Index

The First Blood of the Civil War

Opposition to Recruitment in Croft

Promotion For Captain John Holcroft

Leigh & Chowbent During the Civil War

Roseworm Attacks Leigh

The Battle of Bury Lane

The Bolton Death Toll

The Martyred Earl

The Executioners Axe

The Remains of Sir Thomas Tyldesley Discovered

A Brass for Sir Thomas Tyldesley

Sir Thomas Tyldesley's Monument at Wigan

The Jacobite Rebellion

General Wood the Dissenting Minister

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The First Blood of the Civil War

 In July 1642 Sir Thomas Stanley, Richard Holland, John Holcroft, Mr. Edgerton, Mr. Boothe with Mr. Aston and Mr. Moore two members of parliament stationed themselves in Manchester to oppose Lord Strange; and on the 15th of that month his lordship having been invited to a banquet by the gentlemen of the town, came to the town with 400 men. Whilst they were sitting at dinner Captain Birch and Captain Holcroft, two of the parliament captains, entered the town with their forces, and beat to arms, upon which a skirmish ensued, in which Richard Percival a linen webster of Kirkmans Hulme was slain by the Royalists which was the first blood of the Civil War.

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Opposition to Recruitment in Croft

In January 1642-43 the inhabitants of Southworth with Croft, Middleton, Houghton and Arbury presented a petition to be relieved from finding more than their fair share of men for the trained bands, and they charge Mr. Holcroft with putting upon them more than the proper share of the burden, contrary to all rights and equity, and said that they durst not stand against it, because they said that they lived near to the said Captain Holcroft who was much opposed to them.

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Promotion for Captain John Holcroft

On the 11th July 1643 John Holcroft joined Sir Thomas Stanley and Peter Edgerton in issuing a precept to the constables of Southworth with Croft to raise their proportion of £4000 ordered to be levied on the country by the Parliament. Before March 1643 Mr. Holcroft had become a Leiutenant Colonel, and on the 18th March of that year, when Lancaster was summoned by the Earl of Darby, Leiutenant Colonel Holcroft gallantly but unsuccessfully defended the place.

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 Leigh & Chowbent During the Civil War

The county as you know, is grievously distracted and divided into two factions. The rebels and the malignants (whereof there are many in this county) act one part and pretend another. The Lord Strange and the Earl of Derby is the great ringleader of the malignant party and keeps his rendezvous at Warrington within great multitudes of ill affected people both out of Lancashire and Cheshire do daily resort to lying on the frontiers of both. They make daily great spoil in the county, which has now weakened them in the country that they are tide death tide life, resolve to endure it no longer as many appear by the last skirmish, that this last week fell out at Leigh and Louton (Lowton) Common between the Earl of Derby's troops and the county people whereof I being one can relate the truth. For the last Sabbath, as we were going toward the church, a post rode the country informing us that the Earl of Derby's troops were coming towards the Chowbent whereupon the country presently rose, and before one of the clock of that day we were gathered together about 3000 horse and foot, encountering them at the Chowbent aforesaid and beat them back to Leigh, killing some and wounding many. When you might wonder to have seen the forwardness of the young youths, farmers sons, who indeed were too forward having had little experience of it like times before this. And so we overrode our foot, having carried with a fervent desire to overtake them, and to do some notable service upon them, so we drove them to Loaton where they knowing our foot to be far behind, turned faces about and began to make head against us: whereupon a sharp, although a short encounter: but when they perceived our full and settled resolution, they made away as fast as their horses would carry them, and we after them, killing, wounding and taking prisoners about 200 of them and we never lost a man, only we had three of our men wounded, but not mortally, so that I think they would trouble us no more out of that part of the county: but if they do, we shall be better prepared for them than before, for we are all upon our guard, and the nailers of Chowbent, instead of making nails, have busied themselves in making bills and battle axes. And also this week, the other part of the country meet, and not only to stand upon their guard, but to disarm all the malignants, within their precincts, which we are resolved upon in our precincts: and also by God's assistance, to take the greatest and most malignant prisoners, and to carry them to Manchester, to keep house with Sir Cecil Trafford, that base malignant that is there a prisoner.

Extracts from a letter dated 2 December 1642  Civil War Tracts

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Roseworm Attacks Leigh

 On Christmas Eve 1642 there was severe fighting in several places. Roseworm (the Parliamentary leader) having finished his defences at Bolton “gathered” as he says “some forces together went out and encountered the enemy at Chowbent, and the same day took Leigh by assault returning within three days”

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The Battle of Bury Lane

Although Eccles was certainly the centre of the Civil War of the Commonwealth, and though Sir Cecil Trafford and Sir Thomas Tyldesley at the two opposite sides of the parish, were both deeply engaged in the eventful transactions of the times, both civil and military. only one military operation of any great importance occurred in the parish. The Pass of the Glass became a point of contention after the siege of Manchester. The Earl of Derby placed a battery of cannon in Holcroft Wood, commanding a passage of Little Woolden, but his forces were driven from his cannon and defeated at Woolden, not far from the residence of Sir Thomas Tyldesley. The name of "Bury Lane" seems to indicate the place of the internment of the slain, and here many broken swords, armour, spears etc. have been dug up. When the bridge at Little Woolden was repaired some years ago a cannon ball was found embedded in the structure.                                                                                                                       Note:when the road was widened in the 1920s a mass grave was found in a field opposite the Raven Inn, many swords and pieces of armour were found which were removed to Warrington museum.

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The Bolton Death Toll

The following account has been extracted from Bolton Parish Church registers recording the death of soldiers and civilians killed in the Civil War between 1642 and 1644

December 24, 1642. Two soldiers slayne in the battayle at Leigh.

Killed February 16 ; buried February 17, 1642.

