A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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In this section
Wrstincton, 1195; Wrichtington, 1202; Wrictinton, 1212; Wrytinton, 1256; Wrythinton, 1262; Wryghtington, Writtyngton, 1284–5; Whritynton, Wrythtynton, 1292. (fn. 1)
The township has an area of 3,915½ acres, (fn. 2) with a population in 1901 of 1,869 persons. The surface is hilly, rising to over 400 ft. at Harrock on the border of Parbold, and falling thence to the north, north-east and south-east. On the southern border the boundary at Appley Bridge touches the Douglas. The hall, with its large deer park, is to the north of this point. Tunley and Broadhurst lie to the north of the park, and Fairhurst, to the west of Harrock, reaches down to the Douglas.
A road runs north from Appley Bridge through Appley Moor and the hamlet called Robin Hood to Eccleston; it is crossed by two roads from Wigan to Parbold. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's Railway from Wigan to Southport crosses the southeastern corner, having a station called Appley Bridge, while the Leeds and Liverpool Canal crosses the township at the same place between the railway and the Douglas.
The soil is clay, with subsoil of marl and stone. Wheat and oats are grown.
At Harrock Hill, Fairhurst and Hill House Lane are pedestals of ancient crosses. (fn. 3) At Skull House in Appley is kept a skull which is said to return to its resting-place if displaced. (fn. 4)
In 1666 there were found 107 hearths chargeable to the tax in the east side of the township and ninetysix in the west side. The largest house was that of Hugh Dicconson with fifteen hearths, the next that of Nicholas Rigby with seven. (fn. 5)
The vills of WRIGHTINGTON and Parbold were probably from its formation members of the barony of Manchester, and the connexion was recognized down to the 17th century. (fn. 6) Albert Grelley the elder, who died about 1162, gave them, together with the adjacent Dalton in West Derby Hundred, to Orm son of Ailward in marriage with his daughter Emma, to be held by the service of one knight's fee. (fn. 7) From Orm descended the family of Kirkby of Kirkby Ireleth, (fn. 8) of whom Wrightington continued to be held, at least in part. The Kirkbys granted it out, and in 1195, probably by marriage with co-heirs, the group of manors was held in moiety by Robert son of Bernard de Goosnargh and by Roger de Burton and Orm de Ashton, his brother. A division was made in the year mentioned, half of Wrightington being retained by Robert son of Bernard and the other half, with the whole of Parbold, being assigned to the brothers. (fn. 9) The former moiety was soon afterwards divided among three co-heirs, (fn. 10) represented later by the families of Catterall, (fn. 11) Butler of Rawcliffe (fn. 12) and Hoghton, (fn. 13) while the latter moiety seems to have reverted to the superior lords, and was later in the hands of Kirkby of Kirkby (fn. 14) and Lathom of Lathom, (fn. 15) each being said to hold a fourth part of the manor. The Lathoms also had Parbold, and as early as 1242 Robert de Lathom was stated to hold one knight's fee in Wrightington and Parbold of Thomas Grelley. (fn. 16) This part was held by the Lathoms of Parbold, who about 1620 acquired the Kirkby portion. Probably the moiety was included in the purchase of the Parbold estates by the Dicconsons. (fn. 17)
With the manor thus divided among a number of non-resident lords, the smaller families, as in similar cases, became prominent. The first to be noticed are those which took the local name. The story is extremely obscure. The above-named Roger de Burton was a benefactor of Cockersand Abbey, (fn. 18) and it was probably a descendant of him or his brother Orm who as Geoffrey de Wrightington was lord of part of the manor in 1282. (fn. 19) Afterwards this fourth part was sold to the superior lords, the Kirkbys, (fn. 20) but a Wrightington family, probably descendants of the former one, continued to hold lands in the township. (fn. 21) A later Geoffrey de Wrightington (fn. 22) about 1365 received from Henry de Torbock the manor of Welch Whittle, with lands in Wrightington and Coppull, as a reward for assistance in recovering his inheritance. (fn. 23) John son of Robert Wrightington died in or before 1503, (fn. 24) leaving a son and heir Thomas Wrightington, who died in December 1544 holding eight messuages and various lands in Wrightington of Nicholas Butler and Robert Kirkby in socage by a rent of 18s. 4d.; also holding the manor of Welch Whittle and lands, &c., there and in Shevington and Coppull. His heir was his son John, aged fifty-seven. (fn. 