Townships: Horwich

Pages 6-9

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

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In this section


Harewych, 1277; Horewyche, 1327.

The township of Horwich has an area of 3,254½ acres, (fn. 1) and measures about 3 miles from north to south, by 2 miles across. The highest point, 1,475 ft., is in the extreme north; from this the ground slopes downward to the south, but most rapidly to the west, where about 350 ft. is reached. Along the southwestern border the Coal Measures occur, on Wilders and Horwich Moors the Millstone Grit, and in the intermediate slopes the Gannister Beds or Lower Coal Measures.

A little to the south of the Rivington Reservoirs lies the town of Horwich, built at the junction of two roads from Bolton, which are the principal ones traversing the township. To the south-east of the town are the great locomotive works of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, the main industry of the place. The company has a short branch from the Bolton and Preston line, with a terminus at Horwich, opened in 1870. There is an electric tramway to Bolton. The Thirlmere aqueduct passes through the township.

To the hearth tax of 1666 the largest house contributing was that of Thomas Anderton, with six hearths; the total number was seventy-six. (fn. 2)

The population in 1901 numbered 15,084.

Great bleach works and cotton mills have long been carried on here, also calico printing. There are firebrick and tile works, important stone quarries, and several collieries. The northern part of the township is moorland; the chief crop is grass.

A local board was formed in 1872; (fn. 3) this in 1894 became an urban district council, the township being divided into four wards, each returning three members. The meetings are held in the Public Hall, built in 1878. The Railway Mechanics' Institute was built in 1887–8.

There is a weekly newspaper.

The moor was inclosed in 1815–18. (fn. 4) The Horwich race meetings lasted from 1837 to 1847. (fn. 5) Paceeggs used to be collected by the children on the Sunday before Easter. (fn. 6)

The two pyramidal cairns called the Two Lads are variously supposed to mark the resting-places of two sons of early kings, or of two boys who lost their way on the moor and died of exposure. (fn. 7)


HORWICH was the forest or chase of the barons of Manchester, (fn. 8) by whom it had been afforested perhaps as early as the reign of Henry I. Hence it first appears in the records as the scene of poaching raids, headed sometimes, it would appear, by neighbouring gentry. (fn. 9) Various surveys have been preserved, (fn. 10) that of 1322 being very full. It states that in Horwich there were sixteen plots of pasture, not measured because of their extent in wood and open ground, and two of these plots made a vaccary or booth. After describing the eight vaccaries, the extent proceeds: 'The wood of Horwich contains a circuit of sixteen leagues, and is yearly worth in pannage, aeries of eagles, herons and goshawks, in honey, millstones, and iron mines, in charcoal-burning, and the like issues, 60s.; of which the vesture in oaks, elms, and wholly covered with such, 160 marks. The said wood is so thoroughly several that no one may enter there without licence, and of every beast found there without licence the owner shall give for that trespass 6d., by fixed custom.' (fn. 11)

In course of time the woods were cleared and Horwich became an ordinary agricultural township; but the survey of 1473 gives only four tenants' holdings. (fn. 12) Among the tenants were the Heatons of Heaton and other neighbouring families. (fn. 13) In the Subsidy Lists of 1541 (fn. 14) and 1622 (fn. 15) no landowners are named in Horwich.

At the Court Leet of Manchester in 1598 the constables of Horwich presented a number of persons for tithing men. (fn. 16)

The Andertons of Lostock, successors of the Heatons, acquired the manor of Horwich and held it in the 17th century and onwards. (fn. 17) Henry Blundell was the chief landowner in 1788. (fn. 18) The minor family of Anderton of Horwich sprang from Thomas Anderton, a younger brother of Christopher Anderton of Lostock (1592), who settled in this township. His son Lawrence, who became a Jesuit, was the author of the famous hymn, 'Jerusalem, my happy home,' and, under the alias of John Brereley, of various controversial works, such as The Protestant's Apology for the Roman Church, printed at the secret press at Lostock. (fn. 19) Lawrence's brother Christopher was prothonotary of the common pleas at Lancaster by patent dated 1607. Administration of the goods of Thomas Anderton of Horwich, apparently son of Christopher, was granted in 1669 to his brother William. The horrible death of this William (Dr. Anderton of Wigan) is described by Oliver Heywood (Diaries, iii, 211). His will was proved in 1675; his executors were to bring up his son Thomas, aged eight, in the 'knowledge of the true Catholic church.' The guardianship was entrusted to Anne Anderton, widow (grandmother), and Anne Tootell (aunt).

