Townships: Forton

Pages 106-108

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

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Fortune, Dom. Bk.; For ton, 1212.

This township, bounded on the west by the Cocker, has an undulating surface, the heights above sea level varying from 25 ft. to 100 ft. It lies in the hundred of Amounderness, and a small part is within the parish of Garstang. There is no village or hamlet of any size. The area measures 1,279½ acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 the population was 539. The main road from Lancaster to Garstang goes south through the east side of the township, while the Cockerham road between the same places crosses the south-west. There are cross-roads in the north and south of the township. The Preston and Lancaster Canal passes through the centre, having Forton Hall and Goose Green to the west, Clifton Hill and Killcrash to the east.

The township is entirely agricultural, almost all the land being in pasture. The soil is sandy loam and clayey, with a subsoil of marl.

There is a parish council. A school board was formed in 1875, the district including also Cleveley and Holleth. (fn. 2)


Earl Tostig held FORTON in 1066, when it was assessed as one plough-land, as part of his Preston lordship. (fn. 3) Later it was a member of the Garstang or Nether Wyresdale fee, and was granted by William de Lancaster I— except, apparently, the demesne and wood—to Warine de Lancaster. (fn. 4) The gift was confirmed by William's son; the vill was to be held as 2 oxgangs of land where twenty-four plough-lands made a knight's fee. (fn. 5) Henry de Lea, who was the son and heir of Warine, held it by knight's service in 1212, (fn. 6) but Warine had given one moiety to Aldred son of Hamlet, (fn. 7) and the other apparently to his own son Roger, who bequeathed it to his brother Adam; Adam de Lea obtained a confirmation from his brother Henry. (fn. 8)

William de Lancaster III between 1220 and 1246 granted all the land of Forton to Ellis le Fleming for a rent of four barbed arrows (fn. 9); he also gave to the canons of Cockersand in alms all his demesne land and his wood of Forton, (fn. 10) Ellis releasing to them his right to pannage. (fn. 11) William son of Ellis le Fleming Boteler afterwards gave them an ample release (fn. 12); while in 1262 they obtained by exchange a release of the right of the Lea family, (fn. 13) and thus became lords of the manor. They also obtained a number of minor grants from the tenants. (fn. 14) They came to an agreement with the canons of Leicester as to the tithes of the township, (fn. 15) and from that time Forton was an undisputed part of the parish of Cockerham. There is little else to relate of the Cockersand tenure. (fn. 16) John de Goosnargh in 1334 gave a messuage and 4 acres in Forton to the sacrist of the abbey that he might maintain the lights and other necessaries in the chapel of B. Mary of Cockersand. (fn. 17) After the Dissolution the manor was granted in 1543 to Thomas Holt of Gristlehurst, (fn. 18) and descended for more than a century in his family. (fn. 19) In 1666 Forton was purchased by the tenants, (fn. 20) and the manor ceased to exist. A house known as Forton Hall was in the 18th and 19th centuries in the possession of the Whitehead family, already noticed in the accounts of Claughton and Upper Rawcliffe. (fn. 21)

Furness Abbey received a grant of land from Henry son of Warine de Lancaster. (fn. 22) It was attached to the manor of Beaumont, near Lancaster, and held in the 16th century by the Corless family. (fn. 23)

Sir James Lawrence of Ashton in 1490 held the 'manor' of Forton of the king as duke by rendering a grain of pepper yearly. (fn. 24) The Harringtons of Hornby had an estate called Harrington Park, (fn. 25) which was in 1560 in the hands of Thomas Lord Mounteagle as parcel of the Hornby lordship. (fn. 26)

Forton was adopted as a surname, (fn. 27) but little can be said of this or other resident families. (fn. 28) In 1521 Thomas Gardiner and Elizabeth his wife sold a messuage and land in the township to George Allen. (fn. 29) George Allen of Rossall died in 1579 holding of Francis Holt in socage by a rent of 2d. (fn. 30) John Jackson of Forton held 4 acres there in 1630 by a free rent of 3s. 8d.; it had belonged to Cockersand. (fn. 31) Thomas Shireburne of Heysham in 1635 held a messuage and land of the assigns of Francis Holt. (fn. 32)

A few Forton people registered estates as 'Papists' in 1717. (fn. 33)

The commons were inclosed in 1785. (fn. 34)

As already stated, St. James's, built in 1889, has replaced the old chapel at Shireshead in Cleveley.

There is a Wesleyan Methodist chapel.

