From the Civil War to the Forty-Five
Lancashire on the eve of the Civil War was a much more prosperous county than a century before. Its tax assessments, compared with other counties, were still low, but most other signs suggest a growing population, a lively commerce and a healthy agriculture. Manchester had grown considerably from migration, and the cloth trade had benefited towns like Bolton and Rochdale. Liverpool had not yet become independent of Chester, but was gaining importance as an alternative point of access to Ireland. Lancaster had enjoyed freedom from Scottish invasion, even if the town had grown little. Preston and Bolton had become centres of trade, as well as of Puritanism. Plague, however, struck in Manchester in 1605 and 1645, and Preston suffered a particularly serious outbreak in 1631, when 1,069 people, about a third of the population, died. This affected the surrounding country area as well, for the commissioners appointed by Charles I to collect money from those who refused royal offers of knighthood, did not enter Amounderness or Lonsdale as they were ‘so dangerously infected with the plague’.
Arbitrary taxation of this kind caused much. discontent in Lancashire against Charles and his father. Lange sums had to be paid by crown tenants who had encroached on the royal forests, and the gentry paid in the form of forced loans and distraint of knighthood. Both merchants and landowners suffered from the imposition of shipmoney – a levy towards upkeep of the navy – between 1636 and 1639, and the whole community was affected when the county had to provide 750 men for service against the Scots in 1638. Puritans became increasingly opposed to the government because of its suspected Roman Catholic leanings, its support of Sunday sports, and its use of the courts of Star Chamber and High Commission, to persecute godly men who did not conform. In the Long Parliament of 1641 which abolished both these courts, there were a number of Lancashire members who voted with Pym and Hampden in opposition to Charles’s policies and methods.
When the Civil War broke out, the division between Puritan southeast and Roman Catholic west developed into apolitical split between the supporters of Parliament and those of the King. Yet civil war cannot occur without a determination to fight, and the early months of the conflict were notable for the efforts of some local leaders to prevent bloodshed. Richard Heyricke, the Puritan Warden of Manchester Collegiate Church, sent a petition with 8,000 signatures to Charles at York, urging him to reach a peaceful settlement with his Parliament. Meanwhile, the recusants, who felt acutely vulnerable to Protestant reprisals after the revolt of the Irish Catholics in 1641, asked the King for permission to defend themselves if attacked.
At Lathom, James Stanley, Lord Strange, shortly to succeed his ageing father as Earl of Derby, was slow to make his position clear. He had attended the King at York in the two Bishops’ Wars against the Scots in 1639-40. Parliament seems to have had hopes of his support, for he was named as Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire in ‘a parliamentary list of February 1 642. He excused himself from this appointment, however, and accepted the King’s commission instead. In spite of his dislike of the royal court and his reluctance to commit himself to either side, Strange once more joined Charles at York and, on his return to Lancashire, held a large royalist demonstration on Fuiwood Moor outside Preston. The gathering was attended by about 5,000 people, not all of whom were sympathetic to the King, and who, according to the admittedly hostile account of Alexander Rigby, the local parliamentarian leader, were slow to be convinced.
Hostilities broke out first in Manchester. Lord Strange, who had set up various stores of ammunition at Preston, Warrington, Manchester and Liverpool, during the Scottish campaign, found that the Mancunians would not surrender control of their magazine. An attempt to reach a compromise by holding the magazine jointly in the college buildings next to the church failed. The Manchester apprentices paraded defiantly in the streets. When Lord Strange was invited to a banquet by some of his Manchester friends, he was obliged to abandon the meal and retire to Ordsall Hall, just outside Salford, followed by a threatening band of the local militia and amid shots from nearby houses. In the commotion, a royalist linen weaver, Richard Perceval, was killed.
Strange determined to return to Manchester in force, but his plans were slow to mature, and by the time he had sent his summons to surrender on 26 September, the defences of Salford bridge and Deansgate were well in hand and the royalist attacks were repulsed. Proposals for a truce were rejected, and on 1 October, Strange, now Earl of Derby, raised the siege.
The failure of the siege and the prospect of a protracted struggle led men on both sides to seek a local peace. Roger Nowell of Read (grandson of the witch-investigator), a royalist captain, but a relative of the parliamentarian Colonel Shuttleworth, and probably encouraged by the earl himself, acted as an intermediary in arranging a meeting between both sides at Blackburn on 13 October 1642. Meanwhile two Cheshire peers hoped to reduce local tension by getting Manchester to disarm its apprentices and take down its fortifications. The threat of popery and the emergency caused by the continuing chaos in Ireland probably helped to harden attitudes, and Mancunians, having won one victory, were not going to give in to the Earl of Derby now. The Blackburn talks collapsed after Parliament issued its veto, and Derby, having failed to take Manchester for the King, went south to meet him at Shrewsbury. He left ‘the trayned and freehold bands which were under his cornmande . . . to be billetted at Warrington and Wigan, and one troope of horse sent to Lathom to defend that house’, according to information sent by Ralph Assheton to his friend, Alexander Rigby. It was expected that Derby would soon return to the attack on Manchester, and there were even rumours that the men of Amounderness intended to mutiny and shoot the Earl outside the walls of Manchester in order to end the war in Lancashire.
