was not ratified; her second husband was John Leigh, by whom she had a son Thomas, (fn. 15) whose son Richard sold the inheritance to Ralph Assheton of Great Lever; (fn. 16) her third husband was Edmund Bolton, whose great-grandson, Robert Bolton, was living in 1598, and had Prestall. (fn. 17) Isabel, the other Prestall co-heir, married Henry Southworth, but had no children, and her share was sold to the Traffords. (fn. 18)

The Seddons' share descended to Giles, (fn. 19) Ralph, and Thomas Seddon, son, grandson, and great-grandson respectively of Joan and Richard. Thomas Seddon, who died during his father's lifetime, left two daughters as co-heirs. Elizabeth, the elder, married Thomas Marcroft, (fn. 20) and had a son Robert; Cecily, the younger, married Peter Seddon, and left a son Ralph, described as 'of Pilkington.' (fn. 21)

Of all these the Boltons and Marcrofts are specially associated with Kearsley. There does not appear to be any record of their history. Robert Marcroft sold his lands to Richard Ashton, who in 1651 sold to the Starkies of Huntroyde; Kearsley Hall is still in the possession of this family. (fn. 22) In 1836 Ellis Fletcher of Clifton owned the waste. (fn. 23) The only 'manor' of Kearsley claimed in recent times is that of the Hultons of Over Hulton, apparently as part of the Farnworth estate acquired from the Hultons of Farnworth. (fn. 24)

Kearsley occurs as a surname. (fn. 25)

In 1790 the principal landowners were Le Gendre Starkie, Sir John Mosley, and Jonathan Dorning. (fn. 26)

Kearsley Hall was in the 17th century the residence of William Hulme, the founder of the Hulmeian exhibitions at Brasenose College, Oxford. (fn. 27)

In connexion with the Established Church, St. John's, Halshaw Moor, on the boundary of Farnworth, was built in 1826, and had a district assigned to it in 1829. (fn. 28) The incumbent, with the designation of vicar of Farnworth, is appointed by Hulme's trustees. St. Stephen's, Kearsley Moor, was built in 1871; the vicar of Farnworth is patron. (fn. 29)

The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists each have chapels. (fn. 30)

The Congregational Church, built in 1901, replaces a school-chapel. A Sunday school had been held as early as 1845. (fn. 31)

The Swedenborgians have a place of worship known as New Jerusalem. (fn. 32)


