Townships: Little Harwood

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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'Townships: Little Harwood', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6, (London, 1911) pp. 249-251. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

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Harewude, xiii cent.; Parva Harewode, xiv-xvi cent.

Little Harwood is separated from Great Harwood on the north-east by an irregular boundary which slopes gradually downward from an elevation of over 700 ft. near Side Beet in Rishton to the source of Showley Brook on the boundary of Wilpshire on the north-west, the River Blackwater and a tributary stream from the boundary on the south and east and Harwood Brook on the west, until it falls into the same river, near Little Harwood Hall, on the outskirts of the town of Blackburn, at a point 380 ft. above the ordnance datum. The Millstone Grit underlies the north-western half of the township, the Coal Measures the south-eastern. The soil is clayey and the land under permanent grass, which is benty on the high ground. (fn. 1) The high road from Blackburn to Clitheroe skirts the township on the west, and the Blackburn and Whalley road passes through the centre with a connecting road called Bank Hey Lane. The Liverpool, Blackburn and Accrington line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company traverses the southern part of the township, from which the Great Harwood loop branches off towards the north-east. The same company's Bolton, Blackburn and Hellifield line just touches the western boundary. There is no station within the township, but that at Wilpshire serves the northern part of the township and Blackburn station the southern.

Under the provisions of the Blackburn Corporation Act, 1892, this township now forms part of the civil parish of Blackburn and lies wholly within the county and parliamentary borough boundary. (fn. 2) The area of the township is 895 acres. The Blackburn Public Cemetery is within the township.

The common called Brown Hill, containing about 70 acres of the customary measure, was allotted and inclosed under an Inclosure Act, 1776. (fn. 3)


LITTLE HARWOOD was a member of the lordship of Walton, forming part of the feoffment of one knight's fee made by Henry de Lacy to Robert Banastre about the year 1160. The service rendered for the township to the lords of Walton-le-Dale was 4s. per annum, which represented a portion of the castle-guard rent of Lancaster Castle and sake fee due from the lord of Clitheroe to the chief lord of the honour of Lancaster. The descent of the mesne lordship corresponds with that of Walton-le-Dale. (fn. 4)

The actual tenant of the manor about 1300 was Henry de Clayton, probably of the Clayton-le-Dale family. (fn. 5) In 1310 Ralph de Clayton gave to his brother Henry the lands held by John Page and Henry de Bury in exchange for lands held by Richard de Coufhull, John de Barouweford and Adam de Edyef holes. (fn. 6) Henry de Clayton, described as of Harwood in 1326, was party to an exchange of land here with his brother Ralph in 1328 and the chief contributor to the subsidy of 1332. (fn. 7) Ralph his son gave half his mill of Hallhead in Little Harwood to Henry de Clayton of Dutton in 1348, and was living in 1374, at which time he was holding his lands here of the said Henry for 12d. per annum. Before that year Henry de Clayton of Dutton had enfeoffed Thomas de Molyneux of Cuerdale of his lands here, probably including the manor. (fn. 8) After the death of Thomas de Molyneux, his feoffees in 1388, in accordance with the terms of his will, delivered the estate to John son of Geoffrey de Osbaldeston. (fn. 9)

It is, however, probable that the descendants of Ralph Clayton held the greater part of the tenements under John Osbaldeston, for Thomas Clayton gave puture to the sheriff about 1440 in respect of his tenement here. John his son is described as of Little Harwood, yeoman, in 1443, when with Nicholas his son he was sued for debt by Lawrence Banastre of Altham. (fn. 10) In 1462 Ralph Abbot of Whalley granted licence to Nicholas son and heir of John Clayton of this place to make a weir on Blackburn Brook running between Little Harwood and the 'towne hey' of Blackburn, and another weir on the conventual land called Chirche Holt, (fn. 11) which he held of the abbot as parcel of the Blackburn glebe.