In fact, the main contribution of Lancashire to the King’s cause in 1642 was at the battle of Edgehill. One regiment was led by Sir Thomas Tyldesley of Myerscough, another by Lord Molyneux and Roger Nowell. In Lancashire itself the royalists established themselves in a chain of garrisons around Manchester, in preparation for a spring offensive. Three hundred troops, including two Welsh companies, were stationed at Warrington; another 300 foot, 100 dragoons and a troop of horse at Wigan; 200 men were at Preston, while at Brindle, there was a company under the command of Sir Gilbert Hoghton, and an outpost at Leigh was manned by 20 men. There was an acute shortage of arms, which meant that other men who might have been mobilized by the gentry remained in reserve. Provisioning of these garrisons was also a problem. Derby tried to prevent profiteering by fixing prices and ordered:
That Henry Ogle Esquire be Quarter maister generall for bringinge provision to the Army, at reasonable rates, vizt. 3d a pound for butter, 2d ½ pound for cheese, and breade at 16 pound for 12d, hay at 2d a stone to be brought into the severall Garrisons by adiacente townes, and Oates according to the rates of the markett.
Looting was prohibited, and any plunder was to be confiscated and ‘disposed for the publicke good’. Meanwhile the enemy, in Manchester, was kept well supplied from north-east Cheshire.
In spite of royalist schemes the forces of Parliament struck first in the New Year of 1643. Receiving news of the weakness of the Preston garrison, Colonel Shuttleworth planned a triple attack from Manchester, Bolton and Blackburn. The ‘Manchester men’ marched out at night on 12 February, and, according to one parliamentarian author, John Vicars, ‘the Lord gave them a fair night to travell in’. They found the town fortified with a double line of brick walls. At first the Preston royalists, armed with pikes, defended the inner works successfully, but the Mancunians under Sir John Seaton forced an entry at the end of Church Street. In the fierce fighting that followed, the Mayor of Preston, Adam Mort, and his son were both killed, along with a Roman Catholic physician called Westby. After two hours the town surrendered. A number of prominent royalists were taken prisoner, but Towneley of Towneley and Sir Gilbert Hoghton managed to escape to Wigan.
The year continued as badly as it had begun for the King’s supporters in Lancashire. Although the Earl of Derby soon retook Preston, he failed to take Lancaster Castle and set fire to the town in revenge. The little houses with their thatched roofs were soon ablaze, and it was years before Lancaster fully recovered. In April, Derby was defeated by Assheton at Whalley and was obliged to surrender Wigan and Warrington. Trouble on his island of Man forced him to abandon the summer campaign on the mainland, and while he was away on Man, the parliamentary forces captured Liverpool, retook Preston and won control of the Lune Valley by taking Hornby and Thurland Castles. By the end of 1643 only Lathom House and Greenhaigh Castle remained in royalist hands.
Parliamentarian successes in the north-west were temporarily jeopardized by Newcastle’s victory over their West Riding allies at Adwalton Moor in June 1643, but the contingent of Manchester men who had gone to help managed to retire from the battle intact and successfully fortified Rochdale and Blackstone Edge against any royalist attack from the east. The local parliamentarian successes were rounded off by the defeat of the first detachments of the King’s troops from Ireland at Nantwich in January 1644. This victory by the Manchester men under Sir Thomas Fairfax ended Charles’s last hope of breaking the military deadlock in the approaches to London.
A flying campaign by Prince Rupert in the early summer of 1644 temporarily improved the King’s fortunes in the north-west. Rupert, accompanied by Derby, who had wintered with the King at Oxford, stormed through Cheshire with 8,000 men and 50 pieces of ordnance. Stockport fell, and Manchester seemed threatened, but Sir John Meidrum who commanded its defence had 5,000 foot soldiers at his disposal, and Rupert was more concerned to make a brilliant display and ensure that Liverpool was safe for royal transports, than to get bogged down in the siege of Manchester. Skirting that town, the prince fell upon Bolton. The town was defended by Colonel Rigby and the force which had lately been undertaking the siege of Lathom. They were no match for the prince’s army. The sack of Bolton on 27 May 1644 was one of the grimmest incidents of the whole war and provides ample illustration of the ruthless streak in Rupert’s generalship. The exact numbers of killed and wounded are not known and may have been exaggerated, but Bolton had still not recovered when, nine years later, it presented a ‘humble petition (for relief) of the poore widdowes, Maymed Souldiers and Fatherles Childeren, whose husbands or parents were slayne att the surprizall of Boulton by Prince Rupert’.
From Bolton, Rupert marched to Wigan and on to Liverpool, his primary objective. There the parliamentarian garrison under Colonel John Moore took to sea after four days’ intensive cannonade. At Lathom, Rupert and his force were entertained for a week by the Earl and Countess of Derby, before setting off once more up the Ribble Valley to Yorkshire where he intended to raise the siege of York. While he had met no real resistance in Lancashire, York was another matter, and he was there out-generalled by Fairfax and Cromwell at the battle of Marston Moor.
