III. Leyland Hundred
Rufford is another of the descendants of the prolific parish of Croston from which it was separated contemporaneously with the parish of Chorley in the year 1793. The parish of Rufford is bounded by the parish of Tarleton on the north, by North Meols on the west, by Ormskirk on the south, and by Croston parish on the east. From north to south the breadth of the parish is two miles and a quarter, and from the west to east three miles, constituting an area of 2961 statute acres, which may be divided :-
The eastern boundary of this parish is washed by the river Douglas, augmented by the water of the Ellerbeck, which, after rising in Lathom, forms its confluence with the Douglas at the S. E. extremity of the parish of Rufford. A meer-sluice, four yards broad, conveys into the Douglas the surplus water of all the subsidiary drains in the low lands of this parish and the adjoining parish of Croston.
With the exception of one estate belonging to the church, the whole parish is an unbroken manor, of which Sir Thomas Hesketh, of Rufford Hall, is the lord. A court baron is held at the Hesketh Arms in Rufford annually, about the 28th of October, at which the tenants, who chiefly hold their land upon life-tenures, render suit and service. A moiety of this manor appears to have been originally granted in the reign of Henry I. by Richard Bussel, the second baron of Penwortham, to Richard Fitun, along with the lordship of Clayton, the moiety of Heapey and other property in the hundred. John Fitton, his great grandson, was lord of half Rufford, and his grandson, Richard Fitton, by a charter without date, gave to his daughter Matilda, or Mawde, and her heirs, for their homage and service the entire moiety of the town of Rufford with all its appurtenances. Mr. Roger Dodsworth, the anti-quarry, of Hutton Grange, who was the second husband of Holcroft, daughter of Thomas Hesketh, esq. notices this charter as in his father-in-law's possession, May 24, 1629, and adds, "This Matilda was coheir of Richard Fitton, and married sir William Hesketh, 4 Edw. I. which proveth them to live H. 3. time." By the marriage of sir William's grandson, sir John Heskayte, knight, with Alice, daughter and only heir of Edmund Fytton, lord of half Ruffourd, he became sole lord of the manor of Rufford, and assumed the arms of Fytton;- on a bend sable, three garbs or. His son, sir William de Heskayte, lord of Ruffourd, Heskaithe, Beconsawe, &c. obtained in 13 Edward III. a charter to hold a market every Friday at his manor of Rugford, and a fair for one day on the feast of St. Philip and St. James the Apostles, together with the libertyof free warren in all his demesne lands of Rugford in the county of Lancaster. While in Normandy, the same king, in the 20th year of his reign, granted sir William a licence to found a chantry in the chapel of St. Mary of Rufford.
The fidelity of history claims some observations upon the annexed pedigree, drawn up, as it has evidently been, with great care, and for the use of which the author is indebted to the worthy lord and representatives of this ancient house.
Thomas Hesketh, the husband of Margaret Banaster, is styled lord of Rufford in 1387, while the epitaph states that he died October 8, 1363. Sir John Dellamere, in his pedigree, is in all probability the "Johannes de la Warren, miles, dominus de Croston," of the Register of St. Mary of Lancaster, and is so styled in the charter by which he surrendered the advowson of Croston to that priory. Thomas Hesketh, esq., who died in 1523, is represented in the pedigree as having been only once married, but this Thomas was divorced from Elizabeth Flemming, on a petition from that lady, in which she accuses herself of incontinency.
Geneaology - Hesketh of Rufford (2.2mb)
On this representation, the sentence of divorce was confirmed by the pope Alexander VI. in the fifth year of his pontificate, on the nones of June, 1497. In the monumental inscription we find Thomas Hesketh, esq., and Grace, his wife, which Thomas died 14th August, 1523, and the said Grace 29th June 1510. From the Suffield MS. pedigree, Grace is said to be the daughter of sir Richard Towneley, of Towneley; and this, in some measure, agrees with the papal decree, in which the principals are forgiven their incontinence, Elizabeth Fleming with Thurstan Hall, her second husband, and Thomas Hesketh with Grace Towneley, his second wife. This Thomas Hesketh was seized of the manor of Hoghwie and Rufford, and on the chantry of Rufford, and was succeeded by his natural son, sir Robert Hesketh, whose mother was Alla Howard. Sir Robert was knighted for his bravery in France, and married Grace, the daughter of sir John Towneley of Towneley. Sir Robert died in 1539, seized of the manor and advowson of Rufford.
chapel of Rufford, now the parish church, was in existence five
centuries ago, when sir Robert Heskaith was licensed to form a chantry.
Whether the licence was then burdened with the conditions of a yearly
payment of x1s, which was anciently claimed as a fine out of the
manor of Rufford by the monastery of St. Werburgh, is not certain;
but "Richard Bussel gave to the abbey of Chester one carucate
of land in Ruchford in alms, which the abbot of Chester holds;"
and the dean and chapter of Chester at present enjoy a pension of
£40 per annum, issuing out of this manor in virtue of that
grant. In 1734 the family of Hesketh procured a brief for rebuilding
the chapel, which was finished at a charge of £1165.
"Domine Miserere Animabus Thome Hesketh Armigeri et Margerie uxoris ejus qui quidem Thomas obj. VIII die Octobris ad mccclxiii; A Litera Dominicali. Robertus Willielmus Margaria Thomas Johannis Hugo Willielmus Galfridus Richardus Henricus hic."
" Hic subtus jacent Thomas Hesketh ar. et Gracia uxor ejus, qui quidem Thomas obijt xiiii die Augusti, AD MDXXIII et predicta Gracia xxix die Junij AD MDX quorum Animab. propitietur deus."
The family pedigree of the Hesketh's preserves mention of several other monumental inscriptions in this church, which are now no longer visible; amongst others, to the memory of Alicia Hesketh, the wife of Robert Hesketh, who died on the 17th of September, A.D. 1480. Another to the memory of Thomas Hesketh, Ar. who died August 14, 1523, and Grace, his wife, died 29th June, . . . . Another to Robert Hesketh Armiger, died 1st January, 1430. And a fourth to Robert Heskaith, knt., died 8th February, 1532, and dame Grace, his wife, died 28th of May, 1543, and underneath the figure of a knight at full length, his shield and sword resting on a cushion. On the north wall is affixed a neat mural tablet surmounted by two shields of arms, (crest, a lion rampant,) bearing this inscription:-
"Near this place are deposited the remains of Sir Thomas Hesketh Bart who departed this life March the 4th 1778 aged 51, deeply regretted by his numerous friends, and sincerely mourned by his afflicted widow who erected this marble, a small but grateful token of her Concern for his Loss, and her affectionate regard for his memory.
frailer part his sinful Flesh
For successive centuries, the patrons of this living, which was a perpetual curacy till the year 1793, were the rectors of Croston, but on Rufford being rendered an independent parish, in that year, it became a rectory, and the rev. Edward Masters, one of the three sons of Dr. Robert Masters, the rector of Croston, became patron and incumbent. The living is still retained by the original incumbent of the rectory, but the patronage having been purchased from him about fifteen years ago, by the trustees of Pierce Markie, esq., the presentation, on the next vacancy, will be in those gentlemen.
The earliest entry in the parish register here is of the date 1670, and the following records of mortality, taken at three different periods, indicate the progress of the population:-
Around the base of the cover of the baptismal font in Rufford church are the following words in gilt letters, raised upon a blue ground:-
There is only one dissenting place of worship in the parish, and that is a preaching room used by the Wesleyan Methodists since 1813.
During the decennial period, between the population returns of 1821 and 1831, the population of Rufford has decreased one-fifth in amount, owing probably to the entire absence of trade and manufactures, the industry of the inhabitants being wholly confined to agriculture. The ague formally prevailed in this parish and district to a considerable amount, but the drainage of land, to which much attention has been paid, by removing the predisposing cause, has almost banished that complaint; and the ancient recorder of mortality, the parish clerk, now living, at the age of ninety-one years, is a striking evidence in favour of the ameliorated climate.
The habits of the people are simple and unsophisticated, and their manners much more bland and agreeable than in the manufacturing villages. The superintending eye of a paternal landlord is visible here. There is no market, but a fair is held annually on the 13th of May, (formerly on the 12th,) for horned cattle, pedalry, &c. A stone pillar rising from a tier of steps, formerly stood in the village, but was removed about the year 1818.
The charities of Rufford, as exhibited in the XVth report of the parliamentary commissioners, are few in number and small in amount. They consist of
The principle mansions in this parish consist of Rufford Old Hall, Holmes Wood House, and Rufford New Hall. The Old Hall, situated in park-like grounds, is of the age of Elizabeth, and was amongst the early erections in this country which cemented brick and the wood-and-plaster materials. Many of the rooms are paneled and ornamented with carved figures and foliage. The house is occupied by Thomas Henry Hesketh, esq., son of sir Thomas. Holmes Wood House is of ancient date, but now used as the homestead of a farmer. The New Hall, or, as it is called, par excellence, Rufford Hall, is the seat of sir Thomas Dalrymple Hesketh, bart., by whom it was erected in 1798. With the exception of the east front, which has a portico of four Ionic columns, the exterior of this mansion is devoid of ornament. The entrance hall, or vestibule, forms a billiard room, and on the balustrades of the light and elegant staircase is the family emblem of the eagle displayed. The library is fitted up with classical taste, the bookcases being divided by short scagliola columns, supporting delicately formed alabaster vases; and a small but delicate collection of paintings adorn the drawing-room. The park which adjoins the great Liverpool and Preston road, is extensive and well wooded, and there are here all the indications of ancient family dignity sustained and heightened by modern improvements.
The country in and around Rufford is flat, but by the aid of good cultivation it is rendered tolerably interesting. The land to the west partakes of the marshy character of Marton Meer, which is partly in Rufford parish. Most of the fields are divided by ditches, and drained by commissioners under the provisions of the Croston Drainage Act. The soil is a good vegetable loam, producing abundant crops of excellent potatoes. This parish is on the line of the subterranean forest, and trees, chiefly oak and fir, are found in great numbers, both under the Holms Wood and Tarleton mosses, and the more solid land on the margin of the rivers. In some places these trees have the appearance of having been burnt down, and of having fallen across each other in indiscriminate heaps, and in others a wide sweeping hurricane seems to have torn them up by the roots. The parish is alike destitute of stone quarries and coal mines.
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