Townships
Great Lever

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Victoria County History

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William Farrer & J. Brownbill (editors)

Year published

1911

Pages

182-187

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'Townships: Great Lever', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5 (1911), pp. 182-187. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=53026 Date accessed: 21 November 2014.


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GREAT LEVER

Leoure, 1278; Leuir, 1282; Leuere, 1292; Leuer, 1301; Leyver, 1560.

The isolated township of Great Lever, some 9 miles west of Middleton Church, measures over 2 miles from east to west, and has an area of 866½ acres. It lies chiefly between two small brooks running eastward to the Tonge, which forms the eastern boundary. Lever proper lies in the south-eastern portion, with Burriden to the north, and Priestcroft to the south-west, Lever Edge stretching away to the west. The surface is generally level, falling a little from Lever Edge towards the north, east, and south. The population in 1901, including that of Darcy Lever, was 10,701.

The principal road is that from Manchester to Bolton, passing north-west through the eastern side of the township. Another road goes west along the Edge. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's railway from Manchester to Bolton runs on the west side of the former road. The London and NorthWestern Company's Worsley and Bolton branch crosses the centre of the township, going north; and the same company's Bolton and Kenyon Junction line touches the north-western boundary.

Besides collieries the industries include cotton mills and chemical and bleach works. There are many good residences.

The township was included in Bolton by the Extension Act of 1898.

The hearth tax of 1666 found fifty-eight hearths liable, of which twenty-one were in the house of 'my lord Bridgeman'; no other dwelling had as many as six. (fn. 1)

Manors

Though technically a hamlet of Middleton, and held of its lord, GREAT LEVER, had always a certain independence, and is not usually recited among the hamlets or appurtenances of Middleton as are the rest. (fn. 2) Its early history is obscure; for a time it was held in moieties, and a portion was granted to the priory of Birkenhead. The tenure also is not quite clear. In an early deed, as will be seen, a moiety of Great Lever is said to be held of the lord of Middleton by the fortieth part of a knight's fee, so that the whole would be the twentieth part; with this agrees the rent of 14d. payable in the 16th century to the lord of Middleton, that sum being a twentieth part of the 23s. 4d. due from Middleton to the duchy for sake fee and castle ward. Yet at the same time, in the 16th century, the tenure is stated as the eightieth part of a fee. In a petition of the time of Edward IV Great Lever was said to be held of the lord of Middleton by knight's service, rendering 10s. to a scutage of 40s.—i.e. it was considered to be the fourth part of a knight's fee.

Not far from the year 1200 Leising de Lever, apparently the lord of Little Lever, granted to Leising de Farnworth a moiety of the vill of Great Lever, with common of pasture in Little Lever; the moiety to be held of Roger de Middleton by the service of the fortieth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 3) Descendants of the grantor—Henry, William, and Henry—who appear to be described sometimes as ' of Little Lever,' but usually as 'of Great Lever,' continued to claim the lordship during the 13th century, (fn. 4) after which no more is heard of them in this connexion. Leising de Farnworth probably adopted the local surname, and seems to have been the father of Emma de Lever, (fn. 5) with whose son John the more detailed history of the manor begins in the third quarter of the century. (fn. 6)

Adam, the son of John de Lever, succeeded. He made considerable additions to the paternal lands, more especially in Farnworth. (fn. 7) He had several lawsuits, particularly with Henry de Lever, but was usually successful. (fn. 8) He was followed about 1310 by his son John, (fn. 9) who, dying about the same time, left as heir a son Adam, under age. Roger de Middleton, as superior lord, in 1313 granted to William de Charnock the education of the heir, promising him 20s. a year towards Adam's keep, and engaging to supply clothing. (fn. 10) This was probably the Adam de Lever who was killed, with twenty-six others, in the disturbances at Liverpool on the day after Ash Wednesday 1345, during the visit of the king's justices. (fn. 10a) Adam had a son John, living about 1356 to 1370 of whom nothing of note is recorded. (fn. 11) John's son, Adam the younger, obtained the Pilkington lands in Great Lever, thus becoming sole lord of the manor ; (fn. 12) and by his marriage with Margaret Cundcliffe added lands in Anderton to his patrimony. (fn. 13)


Lever of Lever. Argent two bendlets, the upper one engrailed, sable.

Adam had two sons, William (fn. 14) and Henry. The former, who died about the end of 1447, left a son Adam as heir; a minor, but married to Joan daughter of William Garnet. (fn. 15) Adam died early, leaving a daughter and heir Margaret, only two years of age. Sir Ralph Ashton of Middleton, the superior lord, married her to his younger son Ralph, who thus became lord of Great Lever. This transfer to the Ashtons did not take place without persistent opposition on the part of the Lever family. Sir Ralph Ashton, however, in 1467 proved his right to the wardship against Roger Lever son of William and uncle of the heiress. Not long afterwards Roger Lever and a party of his kinsfolk and friends assembled at Lancaster and took the record of the recovery from its place of keeping in the castle; whereupon in 1472 Sir Ralph petitioned Parliament that his right might be safeguarded in spite of the loss of the record. In the suit referred to it was stated that Adam Lever had held the manor of Great Lever of Richard Barton of Middleton by knight's service; that his daughter and heir Margaret being under age the custody of the manor belonged to Richard, and after his death to his executors; then to Sir Ralph Ashton of Middleton. In 1479–80 Roger Lever, called 'of Bolton,' received a pardon for any offences he might have committed; it appears that he was outlawed for murder. The violence was not all on one side, for in 1469 an agreement was made between Sir Ralph Ashton and Thomas Pilkington; the latter was to capture Roger Lever, and if Roger were slain Sir Ralph would bear half the damage or would petition the king to interfere should the death be adjudged a murder. After Roger's death a claim was made to the Anderton estate on behalf of the heir male, a descendant of the above-named Henry son of Adam Lever; but the Ashtons of Lever established their title. (fn. 16)


Bridgeman, Earl of Bradford. Sable ten plates in pile, on a chief argent a lion passant of the field.