25) Edward Dicconson of Eccleston married Anne daughter of a later John Wrightington, (fn. 26) and is said to have succeeded to the family lands. (fn. 27) A brief pedigree was recorded in 1664. (fn. 28) It is certain that the Dicconsons acquired a large portion of the land in the township, (fn. 29) and in 1723 Edward Dicconson and Mary his wife made a settlement of their 'manors' of Wrightington, Shevington and Welch Whittle. (fn. 30) Edward was succeeded by his sons William (fn. 31) and Edward, and on the death of the latter in 1812 the estates went to his nephew Thomas Eccleston, who resumed his family name of Scarisbrick and died in 1809. His younger son Charles took the name of Dicconson on succeeding to Wrightington, but he also afterwards resumed his family name on becoming lord of Scarisbrick. On his death in 1860 Wrightington passed to the son of his sister Elizabeth, who had married Captain Edward Clifton. She took the name and arms of Dicconson, and died in 1862. The estate was held in turn by her sons Thomas, William Charles and Charles. The last-named died without issue in 1895, and was followed, according to his dispositions, by his nephew Robert Joseph Gerard, a younger son of the first Lord Gerard by his wife Harriet Clifton, who has added the name of Dicconson to his own. (fn. 32)
The Dicconson family in the main adhered to the old religion. (fn. 33) Inquiry was made in 1694 as to lands of Hugh and William Dicconson alleged to be appropriated to 'superstitious uses.' (fn. 34) William Dicconson, eldest son of Hugh, was a zealous Jacobite; much of his estate was confiscated, and he went into exile dying at St. Germains in 1743. (fn. 35) Roger, a younger brother, was outlawed in 1715, but appears to have retained the family estates, the abovenamed Edward Dicconson of 1723 being his son. (fn. 36) The most distinguished member of the family was a younger brother of William and Roger, Dr. Edward Dicconson, professor at Douay, and afterwards Bishop of Malla and Vicar Apostolic of the Northern Province. Heresided at Finch Mill in Shevington, and is buried in Standish Church, where there is a monument. (fn. 37)
WRIGHTINGTON HALL is a plain two-storied classic building erected in 1748, (fn. 38) the main front facing east with slightly projecting ends with hipped roofs. The entrance is on the west side under a large modern porch added in 1860, when the interior of the house was partially gutted and renewed and a servants' wing added on the north. The building is of stone with wood cornice and green slated roofs, but the original barred windows have given place to modern plate glass. On the first floor a long gallery runs the full length of the building from north to south lit by windows at each end and a bay on the east. Wrightington Hall is said to have been the first house north of the Trent to have sash windows, but this probably refers to a former building, part of which remains on the north-west side of the main block at right angles with the west front. It was erected probably in the 17th century, but seems to have been partially rebuilt since in stone. Its north elevation, however, retains in its upper part the original halftimber work, a picturesque design with four attic gables and curved and diagonal bracings, with a plaster cove marking each floor line. The ground story has been refaced in stone and has sash windows. The interior of this older wing retains much of its original oak panelling and has two rooms with good fireplaces, that to the end ground-floor room having Tuscan columns in its lower part and panels divided by small Ionic columns above. The mantel in the room above has some good carved oakwork with the initials w.w. and m.w. in the panels.
On the north side of the house, at the east end of the older wing, is the chapel, which, though no longer used and curtailed in size, still retains its classic altarpiece with Ionic columns and picture together with twisted altar rails. The altar is at the north end and has a plain semicircular arch over, carried on cherub-head brackets. The east wall has been rebuilt and has modern windows, those on the west being the original sashes divided by bars. The door between the old wing and the servants' quarters is the original 17th-century one of heavy oak and nail-studded. The new north wing was further added to and new offices built about ten years ago. To the north-east of the house are the 18th-century stables and riding school.
On the east side of the house is a sheet of water which is crossed by the road from Standish and Parbold on a bridge of three arches and balustraded parapet erected in 1778.
