Townships: Overton

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

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'Townships: Overton', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8, (London, 1914), pp. 61-64. British History Online [accessed 20 June 2024].

. "Townships: Overton", in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8, (London, 1914) 61-64. British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024,

. "Townships: Overton", A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8, (London, 1914). 61-64. British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024,

In this section


Ouretun, Dom. Bk.; Ouerton, 1176.

Overton occupies the southern end of the peninsula between the Lune and Morecambe Bay, and is itself divided into two parts by an arm of the river. The western and smaller part is called Sunderland, formerly one of the landing-places of the port of Lancaster; the eastern part is Overton proper, with Bazil Point jutting into the Lune at the south and Colloway on the higher land, 100 ft. above sea level, at the north. From the village of Overton, lying near the centre of the main part, roads spread out in various directions—north to Heaton, south to the church and river-side, where there is a ferry to Glasson; south-west to Sunderland, across the sands, impassable when the tide is in; and north-west to Middleton. The area is 1,837 acres (fn. 1) including 43 of salt marsh. The population in 1901 was 346.

The village of Overton has an old-world air and consists largely of stone-built whitewashed cottages of 18th-century date, but some of the houses are older. That known as the North Farm has a doorway with a shaped head which bears the initials and date R. H. E. H. / T. H. / 1674. The house itself is of two stories with low mullioned windows, but most of the mullions have been cut away.

On the west shore of Sunderland is a stone with a copper plate inscribed to the memory of 'Poor Sambo, a faithful negro, who attending his master from the West Indies died on his arrival at Sunderland.' Verses added give the date as about 1720. Of Sunderland itself it is stated that after the opening of Glasson Dock in 1787 the trade and people deserted it and the sailors called it 'Cape Famine.' Later, however, it became a popular sea-bathing place. (fn. 2)

The rush-bearing used to take place on Holy Thursday. (fn. 3)

The township has a parish council.


In 1066 Earl Tostig held OVERTON, assessed as four plough-lands, as a member of his Halton lordship. (fn. 4) Later it formed part of the demesne of the honour of Lancaster, (fn. 5) the manor descending with the duchy to the Crown. Charles I in 1630 sold it to Charles Harbord and others, (fn. 6) who in turn sold in 1636 to trustees for the tenants, among whom, therefore, it became divided. (fn. 7)

Among the older free tenants were the greaves or reeves, who held half a plough-land in virtue of their office. (fn. 8) Another oxgang of land was held in thegnage. (fn. 9)

The services due from the tenants were similar to those in Skerton. (fn. 10)

For the year ending Michaelmas 1440 John Westfield, the greave of Overton, rendered a net sum of £18 17s. 7½d. to the king's receiver, partly in money and partly in wheat at 6s. 8d. the quarter. Of this Robert Green paid 2s. for 2 oxgangs of land held by serjeanty, and John son of John Rycons paid 8s. 1½d. for an oxgang of free land held in socage; Richard Berwick paid 2d. for 3 acres of free land, which was perhaps the land later held by the Lawrence family. The bond tenants paid 40s. in lieu of services in ploughing, &c., 16½d. for cowmale, £4 for twelve messuages and 10 oxgangs of land, each of 12 acres, 16s. for 2 oxgangs of 8 acres each, 29s. for 1 oxgang of 18 acres, and 32s. for another oxgang of 22 acres. The demesne tenants paid £9 4s. 2d. Inhabitants having no tenement paid 7½d. 'bone silver' in lieu of reaping the corn. There were a number of fisheries, some held by the community, others, as Kile (or Keel), Irneston and Sunderland 'at the foot of the water of Lune,' in the hands of Agnes Lawrence and others. The greave himself, in right of Alice his wife, daughter of Robert Groby, held a third part of the lands attached to the serjeanty, paying nothing; but he accounted for 26s. 8d. for the other two-thirds formerly held by Edmund Lawrence. The perquisites of courts amounted to 2s. 2d. (fn. 11)

A new rental was made in 1562; the total amount was £19 4s. 1d. (fn. 12)

Later the Cansfield family held land (fn. 13); their inheritance became divided between Southworth and Charnock. (fn. 14) A dispute as to a fishing called Thoresholme is mentioned in 1561. (fn. 15) Cockersand Abbey had land in Overton. (fn. 16)

The court of the manor is said to have enjoyed the privilege of proving wills under the seal of the manor in virtue of an immemorial right, but the custom ceased in the 18th century. (fn. 17)

Richard Hinde, (fn. 18) Richard Jackson (fn. 19) and Richard Westfield (fn. 20) had their estates sequestered for 'delinquency' under the Commonwealth.