  • 1. 1,005, including 25 of inland water, according to the 1901 Census Report.
  • 2. Pop. Returns, 1901.
  • 3. Clammerclough Cotton Mill was built about 1828; Barton, Farnworth, 84. Benjamin Rawson's Alkali Works were established earlier.
  • 4. Lond. Gaz. 17 Oct. 1865. In Barton's Farnworth, pp. 89–101, are printed extracts from the township books from 1809 onwards. The constables and burley men were officials.
  • 5. Subs. R. bdle. 250, no. 9, Lancs.
  • 6. Barton, Farnworth, 16.
  • 7. Cockersand Chartul. (Chet. Soc), ii, 709. This charter gives a portion of her land in Farnworth, 'the whole of Kearsley with all its appurtenances' within bounds as follows:—Up the deep lache from Irwell towards Stockbridge, then going down Flethithaleth to the Irwell again; for the health of the soul of Edith's son John. Kearsley is not named in the Cockersand Rentals, so that the grant may have been revoked or exchanged.
  • 8. Assize R. 1238, m. 34. In 1294 Richard son of Adam de Redford released to Adam son of John de Lever all his claim to lands held by the latter in Farnworth and Great Lever; Towneley's LeverChartul.(Add.MS.32103 no. 1–260), no. 53. The same Richard gave to Adam de Lever, for the service of an arrow, land which Henry de Blindshill had approved beyond Walkden; no. 27. To his brother Henry he granted all the land of Hassumbottom, the Hokensnape and Ritherake being among the boundary marks, no. 40. To Richard son of John de Hulton he granted 6 acres on the north side of Walkden Bank, at a rent of a pair of white gloves, Richard de Hulton at the same time allowing certain approvements of the waste of Farnworth; no. 43. The elder Richard was still living in 1297 when, as Richard de Redford the elder, he released to Robert son of Jordan (de Hulton), rector of Warrington, all his right in land in Barton and Farnworth; no. 69.
  • 9. Richard de Redford the younger attested a charter in 1295; Towneley's Lever Chartul. (Add. MS. 32102, no. 1–260), no. 60; and another in 1297 as Richard son of Richard de Redford; no. 69. In the year before he had made an agreement with Adam de Lever respecting the mediety of three parts of approvements in Hope Hey and opposite Blindeshill and Whitecroft; no.59. From Henry de Worsley he procured a confirmation of his common of pasture within bounds beginning at Hope Lache, at the Farnworth end of it, then by the Hope Hey to Wicheshaw Lydiate in Wicheves in Worsley (Little Hulton), by the highway to Longshaw, and straight to the Edge in Lepar Lache, by Black. Lache to Walden Brook, and up the brook to the Hope and the starting-point; no. 67. He made an exchange with Henry son of John de Hulton in 1299; no. 72. Richard de Redford was one of the lords of Farnworth in 1320; Mamcestre (Chet. Soc.), 289.
  • 10. John de Redford was a witness in 1316; 81. To John son of Henry de Hulton he in 1321 released all his right in the mill and land called Peck in the hamlet of Farnworth and in all land of the mill within the lanes by which the king's highway went on to Manchester, John de Hulton allowing him to grind freely at the mill; no. 86. From Adam son of Henry de Blindishill, he in 1326 acquired the land called Ashinbottom (no doubt the Hassumbottom of a previous charter); no. 88. In 1341 he agreed to an exchange of lands—in the Newfield, the Marsh, and Black Bottom—with John de Hulton; no. 93.
  • 11. Richard son of John de Redford in 1350 received from his feoffee all his lands in Farnworth, with remainders to his heirs by Alice; ibid. no. 94. At the same time a rent-charge of 13s. 4d. out of the Farnworth lands was settled on Alice daughter of Robert de Worsley; no. 95.
  • 12. The Prestall family occur in the 13th century; Adam son of Eve de 'Presthall' being named in 1278 and 1392; Assize R. 1238, m. 34; 418, m. 3 d. The same Adam was witness to a Farnworth charter; LeverChartul. no. 24; in 1299 he had a release of actions from William son of Richard the Chief; no. 70. Probably he is the same as Adam son of Henry de Prestall who received from the first Richard de Redford a grant of a mediety of three parts of Farnworth, the boundaries following Rodenden to the Irwell, by this stream to Greenlache, up the lache to the highway, and so back to the starting-point; no. 21. This land he gave to Adam de Lever; the rent of 6d. was due to the chief lords; no. 22. Early in 1330 Henry de Prestall, perhaps the son or grandson of Adam, received from Adam de Lever the mediety of three parts of Prestall Banks, a rent of 7½d. being payable; ibid. no. 90. Richard de Farnworth, as trustee, in 1350 restored to Henry de Prestall all his lands in the hamlet of Farnworth in the vill of Barton, with remainder, after his death, to Agnes daughter of Robert de Walkden, for her life, and then to Agnes' children Adam, Philippa, and Maud, and their heirs, in succession, and in default to the right heirs of Henry de Prestall; Lord Ellesmere's D. no. 82. In 1364 Henry de Prestall gave to Adam son of Agnes, daughter of Robert de Walkden, all his lands in Farnworth, with similar remainders; ibid. no. 83. From its terms this grant was probably made on Adam's marriage. An indenture of 1394 has been preserved, made between Ellen and Alice, daughters and co-heirs of Richard de Redford, concerning land called Herefield in Kearsley; from this agreement for partition it appears that Ellen was then the widow of (Adam) de Prestall and Alice the widow of Jordan de Tetlow; Lever Chartul. no. 260.