The name of Stopford appears early (fn. 39); William Stopford at the end of the 16th century acquired two of the sixth parts of the manor, (fn. 40) but this share was in 1611 sold to the Ashhursts of Dalton. The 'manor' is not named again, (fn. 41) but lands, &c., in Wrightington were included in the Ashhurst sale to Sir Thomas Bootle of Lathom in 1751. (fn. 42)
The Heskeths of Rufford about 1500 acquired an estate in Wrightington, (fn. 43) but it was not till the beginning of the 17th century that their 'manor' is named. (fn. 44) It is probable that it was the Stopford manor. (fn. 45)
The Hospitallers had considerable lands in Wrightington and Parbold. (fn. 46) HARROCK was one of the estates, and it was long held by the Rigby family. (fn. 47) Nicholas Rigby died in May 1557 (fn. 48) holding the capital messuage called the hall of Harrock of the king and queen as of the late priory of St. John of Jerusalem in socage by a rent of 12d., other lands similarly by a rent of 4d., and the Town Carr of Henry Kirkby by a rent of 2s. 6d. (fn. 49) Nicholas his son and heir, then aged thirty-two, (fn. 50) died in 1599 holding the same lands and leaving as heir his son Nicholas, thirty-seven years of age. (fn. 51) This Nicholas died in 1629, leaving a son and heir of the same name and thirty-seven years old. (fn. 52) The inquisitions do not show the purchase of part of the Hoghton of Hoghton Tower share of the manor in 1567. (fn. 53) The family for some time adhered to Roman Catholicism and in 1628 Nicholas Rigby was entered on the subsidy roll as a convicted recusant. (fn. 54) Pedigrees were recorded in 1567, (fn. 55) 1613 (fn. 56) and 1664. (fn. 57) The Nicholas Rigby who recorded the last pedigree left a son Nicholas, who died in 1740, (fn. 58) and whose eventual heirs were the descendants of his daughter Anne by her husband, the Rev. Thomas Baldwin, sometime rector of a mediety of Liverpool and rector of Leyland. Their son John, rector of North Meols, succeeded to the Harrock estates in 1787 and took the name and arms of Rigbye. His third son, the Rev. Rigbye Baldwin, succeeded him in 1793, and afterwards took the surname of Rigbye. He was in 1829 succeeded by his son Captain Rigbye Baldwin Rigbye. The estate was sold about fifty years ago and in 1894 was owned by Arthur Ramsden Boulton. Mr. Gerard-Dicconson now owns it.
HARROCK HALL is situated in a sheltered position on the high ground north of Parbold and the Douglas Valley, in the north-west of the township. It is a two-story stone building with mullioned windows, apparently dating from the first half of the 17th century, but internally the house has been wholly modernized at the beginning of the last century and extended at both ends. In this alteration it is possible that portions of the original building were destroyed, and that the middle portion of the principal front, which is alone of any architectural interest, may not be the full extent of the original house. This older portion is a good composition, with centrally placed bay window and projecting porches at each end, going up the full height of both stories. The windows on both floors have transoms, and in the rooms over the porches are placed near to the internal angle and carried right across the front of the first floor. The walls finish with plain stone parapets, except to the bay, where a rounded embattled coping is introduced. The upper part of the parapet, however, has been rebuilt, and may not carry out the original design. The porches have semicircular-headed openings with imposts and moulded jambs, and occupy the internal angles between the later wings and the hall proper. Whether they mark the full extent of the original front is not evident, there being nothing to show definitely whether the early 19th-century work is a rebuilding or an addition. (fn. 59) The present extent of the old front is about 48 ft., and the later wings on either side are each 20 ft. across. They are built in the pseudo-Gothic style of c. 1820–30, with sash windows, and have blue slated hipped roofs behind ornamental parapets. The older roofs are covered with stone slabs. The house has been further extended at the east end by the addition of a gabled wing about 46 ft. in length, erected apparently in the middle of the last century, the design being much better than that of the earlier modern work, and making a total frontage of about 136 ft. The front of the building faces north, and owing to its sheltered position is very damp. The back is almost wholly modern. The building has been unoccupied, except for a few rooms at the east end, for a number of years, and in parts is in a very neglected and dilapidated condition. The interior is without interest, having been entirely modernized. In front of the house is a good 18th-century fence wall and railing, with tall Renaissance gate and angle piers of good design.