The chapel (fn. 21) or church, of which the invocation is unknown, stands on an eminence about a quarter of a mile to the south-east of the village overlooking the Lune estuary, and consists of a transeptal chancel 23 ft. by 12 ft., nave 35 ft. by 15 ft., and north transept 32 ft. by 16 ft., all these measurements being internal. There is also a small bell-turret over the west gable. The church dates from the 12th century, and from discoveries made during the restoration of 1902 seems to have terminated originally at the east in a semicircular apse, (fn. 22) the total length of the building being 45 ft. The east end, however, was rebuilt in 1771, to which date the present chancel belongs, and the long north transept was added in 1830. The building is very plain in character, and, with the exception of the south doorway, has little architectural interest. At the same time that the chancel was built the original 12th-century windows, which, from the testimony of people living in 1820, were 'small, round-headed and without mullions,' (fn. 23) were removed and the present square-headed ones substituted (fn. 24); but traces of the old openings have been found in both the north and south walls. The church, which was then filled with high pews arranged anyhow, and was described as 'desolate and uncomfortable,' (fn. 25) was restored in 1902, when the old pews were removed, the chancel rearranged and new seating erected.

The west wall is thicker than those on the north and south, which are built up against it, and may be of rather earlier date. The evidence of the masonry, however, is inconclusive, though the walling differs in character from that in the north and south walls. It is built of roughly coursed and roughly dressed gritstone, with angle quoins, and has a chamfered plinth above which is a single course of dressed stone, while the north and south walls are constructed of sandstone rubble and boulders. The gritstone, however, on the south side extends to and includes the south doorway, which seems to point to the west wall being of 12th-century date. (fn. 26) The walling of the chancel and transept is of coursed stones with angle quoins, and the roofs are covered with stone slates and have overhanging eaves.

The south doorway is a good example of Norman work, with semicircular arch, and, being very much exposed, has weathered badly. The arch is of three orders and a hood mould, springing from plain chamfered imposts and square moulded jambs without shafts. The inner order shows traces of sculpture and cheveron ornament on the face and soffit, and the middle order has also the cheveron pattern, while the outer one is carved with beak heads now very much worn. The hood mould has a small cheveron on the soffit, and above the arch is a small stone very badly weathered, on which is carved what appears to be a figure with hands on hips, possibly the representation of the patron saint. The chancel has a round-headed east window and a square-headed two-light window north and south, but all the fittings are modern, and the chancel arrangement is continued 7 ft. into the nave. The walls of the chancel and transept are plastered, but those of the nave are bare, exposing the old rubble masonry; on the west wall are traces of colour and on the south wall a fragment of a blackletter inscription. The transept is separated from the nave by a semicircular plaster arch, and is divided at about half its length by a modern screen, its northern end being occupied by a wide gallery. The nave roof is probably of 18th-century date, divided into five bays by four plain principals, and at the west end of the nave is an 18th-century gallery 11 ft. wide, with grained panelled front lit by a two-light square-headed window inserted in the west gable below the bell-turret.

Plan of Overton Church

All the fittings are modern with the exception of the canopied oak pulpit, which is of 18th-century date and hexagonal in plan. It is recessed in the south wall and stands on a new base. In the vestry at the north end of the transept is the 18th-century oak communion table with moulded top and square legs.

On the south side of the churchyard is a cross shaft 3 ft. 9 in. high, to which height it appears to have been cut down in the 18th century to serve as a sundial. Two fragments of the cross are preserved in the church.

There is one bell.

