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Extract from
NOTES
ON
Southport and District
BY THE
Rev. W. T. Bulpit
1908
Web transcription ©2002 Hubmaker
For reference only - Reproduction by any means strictly prohibited

TARLETON and its HERMITS

There are three chief roads in Tarleton, one forming part of the highway between Preston and Liverpool; another connects Becconsall with Tarleton; the third is Blackgate Lane, joining North Meols with Tarleton. It will be noticed that as "gate" is an old term for "road," Blackgate means black road (so called from the colour of the moss soil), and the addition of lane is superfluous. Where these roads united was the centre of Tarleton village; here were the Grammar School, the cross, and the stocks. The manor house and the present church are near by. Two other hamlets are comprised in Tarleton parish, viz., Sollom on the. Rufford road, and Holmes, or, as it is more commonly called. Mere Brow, about a mile from the North Meols boundary. At Mere Brow is a manor house, called Legh House.

The early history of the parish tells that Roger de Montebegon gave the Island of Tarleton to the monks of Thetford. His brother Richard, however, arranged so that it was transferred to the Abbey of Cockersand. A family named Tarleton (possibly, a survival of the Saxon land Owners) held the land under the monks. From them, in the reign of Richard II., it passed to the Banastre family of Bank Hall. Now the Heskeths of Rufford and Lord Lilford are joint lords and possessors of the manor.

Tarleton in old days formed part of Croston parish. Its earliest description is an island by the "More of Croxton," i.e., by the Mere of Croston. But this same description shows the difficulty of attending Divine worship at Croston Church, for the rivers Douglas and Yarrow had to be crossed, and the land between was often flooded. In winter the parish church was quite inaccessible. Thus it was natural for preaching to be (as it was later in the Methodist days) at the Cross. But the Sacraments had to be administered, and so a little place of worship was erected at the Holy Well of St. Ellyn. True, this was in one corner of the parish, but it was on high ground and not far from Bank Hall and the Lord of the Manor. It had also the advantage of the waterway of the Douglas. This helps us to understand why a chapel was erected at St. Ellyn's Well, and the water used for baptisms and for curative miracles. Now Tarleton could not worthily support a priest, and in order that services might be held a good man, himself a priest, George Dandye, a friend of the Asshetons of Croston, in 1517 endowed the chantry with lands, so that there might be "a Chapelyn of Tarlton."