Thomas Willoughby, a descendant of the second Lord Willoughby of Parham, married Eleanor daughter of Hugh Whittle of Horwich, and lived at Shaw Place in Charnock. Being erroneously supposed to be the heir male he was summoned to Parliament as Lord Willoughby of Parham. He died in 1692, and was buried at Horwich. His son, two grandsons, and a great-grandson followed him in the title. They were Presbyterians. The last of them, Hugh Willoughby, enjoyed the title from 1715 to 1765; he was president of the Society of Antiquaries in 1754. (fn. 20)

In 1322–3 the herbage of the wood called Le Twecheles, now Twitchills, could not be agisted, through the deficiency of cattle in the district, owingto the Scottish raid at midsummer, 1322. (fn. 21)

Among those whose estates were sequestrated for 'delinquency' by the Parliament in the time of the Civil Wars was Philip Martindale of Horwich, chapman. (fn. 22)


A chapel of ease existed at Horwich before the Reformation, for in 1552 it was found provided with the ornaments for saying mass. There were also three bells, 'which are the poor men's of the town, bought with their own money, and the said bells not yet hanged up.' (fn. 23) In 1565 the commissioners for removing superstitious ornaments reported to the Bishop of Chester that they had taken from this chapel 'vestment, alb, altar-cloth corporas, and other idolatrous gear.' (fn. 24) There was then a curate there, (fn. 25) but the chapel seems afterwards to have fallen into obscurity and is not mentioned again (fn. 26) till the survey of 1650, when Mr. Henry Pendlebury usually preached there on Sunday without any stipend beyond the people's offerings. (fn. 27) The recommendation to make Horwich a separate parish was not acted upon, and it is probable that down to the Revolution nothing more than a Sunday service was performed by the vicar or curate of Deane. In 1669 numerous meetings of Nonconformists were reported in this parish, and at Horwich Chapel there was a 'conventicle,' but the ringleaders had been prosecuted. (fn. 28)

After the Revolution, with the connivance of the vicar, the chapel was used by Nonconformists, but in 1716 Bishop Gastrell recovered it for the Established Church, and it has since been retained. There was a chapel stock of £190, in the hands of Nonconforming trustees, who refused to pay the interest when the chapel was taken from them. In 1723, however, £100 was given by the vicar of Deane and £100 by Lady Moyer, and in the following year £200 for the old chapel stock was recovered from the trustees by a decree of the Commissioners for Charitable Uses. (fn. 29)

The old chapel was rebuilt in 1779, (fn. 30) and the new one having fallen into decay was taken down when the present church of the Holy Trinity was opened in 1831 (fn. 31) on an adjacent site. It is in the decorated Gothic style, with western tower. A separate ecclesiastical district was assigned to it in 1853. (fn. 32) The patronage is vested in the vicar of Deane, and the income is £370 a year.

The following is a list of curates and vicars (fn. 33) :—

oc. 1671. John Barton
1702. John Horobin, B.A. (Jesus College, Cambridge)
1720. Nathan Pierpoint, B.A.
1724. Robert Harvey, B.A. (fn. 34)
1732. John Norcross, B.A. (fn. 35) (St. John's College, Cambridge)
1765. John Norcross, B.A. (fn. 36)
1788. Samuel Johnson, M.A. (fn. 37) (Brasenose College, Oxford)
1826. David Hewitt, B.A. (Trinity College, Cambridge)
1853. Henry Septimus Pigot, M.A. (fn. 38) (Brasenose College, Oxford)
1901. George Henry St. Patrick Garrett (fn. 39)
1908. Samuel Sheppard

A school church was erected in 1889, and enlarged in 1897; this was in 1902 replaced by St. Catherine's, a chapel of ease. St. Elizabeth's iron mission church was built in 1902.

Methodism was introduced into Horwich by a preacher from Bolton about the beginning of last century. A room in a mill at Wilderswood was used for a time; but a chapel was opened in or about 1810. (fn. 40) The Independent Methodist chapel in Lee Lane was built in 1867, the congregation having originated some years earlier in a gathering of teetotallers. (fn. 41) The Primitive Methodists once had a chapel on Horwich Moor, (fn. 42) and the Independent Methodists also have a place of worship.