In 1493 Thomas Osbaldeston passed the manor to feoffees, apparently for the purpose of effecting a sale to the Claytons. (fn. 12) Nicholas Clayton died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother Geoffrey, who died seised of the manor in or about 1503. (fn. 13) John son and heir of Geoffrey married Rose daughter and sole heir of Richard Bushbury of Bushbury, co. Staff. He made a settlement in 1503 limiting the manor to himself for life with reversion to Edward Stanley, then knight, afterwards created Lord Mounteagle, as mortgagee, providing for the redemption of the manor in case Sir Edward obtained a sufficient consideration for the marriage of Clayton's two daughters. (fn. 14) Under this deed Lord Mounteagle assumed the entire ownership of the manor in 1515, after the death of John Clayton, and obtained a stay of proceedings on the part of the heirs at law, Robert, Giles and William, sons of George Clayton younger brother of Nicholas and John, by granting to them life estates in certain tenements parcel of the manor. (fn. 15)

Clayton. Argent on a bend sable three roses or.

In 1523 Lord Mounteagle died seised of the manor, having devised it by will with other estates towards the setting up of a chantry at Hornby. His successor Thomas, acting wisely, did not so apply the estate, but granted numerous leases, and finally sold it in 1545 to William Clayton, surviving son of George Clayton before mentioned, upon the redemption of the original mortgage. (fn. 16) William Clayton thus restored the fortunes of his family, having acquired from his elder brothers their estates and interests in the manor, including Tonghill in Pleasington, Churchholt and Beardworth Green in Blackburn, and, before the termination of a successful and lengthy career, re-purchased the manorial estate from Lord Mounteagle. He married late in life (about 1550) a lady belonging to one of the local families of Livesey, by whom he left issue at his death, about 1568, John his heir; Thomas, sometime servant to Mr. Justice, afterwards Sir Thomas, Walmsley, kt.; Edward, M.A. of Brasenose College, master of the free school of Manchester; and Ralph of London. (fn. 17)

John Clayton died without issue in 1625 holding the manor of Sir Gilbert Hoghton, kt., in socage by 4s. yearly rent; John son of his brother Thomas Clayton of Church, who died in 1608, was his next heir, aged nineteen and a-half years. By his will he devised his estate of Lentworth in Upper Wyresdale to his nephew Thomas, younger brother of his heir. (fn. 18) John Clayton successfully defended a suit brought by William Fleetwood, kt., to recover possession of the Churchholt estate in Blackburn, of which his uncle died seised. (fn. 19) He married in 1625 Alice daughter of George Cockshott of Great Harwood, and, dying in 1660, was succeeded by his second, but eldest surviving, son John, to whom in 1660 he had made a release of the manor. (fn. 20) The heir, who had been apprenticed in 1647 to John Bolton of Dublin, merchant, married, first, Jane daughter of Roger Whalley of Todehole in Blackburn, who died in 1658, and, secondly, in 1660, Susan daughter of Nicholas Rushton of Antley.

John Clayton died in 1668, having entered his pedigree three years before at William Dugdale's visitation. (fn. 21) John his son and heir, aged seven at his father's death, entered Brasenose College in 1679, and by his second wife Margaret daughter of Thomas Crook of Abram Hall left at his death in 1721, among other issue, Thomas, a doctor of medicine. Thomas Clayton acquired, by a devise in the will of Alexander Osbaldeston of Osbaldeston, the chapel, pews and burial-place of the Osbaldeston family in Blackburn Church, with the right of nominating the parish clerk and one churchwarden. He married in 1723 Abigail daughter of John Darbyshire of Warrington, and died in 1759. John his son and heir, born in 1729, acquired the estates of Carr Hall, in the forest of Pendle, and Barnside in Colne, by his marriage in 1754 to Margaret daughter and heir of Richard Townley of Carr. (fn. 22) He was a major of the Royal Lancashire Volunteers, J.P. for co. Lancaster, and an active promoter of the Bill for the construction of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1770.

He was succeeded in 1803 by his son Thomas Clayton, who was nominated by George III to succeed the Earl of Wilton as colonel of the Royal Lancashire Volunteers, and served with his regiment many years in Ireland before the Union. He was fifty-eight years in the commission of the peace for the county, was the father of the magistracy, a deputy lieutenant of the county, and high sheriff in 1808. He received the public thanks of the inhabitants of the hundred in 1821, with a service of plate tendered to him, in acknowledgement of his exertions for the preservation of peace in the district during a period of great insubordination. (fn. 23) He married in 1788 Susan daughter of Robert Nuttall of Bury (died 1789), by whom he had no issue. Towards the close of his life he dispersed the remainder of the Little Harwood estate, having sold the hall with the manor in 1815 to John Hoyle of Haslingden. Mr. Henry Hoyle of Little Harwood Hall succeeded to the property on his father's death in 1834. It was sold by his executors in 1873, the year after his death, to Mr. Henry Robinson of Blackburn.

