Townships: Garstang

Pages 311-313

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

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Cherestanc, Dom. Bk.; Geresteng, Grestein, 1204; Gayrestan, 1236; Gayerstang, 1246; Gayrstang, 1274; Gayrestang, 1292.

This township, which gives its name to the parish, (fn. 1) extends for about 2 miles along the western bank of the Wyre, but its breadth seldom exceeds half a mile, and the area measures but 502½ acres. (fn. 2) The little town of Garstang lies along the main road from Preston to the north, which here crosses the Wyre by a two-arched stone bridge. (fn. 3) At the south end of the town is the modern church, and at the north end is a station on the single-line railway which branches from the London and North-Western main line to go to Pilling and Knott End. (fn. 4) Various roads lead to Cockerham, Pilling and Churchtown. The Preston and Kendal Canal comes into the township by an aqueduct over the Wyre and crosses into Nateby.

The surface is generally even, between 50 ft. and 70 ft. above sea level for the most part, but at the north end attaining 100 ft. The population in 1901 was 808.

The relative importance of the place has greatly declined since the opening of the railway route to the North. There are no manufactures, and the land is entirely in pasture. The township is now governed by a parish council. Gas is supplied by a private company formed in 1880 (fn. 5) and water by the Fylde Water Board.

William Lancaster issued a farthing token in 1663. (fn. 6)

In 1690 Ogilby described Garstang as 'a good thoroughfare, with a market for corn, cattle, &, on Thursdays.' Pococke in 1750 thought it 'a very poor town'; he 'saw to the east the smoke of some iron-smelting houses, which are erected there on account of the great plenty there is of wood.' (fn. 7)

The market cross, restored in 1897, stands in the main street. Near it were formerly the well and pump and the fish-stones. The old stocks are preserved in the town hall. (fn. 8)


As already explained, Garstang usually denoted the lordship of Nether Wyresdale, but a smaller subordinate manor was created in 1246 in the present township of GARSTANG by one of William de Lancaster's death-bed gifts—that of 4 oxgangs of land, which he granted with his heart to Cockersand Abbey. (fn. 9) This manor, after the Suppression, was given by Philip and Mary to the Savoy Hospital (fn. 10); it afterwards reverted to the Crown, and was let on lease, (fn. 11) but was in 1750 sold to the lessee, the Hon. Edward Walpole, under a special Act of Parliament. (fn. 12) Through his daughter the lordship has descended to Mr. Bertram William Arnold Keppel of Lexham, Norfolk. (fn. 13) Courts baron have been held down to the present time.

In 1310 the canons of Cockersand obtained a royal charter for a market every Thursday at their manor of Garstang and a yearly fair on 28–9 June. (fn. 14) The right fell into abeyance, and Leland's statement that 'some said' it was a market town shows that markets had ceased to be held long before the Reformation. In 1597 Elizabeth granted the inhabitants a weekly market and two yearly fairs 'for the relief of the poor.' (fn. 15) In this way the distinction between Garstang Churchtown and Garstang Market-town became established, and now the latter is known as Garstang absolutely, the former being Churchtown.


In 1679 a charter of incorporation was granted by Charles II, constituting a free borough of Garstang with bailiff and burgesses. The charter appointed William Spencer the first bailiff, the office to be an annual one, and named the seven burgesses, who held for life. A common seal was allowed, and the market and two fairs, with court of pie powder, were ratified and extended. (fn. 16) Freemen were elected and a town hall was built. (fn. 17) The corporation was dissolved in 1886 under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1883, and the Garstang Town Trust was then formed to manage the property, viz. the town hall, with offices, warehouse and cottage, market tolls, piccage and stallage; fair tolls; furniture of the town hall; two constables' halberds, a silver-topped staff, the common seal and documents. The gross income is about £50 a year; any balance over expenses is to be applied to the establishment of a library or other institution for the benefit of the inhabitants. (fn. 18)

In 1654 Jane Hodgkinson, widow, of Garstang, desired to compound for the two-thirds of her estate sequestered for recusancy. (fn. 19) Roger Green and Richard Richardson registered estates in 1717 as 'Papists.' (fn. 20)


In 1437 the inhabitants obtained a licence for one year for the chapel of Holy Trinity in Garstang. (fn. 21) This is supposed to refer to a chapel in what is now called Garstang. No clear evidence of its continuance is forthcoming (fn. 22) till 1646, when the Committee of Plundered Ministers made a grant of £50 a year from Royalists' estates in order to provide a minister for 'the chapel of the Market town of Garstang.' (fn. 23) Bishop Gastrell in 1717 found that it had no endowment, but was 'supplied by the vicar.' (fn. 24) In 1734 the churchwardens reported that service was 'seldom performed' there. (fn. 25) It was rebuilt on a new site in 1770, and some endowments were obtained. It is now called St. Thomas's, and has been enlarged and restored. (fn. 26) A separate district was assigned to it in 1881, (fn. 27) and the vicars are presented by the vicar of Garstang. The net value is £197. The following have been in charge (fn. 28) :—

1723 Thomas Parkinson (fn. 29)
1736 John Sutton, B.A. (Trin. Coll., Camb.)
c. 1738 John Hunter (fn. 30)
1762 James Fisher (fn. 31)
1773 John Moss (fn. 32)
1800 William Wayles Thornton, B.D. (Emmanuel Coll., Camb.)
1822 James Pedder, M.A. (fn. 33) (Christ's Coll., Camb.)
1835 William Armitstead
1879 George Boys Stones, M.A. (St. John's Coll., Oxf.)