Baines, seventy years ago, was misled by this endowment, and gave that date as the origin of St. Ellyn's Chapel. To me it did not seem probable, and on making research I found the chapel was mentioned in very early deeds of' Cockersand Abbey, whose monks no doubt held services there. Moreover, I found that Richard Banystre, of Bank Hall, obtained licenses, both from the Pope and the Bishop, for Divine worship to be held in St. Elyne's Chapel, which also he rebuilt. At that time there was also a little house in the chapel yard, which was of some extent, and I dare say was used for a burial-place, inasmuch as it was kept in grass. Attached to the house was also half an acre of arable, and half an acre of meadow land. Naturally we wonder what church official resided in the house, and. benefited by the land. He is called a hermit, but I cannot define his ecclesiastical status. The last of these "Armots," as they are called in the old deeds, was Hugh Dobbeson. When the chapel was pulled down by Sir Thomas Hesketh (I suppose he purchased it from Henry VIII.), and carted` away, Hugh Dobson's house was left standing, for it was on the Bannaster portion of the estate. Dobson at that time was 80 years of age, and was said to "use himself as a armot." He was a man of education, for he wrote a paper and claimed to be of the Order of St. Anthony, and to have received ordination from Dr. Bannebriges (in place of the Archbishop of York) at Toddcastell Church. In the course of 60 years there have been three hermits, viz., James Pyper, Robert Halworth, and Hugh Dobson. Chaplain Wyllding ministered in addition to the hermit. The endowment for the chaplain, given by the Rev. George Dandye, consisted of a house, garden, orchard, and 2.5 acres of land in Tarleton, and a house and land in Bretherton. About the endowment there was a dispute among the Bannastres, and one of them, fearing his house would be broken into, put the deeds in a chest, which he took on a "sleade" drawn by two "Donne" horses to a place of safety. . This shows that law papers are heavy, and that the roads were bad. Chaplain Waldinge received a pension of £4 5s. 2d., for he was 58 years of age, and became a chaplain at Rawcliffe. The holy vessels, weighing 6-oz, were confiscated by Henry VIII. All being taken, the services were discontinued until about a century after, when the Presbyterians, perhaps aided by Hyet, the Puritan Rector of Croston, erected a conventicle. Earnestness, too, was shown in the erection of a Grammar School in 1650, for Hyet favoured schools, and influenced their erection at Croston and Bretherton, and perhaps at Hoole. The new Tarleton Chapel did not succeed well. Services were spasmodically held both by Churchpeople and by Nonconformists, and finally ceased. Earnest Churchpeople in 1718 presented a petition to Gastrell, the good Bishop of Chester, and in 1719, a church being built, it was consecrated on the 24th of July. Fleetwood Legh, one of the Lords of the Manor, whose residence, Bank Hall, was near by, was its great benefactor, and he attended the church. In this connection the entries in the register are interesting. "1726, September 18th, Anne Meriel, daughter of Fleetwood Legh, of Bank de Bretherton, Esquire, and Meriel his wife, baptized." "Jan. 16, 1728-9, Sir John Byrne, baronet, and Madam Legh de Bank, married by virtue of a license at Tarleton Chapel." "Dorthea, daughter of Sir John Byrne, baronet, and Myrial, his lady, baptized October 2nd, 1730.

A small house in the village was then the parsonage, and though it is used now for another purpose, an inscribed stone declares: "This house was built A.D. 1726, for the curate of Tarleton, with Mrs. Margaret Thompson's legacy." Tarleton was separated from Croston, and made into an independent parish in 1821. Since then better times have come, and there is now a noble rectory, the residence of worthy Canon Cronshaw. His predecessor, the Venerable Archdeacon Fletcher, built a magnificent stone church and school on a new site centrally situated and alongside the road to Sollom. Bank Hall, of which Tarleton Church was once an adjunct, has now a church in the new parish of Bretherton.

The old Grammar School has done its work, and is now become a furniture shop. Its pupils were once dismissed at noon with the command "Prandeamus" (let us dine). On the Thursday before Shrove Tuesday they brought a contribution to the master, and raffled for cocks, which they afterwards fought. The girls ballotted for ribands. At Christmas the boys"barred out" the schoolmaster, and then were indulged in cakes and ale. The Manor House did not quite lose its glory after the Tarletons passed away, for in Queen Elizabeth's reign it was inhabited by the Norreys, a branch from the Speke Hall family. A stew pond belonging to it was famous for its fish.

Of Sollom I can relate little except to tell that it had a cross (it has one yet), the base of which, because it was larger than their own, was carried away by Tarleton men, and the residents at Sollom mustered and recovered it. These predatory efforts went on for some time, and, finally, the Tarleton men, despairing of retaining their plunder, threw it into a pond, where it now remains.

Mere Brow, formerly called North Holmes, is described by Harrison in 1580 thus: "in which Meere is an islande called Netholme." Till that date it was included in the manor of North Meols, and when William Bannister died in 1555 there were 60 houses in Holmes.