LITTLE HARWOOD HALL is a two-story 17th-century house, built on the usual plan of central hall and end projecting wings, facing south, with low mullioned windows and stone-slated roofs. The south front, which has rough stone walling, retains most of its original features, but the north front was rebuilt in brick in the 18th century, (fn. 24) with squareheaded barred sash windows and central doorway. The elevation is good of its kind—simple and dignified, relieved with stone quoins, and emphasized in the middle by a slight projection terminating in a pediment above a plain brick parapet. At the east end a later wing has been added, and the interior of the house appears to have been first remodelled in the 18th century and altered considerably at later dates. The greater part of the building is now used as a Conservative club, and the surroundings have lost all their original rural characteristics.

At the survey of the honor of Clitheroe made in 1662 a puture rent of 3s. 2d. was charged upon this township and contributed by:—

John Clayton, gent., for the demesne 12d.
William Whalley, for Willworth 6d.
Thomas Haworth, for Harston Lee 6d.
and for Bank Hey 4d.
Edmund Cockshut, for Ediholes 3d.
George Page 3d.
John Peele, for Bank Hey 4d.

Harstonlegh was the property and residence of Richard Rishton in 1401, and continued in his descendants for two and a-half centuries.

Willworth was the property of Edward Braddyll of Brockhall, esq., in 1585, and soon afterwards became part of the Claytons' estate, and was leased for several successive generations to members of the Whalley family. (fn. 25)

Ediholes was given to the Hospitallers early in the 13th century. In 1330 Avice relict of Adam de Hediholes claimed dower in a tenement from John Page the elder and others.

The Page family had lands here for four centuries. John Page occurs in 1327, and John his son was slain before 1347. In or about 1540 Richard Page held a messuage for a free rent of 8d., and Thomas Thornley another messuage for 6d. free rent, both in Ediholes, and formerly the possessions of the Hospitallers. (fn. 26) In 1617 Richard Page sued his kinsmen George and John Page for a tenement in Little Harwood which Henry Page gave to his son John father of John father of Richard father of George father of the plaintiff. (fn. 27) George Page held a tenement, probably Ediholes, in 1662, Edmund Cockshott holding another tenement there at the same date.

John Peel held a small tenement of the monastery of Whalley at the Dissolution, of which his descendant John Peel, died seised in 1640. (fn. 28) The family removed to Peel Fold in Oswaldtwistle in the 18th century.

The Boltons of Bank Hey were tenants of the abbey in 1537, and continued here for two centuries. George Bolton of Little Harwood, yeoman, died in 1731, at the reputed age of 113 years. (fn. 29)

Tenements described as Bankhey were granted to John Braddyll in 1545; another, granted to John Dudley in 1575, was then in the tenure of Lawrence Whalley. (fn. 30)

John Clayton's house, with six hearths liable to the tax, was the largest in the township in 1666; one other house had four hearths and two had three. (fn. 31)

St. Stephen's Church mission room, near Roe Lee, was erected in 1886, and services are conducted in it by the clergy of St. Michael and All Angels', Blackburn.

A Wesleyan chapel was built in 1884 in the Whalley road.