Rupert’s gains in Lancashire did not last long. The parliamentarians quickly recovered the lost ground and once more returned to the siege of Lathom House. After Marston Moor the Earl and Countess took refuge on the Isle of Man, but their household continued to hold out. Royalist weakness for the first time took the pressure off Manchester, and Assheton led his regiment of foot in the ranks of Cromwell’s New Model Army which finally shattered the King’s cause at the battle of Naseby in June 1645. Lathom surrendered on 3 December 1645, after receiving the King’s instructions for the surrender of isolated garrisons. Sir Thomas Tyldesley, Governor of Lichfield, also surrendered on royal orders, but not until July 1646, two months after Charles himself had surrendered to the Scots army at Newark.
The end of the Civil War could only be greeted with relief in Lancashire. Certain areas had suffered badly. Lancaster had been destroyed by fire; Bolton had been sacked; 360 had been killed in Prince Rupert’s attack on Liverpool, including ‘one poor blind man’, in spite of promises of free quarter. Preston had changed hands three times; so too had Wigan and the town was to be the scene of more fighting in 1648 and 1651. When Colonel Rosworm took the town for Parliament in March 1643, his soldiers ransacked it, dragging great heaps of cloth out into the streets, and seizing ‘treasure’ to the value of £20,000, which local farmers and gentry had entrusted to the garrison for safe-keeping. The church was looted, and the town records were thrown into the street. Wigan was again plundered in 1648, this time by Scottish soldiers. Not surprisingly, the mayor and aldermen were petitioning the City of London in 1649 for relief from the ‘three-corded scourge of sword, pestilence and famine’.
The ‘pestilence’, or plague, was a recurring menace which now seemed the last straw. Several towns were affected by outbreaks. At Liverpool Rupert had observed the great number of rats leaving the ships at low water and running ‘in troops into the town for provisions, and so back again towards flood’. Plague hit Manchester badly at the end of the war. Between June, and October 1645, 995 burials were recorded in the register of the Collegiate Church.
The effect of the war on an ‘ordinary’ Lancastrian may be seen from I the life of Adam Martindale. Aged 19 when the war broke out, Martindale saw its effect on his father’s building business:
The great trade that my father and two of my brethren had long driven was quite dead; for who would build or repair an house when he could not sleep a night in it with quiet and safety?
The Martindale family was Puritan and lived in the ‘no man’s land’ between Manchester and Lathom. Adam’s mind was made up for him by the activities of the royalist recruiting-sergeants in the Prescot area. He was appalled by the way old country people, armed only with pitchforks, were obliged to join the Earl of Derby’s attack on Bolton, strengthened at the rear by: ‘troopers that had commission to shoot such as lagged behind’. This was enough to send his brother Henry off to Bolton after them, but to join the defence not the attack. Adam, too, was reluctant to join the royalists, partly on account of his Puritan upbringing. He wrote: ‘I could not clear myself from it by swearing and debauchery, but would (rather) have been quiet and meddled on no side’. He too joined the roundheads, as a clerk to Colonel Moore, the commander of the Liverpool garrison. At Liverpool, Adam soon found that parliamentarian language and behaviour was no better than royalist. His resolution was strengthened by news that his father’s house had been plundered and their cattle driven off by Prince Rupert’s soldiers. The remnant of the family assets disappeared when his father lent a large sum of money to a Roman Catholic whose possessions had all been sequestered by Parliament. Later Adam found a comfortable living as schoolmaster and minister; not everyone in the battle areas of south Lancashire was so fortunate.
The surrender of Lathom in 1 645 was not the end of fighting in Lancashire. In 1648 the second Civil War broke out. A Scottish army of 24,000 men under the Duke of Hamilton invaded the rrorth-west of England on behalf of Charles I, on the understanding that he would introduce the Presbyterian form of church government south of the border. These negotiations did not affect loyalties in Lancashire, and Ralph Assheton mustered a force to resist the Scots, while Sir Thomas Tyldesley and other royalists prepared to support them. The invasion of the north-west took the English Parliament by surprise. The vanguard of the large Scottish army had reached Preston before Cromwell was in a position to intercept it. With a much smaller but better co-ordinated force, he raced over. the Pennines by way of Skipton, reaching Clitheroe on 16 August. The next day he struck Hamilton’s left flank, composed of English royalists under Sir Marmaduke Langdale, outside Preston, on Fuiwood and Ribbleton Moors. After a ‘very sharp dispute, continuing three or four hours’ – as Cromwell wrote afterwards – Langdale’s troops were defeated and large supplies of arms taken. That evening the roundheads pursued the Scots up to the Ribble at Walton bridge.
During the next two days, a running battle was fought between Cromwell, supported by Assheton, and the Scots as they straggled along between Preston and Warrington. The skirmishes, notably on Standish Moor, resulted in a Scottish rout, and several thousand surrendered at Warrington Bridge. Small groups of Scots scattered through the countryside, only to find that ‘the Country people rise and knock them in the head’ – according to one report. Besides arms and ammunition, Cromwell captured important correspondence between Hamilton and Prince Charles, as well as ‘500 cattle retaken that they had plundered from the Country’. No wonder that ‘the poor country people’ were ‘overjoyed at this great deliverance’, if it meant the return of their cattle. Hamilton was taken prisoner in Shropshire and executed in 1649, only two months after his King.