Ralph Ashton, who, as stated, acquired the manor with his wife, was followed in regular descent by five Ralphs in succession. (fn. 17) The last of them, who was also seated at Whalley, was created a baronet in 1620. (fn. 18) He sold Great Lever and the adjoining estates to Bishop Bridgeman in 1629, (fn. 19) and the manor has descended to the present Earl of Bradford. Bishop Bridgeman, of whom an account will be found among the rectors of Wigan, resided at Great Lever after his purchase, rebuilding the hall and domestic chapel. (fn. 20)

His descendants, however, made little use of it, (fn. 21) and about 1760 a large part of the hall was demolished to save the expense of repairs. (fn. 22) Sir Henry Bridgeman in 1793 obtained an Act of Parliament to enable him to let lands in Great Lever and elsewhere in Lancashire on building leases for 999 years. (fn. 23)

Great Lever Hall stands in a high situation on the north side of the road from Bolton to Manchester, close to the former town. The River Croal flows on its north side along the bottom of the brow on which the house stands, and the site is naturally a defensive one, being directly accessible only from the west.

Of the first house of the Levers and Asshetons probably little or nothing remains, the oldest part of the present building being the work of Bishop Bridgeman, who rebuilt the house about 1630. The building has suffered very much from neglect and alterations. The plan is now one of great irregularity, and the greater part of the building is of modern construction, with elevations of brick or stucco. The house is divided into three portions, the oldest of which is used as the rectory for the parish of Great Lever. The eastern wing is entirely modernized and used as a Conservative Club, while a north-west wing, at right angles to the older part of the house, has been converted into cottages. There is nothing of interest in the east and north-west wings, but the centre (south-west) portion of the house, or rectory, retains a portion of the 17th-century timber front as built by Bishop Bridgeman, bearing his initials i.b with the date 1631 in two ornamental panels. The rest of the rectory portion of the house has been a good deal altered, and is faced with brick or stucco. Opposite the principal front across the courtyard is a detached building containing the domestic chapel—built by Bishop Bridgeman in 1634 and consecrated two years later—with a house attached. The position of the chapel would almost suggest its having been originally situated at the east end of a former south wing of a house built on three sides of a courtyard, but there seems to be no record of the original hall having been thus planned. The chapel is now entirely detached and the court open at both ends. There has been so much destruction and rebuilding, however, that it is difficult to say what the plan of the house was in Bishop Bridgeman's day. The timber front of the rectory facing the court is about 28 ft. wide and stands on a stone base 4 ft. high. The wall is coved at the first floor, and there is also a cove under the gable. There are no barge-boards to the gable, and the black and white filling is only paint on plaster. All the timber below, however, is genuine, including the tiebeams of the gable. The composition escapes the uniformity and monotony of a good deal of halftimber work by the use of straight uprights on the ground floor and reversed curved braces above, but more especially by the treatment of the long windows of thirteen lights, the sills of the three outside lights at each end of which are higher than the rest. The lead of the diamond quarries is very broad and painted white, with a white fillet painted on the glass on each side. The roofs of the old portion of the house, as well as of the chapel, are of grey stone slates, and the chimneys are of red brick, one of them, the principal stack on the south front, being of some architectural merit. ' The timber construction of the rectory house also shows on the north side. Most of the windows have been renewed and have moulded wood mullions, but some, with plain chamfers, are old. The interior arrangements are so much altered that the original plan of the house has been quite lost. There are no very remarkable features on the ground floor. The rooms are low, with old oak beams running across the ceilings, those in the kitchen being very massive and of great length ; one of them is supported by a modern post, presumably replacing an ancient one. The floors both upstairs and down are very uneven owing to sinkings occasioned by mining operations. The dining-room has some oak panelling under the window, and high up on the wall over the fireplace are two small shields, one on each side, with the arms of Bridgeman. The staircase is cramped, and is obviously not the original one. Over the dining-room is the library, a handsome room running across the house at this point, and lit by a long window at each end. This room, which is under the timber gable facing the courtyard, is richly wainscoted on the west side and at the two ends, the detail consisting of pilasters and square and oblong panels, the latter along the top under a classic cornice, and elaborately carved. The fireplace has Ionic pilasters, and the whole is a good specimen of Renaissance woodwork. The ceiling is of plaster divided by beams into four bays, the two end ones having ornamental plaster-work, and the middle ones being plain. In the bay at the west end of the ceiling are the arms of the see of Chester on a large shield surrounded by strap-work with four smaller shields, one at each corner, bearing the arms of Bridgeman. The east wall has apparently been rebuilt after the demolition of the part of the house on that side, and is quite plain. Another room on the first floor is also panelled in oak, but is less rich in detail. (fn. 25)

Samuel Pepys, writing under date 10 November 1662, refers to some heraldic glass in the windows at Great Lever, but this, if it were ever placed there, has now disappeared. There is now no painted or heraldic glass in any of the windows of the house. (fn. 26)

The chapel, which is dedicated in honour of the Holy Trinity, is built of brick on a stone base. It stands about 40 ft. to the south of the house, from which it is separated by a courtyard paved with cobbles. A stone wall at one time inclosed the court on the east side, but this has now given way to a lattice screen. The chapel occupies the east portion of a detached building, the total length of which is about 57 ft-, and the western half of which is a dwelling-house, now a cottage, with a timber front to the courtyard. The brickwork of the outer walls of the chapel is yellow-washed, and the roof is covered with grey stone slates. Inside the chapel is now quite bare, and a movable wood floor has been inserted above the original tiled one, which raises the floor level about 10 in. The interior, which measures 27 ft. in length and 16 ft. 6 in. in width, is lighted at the east end by a window of eight lights with stone mullions and double transoms, under a four-centred arch with external hood-moulding. The lights of the two lower tiers have rounded heads, those in the head of the window under the arch being plain. There is a square-headed six-light window on each side of the chapel, north and south, with stone mullions and transoms, the heads of the top lights only being rounded. The entrance is at the west end of the north side, the doorway having a four-centred arch, and the door being the original one of oak, nailstudded. The glass is all plain and in square quarries. The walls and ceiling, which partly follows the line of the roof, are plastered. A description of the chapel written (fn. 27) in 1787 speaks of it as being no longer in use, but of marriages having been solemnized there before 1764–7. 'At the end, opposite to the altar, to which there is an ascent of two steps,' says the writer, ' is a gallery formerly for the use of the family, and a bench runs round the chapel below.' The gallery no longer remains, but its position is marked by the coupled roof-trusses about 5 ft. apart at the west end. The ridge of the roof does not coincide with the centre line of the chapel, but is slightly to the south of it, making an irregular gable at the ends. The ends of the two roof-trusses rest on the wall in the usual way on the south side, but on the north they project in front of the wall and carry the roof in the form of a penthouse further forward over the entrance doorway. This may have served originally as shelter to a doorway higher up in the wall, giving access to the gallery from the outside, the bricked-up opening of which may still be seen. There is a door out of the chapel opposite the entrance into the adjoining house, which may have been originally the house of the chaplain. A bell belonging to the chapel is still kept at the hall, though it has not been in use for a very long time. It may have hung from the projecting ends of the chapel roof principals over the doorway. It bears the inscription RAF ASH TON CS K.

To the west of the hall is a stone boundary wall and gateway, on the head of which are the initials of Bishop Bridgeman (i. b.) and the date 1631, as on the timber front of the house. Farther to the west again was until recently one of the finest barns in the district, with timbers of enormous size. Part of this, however, has been demolished to make way for a new schoolhouse, and the portion which remains has been refaced at the end and between the timbers in brick, but enough is left to show the strength and massiveness of the original timber construction.

Robert son of Roger de Middleton, who may have acquired the right of Henry de Lever, (fn. 28) about 1300 granted to Sir Roger de Pilkington and Margery his wife all his lands in Great Lever, with a moiety of the waste. (fn. 29) In 1332 Roger de Pilkington, son of Sir Roger, granted the same to his brother Richard. (fn. 30) A later Sir Roger de Pilkington in 1378 exchanged his lands in Great Lever with Adam de Lever the younger, receiving from the latter certain lands in Kearsley; the exchange was to be for life only, but the Pilkingtons do not seem to have had any further interest in the township. (fn. 31)

BURNDEN was an estate of the priory of Birkenhead. Robert the prior granted to Siward son of Robert the chaplain of Deane an acre in Great Lever by the hill of Burnden, above the road from Bolton to Lever, and land by Bolton Brook, at a rent of 6d. on St James's Day. (fn. 32) The Burnden family are mentioned later, but about 1300 their estate was sold to Adam de Lever. (fn. 33) Lands in Burnden were afterwards held by a branch of the Lever family. (fn. 33a) Priestcroft also gave a surname to the family who held it of the local lords. (fn. 34)

The Hultons of Farnworth had a small estate in Great Lever, (fn. 35) which in 1611 was stated to be held of Sir Richard Assheton of Middleton, by the hundredth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 36) Richard Chisnall held land here in 1587; (fn. 37) and Andrew Lever was a freeholder in 1600. (fn. 38)

In 1787 the Duke of Bridgewater paid half the land tax; Ellis Crompton and Thomas Boardman were the other contributors. (fn. 39)

As already stated, Bishop Bridgeman provided a domestic chapel at the hall, which for a time appears to have been used by the residents, who were almost all his tenants. (fn. 40) Apart from this there seems to have been no church or chapel in the township till recent times. For the Church of England St. Michael's was consecrated in 1851; the Earl of Bradford is the patron of the rectory. (fn. 41) St. Simon and St. Jude's, built in 1900, is in the gift of trustees.

