Townships: Thurnham

Pages 101-105

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.

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Tiernun, Dom. Bk.; Thurnum, 1212; Thirnum, 1282.

Thurnham, from its position on the south side of the Lune estuary and cut off from Ashton by the Conder on the north-east, belongs rather to Cockerham than to Lancaster; yet the larger part of its area of 2,096½ acres (fn. 1) lies within the latter parish— viz. 1,315½ acres. This part also includes Glasson, at the mouth of the Lune, which forms a port for Lancaster, having since 1787 had a dock; it has the terminus of the single-line railway from Lancaster, opened in 1887, and also that of a canal branching at Galgate from the Preston and Lancaster Canal, formed in 1826. The hamlet of Higher Thurnham is in Lancaster parish, but Lower Thurnham, with the hall, is in Cockerham. Cockersand Abbey, extra-parochial, is sometimes considered a hamlet of Thurnham. The population numbered 540 in 1901.

The principal road is that from Lancaster to Cockerham going south through the eastern side of the township. To the west of this road the land is flat and lies very low, but to the east, between the road and the canal and Conder, is a tract of higher land, 100 ft. above sea level being attained, in which are the hamlets just named and the hall with its wellwooded grounds. Other roads connect Glasson with Conder Green and with Thurnham, and from Upper Thurnham a minor road leads west to Cockersand Abbey. The railway and the canal, which is little used, have been mentioned. There is a ferry across the Lune from Glasson to Overton.

The township has a parish council.

Wheat, oats, potatoes and clover are grown. The soil is loam with clay subsoil, but on the north clayey with marl subsoil. There is a graving dock at Glasson and ships are repaired there. The first vessel built at it was launched in 1838. (fn. 2) There is also a custom-house.

Simon George Bordley, a priest-schoolmaster of some note, was born in Thurnham in 1709 and died in 1799. (fn. 3)


Before the Conquest THURNHAM, which was assessed as two plough-lands, was a member of the Halton fee, being held in 1066 by Earl Tostig. (fn. 4) Afterwards it is found to belong to the lordship of the Lancaster family, (fn. 5) and was held of them by the Flemings of Aldingham in Furness. (fn. 6) Their tenure was sometimes described as knight's service and sometimes as socage. A rent of either 20s. or 13s. 4d. was payable to the heirs of Lancaster; afterwards it was 6s. 8d. only perhaps by composition with some of the heirs. (fn. 7) It thus descended to the Harringtons of Aldingham, (fn. 8) and through Bonvill to Grey, being held by Henry Grey Duke of Suffolk, executed for treason in 1554. The duke had in 1552 sold it to Thomas Lowne, citizen of London, (fn. 9) who transferred it at an advanced price to Robert Dalton of Bispham in 1556. (fn. 10)

John de Harrington in 1315 obtained leave to inclose a park at Thurnham from Thomas Earl of Lancaster, (fn. 11) and a charter of free warren was granted by the king in 1318. (fn. 12)

The earlier history of the Dalton family has already been told. (fn. 13) Robert Dalton, by his marriage with Anne daughter of John Kitchen of Pilling, obtained the site of Cockersand Abbey, adjoining Thurnham, and in 1558 added Aldcliffe and Bulk by purchase from the Crown. A pedigree was recorded in 1567. (fn. 14) Robert Dalton died in 1578 without issue, and left his estates to his namesake, son of his brother Thomas, an infant two months old. (fn. 15) The younger Robert, a recusant in religion, (fn. 16) grew up and held possession till his death in 1626, (fn. 17) when he was succeeded by his son Thomas, born in 1609. Like the Roman Catholic gentry in general, he proved himself an ardent Royalist at the outbreak of the Civil War, raised a troop of horse, (fn. 18) and was fatally wounded at the second battle of Newbury, 27 October 1644; he died at Marlborough a week later. (fn. 19) His estates were of course seized by the Parliament for his recusancy and delinquency (fn. 20); but Robert his son and heir being only five years of age, there was probably some delay, and no record of the proceedings has been preserved.

Dalton of Thurnham. Azure a lion rampant gardant within an orle of eight crosslets argent.

