Warrington St Elphin, Lancashire Genealogy

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Warrington St Elphin

Parish History

WARRINGTON [St. Elphin], a borough, markettown, and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of West Derby, S. division of the county of Lancaster; the parish containing, with the chapelry of Burtonwood, and the townships of Poulton with Fearnhead, Rixton with Glazebrook, and Woolston with Martinscroft, 21,901 inhabitants, of whom 18,981 are in the town, 18 miles (E.) from Liverpool, 19½ (W. S. W.) from Manchester, 52 (S. by E.) from Lancaster, and 188 (N. W. by N.) from London. Warrington is supposed by Mr. Whitaker, in his History of Manchester, to have been originally a British town, and on the invasion of the Romans under Agricola in the year 79, to have been converted into a Roman station. This opinion rests chiefly on the circumstance of three Roman roads leading respectively from the stations of Condate, Coccium, and Mancunium, to a ford here over the Mersey: the vestiges of a castrum and fosse are still discernible; and the discovery of some coins on both sides of the river, near the ancient ford, and other antiquities which have been subsequently dug up, strengthen the result of Mr. Whitaker's investigations. On its occupation by the Saxons, the place obtained the appellation of Weringtun, from the Saxon Wæring, a fortification, and tun, a town, and became of sufficient importance to give name to a wapentake, which afterwards merged into the hundred of West Derby, and formed part of the demesne of Edward the Confessor. It was also made the head of a deanery, of which the jurisdiction still remains. In Domesday book it is noticed under the name of Wallintun; and in the reign of Edward I. was in the possession of William le Boteler, who obtained for it the grant of a market, and other privileges. From the earliest period, the Mersey at this place was passed only by the ancient ford, till the close of the 15th century, when Thomas, first earl of Derby, in compliment to Henry VII., on his visit to Lathom and Knowsley, erected a bridge of stone, soon after which the passage of the river by the ford ceased. In the reign of Henry VIII., Leland, speaking of Warrington, says, "it is a pavid towne of a prety bignes: the paroche chirch is at the tayle of the towne; it is a better market than Manchestre."