There is a Primitive Methodist chapel.

Footnotes

1 Subs. R. bdle. 250, no. 9, Lancs.
2 See examples in the notes to the account of Middleton; Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), i, 6o–1.
3 Lever Chartul. (Add. MS. 32103, a Towneley MS.), no. 10. Leising de Farnworth occurs in 1184; Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 55.
4 An early 13th-century deed mentions Alward, brother of Henry, son of Leising de Lever; Lever Chartul. no. 207. William son of Henry, lord of Lever, occurs later; ibid. no. 11, 13. Henry son of William, once called 'of Little Lever,' occurs as lord of Lever from about 1276 to 1292; De Banco R. 13, m. 11—in which plea 'Little Lever' may be an error of the clerk's; Lever Chartul. no. 6. In 1276 Henry son of William de Lever complained of the prostrating of a ditch in Lever by William and Adam sons of John de Lever; Assize R. 1238, m. 34 d. A William de Lever took part in an inquisition in 1288; Lancs. Inq.and Extents, i, 268. It is possible that Leising de Lever was lord of the whole of Great Lever, and that after granting half to Leising de Farnworth he retained the other half, which descended to Henry, William, and Henry, and then came to the hands of Robert de Middleton. A William de Lever occurs in the 14th century, but his parentage is not known.
5 That Emma de Lever was the daughter of the Farnworth and not the Lever Leising seems probable from the fact that her descendants had lands in that township, as may be seen in the account of it.
6 William the Tailor and Eve his wife complained in 1246 that John son of Emma and Thomas the Miller had, by erecting a mill in Lever, ousted them from a portion of their land. The jury agreed that a fourth part of the mill should be destroyed, allowing William and Eve to regain their right; Assize R. 404, m. 1. The same plaintiffs also called upon John son of Emma to warrant to them an oxgang and a half of land in Lever; ibid, m. 2.
About the same time an agreement was made between Adam son of Matthew de (Little) Lever on one side and William son of Henry de (Great) Lever, John son of Emma of the same, and William the Tailor on the other side, respecting the mill of Great Lever with the fishery there; Lever Chartul. no. 13, 14. Later, John de Lever granted to his son Adam the Clerk all his land and right in Great Lever, with wards, reliefs, and all appurtenances; ibid. no. 17.
In 1256 the sheriff was ordered to make a perambulation between the land of Adam de (Little) Lever in Little Lever and that of William son of Henry, John son of Emma, and William son of Thomas in Great Lever; Close, 40 Hen. III, m. 12 d.
In Oct. 1278 John de Lever appeared to answer a claim to 4s. rent ' in Middleton ' made by Henry de Lever; De Banco R. 27, m. 36 d. He must have died shortly afterwards, for a year later Alice widow of John de Lever claimed dower against Roger the Clerk of Farnworth, holding messuages and land in Great Lever; against Roger son of Meredith, John son of Adam de Kearsley, and Richard Pierpoint, also tenants of Great Lever; De Banco R. 31, m. 55. Roger the Clerk was probably a son of John de Lever; Lever Chartul. no. 46. Richard son of Margaret de Lever granted an oxgang of land in Lever to John son of Roger de Lever; ibid. no. 36(2). John appears to have been killed accidentally about 1279 by William son of Jordan de Burnden; Cal. Close, 1272–9, p. 522.
7 See the account of Farnworth in Deane.
William son of Adam de (Great) Lever released to Adam son of John de (Great) Lever all his land and right in the vill of Great Lever, with homages, services in waters and mills, reliefs, &c.; Lever Chartul. no. 18. Ellis de (Little) Lever granted to Adam son of John de (Great) Lever all his part of the mill and fishery about which dispute had again arisen, for the rent of a rose; ibid. no. 26. In 1292 Roger son of William the Tailor granted to Adam de (Great) Lever and Amice (or Avice) his wife all his land in Great Lever; ibid, no 51. Adam was still living in 1310; ibid. no. 78.
Adam son of John de Lever was one of the jurors in the Grelley inquisition of 1282; Lancs. Inq. and Extents, i, 244.
8 In 1284 Adam de Lever unsuccessfully claimed certain land against Henry de Lever and Henry and John de Burnden; Assize R. 1268, m. 19.
Eight years later Henry de Burnden was plaintiff, asserting that Adam son of John de Lever and Henry de Lever had disseised him of his common of pasture in 30 acres of arable land after the corn had been carried away, and his reasonable estovers in 5 acres of wood (as in housebote and heybote, to build, burn, and fence) and in 3 acres of turbary in Middleton. The defendants alleged that the land was in Lever, not in Middleton ; the jury said it was in Middleton, but gave a verdict for the plaintiff only in respect of the turbary; Assize R. 408, m. 9 d. At the same time Adam de Lever was able to refute the claim made by Henry de Lever for certain customs and services in respect of the free tenement held of Henry in Middleton; ibid. m. 44. Henry de Lever also claimed certain small parcels of land and the moiety of a water-mill in Middleton against Adam de Lever. He failed as regards the land, which had been required for an enlargement of the mill, but succeeded in the other claim, the jury deciding that Henry and Adam were parceners of the vill of Middleton, Adam