The plate consists of a silver chalice of 1708–9 inscribed 'The gift of Francis (sic) West relique of William West Esq. of Middleton to Overton Chappell'; a silver paten of 1873–4 inscribed 'The gift of George Blucher Heneage Marton of Capernwray to Overton Church, Feb. 1880'; and a pewter flagon 'The gift of Francis West of Middleton Relict of William West Esq. to Overton Chapel.' There are also a modern pewter paten and the foot of a large pewter breadholder with the maker's mark 'I. H.'

The registers begin in April 1722 and the churchwardens' accounts in 1771.

Lancaster Priory had the demesne tithes (fn. 27) and built a grange there, (fn. 28) and on the ordination of the vicarage in 1430 the vicar of Lancaster became responsible for the chapel services. From a statement of expenses in 1440 it appears that he was bound to send a chaplain each Sunday and principal feast to celebrate there, and the distance being 4 miles he was obliged to keep a horse for this chaplain's use. (fn. 29) Thus it was in the immediate charge of the vicar. Its fate after the Reformation is unknown; it was probably served by a lay reader and visited by the vicar or curate from time to time. It is not named in the list of 1610 and in 1650, the allowance from Royalists' sequestrations having been reduced, the minister had left for want of maintenance. (fn. 30) The place was so surrounded by the flowing sea twice in twenty-four hours that the people could not attend their parish church. (fn. 31) About 1670 an allowance of £10 out of the tithes was given by Hugh Cooper, and from that time a resident curate seems to have been appointed. (fn. 32) Further endowments have been obtained, and the benefice is in the gift of the vicar of Lancaster. The following have been curates and vicars:—

oc. 1670 Thomas Lawson (fn. 33)
1684 John Hull, B. A. (fn. 34) (Jesus Coll., Camb.)
oc. 1732 William Jackson (fn. 35)
oc. 1740 Miles Gaythorne (fn. 36)
John Gibson (fn. 37)
1789 Samuel Bateman, M.A. (fn. 38) (St. John's Coll., Camb.)
1827 Henry Sharpe Pocklington, M.A. (fn. 39) (Christ's Coll., Camb.)
oc. 1833 John Dodson, M.A. (fn. 40) (Trin. Coll., Camb.)
1838 John Ralph George Manby, M.A. (fn. 41) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)
1880 Henry Edward Jones
1885 Walter James Locke, M.A. (fn. 42) (T.C.D.)
1895 Robert Leighton Atkinson, M.A. (Oxf.)
1896 Thomas Wright Greenall, M.A. (fn. 43) (Queens' Coll., Camb.)
1908 Arnold Hutchinson, B.A. (Oxf.)

A Primitive Methodist chapel was built in 1902.