The Congregational church originated in 1707, when the Nonconformists were deprived of the use of Shireshead Chapel. Their minister, Eleazor Aray, established himself in Forton, and services there seem to have been maintained regularly to the present time. (fn. 35)

At Clifton Hill is the Roman Catholic chapel of St. Barbara and St. Catherine, opened in 1878, with a resident priest. (fn. 36)


  • 1. 1,278 acres, including 12 of inland water; Census Rep. 1901.
  • 2. Lond. Gaz. 8 Oct. 1875.
  • 3. V.C.H. Lancs, i, 288b.
  • 4. Cockersand Chartul. (Chet. Soc), ii, 365—mentioned in the confirmation.
  • 5. Ibid. The bounds began at the greater Eskebeck (viz. that nearer Garstang) as it fell into the Cocker, went up this stream to Ulvebeck, so to Rutandclough and Leikethwaites; from the south side of this last, where the green syke falls into Scrikebeck, to the Wyre; following the Wyre to the valley between Cleveley and Spereshefteshurst to Longley carr; thence by the water-course between Middleholme and Rosmeley as far as the starting-point. Sparrow-hawks and honey are named among the easements. Hugh de Morville, with the consent of Helewise his wife, confirmed to Henry de Lancaster the gifts which Warine father of Henry had received from his uncle William de Lancaster; ibid. 366.
  • 6. Lancs. Inq, and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 3.
  • 7. Cockersand Chartul. ii, 340; the rent was to be 3s., and Warine reserved the right to take sore sparrow-hawks found in his wood. Gilbert Fitz Reinfred gave a charter to Aldred concerning the fourth part of the vill; ibid. 343.
  • 8. Ibid. 339. Henry and Adam also gave land in Goscopethwaite and pasture rights to Cockersand Abbey; ibid. 353.
  • 9. Ibid. 362; the lord's mill is mentioned.
  • 10. Ibid. 337; the service of Henry son of William was included. Thomas de Rigmaiden, lord of Wedacre, gave a confirmation in 1363; ibid, i, 55, 64.
  • 11. Ibid, ii, 354; he was allowed to have twenty pigs in the wood.
  • 12. Ibid. 360–1; the grantor's demesne was in Slaithwaite. A list of thirteen tenants is given; they included Alexander de Forton, Henry de Haydock, Robert de Rowall and William de Nateby. The canons were to pay the rent of four barbed arrows to the heirs of Sir William de Lancaster. The date was between 1246 and 1268. William son of Ellis was probably brother and heir of Thomas, to whom his father had given all his land in Forton and who had acquired other parcels; ibid. 362.
  • 13. Final Conc. (Bee. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 141; the manor of Forton, except 40 acres.
  • 14. Hugh de Morville gave 20 acres in Swainscote; Cockersand Chartul. ii, 367. Aldred de Forton gave a number of acres, Adam de Lea confirming, and Simon the son of Aldred was also a benefactor; ibid. 340–2, 351. Aldred also gave 6 acres and a moiety of Nettlecarr to William de Boneville in marriage with his daughter Christiana; ibid. 343. Robert son of Adam de Forton (for the soul of his lord, Ellis le Fleming) and his son Randle, Richard son of Alexander, Richard son of Ivan, Henry de Haydock, John de Slathwaitehead, Hamelin de Crohahie, Thomas de Lickberg, Adam son of Swain de Cabus and others were benefactors; ibid. 344, &c. The field-names include Aldusbrook, Bagehurst, Brockhole, Dunesmoor, (H)Eskhow brook, Eskhowleyhurst, Greenriggs, Grimshead, Gafsuinescinkel or Grafsuunkil, Hervihead, Langwath ford (on the Cocker), Llnthwaite brook, Musethwaite, Nuthurst, Scamwathlithe storthes, Stockbridge, Swineburyhead, Switheleshead and Ulfthwaite.
  • 15. The two houses, Leicester and Cockersand, had the churches of Cockerham and Garstang, and the tithes of Forton, Crimbles, 'Muhtonkikel' and Eskhow(th) were claimed as of common right for Garstang. It was between 1235 and 1244 agreed that Cockerham should have the tithes, the Abbot and convent of Leicester paying a mark yearly to Cockersand by way of compensation for any loss; ibid. 381–4. William de Lancaster testified that Forton and Crimbles belonged to Cockerham; MS. Laud. H 72, fol. 46b.
  • 16. Rentals from 1450 to 1540 are printed in the Chartul. iii, 1276, &c.
  • 17. Add. MS. 32105, fol. 97b.
  • 18. Pat. 35 Hen. VIII, pt. iv.
  • 19. It is named among the Holt estates in the various inquisitions, fines, &c., relating to them; e.g. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xi, no. 46; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 158–62; ii, 81; iii, 372; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 75, no. 37. The manor was held of the king by knight's service.
  • 20. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 176, m. 44; Thomas Posthumus Holt and Anne his wife granted the manors of Forton and Spotland to Richard Pennington, esq., Richard Newsam, John Corles, John Fox and James Clifton. The four last-named were trustees for the tenants, and in 1667 conveyed to each tenant his share; Fishwick, Garstang (Chet. Soc), 32. Ambrose Bradshaw claimed tithes in 1677–8 against twenty-four tenants, who asserted that their lands were tithe-free; Exch. Dep. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 54.