  • 13. The pedigrees of the Redford heirs were compiled in 1598 by Ralph Assheton of Great Lever; but as to the Seddon portion he is careful to state: 'I had it but by the report of Thomas Marcroft, without the sight of his evidence,' though for the other portion 'I set it down by the sight of my own evidence'; ibid. fol. 70b. From the deed last quoted it is plain that Alice married a second time. In 1473 Adam Prestall held of the lord of Manchester his capital messuage with the appurtenances, value £10 a year, by a rent of 6d.; and Richard Seddon held a message, &c., value 5 marks, also by a rent of 6d.; Mamecestre, 478.
  • 14. The paternity of Richard is not stated in the deeds preserved. Among the De Trafford deeds are some relating to Farnworth. The land to which they refer had belonged to Robert son of Robert de Walkden in 1380; he granted it to Robert de Walkden, bastard son of Cecily de Hough, who, with his brother John, sold it to Richard de Prestall in the beginning of the reign of Henry VI; no. 299–308. Adam de Prestall was a witness in 1380; no. 300. Richard's mother was named Ellen, his wife was Elizabeth, and his son and heir Adam was in 1425 espoused to Margaret, daughter of Otes de Holland; no. 308, 309. In 1419 Richard Prestall leased to Hugh son of Jack Hulton land then occupied by Hugh in Farnworth, with remainder to Hugh's brother Roger; Ellesmere D. no. 91. In 1426 William and Roger Lever were bound to Richard Prestall, and he to them, in £100 to abide an arbitration as to certain disputes; Lever Chartul. no. 116. In 1445 Richard Prestall complained that Giles Lever of Barton and a number of others had broken into his close and destroyed his corn and grass; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 7, m. 5b. A little later John Lever made a similar complaint, Richard Prestall, William Prestall, and Richard, William's son, being among the accused; ibid. R. 8, m. 3. Another arbitration took place in 1478, Alice widow of Richard Prestall and Sir Geoffrey Massey being on one side, and Sir Ralph Assheton, Ralph his son, and others named on die other side; the latter had to pay to the former a certain sum of money 'in the chapel of St. James the Apostle in the parish church of Manchester between the hour of ix of the clock afore noon and the third hour after noon'; Ellesmere D. no. 226.
  • 15. Lever Chartul. no. 239–59, the record of a long series of disputes concerning this portion of the Prestall inheritance, arising from the child marriage of Joan with Adam Prestall. It may be observed that the Leighs are described as 'of Highfield' in Farnworth, for the Redford properties were not confined to Kearsley. In 1510 John Ashley of Ashley in Cheshire agreed with Edward Bolton and Joan his wife, late wife of John Leigh of Highfield, one of the daughters and heirs of Richard Prestall, concerning the marriage of Thomas Leigh, son and heir of John and Joan, with Elizabeth, daughter of John Ashley; no. 229. Alice, the mother of Joan, and Isabel her sister, wife of Henry Southworth, are mentioned. In 1527 Thomas Leigh of Prestall and James son of Edmund Bolton of Highfield, referred their disputes to arbitration, which resulted in favour of the former; no. 240. An exchange was made. About 1555 the contention as to the legitimacy of the Leighs was brought to a trial. James Bolton alleged that Joan Prestall married (1) Adam Prestall, who died without issue, and (2) Edmund Bolton, father of the petitioner (who was only twelve years old at his mother's death and under age at his father's); the Leigh marriage was adulterous; no. 245. Thomas Leigh, one of the six children of John and Joan Leigh, made reply; he had been in possession for twenty-six years, viz. from the death of Edmund Bolton; no. 246. About 1557 Cuthbert, Bishop of Chester, certified that the disputed marriage was lawful, no. 254; but on the accession of Elizabeth a new petition was made, and in 1561 the queen ordered the new Bishop of Chester to make inquiry as to the disputed marriage; no. 247. This was favourable to its legality, and in 1562 an award was made between James Bolton and George, his son and heir apparent, on the one side, and Thomas Leigh and Richard, his son and heir apparent, on the other. The latter were adjudged in the right, but directed to make a lease of certain lands at a rent of 6s. 8d. to James Bolton; no. 248–52. In 1575 Thomas Leigh of Highfield and Richard his son, with Richard's wife Katherine, sold Prestall to James Bolton; no. 253. This seems to have been followed by a fine in 1578, Thomas Leigh being dead; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 40, m. 38.