Nothing of importance is recorded of it from this period till the commencement of the civil war, when the inhabitants openly declared in favour of the royal cause, and the town was garrisoned for Charles. In 1643, a detachment of the parliamentary forces, stationed at Manchester, laid siege to it, on which occasion the royalists under Colonel Norris, the governor, took refuge in the church, and, fortifying that edifice against the assailants, obstinately resisted their attack for five days; but the enemy having erected a battery, which they brought to bear upon it, the king's party was compelled to surrender. Their number was 1600, of whom 300 were taken prisoners; and ten pieces of ordnance, with a large quantity of arms and ammunition, fell into the hands of the enemy. The royalists seem, however, to have soon regained possession of the town, for in less than three months it was again attacked by the parliamentarians, who carried it by storm, when the former lost 600 men and eight pieces of cannon. In 1648, a numerous body of Scottish troops, under the command of the Duke of Hamilton, on their retreat from Ribbledale, rallied at Warrington; and after an obstinate but unsuccessful encounter with the parliamentarian troops under General Lambert, in which 1000 men were slain, the remainder, in number about 2000, surrendered themselves prisoners of war. In 1651, Lambert encountered and repulsed the Scottish army under the command of the young king, near the town. Towards the close of the interregnum, in 1658, Sir George Booth, who had been a strenuous opponent of Charles, being dissatisfied with the conduct of public affairs, and anxious for the re-establishment of a free parliament under a legitimate head, raised a considerable force; but after a severe engagement with the troops under General Lambert, at Winnington Bridge, near Delamere Forest, he was defeated, and part of his army retreating to Warrington, the men were arrested in their flight by the parliamentary garrison stationed in the town. From the erection of the bridge over the Mersey, Warrington, as a military station, was regarded as commanding the entrance into Cheshire from the north; and in 1745, on the approach of the army under Prince Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, who was advancing from Wigan, the central arches of the bridge were demolished by the Liverpool Blues, who, having thus intercepted their progress, captured part of the rebel army, whom they sent prisoners to Chester Castle. The bridge was repaired in 1747, but afterwards becoming much dilapidated, it was taken down, and a wooden one on stone piers was constructed in 1912, at the joint expense of the counties of Chester and Lancaster. This in 1837 was replaced by the present stone structure. The town, which is pleasantly situated on the river Mersey, consists of four principal streets diverging from the centre, and intersected by several smaller ones. They are in general narrow, but have undergone considerable improvement, under the superintendence of commissioners appointed by an act of parliament obtained in 1813; the shops are, for the greater part, of handsome appearance, and the town is interspersed with numerous respectable public edifices. Prior to the construction of the railroad from Liverpool to Manchester, it was the great thoroughfare between these two places, and seventy stage coaches passed through it daily. The town is well paved, under the provisions of the act just mentioned, and is lighted with gas by a company incorporated in 1822 and 1847, whose extensive works in Mersey-street were originally erected at an expense of £15,000, advanced on shares of £20 each. In 1846 an act was obtained for its better supply with water. A public subscription library was established in 1760, now forming part of a public museum established by the corporation; there is a floral and horticultural society, and a mechanics' institute has been formed several years. A neat and well-arranged theatre is opened occasionally for public lectures and other objects, and there is a spacious assembly-room or concert-hall. Warrington has been long celebrated as a place of trade. Until the early part of the 18th century, the principal branches of manufacture were coarse linen and checks, to which succeeded sailcloth, which was manufactured so extensively, that one-half of that used by the British navy is computed to have been made here. On the decline of this branch of business after the peace, cotton-spinning was introduced, with the manufacture of muslin, calico, velveteen, and other cotton goods, which, with that of sailcloth on a less extensive scale, constitute a very great portion of the trade of the town, and for which three cloth-halls have been erected. There are several pin-factories, pins being a staple article of trade here; and the making of files, for which the artificers have obtained a high degree of reputation, and other articles of hardware, employs a great number of men. The manufacture of glass and glass bottles is also largely carried on, there being several establishments, of which the Bank-Quay Glass Company's is the chief. Considerable business is done in malt, and there are several tanneries, soap-factories, and breweries: the ale of the place is in high repute. The soil in the neighbourhood is extremely fertile, and productive of early vegetables for the supply of the neighbouring markets. The Mersey and Irwell navigation affords a direct communication with Manchester, and the districts with which that town is connected by various canals. The Sankey canal, commencing at the river Mersey, about one mile westward of Warrington, and approaching very near its northern extremity, was the first canal formed in the county, the act for its construction having been obtained in 1755; it extends about twelve miles to the collieries near St. Helen's. In 1830, a railway, with two collateral branches, was constructed from Warrington to join the line between Manchester and Liverpool, at Newton-in-Mackerfield; subsequently this railway was purchased by the Grand Junction Company, and converted into a part of their line from Birmingham to Liverpool, which has a principal station here. In 1846 an act was passed for completing a railway communication between Birkenhead and Manchester, by way of Warrington; and in the same year acts were obtained for making railways from the town to Parkside, 4½ miles in length, to Kenyon, 5 miles, and to Huyton, 12 miles. On the Mersey was formerly a valuable fishery, which, about 1763, was let for £400 per annum; it abounded with salmon and smelts of a very superior kind, but has now greatly declined, not only in the quantity, but also in the size and flavour, of the fish. At spring tides, the water in the river rises to a height