Three years after the battle of Preston, a second Scottish army invaded Lancashire, this time in the name of the dead King’s son and heir, Charles, Prince of Wales. The Earl of Derby abandoned his six-year exile at Castle Rushen on the Isle of Man and landed in the Wyre estuary on 15 August 1651, to raise Lancashire for the new King. With him was that veteran royalist soldier, Sir Thomas Tyldesley. Recruitment in the Fylde and at Lathom raised Derby’s force from 300 to 1,500, but he had no success in his attempt to win support at Warrington or Preston. On his return from Preston to Warrington, his force was destroyed in Wigan Lane by a regiment under General John Lambert, the parliamentarian commander in the north. Sir Thomas Tyldesley was killed, but Derby himself, although wounded, managed to get away. Charles and the Scots were defeated in their turn at the battle of Worcester, eight days later on 2 September.
Once more Lancashire churches were used as temporary military prisons. At Walton the forms and windows were smashed, and at Manchester Henry Newcome recorded that ‘the poor imprisoned Scots’ left much ‘nastiness’. Soon after the disaster at Worcester Derby was captured near Nantwich. He was court-martialled at Chester, found guilty of high treason, and condemned to die at Bolton. He attempted to escape from Chester Castle, was caught and later taken to Bolton for execution. On the scaffold he declared his innocence:
… it was said that I was a man accustomed to be a man of Blood, But it doth not lie upon my Conscience for I was wrongfully belied. I thank God I did ‘desire peace. I was born in honour, I lived in honour, and I hope I shall die with honour…
His death signified the end of the quasi-feudal power exerted by his predecessors although his failure to win Lancashire for the King had shown that this stranglehold had already been broken. His widow, Charlotte, surrendered the Isle of Man a month after her husband’s execution and she remained there as a prisoner. Their son, Charles, took part in Sir George Booth’s abortive rising at Warrington in 1658. At the Restoration in 1660, his mother was released and he got back his father’s estates as the eighth earl. His dead father acquired the title of ‘the martyr earl’.
Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, and Charles II was enthroned unconditionally in 1660. In Lancashire the Restoration was greeted with relief. It marked the end of the search for alternative sources of authority in church and state. It also meant the end of the power of the army and its interference in local affairs, particularly in the question of morals and traditional pastimes. Charles’s coronation was celebrated by a big service of thanksgiving at Manchester Collegiate Church, presided over by that elderly Puritan, Richard Heyricke. His enthusiasm and that of many other Presbyterian supporters of monarchy quickly turned to disappointment. The Clarendon Code not only restored the bishops, church courts and the Book of Common Prayer, but also included the Five Mile and Conventicle Acts, designed to curb the preaching and teaching of those ministers who had preferred to resign their livings rather than abandon their ideals of church government.
One Lancashire Presbyterian who felt unable to conform to the Restoration Church was Henry Newcome, the popular minister who had assisted Heyricke at Manchester between 1657 and 1662. When the college of clergy was reconstituted, Heyricke was reappointed Warden, but the new fellows were hostile to Newcome. The latter wrote in his diary: ‘The fellows oft in this time expressed their disgust to me behind my back, and professedly said I should not preach unless I would conform.’ Newcome was not made a fellow, but hoped to be able to continue merely preaching ‘to win souls to God’. This he did throughout 1661, in spite of a recurrence of fits for which he had to be bled. He preached, for example, to the ‘townsmen at their fair’, on the subject of drinking toasts. The practice of drinking people’s health had died during the Commonwealth . but revived with the Restoration. Newcome’s sermon certainly had its effect, for no-one dared give a toast at that townsmen’s dinner. From 1662, however, he had to give up public preaching, and in 1664, his private services were threatened by the Conventicle Act. Even though few Manchester people would have betrayed him, the Bishop of Chester was well aware that Newcome was likely to hold such meetings. In 1664, for the first time, he was not invited to preach at the Manchester town dinner, although, suppressing his ‘envy and anger’, he went as Sir Edward Mosley’s guest. Such a friendship, and, even more, that of Lord Delamere and the Hoghtons, was to be one of Newcome’s chief assets at a time when the leadership of the Lancashire Presbyterians was being weakened by death and changed circumstances.
In spite of his Puritan background, Newcome reacted favourably to the more liberal attitude to sports which characterized the Restoration. He had been nutting on the Sabbath as a boy, and continued to play bandy-ball (a type of tennis) with his family on Sundays. He was also fond of a game of shuffleboard (or shovel-board), but disliked the heavy drinking which so often went with it. He does not even seem to have objected, in principle, to the revival of the Shrove Tuesday custom, condemned as much by Puritans as by Bishop Oldham, which allowed school-children the day off for sports and cock-fighting. Newcome was more worried by the dangers to children of flying arrows: ‘I understood I had cause, for (his son) Daniel’s hat on his head was shot through with an arrow’.
