Townships: Bispham with Norbreck

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

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'Townships: Bispham with Norbreck', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7, ed. William Farrer, J Brownbill( London, 1912), British History Online [accessed 16 July 2024].

'Townships: Bispham with Norbreck', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Edited by William Farrer, J Brownbill( London, 1912), British History Online, accessed July 16, 2024,

"Townships: Bispham with Norbreck". A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Ed. William Farrer, J Brownbill(London, 1912), , British History Online. Web. 16 July 2024.

In this section


Biscopham, Dom. Bk.; Byspham, 1326.

Norbrec, 1195.

This composite township stretches along the coast for about 3 miles, and has an area of 1,624 acres, (fn. 1) including 1,119½ acres in Bispham and 504½ in Norbreck. The church lies close to the eastern boundary, about the centre of the township, with the village of Bispham a little to the south of it. A small detached part of Bispham lay at the south end of Layton; it was called Bispham Hawes, and was added to Layton in 1883. (fn. 2) Of the three hamlets, Little Bispham is inland to the north of the church, (fn. 3) with Norbreck to the west of it on the coast; Great Bispham occupies the southern part of the township. Angersholme is a farm in Norbreck. The population of the present township was 985 in 1901.

The coast-line is protected by hillocks about 50 ft. high, the inland portion being much lower. The principal road is that from Blackpool to Cleveleys, passing inland through the village and by the church. There is a road from the village to the shore, also one from Little Bispham to Norbreck. Formerly the principal road seems to have gone north along the coast, but it was undermined or washed away by the sea. (fn. 4) At present the electric tramway from Blackpool to Fleetwood passes along near the shore.

The soil is variable, with subsoil of clay. The people are mostly employed in agriculture, but there was formerly some hand-loom weaving.

Most of the dwellers in Great and Little Bispham seem to have signed the Protestation of 1641. (fn. 5)

By the churchyard there was a spring known as the Holy Well, now filled up. (fn. 6) A cross stood at Leys near Knowl, but has long disappeared. (fn. 7)

The township is governed by an urban district council of nine members.


Earl Tostig in 1066 held Bispham and Layton as parts of his lordship of Preston or Amounderness. The former manor was assessed as eight plough-lands. (fn. 8) Afterwards it was divided; one moiety was given to the abbey of Shrewsbury and the other to the lord of Warrington.

The former moiety, LITTLE BISPHAM and NORBRECK, was given to the monks by Roger of Poitou. (fn. 9) Between 1129 and 1133 Henry I ordered Stephen Count of Mortain to allow them to hold the moiety of Bispham free and quit of all customs, pleas and suits of the hundred court, (fn. 10) and a few years later David, King of Scots, confirmed the moiety, to be held as freely as in the time of any of his predecessors. (fn. 11) About 1270 the Abbot and convent of Shrewsbury granted their vills of Norbreck and Little Bispham to the Abbot and convent of Dieulacres, who already held the adjacent Rossall, in fee farm at a rent of 8 marks. (fn. 12) It thus became merged in the Rossall estate, and after the Dissolution was with it granted in 1553 to Thomas Fleetwood, (fn. 13) and descended in the same way. A manor of Chornet named in the inquisition after his death as part of the Rossall estate does not occur again. (fn. 14)

Shrewsbury Abbey. Azure a crozier in bend surmounted by a lion rampant or, all within a bordure of the second.

The other moiety, GREAT BISPHAM, was a member of the lordship of Layton and descended with it. (fn. 15) It was purchased in 1539 by John Browne and sold by him in 1550 to Thomas Fleetwood, (fn. 16) who, as just stated, soon afterwards purchased the rest of Bispham as appurtenant to Rossall.

Of the local families there is little on record. By a grant which may be dated about 1160 Robert Abbot of Shrewsbury restored to William son of the daughter of Aschetil, as to the right heir, one ploughland in Bispham which the said Aschetil had held in the time of Henry I at a rent of 4s. (fn. 17) As this deed has been preserved among the Shireburne muniments, the 5 oxgangs of land purchased by Walter de Shireburne from Roger son of Roger Noel and Maud his wife in 1310 (fn. 18) were probably part of the ploughland. The free rent of 2s. 6d. subsequently paid agrees with this supposition. (fn. 19)