Robert Dalton, who recorded a pedigree in 1664, (fn. 21) left two daughters to inherit at his death in 1700. (fn. 22) Elizabeth, the elder, married William Hoghton of Park Hall in Charnock, and had Thurnham, Bulk and other estates; Dorothy, the younger, married Edward Riddell of Swinburne Castle, Northumberland, and received Caton and a moiety of Aldcliffe. John the son of William and Elizabeth Hoghton assumed the surname of Dalton in 1710, and succeeded his father in 1712. (fn. 23) He was a strong Roman Catholic and Jacobite, (fn. 24) and on the invasion in 1715 joined the Pretender's forces at Lancaster and marched with them to Preston, where he was taken prisoner. His life was spared, (fn. 25) and his estates, in which he had only a life interest, were redeemed by him for £6,000. (fn. 26) He died in 1736 and his son Robert in 1785. (fn. 27) John Dalton, son of Robert by his first wife, had several children, (fn. 28) but the heirs at his death in 1837 were two daughters, Lucy wife of Joseph Bushell, who died without issue in 1843, and Elizabeth, who died at Thurnham in 1861 unmarried.

Under a settlement made by John Dalton with the object of barring out of the estate his halfbrother William Hoghton Dalton, who was a Protestant, and his descendants, the manor then went to a cousin, Sir James George Fitzgerald, (fn. 29) who on succeeding took the additional surname of Dalton. He died in 1867, and was followed by his brother Gerald Richard, who likewise prefixed Dalton to his surname. At his death in 1894 Thurnham went to William Henry Dalton, son of the above-named William Hoghton Dalton of Park Hall, (fn. 30) half-brother of John Dalton. Mr. W. H. Dalton, who had a good deal of litigation on succeeding, died in 1902, and was followed by his son Mr. John Henry Dalton, aged twenty-eight.

THURNHAM HALL stands on slightly rising ground about a quarter of a mile from the left bank of the River Conder in the eastern part of the township, and is a three-story stone-built house, erected probably by Robert Dalton soon after his purchase of the property. The front of the building faces west, and is said to have had originally three gables with an embattled porch and mullioned windows, and in front a 'spacious courtyard protected by six square embattled towers, three on each side, connected by lofty curtain walls.' (fn. 31) In 1823, however, the old front was pulled down and the present pseudo-Gothic facade erected, with corner turrets and embattled parapet. Of the courtyard and inclosing walls, if ever they existed, there are now no remains. The front, which is faced with ashlar, is about 100 ft. in length, with square and four-centred headed windows, the middle part slightly projecting, with a porch, or vestibule to the hall, 34 ft. in length, on the ground floor, projecting 9 ft. from the main building. The house has been for long unoccupied, and is now in a state of dilapidation. It had apparently undergone some process of restoration or rebuilding before the addition of the new front, some of the work in the older part at the back being apparently of 18th-century date, very few of the original mullioned windows remaining. There have been additions at the north-east end, the first an extension or rebuilding northwards of the original east wing, and later, but apparently in the 17th century, a long two-story brick wing at right angles, now used as a residence for the caretaker. The brick wing has, however, been restored in recent times and new windows inserted. A domestic chapel in the Gothic style was added at the south end of the house by Miss Dalton in 1854–5.

Thurnham Hall: West Front

The hall, which is 39 ft. by 24 ft., is probably a reconstruction of the original 16th-century apartment and is 12 ft. high, with plastered ceiling and flagged floor. The walls are panelled to a height of 8 ft. 3 in. with grained deal wainscot, but the hop pattern plaster frieze above appears to be of 17thcentury date. The arms of Dalton and Gage, which appear on the porch outside and again in the vestibule, have been introduced on to the frieze in 1823, and the fireplace, over which are two shields with the arms of (1) Dalton quartering Fleming and (2) Dalton and Fleming impaling Middleton, is modern. The ceiling is supported by two modern classic columns, and the west side of the room, the wall of which is 4 ft. thick, is open by two arches to the vestibule, which measures internally 31 ft. 3 in. by 6 ft. 9 in. The rooms north and south of the hall are now dilapidated, but preserve the classic decoration of the early 19th-century rebuilding, in contrast with its pseudo-Gothic exterior. Most of the rooms on the first floor are also neglected, the floors in many cases being broken. The drawing-room is immediately over the hall and of the same dimensions. Two hiding-places have been discovered in the upper floor in recent times, one entered through a square opening about 4 ft. from the floor covered with a large stone moving on a pivot. (fn. 32)

The chapel is 34 ft. 3 in. by 14 ft. 9 in., and has a turret containing a bell on the south side. The sanctuary is at the west end, and there is an eastern gallery approached both by stairs from below and from the first floor of the house. On the north side, at the level of the first floor and approached from it, is a recessed pew containing a fireplace. The chapel, like the rest of the building, is now in a state of dilapidation. A carved chest formerly kept in the chapel is now at the priest's house at Thurnham. (fn. 33)

Inserted within one of the built-up windows at the north end of the house, near the front, is the stone inscribed 'Catholicae virgines,' &c., brought here from Aldcliffe Hall.