A school was built in 1756, the lord of the manor, Sir Edward Walpole, granting a piece of land at the north end of the great street of Garstang at a rent of 2s. 6d. (fn. 34)

John Wesley visited Garstang in 1765 and 1770, but the Wesleyan Methodist chapel was not built till 1814. (fn. 35) He preached in the Congregationalist chapel, (fn. 36) which is of unknown origin, but the lease had thirty years to run in 1823. (fn. 37) A fresh beginning was made by the Congregationalists in 1829, and the chapel was altered and improved in 1868. A graveyard is attached. (fn. 38)

Roman Catholics during the time of the penal laws were served by the missionary priests harboured at a number of the houses in the district, such as Dimples in Barnacre (fn. 39) or Bowers House in Nateby. (fn. 40) They had a chapel in the town from 1784 until 1858, when the church in Bonds was opened. (fn. 41) The old building is now a public institute.


  • 1. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that it takes its name from the parish.
  • 2. 488 acres, including 13 of inland water; Census Rep. 1901. A small detached part of Cabus was added in 1887 by Loc. Govt. Bd. Order 20097. At the same time some adjustments were made with Barnacre township.
  • 3. The first Earl of Derby left £20 towards the building of a bridge here; V.C.H. Lancs, iii, 160, n. 6.
  • 4. This railway was opened in 1870 as far as Pilling, and completed to Knott End in 1908.
  • 5. Act 43 & 44 Vict. cap. 61.
  • 6. Lancs, and Ches. Antiq. Soc. v, 77.
  • 7. Ogilby, Bk. of Roads; Travels through Engl. (Camd. Soc.), i, 13.
  • 8. Lancs, and Ches. Antiq. Soc. xx, 197. Remains of two other crosses are known; the cross itself in one case is at Bowgrave; ibid. 201.
  • 9. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 165; it was then worth 2 marks yearly. The brief charter is in Cockersand.Chartul. (Chet. Soc), i, 281. This may be a confirmation or extension of a previous grant of 4 oxgangs of land (ibid. 280), the bounds of which aregiven—from Belanspot Ford to Kinersyke and thence to Tilversheimholme Ford beyond the Moss. Its history under the rule of the canons appears to have been unmarked by noteworthy incidents. An oxgang of land was in dispute in 1246; Assize R. 404, m. 6. Names of tenants, with their rents, from 1451 to 1538 will be found in the printed Chartulary, iii, 1272–5. In 1538 the abbots and canons leased their manor and other estates in the district to John Rigmaiden for ninety-nine years at a rent of £10 8s.; Fishwick, Garstang (Chet. Soc), 14.
  • 10. Pat. 4 & 5 Phil, and Mary, pt. xv. The advowson of the parish church was included. The master of the hospital gave a lease to Henry Saville, its term of ninety-nine years to begin on the expiry of the Rigmaiden lease. This prospective lease was acquired by John Rigmaiden and passed by the sale of the Wedacre estate to Lord Gerard; Fishwick, op. cit. 15. Thus in 1667 William Spencer and his wife Elizabeth were involved in disputes with Lord Gerard, with Thomas Green as to messuages held on lease, and with Hugh Barton and others as to the customs and tenant rights of the manor as observed by the abbey of Cockersand and the masters and chaplains of the Savoy Hospital; Exch. Dep. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 45. There was a fine respecting the manor of Garstang, &, in 1689 between Elizabeth Spencer, widow, and William Spencer and Mary his wife; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 224, m. 63.
  • 11. After the expiration of the leases named above the Crown in 1742 let the manor to William Hall, who transferred to the Hon. Edward Walpole, and he in 1751 obtained a fresh lease for thirty-one years; Fishwick, op. cit. 16–17; Pat. 25 Geo. II, pt. iii.
  • 12. 23 Geo. II, cap. 7, private. The Act was passed for the benefit of the town and district, it being represented that the lessee, having only a short lease, was discouraged from any attempt to improve it; Fishwick, loc. cit.
  • 13. Edward Walpole was second son of Sir Robert, the great statesman, created Earl of Orford in 1742. Edward was Chief Secretary for Ireland, created K.B. in 1753 (Collins, Peerage, v, 49) and died unmarried in 1784. His natural daughter Louisa, who received Garstang, was the wife of Dr. Frederick Keppel (son of the second Earl of Albemarle), Bishop of Exeter 1762–77 -s. Frederick of Lexham, d. 1830 -s. Frederick Walpole, d. 1858 -bro. (Col.) Edward George Walpole, d. 1859 -bro. (Rev.) William Arnold Walpole, d. 1888 -s. (Col.) William Henry Augustus, d. 1889 -s. Bertram W. A. Keppel, b. 1876; Burke, Peerage under Albemarle; Dict. Nat. Biog. lix, 205. The estate was offered for sale in 1867.