Bispham gave a surname to residents. In the time of Henry III Richard de Bispham granted 2 oxgangs of land held of the Abbot of Shrewsbury to a nephew Adam, son of his brother Thomas, at a rent of 2d. in addition to the 12d. which was payable to the abbot. (fn. 20) In 1411–12 it was found that a former Abbot of Dieulacres had purchased a messuage and 10 acres in Bispham from Amery de Bispham without obtaining the royal licence. (fn. 21)

Norbreck (fn. 22) also provided a surname for residents, (fn. 23) but nothing definite is known of them. The Abbot of Shrewsbury and William de Bispham had some disputes in 1194 respecting the succession to 6 oxgangs of land in Norbreck. (fn. 24) In 1241 Richard de Dutton acquired 3 oxgangs of land in 'Norhicbiec'—supposed to be Norbreck—from Richard de Freckleton. (fn. 25) To the Abbot of Dieulacres were granted several parcels of land, (fn. 26) and he was in 1362 found to have acquired a messuage and 2 oxgangs of land in Norbreck from John de Leckhampton. (fn. 27) John Allen in 1490 claimed land, rent, &c., in Norbreck from Henry Pleasington, (fn. 28) and later the Allens were found to hold land there of the Fleetwoods of Rossall. (fn. 29) The same is true of other owners in that part of the township, (fn. 30) but in consequence of the alienations made by William Fleetwood of Layton lands in Great Bispham were usually said to be held of the king as of his duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 31)

In 1323 a complaint was made by William Boteler of the invasion of his turbary at Bispham by a number of the neighbouring landowners and tenants. These disputed the boundaries, stating that there were large moors and turbaries in the vills of Thornton, Carleton, Norbreck and Little Bispham, in which the plaintiff had no right, and when his men would have dug turves there Robert de Shireburne and the others prevented them. (fn. 32)

Angotsmoss, where the monks of Dieulacres had and gave rights, (fn. 33) is identified with the present ANGERSHOLME in Norbreck. (fn. 34)

In addition to Dieulacres, the priory of Lancaster had land in alms in Norbreck (fn. 35) and Great Bispham. (fn. 36)


