Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Wolton's of Penhulton

Pendleton circa 1900. [1]

If you go far enough back in any twig of your family tree, you are almost certainly going to find a peasant. For most of the twigs in my family tree, the Tudor period has represented a barrier beyond which it has not been possible to penetrate.  However, in one small and very remote valley in East Lancashire, I have recently been able to make some surprising detailed discoveries thanks to the indefatigable efforts of a number of 19th & early 20th century antiquarians, William Farrar, Thomas Dunham Whitaker, and Christopher Townley in the early 17th Century.
For many years I have known that John Wolton or Woolton, who became Bishop of Exeter in 1578 was one of my great x 11 Grandfathers.  Johannes Wolton, as he appears in Latin in most records of the time was apparently a highly intelligent man chosen for his ability to devote Protestant doctrine in the face of the Counter Reformation, as well as a medical practitioner of some courage and ability who stayed in Exeter nursing the sick during the plagues in the 1570's. He left us a tomb in the cathedral of a very radical nature for the time covered in humanist symbols, that suggests that he had absorbed ideas from the Renaissance during his time in Europe. And yet he was brought up in a deeply conservative area, and had been a close neighbour, of Abbot Paslew's family, and who probably witnessed the events of the Pilgrimage of Grace.

His daughter Mary, later married John Baber, [1564-1628] Rector of Tormarton, and Vicar of Chew Magna, who is my 10 x great grandfather.  It is known that John Wolton was helped during his early career as a clergyman by being the nephew of Alexander Nowell, who became Dean of St. Paul’s but who originally came from Read, near Whalley in Lancashire.
Both Alexander Nowell and John Wolton were both ardent Protestant’s and were in exile in Frankfurt during the reign of Queen Mary in the 1550's.
John’s father, also named John married Alexander’s sister Isabella Nowell, daughter of John Nowell (d 1526) of Read, through his second wife Elizabeth, the daughter of a Mr. Kay of Rochdale.
Biographer’s of Alexander Nowell going back to Churton in 1809 are not in agreement over either the name of John Wolton’s mother, or even his place of origin.  The difficultly arises because of two separate issues.  The variable spelling of Wolton, Woolton, or Walton, and also because the Parish of Whalley in Medieval times was very much larger than it currently is, covering about a dozen modern villages, that today have churches, but which in Tudor times had no churches of their own, or at best only chapels that were dependent on the Abbey at Whalley.  Marriages had to be celebrated at Whalley.
Evidence from the following court records however suggest that the Wolton family had been resident at Wishaw when John married Isabella, in about 1560, and that about a century earlier they had been living at Pendleton.

Clitheroe Castle yard [2]  It must have been with some trepidation that John de Wolton walked up here on Thursday 27th of September 1425.

The following fascinating record from September 1425, recorded over a Century before their offspring would eventually marry has Roger Nowell, who is another great…. grandfather of mine, in the jury, and John de Wolton, who was being presented for pasturing his stock on the Townfield at Pendleton, or Penhulton as it was spelt at that time.
Halmote, held at Clyderhow, on Thursday next before the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, 4 Henry VI. [27th September, 1425].
Inquistion taken there by virtue of office, by the oath of Edmund, son of William Hoggeson, and John his brother Gilbert Mercer, Henry de Walton of Penhulton, Henry Strynger, Roger Nowell, John de Reued, Lawrence deStanden, Henry del Smythe, William de Hognesby, William Daweson, jun., and John, son of William Daweson, who present as follows: -
John Clerkson, iijd for one beast tethered (averium ligatum), in Penhulton town-field, contrary to the byelaw.
John del Chaumbre, iiijd likewise for two beasts there.
Richard Dissher, ijd likewise for one beast.
John del fforest, iiijd likewise for two beasts.
John de Wolton, ijd. Likewise for one beast.
Thomas de Merseden, vjd likewise for three beasts.
John, son of William Hoggeson, ijd likewise for one beast.
Mabot, relict of William Hogson, ijd likewise for one beast.
Gilbert Merser, ijd likewise for one beast.
John de Westwode, ijd likewise for one beast.
John del Chaumbre, iijd for one beast in the Brokeholme.
John de Clyderowe, iijd for one beast.
John del fforest, jd for one beast.
Gilbert Mercer, jd for one beast.
John Hogson, jd for one beast.
John de Westwode, jd for one beast.[3]

Pendleton from the 1844 Ordnance Survey Map, with the main properties numbered.
Over time the boundaries may have changed and plots may have subdivided over time, however there appear to have been about 21 properties in the village.

The 1847 Ordnance Survey Map of Pendleton with properties arbitrarily numbered.

With sixteen of the villagers presented in court for pasturing their cattle in the two fields, Town-field and Brokeholme,  and at most probably twenty or less properties, this list must represent the heads of the household for nearly every cottage in the village at that time.

Were these fines a regular event?

Why had somebody decided to crack down on the villagers at this time?

The fact that almost the entire village got fined, suggests that this was not a isolated incident, or a case of stays going through a broken fence.

Halmotes were Manorial Courts held in the Lord of the Manor’s hall, in this case in Clitheroe Castle, in which cases were tried over minor cases involving the villagers, and before a jury of twelve villagers.  Most cases centred on land disputes, and were settled by fines.  These courts also formalised property transfers between old and new tenants, and these generally were also settled with the payment of a fine of a year’s rent to the Lord of the Manor.

A extract from the 1847 Ordnance Survey Map showing Pendle Brook and the cattle route from Pendle Hill to the right of the map, leading down the main street in Pendleton towards Clitheroe and its cattle markets towards the left of the plan.
Unfortunately, I am unable to discover any records of which property belonged to whom, but it is possible that “town-field” is the field called Townhead, and which is bisected by a footpath going south, and Brokeholme might be a reference to the Pendleton Brooke.

 Google Earth Image marked with the possible locations of Town-field and Brokeholme.

Town-field was probably where cattle that had spent the summer up on Pendle were brought down through the "funnel" shaped hedges that formed Brokeholme.
From Google Earth it can be seen that there are two areas which appear never to have been ploughed adjacent to the village, and which could very probably be Town-field and Brokeholme.
Brokeholme appears to have been part of another cattle funnel down from the high summer grazing land on Pendle.  The placed the northern boundary of Brokeholme along a deep former ditch and track, that can be seen crossing the field, although it have been wider still.

I am aware that a local field name survey was underway in Pendleton a couple of years ago. I would love to know how that has progressed, and if it is possible to narrow down the field names or the early ownership of any of the cottages, farms and properties in the village?

I can be contacted at

[1] From
[2] From the following website by a descendent of the Mitton family, which has a great deal of fascinating information about the Mitton family who were frequently in the same locations and events that my Nowell and Wolton ancestors were also present
[3] Court Rolls of the Honor of Clitheroe in the county of Lancaster. Farrar. Page 13. Available at