In 1689 licence was granted for a Presbyterian meeting at the house of Richard Ingham. (fn. 32)


  • 1. The agricultural returns for 1905 give 1 acre of arable land, 616 acres of permanent grass and no woodland.
  • 2. A small portion of the township was added to the borough of Blackburn in 1877 by the Blackburn Borough Extension Act, 1877; the remainder was included in the borough by the Blackburn Improvement Act, 1879.
  • 3. Inclosure award in the county offices at Preston.
  • 4. See the account of Walton-le-Dale.
  • 5. The matter is obscure, but see the account of Dutton in Ribchester.
  • 6. The lands held by Page and Bury lay south of a ditch running from Elewynekar on the east to a lache on the west, which ran to the end of the Stonicausee and formed the western boundary. The other tenants' land lay west of a boundary running from Robert de Berdeworth's old dyke to the new boundary between Ralph and Henry de Clayton, saving two 'stanylondes,' and north of a boundary continued westward to the Saltemyre, and so to the Roside Brook; Norris D. B. M. no. 78.
  • 7. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 220.
  • 8. Towneley MS. OO, 1019; Add. MS. 32104, no. 942. It is a little uncertain whether the manor descended in the elder line of Clayton of Dutton or was acquired by Henry of Dutton from Ralph of Little Harwood.
  • 9. Norris D. 79. Osbaldeston recovered at the sessions at Lancaster a few months later from Thomas son of Henry de Clayton of Dutton four messuages, 200 acres of land, &c., in Little Harwood; Towneley MS. C 8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), S 113.
  • 10. MS. at Huntroyde; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 5, m. 3.
  • 11. Towneley MS. OO, no. 1020. Churchholt was for many generations the property of this family.
  • 12. Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 143. A writ of precipe issued to Thomas Osbaldeston in 1493 to hold an agreement touching the manor and lands here with William Heton, esq., and two others; Pal. of Lanc. Writs, Proton. Hen. VII.
  • 13. Margaret relict of Geoffrey Clayton recovered a third part of the manor in 1503 against John Clayton as her dower; ibid. 153. William Clayton of London, clerk, died 1476, was probably brother of Nicholas and Giles Clayton.
  • 14. Towneley MS. OO, no. 1023–4. It is somewhat strange that the stipulated redemption did not take effect, seeing that John Clayton's two daughters Ellen and Rose married into important Staffordshire families—Leveson of Wolverhampton and Grosvenor of Bushbury; Staff. Hist. Coll. iii, 90, 107; v (2), 159. Ellen seems to have been first married to Christ. Lister of Middop.
  • 15. Towneley MS. OO, no. 1036. William Clayton received Cunliffe House. In 1536 the lease was renewed for 71 years; ibid. 1034.
  • 16. Ibid. 1033, 1040; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. v, 64. An attempt by the Crown officers to claim the manor by title of Lord Mounteagle's testamentary dispositions was abandoned in 1564, and the manor confirmed to William Clayton by decree; Towneley MS. OO, no. 1040.
  • 17. Clayton D.; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxvi, 49.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. This messuage descended with the manorial estate, and was sold with it to Mr. Robinson in 1873 as Church Hill; Abram, Blackburn, 561.
  • 20. Clayton D. penes W. Farrer.
  • 21. Visit. (Chet. Soc.), lxxxiv, 84.
  • 22. Clayton D. In 1754 the family estates included property in Blackburn, Manchester, Ribchester, Walton-le-Dale, Farington, Great Hoole, Hindley, Westleigh and Pennington; ibid.; Hist. of Leeds and Liverpool Canal, by H. F. Killick; Letters penes W. Farrer. In 1758 Lady Stourton appointed John Clayton her gamekeeper of the manors of Rishton, Billington and Lower Darwen; Clayton D.
  • 23. Raines in Notitia Cestr. (Chet. Soc.) ii, 279.
  • 24. Abram, Hist. of Blackburn, says circa 1731; Baines, Lancs. (1871 ed.), says 1791.
  • 25. Clayton D.
  • 26. De Banco R. 280, m. 310; Cal. Pat. 1327–30, p. 110; 1345–8, p. 552; Kuerden MSS. Coll. of Arms, v, 84b.
  • 27. Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 320, m. 10 d.
  • 28. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxix, 62.
  • 29. Whalley Couch. 1224; Abram, Blackburn, 562.
  • 30. Pat. 36 Hen. VIII, pt. xi; 17 Eliz. pt. v. John Foster of Little Harwood, gent., held a messuage called 'le Banckehey' at his death in 1638 of the king by the three-hundredth part of a knight's fee; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxviii, 15.
  • 31. Lay Subs. Lancs. bdle. 250, no. 9 (hearth tax).
  • 32. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. iv, 230.