The Great Plague hit London in 1665. Manchester was not affected that year, but Newcome ‘kept a day in private for poor London’, and gave a talk based on Paul’s advice to Christians in prison from the epistle to the Hebrews. Those who could avoided London that summer.
Newcome’s wife had a ‘distemper’ so, in 1665 and again in the following year, he took her to Scarborough for a cure. They travelled on horseback with two cousins and broke the journey at Leeds:
June 16th 1665 We came to Scarborough about four o’clock. We found mercy and a providence in that we sent the night before, for the doctor otherwise had been gone to York this day, and so we had his company and counsel to set in to the use of the waters.
They rented ‘two neat rooms’ from a merchant and were pleased to be allowed to eat on their own for only 8d (31/2p) a meal. Of the other members of the party, one suffered from ’emerods’, another from ‘sad epileptic fits’. When they got back to Manchester they found ‘the smallpox prevailing greatly in the town, and very mortal’. Two of their neighbours had lost children in the epidemic.
The Five Mile Act obliged Newcome to leave Manchester, and he and his wife took up lodgings with a friend who lived outside the town. At Dunham, the home of Lord Delamere, Newcome met a former Warrington minister who had been similarly exiled. The Act did not prevent Newcome visiting his friends and family and praying with them, albeit illegally. The arrival of the ‘chimney lookers’ to assess homes for the hearth tax gave him a shock, but he was not discovered. He took his troubles with a good grace. He was undoubtedly less worried by statutory restrictions on dissenting ministers like himself than by the threat of a Roman Catholic uprising or St Bartholomew’s massacre in England.
Henry Newcome also had more practical problems to face. He was short of money and had several sons to launch into the world. In 1668 he set about finding an apprenticeship for his son, Daniel. At first he arranged with a London glover, the brother of a Cambridge friend. But the glover was not ‘careful for religion’, and Newcome quickly realized that he would not have the capital to set his son up in business as a glover after the seven years were complete. Instead’ was apprenticed to a ribbon factor at Blackwall Hall. To the Puritan mind, a career in ribbons was not ideal, but Newcome’s conscience was salved by the factor’s insistence on ‘catechising and sabbath keeping and constant business’ in the training of his young apprentice. Indeed he seems to have been a little too rigorous. He would not let Dan have an extra gown in winter, and Dan had in fact been advised by another boy in the same house not to agree to be bound as apprentice. The adults, however, prevailed, and Newcome wrote in his diary: ‘December 18th, we sealed the bonds and covenants, and all things were smooth and well; and, December 16th, (Saturday) we were all invited to his master’s house to dinner, and exceeding much made of’.
The apprenticeship did not go the full term, for, two years later, Dan ran away. He was found and brought back to his master. Newcome went to London by coach to see them. It was concluded that ‘vile knaves’ had ‘made a prey’ of the lad, but his apprenticeship was not renewed. When Newcome had settled with the factor he decided that the only alternative was for Dan to try his luck in the colonies. So he was put on board a ship belonging to a merchant friend, bound for Jamaica by way of Tangier. Dan got cold feet on the voyage and wrote home to say he feared he was likely to be sold as an indentured servant. Such fears proved to be unfounded, but, on arrival in Jamaica, Dan contracted yellow fever and returned to England.
Henry Newcome’s hopes soared when Charles II announced his Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 by which Roman Catholics and Protestant dissenters were granted full freedom of worship and assembly. He at once began to preach publicly in his house and in a local barn. The Declaration, however, was unpopular, and Newcome was summoned before the magistrates for his activities. He showed them his licence to preach, under the Indulgence, and so nothing more was said. After ten months’ freedom, the King revoked the Declaration at the insistence of the House of Commons. Newcome and his fellow dissenters were bitterly disappointed, but the news of the cancellation was regarded as a triumph in Manchester. Newcome wrote: ‘It was entertained with great joy in the town, with bells and bonfires, under the notion of the King and parliament being agreed . . . (there is) much joy and scorn over us.’ Financial difficulties once more became acute, especially as two of his sons were of university age. Fortunately, his brothers were comfortably off, and, with their help, his sons’ education was not curtailed.
Political troubles intensified in the 1680s. In 1683 and 1685 all dissenters came under suspicion for complicity in the Rye House Plot against Charles II and the Monmouth Rebellion against his Roman Catholic brother and successor James II. Newcome’s house was searched on both occasions, but nothing incriminating was found. Lord Delamere was put on trial for treason in 1686, but acquitted. The following year, James II’s Declaration of Indulgence gave Newcome a new opportunity for preaching in public.
The revolution of 1688 and the accession of William and Mary to the English throne took everyone by surprise, except those members of the aristocracy who had planned it. In Manchester Newcome and his friends were amazed by James II’s sudden departure, and took great interest in the war in Ireland where at first James’s supporters had the upper hand. So much was the Irish campaign on Newcome’s mind that one night he cried out in his sleep for the Protestants besieged in Londonderry: ‘It is, I hope, no presage of any danger they are in more than ordinary’. The defeat of James II in Ireland was a relief to Newcome and many other Lancashire Protestants. The Toleration Act of 1689, following the Bill of Rights, at last gave dissenters the statutory right to hold public services. And in 1693 Newcome’s congregation built him a handsome meeting-house in Cross Street. He could not enjoy it for long, for he died on 17 September 1695.
