Visitors to the site of Ightenhill Manor House will see that it had commanding views over much of the local countryside. There are no standing remains of the structure left now, but recent efforts have tried to determine archaeologically what it looked like.

The entrance to the field where Ightenhill Manor House once stood

It was a late Norman construction built in the 1180s, rectangular in shape, probably two storeys tall. It measured 20 by 10 yards, with a courtyard in front of it that was 20 yards square. Originally the roof would have been thatched using local reeds, later these were replaced by slate. There were numerous buildings around it, including a chapel which measured 10 by 8 yards. The manor had its own water supply from a nearby well. The outer edge of the site would have had a high fence and a deep ditch, enabling the grounds of Ightenhill to function as a deer park.

A steward would have lived at the house to manage the estate in the absence of the lord. There would also have been a bailiff to manage the livestock.

The Manor and the Halmote Court

The manor was a local unit of government set up by the Normans. Ightenhill Manor would have had jurisdiction over the townships of Ightenhill itself, Burnley, Habergham, Cliviger, Briercliffe, Higham, Reedley and Hapton.

The steward also had the task of presiding over the law courts convened in the Great Hall. There were two types of court – one for land disputes and a second for dealing with criminal offences. Men of a certain rank would be compelled to act on the jury, and the cases would be presented by an official known as the greave.

A constable would also have been attached to the manor; his main duties would be to keep the peace and collect fines the courts had imposed. Other employees included men to maintain the boundaries – the fence-looker and the hedge-layer. Stray animals grazing where they should not have been were a constant source of fines. It was another employee – the pinder – who rounded them up to put in the pinfold.

The de Lacy Family at Ightenhill

The de Lacys were the dominant family in the area for over two centuries. They originated from the Lassy region of Northern France and came over with William the Conqueror, fighting with him at Hastings. Ilbert de Lacy and his younger brother Walter were hereditary tenants of Odo, Archbishop of Canterbury and half brother of King William. In 1090, Robert de Lacy was the first recorded Lord of Ightenhill. Unfortunately, he supported William’s oldest son, Duke Robert Curthose, in the tussle for the crown against William’s youngest son, King Henry I. When the rebellion failed all of Robert de Lacy’s  lands were confiscated.

By 1115, Ightenhill Manor was in the hands of Hugh de Val, who granted the churches of Burnley, Clitheroe and Colne to Pontefract Priory. His successor, a William Maltravers, was murdered and perhaps this incident allowed the de Lacys to take back control of their family lands.

The de Lacys were a very powerful family as Lords of the Honors of Clitheroe and Pontefract. An honor (or honour) consisted of a collection of manors. The Honor of Clitheroe encompassed the manors of Clitheroe itself, Ightenhill, Colne and Accrington. The de Lacys also owned the forest chases of Pendle, Rossendale and Trawden, where only they would have had hunting rights. They established large vaccaries (cow farms) within these chases to produce oxen which were sold as draught animals. Within their own park at Ightenhill they established a horse breeding enterprise, producing horses used for riding, transport and war.

Looking towards the site of the manor house

In 1193, Roger de Lacy (nicknamed ‘Roger from Hell’) succeeded to the de Lacy lands. His titles included Baron of Halton, Baron of Pontefract, Lord of Bowland, Lord of Blackburnshire and High Sheriff of Cumberland. He fought in the Third Crusade with King Richard I at the Siege of Acre. When the king passed away Roger became a loyal supporter of Richard’s brother, King John.

The same could not be said for his son John de Lacy, the Earl of Lincoln. He was one of the twenty five barons that forced the king to sign the Magna Carta, curtailing the power of the crown, in 1215.