claiming to be 'chief lord of the moiety of the vill'; ibid. m. 29 d. In these cases it is noticeable that 'Middleton' is used for 'Lever in Middleton.' The other Lever was in Bolton. Henry de Lever also failed in his claim for 14d. rent from Adam de Lever, John and Roger his sons, and others; ibid. m. 68 d. A rent of 14d. was later paid by the lord of Great Lever to Middleton. Henry was nonsuited in another claim against Adam; ibid. m. 76. Adam was successful in another suit; ibid. m. 93d. Adam son of John de Lever and Avice his wife were defendants in 1295; Assize R. 1306, m. 20.
Adam de Lever, John his son and Agnes his wife, and Roger and Adam other sons, were plaintiffs in 1301, and the three former in 1305; Assize R. 1321, m. 3; 420, m. 8. No details are given of these cases.
9 John son of Adam is mentioned in the preceding note. He also occurs in the Lever Chartulary. About the same time there was another John de Lever (son of John) in Farnworth.
10 Lever Chartul. no. 79. In 1318 John son of John de Lever released all his claim to lands in the hamlets of Great Lever and Farnworth to Adam son of John son of Adam de Lever; ibid. no. 83.
Adam therefore had probably attained his majority. He married Agnes daughter of Henry de Hulton of Farnworth, and in 1326 a moiety of the manor of Great Lever and three-fourths of the manor of Farnworth were settled upon him, with remainders to their children—John, Roger, and Aline; Final Cone. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), ii, 62, 63.
In 1329 William de Lever leased to Adam for life the mill of Great Lever, but William was to have his corn ground free of multure and to be hopper free; Lever Chartul. no. 89. Agnes widow of John son of William de Lever recovered dower in a mill in Middleton in July 1352 against John [de Lever] son of Agnes de Hulton; Duchy of Lane. Assize R. 2, m. 2.
10 a Cal. Pat. 1343–5, pp. 495. 499; Coram Rege R. 344, m. 8 ; 348, m. 22.
11 John son of Adam de Lever occurs in Farnworth deeds of 1356 and 1368; his brother Henry occurs also at the former date; Lever Chartul. no. 96–100.
12 Ibid. no. 101; see further below.
13 Ibid. no. 109, 112. As Adam de Lever the elder he occurs in 1417 and 1423; ibid. no. 113, 115.
14 In 1420 Adam de Lever, Margaret his wife, and William the son of Adam made an exchange of lands in Anderton with the Anderton family; ibid. no. 114. In 1423 Adam de Lever enfeoffed Richard de Pilkington of Blackrod and John his brother of all his lands in Lancashire; and in 1432 the feoffees released to William de Lever all their right in Adam de Lever's lands, &c. in Great Lever in the vill of Middleton, in the hamlet of Farnworth in the vill of Barton, and in the vill of Anderton in Leylandshire; ibid, no. 115, 119. A further release was given in 1442; ibid. no. 134–6.
William de Lever appears to have had two illegitimate sons—Ralph and Lawrence—to whom he made various grants, and a daughter Margaret, contracted in marriage in 1437 to John Byrom of Byrom; ibid. no. 120, 129, 155; 124, 126–8. From the deeds cited it does not appear that William had then any legitimate issue except Margaret, but the son Adam must have been born shortly afterwards, as he was married in 1445.
At Michaelmas 1437 William granted to Lawrence, for life, the manor of Great Lever, with the demesnes and lands called Brandearth, Burnden Head, and Lever Moor, &c. at a rent of 20 marks; ibid. no. 129. In the following April he made a general feoffment of his lands, rents, services, &c. in Lancashire to Sir Robert de Harrington and Edmund de Pilkington; ibid. no. 131. He may have married a second time.
In 1442 William de Lever, Alice his wife, and Lawrence de Lever granted leases of lands in Great Lever and Lever Edge; ibid. no. 137, 138. Three years later he granted to feoffees, who included William Garnet the younger, the site of his manor of Lever, with its gardens, &c. and Starkcliff adjoining, meadow and pasture called Near and Further Lever Eeas (Eghes) and Warths, with the water-mill and fulling mill; Lawrence Lever joined in another grant to the feoffees, and received certain lands from them; ibid, no. 146–50.
15 The feoffees immediately (5 Nov. 1445) granted certain of the lands of William Lever to Joan daughter of William Garnet, with remainder to Adam son of William Lever, who had married Joan; and then to Roger brother of Adam; ibid. no. 151–4. William Garnet paid 110 marks for the marriage; ibid. no. 159, 169. There are many other deeds relating to this marriage. In the following April William, Ralph, and Lawrence Lever granted to the feoffees the water-mill of Lever with the rydell and watercourse; but Ralph was to receive an annuity from it until Adam the son of William should attain the age of fourteen; ibid. no. 158.
William Lever and Alice his wife were living in Aug. 1447 ; ibid. no. 169, 175. William died before 28 Jan. 1447–8 on which day William Garnet the elder agreed to submit all disputes between himself and Henry Lever the elder, and Giles and Henry his sons, who claimed a rent of 25s. from Great Lever as belonging to the manor of Little Lever. From the deeds it appears that William Lever was dead; his widow Alice is mentioned ; and his son Adam, a minor, had married Joan Garnet; ibid. no. 176–8. Alice the widow shortly afterwards married John Hulme; ibid.no 181.