In 1557 we find Henry Banaster, of the Banke, son of the above William, having a lawsuit with Sir Thomas Hesketh (the puller-down of St. Ellyn's Chapel) concerning fishing rights at Martin Mere of his Holme tenants. Squire Banastre himself went fishing on the Mere. He started from the holding of one of his tenants, Hugh Hunter, and was accompanied by his brothers and some tenants for a fishing expedition with nets on March 13th, but he perhaps trespassed (I have known innocent anglers do so) unconsciously. Anyhow, a party of Sir Thomas Hesketh's men (among whom, of course, there was a Caunce) set upon them, and so terribly assaulted them that Squire Banastre was glad to abandon his nets (said to be worth 10s.) and to get away in a boat. On the 16th March, John Hunter and William went to get back their lord's nets, but they were set upon by Charles Hesketh, William Nelson, Hugh Caunce, and others, and the fight was continued right into Holmes itself. The case was heard at Westminster, and Sir Thomas Hesketh pleaded that he did not command Richard Hurdesse, Henry White, Thomas Gybbonson, &c., to fight. These Martin Mere rights and the hope of improving his Holmes property led Thomas Fleetwood, of Bank Hall, in 1692, to commence the first great attempt at draining Martin Mere. He also obtained a charter from William III., in 1700, for holding a Cattle Fair at Mere Brow, in front of Legh House. Further, he obtained a charter for a Peddling Fair to be holden at Tarleton, with accompanying ceremonials, which existed for nearly two centuries.

Holme means an island, but the residents there need not our pity. If they had not the superfluities of life, they had all necessaries for a free and happy existence. Rye was easily grown for bread. Wild ducks and geese with fish were often on their tables. They were adepts at making potteen, and when one was taken to Lancaster Castle for poaching he spent his time there in "spinning" whiskey for the warders. Turf stacks gave them good fires for the winter. Money was only wanted for rent and clothes.

Concerning the road to Becconsall I must speak briefly. It is on raised ground (an upthrow) overlooking the river Douglas. The Douglas here is called Asland; anciently it was written Askelon. This means ash land, and Askyr was the Norse for the ash tree. Here, too, was Wolfshaw. It was a place for hazels and nuts. Also it was the reputed hiding place of a large serpent or python which had existed there for ages. Sir Thomas Hesketh showed me a piece of haematite, and thought more might be found in the bank, but I thought not, and that the piece had come in ballast. A windmill, unseen from Meols, once stood on the bank, but when Tarleton Moss was drained the ground level sank, and the mill became visible at Banks. The landing-place for Tarleton was at Banastre's Wharf. The Douglas is tidal. The Vikings sailed up it, and, I think, gave the name of Jarle's Town to the district. Another survival of their nomenclature is found in Windy Gate (Norse for road), the name of the steep road adjoining the Old Chapel of St. Ellyn.

Trade to the Douglas is shown by the ships' charters:- "Bond £40. Nicholas Norres de Tarleton, Nicholas Bonnde de Meales, Ranulph Mellyng de Liverpoole are by deed dated the 18th day of January, the eighth yere of Elizabeth our Queen (1563) to discharge at Hesket Bancke out of the Bartholomew of Liverpool of which Nicholas Bonnd is Master 2 tons of (Ferri) iron."

Bond bought the Bartholomew, and so a charter runs:- Bond £40. Nicholas Norres de Hesket Bancke in the County of Lancaster, Merchant; and Nicholas Bonde de Meales in the Countv of Lancaster, Mariner, are by deed this 1st day of August, the 8th year (1565) of the reign of' Elizabeth our Queen to discharge at Hesket Bancke out of the Bartholomew of Meales 3 Tons of (Ferri) iron and 1Ton of (Sal) Salt."

MvIthorp is now Mill Hill, and is in Hoole:-
"1565, 5th July, the boat Gud Lucke, of Liverpole, shipped 25 windles of (Avenax) oats for Mylthrop.

"1565, 8th July, the boat Luke, of Liverpole, shipped 30 quarters of (Avenax) oats, and two sacks of (Pissax) peas for MyIthorp.

"1565, 8th July, the boat Elizabeth, of Liverpole, shipped xi. quarters 10 windles of (Avenax) oats, and 6 windles of (Fri) wheat, for MyIthorp."

More local history from Rev. Bulpit