Victoria County History



William Farrer & J. Brownbill (editors)

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'Townships: Bulk', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8 (1914), pp. 49-50. URL: Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Bulke, 1346. The local pronunciation is Book.

Neutun, Dom. Bk.; Neweton, 1202; Neuton, 1212.

Bulk lies on the north side of Lancaster town and is bounded on the west and north by the Lune. The ground slopes generally from south to north and from east to west, including low, level meadows beside the river and land from 280 ft. to 200 ft. above sea level on the eastern side; the boundary on this side is the brook called Denny Beck, running north to the Lune, which it enters opposite Halton. Newton Beck flows west to the river and shows the position of the former vill of Newton. Ridge is near the centre of the township, with Dolphinlee to the north of it; here there is a golf links. The area is 1,158½ acres. The population in 1901 was included in that of Lancaster and Quernmore. (fn. 1) The south-western portion has become a suburb of Lancaster.

The principal road leads from Lancaster to Caton, following the course of the Lune north and east; a minor road, Ridge Lane and Grimeshaw Lane, takes a more direct north-east course over the higher ground. In this lane is a 'plague stone.' There is a footpath by the Lune. The Midland Railway Company's line also runs along close to the Lune; and the Lancaster and Kendal Canal, going north, is carried by an embankment and an aqueduct of five arches of 70 ft. span across the valley and the river into Halton and Skerton. The aqueduct was built in 1797 from designs by John Rennie; it is over 50 ft. above the river, and there is a public path over it.

A silk mill was worked for many years, but closed about 1880. Just outside Lancaster, adjoining the railway, are the wagon works, recently closed. (fn. 2) Apart from these the land has been employed for agriculture. There are a few plantations.

Billards Meadow, Stoby Meadow and the pales of the Ridge are named in a rental of 1324. (fn. 3)

In 1900 the township ceased to exist as such, part being taken into Lancaster and the remainder being added to Quernmore.


Earl Tostig held NEUTUN as two plough-lands in 1066, it being a member of his Halton fee. (fn. 4) The manor was afterwards held by Roger of Poitou, who gave it in alms to St. Martin of Sees, (fn. 5) and it formed part of the endowment of Lancaster Priory, and then of Syon Abbey. (fn. 6) On the Suppression it was retained by the Crown for a time, but sold in 1557–8 to Robert Dalton, (fn. 7) and has since descended with Thurnham. (fn. 8)

The name of Newton, now obsolete, continued to predominate for some time, but in 1318 Newton was described as only a hamlet of Bulk; it was decided that the men of Lancaster had no right of common therein. (fn. 9) This was a boundary dispute, and seems to have been renewed in 1339, when the Prior of Lancaster complained that a number of the townsmen had broken his closes at Newton, destroyed the palings and depastured his grass. (fn. 10) Other disputes concerned the fishery in the Lune. (fn. 11) A survey of the manor in 1510 shows that the Lune was washing away some of the land, and that the mill, formerly leased to John Gardiner, was not kept in due repair. There were two woods; that at the Ridge had young oaks in it, promising well, the other was almost destroyed. (fn. 12)

Henry Parker died in 1633 holding land in Bulk. (fn. 13) This was the Brerebutts or Mill Close, (fn. 14) the site of the old Lune mill.

The custom of tenant right, said to prevail through the whole hundred of Lonsdale, was alleged in certain disputes as to Dolphinlee and other tenements in Bulk in the 16th century. From a testimonial by the mayor and twelve burgesses of Lancaster in 1512 it appears that William Wilson had been tenant of Dolphinlee for fifty years, and on the death of his son John five years later, without issue, it went to the daughters. The youngest of these, Grace, married Richard Copeland, her sisters having released their right to her; after which Richard and Grace were admitted tenants in open court at Aldcliffe. (fn. 15) Lawrence and John Copeland afterwards held it. (fn. 16) Margaret Ward, widow, in 1599 claimed, by descent from her grandfather William Singleton, a tenement held by a rent of £4 10s. 2d. and at the exchange of every lord and tenant a penny called the 'God's penny,' which she had paid on succeeding. (fn. 17) On the outbreak of the Civil War one Lawrence Copeland had two-thirds of his tenement in Dolphinlee sequestered for recusancy; he had a son Robert, who with Katherine his wife made petition for it in 1651. (fn. 18)

There is a mission room in Bulk in connexion with Lancaster parish church.

