The history of Extwistle Hall, Briercliffe

Extwistle Hall
Extwistle Hall

Of all the buildings in Briercliffe, the one I get asked about most is Extwistle Hall.

It is, of course, one of the oldest properties in Briercliffe though the building is not in the ecclesiastical parish of Briercliffe.

Extwistle Hall is in the ecclesiastical parish of Worsthorne St John’s and has been since the passing of the Whalley (Parish) Act of 1843. In that year, it was decided the new parish of Worsthorne was not populous enough to be viable, so the whole of Extwistle was added to Worsthorne, but only for religious reasons.

For everything else, Extwistle is part of the parish of Briercliffe-with-Extwistle which had been created by the Local Government Act, 1894. It is from that year the parish council has operated. Previously, Briercliffe and Extwistle had been townships which had worked together and had held an annual meeting in which some of the citizens, of both, elected people to hold the various offices – like Overseer, Highways Officer and Surveyor and Constable.

However, in one respect, at least, Extwistle was different. It had the status of a manor and Extwistle Hall was its Manor House. Briercliffe was not a manor in its own right. It was part of the manor of Ightenhill, as was Burnley, Higham, Reedley Hallows and Habergham Eaves.

Manorial history is a complex matter, as I have found out over the past year or so as Ightenhill Parish Council has been using Heritage Lottery Funding to explain the history and development of the manor house in that parish.

To prove my point, you will have noticed I have excluded Cliviger and Worsthorne from the list of townships in the Manor of Ightenhill, which appear above. It turns out that, in the late 13th Century, Worsthorne was made into a manor by Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, as a reward for the faithful services of Oliver de Stansfield.

Incidentally, Oliver may be commemorated in the Scarlett Chapel at St Peter’s. This chapel was originally the chapel of the Stansfield Chantry and a memorial stone, dating from about the 13th Century, survives in the chapel.

Cliviger, or should I say part of it, was effectively granted the status of a manor about the same time.

This is unclear as no definitive records survive but another grant from Earl Henry indicates that at least two of his tenants were granted something like manorial status. One of the families involved was the de la Leghs who eventually became known as Towneley.

The case of Extwistle as a manor is much more complex. When I contacted the agency which looks after manorial matters (in London), they told me they had no records which showed Extwistle had been created a manor in its own right. That was not a problem in itself, I was told. Manorial records have been lost over the years, but the proof was that, if a place operated like a manor, it was a manor.

This sounded a bit odd to me but there is plenty of proof Extwistle operated as a manor. The Briercliffe Society has some documentation that shows this was the case and we know of one set of manorial rules, which have survived, but applied only to Extwistle. These are the Extwistle Byre (Bye) Laws which were first recorded in the mid-16th Century, though they may have been in existence long before then. It might be a good idea to look in more detail at them at some time in the future.

Now is not the time to go through the Extwistle Byre Laws. What I intend to do is, tell you something about the story of Extwistle Hall.

There is no mention of it until the 16th Century but to understand the history of the building we have to go back a little further. The first mention of Extwistle is in the late 12th Century, in 1193, when it was spelled “Extwysle”. This was a grant of land, in Extwistle, by a Norman knight, Richard Malbisse, firstly, to the Cistercian monks of Kirkstall Abbey, near Leeds, Yorkshire, and also to the Premonstratensian monks of Newbo Abbey, near Grantham, Lincolnshire.

I have written about this before, so I will not go into detail, but it is important because, for much of the Middle Ages, most of Extwistle was in monastic ownership. The eastern part of the township was occupied by Kirkstall Abbey as a grange, a detached farm, in this case a sheep farm. The building at its centre was Monk Hall and the name, but not the original building, has come down to us. Many of you will know there is a chapel on the site. Kirkstall also had monastic granges in Cliviger, Barnoldswick and a large one in Accrington.

The western part of Extwistle was occupied by Newbo Abbey. The tract of land they owned stretched from Netherwood to about Roggerham but we know little about its status. It is probable that, rather than farm it directly, the monks leased it out to someone who lived locally. The ancestors of the Towneleys, the de la Legh’s, have been suggested as the lessees. However, we do know the monks of Newbo had a water-powered corn mill on their estate and the remains of this, together with its mill race, mill pond and return leat, can still be seen near Netherwood Farm.

Incidentally, these remains are not to be confused with the remains of the mill near Roggerham. In the later Middle Ages, there were two corn mills on Swinden Water, the stream which provides the boundary between Extwistle and Worsthorne.

The monks of Newbo kept their interest in Extwistle from 1193 to about 1537 when Newbo Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII. The Kirkstall property was in the hands of the Abbey for only about 100 years. From then, until the 16th Centrury, it became the property of the Lord of the Manor of Ightenhill. After that, the lands in Extwistle, of both abbeys, became the property of the Parker family. It was them who built the first part of Extwistle Hall, on lands formerly occupied by Newbo, in c1585.

The Parker family was so called because they had been the hereditary “park-keepers” of Ightenhill for much of the early Middle Ages. Not a lot is known about them in the earlier days but, at one time, the family lived at Royle Hall, close to Ightenhill. Many years later, the Parkers took repossession of Royle when the male heir to Extwistle married the female heiress to Royle. This was in the 1790s but, at this time, the Townleys of Royle died out in the male line.

The Townleys of Royle had possessed the estate since the 15th Century, when the then head of the Towneley of Towneley family granted it to his son. Incidentally, the family has not been forgotten in Briercliffe where there are several street names which refer to them. They are: Townley Street (note the spelling), Parker Street, Cuerdale Street and the former Cuerden Street. All refer to the Townley Parkers and their properties, near Preston. The Townleys of Royle were the biggest landowners in the Briercliffe part of the civil parish.

Extwistle Hall remained the home of the Parkers of Extwistle from the 16th Century to the early 18th Century when a fire at the hall, in which the head of the family was killed, resulted in the Parkers leaving Extwistle for the Cuerdale and Chorley area. They still retained ownership of the estates of both the Parkers, in Extwistle, and the Townleys, in Briercliffe, and it was not until the 1920s that the estate was sold off, by which time the Townley Parkers had died out in the male time, themselves, and the estate had passed to the Tattons of Wythenshawe.

The Hall has not been lived in by a Parker since c1718 but the agent for the Townley Parker estate resided there, briefly, until the building became a farm house for a large hill farm. As you will all know the building is in a poor state of repair. At the moment it is “for sale” with a local estate agent. We will see if this historic building can be saved.