A charter by William Lever of Great Lever to Adam his son and male issue, with remainder to Roger, another son, grants all his lands in Great Lever, Ladyhalgh in Anderton, and Farnworth; it is, however, dated in 1452; ibid. no. 182. Towneley may have copied the date wrongly, but it is the same in Dodsworth, cxlii, fol. 143.
16 There are in the Chartulary numerous deeds relating to these disputes; some are printed in Rolls of Part, vi, 34, 181. There is a record of the suit of 1466 in Co. Placita, Lancs, no. 32; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 30, m. 9.
In June 1466 the executors of Richard Barton (of Middleton) released to Sir Ralph Ashton their claim to the wardship and marriage of Margaret daughter and heir of Adam Lever; Chartul. no. 183. In May 1467 Sir Ralph deputed Eleanor Lady Stanley to receive from the sheriff the manor of Great Lever, which he had recovered against Roger Lever, for the minority of Margaret daughter and heir of Adam Lever; ibid. no. 184. In the following December Roger son of William Lever released to Joan widow of Adam Lever all personal actions; ibid. no. 186.
In 1472, and again in 1477, Sir Ralph Ashton addressed to Parliament the petitions (printed in Rolls of Part.) described in the text; ibid. 187,188. In the latter of these is the statement, derived from the record of the recovery of 1466, that Great Lever paid 101. to a gcutage of 401. and 4d (? 14d.) to the lord of Middleton. The pardon to Roger Lever is no. 193 in the chartulary; and the agreement as to his capture no. 224.
In 1478, by arbitration, Great Lever was awarded to Ralph Ashton (son of Sir Ralph), but Roger Lever (son of Alison) was to have Ladyhalgh for life; ibid, no. 227. The later suits by the heir male, Giles Lever, set out the claim fully; no. 219, 220, 221.
Part of Roger's defence in 1466 was that he held jointly with Thomas Pilkington and Alice wife of Sir Robert Tempest. Sir Richard Tempest was a plaintiff in 1483 respecting lands at Great Lever; Pal. of Lane. Plea R. 57, m. 2 d.
17 Margaret, the heiress, married Ralph Ashton, and lived with him at Fryton in Yorkshire ; but she died young, about 1483, leaving a son Ralph I, of tender years; ibid, no 219 (ii). Ralph Ashton the younger, of Lever, agreed to an arbitration with Giles son of Adam Lever in 1509; ibid. no. 210.
Ralph Ashton II, called Richard by the herald, said to be the son of the lastnamed Ralph, recorded a pedigree in 1533; Visit. (Chet. Soc), 206. He had married Margaret daughter of William Orrell of Turton, and had children, Ralph, Richard, and Ellen. His brother Richard acquired the site and some of the lands of Whalley Abbey. It was probably this Ralph Ashton who was engaged in various local inquiries in the reigns of Hen. VIII, Edw. VI, and Mary; see also Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), i, 161, 274,275. He was probably also the Ralph who represented Liverpool in the last Parliament of Edw. VI, 1553; Pink and Beaven, Parl. Repre. of Lancs. 180.
Ralph Ashton III, called John in the printed Visit. (Chet. Soc.), 28, succeeded. He was born about 1523 ; Duchy of Lane. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 86. He married Alice Hulton of Farnworth, who survived him, and after his uncle Richard's death succeeded to Whalley. He died in Aug. 1587, holding the manor of Great Lever, with messuages, water-mill, &c. and the tithes, of Richard Assheton of Middleton by the eightieth part of a knight's fee and a rent of 14d.; also lands in Farnworth, Worsley, and Bolton. Ralph, his son and heir, was thirty-five years of age; ibid, xiv, 90. He served as sheriff of the county in 1578–9 ; P.R.O. List, 73.
Ralph Assheton IV died in May 1616, holding the manor of Great Lever, with messuages, water-mill, lands, and tithes in the place; other lands in Farnworth and neighbouring townships; the manor of Ladyhalgh in Anderton; the manor of Whalley, and lands there and in Yorkshire. The tenure of Great Lever is stated as in the previous inquisition. In 1604 a settlement of Ladyhalgh had been made in favour of Ralph Assheton son of Ralph and Dorothy his wife daughter of James Bellingham of Levens; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), ii, 286– 290. He married Joan daughter and coheir of Edward Radcliffe of Todmorden and granddaughter and co-heir of Thomas Radcliffe of Winmarleigh; Add. MS. 32105 (Towneley), fol. 237, 245.
He had acquired further lands in Great Lever and the neighbourhood; Pal. of Lane. Feet of F. bdles. 50, m. 83; 57, m. 86; 59, m. 152. He served as sheriff in 1593–4; P.R.O. List, 73. A pedigree was recorded in 1613; Visit. (Chet. Soc), 45.
18 He was thirty-five years of age in 1621, when the above inquisition was taken, and had been created a baronet in 1620. After the sale of Great Lever he lived at Whalley and Downham. The baronetcy became extinct in 1696, when the estates were divided between the Asshetons of Middleton and of Downham; G. E. C. Complete Baronetage, i, 149, 150. He was sheriff of the county in 1623–4; P.R.O. List, 73.
