Newburgh Cross, near Lathom, West Lancashire

Newburgh Cross

At the highest point of Newburgh village green stands Newburgh Cross. The cross itself is modern, but its socket base and steps are much older. Some sources have suggested a 17th-18th century date but others go as far as suggesting the base is 14th century from when a market was first established here.

Newburgh means ‘New Borough’ and dates from the time when in 1304 Edward I granted a charter for a market to Robert de Lathom. Robert held the manor of Lathom and it is thought that he wanted to set up a market at Newburgh, perhaps as a rival one to nearby Ormskirk. The market occurred every Tuesday and the charter also included provision for an annual fair. This was centred around St Barnabas day, and was a three day festival on the 10th, 11th and 12th of June. The hope of Newburgh becoming an important town never happened, but the annual fair had become renowned for its cattle by the late 1700s. Both market and fair continued up to the start of the 20th century. Recently the fair has been revived to become once more an annual event.

Newburgh Medieval Cross Base

The market place is marked by the cross and would have extended under the buildings to the north of the green. In 1899 a survey of the cross published in the Transactions of Lancashire and Cheshire Historical Society reported “two tiers of stone with a large square stone probably the wrong side up, and may be the socket of the shaft. A few isolated stones were scattered around the green”. By 1957 a report revealed it to now have a modern shaft in an old socket, sitting on two steps. The surveyor noted that there were no signs of scattered isolated stones anymore.

The cross is located within the Newburgh conservation area designated because of its historic and architectural features. Some of the larger houses are old farmhouses and inns. The current Post Office was formerly the Horse and Jockey pub. The village has over 40 listed buildings, 20 of which lie within the conservation area.

Newburgh Village Green

Visitors to the site today will see a modern cross sitting inside a medieval sandstone socket. This rests on two weathered sets of steps held together by iron staples. The triangular green also features a flagstone wall bearing the conservation area badge.  Nearby is a large quarry stone with a plaque stating: This Roand O Quarry Stone is to mark the end of quarrying in Newburgh and to commemorate the new Millenium. Newburgh Parish Council 1999/2000.


There is also a Grade II listed telephone box of the K6 type, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, which may make readers realise that their own recent past is now becoming classed as history !

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017


The village green is open access and the cross can be viewed during daylight hours. Park on the road that rises up and forks off from the main road through the village. Have a look at Newburgh Village website for more on its history and fair here


Newburgh Conservation Area : Conservation Area Appraisal (July 2004) Caron Newman Egerton Lea Consultancy for West Lancashire District Council

Historic England Pastscape website page on Newburgh Cross  (

Newburgh Village website conservation area page


Posted in Medieval Lancashire, Wayside Crosses | Tagged , ,

Mount Pavilion, Fleetwood

Mount Pavilion

Peter Hesketh of Rossall Hall sank his fortune into building the brand new town of Fleetwood, on a stretch of the deserted coast where the River Wyre meets the sea. He commissioned the architect Decimus Burton to design the layout of the town and some of its key buildings. Burton selected Top Hill, a large natural sand hill to become the focal point of the town. Top Hill was renamed The Mount and the new streets radiated out from it.

Two buildings were constructed on the Mount- a pavilion made in 1838 and a lodge in 1841. The Lodge was a neo classical style low building split into two houses for the grounds keeper and the gardener of the Regency style garden. The original pavilion on top of the Mount was a ten sided Chinese style pagoda, and was used for decades as a tea room. It also had a secondary function as a weather observation station.

By 1859 Hesketh’s big gamble of building a new town and bringing the railway to it was not paying off. Now heavily in debt, he sold the North Euston Hotel to the government. This was converted into a military barracks and then into a school of Musketry.

The Mount Fleetwood

Fleetwood residents began to worry that the Mount too would be taken over for military use. A wall had been constructed by Hesketh’s agents, blocking off part of the Mount and so a public meeting was held. During this an angry demonstration by some of the attendees resulted in parts of the wall being demolished. The result of all of this concern ultimately resulted in a right of way being granted on the Mount for everyone, and the local council leasing it from Hesketh. However, the residents did have to share its use with the military as in 1862 a Royal Naval Reserve Volunteers gun battery of two three ton cannons was constructed on the seaward side, firing at targets out at sea.

The proximity of the Mount to the sea meant that it was repeatedly battered by storms. Part of the sand hill was destroyed, the Pavilion kept getting damaged and the gun battery had to be relocated. New sea defences were placed in front of the Mount and this counteracted  some of the worst effects of the weather. In 1902 a brand new Pavilion was put up and this is the present one we see today, made by the Portable Building Company of Fleetwood.

Huge floods in 1927 meant that the sea defences needed to be further strengthened. On the shore in front of the Mount the Marine Gardens were built so that the sea no longer came up to the base of the Mount.

In the 1980s restoration of the Mount was begun. The south side had begun to badly erode so it was planted with pine trees to stabilize it. The Pavilion was by now derelict and had been vandalized. Fleetwood Civic Society and Wyre Borough Council spent £42,000 to restore it and it is still in very good condition today. Thirty years on there is a bid in with the Heritage Lottery Fund for further restoration for the whole of the Mount.

Part of the restored gardens

Much has already been achieved- the Grade II registered gardens are now being replanted and restored to their original format. The metal railings topping the wall around the gardens that were removed in Second World war have now been replaced with ones that have the same design and colour as the originals. The public shelters have also been renovated.