  • 1. The Census Rep. 1901 gives 1,840 acres, including 5 of inland water; in addition 4,398 acres of foreshore and 268 of tidal water.
  • 2. Baines, Lancs. Dir. ii, 662.
  • 3. Ibid. Lancs. (ed, 1836), iv, 541.
  • 4. V.C.H. Lancs, i, 288b.
  • 5. In the Pipe Roll of 1176–7 occurs 1 mark of aid from Overton; Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 35. The rent due from the vill was about 1200 increased by 62s. 6d. a year; ibid. 130, 147, 164. Three plough-teams being lacking in 1201 the sheriff received an allowance of 10s. for the half-year, so that he paid 52s. 6d. To the tallage in 1205–6 17s. was contributed; ibid. 202. To similar taxes in 1226, 1249 and 1261 were given 24s., 4 marks and 6½ marks respectively; Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 135, 176, 227. The ancient assized rent of Overton appears to have been 7s. 6d. only; ibid, i, 140. The demesne lands in the time of Henry III yielded about £10 a year; ibid. 169, 220, 230.
  • 6. Pat. 6 Chas. I, pt. x; to Charles Harbord and others. A 'king's rent' of £20 was due from the township; it was collected by the constable and greave. The marl and sand for Lancaster Castle had also to be supplied; Lonsdale Mag. i, 510.
  • 7. Piccope MSS. (Chet. Lib.), iii, 136; the sale included the lordship of Overton and fishing in the water called Keele between Ashton and Overton. William Jackson died in 1635 holding a messuage, &c., in Overton of the king. His son William was thirteen years of age; Towneley MS. C 8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), 699. The Jacksons' estate was in 1694 sold to Sir Nicholas Shireburne of Stonyhurst; Shireburne Abstract Bk. at Leagram.
  • 8. Robert de Overton held in 1212; he had granted 1 oxgang to Orm son of Adam, who paid 12d. yearly; Lancs. Inq. and Extents, i, 88–9, 123. Later it is stated that he gave the oxgang to Adam son of John and 7 acres to Orm de Kellet; ibid. 123 (1222–6). The descent is not clear. In 1247 Robert son of Richard de Overton paid to the tallage 2s. and John son of Adam 3s. 4d.; ibid. 176. About the same time John de Overton held the serjeanty and Adam son of John held 1 oxgang of land (arrented at 3s. 4d.), Adam de Kellet another (also 3s. 4d.) and the Abbot of Cockersand 4 acres (12d.); ibid. 181. Adam de Overton (who must be Adam son of John) died in 1259 holding an oxgang of land in Overton in chief of the king by the rent of 3s. 4d.; he left a son and heir John of full age; ibid. 223. The son is called John son of Adam son of John; Excerpta e Rot. Fin. (Rec. Com.), ii, 321. The other oxgang was surrendered to Edmund Earl of Lancaster by Thomas son of Adam de Kellet; Great Coucher, i, fol. 61, no. 9. Robert the Reeve occurs again in 1297 (as above) and John was reeve in 1323, holding a messuage and 2 oxgangs of land by serjeanty; he paid 2s. for cowmale; ibid, ii, 130. He is called John son of Robert the Greave in 1330; De Banco R. 285, m. 104. Robert the Greave held the serjeanty in 1346, with the 2 oxgangs, rendering 2s. a year; Add. MS. 32103, fol. 153. This may have been the estate which William de Lancaster soon afterwards held in right of Blanche his wife and which their son Adam in 1374 gave to John de Oxcliffe, as trustee; he in 1381–2 granted to Edmund father of Robert Lawrence; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc), i, 83, 125. Sir James I awrence of Ashton in 1490 held the 'manor' of Overton of the king as duke in socage by the rent of a rose; ibid, ii, 123.
  • 9. Lancs. Inq. and Extents, i, 89. This oxgang may have been that held by John son of Robert son of Ricoun in 1297, but he paid 8s. 1½d. instead of 2s.; ibid. 293. In 1323 John son of John held an oxgang of land by the service of 8s. 1½d. and cowmale, and Roger son of John held 3 acres, paying 2d.; ibid, ii, 129. John son of John Ricoun in 1346 held by 8s. 1½d.; paying also his proportion of the cowmale and multure and double rent for relief; Add. MS. 32103, fol. 153. The other free tenant in the last-named year was Richard de Berwick, who held 3 acres in socage under a charter which had been burnt and paid 2s. 2d. a year; ibid. In 1355 Roger de Kellet and Isabel his wife claimed dower against John son of William de Clifton of Overton; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 4, m. 26 d. Isolda widow of John Rigmaiden was defendant in 1442; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 4, m. 2b. John Rigmaiden the elder and Agnes his wife held two messuages, &c., in Middleton and Overton in 1574; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 36, m. 97. There were remainders to sons William, John and Thomas Rigmaiden. See Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), iii, 274.