Henry de Lacy was arguably the most influential figure of the family. He served and fought under King Edward I, who waged constant war on the Scots and the Welsh. Henry was appointed Protector of the Realm while the king was campaigning in Scotland. His reward for his loyalty was a large estate in Denbighshire in Wales, where he built Denbigh Castle. His locally important work included securing a market for Burnley in 1294 and moving the monks of Stanlaw to their new site of Whalley Abbey. A more self centred project saw him enclosing Musbury Tor near Helmshore, creating a deer park for himself. Records show that eighteen oxen were used to pull the cut timber from Tottington woodlands to furnish the four-and-a-half mile long deer fence on the park’s eastern side.

A Disastrous Rebellion

When King Edward II acceded to the throne, Henry had a good relationship with him at first. However, this had soured somewhat before the time of Henry’s death in 1311.  Henry’s daughter Alice was his sole heir and she had married Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. Accordingly, all the de Lacy lands were now under her husband’s control. Earl Thomas led a group of barons who were increasingly out of favour with the king.

The reign of King Edward II saw some dark times for Lancashire. Between 1314 and 1316, heavy rain and floods destroyed crops and disease killed many cattle and sheep. Raiding parties from Scotland were also an increasing problem. The Scots recaptured most of the castles that Edward II’s father had won for the English within Scotland. Emboldened by their constant victories over the English army, their forays into Lancashire became more severe. The king’s response seemed ineffectual, and his constant raising of taxes to pay for failed war campaigns enraged the nobles.

Earl Thomas, as the most powerful nobleman in England, decided to act. He marshalled a rebellion against the king, which culminated in the Battle of Boroughbridge near York. However, the earl was defeated. He was taken to his own castle at Pontefract, put on trial and executed. All his estates immediately became the property of King Edward II.

The loss of Earl Thomas heralded further disaster for Lancashire as law and order broke down. With no local strong governance in the area, others saw their chance. In the autumn of the same year, the Scots, under Robert the Bruce, carried out their deepest raid yet. Lancaster Castle, Dalton Castle, Halton Castle and Samlesbury Old Hall and church were all targeted.

Happenings at Ightenhill give a snaphot of how bad things became, not just because of the Scots, but because of fellow Englishmen. Records show that Nicholas de Maulverer, the Constable of Skipton Castle, together with men from the Craven and Airedale areas, raided the area. Horses were stolen from the Ightenhill stud farm and cattle from Pendle and Trawden. Gilbert de la Legh of Hapton, a local law official, was kidnapped from Ightenhill and imprisoned at Holbeck near Leeds, with a demand for 20 pounds of ransom money.

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How the manor house could have looked. This picture is on the interpretation sign and for more drawings see the link below

Order had to be restored, and the king sent a message that he would visit Lancashire to sit in judgement the next year, and of course inspect his newly-acquired properties. A special court would be set up at Wigan, where all the accused could be put on trial. Before he attended the court he would visit Ightenhill Manor House, where he would stay.

Repairs were ordered for the manor house before the king arrived. Oak trees were felled and their timbers used to create new posts within the hall.  The construction of a new hall chimney was carried out. Repairs were also done to the bake house, stables and two barns. To get the wider estate ready for the king’s inspections, forest houses were reroofed, two farms fixed up and the deer fence repaired.

King Edward II journeyed from Skipton to Wigan, via Ightenhill.  He stayed at the manor house between the 4th and 12th of October, and then passed on the monastery of Upholland Priory (which had also now come under his ownership – see our page on it here). Entries from the Ightnenill Halmote court show that peace had been restored to the area after his visit. The recorded complaints reverted to the everyday ones of animals straying and damaging crops.

The End of Ightenhill Manor House

In the 1440s, the Halmote court for the areas around Burnley had moved to St Peter’s Church and, in the early 1500s, Higham Hall became the Halmote court for Pendle Forest. With the loss of its primary function, the manor house went into decline.

By 1523, historical documents show that the hall and its associated buildings were derelict. In 1552, John Towneley of Towneley Hall commissioned a report on the condition of the manor complex. This stated that the great hall was a ruin. The great chamber, kitchen, butler’s house and pantry had all been destroyed, and there were no timbers or stone left from them. The oven house and great barn had met a similar fate. The park-keeper’s house still had timbers and a slate stone roof on, but its doors and windows had been removed. The chapel and stables were also ruinous. Interestingly, the report was at pains to point out that John Towneley “has not been found guilty of removing or destruction of any timbers or stones“.