varying from about ten to twelve feet at Warrington bridge, at which time vessels of 120 tons' burthen can sail up to the quay, at the town, where convenient warehouses and other accommodations have been erected. The market-days are Wednesday and Saturday, of which the former, being the principal, is abundantly supplied with corn; there is a large cattle-market every alternate Wednesday, and fairs are held on July 18th and November 30th, each continuing ten days, for the sale of woollen-cloth and other goods, and for horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs. The market-hall is a neat and convenient building, over which is a good suite of rooms forming the concert-hall already mentioned, where the winter assemblies were formerly held. Adjoining it is the principal cloth-hall, occupying three sides of a quadrangle; and there are others on a smaller scale, in Buttermarket and Bank-street. A charter of incorporation was granted to the town in 1847, by Her Majesty in council. The new municipal borough comprises part of the township of Warrington, and part of the townships of Latchford and Thelwall in Cheshire; it is divided into five wards, and has a mayor, nine aldermen, and 27 councillors. The county magistrates hold a petty-session for the division on Monday in each week, and the first and third Wednesdays in every month; and constables and other officers are appointed in October, at the court leet of the manor. The powers of the county debt-court of Warrington, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Warrington, and part of the districts of Runcorn and Altrincham. By the act 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, Warrington was constituted a borough with the privilege of returning a member to parliament; the boundaries comprise by estimation 5657 acres, and include the township of Latchford, and part of Thelwall. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £40; patron, Lord Lilford. The tithes of Warrington township have been commuted for £452. The ancient church, dedicated to St. Elfin, was of Saxon origin, and existed at the time of the Conquest: of this there are no remains. The site is occupied by the present church, dedicated to St. Helen, a spacious cruciform structure, of various styles, with a central tower, which, with the piers and arches supporting it, and the chancel, are the oldest parts, and a fine specimen of the decorated English style. The windows of the chancel, particularly the east one, are enriched with tracery of beautiful design, and contain some handsome stained glass; the north transept is later English, of an inferior character, and the nave and south transept are modern additions. Two ancient sepulchral chapels are remaining, in one of which is the magnificent tomb of Sir Thomas Boteler and his lady, with their effigies, the former in armour, and both surrounded by various sculptured figures; in the other chapel, that belonged to the family of Massey, are several monuments to the Pattens, one of which, an elegant specimen of Italian sculpture, is to the memory of T. Wilson Patten, Esq., who died in 1819. The church crypt was restored by Mr. Abraham Middleton, architect, in 1838. Trinity chapel, in Sankey-street, is a commodious edifice: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £150; patrons, the Legh family. A district church, dedicated to St. Paul, was erected in Bewseystreet in 1830, at an expense of £5347: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £150; patron, the Rector of Warrington. At Burtonwood, Hollinfare, and Padgate are other incumbencies. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, Independents, Wesleyans, Independent Methodists, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. The free grammar school was founded and amply endowed in 1526, by a member of the Boteler family; the trustees pay the master a salary of £300, with the use of the school-house, garden, and land adjoining, and there are an usher and writing-master. The late Right Hon. George Tierney was educated here. The Blue-coat school, in Winwick-street, instituted in 1677, has an income of £500 per annum; also the reversion of an estate at Sankey, worth £6000, granted by John Watkins, Esq., in 1797. A society for the relief of widows and orphans of clergymen in the archdeaconry of Chester, was established at Warrington in 1697, under the patronage of the bishop of the diocese, and is liberally supported. As a branch of this, is an institution founded in August, 1843, in connexion with the Chester Diocesan Board of Education, for the instruction of daughters of clergymen in the archdeaconry, and for the training of young persons as school mistresses and teachers. The establishment is under the presidency of the bishop, and direction of boards of trustees and management, and a sub-committee of ladies. The buildings occupy an elevated and healthy site, and are so arranged as separately to accommodate the two classes of pupils, who are lodged, boarded, and educated. A collegiate institution was formed here about the middle of the last century, to afford the sons of Protestant dissenters the advantages of an university education: it was dissolved, however, in 1783. The celebrated Dr. Priestley was for some time its head, and had for his coadjutors Dr. Aikin, Dr. Enfield, Dr. Reinhold Forster, the naturalist, and the Rev. Gilbert Wakefield. The press of Warrington, during the existence of this academy, and for several years subsequently, stood in high repute. The well-known work of Howard the philanthropist, On Prisons, and other works of that honoured man, emanated from it; as did also Dr. Enfield's, Dr. Aikin's, Dr. Percival's, and Mrs. Barbauld's works; and the highlygifted Roscoe made his literary debut from this press. It is worthy of notice also, that the first public journal of Lancashire, called Eyres' Weekly Journal, or the Warrington Advertiser, issued from the town. A dispensary was formed in 1810, and an appropriate building erected for its use in 1818, at an expense of £1030; and there are various other institutions, and some provident societies, for promoting the instruction and the comfort of the poor. The union of Warrington comprises parts of several parishes, containing a population of 31,732. Orford Hall, about a mile from the town, was the residence of John Blackburne, Esq., a celebrated botanist, who died in 1786; and Litherland, the inventor of the patent-lever watch, was a native of the town. Warrington gives the title of Earl to the family of Grey, who are earls of Stamford and Warrington.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1848), pp. 470-475. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=51378 Date accessed: 21 July 2010.


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