19 In August 1628 a fine was made concerning the manors of Great Lever, Farnworth, Kearsley, Wharton in Hulton, and Whalley, Sir Ralph Assheton being deforciant; Pal. of Lane. Feet of F. bdle. 114, no. 8. At the end of the following year John Bridgeman, Bishop of Chester, acquired the manors of Great Lever and Farnworth from Sir Ralph Assheton, Eleanor his wife, and Ralph the son and heir; ibid. bdle. 115, no. 39.
20 See Bridgeman, Wigan Ch. (Chet. Soc), pt. iii, for a full account of the bishop; also Dict. Nat. Biog.
After the rebuilding of the hall, and partly in consequence of instructions from the king respecting the administration of church affairs, the bishop resided partly at Chester and partly at Lever; Wigan Ch. iii, 332, 334, 335. At p. 397 is given the contract by which certain Wigan colliers agreed to work the pits in the bishop's estate at Farnworth; he was to pay them 8d. for each quarter of coal or cannel raised.
During the Civil War the bishop suffered much for his loyal adherence to the king. He retired to Morton Hall, near Oswestry, and died there in 1652; ibid. 439–40.
21 Of Sir Orlando Bridgeman there is an account in Wigan Ch. iii, 455–50; also in Dict. Nat. Biog. He was born at Exeter in 1608, educated at Cambridge, called to the Bar in 1632, represented Wigan in Parliament 1640, and adhered firmly to the king's side in the Civil War; at the Restoration was created a baronet and made Chief Baron of the Exchequer, presided at the trial of the regicides, made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and became in 1667 Lord Chancellor. He seems to have resided very little at Lever, his legal work requiring him to live in London or near it. He resigned the Great Seal in 1672, and died at Teddington in 1674. See also Pink and Beaven, Parl. Repre. of Lancs. 225; and G.E.C. Complete Baronetage, iii, 26. A settlement of the manors of Great Lever, Farnworth, and fourth part of Bolton was made in 1658 by Orlando Bridgeman and John his son and heir apparent; Pal. of Lanc Feet of F. bdle. 163, m. 124. Sir Orlando was summoned by the heralds in 1664, but no pedigree is recorded in Lancashire; Dugdale, Visit. (Chet. Soc), v. His son Orlando, the eldest by his second marriage, was also created a baronet in 1673.
The eldest son by the first marriage, Sir John Bridgeman, was born at Great Lever in 1631; Wigan Ch. iii, 337. He and his descendants appear to have made Castle Bromwich,or Weston-under-Lizard, their chief residence; he died in 1710. The manor of Lever has descended as follows:—s. Sir John Bridgeman, d. 1747 ; —s. Sir Orlando, d. 1764; —s. Sir Henry, created Baron Bradford of Bradford in Shropshire in 1794, d. 1800; —s. Sir Orlando, represented Wigan as a Tory from 1780 to 1800, created Viscount Newport and Earl of Bradford in 1815, d. 1844; —s. Sir George Augustus Frederick Henry, 2nd earl, d. 1865; —s. Sir Orlando George Charles, 3rd earl, d. 1898; —s. Sir George Cecil Orlando, b. 1845, the present Earl of Bradford and lord of Great Lever. This account is from G.E.C. Complete Baronetage, iii, 26–8; and his Complete Peerage, ii, 4–5. Orlando Bridgeman, youngest son of Sir John Bridgeman, represented Wigan as a Tory from 1698 to 1705; Pink and Beaven, op. cit. 231, 232; see p. 237; also Kenyon MSS. in Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. iv, 425, 429, 442, 453, 455.
There was a recovery of the manors of Great Lever and Farnworth, &, in 1755, Sir Orlando Bridgeman and Henry Bridgeman being vouchees; Pal. of Lane. Plea R. 583, m. 4. There was another recovery in 1780, Henry Simpson Bridgeman being tenant ; ibid. R. 632, m. 7 d.
22 Notitia Cestr. ii, 99, quoting Doming: Raebotham (1788).
23 Ibid, note by Canon Raines.
25 In Bishop Bridgeman's correspondence, under date Aug. 1631, there is mention of the birth of a grandchild in 'the chamber next to the Lord's chamber under the study gallery,' in Great Lever. The family must therefore have been living in one part of the house (probably now demolished) while the new buildings were in progress.
26 The passage in Pepys' Diary is as follows:—'By-and-by come in Mr. Swinfen, the Parliament-man, who, among the discourse of the rise and fall of families, told us of Bishop Bridgeman (father of Sir Orlando), who lately hath bought a seat anciently of the Levers, and then the Ashtons; and so he hath in his great hall window (having repaired and beautified the house) caused four great places to be left for coats of arms. In one he hath put the Levers, with this motto "Olim." In another the Ashtons with this, "Heri." In the next his own, with this, "Hodie." In the fourth nothing, but this motto, "Cras nescio cujus."' Quoted in Bridgeman, Wigan Ch. iii, 331.
27 By Dorning Rasbotham.
28 In 1302 Alice widow of Henry de Lever claimed dower against Matthew son of Henry de Lever, and against Robert son of Roger de Middleton, respecting lands in Middleton; De Banco R. 141, m. 176.
29 Lever Chartul. no. 32; William de Lever was a witness. Lands in Great Lever were among the Pilkington estates in 1322; Cal. Close, 1318–23, pp. 610,648.
30 Lever Chartul. no. 91, 92; the former of these grants includes half the waste, but the latter only the fourth part.
31 Ibid. no. 101.