FAIRHURST seems also to have been the Hospitallers'. Families named Banastre (fn. 60) and Nelson owned it; the latter, who acquired another part of the Hoghton manor, (fn. 61) remained in possession till recent times. A pedigree was recorded in 1664. (fn. 62) Fairhurst Hall is a two-story 18th-century brick building with gritstone dressings, the principal front, which faces south, having projecting end wings and originally a central entrance doorway. This, however, has been converted into a window, and the entrance is now at the east end, to the north of which a wing has been added during the last century. The roofs are hipped and covered with stone slates, with overhanging eaves. The windows have keystoned heads, and the angles of the building and old entrance doorway are further emphasized in stone. The back part of the west wing appears to belong to an older house, probably of the 17th century, and has a gable and large projecting stone chimney. There is said to have been a chapel on the first floor in this part of the house, approached by an external flight of stone steps. The steps are gone, but the old doorway still remains. Some portions of timber construction belonging to the older house are also visible. The building was probably of the usual H type of plan, the front part reconstructed in the 18th century, and most likely on the old foundations. The interior has been almost entirely modernized, though two of the lower rooms retain original painted wainscot. The front elevation is of good design and has a very good appearance, owing to the colour of the old bricks and stone slates and to the fact that the windows retain their barred sashes.
The other tenants of the Hospital included the Worthingtons of Blainscough, (fn. 63) Standish (fn. 64) and Halliwell. (fn. 65) The tenants of Cockersand Abbey were Banastre, Rigby, Stopford and Tunley. (fn. 66)
TUNLEY at one time gave a surname to the tenant. (fn. 67) In part it was owned by the Halliwells and in part by a Wilson family, whose representatives retain it. (fn. 68) South Tunley, (fn. 69) now a farm-house, stands on rising ground above a small stream called Tunley Brook at the east side of the township, and is an interesting 17th-century building of two stories of the H type, the middle and east wing being of timber and plaster and the west wing of brick with gritstone dressings, the whole on a high sandstone chamfered base. The front, which faces south and is about 55 ft. in length, retains most of its original features, though all the windows in the timber portion have been modernized, and in 1896 the greater part of the old oak timber in the east gable was taken out owing to decay and replaced. The end wings are gabled but without barge-boards, and there is a smaller timber gable over the projecting porch to the hall in the angle formed by the west wing. The appearance of the front with its combination of old red brick, stone, plaster and timber and greystone roofing slates is very picturesque, the position of the house, which stands some 8 ft. or 10 ft. above the roadway, and the character of its approach adding materially to the effect. The lower part of the porch, which is open and has a wooden seat on each side, is built of gritstone, and on the door head are the date 1622 and the initials of Thomas Wilson and his wife. This probably gives the year of building, what later work there is being more in the nature of embellishment or repair than of structural alterations or additions. The hall is only 17 ft. by 12 ft. 6 in., the greater length being from front to back, but the size is increased by a large open fireplace 4 ft. 6 in. deep and 12 ft. wide on the west side, now filled with a modern grate. The floor is flagged and the ceiling, which is 9 ft. 6 in. high, is crossed by a single oak beam now whitewashed carrying the exposed joists of the floor above. The whole of the south side of the room is occupied by a window, and there are three doors, one in the south-west corner from a lobby between its porch and west wing, and the others on the east and north sides opening directly into the parlour in the east wing and to a smaller room and staircase on the north side. The west wing, which preserves its low stone mullioned windows, contains the kitchen, in which there is a large fireplace opening nearly 11 ft. wide. A low brick porch has been added to the outer door on the west side. The parlour in the east wing and the room above were originally wainscoted in oak, but owing to decay this has been replaced by pitch pine and painted. The interior of the house is of no particular interest, but the original oak doors with fleur de lis hinges have been retained, and the porch door is the old oak one with iron ring handle. The upper part of the porch is of brick, but has apparently been rebuilt in comparatively modern times, the bricks not being the original 17thcentury 2½-in. ones as used in the west wing. The exterior timber work is of very plain character, consisting almost entirely of uprights and crosspieces with a cove at the first-floor level and diagonal pieces in the east gable. There is a good projecting brick chimney of two square shafts with zigzag filling between at the east end. On a spout head near the porch is the date 1667 with the initials W TE and the crest of the Wilsons (a demi-wolf), the crest being repeated four times on the bands of the spout below. It was probably about this time, or a little later, that the picturesque approach to the house from the road was laid down. This consists of a rising footwalk about 7 ft. wide between stone walls entered by a wicket from the roadway and proceeding for a short distance parallel with the house and then turning at right angles, with a rise of three steps towards a gateway in the stone wall inclosing the front garden immediately opposite the porch. Over the gateway is a stone with the same initials as on the spout head and the date 1671, but the stone is loose and may not be in its original position. There are two more rises, each of three steps, one at the gateway and the other within the garden at a distance of about 35 ft. from the house, the whole forming a very charming feature. In the hall are preserved two ancient breastplates, a helmet and some 18th-century oak furniture.