The next stage of the bid is to renovate and open the Pavilion and Lodge for public use. Plans for the Lodge include reopening the ground floor and unblocking the windows. The Pavilion is to be repainted to its original colour scheme, new louvers for  its top and the balcony refitted to its original design.

The weather station in the Pavilion is also going to be restored, which seems appropriate given the long use the building has been put to in the monitoring of local conditions. In 1886 the Meteorological Office put in a Robinson Cup anemometer to measure wind speed. An allowance of £10 per year was made to pay the keeper to change the graph paper and send weather reports down to Greenwich. The anemometer lasted until 1923, when it was replaced by a 10 foot high pressure wind vane. This lasted incredibly until 2009, when it suffered storm damage.

Looking out at the sea defences of the Marine Gardens

The memorial clock installed after the First World War is still going strong. Made by the Potts company at Leeds it is still maintained by them all these years later, striking the quarter of the hour for all to hear.

It is the aim of Fleetwood to make its promenade the finest in England. With its sculptures, historical interpretation boards, iconic lighthouses, town museum and now this restoration project they are well on the way to doing just that.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017


The Mount and Pavilion area are open access and can be seen at any time during daylight hours. The interior of the Pavilion is not generally open, but plans are afoot to bring it back into public use. It does open for the National Heritage Days every September and there is a movement to start opening it up for events in the school holidays. See Wyre Council website for the latest news about the Mount here

For more on the history of Fleetwood, visit their excellent museum here or type in into your internet browser.

Nearby, just a very short walk away, Fleetwood’s Victorian Lighthouses


An Historical Timeline of the Mount In Fleetwood, Joan Ratcliffe, Fleetwood Civic Society leaflet (undated), currently available from Fleetwood Civic society

Reviving The Mount Wyre Council on site interpretation board 2017

Fleetwood Civic Society temporary display inside the Pavilion (Heritage Days September 2017)

Burton’s Fleetwood, Fleetwood Civic Society, leaflet (undated) currently available from Fleetwood Civic society

Fleetwood A Brief History, leaflet (undated) currently available from Fleetwood Civic Society

Posted in Victorian Lancashire | Tagged , | 1 Comment

St Leonard the Less Church, Samlesbury near Preston

St Leonard the Less Samlesbury, showing the earliest Medieval phase

The church of St Leonard the Less was originally built by Gospatric, lord of the manor of Samlesbury as a chapel-of-ease for his family and staff. Local tradition has it that he persuaded two visiting Irish bishops to consecrate a burial place by the church, to the annoyance of the Bishop of Lichfield, the overseer of much of the North. The shape of the first small medieval building can be seen in the outside walls of the church today, as the lowest outline of brickwork (see photograph on the left). The red and yellow sandstone clearly show the earlier and later stages of construction. The church was served by Cistercian monks from Stanlaw Abbey, who later relocated to Whalley. They owned land and collected tithes within the Samlesbury area.

During the Anglo Scottish wars Robert Bruce attacked both the church and Samlesbury Lower Hall in 1322. A huge oak drawbar was used to bar the entrance against such attacks and can still be seen today behind the main door. Many of the high status homes in Lancashire were fortified against such threats, such as Hoghton, Radcliffe and Turton towers.

The church’s fortunes ebbed and flowed over the years. In 1552 Edward VI commissioners seized many of the religious ornaments in the building, seeing such trappings as heretical. They also tried to confiscate the church’s two bells that had possibly come from Whalley Abbey. The locals protested vigorously, and the bells were allowed to remain. One of them, known as the Sanctus Bell can still be seen in the church today. During the reign of  Edward’s sister, Elizabeth I,  the church was restored and enlarged by the Earl of Derby, with the present  north and south aisles being added.

Religious turbulence continued into the next century and in 1619 parishioners were censured for ‘having piping music and dancing in their houses at divine service time upon the Sabbath day’. Other outlawed customs they were accused of  included ‘burning candles over corpses … and praying where crosses are and have been’.

More evidence of earlier phases of the church

Big internal changes occurred in the 1600s. The box pews that today dominate the inside were added and many still display the family names of their owners. The oldest is the Hoghton pew from 1678, and the latest one is dated 1756.  The communion rail (thought to be a staircase rail from nearby    Samlesbury Hall)  and the present two decker pulpit (which was once a three decker !) were also added.

With the Jacobean uprising of 1715 against George I it was compulsory to display the Royal Coat of arms within  a church.  This shows the English lion and the Scottish unicorn, the unicorn with its crown around its neck and chained- a very visual statement. The one we see today dates from 1741. At the end of the 1700s the  church was again restored with a double gallery placed at west end. This was used by children who were owned by Roach Mill Factory and part of this is still in place today.

The late Victorian era saw the porch and tower added in 1889 with a Mrs. T.M. Crook of Stanley Grange laying the foundation stone. The church originally had a wooden bell turret over the west gable, but this was taken away when the new stone tower was added. Mrs. Crook donated a peal of eight bells and in return was given the medieval Sanctus Bell and a second old bell from the wooden turret. The Sanctus Bell was then used at the Grange to summon workers from the farm fields! It was later returned by a Mrs. Baxter also of Stanley Grange. It now sits within the church with a display board detailing its history. It is inscribed Campana Jhesu Christi which we translate as  Bell of Jesus Christ, and is one of the oldest of  bells in the county.

Victorian Bell Tower

A Peal Board commemorates the new bells being put through their paces when in 1908 the  5040 changes of ‘Grandsire Triples’ were rung in 3 hours and 2 minutes. The Lancashire Association of Change Ringers  were behind this and the board includes the name of all the ringers. If you’d like to hear what Grandsire Triples sound like, and how the bell ringing order changes as the peals progress, have a look at this short YouTube video here.

All the above historical artefacts can be viewed by visitors to the church today. Other things of note include the Norman font, which probably came from St Leonard’s Church in Walton le Dale. It had been left in the churchyard for many years before being restored to its present position in 1896. There are reassembled  fragments of medieval glass in the west window, the window frame itself being a medieval style termed ‘Early English’. High up on one of the walls is the funeral armour of a helmet, sword and shield  attributed to Sir Thomas Southworth of Samlesbury Hall who died 1546. Particularly impressive are the large painted canvas boards from the 1700s which feature  The Lord’s Prayer, Creed and Ten Commandments.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017


The exterior of the church can be viewed at any time during daylight hours and there is ample parking next to it. It is signposted  just off Preston New Road and the postcode is PR5 0UE.

To gain access to the interior is more difficult. It opens every year on the National Heritage Opening Days in September. It has had opening times during the summer months, but it is probably best to contact the church website here  or put the web address below into your browser:

Nearby, just a short drive away Samlesbury Hall


A Brief Guide to St Leonard the Less Parish Church Samlesbury, Paul and Pam Durton, (undated publication but current), the booklet is available from within  the church

Townships: Samlesbury, in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1911), pp. 303-313. From the website  British History Online [accessed 23 October 2017]




Posted in Medieval Lancashire, Oldest Churches, | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Fleetwood’s Victorian Lighthouses

Lower Lighthouse Fleetwood

It was Peter Hesketh’s bold vision to create along an empty, wind swept shore the town of Fleetwood. It was to be a brand new Victorian holiday resort and seaport. He commissioned  Captain Henry Mangles Denham of the Royal Navy and the scientific Royal Society to design the port and place lighthouses to guide ships safely into it. Denham created a system of three lighthouses, unique for any town in Britain. The incoming ships would sail to the Wyre Light, two miles out at sea on the North Wharf Sandbank where the River Wyre meets the Lune Deep. At this point the navigator would look to line up the lights from the Lower and Upper Lighthouses, one above the other, to be guided into port.

The Wyre Light was the most innovative construction. It was designed in Belfast by Alexander Mitchell, a blind engineer. Built as a metal frame with piles driven into a sand bank, on top it had a wooden hexagonal building where the lighthouse keepers would work and sleep. The lamp they tended could be seen for 10 miles out at sea. In the early days tourist trips would be taken out to it and visitors would climb up a ladder to reach the top or be hauled up in a basket. In 1948 a fire broke out and the Fleetwood lifeboat was launched to rescue the keepers. The structure was left badly damaged and but the light was made automatic and continued in use up until 1979 when a lighted buoy replaced it. It is now in a ruinous state, with no authority taking  responsibility for its up keep.

Looking two miles out to sea towards Wyre Light (it’s not visible in this picture !)

The other two lighthouses have fared much better and are still in use today. Both were designed by Decimus Burton the Fleetwood town architect, with the help of Captain Denham. On 1st December 1840 a steamer carrying Peter Hesketh and his invited guests launched a rocket to signal for the lighthouses to be switched on for the first time, to the cheers of a local crowd.

The Lower Lighthouse is built of white sandstone. Standing on the sea front its light can be seen for 9 miles. It was originally gas powered but was later converted to electricity. The building has two platforms, the lower larger one is supported by impressive stone columns and forms a roof over the seating area below. A pebble compass in the pavement by the side of it is a recreation of an original Victorian feature. On the beach in front of the lighthouse is a stone with the inscription ‘LQ’ which marked the end of the legal quay of the Fleetwood port.

Upper Lighthouse Fleetwood

The Upper Lighthouse it is built of Runcorn red sandstone and is much taller and of a traditional cylindrical design. It is set further back from the seafront and stands in Pharos Square. Its light can be seen from 13 miles away. Again this was originally gas lit, but now is an automatic electric one. Both lighthouses were restored in the 1960s when their white, black and red paint were stripped off to reveal the marvelous stonework beneath.

Access  The Lower and Upper  Lighthouses are just a short walk away from each other and the are open access to view as they stand in the streets of Fleetwood. On Heritage Days in September the Lower Lighthouse is unlocked and visitors can enter and climb up to see the light. There is currently no access inside the Upper Lighthouse.

The four foot tall Wyre Light lantern is on display at the recently reopened             Fleetwood Museum (see their website here and a short Lancashire Past blog post on the reopening here). For more on the Wyre Light see a really interesting webpage at the independent Visit Fleetwood website here. There are good aerial pictures of it on this YouTube video here.

Sites visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017

Nearby, just a very short walk away Mount Pavilion, Fleetwood


Fleetwood’s Three Lighthouses, Joan Radcliffe, Fleetwood Civic Society (undated leaflet) currently available from Fleetwood Civic Society

Fleetwood Historic Town Trail, Fleetwood Museum Trust (undated booklet) available from the Fleetwood Maritime Museum

Burton’s Fleetwood, Fleetwood Civic Society (undated leaflet) currently available from Fleetwood Civic Society Wyre Light entry (accessed 15/10/17)

Posted in Victorian Lancashire | 1 Comment

Fleetwood Museum Reopens

Fleetwood Museum

Some good news at last, following the regrettable decision to close so many of Lancashire’s Museums a couple of years ago. Fleetwood Maritime Museum, based in the old customs house in Fleetwood has reopened. Congratulations to all the volunteers and to the Fleetwood Museum Trust for managing to do this. We visited on the National Heritage Days in September and were very pleased to see so many people there. As well as a excellent displays and café, it has a well stocked gift shop featuring many books on local Lancashire history that aren’t readily available elsewhere. So do get along and visit and support them- their summer opening season extends until the 30th November.  Their website ( can be viewed by clicking here.

Opening Times

10.30 am -3.30 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday

There is ample parking nearby- free parking at the Marine Hall


Posted in Tudor Lancashire | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Lancaster’s Lost Roman Fort

Looking out from Castle Hill

On top of Castle Hill once stood Lancaster’s Roman Fort, or as we shall see, a succession of forts built over the years. Today on the site is the massive fortress of Lancaster Castle and the Medieval Priory Church. The top of the hill is 125 feet above sea level and affords good views of the surrounding countryside- hence it being a great location for over 2000 years.

At the beginning of Roman Britain, this area was under the rule of the Brigantes (meaning ‘hill people’). The Brigantes were a loose  British confederation of British tribes whose domain stretched through much of what is now Lancashire and Yorkshire. Their queen was Cartimandua and she and her husband Venutius had at first a pro-Roman stance. When Cartimandua later divorced Venutius  he launched two attempts to topple her. On the second he was successful, and she had to be rescued by the Romans. From that point on, the Brigantes under his command were at war with Rome. The Roman Conquest of the North of Britain became inevitable.

FIRST FORT (a simple turf and timber fort)

Heading up to the East Gate of the first and second forts

A  first Roman turf and timber fort was established on the hill top around 71-73 AD. Its external ramparts would be of battered clay, with the internal part strengthened by timber.  Further defense came from deep ‘V’ shaped ditches surrounding it. The fort would have the classic four gate entrances, one on each side. The position meant that it could  protect the River Lune crossing point to just to the north.  The fort’s garrison was the auxiliary cavalry unit Ala Augusta Gallorum Proculeiana.  A  small civilian settlement (a Vicus)  would have soon sprung up, just to the east of the fort along the line of modern day Church Street.

SECOND FORT (a large turf and timber fort,  later remade in stone)

The second fort was much bigger. It was built over the top of the first one, and was to begin with another turf and timber construction. The east and west walls would follow the same line of the old fort, but the northern wall was placed 123 feet North of the old one, and presumably the same happened on the south side.  There was later a short period of abandonment as the Romans pushed their frontier further north, but when they returned they rebuilt in stone.

The second fort was garrisoned by two separate groups- the Ala Gallorum Sebosiana  (another cavalry contingent) and  the naval unit of Numerus Barcariorum. The latter are often referred to as ‘bargemen’, but from a  military view they were marines offering tough coastal and river defense for the region, as well as the ability to move heavy goods considerable distances.

Top of the steps is the central point of the first and second forts

Outside the fort to the north and west was a militarized zone. The area was defended by ditches and inside it were probably craftsmen engaged in creating equipment for the garrison. Just to the north of the east gate was the bathhouse, the remains of which we can still see today (see the Lancashire Past post here).  A large building to the north of the bathhouse has been excavated and was probably a Mansio (inn) or the residence of an important official, even having its own baths. Lying a little further to the north would be the military port, near to St George’s Quay. Today’s Millennium Bridge lies very close to where the Roman bridge over the Lune would have been.

During the period the second fort was occupied  the Vicus would have grown substantially. It would contain shops, inns, temples and houses. Most of the buildings would be made of wood and sit on small stone foundation walls. The main street extended in a line from the east gate of the fort and followed present day Church Street. Branching off from Church Street was a second street which is today Penny Street and Cheapside. From these areas many finds have surfaced over the years and are on show in the excellent Lancaster City Museum.

A walk around the where the second fort would have been

Vicarage Field Earthworks shows the western rampart of the second fort

Start at the Judges Lodgings and Cross, near Church Street. Looking up the hill you’d be seeing the eastern entrance to the Second Roman fort. Follow the line of Church Street up until you reach the big set of steps. Now you stand in the centre of the fort, close to the Headquarters building. Head north down Vicarage Lane, past the church and this will take you out to Vicarage Fields. If you turn left and head out to the grassland you’d be amongst the barrack blocks and stables.   It looks like the earthworks in the field still follow part of what would have been the western wall of the fort


The line of the castle wall probably follows the western rampart of the second fort

Head back to Vicarage Lane. There are sign posts showing you the way to the quay heading north to where the Roman harbor and stone bridge over the Lune would have been. There’s also a signpost for the Roman Baths, which sat just outside the north east side of the fort and can still be seen today. But let’s retrace our steps back up to the church  and head along the western wall of the fort. Keep the castle on your left and head to the edge of the wall with the big drop below- this probably runs along the course of the western wall of the fort and is in line with the earthworks we saw in Vicarage Fields. Great views show what a superb vantage point this was.