A Baptist church was built in 1890.

A large proportion of the population refused to conform at the Restoration, but nothing is known as to their ministers or organization, (fn. 43) until, as stated above, the chapel at Horwich came into their hands about the Revolution. (fn. 44) On being ejected in 1716 the Dissenters erected a meeting-house called the New Chapel; this was enlarged in 1805, and other alterations have been made more recently. It is now in the hands of the Congregationalists, though for a short period in the 18th century the ministers are said to have been Unitarian. (fn. 45) A second Congregational church, known as Horwich Lee Chapel, was erected in 1856, replacing one built in 1774. (fn. 46)

A Unitarian church was erected in 1896.

The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of the Rosary was built in 1886.


  • 1. 3,257, including 39 of inland water; Census Rep. 1901.
  • 2. Subs. R. bdle. 250, no. 9, Lancs.
  • 3. Lond. Gaz. 20 Aug. 1872.
  • 4. Hampson, Horiwich, 191; by Act of 55 Geo. III, cap. 31 (private).
  • 5. Hampson, op. cit. 229–35.
  • 6. Ibid. 239.
  • 7. Ibid. 36, 37. On pp. 67–70 is related the story of a ghost-laying exploit of the Rev. S. Johnson, curate of Horwich.
  • 8. Lancs, and Ches. Antiq. Soc. xix, 17.
  • 9. In 1246 John de Blackburn gave a mark for licence to concord with Thomas Grelley in a plea as to why they chased in his forest'; Richard de Ollerton and Henry de Whalley also giving a mark for a similar licence. The three acknowledged that they had no right to chase in the forest of Horwich, and that in future neither they nor their heirs should chase therein without the leave of Thomas Grelley and his heirs; Assize R. 404, m. 8. Eight years afterwards a number of men, with dogs, bows, and cross-bows, entered Thomas Grelley's parks in Manchester and his forest of Horwich and took and carried off the wild animals therein; likewise seizing the forester and abducting him; Lancs, Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), i, 193. Again in 1277 Robert Grelley prosecuted Martin de Rumworth and Robert son of Robert de Leigh for carrying off the deer of Horwich Wood; De Banco R. 21, m. 57 d. A century later Sir John La Warre impleaded Nicholas de Worthington and others for cutting down trees and breaking closes at Horwich; ibid. 459, m. 38, 10 d.; 463, m. 6.
  • 10. A brief extent of 1282 is printed in Lancs. Inq. and Extents, i, 247; there were then eight vaccaries, worth £19 yearly; pannage and the eyries of sparrow-hawks were worth 40s. There were three foresters. In 1322 it was stated that these three foresters gave to the lord for their bailiwick, one year with another, £4. They answered to the lord for all agistments and trespasses, pannage, honey, vert and venison, &c. They were sustained by the townships lying adjacent to the forest; this being charged on Lostock as 8 oxgangs of land; Rumworth, 14; Heaton, 4; Halliwell, 3; Sharples, 4; Longworth, 2; and Anderton, 7; the total being (inaccurately) given as 40 oxgangs. At the hawks' nesting time the people of these townships, being warned by the foresters, gathered at Horwich Lee, and, after being sworn, were sent through the forest to see what nests had been made; from this time until St. Barnabas the foresters themselves had to keep watch in the forest day and night. When the young hawks were hatched the villagers were again sent through the forest to collect the nestlings, which they had to deliver to the foresters or bailiffs of the lord; see Mamecestre (Chet. Soc), 376, 377.
  • 11. Ibid. 366, &c. The eight vaccaries are thus described:— 1. Aquous Booth Lee (wood) and Little Hordern (moor), together with 53s. 4d. a year, furnished also ten carts of hay; 2. Ridley (wood) and Sharpen Lee (moor), 60s. and twelve loads of hay; 3. Calverley (wood) and Wild Boars Clough or Great Hordern (moor), 53s. 4d.; 4. Wilderhurst (wood) and Brodned (moor), 66s. 8d. and twelve loads of hay; 5. Lestold (meadow and pasture), 60s. and twenty loads; 6. Hardersollins (moor); 7. Horwich Lee (wood) and Egberden or Haghead (moor), 66s. 8d. and one load of hay; 8. Oaken Lee (wood) and Egberden or Withinrod (moor), 66s. 8d. and twenty loads. In 1430 Lord La Warre granted to feoffees lands called Oaken Lee Wood, Wilderswood, Calverley Wood, &c., with all oaks growing at Horwich Lee, at a rent of 26½ marks; Anderton of Lostock Evidences (Mr. Stonor), no. 2. A traditional story of the vengeance of a band of foresters and outlaws, the wife and three children of the lord being murdered by them, is told in Hampson's Horwich, 18–21.