  • 10. a In 1297 the free tenants were Robert the Reeve, holding 40 acres by being reeve and paying 2s. a year as cowmale; also John son of Robert son of Ricoun, holding 1 oxgang of land and paying 8s. 1½d. The demesne had 144 acres, yielding £7 4s.; 5 acres, 10s.; 18 acres meadow, 27s. 9d.; also 2 oxgangs of land which the lord had purchased, 8s. Other 10 oxgangs were held in bondage, paying 12s. each; for cowmale 16d. was paid. Nine cottagers paid 19s. 6d.; ibid. 293. From the poor for lop 7d. was received; ibid. 294. For the rental in 1323 see ibid, ii, 129. The Overton halmote roll of 1324–5 has been printed; Lancs. Ct. R. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 90–1. The extent of 1346 shows that the lord had a grange there, 149 acres of land, 18½ acres of meadow, also 3 roods of the assarts of the demesne, each acre of land rendering 12d. and of meadow 18d. There were a number of tenants holding from half an acre up to 15 acres, and 'the whole community' held 4 acres. The gross rent was £9 4s. 2d. The fisheries in the Lune, the community of the vill holding one, rendered 48s. The free tenants paid 10s. 3 ½d. In bondage were 10 oxgangs of land and twelve messuages. Each oxgang contained 12 acres and paid 12s. a year; this included the rent in lieu of the ancient services of ploughing, reaping, &c. Each tenant had to pay his share of the 16½d. cowmale and other dues called Belton cow (16s. every third year) and mill-mole. This last was for leave to grind his corn where he would instead of at the lord's mill on the Lune to the thirteenth measure. Boon silver, 7½d. a year, was another small due. The tenant had also to do part of the carriage of timber, firewood, &c., for the castle, also food when the lord journeyed to the castle either from the Ribble or from the northern boundary. He gave merchet for his son and daughter and letherwit for his daughter. At death after debts had been paid the best beast went to the lord and a third of the goods; Add. MS. 32103, fol. 152, &c.
  • 11. Duchy of Lanc. Mins. Accts. bdle. 100, no. 1790.
  • 12. Duchy of Lanc. Special Com. 67. It was stated that some land had been wasted by an overflow of the sea. Threeparts of the circuit was surrounded by water at every spring tide. Another inquiry concerning Sunderland showed that it was about 80 acres in extent, left mostly to the coneys; ibid. 98.
  • 13. Robert Cansfield died in 1519 holding five messuages, &c., in Overton and Skerton of the king as duke in socage by 6d. rent. His heirs were two daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, aged eleven; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. ii, no. 6. Another copy of the inquisition states that the tenement was in Overton, Slyne and Poulton, and that the daughters named Agnes and Elizabeth were aged twelve and ten respectively; ibid, v, no. 1. Elizabeth widow of Robert Cansfield, who named Robert Lawrence as her brother, in 1520 granted a power of attorney; Towneley MS. C 8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), C 240.
  • 14. Agnes married George Southworth and Elizabeth married William Charnock, who had disputes as to the inheritance 1556–61; Ducatus Lanc. i, 305; ii, 248. Elizabeth Charnock, widow, died in 1575 holding of the queen by 3d. rent a moiety of fourteen messuages, &c., in Overton, Slyne and Poulton and the reversion of the other moiety held by George Southworth for his life. Her son and heir Thomas was forty years of age, and she had four other sons and a daughter; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xii, no. 26. William Charnock son of Thomas died at Leyland in 1598 holding the same estate; ibid, xii, no. 5. He had married Elizabeth daughter of Roger Charnock and left a son Roger; see the account of Leyland.
  • 15. Ducatus Lanc. ii, 239.
  • 16. Cockersand Chartul. (Chet. Soc), iii, 813–15. The benefactors were John son of Geoffrey de Overton, Robert son of Stephen de Overton and Henry son of Norman de Redmayne. The place-names include Bazil, Collingswell (? Colloway) and Bracohanbergh. Colloway, or part of it, was in 1668 sold by John Wilkinson to John Troughton, and in 1830 the Kirkby family sold it to Thomas Fitzherbert-Brockholes; Brockholes D.
  • 17. Baines, Lancs. (ed. 1836), iv, 540. The manor was in 1836 held in sixteen shares and courts were held in the king's name; ibid. About 1860 the manor court was revived and the jurisdiction exercised; ibid. (ed. 1870), ii, 580.