The lease on the parkland of Ightenhill later passed from the Towneleys, who were probably suffering as Catholics from the recusancy laws, to Richard Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe Hall, in 1593.

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Ightenhill Manor House had commanding views over much of the local countryside, which would have all been part of the Ightenhill estate

Recent Findings

Although as recently as 1894 the foundations of the buildings could still be seen, along with the manor’s well, there are no discernible features today.  The land where the manor house once stood is now in the hands of Ightenhill Parish Council. A recent Heritage Lottery Grant was given to enable the site to be surveyed using geophysics for archaeological structures buried beneath the ground. Fans of the Time Team television programme would recognise these techniques as various forms of ground-penetrating radar. (The report produced for Ightenhill has been overseen by Dr John Gater who was the main geophysicist on Time Team and you can download it from here). The findings are a little hazy – there is evidence for the manor house and its associated chapel but clear wall lines have proved elusive. Perhaps what the instruments have detected is demolition rubble from the buildings. A separate ‘D’ shaped earthwork has also been found, which again may be associated with demolition and possible burning of structures. While the geophysics may be disappointing, only an actual archaeological dig would determine what survives.

Money from the award was also used to inform local people about the history of the site. This has resulted in the production of an excellent short booklet (available from Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford) which features medieval style drawings of what the manor house could have looked like, along with a history of the site. (See some of the drawings and the model that was commissioned here). Roger Sperry has written the booklet and done a great deal to publicise the manor house, including writing articles in local newspapers that can still be accessed and read (see the Reference section below).

Visiting Ightenhill Manor House Site Today

A finger post stating Ightenhill Manor House points toward an information board that has been erected next to the field where the site lies.  The site is just beyond the farm gate, in the field. Unhelpfully, Ightenhill Council have put a no entry sign on the gate to the field, which is grazed by sheep. There is no current public right of way into the field. In Scotland, since 2005 there has been complete freedom to enter such a field under their Right to Roam act. Let us hope that similar laws will be passed soon in England, to the benefit of all ramblers and lovers of history (see update below).

To see an example of a surviving Medieval manor house you can visit Smithills Hall in Bolton which has a Medieval hall in part of the building. There is also Newton Hall in Hyde which is a restored Medieval manor house.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2019


The site of Ightenhill Manor House is just off Helvellyn Drive, Burnley. There is a large house next to the entrance to the site, which is named Manor House but isn’t the original, although it is old. The information board is by the farm gate. The site is in the field beyond the gate. Grid Reference OS Maps and A-Z Maps, 818 343.

Right to Roam: In Scotland, virtually all the countryside and inland waterways allow public access (since 2005). In England, the Right to Roam is only for around 10% of the land. For more on the freedoms Scotland enjoys, and hopefully one day England will as well, see here.

Update May 2023: The Labour Party has announced that they will change the law to allow a ‘Right to Roam’ in England similar to the one in Scotland if elected to government in 2024.

Nearby, just a short drive away

Gawthorpe Hall

Towneley Hall

Sandy Holme Aqueduct

Godley Lane Cross and Shorey Well


The Manor House of Ightenhill, Roger Frost (2015) Nu-Age Print & Company, Burnley. Available from Pendle Heritage Centre, Barrowford. (Roger Frost has also written three articles in local newspapers about the site – paste the three web references below into your browser)

The Early History of the Forest of Pendle, Mary Briggs (1989) Pendle Hertiage Centre Ltd. Available from Pendle Heritage Centre, Barrowford

Geophysical Survey Report G1438 Ightenhill Manor House Burnley, Emma Brunning (2014) GSB Prospection Ltd. Available on line as a pdf document.,_2nd_Earl_of_Lincoln,_3rd_Earl_of_Lincoln,_2nd_Earl_of_Lancaster