Formerly the Roman Catholics of Lancaster were ministered to by missionary priests stationed at Dolphinlee. (fn. 19) Several 'Papists' registered estates at Bulk in 1717. (fn. 20)


1 To Lancaster 1,178 and to Quernmore 77–1,255 in all; Census Rep. 1901.
2 There were railway carriage works in Lancaster as early as 1846.
3 Rentals and Surv. portf. 9, no. 78–9.
4 V.C.H. Lancs. i, 288b.
5 Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 289. As in other cases the assessment appears to have been reduced by one half, for in 1212 Newton and Aldcliffe together were considered to be only two plough-lands; Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 93.
In 1202 Henry de Lancaster claimed against the Prior of Lancaster 2 oxgangs in Newton as his inheritance, but released his right; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 151.
The prior in 1318 obtained licence from the Earl of Lancaster to inclose 40 acres of waste adjoining the Ridge in Newton; Lanc. Ch. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 494.
In 1375 the prior granted 20s. rent and a new robe, to be paid from the lands in Bulk, to Alan de Stodagh, who was also to have his table in the priory; Cal. Pat. 1399–1401, p. 449.
The prior in 1383 granted all his lands in Bulk, &c., to John de Stanlaw for forty years at £8 rent; the boundaries extended from Newton mill brook to Freebrook, and from Ridge and Grimshead to the Lune; ibid. 1381–5, p. 334. The Mill Close is named in 1600; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), iii, 436.
6 In 1522 the Abbess of Syon granted to William Tunstall a lease of all her lands in Lonsdale, including Bulk; Pal. of Lanc. Sess. P. 22 Hen. VIII.
7 Pat. 4 & 5 Phil. and Mary, pt. viii. Robert Dalton in 1569 and 1576 obtained the reversion of messuages in Bulk held for a term by Francis Tunstall and Christopher Preston; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 31, m. 191; 38, m. 46.
8 e.g. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 1; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 174, m. 119; 351, m. 191.
In 1607 Robert Dalton of Thurnham complained of damage to his nets upon his free fishery in the Lune, extending from Lancaster Bridge to a point over against Halton; Pal. of Lanc. Chan. Rec. i, no. 32.
9 Lanc. Ch. ii, 496.
10 Cal. Pat. 1338–40, p. 367. Another complaint was made in 1346 as to the carrying away of the prior's trees; De Banco R. 347, m. 15.
11 The Abbot of Furness in 1397 had a fishery in the Lune on land of the Prior of Lancaster in the vill of Newton, and a way from the Bulk to Lancaster high road; Memo. R. (L.T.R.), 163, m. xiij.
12 Baines, Lancs. (ed. 1870), ii, 568. The lease of the mill is printed in Lanc. Ch. (Chet. Soc.), iii, 580. It was described as standing on 'a piece of ground called the Ayre, with another piece of land called Brerebutts in Newton, containing about 1½ acres, on the east side of the Lune.'
13 It was only 3 acres, and he left it to Elizabeth Birkett, Jane Sharp, Roger Sharp and Francis Birkett. His kinsman and heir was Henry Lord Morley and Mounteagle; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxviii, no. 36.
14 Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 115. It had been granted to Parker by James I.
15 Duchy of Lanc. Dep. Hen. VIII, xxi, C3. There was a claim by Richard Craven through Richard Nelson and his son William. Edward Parkinson of Wyresdale stated (1533) that when John Wilson (son of William) married his sister about 1507 a clear surrender was obtained from the Nelsons. Richard Craven produced a testimonial from the mayor and twelve burgesses of Lancaster, dated 1511, to the effect that Richard Copeland had promised to acknowledge that he had no title except at the will of Lord Mounteagle, and that Richard Nelson was tenant by the custom of the country. William Nelson of Lynn surrendered his right to Richard Craven in 1528, paying for the fine £20, and to his sister Anne Nelson 40 marks.
16 Duchy of Lanc. Plead. Eliz. ccx, D 10. This time tenant right was not alleged. Robert Dalton about 1580 made a lease of Dolphinlee to Lawrence Copeland at £3 5s. rent, and Lawrence bequeathed the lease to his son John, who at his death was followed by an infant son Lawrence, 'now named Timothy.' John Copeland, a cousin, was guardian. Over the porch at Dolphinlee is an inscription with date: 1623 LCE.
17 Ibid. clxxxviii, D 2. The 'ancient custom called tenant right' is here described as one 'by which the tenants of any customary messuage held the same for certain rent and services as accustomed to be done.' William Singleton died in 1584, and Margaret (daughter of Francis son of William) entered and married Thomas Ward. The complaint by Robert Dalton, lord of the manor, is preserved; ibid. cxcii, D 12.
18 Royalist Comp. Papers(Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 77. For the later history of the family see Misc. (Cath. Rec. Soc.), v, 245.
19 Thomas Tyldesley went to 'prayers' at Bulk, with his wife, in Mar. and Apr. 1712; Tyldesley Diary, 15, 21. For details see R. N. Billington, St. Peter's, Lanc. 70–73, 203.
20 The names were Ellen widow of Richard Cottam, Robert Croskell and Robert Ball of Dolphinlee; Estcourt and Payne, Engl. Cath. Nonjurors, 96, 143, 146. George son of William and Cecily Ball was in 1697 admitted to the English College at Rome and became a priest; Foley, Rec. S. J. vi, 449. For the Croskells see Gillow, Bibl. Dict. of Engl. Cath. i, 599.