On Castle Park looking  to where the south wall of the fort was

Keep going until you reach the road and  turn ninety degrees left onto Castle Park. If you walk along here with the castle on your left, you would have been looking up at the southern side of the fort. When you reach the end of Castle Park where it joins the Castle Hill road this would have been the south eastern corner of the fort.




THIRD FORT (a ‘Saxon Shore’ fort)

This was a coastal defense fort that was also used as a supply base for the Romans. Built around 330 AD it would continue to be used into the early 400s . By this stage in history, the threat was no longer coming from the indigenous British people, but from overseas. In the East it was the Saxons, but in the West it would be raiders from Ireland. A defensive line along the west of Britain included not only Lancaster but also Holyhead (Roman Caer Gybi) and Cardiff ( Roman Waliau- a fort thought to be very like our one).  Numerus Barcariorum were now the only garrison.

It was constructed on a different alignment from the last fort and reused stone from it. The site extended further down the north and eastern slopes of Castle Hill  than previous forts, reaching down to give greater protection to  a now expanded  port and military zone. New features of the fort included large protruding bastions on which to mount defensive artillery

Part of a Bastion of the Third Fort- Wery Wall

The Wery Wall is a remnant of one of the bastions and parts of the wall existed for hundreds of years after the Romans left. The term ‘Wery’ comes from old English (i.e. Saxon) and means ‘defensive’. The Norman castle may well have used part of the remaining Roman wall as protection.

It’s not possible to walk around the edge of the third fort as we have the second one. Only one line of its wall lines are known for sure, cutting right through the old fort at a 45 degree angle. There is a single remaining block left – the core of a bastion and the last remnant of the Wery Wall. It sits by the Bath House of the second fort, just off Vicarage Lane. As well as this large block, you can see the third  fort’s defensive ditch running into the older bath house. Follow the signposts for the Roman Baths  to view these remaining ruins.

Ditch of the Third Fort cutting through the Bath House

Many of the finds from the forts and vicus are on display in Lancaster City Museum, just a short walk from the top of Castle Hill. Entry to the museum is free and it is well worth a visit as it displays much of the archaeological and historical treasures of the Lancaster area.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017


The site around Vicarage Fields, the priory church and castle is open access.

To see the superb finds visit Lancaster City Museum. It’s open every day (except Mondays). Website here

Nearby, just a short walk away Lancaster’s Roman Bath House


Note: David Shotter in his work counts four forts, but the more recent work by the archaeologists in Beyond the Castle project count three. The second large turf and timber fort that was later remade in stone is counted as just one fort by them, whereas Shotter counts the two separately.

The Roman Fort and Town of Lancaster, David Shotter and Andrew White (1990) Centre for North-West Regional Studies, University of Lancaster

The Romans in Lunesdale, David Shotter and Andrew White (1995) Centre for North-West Regional Studies, University of Lancaster

Beyond the Castle project. Current Website ( see here )  and temporary display at Lancaster Castle 2016

Lancaster’s Roman Cemeteries, Peter Iles and David Shotter (Eds) (2009),  Centre for North-West Regional Studies, University of Lancaster

A Guided Walk of Roman Lancaster leaflet , Dr A J White (2001), Lancaster City Museums (still in print and available from the Lancaster museum ? name?)

Roman Lancashire, W. Thompson Watkin (1883/2007) republished by Azorabooks








Posted in Roman Forts,, Roman Lancashire | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Worden Hall and Park, Leyland

Worden Hall, Leyland

The land at present day Worden Park was acquired by Henry Farington in 1534 and would stay with his family for over 400 years. The earliest hall on the site was called Shaw Hall and this is shown on a 1725 map of the estate. The hall was enlarged in 1742 by Sir William Farington and a later account described it as a  “large irregular stuccoed pile, containing a suite of apartments used as a museum stored with natural curiosities, busts, marbles…paintings… some of them frescoes found in the ruins of Herculaneum…” These artefacts were brought back by Sir William on the then fashionable Grand Tour of Europe.

In 1837 James Nowell Farington  aged only 24, inherited Shaw Hall. He soon decided that both house and estate needed to be enhanced. Much of the house had dry rot, so a large part was demolished and a major rebuild to the designs of the architect Anthony Salvin took place over five years. It was now that the name change occurred and the grand house from then on was known as Worden Hall. Some of the older parts that survived the rebuild included the Derby Wing (or Service Wing) built by George Farington in the early 18th century and the nearby farm buildings. The gardens and parkland had new creations added, many of which we can still see today: the  sunken lawn, the Hornbeam tree maze and the picturesque follies of the ice house and stone arch over the Shaw Brook.

In 1847 James married Sarah Esther Touchet, a wealthy heiress. A huge wedding was held at the new Worden Hall. This lavish celebration featured a ball for 600 guests and even a hot air balloon. There was a Children’s Treat for 1500 pupils and a special meal for over 200 of the local poor. Sadly James died just 8 months later and the running of the estate was taken over by Sarah and his two sisters, Mary Hannah and Susan Maria. His sisters were remarkable women in their own right by the restrictive standards of the times: Mary Hannah was a keen biologist and Susan Maria specialized in history as well as being active in local charities and the Local Board (what would now be the local council). During the 1860s Cotton Famine the sisters organized relief for unemployed factory workers.