A man whose religious views and daily concerns were very different from those of Henry Newcome was Nicholas Blundell of Little Crosby. Born in 1669, a generation after Newcome, he, like most of his neighbours, was anxious to forget the struggles of the past. Blundell came from an old Roman Catholic family which had held the manor of Little Crosby, near Liverpool, since 1362. There were many other Roman Catholic gentry in south-west Lancashire and between them they maintained the ‘old faith’ in the area. Blundell himself had a brother who was a priest and five of his six sisters were nuns. Jesuits and missionaries were constantly at Little Crosby Hall; his tenants were mainly Roman Catholics and Mass, although illegal, was often celebrated in one of his barns.
Nicholas Blundell, like the other Roman Catholic gentry, was on very good terms with his Protestant neighbours. He dined occasionally with the Earl of Derby at Lathom and frequently with the local Protestant clergy, particularly the Master of Crosby Grammar School. Anglicans and Roman Catholics, squires and tenants, formed a bowling club. Bowls were followed by talking, drinking and cards late into the night. Yet there were still some echoes of the hostility at national level. Jacobite plots put good relations at risk, and one or two Protestant clergy kept their ears to the ground for information against Roman Catholics.
Nicholas Blundell spent most of his time running his family estate. He was very keen on the best methods of cultivation both traditional and modern. Marling had been used for improving Lancashire’s sandy soils since at least the twelfth century, and Blundell ensured that his tenants marled and manured the fields. He discussed the ‘Beyond-sea’ (or Dutch) manner of feeding livestock with his chaplain and introduced clover as well as various types of corn seed.
He docked the tails of his sheep, because ‘ ’tis said they feed the better for it’. When visitors came to little Crosby he showed them his cattle and pigs with great pride. Blundell took an interest in the new science of surveying and set about making his own map of Little Crosby. He enjoyed experimenting as much in the brew-house and kitchen as in the fields. He brewed Brunswick beer or ‘Mumm’, and in June 1 705, ‘tryed an experimenting with eleven Miss (mice) in a Hot Pot’! In the following year he was making improvements to the Hall by adding a parlour with the latest sash-windows and laying out a lawn with flowerbeds and fruit trees. The surplus fruit was sold to hucksters from Liverpool.
Legal business took him to Liverpool, Lancaster and Preston. At Liverpool he bought clothes and furniture, pills and medicines. Some special items were sent from Chester, such as glass for the windows of his coach. He bought a periwig of horsehair from ‘a woman that came past my gates’. On other occasions a tailor came out from Liverpool ‘to mend my Wives Stayes’ and a tinker came to the door and mended three frying pans.
Nicholas Blundell was a benevolent landlord, as well as a strict one. He and his wife visited their tenants and humbler neighbours in their homes and cottages – often with a charitable motive:
‘My wife rode behind me to the North End to Condole Ailes Tickle for the Death of her Son John . . . ‘ At times he gave money, sometimes he just lent a helping hand: ‘I gave Margarit Riding 18d. I found Richard Harrisons Bullock in the Ditch and helped to pull him out’. He lent his horses to servants and tenants alike, if their need was sufficiently great, and he lent his greyhounds to his gardener for coursing. At traditional festivals he kept open house for his neighbours at Little Crosby. There was often dancing to fiddles, and plenty of home-brewed ale was provided. On 29 February 1706 he recorded: ‘Some good Wives came to turn Pankakes. Wm. Thelwall & Pat. Gelibrond (a priest) drunk in the Gallery . . . ‘ (F. Tyrer, The Great Diurnall of Nicholas Blundell)
Nicholas Blundell enjoyed a great variety of sports; coursing hares was a particular favourite, but he liked skating, shooting and horse racing too. He attended horse-races at Great Crosby, on Liverpool Sands and occasionally at Ormskirk. In February 1704 ‘I went to Ormskirk Cocking, it being the second days fighting for a Plate. Mr Blundell of Ince won it.’ The Disbursement Book tells us that he lost 8s Od (40p) in this fight but took his losses well, for four days later: ‘I went to congratulate Cozen Blundell for winning a Plate at the Cocking at Ormskirk’.
Even his courtship was businesslike and methodical. Nicholas Blundell was almost 33 when he succeeded to the family estate in 1702. He was not yet married, but by the following spring he was taking steps to remedy this. On 28 February 1703 he went over to Scarisbrick to discuss with his cousin Robert ‘my going to Hathrop’, in Oxfordshire, the home of his future bride, Frances, daughter of Marmaduke, third Lord Langdale of Holme. His cousin must have encouraged him, for a few days after his visit to Scans-brick he was writing to Frances’s grandmother, Lady Webb. The letter was given to Walter Thelwall, Blundell’s most trusted servant, who set off for Heythrop on 4 March and was back with a reply eight days later. Blundell immediately wrote to Lord Langdale to arrange the dowry and to Lord Molyneux. for his approval, and on 6 April he heard from Lady Webb that he might wait on ‘Mrs’ Frances Langdale as soon as he pleased. In preparation for the journey he ordered a black coat from his Liverpool tailor and armed himself in case of attack. A week later he set out for Heythrop. After travelling steadily for five days and four nights he arrived safely at his destination.