  • 21. Fishwick, op. cit. 32, 254.
  • 22. Harl. Chart. (B.M.), 52, i, 1; it may be dated about 1206. This was an exchange, Henry receiving Muttuncnikel; he gave the monks pasture rights, &c. Robert rector of Garstang and John de Eskeout were witnesses.
  • 23. From disputes between 1552 and 1582 it appears that a George Corleyes held by copy of court roll until his death in 1542, when he was succeeded by his son William 'according to the custom of the manor,' paying a fine on entry; but the Crown lessee in 1552 made complaint; Duchy of Lanc. Pleadings, Edw. VI, xxviii, A 10. Margaret daughter and heir of John Corless about the same time claimed lands held by the above-named William, John was the son and heir of James Corless by Joan his wife, daughter of John Breydayne, the former holder (1467 and 1502), and William Corless, who held the deeds, claimed by conveyance. William also produced a grant from Henry Corless the elder to Henry the younger of a tenement called Slathwaite Head; Duchy of Lanc. Dep. Edw. VI, lx, C 1. James Cornish alias Corless in 1571 put in a claim as son of John son of James Corless; Duchy of Lanc. Pleadings, Eliz. lxxxi, C 7. Roger Dalton in virtue of a lease from the queen claimed the Furness land in Forton in 1582, but William Corless, the holder, said he had it from a former lessee, whose term had not then expired; ibid, cxxi, D 10. Robert Dalton died in 1578 holding the Abbot's Carr and other land in Forton of the queen by knight's service; but this seems to have been Cockersand land; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 1. A William Corless acquired a messuage, &c., from his brother George in 1597; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 58, m. 232. In 1417 Robert Corles gave land in Forton to his son Henry, who released it to Cockersand Abbey; Add. MS. 32107, no. 229, 195.
  • 24. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 122, 132.
  • 25. In 1346 John de Harrington the elder complained that various persons had cut down his trees at Cockerham; De Banco R. 348, m. 194.
  • 26. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xi, no. 1. Forton Manor is named in a list of the Harrington estates in 1572; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 34, m. 76, 80. Harrington Park was described as in Winmarleigh in 1664; Pat. 16 Chas. II, pt. i.
  • 27. See the deeds in the Cockersand Chartulary already referred to. In 1279 the Abbot of Cockersand granted land to Henry de Forton; Dods. MSS. cxlix, fol. 87b.
  • 28. Harper was an ancient name. It occurs in the Furness charter above quoted—Herbert the Harper. Christiana widow of Robert Wade was plaintiff in 1348; De Banco R. 355, m. 19 d. Some deeds relating to the Backhouse family are preserved in Add. MSS. 32105, fol. 97b, 138, &c.; 32107, no. 207, &c.; they show that William son of Jordan de Forton released his claim to Robert son of his brother Nicholas in 1352, and that Robert Nicholson of Forton in 1412 gave land to Henry son of Roger Nicholson. Thomas Backhouse, who married Alice (Cecily) daughter and co-heir of Henry Hodgson, was in possession of probably the same in 1449 and later (1503), his son Nicholas occurring 1499–1503. The lands were 'in Forton in the vill of Garstang.' In 1449 a messuage and land in the hamlet of Forton within the vill of Garstang were given to William Ambrose by Thomas son of Sir James Harrington, acting as trustee of Amice daughter and heir of John Porter of Freckleton; Add. MS. 32105, fol. 172b. Nicholas Cawson had Great Greenriggs in 1660; W. Farrer's D.
  • 29. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 11, m. 194.
  • 30. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 80. A similar return was made later; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 198.
  • 31. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxix, no. 78. The heir was a son Thomas, aged forty.
  • 32. Towneley MS. C 8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), 1083. The land appears to have been bought in 1579 from John Kemp and Janet his wife; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 41, m. 125.
  • 33. Robert Walker and Margaret his wife (at Winmarleigh); Ellen Green; John Robinson and Elizabeth his wife; Margaret Snape, widow; Estcourt and Payne, Engl, Cath. Nonjurors, 143, 144, 146.
  • 34. Lancs, and Ches. Antiq. Soc. vi, 123.
  • 35. Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. i, 181–91. The chapel is mentioned in a presentment to the Bishop of Chester in 1738; Visit. P. at Dioc. Reg.
  • 36. There had long been a private chapel at the house.