A short distance to the east of South Tunley is Tunley Farm, a two-story stone-built house with central hall and projecting gabled end wings. It is built above the level of the road, from which it is approached by a flight of six steps leading to a gateway flanked by two graceful gate-piers with ball tops. Over the porch are the initials R H M and the date 1675. The building retains its old stone-flagged roof, but the original mullioned windows have been removed. (fn. 70)
Landowners contributing to the subsidy of 1542–3 in Wrightington with Tunley were Thomas Wrightington, Nicholas Rigby, Richard Banastre (two), and Robert Stopford. (fn. 71) In 1564 those in Wrightington with Parbold were Richard Lathom, Nicholas Rigby, Robert Stopford and John Wilson. (fn. 72)
Among other landowners recorded in the inquisitions are Sutton, (fn. 73) Chisnall, (fn. 74) Fleetwood, (fn. 75), Lancaster, (fn. 76) Lassells, (fn. 77) Sankey, (fn. 78) Hawett, (fn. 79) Jarman (fn. 80) and Finch. (fn. 81) In addition the freeholders of 1600 included Richard Porter, James Pemberton, Gilbert Rigby, Hugh Wrennall and Thomas Eccleston. (fn. 82) Several estates were sequestered by the Parliament in the Civil War for recusancy and delinquency, (fn. 83) and in 1717 six 'Papists' registered their estates. (fn. 84)
From the land tax returns of 1786 it appears that the township was still divided into east side and west side. The chief landowners were William Dicconson and Dennis Halliwell, both double assessed for religion, Mrs. Rigby, John Nelson and Lady Tyrrell. In 1798 some additional owners appear: Edmund Newman Kershaw, Mr. Millson (? Wilson), Mr. Heskin's heirs and James Tunstall. (fn. 85)
From the account of the manor it will be seen that the old subdivisions were altered and perhaps increased in number early in the 17th century. (fn. 86) The lordship thus became uncertain, and manor courts have long ceased to be held.
At an inquiry made in 1540 it was stated that the custom of the town had been for the executors of a deceased tenant to keep possession of his land till the following Candlemas, and for fire and fodder till 3 May; also that the eldest son should have his father's tenement, paying the accustomed rent at Whitsuntide and Martinmas. (fn. 87)
For the services of the Church of England St. James's was built in 1857; the vicars are presented by the rector of Eccleston. (fn. 88) There is also a mission chapel at Appley.
The Primitive Methodists have two places of worship. (fn. 89)
Jonathan Scholefield, the curate ejected from Douglas in 1662 for nonconformity, found a refuge at Tunley. He died in 1667, and there is no information as to his adherents, but a chapel was built in 1691. The congregation, about a century later, became Unitarian, but the building was afterwards given to the Scottish Presbyterians, and it now belongs to the Presbyterian Church of England. (fn. 90)
Roman Catholicism was never extinguished in the township, (fn. 91) but there are few records of its worship. Fairhurst Hall was at one time the mission centre, and Wrightington Hall Chapel was used from 1806 until the building of St. Joseph's in 1892.