  • 12. Mamecestre, 484; viz.:—Ralph Radcliffe, holding a pasture at the rent of £8 16s. 8d.; Edward Greenhalgh, four messuages in Horwich Lee at £3 13s. 4d.; Edward Hulme, six messuages in Oaken Lee at £10 4s. 2d.; and William Heaton, three messuages at Ridley Wood at 20s. In 1425 the feoffees restored to James son of Geoffrey Greenhalgh a messuage with the lands adjacent, called Horwich Lee Wood, within bounds beginning near the Roodgate, by the division between the wood and the moor, as far as the head of the Clough between the Strinds and Ridley Head; by the Clough to Olton Brook to boundary stones between Lostock and Horwich Lee Wood; by these stones and others between Blackrod and the same wood to the stones between the wood and Oaken Lee Wood, and so to the starting point; Anderton Evidences, no. 1. In the reign of Henry VIII disputes arose between Richard Heaton and Bryan Heaton concerning Ridley Wood and Park Wood, Bryan claiming by a grant from his brother William son and heir of Richard Heaton, deceased. The bounds of Ridley Wood began at the head of the Clough between the Strinds and Ridley Head, went down the Clough to Holton Brook to the bounds of Lostock, by these to the water of Yaresworth, up this to Greenwall Syke and so to a paling between RidJey Head and Horwich Moor. The evidences produced showed that the land had been granted originally by the ancestors of Lord La Warre; Duchy Plead. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 121; ii, 219. For some other disputes see Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), iii, 130, 189, 183.
  • 13. The inquisitions show the following to have held lands in Horwich:—Barton of Smithills, Hulton of Farnworth, Hulton of Over Hulton, and Greenhalgh of Brandlesholme. Andrew Barton was in 1549 said to have held a moiety of the manor of Horwich, eight messuages, &c., of Lord La Warre by a rent of £8 16s. 8d.; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. ix, no. 27. He was the heir of Ralph Radcliffe of 1473. Thomas Greenhalgh was in 1577 found to have held eight messuages, &c., in Horwich (not called a manor), of the lord of Manchester by a rent of £3 13s. 4d.; ibid, xii, no. 10.
  • 14. Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 139; the contributors for 'goods' were Bryan Heaton and four others.
  • 15. Ibid. 151; James Urmston and James Stones were the contributors.
  • 16. Manch. Ct. Lett Rec. i, 140. The constables of Horwich seem to have been summoned to the court till 1733, but had ceased to appear; ibid, vii, 25.
  • 17. In the inquisition of Christopher Anderton in 1593 his tenement in Horwich is mentioned incidentally only as an appurtenance of Lostock and Heaton held of the manor of Manchester; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xvi, no. 41. James Anderton his son and heir purchased the manor of Horwich from Nicholas Mosley and Elizabeth his wife and Rowland Mosley and Anne his wife in 1599; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 61, no. 351; Anderton D. no. 76. In 1620 part of Andertons' land in Horwich was held of the king by knight's service, and the remainder of the lord of Manchester; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), ii, 164. The manor it named in an Anderton settlement of 1654; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 156, m. 174. Later it descended in the same manner as Anderton to the Blundells and Stonors.
  • 18. Land tax returns at Preston.
  • 19. Foley, Recs. S. F. iv, 713; he had a nephew Thomas, also a Jesuit. A list of his works is given by Gillow, Bibl. Dict, of Engl. Cath. i, 34; v, 204 (pedigree erroneous). See also Dict. Nat. Biog. In 1630 Thomas Anderton of Horwich compounded by an annual fine of £8 for the two-thirds of his estate liable to sequestration for recusancy; Lucas, 'Warton' MS. (from Thoresby). Dorothy Walton compounded similarly by £2.