The family portraits are now at Bygods Hall, Essex. (fn. 34)

The Historical Manuscripts Commission has reported on the deeds at Thurnham Hall. (fn. 35)

Robert Middleton of Thurnham, who had lands in Lancaster (the Friars) and Warton, suffered sequestration in 1643 for his recusancy. He died in 1652, having bequeathed all his estate to William Cobb, who then petitioned for the removal of the sequestration. (fn. 36) Several 'Papists' registered estates in 1717. (fn. 37)

The canons of Leicester allowed Michael de Furness to build a chapel in Thurnham, (fn. 38) but it is not known that worship was maintained there. The hall was probably a refuge for the missionary priests in the times of the penal laws against the Roman Catholic religion, (fn. 39) and in the Tyldesley Diary there are notices of 'prayers'—i.e. mass—being said there in 1712. (fn. 40) The churchwardens of Cockerham in 1738 reported to the Bishop of Chester that there was 'a place where it is supposed Papists resort to hear mass at Thurnham Hall.' (fn. 41) The continuous history of the existing mission begins in 1785, and the old chapel was built in 1810. The present church of SS. Thomas the Apostle and Elizabeth of Hungary was built in 1847–8. (fn. 42)

At Glasson Dock, in the parish of Lancaster, Christ Church was built in 1840 for the Church of England. The perpetual curates are appointed by a body of five trustees.