  • 16. The fact of sale is stated in the pedigree compiled by Ralph Assheton, but the deeds are not transcribed. In the inquisition the lands in Kearsley are grouped with those in Farnworth; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 287. A 'manor' of Kearsley is mentioned in 1628; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 114, no. 8. The Leigh family continued to hold property in Farnworth down to the end of the 18th century; Barton, Farnworth, 159.
  • 17. See previous note. Robert Bolton of Kearsley frequently served on juries in the time of James I. He died 30 Aug. 1638, holding a house and lands in Kearsley, Farnworth, and Worsley of the lord of Manchester; Robert his son and heir was twenty-eight years of age; Towneley MS. C. 8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), 65.
  • 18. This statement is taken from the pedigree compiled by Ralph Assheton. Sir Edmund Trafford and Edmund his son and heir in 1582 joined in selling twenty messuages, a water-mill, &c., in Prestall, Kearsley, and Farnworth to Nicholas Mosley; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 44, no. 39. These lands subsequently appear in the Mosley inquisitions; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), ii, 66.
  • 19. In 1494 Joan widow of John Hulton of Farnworth granted to Giles Seddon of Kearsley all the lands which Oliver Seddon had held of her in Kearsley and Rudaden; Lever Chartul. no. 197; and in 1506 Ralph Assheton the younger likewise demised to Giles Seddon of Kearsley, Katherine his wife, and John, Adam, and Arthur Seddon their sons, lands tenanted by Oliver Seddon; no. 198. In 1553 Thomas Marcroft and Elizabeth his wife and Peter Seddon and Cecily his wife sought lands in Kearsley and Farnworth from Giles and William Seddon; Ducafus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), i, 279.
  • 20. Richard Leigh of Highfield and Thomas Marcroft of Kearsley were among the proprietors of Farnworth in 1598; Lever Chartul. no. 204. Thomas Marcroft of Kearsley was living in 1600; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), i, 249.
  • 21. A division of a tenement in Kearsley held in common by Henry, Earl of Derby, Ralph Assheton of Great Lever, and Ralph Seddon of Pilkington, was made in 1589. The tenement had been Oliver Seddon's, and the following rents were due from it: To the Earl of Derby, 22d.; to Ralph Assheton, 10s. and four hens; and to Ralph Seddon, 6s., two hens, and two days' 'shearing' (reaping). The lands held by Thomas Marcroft in right of his wife Elizabeth are mentioned; Lever Chartul. no. 205. A 'manor' of Kearsley is mentioned among the Earl of Derby's possessions in 1631; Pal. of Lane. Feet of F. bdle. 118, no. 1. Peter Seddon of Prestolee in Prestwich, and Ralph Smith of Unsworth, trustees of Hugh Parr of Kearsley, and John Parr, his only son and heir apparent, settled lands in Kearsley and a house in Manchester in 1654; Hulme D. 111. For the Seddons of Outwood and Kearsley see Nathan Walworth's Correspondence (Chet. Soc).
  • 22. Information of Mr. Daniel Howsin of Padiham.
  • 23. Baines, Lancs. iii, 42.
  • 24. Kearsley was usually named among the Hulton manors; e.g. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 321, m. 3.
  • 25. Richard de Redford, Adam de Lever, and Richard the Chief granted to John son of Adam de Kearsley 3 acres of the waste in Backbottom, with housebote, heybote, and other liberties; Lever Chartul. no. 30. The compiler has added a note that the land was (in 1607) supposed to be the Little Heys, part held by Thomas Marcroft and part by Oliver Seddon. See Lancs. and Ches. Hist, and Gen. Notes, i, 249.
  • 26. Land tax returns at Preston.
  • 27. Barton, Farnworth, 143. See the account of Reddish.
  • 28. Land. Gaz. 13 Jan. 1829. It was built under the 'Million Act,' by which several Lancashire districts benefited. For an account of the origin and progress of this church see Barton, Farnworth 191–216. The foundation stone was laid in 1824; the church was opened in 1826, and greatly enlarged in 1871.
  • 29. For district, Lond. Gaz. 6 Feb. 1872. The foundation stone was laid in 1870, and the church was consecrated in July 1871; Barton, op. cit. 236–40.
  • 30. Ibid. 231, 365. The Wesleyans began to hold Sunday services in 1835; the chapel was built in 1870. Meetings had begun even earlier in Lower Kearsley; schools were built in 1836 and a chapel in 1865.
  • 31. B. Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. iii, 142.
  • 32. Barton, op. cit. 372–5; services were begun in 1827, and a chapel erected in 1836; the present church was dedicated in 1878. The Rev. Woodville Woodman, pastor from 1837 to 1872, was a man of some note.