  • 14. Chart. R. 4 Edw. II, m. 22, no. 59; Cal Chart. R. 1300–26, p. 138. On the fair day, 29 June 1369, there came to the fair John de Derby, canon and warden of Cockerham, John de Chacoumbe and various men of Cockerham, with force and arms, to seek a certain Thomas and maltreat him, and this to the terror of the people and disturbance of the peace; Assize R. 451, m. 2. It does not appear that they found him.
  • 15. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1595–7, P. 347. The market was to be kept (on Thursday) on the street way and the fairs were to be held on 29 June and 11 November; Fishwick, op. cit. 59. The revived market became popular, and is noticed by 'Drunken Barnaby.' Blome in 1673 says there was 'a great market for corn, cattle, yarn and fish on Thursdays'; Brit. 135 (quoted by Baines).
  • 16. The charter is printed by Fishwick, op. cit. 59; here also may be seen the seal (ibid. 68) and extracts from the town's books (61–7). The annual meeting of the corporation used to be held on 29 September. The weekly market on Thursday was continued by the charter and the fairs were extended to two days each, viz.28–9 June and 10–11 November. The June fair has long been discontinued, but the Martinmas fair (affected by the change of style) is held still on 22–3 November for cattle and horses. A market-house was built in 1843 and the Thursday market continues. There is no authority that a charter of incorporation was granted in 1314, but 'burgages' occur in Kirkland. An additional fair instituted in 1830 to be held on 12–13 April has ceased to exist; ibid. 68.
  • 17. It was rebuilt 1755–64; Baines, Lancs, (ed. 1870), ii, 534.
  • 18. End. Char. Rep. for Garstang, 1899, pp. 21–3. There are eleven trustees— two ex officio, viz. the guardians of the poor for the parish, four elected by the parish council, one nominated by the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society—a noteworthy case—and four co-optative, appointed by the other trustees to serve for seven years. It is added that several of the old freemen were living and were exempt from the fair and market tolls.
  • 19. Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), iii, 231.
  • 20. Estcourt and Payne, Engl. Cath. Nonjurors, 142.
  • 21. Raines MSS. (Chet. Lib.), xxii, 409.
  • 22. Robert Beck, draper, of Manchester in 1556 left 16s. 8d. towards the buying or making of a chalice for 'the chapel of Garstang'; Piccope, Wills (Chet Soc), i, 84.
  • 23. Plund. Mins. Accts. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 24. It is called 'the chapel of Garstang' in 1648; ibid. 63. Thomas Smith in 1648 signed the 'Harmonious Consent' as 'preacher at Garstang Chapel,' but he had removed to Cockerham by 1650. Edward Lawrence was there in 1656; Fishwick, op. cit. 137. In 1650, 'the chapel at Garstang market being two miles distant from the parish church and in the high road between Preston and Lancaster,' the people of the neighbourhood desired it to be made a parish, with a minister and a 'competent maintenance'; Commoniw. Ch. Surv. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 150.
  • 24. Notitia Cestr. (Chet. Soc), ii, 412.
  • 25. Visit. Ret. at Chester. In 1743 service was performed every Sunday afternoon, excepting those days when the sacrament was administered at the parish church; ibid.
  • 26. The title being defective, the chapel was not consecrated until 1848; Notitia Cestr. ii, 413. Some details are given by Fishwick, op. cit. 100–1. A descriptive account is given in Hewitson, Our Country Churches, 477–81.
  • 27. Lond. Gaz. 18 Jan. 1881.
  • 28. This list is mainly derived from Fishwick, op. cit. 102–4, where further details may be found.
  • 29. Parkinson, Old Church Clock (ed. 1880), 187–90.
  • 30. Afterwards curate of Pilling.
  • 31. Afterwards vicar of Garstang.
  • 32. Hewitson, op. cit. 481.
  • 33. Afterwards vicar of Garstang.
  • 34. End. Char. Rep.
  • 35. Hewitson, op. cit. 492.
  • 36. Fishwick, op. cit. 124, citing R. Allen, Methodism in Preston.
  • 37. B. Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. i, 196.
  • 38. Ibid. 191–203; Hewitson, op. cit. 482. The cause was injured by the secession of the more extreme Calvinists in 1828; see Nateby.
  • 39. See Tyldesley Diary, 94, 158.
  • 40. Ibid. 59. In 1687 Bishop Leyburn had at Nateby Hall confirmed 1,052 Roman Catholics; ibid. 22.
  • 41. Fish wick, op. cit. 121.