  • 18. He had been 'well affected towards the Parliament,' but in the 'latter war' (? 1648) he had assisted the forces raised against it; Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), iii, 229.
  • 19. He had 'adhered to the forces raised against the Parliament,' and compounded in 1649; ibid, iv, 28. The son John petitioned.
  • 20. His case was the same as Richard Hinde's; Cal. Com. for Comp. iii, 1966.
  • 21. The chapel is named in 1246 in the appropriation of Poulton-le-Fylde; Lanc. Ch. (Chet. Soc.), i, 42.
  • 22. Mr. H. J. Austin, the architect, informs the writer that the foundations of the apsidal wall were discovered below the floor at the east end of the 18th-century chancel, but were not complete, about 7 ft. of the masonry on each side being in position, but the crown of the apse gone. The wall was the same thickness (3 ft.) as the north and south walls of the nave, the crown of the apse ranging externally with the present east wall of the chancel. At a later date, however, the apse seems to have given way to a square end, the foundations of a straight wall being discovered within the line of the semicircle, portions of which had been cut away. By this the length of the building was reduced 3 ft. and so remained till the rebuilding of the east end in the 18th century. A fragment of the wall 3 ft. thick was also discovered on the north side 13 ft. 6 in. from the east end of the apse, which may have been part of the 12th-century chancel wall, giving a nave 28 ft. long and chancel 16 ft. 6 in.
  • 23. Lonsdale Mag. i, 509 (Dec. 1820). The chancel is here erroneously stated to have been built in 1773, 'an addition to the building both in length and width.'
  • 24. The stone mullions were inserted in 1902.
  • 25. Lancs. Even. Post, 17 Apr. 1901.
  • 26. The very remote antiquity sometimes claimed for Overton Church may be the outcome of the use of the word 'Saxon ' in connexion with the south doorway used by the writer in the Lonsdale Mag. Dec. 1820. There is no real evidence that the west wall is older than the 12th-century door, but the fact of the straight joints and its extra thickness remains.
  • 27. Farrer, op. cit. 290.
  • 28. Adam son of John de Overton gave them a site; Lanc. Ch. ii, 280.
  • 29. Exch. K. R. Eccl. 3/13 (4/47).
  • 30. Commonw. Ch. Surv. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 127; an allowance of £4 a year had formerly been made by the vicars of Lancaster, 'but not of late' (i.e. perhaps since the sequestration of Dr. Wildbore). In 1646 a stipend of £40 a year for a 'preaching minister' was ordered from the sequestered estates of Sir Henry Compton, recusant; Plund. Mins. Accts. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 18. In 1649 this was reduced to £16 by Compton's compounding, and an order was made to pay the rest out of the Bishop of Chester's sequestration; ibid. 74. Thomas Fawcett had been the minister from 1646 to 1649, but he left; he was 'an honest, godly, painful man'; Commonw. Ch. Surv. 128. He signed the 'Harmonious Consent' of 1648 as 'minister at Overton.'
  • 31. Ibid. This description identifies the place called an 'island' in the survey of the church lands in 1510, the people of which complained that they oftentimes had their friends die there without rites of the church, 'because they be oftentimes enclosed in with the sea that no man can come to them'; therefore they desired that whereas the vicar found a priest to sing at the chapel every Sunday and holyday, a resident priest might be appointed, promising to bear a portion of the charge, if the Abbess of Syon and the vicar would also make an allowance; Baines, Lancs. (ed. 1870), ii, 569.
  • 32. Gastrell, Notitia Cestr. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 441; the certified income was £12 5s. in 1725. The allowance from the vicar of Lancaster ceased at the death of Dr. Bushell in 1684. There was one chapelwarden. Hugh Cooper, by his will of 1682, founded almshouses at Chorley.
  • 33. Visit. Lists of 1674 and 1677 at Chest. Dioc. Reg.; he was of Glasgow University.
  • 34. Visit of 1691 at Chest. Dioc. Reg.; he was in deacon's orders.
  • 35. 'W. H.' in Lanc. Observer.
  • 36. Ibid.; he died 12 Mar. 1749.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Gent. Mag. Dec. 1827; he was also rector of Farthingstone, Northants.
  • 39. Vicar of Stebbing in Essex 1831.
  • 40. Vicar of Cockerham 1835.
  • 41. Son of the vicar of Lancaster.
  • 42. Previously vicar of Calder Vale; vicar of Caton 1894.
  • 43. Vicar of Bishampton 1890.