  • 1. The Census Rep. 1901 gives only 1,346 acres, including 5 of inland water. There are also 473 acres of foreshore. The modern area differs from the ancient one by the inclusion of about 20 acres from Little Carleton in 1877 (Loc. Govt. Bd. Order 6910) and the loss of Bispham Hawes to Layton, about 300 acres.
  • 2. Loc. Govt. Bd. Order 14712.
  • 3. The houses round this are sometimes called Church Town.
  • 4. William Hutton (in his Description of Blackpool) in 1788 records something of this and tells the story of the Penny Stone, then standing half a mile out to sea: 'According to a tradition which was allowed by the whole country, a publichouse some ages back stood by that stone upon land as firm and high as that on which we were; and that iron hooks had been fixed to the stone to which travellers hung their horses while they drank their penny pots, from whence the stone acquired and still bears the name of Penny Stone.'
  • 5. The list of names may be seen in Fishwick, Bispham (Chet. Soc.), 20–1. A township assessment dated 1706 is printed ibid. 125–6.
  • 6. Ibid. 34.
  • 7. Ibid. 128.
  • 8. V.C.H. Lancs. i, 288a.
  • 9. Dugdale, Mon. iii, 519. Godfrey the Sheriff gave tithes of Bispham to St. Martin's Abbey, Sées; Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 299.
  • 10. Ibid. 273.
  • 11. Ibid. 274.
  • 12. Dugdale, Mon. v, 629. Certain tithes in Layton are mentioned. Accordingly in 1291 the rent of £5 6s. 8d. from Norbreck and Bispham was recorded among the possessions of the abbey; Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 309. After the Dissolution £7 6s. 8d. was received from Bispham, Norbreck and Thelwall; Dugdale, op. cit. iii, 528.
  • 13. Pat. 7 Edw. VI, pt. ix. Little Bispham and Norbreck were regarded as separate manors in 1622; Lancs, Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), ii, 315.
  • 14. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xii, no. 2.
  • 15. William le Boteler of Warrington and Sibyl his wife in 1326 purchased twothirds of an oxgang of land in Great Bispham; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 64.
  • 16. See the account of Layton.
  • 17. Shireburne D. at Leagram Hall.
  • 18. Final Conc, ii, 9. In 1312 Joan widow of Thomas de Singleton claimed the performance of an agreement as to 2½ oxgangs of land in Little Bispham against Roger Noel and Maud his wife, Maud being niece of Adam de Newton; De Banco R. 193, m. 87. See the note on Angotsmoss below.
  • 19. Richard Shireburne of Stonyhurst died in 1513 holding lands in Little Bispham of the Abbot of Dieulacres by 2s. 6d. rent; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. iv, no. 46. Thomas Shireburne held similarly in 1536 (ibid, viii, no. 33), but later the tenure was not recorded. For a 4s. rent see note 30 below.
  • 20. Lytham D. at Durham, 4 a, 2 ae, 4 ae, Ebor. no. 11. An Adam de Bispham gave all his land in Bispham and Norbreck to Shrewsbury Abbey; Chartul. (copy) in possession of W. Farrer, 70.
  • 21. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc.), i, 97. Amery occurs in 1354; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 3, m. 1.
  • 22. Theobald son of Walter had 3 oxgangs of land in Norbreck and about 1190 released them to the Abbot of Shrewsbury; Chartul. 144.
  • 23. They occur among the witnesses to local charters; Dieulacres Chartul. (William Salt Soc.), 347, &c. Robert son of Thomas de Norbreck released to Shrewsbury Abbey all claim in 2 oxgangs of land in Norbreck formerly held by his grandfather Ellis; Chartul. 147.
  • 24. Coram Rege R. 2, m. 13.
  • 25. Final Conc, i, 79.
  • 26. Richard le Boteler about 1260 granted the monks certain lands which he had purchased from William son of Alexander de Norbreck in Houkberch, the Holme and Faldworthings at 1d. rent; Dieulacres Chartul. 347.
  • 27. Inq. p.m. 36 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 120. The surname Leckhampton is of early occurrence in the Fylde district; e.g. Dieulacres Chartul. 348–9.
  • 28. Final Conc. iii, 142; Thomas Allen was called to warrant.
  • 29. George Allen in 1580 held his land, &c., in Norbreck of Edmund Fleetwood (Rossall) in socage, but that in Great Bispham of William Fleetwood (Layton); Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 80. Similarly in 1593; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 197–9.
  • 30. George Newsham of Newsham in 1585 held six messuages, &c., in Bispham and Norbreck of Edmund Fleetwood in socage by a rent of 4s.; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 88. In 1608 Thomas Tompson held part of a messuage, &c., in Norbreck of Edmund Fleetwood as of his manor of Norbreck by 18d. rent. Robert his son and heir was six years old; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc.), i, 134.
  • 31. William Bamber died in 1605 holding a messuage and land of the king by the thousandth part of a knight's fee. His heirs were two daughters, Anne (aged twenty-one) and Margaret (eighteen); ibid, i, 136. Richard Bamber in 1639 held his messuage, &c., by the twohundredth part of a knight's fee; John his son and heir was thirty-five years of age; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxx, no. 85. William Dobson died in 1623 holding a messuage and land in Great Bispham by the two-hundredth part of a knight's fee, also in Warbreck by a like service; he had common rights in Layton Hawes and Marton Moss. His heir was a son Richard, aged forty; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc.), iii, 435. John Singleton died in 1623 holding a messuage and land by knight's service; his son and heir John was forty-eight years of age; Towneley MS. C8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), 1071. This family was of the Knowl in Great Bispham; Fishwick, Bispham (Chet. Soc.), 115. John Salthouse, 1629, held similarly; William his son and heir was thirty years old; C 8, 13, p. 1073. The tenure is not stated in the case of Richard Tinckler of Bispham, who died in 1627, leaving as heir a son Christopher, aged forty; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxvi, no. 15.
  • 32. Coram Rege R. 254, m. 42. The lords of the vills named were Adam son of William Banastrc, Lawrence de Thornton, Randle Gentil, the Abbot of Dieulacres, Robert de Shireburne and Henry de Carleton.
  • 33. In 1252 William de Newton, son of Richard de Bispham and Hawise widow of Richard, allowed the monks free passage for their sheep which came to be washed in Little Bispham Mere; Dieulacres Chartul. 349, 351. A number of tenants—Sir William de Carleton and others—gave up all opposition to the claims of the monks in the common moss of Angotsmoss and Little Bispham mere, and William le Boteler afterwards gave a similar release; ibid. 350–1,
  • 34. Fishwick, Bispham, 127.
  • 35. Adam son of Robert de Norbreck granted all the land in the vill of Norbreck formerly held of him by Amery de Leckhampton; Lanc. Ch. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 435.
  • 36. William le Boteler granted an oxgang of land formerly held by Adam son of James; ibid. 436.