  • 1. The Census Rep. 1901 gives 1,658 acres, including 32 of inland water. There are also 40 acres of tidal water and 240 of foreshore.
  • 2. Time-honoured Lanc. 577.
  • 3. Gillow, Bibl. of Engl. Cath. i, 272.
  • 4. V.C.H. Lancs, i, 288b.
  • 5. This is stated in a pleading quoted below, as well as an inference from the later inquisitions. It was William de Lancaster II who founded Cockersand Abbey in 1184, Askelcross being probably taken from Thurnham; Cockersand Chartul. iii, 758. Thurnham was part of the Lancaster inheritance in 1301; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 213. John de Harrington was in 1347 found to have held the manor of Thurnham as of the lands formerly of William de Coucy and of Thomas de Thweng by the rent of 13s. 4d. yearly. The king had granted the Coucy moiety of this rent to Adomar Darcy; Inq. p.m. 21 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 53. A somewhat different account of the tenure was given after the death of the next John de Harrington (1363)—viz. that he held the manor (except Henwra) of Sir Thomas de Thweng, Sir Walter Fauconberg and John de Coupland by the service of 20s. yearly, while the place called Henwra was held of Miles de Stapleton by 2s. 4d. rent; ibid. 37 Edw. III (2nd nos.), no. 32. Thomas de Thweng died in 1374 holding the free service of Robert de Harrington for the manor of Thurnham, viz. a rent of 6s. 8d.; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc), i, 6. Joan widow of John de Coupland died in 1375 holding the service of Robert de Harrington for the manor of Thurnham (4s. 6d. yearly) as of the moiety of the manor of Ashton; Inq. p.m. 49 Edw. III, pt. i, no. 29. Isabel wife of Sir Walter Pedwardine was in 1405 found to hold the service of Sir Robert Harrington for the manor of Thurnham—viz. 6s. 8d.; ibid. 6 Hen. IV, no. 22. Sir Robert Harrington died the following year holding the manor of Thurnham of Sir Robert Pedwardine in socage by 6s. 8d. rent; ibid. 7 Hen. IV, no. 55. Sir John Harrington held similarly in 1418; ibid. 6 Hen. V, no. 25. The service of 6s. 8d. due from Thurnham is recorded again after the death of Walter Pedwardine in 1430; ibid. 9 Hen. VI, no. 7.
  • 6. An account of the family will be given under Aldingham. William son of Michael de Furness granted land in Thurnham to Cockersand Abbey about 1190; Chartul. iii, 757. William son of Sir William de Furness made a further definition of the bounds; ibid. 759. The former William (son of Michael) released to Leicester Abbey his claim in the wood between Haueston beck and Flakeflat; MS. Laud. H 72, fol. 46. In 1279 inquiry was made as to whether or not William de Furness held the manor on the day he died, without issue. He had a sister Margaret wife of Henry de Clifton and a niece Isabel wife of Robert de Arches, who claimed as next heirs. Aline widow of Richard de Cansfield was in possession and alleged that the Abbot of Cockersand held part; De Banco R. 30, m. 14 d. William must have been brother of Michael named below. In 1282 the pleadings were continued (ibid. 44, m. 36 d.; 45, m. 45 d.), and an agreement was made by which the right of Aline was acknowledged; Final Conc. i, 158. The pedigree was given in 1292, when the sheriff was ordered to make a division between the lands of the Abbot of Leicester and William de Cansfield in Thurnham: Michael (temp. John) -s. William -s. Michael (s.p.) -sister Aline -sons William (s.p.), John (s.p.) and William (plaintiff); De Banco R. 96, m. 305 d.; Assize R. 408, m. 45 d. The John de Cansfield (son of Aline) here mentioned was living in 1284, when he claimed the manor, of which Ingram de Gynes, Christiana his wife and Margaret de Ros had possession by reason of his minority. He alleged that William de Lancaster had granted the manor to one William de Furness (the plaintiff's ancestor) to be held by the rent of I mark a year; ibid. 54, m. 63 d. Agnes sister and heir of John and William de Cansfield (d. 1293) married Robert de Harrington, father of the John de Harrington who died in possession of Thurnham in 1347; Furness Couch. (Chet. Soc), i, 89, 482.
  • 7. This is shown by inquisitions already cited. The Coucy 6s. 8d. due to the Crown was in 1517 received by Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. v, no. 8.
  • 8. John de Harrington of Aldingham and Joan his wife held the manor in 1336; Final Conc, ii, 194. The Harrington inquisitions have been quoted above. The descant is: John -s. Robert -s. John -s. Robert -s. John -bro. William -da. Elizabeth, who married William Bonvill. Their granddaughter and heir Cecily married Thomas Grey Marquess of Dorset -s. Thomas, d. 1530 -s. Henry; G.E.C. Complete Peerage, i, 376; iii, 148. Thomas (Grey) Marquess of Dorset in 1530 held the manor of Thurnham of James Dukett by services not known; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. vi, no. 15.
  • 9. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 14, m. 85; besides the manor the sale included lands, two water-mills, twenty salt-pits, &c., in Thurnham, Glasson and Cockerham.
  • 10. Ibid. bdle. 17, m. 156; Trans. Hist. Soc. (new ser.), vi, 98.
  • 11. From an inspeximus and confirmation by Henry Earl of Lancaster in 1337, preserved among Mr. Dalton's deeds.
  • 12. Charter R. 12 Edw. II, m. 16, no. 67.
  • 13. See the account of Bispham in Leyland. Robert Dalton appears to have sold all his lands in that district in order to purchase Thurnham and other estates near Lancaster.