In 1910 Henry Novel Farington inherited Worden, and he was to be the last squire of the property. Soon after World War I parts of the estate began to be sold off, presumably to raise money. A devastating fire struck the housel in 1941, severely damaging much of  the newer parts of the hall and leaving it a burnt out shell. Henry died six years later and a huge part of the building’s historical contents, collected over so many years by the Faringtons, were auctioned off. In 1951 the estate was bought by Leyland Urban District Council who opened the 60 hectare grounds as a park for the public that same year.

North Lodge

There is much of historical interest that still remains for visitors to see today. The neoclassical North Lodge and gateway with its Tuscan style columns are still one of the main entrances to the parkland. The road that leads from it into the grounds is probably one of the original estate drives shown on the 1725 map. It forms a crossroads with  another original drive ‘The Avenue’ which leads down towards the hall.


The burnt out part of the new hall was demolished in the 1950s, but the older Derby Wing (or Service Wing) dating from the 1700s house is still in good condition. Although much modified it’s an impressive building- built of brick and standing on a stone plinth. This section used to contain the servants hall and kitchen. Inside a triple arched fireplace dates the structure with a keystone of 1736. It stands besides the Grade II listed farm buildings which include a barn, stable block and a huge brewhouse. These are now used for a variety of businesses including artisans and artists, craft and gift shops and a popular café.

The old Brewhouse

The conservatory that once joined onto the new hall has seen better days and is looking very neglected. Originally built in 1860 its wooden frame is now beyond repair and will be replaced by an aluminium one in the same style in 2018. Hopefully it will be restocked and be a welcome addition to the formal garden it faces onto. The garden was originally designed by William Andrews Nesfield a noted landscaper of his time, who often worked with his brother-in-law Anthony Salvin,  the above mentioned architect of Worden Hall. Nesfield is best known for his work at Kew Gardens and Castle Howard, but here he has left us a fiendish hedge maze. It is very tricky to solve right from the start- it has two entrances, one of which is false !

The Georgian walled kitchen garden has been recently restored and restocked, with plants available for sale. It has a fascinating history of its own and to see our site post click here. The extensive park grounds feature a woodland walk and the picturesque Grade II ice house and arch follies (see here). A model ride on steam railway is a big draw on the weekends.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017


Access and Opening Times

Worden Park is open 9am- 5pm daily. The car park is free.

All of the above mentioned amenities (maze, gardens, parkland)  are also free. A new large pond has been created and there is an excellent playground for children. The model steam railway does not charge, but visitors can make a donation in a box if the wish.

Nearby, just a short walk away Leyland Town Cross and Well and                    Leyland’s Tudor Grammar House: South Ribble Museum


The History of Leyland and District, David Hunt (1990), Carnegie Press—back-lane—hall-lane.html (entry on Worden Hall)



Posted in Georgian Lancashire, Victorian Lancashire | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

St George’s Hall, Liverpool

St George’s Hall

In early Victorian times Liverpool was in need of two new buildings- one for  an entertainment venue and another for  law courts. Two independent competitions were held to find an architect for these two schemes. Harry Lonsdale Elmes, a young architect, won both, quite a coup for someone who had only completed two previous projects.  He then submitted a plan to combine the two buildings  all into one huge structure. Liverpool city council accepted the design and the foundation stone of St George’s Hall was laid in 1838. Sadly, Elmes would not live to see the completion of the building. Suffering from stress and ill health, he took time away from work in 1847 and retreated to the Isle of Wight. In September of the same year he moved on to Jamaica in the hope that the warmer climate would help, but he died soon after of tuberculosis. Charles Cockerell, a friend of the Elmes family, took over in 1851 and although he followed much of the original vision for the exterior, he would put his own stamp on the interior design.

The building featured the world’s first air conditioning system. It was designed by the engineer David Boswell Reid, who would go on to create one for the Houses of Parliament. Fresh air was brought in from the eastern portico and then warmed or cooled as required, with the waste air then being released through the roof. Individual rooms had large canvas flaps that could be opened to let the air pass into them.

The Law Courts and holding cells were opened in 1851, but the rest of the building was a few years away from completion.  A crown court for criminal cases was at the south end of the building and a civil court for civil and family cases was at the north end. The fate of the criminally convicted was incarceration at the local prisons of  Walton or Kirkdale. If they were only 11 to 15 years of age then the detention ship in the River Mersey awaited.  The Clarence Reformatory Ship could hold up to 250 boys, and sentences might last 3 years after which some of the  boys could be sent into the merchant service. In 1884 a fire destroyed the ship and six of the inmates were convicted for the crime, each receiving a      5-year gaol sentence.

In contrast to the stark functionality of the courts and cells is the opulence and exuberance of the Great Hall. Elmes based his design on the Roman baths at Caracalla near Rome. Sets of bronze entrance doors for the Great Hall each have the letters SPQL on them. This is the Liverpool take on SPQR which is  Latin for Senatus Populus-Que Romanus  (The Senate and the People of Rome). Accordingly SPQL means The Senate and People of Liverpool. Above each door where we might expect to see the Roman Eagle, we have the Liverbird !

