Snapshot of the Burnley area in 1311

POST INQUISITION: Paul Barlow's painting of how the Manor House at Ightenhill may have looked in the 1380s. (S)
POST INQUISITION: Paul Barlow's painting of how the Manor House at Ightenhill may have looked in the 1380s. (S)

In recent weeks I have been writing about the Domesday Book and what it says, and does not say, about our part of the world.

As a historian, I used to get frustrated because Domesday said so little about Burnley. I used to envy the historians who wrote about the Home Counties, the East Midlands and East Anglia because the compilers of the Domesday Book did a much better job for those parts of the country.

Years later, however, I realised that, though the Burnley area may not have troubled Domesday, it does have something just as important, the Great de Lacy Inquisition of February 16th, 1311.

Our good fortune that this latter document was compiled, all those years ago, is tinged with some regret in that the Inquisition was only necessary because of the great misfortune of Henry de Lacy II, Earl of Lincoln. He died, at his London house, Lincoln’s Inn, towards the end of 1310, but without a male heir. The earl, and his wife (it is not known whether she was called Alice or Margaret) had produced four legitimate children, two sons and two daughters, but, at Henry’s death, only one of the girls survived.

Henry had no other male relatives to whom he could pass his great titles and estates. He was Earl of Lincoln and Earl of Salisbury but, in 1294, the same year that he arranged for Burnley to have a weekly market and an annual fair, he surrendered all his lands to Edward I. The arrangement was that the earl would retain his titles and estates, in his own lifetime, but they would revert to Thomas Plantagenet, a minor member of the royal family, when he died.

This was accomplished by the marriage of Thomas to Earl Henry’s surviving daughter, Alice, who, in effect, carried the de Lacy earldoms to Thomas, who was already earl of Lancaster. This arrangement made Thomas the pre-eminent nobleman of his day.

Henry was doubtless pleased his estates would be passed through his daughter to the royal family but one can only imagine the loss he must have felt on the early deaths of his sons, Edmund and John, and that of his other daughter, Margaret.

The boys died in accidents in castles belonging to their father. The castle at Pontefract, Yorkshire, was the de Lacy power base and it was here that John died. The other castle was Denbigh, in north Wales, which had been granted, in 1282, to Earl Henry by Edward I after a successful campaign in Wales in which they both fought. It was the elder of the boys, Edmund, who died at Denbigh but a piece of Burnley folklore has it that the Denbigh accident took place, not there, but at the manor house at Ightenhill.

The Great Inquisition was necessary, therefore, to assess the value and extent of the estate passed on by Earl Henry to his son-in-law. It was in essence an “inquisition post mortem”, an inquiry after death, and we are very fortunate to have what is an account of Henry’s possessions just after he died.

The document covers a very wide area but we must confine ourselves to the manor of Ightenhill. In the order in which the entries appear, they are: Briercliffe, Burnley, Habergham Eaves, Padiham, Ightenhill, Cliviger, Worsthorne, Hapton and “Berdtwisell”. If you are not familiar with the latter, the place from which everyone called Birtwistle gets their surname, it is now included in Hapton.

A significant description of the whole area can be put together if all the entries are combined. We learn the names of numerous people who lived in the area. More are mentioned for Cliviger than anywhere else but this may be because, in 1311, Cliviger was, by far, the largest township, in area, in the district. In those days all the western parts of what is now Todmorden were included in Cliviger, a situation that continued until the Local Government Act of 1894.

In Cliviger 33 residents are mentioned. In Burnley there are only eight people listed. In Briercliffe, two are listed and in Habergham (which is spelled at Haberingham in the document, a nicer sounding name I think), there were two. At Padiham, again only two are mentioned, Hapton, only one and he was a non-resident and at Berdtwisell, again only one, and, again, non-residant.

The reference to Ightenhill is interesting in that, in 1311, no one is mentioned by name. I thought this might be because Earl Henry was not only the landowner at Ightenhill but he had not let any part of it out so, if that had been the case, there would have been no tenants. However, on looking at the entry again, the phrase “several tenants” appears in reference to the letting of over 52 acres of land.

There were indeed tenants of the Earl’s property in Ightenhill, in 1311, demonstrating the traditional means by which the manor was run was beginning to unravel. This is usually associated with the effects of the Black Death, which arrived in the Burnley area in the latter part of the 1340s, after the publication of the Inquisition. So things were changing even in as remote a manor as Ightenhill.

When we look at the document we notice several settlements within the individual townships had become established by 1311. In Briercliffe there is mention of a place I interpret as Walshaw and there is a reference which could only be to Burwains. The Burnley entry includes references to Heley (Healey), Ryelands, Holdene, Brunshaw and Towneley and, of course, there was the village of Burnley itself.

The Padiham entry has several references to places but only one that means anything to me and that is Wheteacker (otherwise Whitaker) which is just outside Padiham, though John de Wheteacker must have leased some land from the Earl in Padiham itself. In Worsthorne, which in 1311 is called the “Hamlet of Worsthorn” there is only one reference which, as might be expected, is to the Earl’s former Constable at Pontefract, Oliver de Stansfield. The earl had made Oliver Lord of the Manor of Worsthorne which may account for the lack of any detail for that place and Hurstwood.

When we come to Cliviger, which is spelled Clivachre in the document, we notice the following places had been established - Dineley, the Grange, Mereclough (spelled Moreclogh), Ormerod, Barcroft and Holm. There may be others but the spellings of the places mentioned are difficult to translate into modern English.

What can be said is that quite a number of places with the individual townships had become established. They were not the sizeable villages of Mereclough and Holm, as they are today, but they were settlements, some with more than one resident family. The other thing to say follows from this – it is likely the only two places that enjoyed the status of villages, in 1311, were Burnley and Padiham, and these remain the largest places in the area of the old manor to this day.

What else can be said about the area from the Inquisition of 1311? While most of the references to property refer merely to “land”, we know that, though most of it was used for pasture, some of the land must have been used to produce arable crops. There is no reference to arable being grown but there were three corn mills in the area. They were sited in Burnley, Padiham and Cliviger, their purpose to produce the flour which was made into bread.

There is something worth mentioning about these mills and that is the ones in Burnley and Padiham are described as wind mills but the one in Cliviger is referred to as a water mill. It is my understanding the compliers of the document got it wrong when they mentioned the two wind mills and they were, actually, water mills.

Incidentally, the three mills were owned by the earl, and that is why they were mentioned. There is no reference, in the document, to Extwistle but there was a mill there at this time, not the well-known one at Roggerham, but another building lower down Swinden Water, near Netherwood. This was owned and run by the tenants of the monks of Newbo Abbey, Lincolnshire, but it was not included in the document of 1311 for another reason, Extwistle may have enjoyed manorial status itself by this time. It was certainly not owned by the earl in 1311.

Other buildings are mentioned in the Inquisition. These include a fulling mill (for processing wool) at Burnley, the Manor House at Ightenhill and numerous cottages, particularly in Burnley. Unfortunately, it does not say where they were but there were at least 24 in Burnley.

So, the Inquisition of 1311 is very revealing about almost the whole of the Manor of Ightenhill. I will leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions.