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Extract from
Southport and District
Rev. W. T. Bulpit

Web transcription © 2002 Hubmaker
For reference only - Reproduction by any means strictly prohibited


There is a pleasant drive through Banks and Hesketh to Becconsall. In old days the road ran for five miles along the shore from Crossens Sluice outside a seabank. Nowadays most people go by train to Hesketh Bank Station, and then a pleasant walk of half a mile will bring us to the Guide House and the village of Hesketh. The place once enjoyed great prosperity. There was much through traffic. Crews of coasting vessels frequenting the River Douglas resided here, and spent the money obtained by lawful trade and by smuggling from the Isle of Man. Hesketh was also a place of considerable resort "for bathing and marine recreation, and the visitors were plentifully supplied with salmon and flounders taken near the mouths of the rivers."

The rise of Southport and Blackpool took away visitors from Hesketh, but the enclosure of marshes and the advent of the West Lancashire Railway brought other sources of prosperity. The River Douglas, a navigable tributary of the Ribble, winds round the north-eastern side of Becconsall, and here in 1834 the Heskeths of Rufford reclaimed much land previously washed over by the tidal flow of the Ribble. Subsequently the late Sir Thomas Hesketh, aided by the advice of Mr. Richard Iddon, reclaimed 700 acres outside Hesketh Bank; and in more recent years the Heskeths bought marsh from the Ribble Conservators, and reclaimed a much greater area of excellent arable land. The outer sea bank will now be a mile, from where a vessel was, within the memory of living men, washed on the seabank near a farm called Dunkirk.

Now let us consider the name "Becconsall.". It means Beacon's Hill. This hill is on the bank of the Douglas. It is an artificial mound made in ancient, perhaps British, days, to defend the ford. Afterwards it was crowned by an oratory, where the priest prayed for the sailors and supervised the firing of the Beacon. Afterwards the Hall was built, and he became its chaplain. The Duchy recognised the services of the priest, and, though his chapel was in the parish of Croston and he "had no parochial authority, made him a yearly grant of £2 16s. 5d. This was a large sum in those days. It has been continued out of the Duchy funds for more than 500 years, though I dare say the Rector of Hesketh, as Chaplain of Becconsall, does not consider it a large sum now.

The present Church was- rebuilt and enlarged in 1765 and was then called Becconsall Chapel, for Hesketh then formed part of the great parish of Croston, from which it was cut off and allotted its own tithes in 1821. Becconsall Hall lies a little off the lane leading from the Guide House to the church. Now it seems a lonely spot, but once it was a busy thoroughfare and many people passed, going to the Ferry. It was the main route from far and near for people going to Longton, or Preston, or Lytham, or Freckleton, or Kirkham, or to the seaport of Rossall. Moreover, many coasters sailed up the Douglas with the tide and discharged their cargoes at Becconsall. Because of this traffic a branch of the Fleetwood family resided for a time at Hesketh, and William Fleetwood was born in the parish, and afterwards became the Recorder of London, and published some noteworthy law books. He died in the year 1592.

The Becconsalls perhaps the earliest family who, lived at the Hall. Afterwards the Molyneuxes resided there, and a stone now lying at the end of an outbuilding records: "John and Lucy Molynevx bvilt this Hovse Anno 1667. TH." By marriage the property eventually came into the possession of the Heskeths of Rufford, and they made an excellent road connecting Rufford with Becconsall.

A curious contest for the possession of Becconsall Hall took place in 1540. On the 27th May, Adam Bekkynsall wanted to turn out his sister-in-law, Joan, for she claimed possession of Becconsall, of property in Croston, Aughton, Halsall, Leyland and the Tythes in Becconsall which her husband had leased from the Parson of Croston, on behalf of her new-born babe, Dorathe Bekenhall. Alis Bruer (Alice Brewer), wife of James Thonorkeeper, gave evidence "That on the Monday after S. Bartholomew, at sunrise, Adam, with a great following broke into the Hall and put deponent and children 'doune at a staire.'" This was a rough throwing-out, and at the time the woman gave evidence she was maimed. We may expect others also suffered, for Adam had some sturdy retainers. Joan began the struggle by putting some beasts into the Pound at Penmardame (Penwortham). The deeds relating to this property were in a chest kept by Richard Banastre, of the Banke Hall, Bretherton; and Sir Robert Hesketh, of Rufford, and Andrew Barton, of Hoole. These deeds related to property given by Adam, a married Vicar of Leyland, to Adam Bekennshawe (probably a son), in the time of Edward III. The descent went on for 200 years, through Henry, Adam, Robert, Henry, George, and so to Edward Becansaw. Edward had two sons, viz., Henry and Adam, who was a Doctor of Law. The Parsons of Becconsall and Hesketh, Sir Robert Smythe and William Brodshawe, the Chaplain, championed Joan' s cause as against Henry, who wanted to oust his niece, claiming the land as being only for male heirs. Stolen from hubmaker

A second trial was held at Chorley in January, 1541. The witnesses for Adam were William Grumpe, John Lethurbaro, of Aughton, Richard Thorton (a charterer), and Edmond Sutton. For Joan and her daughter Dorothy evidence was given by Sir Robert Smnythe, Chaplain, Henry Walbanke, Jeffray Wildyng, and William Catterall. Decision was given that Joan should enjoy the lands in Bekensawe, Hesketh, and Tarleton. It will be seen that most people at this date (1540) possessed surnames, and that some of these - as Dandy, Jump, Wallbank, Wilding, Sutton, Todd, Leatherbarrow - have persisted for 370 years down to this present time.

We first find mention of the Becconsall family in Henry de Pulle. (He probably had this name from residing near the Pool of the Douglas.) For him his guardian, William de Coudray, Lord of North Meols, bought Far Banks in 1240 for the sum of 10 silver marks. Henry, in afterwards making over this land to Thomas le Banastre, of Bretherton. calls himself Henry de Bekaneshowe, and William de Eskaithe signs the deed as a witness. Earlier history than this tells us that Pagan de Villiers was the first recorded feodary of the manor, and that "one carucate of Land in Bekaneshou" (Beacon's Howe) was given by him to the hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem.

Hundred End is the name of a station on the West Lancashire Railway. Since Sir Thomas Hesketh sold some freehold plots here quite a comfortable village has sprung up. Yet within living memory it was a bog overgrown with gorse and heather. Few people visited the spot. It was unknown even to some who wrote about it, for one veracious scribe, finding there was a place called Bottomless H0le, wrote that this indicated a deep shaft that had been sunk to find coal! It really was a soft place in the bog into which everything sank. The bog was drained about 50 years ago, and now the Primitive Methodist Chapel stands where the Bottomless Hole once was. During the reclaiming, Mr William Baxter, of Banks, found two Roman colns. They were Vespasian pennies. So we may take it that the Roman armies, in subduing the country, avoided the dense woods and treacherous bogs, and marched along the shore.

More local history from Rev. Bulpit