The courtship was brief and to the point. On his second day at Heythrop he had talks with both Lord Langdale and Lady Webb and made his ‘first address to Mrs Frances Langdale’. Nothing of note passed on the third day, but events soon began to move swiftly:
21 April Lady Webb discoursed me in the Garden I discoursed Mrs Langdale in the Kitchen Garden . . . 22 April Mrs Morgan dined at Heythrop. Mr Morgan and I discoursed of Cattle & Sheep &c: Lady Dowager Webb Read the Heads of Agreement of Marriage to be between Mrs Frances Langdale & me N: Bi: in Presence of Lord Langdale & Sr John Webb.
A lawyer was summoned to draw up the Heads of Articles of Marriage and these were signed on 25 April. On 28 April Blundell, who had recorded no further conversation with his future wife in his diary, presented her with an engagement ring – described in his accounts as a ‘Fals Diamond Ring 14s Od’. On 3 May Blundell went to London to see the sights and attend the theatre, and later he made a second trip to buy a wedding ring (XI 5s Od) and a wedding suit, and to transact other business. On 17 June he records baldly in his diary:
‘I was married to Lord Langdales Daughter by Mr Slaughter a Clergyman’. A week later he sent home for his ‘chariot’ and on 2 July he brought his new wife home to Crosby.
The whole transaction had been accomplished in a little under three months. Blundell had got what he wanted, namely a Roman Catholic bride of noble birth with a dowry of £2,000. The marriage appears to have been not unsuccessful. The couple had two daughters and, although his strong-willed wife could get across friends, relatives and servants, there is no hint of unhappiness between them. Such a marriage, founded on convenience but built into a happy relationship over the years, must have been typical of many in the eighteenth century.
The war of 1689-94, between William III and James II, produced only minor ripples in Lancashire, in spite of the fact that it had the largest Roman Catholic population of any English county. In 1671 there were 5,496 convicted recusants in Lancashire, and many were still grouped in enclaves around such manor houses as Little Crosby, scattered throughout the western and northern districts of the county. James II’s abrupt departure in 1 688 and the failure of his campaigns in Scotland and Ireland did not inspire confidence in Lancashire’s Roman Catholics. Some sympathy for James undoubtedly existed, but no evidence of active support was found when eight of their leading gentlemen, including Lord Molyneux and Nicholas Blundell’s father, were tried for treason on charges brought by an informer named John Lunt. The ‘Lancashire Plot’ of 1694 turned out to be Lunt’s own invention.
The death of Queen Anne in 1714 and Bolingbroke’s last-minute decision to support the long-rejected claim of James II’s son, the Old Pretender, sparked off a major Jacobite revolt in Scotland and the north of England. At George I’s proclamation there was a riot in Manchester led by a Jacobite called Tom Syddall, and although the Lancashire boroughs sent loyal addresses to the new King, some of the county’s Roman Catholic gentry were in touch with Jacobites in Northumberland. In October 1715 a force was raised in that county under Thomas Forster, one of the Members of Parliament and it set out to raise recruits in the borders. Joined by Clan Chattan under Brigadier McIntosh at Kelso, Forster turned south to try his luck in Lancashire where one of his lieutenants, Lord Widdrington, had many relatives.
Resistance to the Jacobites was nominal in Cumberland and Westmorland, and on 7 November James III was proclaimed King in the Market Square, Lancaster, after the abandonment of a halfhearted attempt to impede the Jacobites’ progress by dismantling the bridge over the Lune. At Lancaster, Forster and McIntosh were joined by, a number of north Lancashire gentry including John Dalton of Thurnham Hall and Albert Hodgson of Leighton Hall. Sir Henry Hoghton of Hoghton Tower, the commander of the Hanoverian forces in north Lancashire, feared damage to property by the Jacobites and recommended the locals to defend their livelihoods if threatened, but no damage was reported and no resistance offered. Even Christopher Hopkins, the Lancaster stationer, who was caught counting the numbers of rebel troops, was treated lightly.
At Preston, which the Jacobites reached on 9 and 10 November, there was something of a party atmosphere. The town was crowded not only with the Scottish and Northumbrian troops, but also with local Roman Catholic gentlemen like Richard Towneley of Towne-ley (Lord Widdrington’s brother-in-law), Edward Tyldesley of Myerscough, and Sir Francis Anderton of Anderton, who had arrived to entertain and support their friends and relatives. The reunions did not last long, as almost immediately General Wills was reported to be approaching from Wigan and General Carpenter from Barnard Castle. The Jacobites had no scheme by which to defeat the advancing Hanoverian forces. Instead they erected four defence-barriers at the ends of Church Street, Lancaster Road, Friargate and Fisher-gate, and waited to be attacked. General Wills opened his attack first on the Church Street, and then on the Friargate barriers in the afternoon of Saturday, 12 November. The next morning General Carpenter arrived from Clitheroe, and, after an offer of safe conduct, and much argument between Englishmen and Highlanders, Forster at last surrendered at 7 pm on 13 November. On the same day the Jacobites under the Earl of Mar suffered defeat at the battle of Sheriffmuir. At Preston the Jacobite officers were imprisoned in the inns, while the rank and file – mainly Highlanders – were herded into the parish church after laying down their arms in the market place.
