Townships: Aldcliffe

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

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'Townships: Aldcliffe', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8, (London, 1914), pp. 48-49. British History Online [accessed 20 June 2024].

. "Townships: Aldcliffe", in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8, (London, 1914) 48-49. British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024,

. "Townships: Aldcliffe", A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8, (London, 1914). 48-49. British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024,

In this section


Aldeclif, Dom. Bk.; Aldecliue, 1212; Aldeclyve, 1292; Awcliff (xvi cent.) representing the current pronunciation.

Occupying rising ground on the east bank of the Lune, (fn. 1) where the river bed begins to widen into an estuary, Aldcliffe commands a good view over the river and the Little Fylde on the west. It has some lowlying marsh land in the north-west. The area is 1,016 acres, of which 27½ are salt marsh. (fn. 2) In 1901 the population numbered eighty-three. The chief road goes south from Lancaster to Stodday; minor roads and footpaths lead from it down to the riverside. The London and North Western Railway Company's branch line from Lancaster to Glasson Dock runs through the lower ground on the west side, and the Preston and Lancaster Canal touches the north-east border. The land is mostly in pasture. The soil is heavy.


In 1066 ALDCLIFFE was assessed as two plough-lands and formed part of the Halton fee of Earl Tostig. (fn. 3) Afterwards it was granted to Count Roger of Poiton, who in 1094 gave it in alms to the Abbey of St. Martin of Sees, (fn. 4) from which time it was held by Lancaster Priory (fn. 5) and then by Syon Abbey. (fn. 6) After the Suppression it was retained for a time by the Crown, (fn. 7) but in March 1557–8 it was sold, together with Bulk, to Robert Dalton of Thurnham. (fn. 8) After descending like the other Dalton estates, one portion of it went with Dorothy, the younger daughter and co-heir of Robert Dalton (who died in 1700), to the Riddells of Swinburne Castle, Northumberland, (fn. 9) while the rest, having been devoted to the maintenance of the Roman Catholic secular clergy, was confiscated by the government after an inquiry in 1716. (fn. 10)

Dalton. Azure a lion rampant gardant between eight crosslets argent.

Riddell. Argent a fesse between three garbs of rye azure.

One-fifth of the forfeited estate went to the informer, Robert Blackburn, as freehold. Richard Leigh of Newton-in-Bowland obtained a lease from the Crown for the other four-fifths, (fn. 11) and in this in 1724 he was succeeded by his son Benjamin Leigh, who acquired the other fifth from Blackburn in 1742, and bequeathed the whole estate to Robert Dawson, husband of his eldest daughter Isabel. Dying in 1769 Robert Dawson was succeeded by his only son John, who about 1800 purchased the leasehold fourfifths from the Crown, together with the manor and all customary liberties, including the right to maintain a baulk for taking salmon. (fn. 12) John Dawson died in 1804, and his only son Edward, who came of age in 1814, purchased the Riddell portion of the township in 1820. (fn. 13) He rebuilt the hall in 1817, and in 1820 inclosed 160 acres of the marsh by means of a long embankment, the merit of his work being recognized by the gold medal of the Society of Arts. (fn. 14) He died in 1876 and was succeeded by his son Mr. Edward Bousfield Dawson, the present lord of the manor and practically sole landowner. (fn. 15) Mr. Dawson was appointed Constable of Lancaster Castle in 1908. No courts have been held for the last century or more.

Dawson of Aldcliffe. Azure, between three arrows, points downwards, or, a cheveron ermine on a chief argent three daws proper, on a canton gules a mullet of the second.

There were disputes as to the boundary of the marsh (fn. 16) between the town of Lancaster and the lord of Aldcliffe, and a delimitation was made in 1610. (fn. 17)

The estate of Robert Serjeant of Aldcliffe was confiscated and sold by the Parliament in 1652. (fn. 18) William Walker, Mary Copeland and Henry her son registered estates as 'Papists' in 1717. (fn. 19)

As above stated, Aldcliffe Hall was a centre for missionary work in the times of persecution, but this ceased on its confiscation. (fn. 20) It was the residence, and apparently the property, (fn. 21) of the sisters (fn. 22) of the Thomas Dalton who was fatally wounded at Newbury in 1644. Two of them were living there unmarried thirty years later, and set up the inscription (fn. 23) :—

AÑO + 1674 DMI

The house itself thus became known as the 'Catholic Virgins.' (fn. 24) The depositions at the inquiry of 1716 showed that they left their interest in the estate to their nephew Robert Dalton of Thurnham in trust for the use of priests, of whom Peter Gooden was the first. He had a little school there for boys who might afterwards be sent to the seminaries abroad. (fn. 25)


