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)