A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Rughelegh, 1323; Rughlegh, 1324.
This township extends in a north-easterly direction from Newchurch, and has an area of 1,140½ acres, (fn. 1) almost evenly divided by the winding valley through which the stream of Ogden, here called Roughlee Water, passes east, north and east to Barrowford. Roughlee proper is about the centre of this part of the valley. The southern half is occupied by two ranges of hills, between which is Dimpenley Clough. In the south-west corner is part of the village of Newchurch, above which the hills attain 1,000 ft. above sea level; to the south-east, beyond Dimpenley, they rise again to 850 ft. Thornyholme and Ridgaling (Ridge o' ling) lie on opposite sides of the clough, to the north-east. The northern half is also hilly, rising to over 1,000 ft. at Brown Hill and Stank Top on the western boundary. Castor Gill forms the northern boundary; its stream flows east to Blacko Water, which is a tributary of Roughlee Water. In 1901 there was a population of 301.
There is a cotton mill at Roughlee, and some bleaching is done. The soil is clay, overlying rock; it is almost entirely used for pasture, there being no arable land; 1,129 acres are in permanent grass and 14½ in woods or plantations. (fn. 2)
The township is governed by a parish council.
The place was formerly called Roughlee Booths, for there were two vaccaries in it, called Over and Nether Roughlee. The two yielded 56s. in 1324, (fn. 3) when Richard de Marsden and Richard de Grenacre were the farmers. (fn. 4) In 1423 Richard Shireburne held the vaccary of Over Roughlee at farm for £4, an increase on the old rent of 5 marks, while Robert Blakay had Nether Roughlee for £4. (fn. 5) In 1459 both of the vaccaries were held together for a rent of £8 as against a former £9 by William Nutter, Thomas Robinson, Christopher Baldwin and Peter Jackson. (fn. 6) Three years later William Leyland obtained a grant of the herbage and pasture of a number of the vaccaries in Pendle, including the Roughlee Booths; in 1466 he obtained a ten years' lease of them, (fn. 7) but in 1474 William Nutter held them at £8 rent. (fn. 8) A lease for seven years at the same rent was in 1484 granted to Hugh Gartside and Nicholas his son, (fn. 9) and in 1495 Thomas Walton was the tenant. (fn. 10)
In 1507 the pasture and vaccary called Over Roughlee and Nether Roughlee, otherwise Roughlee Booths, old rent £9, were demised by copy of Court Roll for £13 6s. 8d. a year to Christopher Baldwin, Christopher Smith, Peter Smith, John Smith, John Bibby, Henry Mitton, William Mitton, Richard Nutter, Lawrence Nutter, Piers Robinson, John Robinson, Bertram Robinson and Nicholas Robinson. (fn. 11) The five principal copyhold tenants in 1527 were John Hartley, Miles Nutter, William Baldwin and the wives of Christopher and John Baldwin. (fn. 12) John Smith of Roughlee was a freeholder in 1600. (fn. 13) John Cunliffe, Christopher Baldwin and Roger Mitton had the largest holdings in 1607 (fn. 14); and Christopher Baldwin (late Henry Baldwin), John Hartley and John Cunliffe in 1662. (fn. 15)
The most interesting personage connected with Roughlee is Alice Nutter, one of those accused of witchcraft, and hanged at Lancaster in 1612. She was the wife of Richard son of Miles Nutter, and had a son Miles and other children; her paternal name does not appear to be known. She stood out from the others accused as being 'a rich woman, [who] had a great estate and children of good hope: in the common opinion of the world, of good temper, free from envy or malice.' The charges against her were that she was present at the witches' meeting at Malkin Tower, and that with old Elizabeth Device she had conspired to kill Henry Mitton of Roughlee because he had refused to give Device a penny. She resolutely denied her guilt; as the recorder says, 'she died very impenitent, insomuch as her own children were never able to move her to confess any particular offence or declare anything, even in articulo mortis.' (fn. 16) The estate of Roughlee Hall has been recently acquired by Mr. Henry Bulcock of Burnley.
ROUGHLEE HALL stands in a picturesque situation a short distance from the left bank of Pendle Water, which here flows in a north-easterly direction. It is a long low two-story 16th-century building, built of local stone and with stone slated roofs. The house is now in a very dilapidated state and is fast going to ruin, only the north wing being inhabited, and presents a very desolate appearance, nearly all the windows being built up. The end wings have a projection of only 3 ft., which together with the rather unusual length of the building, which is over 90 ft., gives it a rather flat and low appearance. The plan follows the usual type of central hall and end wings, the hall window being of nine lights, with smaller three-light windows on each side. The other windows are of six, seven, eight and nine lights, all with rounded heads and without transoms. The lower windows in the south-west wing have, however, been replaced by square sashes, which in their turn have been built up in brick. There is a large projecting stone chimney, with two diagonally-set shafts and ornamental panelling below at the northeast end, and another plainer chimney at the back of the south-west wing; and at the south end of the building is a small one-story projection under a leanto roof, in the lower part of the wall of which is an inscribed stone, now nearly illegible, but said to read, 'This house was builded by M. N. in the year of Our Lord 1536.' (fn. 17) The initials are those of Miles Nutter. The house is sometimes known as the Witches' Hall, it having been the residence of Alice Nutter.
Wesley preached in Roughlee about 1747 and later, and the Wesleyan Methodists have a chapel there. (fn. 18)