  • 1. 'The western boundary of the township was the midstream of the Lune, which within my own recollection often ran close to the edge of Oxcliffe and Heaton Marsh; but by the Quay Commissioners' walls built in 1848 the channel was so diverted that more than 200 acres now adjoin Colloway Marsh and are lost to Aldcliffe'; note by Mr. E. B. Dawson.
  • 2. 779 acres, including 3 of inland water; Census Rep. 1901. There are also 34 acres of tidal water and 168 of foreshore.
  • 3. V.C.H. Lancs. i, 288b.
  • 4. Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 289. Aldcliffe and Bulk (Newton) were granted together and in later times were treated in union as if a single estate. The grant of Count Roger was confirmed later; ibid. 298. In 1212 and 1297 the prior held Aldcliffe and Newton (two plough-lands) in alms; Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 93, 294.
  • 5. In 1359 the Duke of Lancaster confirmed a sixty years' lease by the Prior of Lancaster to John de Ipre of the manor of Aldcliffe, with the services of free tenants, bondmen and tenants at will, at a rent of £20; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxii, App. 347. In 1360 the manor was held by John de Ipre at £20 rent; Rentals and Surv. portf. 9, no. 78–9. In 1384 the prior leased the manor to Peter de Bolron for sixty years at £10 rent; Cal. Pat. 1381–5, p. 482. In 1496 Thomas Bolron had land in Aldcliffe; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 146.
  • 6. The abbess's courts appear to have been held at Aldcliffe for this manor and Bulk; Baines, Lancs. (ed. 1870), ii, 568. The abbess and convent in 1462 granted their possessions in Lonsdale and Amounderness to John Gardiner of Ellel, 'gentilman,' at £100 rent; Exch. Augment. Off. Misc. Bks. xxxiii, no. 20. In 1522 the abbess leased her manors, &c., in Lonsdale to William Tunstall for twenty-one years at £100 rent; Pal. of Lanc. Sess. P. 22 Hen. VIII; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), i, 192; ii, 31. This lease was probably renewed, for a Francis Tunstall was a freeholder in Aldcliffe in 1600; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 229.
  • 7. Some manor rolls are preserved in the Record Office—Ct. R. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 183, no. 20.
  • 8. Pat. 4 & 5 Phil. and Mary, pt. viii. The manors of Aldcliffe and Bulk and the abbey's lands in Lancaster, Warton, Halton, Bolton and Scotforth were included in the same grant. The tenure was to be in chief by knight's service.
  • 9. Dorothy married Edward Riddell, who died in 1731. Their son Thomas took part in the Jacobite rising in 1715 and was imprisoned at Lancaster, but escaped from the castle and had the benefit of the general pardon. He was succeeded by a son Thomas, whose third son Ralph Riddell ultimately became the heir; he died in 1833. For pedigree see Surtees, Durham, ii, 129; Burke, Commoners, iii, 209. Edward Riddell in 1717 registered the manor of Caton and estate in Aldcliffe (both of which came to him with his wife Dorothy) as of the annual value of £118 13s. 5d.; Estcourt and Payne, Eng. Cath. Nonjurors, 145. Thomas Riddell was vouchee in a recovery of the manor in 1776; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 624, m. 5. Ralph Riddell had an estate in Aldcliffe in 1820; Baines, Lancs. (ed. 1836), iv, 544.
  • 10. Dep. Keeper's Rep. v, App. 97; Aldcliffe Hall and tithes had been given to 'popish and superstitious uses.'
  • 11. The account in the text is due to Mr. Leigh's descendant, the present lord of the manor.
  • 12. This right was lost by non-user during the three years preceding the passing of the Salmon Fishery Act.
  • 13. An Act dealing with the Riddell estates was passed in 1814; 53 Geo. III, cap. 97. Under it Aldcliffe was sold.
  • 14. Baines, Lancs. loc. cit.
  • 15. The exception consists of two fields and two cottages owned by the representative (non-resident) of an old Aldcliffe family.
  • 16. Ducatus Lanc. iii, 45.
  • 17. The 'old ditch' lying south and south-west from the Greenhill was allowed to the corporation as the limit. It now runs by Freeman's Wood. On their side the corporation were to allow 'the greatest part of the water descending from the close called Pinder Parrock to the said marsh ground'—this seems to be Lucy Brook—to run through Dalton's part of the marsh; Roper, Materials for Hist. of Lanc. (Chet. Soc), ii, 321–30.
  • 18. Index of Royalists (Index Soc.), 44. The name does not occur in Cal. Com. for Comp. His religion was probably his offence, for Robert Serjeant the elder occurs among the convicted recusants of the time of Charles II; Misc. (Cath. Rec. Soc.), v, 247.
  • 19. Estcourt and Payne, Engl. Cath. Nonjurors, 145.
  • 20. For a full account, from which the text is derived, see W. O. Roper in Trans. Hist. Soc. (new ser.), vi, 105–8.
  • 21. The manor of Aldcliffe, held of the king in chief by knight's service, was in 1626 given in trust by Robert Dalton for the benefit of his younger daughters; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxv, no. 12.
  • 22. There were eleven in all, but four, it seems, had died unmarried by 1664; Dugdale, Visit. (Chet. Soc.), 94. Seven of them were convicted of recusancy in 1640 and two-thirds of their estate at Aldcliffe was sequestered in consequence in 1643, when the Parliament obtained power; Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 109–14.
  • 23. The stone was removed to Thurnham Hall.
  • 24. It is so called by Bishop Cartwright in 1687; Diary (Camd. Soc.), 71.
  • 25. Depositions quoted by Roper; Gillow, Bibl. Dict. of Engl. Cath. ii, 526. Peter Gooden died 29 Dec. 1694 and was succeeded by Edward Hawarden, D.D., who is mentioned in Thomas Tyldesley's Diary. The writer went to 'prayers' and confession at Aldcliffe several times, including the midnight mass of Christmas 1713, when 'Dr. Hawarden preached gloriously.'