The key feature of the room is the spectacular sunken floor with its dazzling patterns of 30,000 Victorian Minton tiles. Produced at the Minton Hollins tile factory in Stoke-on-Trent, they are made by pressing different coloured  clay  into deep moulds to create the desired pattern for each tile. The floor was meant to be protected and not always be on view. In 1883  a removable sprung wooden dance floor was placed over the tiles. Today this tradition continues, with the floor only on show at certain times of year.

The barrel vaulted ceiling of the Great Hall is still thought to be the largest of its kind in Europe. Supported by huge red granite columns, it would have been prohibitively heavy, had it not been made with hollow bricks – an innovative idea at the time. Liverpool, Lancaster and the Royal coats of arms are displayed on it as is St George dressed as a Roman soldier fighting the dragon. Around the edge hanging from the prows of Greek ships are  ten chandeliers each holding 120 bulbs.

At one end is the huge pipe  organ with its 7,737 pipes  added by Cockerell – originally the largest in the country, it is now only the second biggest having been surpassed by the one at the Albert Hall. To make it fit into place two of the granite columns had to be removed, and these were later erected at the entrance to Sefton Park. It was played for the public every Thursday and Saturday by a Mr W.T. Best for 39 years and originally had steam engines to power the bellows.

St George’s also featured a room just for music. This was the Concert Room, often called the Golden Room and it sits above the civil court. It could hold a seated audience of 1200 and a stage big enough for an orchestra of 60 instrumentalists and 70 singers.

In 1855, the Great Hall and Concert Room were finally opened to the public. Two concerts were given to raise funds for Elmes’s widow and son. It had been the vision of Elmes that the hall be used for the “recreation and improvement of the working class” and for years it fulfilled that function. Many concerts, dances and banquets were held at St George’s over the decades. No one passing by outside could fail to be impressed by the sheer bulk of one of the finest Neo-Classical Grade I listed buildings : the massive Corinthian style columns, the imposing human figures on the panels above, the four stone lions guarding the whole building and the dolphins bearing the many street lights surrounding it became a hallmark of Liverpool civic pride for over a hundred years.

Towards the end of the 20th century, St George’s Hall had fallen upon hard times. It stopped being used as an entertainment venue and in 1984 the courts moved to their new location in Derby Square. For years the hall remained closed and its interior began to deteriorate. In 1990, Prince Charles started a fund to help make part of the roof of the Concert Room waterproof again.

As part of Liverpool’s bid to be European Capital of Culture, restoration of the hall came back on the cards. In 2006,        2.3 million pounds of funding secured from Europe and the Heritage Lottery Fund meant that it could be properly restored. The organ alone cost £500,000 to fix. The grand reopening took place in 2007 by Prince Charles and St Georges’s was the centre piece for the Liverpool Capital of Culture opening ceremony in 2008.

Today there is a Heritage Centre for visitors and  a historical  trail around the buiding. You can go into the Grand Jury Room which has one of largest docks in Europe so that Victorian gang members could all be put on trial together ! From within the court room you can descend the steps to the cells and still see prisoner graffiti on the walls.  Part of the groundbreaking air conditioning system is also on view. The stunning floor of the Great Hall is in very good condition, and those parts that are not are undergoing repairs. The décor of the Great Hall has lost none of its impact and no visitor can fail to be impressed by it. Exhibitions and concerts occur throughout the year and the café and shop are open daily.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017

Access and Opening Times

St George’s Hall is FREE to visit and open every day 10am-5pm. As well as the self guided heritage trail, there are guided tours available for which there is a modest charge.

Website: click here


St George’s Hall Liverpool, Irene Ryan (2011), Pitkin Publishing and Liverpool City Council (booklet available in Heritage Centre)

Posted in Victorian Lancashire | Tagged ,

St Michaels on Wyre Church

St Michael’s on Wyre Church

St Michael’s Church is old enough to be mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘Michelescherce’. Bounded by the River Wyre, it has been called St Michaels-on-Wyre since the 1100s. The earliest parts of the present building are Norman, as can be evidenced by the door on its north side. The site is even older though and there has probably  been a church here since Saxon times. Compared to its sister church of      St Helens in Churchtown, it has a very different appearance. St Helens has a large open high nave, contrasted with St Michael’s very low roofed aisles. Both churches hold much of interest for the visitors and historians who come.

As you enter  the building, the first thing that strikes you is not the usual silence of a church interior, but the loud slow ticking of the tower clock. The large pendulum hangs down on one side of the tower wall and its hypnotic rhythm can be heard throughout. The clock was installed in 1850 but the rest of the church is much older than this Victorian timepiece.

The Norman Doorway

Original Medieval features include a piscina for washing the communion vessels, stained glass and a mural. The glass is painted pieces that have been cut up and  reused in modern windows.  Careful examination reveals the portrait of a woman’s face (although upside down !) and parts of buildings. The  medieval wall painting is thought to depict Jesus ascending in to heaven, but it’s hard to make out the scene clearly. Mary’s head with a halo around it  is just about visible, but the apostles watching are hard to define, as is the figure of Jesus with just perhaps his foot on view. Another mural of similar date was  discovered in the 1856, but can no longer be seen. This depicted the devil chasing lost souls !