Many of the ordinary Jacobites were imprisoned or transported. Forty-three of their leaders, including Tom Syddall, were executed, mainly at Preston, but also at Garstang, Lancaster, Liverpool, Wigan and Manchester. Four were executed at Tyburn. Some of the gentry were acquitted, including Richard Towneley; Sir Francis Anderton forfeited his lands, and Richard Sherburne and George Clifton were outlawed. John Dalton was imprisoned and fined.
As a result of the Fifteen, all Roman Catholics of importance were suspected of disloyalty. Nicholas Blundell of Little Crosby, being related to Lord Widdrington through his wife’s brother, stayed at home as much as possible in the first two weeks of November. On the Sunday of Forster’s surrender at Preston his house was twice searched for arms by foot-soldiers from Liverpool. None were found, but the Blundells took no chances. Nicholas’s wife hid the ‘mass things’ in the attic, and on 24 November she and her husband went off on an extended visit to London, Douai and Rome which kept them away from Crosby until the autumn of 1717. By that time the feeling against Roman Catholics had died down and Blundell was able to resume his friendly relations with local Protestants.
After the experience of the Fifteen, Lancashire Jacobites were naturally more reluctant to take part in the rebellion led by the Young Pretender against George II in 1745. The Highland Jacobites followed the same route into Lancashire as their predecessors and found the same absenteeism and apathy among the Protestant authorities as had the Jacobite forces in the Fifteen. Jacobite recruitment, however, was not nearly so successful. Francis Towneley was the only important recruit to join the Young Pretender at Preston on 27 November and this time there was little response in Manchester. Once again Lancashire had failed to come up to Jacobite expectations. Charles moved on to Derby, but was back in Manchester in full retreat, by 9 December. The advance guard arrived at Lancaster on 13 December, and the Duke of Perth freed the Jacobite stragglers who had been rounded up and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle. On the following day the main army arrived, and while the soldiers were fitted out with new clothes by local tailors and shoemakers, the officers attended an organ recital in the parish church. The Jacobites left the town on 15 December with General Oglethorpe and his dragoons hard on their heels.
The aftermath of the Forty-Five was less serious for Lancashire Roman Catholic gentry than that of the Fifteen. Only the Towneleys really suffered. Sir John Towneley followed the Young Pretender to France, while his younger brother Francis, who had been left to hold Carlisle against the advance of the Duke of Cumberland, was executed in London, in spite of his plea of holding a French commission. Many ordinary Jacobite soldiers were imprisoned in Lancaster Castle where 80 died of typhus. In Liverpool a Protestant mob took revenge on local Roman Catholics by destroying their chapel.
In both the Fifteen and the Forty-Five it is difficult not to be struck by the unity and homogeneity of Lancashire society in spite of religious division. The main attitude of Roman Catholics and Protestants alike to the Jacobite rebellion was one of apathy and avoidance. Sir Henry Hoghton’s task of arousing local resistance was about as thankless as Bishop Nicholson’s at Carlisle. Coping with the Jacobites was a job for the professional soldier. Individuals – were willing to ‘have a go’, like Dr Henry Bracken of Lancaster in 1745, who rounded up Jacobite stragglers, but most men of property kept well out of the way.
An exceptional group reaction was that of the dissenters. To them a Jacobite victory presented the possibility of an end to toleration under the Act of 1689, and even the wholesale destruction of Protestantism. In immediate terms, the Jacobite mob in Manchester meant the destruction of their homes and meeting-houses. The Reverend James Woods, a minister at Chowbent, determined to take action, and in the Fifteen he led his congregation, armed with agricultural implements, to Walton-le-Dale where, under General Wills’s instructions he lined them up on the south bank of the Ribble safely out of harm’s way, but near enough to the action to share in the Jacobites’ defeat.
In the Forty-Five the dissenters had less opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to the Hanoverians. Fervent prayers were made for deliverance from ‘the Hands of wicked and unreasonable men’ and from ‘the Nursling from Rome’ (a reference to Bonnie Prince Charlie). ‘Having never seen the Rebells, or any in a Highland Dress’ one dissenting doctor, John Kay of Bury, went to watch the retreat from Manchester to Wigan and then went on to Manchester to ‘hear how the Rebells behaved themselves there’. On the following two days it was with great relief that he recorded seeing ‘a great many of our Majesty King George’s forces pass through Manchester pursuing the Rebells from Scotland’. As for behaviour, the Jacobite troops in Lancashire showed far more self-discipline and consideration for the local population than the Hanoverian troops in Scotland were to show after their victory at Culloden.