  • 20. G.E.C. Complete Peerage, via, 156–8, referring to W. D. Pink in Gen. (old ser.), iv, 34–9, and to the Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. iv (Kenyon MSS.); see also Local Glean. Lancs, and Ches. ii, 14, 38. The co-heirs of the last of this line were his sisters — Helena wife of Baxter Roscoe of Anglezarke in Bolton, and Elizabeth widow of John Shaw of Heath Charnock.
  • 21. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc), ii, 185 n.
  • 22. Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), iv, 121.
  • 23. Ch. Gds. (Chet. Soc.), 27; see also Raines, Chantries (Chet Soc), 273, for the sale of two bells.
  • 24. Gastrell, Notitia (Chet. Soc), ii, 41.
  • 25. Peter Mackinson; he was one of the Marian priests, having been ordained by Bishop Scott in 1558, on the title of Robert Barton of Smithills; Ordination Bk. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 101.
  • 26. There is no mention of Horwich in the list of the Kenyon MSS. or the Clerical Subs. (Rec. Soc.).
  • 27. Commonw.Ch. Surv. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 37. An allowance of £20 was made to him out of the tithes, and it was said that £100 had been subscribed 'by the well affected' of thechapelry, but no interest had been received for five or six years from Richard Holt of Ashworth, who held the principal. James Walton, ejected from Shaw Chapel in 1662, is said to have preached at Horwich in 1648; Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. iii, 99.
  • 28. Visit. P. at Chester.
  • 29. Notitia Cestr. ii, 41–4. The letter of the vicar of Deane states that he had put a conformable clergyman into the chapel as soon as the Nonconformists had left; he allowed him the surplice fees and £2 besides, which with offerings gave an income of about £14. As to the chapel stock, he had witnesses to prove that the interest had been paid to 'episcopal conforming clergymen' in the reigns of Charles II and James II, and till some time after the Revolution. Gastrell states that a curate was licensed to Horwich in 1702. There was one warden for the chapel, chosen by house row. Lady Moyer was Rebecca daughter of Alderman Sir William Joliffe and wife of Sir Samuel Moyer of Pitsea Hall in Essex, who died in 1716; Canon Raines in Gastrell, loc. cit.
  • 30. See Hampson, Horwich, 55. A brief for collections was issued in 1777.
  • 31. The building was assisted by a Parliamentary grant. Joseph Ridgway of Ridgmont, one of the principal landowners, contributed. An account of this family is given in Hampson, op. cit. 181– 203.
  • 32. Lond. Gaz. 10 Jan. 1854.
  • 33. Church Papers at Chester
  • 34. Also curate of Westhoughton.
  • 35. R. F. Scott, Admissions to St. John's College, iii, 44, 311. John Norcross was also master of Rivington School.
  • 36. Son of the preceding; ibid. iii, 121, 565. Succeeded his father as master of Rivington School. An abstract of his will is given by Hampson, op. cit. 62.
  • 37. Foster, Alumni Oxon. For his father Henry see James Hall, Nantwich, 349.
  • 38. Son of a former incumbent of St. Helens.
  • 39. Formerly vicar of St. Paul's, Prince's Park, Liverpool.
  • 40. Hampson, Horwich, 98–102.
  • 41. Ibid. 102. For a charity in connexion with this chapel see Endowed Charities Rep. (Deane) of 1903, p. 39.
  • 42. Hampson, op. cit. 103.
  • 43. A preaching-place at the house of Thomas Welsby was licensed in 1672, during the brief Indulgence; Nightingale, op. cit. iii, 99. Bishop Gastrell in 1717 recorded that half the small population were Dissenters; Notitia, ii, 41.
  • 44. In 1689 Horwich Chapel was already in the hands of the Nonconformists, and was so certified and recorded; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. iv, 231.
  • 45. Nightingale, op. cit. iii, 98–110. The first minister ejected from the old chapel was John Walker, who is said to have received £100 a year from the government on account of his services at the rising of 1715. An account of the endowments and charities may be seen in the Endowed Charities Rep. (Deane) of 1903, pp. 33–6.
  • 46. Nightingale, op. cit. iii, 110–15. The erection of this second meeting-place is supposed to have been due to the Unitarianism of the older chapels at Horwich and Rivington. For endowment, &c., see Endowed Charities Rep. 39.