The wide Wyre river flows right by the church

In 1480 John Butler of Rawcliffe Hall gave money for a chapel dedicated to                  St Katherine. This contains a  circular Flemish piece of glass from the 15oos, showing a woman and a man shearing sheep. It has the word ‘Junius’ for June and a picture of a crayfish possibly meant to represent Cancer the crab in the Zodiac. There are similar pieces showing other months and seasons at Rawcliffe Hall and these have probably been taken from this chapel and installed there.

The large solidly built tower was constructed in 1549 when John Singleton left 40 shillings for the building of a steeple and 10 shillings for the bells. There are three bells, the oldest one resulting from this donation and the other two are from 1663 and 1742.

The Soldiers Stones

The churchyard has three unusually shaped graves; two have coped body stones with a square head and the third has a rounded top. Local folklore states that these are the ‘Soldiers Stones’ dating from 1643 when a Spanish ship was wrecked on the Wyre estuary. The two with the square heads are said to be those of two Spanish sailors who had become vagabonds. It would seem unlikely that they would be commemorated with such graves and why such a story should be attached to them is a mystery.

After your visit, take time to go nearby St Helens in Churchtown (click here) to see the contrast between these two Medieval churches.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017


The church is open at the weekends, and may be open during the week

St Michaels and St Helens have a joint website about themselves- see here


St Michael’s-on-Wyre Parish Church: A Short History, Colin Cross Printers Garstang Undated booklet currently available from the church

The History of the Wyre, Michelle Harris & Brian Hughes (2009) Harris & Hughes

The Old Parish Churches of Lancashire, Mike Salter (2005) Folly Publications



Posted in Medieval Lancashire, Oldest Churches,, Tudor Lancashire | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

St Helens Church, Churchtown near Garstang

St Helens Churchtown

The oval shaped graveyard of St Helens  is a key indicator that a  very early ‘Dark Ages’ Saxon church stood once in this place. The name  ‘Churchtown’ was at one time called Kirkland, with ‘kirk’ being the Viking word for a church.  The earliest parts of the present building are the pillars of the north aisle which date from 1180 when the Norman church was widened. Further expansion in 1250 occurred as  the south aisle was added. The stout tower was constructed in 1450 along with the fabric of the  outside walls and windows. When there was a dispute with neighbouring St Michaels on Wyre as to which one was the oldest and so the ‘mother’ church, St Helens won the argument.

Medieval Grave Cover in the Churchyard

Inside we  see a range of artefacts from the Medieval through to the Tudor and Stuart period. One of the earliest can be found close to the pulpit- it  is a large stone carving from the 1200s of a person with hands together in prayer. It’s not known who this is supposed to represent, some sources suggest a priest, a saint or a martyr.

The Tudor period saw the construction of two side chapels. The first one was for  Roger de Brockholes who endowed a chantry chapel in 1490 so that prayers could be said for his soul after his death. In 1529 Margaret Rigmayden paid for the building of  the Lady Chapel. The choir stalls and misericords also date from this time and include characteristic themes of human heads and mythical beasts. There is an excellent carving of an elephant carrying a medieval castle (familiar to many in the Elephant & Castle pub signs).  To see the misericords you may have to carefully tip the choir seats into their upwards position.

Vicar’s Vestry built with stone from Cockersand Abbey

Cockersand Abbey were the owners of St Helens Church from 1240 through to 1539. When all the abbeys were abolished by King Henry VIII Cockersand for the main part was torn down.  Some of the stone was brought to St Helens and was used to construct a two story vicar’s vestry in 1570. This can be identified easily from the outside because of the very different stone from the main body of the church, and so a little part of Cockersand lives on here.

In 1971 St Helens gave up one of its secrets that had been lost for centuries. On removing some of the thick plaster in the side chapels some very rare wall paintings were revealed, one Medieval  and the others from Stuart times.  The Medieval picture dates from the 1400s  and has been interpreted as  the head of a bishop. This would have been covered up and replaced by the Stuart paintings dating from the 1650s. These have large decorative picture-like frames, with flowers around the edges and quotations from the King James Bible inside. The clearest one states:

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:                     A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,                                       An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,       A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren       Proverbs 6: 16-19

Something for the congregation of 350 years ago to think about when they gathered together on a Sunday !  These paintings in turn were hidden under  white plaster as further reforming zeal overtook the established church leaders at a later date.

In 1986 these valuable finds were conserved for future generation to see. Lime plaster that matched the original was added around the walls surrounding the paintings. Lime and sand slurry was injected into the lose plaster in order to stabilise them. The original faded paint was impregnated with gum arabic to enhance its colour.

Visitors to the church today will be struck by the use of writing above the arches and doorways all around the interior of the building, probably added in Victorian times. Here are just a few examples: The Rich and Poor meet togetherBring Presents and come into his Courts with Praise, and above the door leading to the vestry Reverence My Sanctuary.

This is a superb church to visit, one of the best in Lancashire for historical interest. Coupled with nearby St Michaels on Wyre (see here) they make for an interesting comparison.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017


The church is open at the weekends and may also be open in the week.


The History of the Wyre, Michelle Harris & Brian Hughes (2009), Harris & Hughes

The Old Parish Churches of Lancashire, Mike Salter (2005), Folly Publications

On Site Interpretation within St Helens Church


Posted in Medieval Lancashire, Oldest Churches, | Tagged , , | 1 Comment