  • 14. Trans. Hist. Soc. (new ser.), vi, 100. This account of the family (by Mr. W. O. Roper) has been utilized in that here given.
  • 15. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 1. He held the manor of Thurnham, with messuages, water mill, &c., in Thurnham and Glasson; the manors of Bulk and Aldcliffe, with lands in Bolton, Lancaster, &c.; a fourth part of the manor of Hackinsall; the site of the Black Friars in Lancaster; the site of Cockersand Abbey, with lands in Ellel, Forton, Bankhouses, Pilling (the Tongues); lands in Croston, &c. In 1560 he gave Aldcliffe Hall and the Ridge in Bulk to his mother Jane (widow of William Dalton). In 1573 he settled Abbot's Carr on his brother Thomas and Anne his wife, with remainder to Roger and Richard, other brothers. In 1571 he gave a rent of £2 a year for life to Robert Walmesley of Lincoln's Inn. Thurnham was stated to be held of William Curwen, late of Gleaston in Furness, in socage by a rent of 6s. 8d.; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 1. The wills of Robert Dalton (1578) and Anne his wife (1593) are printed in Trans. Hist. Sac. Lancs, and Ches. (new ser.), vi, 117–18; they desired to be buried in Cockerham Church.
  • 16. He was one of those present at the Quernmore meeting in 1625; Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs, and Ches. (new ser.), vi, 104. He recorded a pedigree in 1613; Visit. (Chet. Soc), 32.
  • 17. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxv, no. 11, 12. The tenure of Thurnham was recorded as before. Thomas Dalton the son and heir was seventeen years old. Eight of the daughters are named.
  • 18. War in Lancs. (Chet. Soc.), 19. 'Mr. Dalton, a great recusant,' was at a meeting of Royalists at Hoghton Tower in July 1642; Civil War Tracts (Chet. Soc.), 21.
  • 19. Dugdale, Visit. (Chet. Soc), 94; Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs, and Ches. (new ser.), vi, 103.
  • 20. Cal. Com. for Comp. iv, 2559; petition (1650) of Elizabeth widow of Thomas Dalton, who seems to have married John Calvert. The papers extant refer almost entirely to the Aldcliffe estate of Thomas's sisters.
  • 21. Dugdale, loc. cit. In. 1665 Robert Dalton obtained from John Calvert and Elizabeth his wife a third part of the manors of Thurnham and Bulk, with messuages, dovecote, fishery, &c.; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 174, m. 119. He made a settlement of his manors of Thurnham, Caton, &c., in 1688; ibid, bdle. 220, m. 38. Robert Dalton was indicted for recusancy in 1678; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. iv, 109.
  • 22. His will is given by Mr. Roper. He had been imprisoned, with other 'popish gentry,' in 1689 as disaffected to the Revolution; ibid. 313, 374. There is a story about a search for arms in Hist, MSS. Com. Rep. xii, App. vii, 278.
  • 23. Tyldesley Diary, 65; he was buried at Cockersand Abbey.
  • 24. In the Diary just quoted are many references to him as 'Brother Dalton.'
  • 25. The evidence against him was clear; for the defence the vicar of Cockerham said that he had expressed some doubts as to his religion and had drunk King George's health; Roper, loc. cit.
  • 26. W. Stout, Autobiog. 80.
  • 27. A deed by Robert Dalton in 1740 concerning Thurnham, Ditton and Park Hall is in Piccope MSS. (Chet. Lib.), iii, 194, from R. 9 of Geo. II at Preston. It mentions his grandfather William Hoghton, his father John and his brother William (deceased).
  • 28. Burke, Commoners, i, 522. A feoffment of the manors of Thurnham, Glasson, Bulk and Ditton was in 1753 made by Robert Dalton, Elizabeth his wife, William Clavering and Katherine his wife; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 351, m. 191. An indenture of 1774 respecting the manors made by Robert and John Dalton is enrolled in Com. Pleas Recov. R. Trin. 14 Geo. III, m. 65. In 1799 there was a recovery of the manors of Thurnham and Bulk, the vouchees being John Dalton the elder and John the younger; Pal. of Lanc. Lent Assizes 39 Geo. III, rot. 7.
  • 29. He was son of James (d. 1839) son of James Fitzgerald by Bridget Anne daughter of Robert Dalton of Thurnham by his third wife. For this Fitzgerald family see G.E.C. Complete Baronetage, ii, 268.
  • 30. Misc. (Cath. Rec. Soc), v, 212.
  • 31. Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs, and Ches. (new ser.), vi, 116. But no authority for the statement is given.
  • 32. A Hewitson, Northward (1900), 124, where illustrations of the hidingplaces and a detailed account of their discovery are given.
  • 33. There is an illustration of the chest in Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Ches. (new ser.), vi, 97. Its history is given by Hewitson, Northward, 125.
  • 34. Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Ches. (new ser.), vi, 123–4, where a list of thirty pictures is given.
  • 35. Rep. iii, App. 246–7; v, App. i, 321.
  • 36. Royalist Comp. Papers, iv, 135–8.
  • 37. Estcourt and Payne, Engl. Cath. Nonjurors, 146–7. The names were: Thomas Ball, Robert Haresnape, John Noblett, Thomas Pennington and William Bordley.
  • 38. MS. Laud. H 72, fol. 46.
  • 39. In this, as in most other cases, the 17th-century history is unknown.
  • 40. Diary, 26, &c.
  • 41. Visit. Papers at Chester Dioc. Reg.
  • 42. Liverpool Cath. Annual.