32 Lever Chartul. no. 1; Lever is described as a 'vill.' By another charter R. Prior of Birkenhead gave to Gervase son of Robert the Chaplain of Deane the house of Alward brother of Henry son of Leising de Lever, land between the house of Ellis and the hill, and a moiety of Goldrunsnape; this last was bounded as follows—the road between Lever and Bolton, the ascent by Burnden (Bruvel Dene) to the great oak, thence across to the syke and to the head of Brun Hill, thence by the valley to the waste by the thorn, and so to the start; ibid. no. 207.
33 William the Taylor of Lever granted land to Jordan de Burnden, with common of pasture, &, of the vill of Lever; the land of Gervase is mentioned; ibid. no. 2. Flode and Agnes, daughters of Siward de Burnden, granted to Jordan their uncle all their land and right in Great Lever; ibid, no. 3. To this deed John and William of Great Lever were witnesses.
John son of Jordan de Burnden in 1291 sold to Adam son of John de Lever that part of his land which was held of the Prior of Birkenhead; ibid. no. 49.
Margery widow of John de Burnden released (?to Adam de Lever) her right in lands formerly held by her husband of Adam de Lever and the Prior of Birkenhead; ibid. no. 4. Thomas son of John de Burnden sold all his land in the vill of Lever to Adam de Lever; and in 1310 Robert son of John de Burnden released his right to the lands sold by his brother Thomas; ibid. no. 5, 78.
33 a In 1411–12 Hugh Lethor gave to feoffees his lands in Great Lever and the reversion of the dower of Avice widow of John Burnden; and the feoffees transferred the same to Roger son of Adam Lever— possibly the lord of the manor at the time. Roger Lever also acquired lands in Halgh and Tonge, Bolton, &, between 1415 and 1432. In 1435–6 Christopher Southworth released his right to the third part of the lands given by Roger Lever the elder to John Coventry, vicar of Bolton, and Roger Ward, for the fulfilment of his will; which will ordained 'that the said lands should be to the said Roger the elder and Margaret his wife for life, and after to Roger son of the said Margaret and his heirs male'; and in default successively to Hector, Janet, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Margery, brother and sisters of Roger the younger. There is a note in the margin:—'This Roger the younger was a bastard.' Later, Margaret daughter of Roger Lever the elder gave to Adam son of Roger Lever the younger all the lands she had from her father in Great Lever and Bolton. The same Adam son of Roger in 1485–6 received further lands in Bolton. (The above deeds were in the possession of Adam Lever of Great Lever in 1603 ; ibid. fol. 52.)
Giles son and heir of Adam Lever occurs in 1506 and 1509; ibid, no. 208–10. Adam the son and heir of Giles had a dispute with Ralph Ashton respecting a rent of 91. due for his lands in Great Lever and the bounds ; he was a minor in 1524, and had a brother William; ibid. no. 211–15. The boundaries of the estate in Burnden, consisting of two portions of land, are given in no. 213; they began at a within tree beside the Kirklands. Ralph Ashton and his heirs were to have the portion lying to the north of the meres and bounds fixed by the arbitrators, while Adam Lever and his heirs took that to the south.
In 1593 Andrew Lever and Adam his son sold all his lands in Great Lever and Bolton to Ralph Assheton, but in 1599 the latter sold them lands in Bolton ; ibid, no. 216, 218 ; Pal. of Lane. Feet of F. bdle. 55, m. 183. Andrew Lever had sold lands in 1583 ; ibid. bdle. 45, m. 68.
34 William son of Henry de Lever granted to William son of Robert the land called Priestcroft, the bounds including the road to Manchester, the Millshaw Brook, and Osbornesclough, at a rent of 12d.; Lever Chartul. no. 7. Henry de Lever, lord of Lever, the son of William, made two fresh grants to William son of Robert, or William de Priestcroft; ibid, no. 6, 8. William de Priestcroft granted his land there to Alan his son; ibid. no. 9.
John son of Adam de Lever in 1302 warranted to Alan son of William de Priestcroft all the liberties in Great Lever enjoyed by his predecessors ; ibid. no. 75. Adam de Lever, apparently the father of John, in 1302 and 1305 made further grants to Alan de Priestcroft and Ellen his wife ; ibid. no. 76, 77.
35 It is named in the inquisition (1508) after the death of John Hulton in 1487, and stated to be held of Peter Shakerley by services unknown; Duchy of Lane. Inq. p.m. iii, no. 26.
36 Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 468, 470.
37 Duchy of Lane. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 39 ; it is stated to have been held of the lord of Manchester.
38 Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), i, 250. He was no doubt the Andrew Lever mentioned in the note on Burnden.
39 Returns at Preston.
40 Wigan Ch. iii, 394, 395. In 1636 the chapel of the Holy Trinity was consecrated. It had 'a square table at the upper end,' and was provided with Bible, Communion books, psalters, &c. At one time it was used as a warehouse. About 1850 it was restored, and used as a school from 1852 to 1862. It was also used for a time for public worship in 1880.
41 It was declared a rectory in 1867; Lond. Gaz. 25 Jan.