James Rothwell, James Coop, John Greaves, Edmund Taylior, soldiers. John Seddon, John Nuttall, Robert Dandey, six rebels. All these Were slayne in a verrey hott skirmish at Bolton, lasting four howers. It was on Thursday, February 16, and the Rebells of Wiggan were beaten back about four of clock in the afternoone. They had shott their greate cannons against Bolton 14 tymes, yett repulsed.

22nd. John Buckley, a soldier.

March 29, 1642-3. 23 of the Earle of Darbeys men all in one grave.

April 4,1643. Two soldiers sleyne.

May 28, 1654. William Bootle, captain. James Siddall, serjant. Nich. Norres, serjant. Thomas Cooke. Adam Rothwell. John Rothwell. William Rothwell Richard Morris, senior. Alex. Lightbourne. John Lightbourne. Roger Seddon. Robt. Kirkhall. Ralph Dickenson. John Deap. Robert Mason. Alex. Mason. Ralph Boardman. John Pomfrett. Richard Robinson. John Aynsworth. Henry Brook. Thomas Russell. John Kirkhall. Robert Kirkhall. Henry Wright. James Wright, John Brook. Rich. Haalome. Jorden Sharples. William Mahon James Norres. Richard Norres. Roger Hart. Edmund Haslam, with his sonne. Ralph Leaver. William Bolton. John Hobbs, George Smith. John Dobson. Hamlett Smith. John Norres. Henry Twist. Peter Blackloe, Jo. Greenhalgh. William Teate. John Edge. Ralph Wright. Gyles Norris. Tho. Grundy. Robert Robinson. Samuel Harper. Joseph Bradshaw, gent. Arthur Wolfltt. William Holland. William Hardman, Richard Marshall. Henry Seddon. Robert Parnworth. George Holme. James Gorton. Tilsley Grundy. William Harvey. Joseph Fletcher. William Covington. William Isherwood et Uxor, Richard Bolton, prentice. Thomas Kay. Robert Dickson. John Crompton. Adam Hodgkinson. William Heakin. Christopher Nuttall. Ux. Arthur Seddon. Christopher Neild. William Wood. George Munday.

All those 78 of Bolton slayne the 28th of May,

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The Martyred Earl

James 7th Earl of Derby the "Martyred Earl" passed the night before his death at Leigh and the following particulars of that said visit are related by his chaplain the Rev. Mr. Baggely.

That night Tuesday 14th October 1651 we came to Leigh, but in our way thither as we rode along his Lordship called to me, and bade me when I should come into the Isle of Man to commend him to the Archdeacon (that) had passed between them concerning death and the meaning of it, that he had often said that the thought of death could not troubled him in fight, or when with a sword in his hand, but he feared it would startle him tamely to submit to a blow upon the scaffold; but said his Lordship, tell the Archdeacon from me that I do now find in myself an absolute change as to that opinion, for I bless my God for it, who has put these comforts and the courage into my soul, I can as willing now lay down my head upon a block as ever I laid it upon a pillow. My Lord supt a competent meal, saying he would imitate his Saviour, a supper should be his last act in this world; and, indeed, his Saviours own supper before he came to the cross which (he said) would be tomorrow. That night he spent upon his bed from betwixt ten and eleven until six in the morning. As he laid himself down on his right side, with his hand under his side, Methinks I lie like a monument in a church and tomorrow I shall really do so. As soon as he rose, after prayer, he shirted him, and said, this shall be my winding sheet, for this was constantly my meditation in this action. Se, sayeth he to Mr. Paul, see that it not be taken away from me; I will be buried in it. Then he called to my Lord Strange to put on his order, and said, Charles, once this day, I will send it you by Baggely. pray return it to my gracious Sovereign when you shall be so happy to see him and say I sent it in all humility and gratitude, as i received it , spotless and free from any stain, according to the honourable example of my ancestors. Then he went to prayer, and my Lord commanded Mr. Greenhalgh to read the Decalogue, and at the end of every commandment made his confession, and then received absolution and the sacrament. After which a prayer ended, he called for pen and ink and wrote his last speech and a not to E. S. (Edward Savage). When we were ready to go he drank a cup of beer to my Lady, Lady Margaret Masters and Mr. Archdeacon, and all his friends in the Island and bade me remember him unto them, and tell the Archdeacon he said the old grace he always used in these words (not recorded). Then he would have walked into the church to have seen Sir T.Ts (Thomas Tildesley) grave, but was not permitted, nor to ride that day upon his own horse, but they put him on a little nag, saying they were fearful that the people would rescue his Lordship. The earl was conveyed from Chester to Bolton by two troops of Colonel Jones Regiment commanded by Captain Sankey - The earl stayed at the Kings Arms a house in the Market Place long since taken down. the site is now covered by a bread shop occupied by Mr Bevington (1870). The closing scene of this great gentleman must be briefly described. He was taken to a house in Bolton near the cross (this ancient cross was removed in 1776) where the scaffold was raised, and as he passed by he said Venid Domene I am prepared to fulfil thy will oh God. The scaffold must be my cross Blessed Saviour I take it up willingly and follow Thee. Here he had to wait until the scaffold was prepared, the people of the town and country generally refusing to carry so much as a plank or strike a nail, or to lend any assistance to that work, this being general in the streets. Oh sad day, oh woeful day shall the good Earl of Derby die here. Many sad losses we have had in this war but none like unto this, but now the ancient honour of our country must suffer here. By a refined cruelty most of the timbers that built the scaffold was from the ruins of Latham House. He died as became a Christian, and a brave gentleman, and his last words were "Let all the earth be filled with his glory Amen Amen" - England's Black Tribunal ed 1680 p183

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The Executioners Axe

The axe, or reputed axe with which the Earl of Derby was executed at Bolton has a pretty clear and unbroken pedigree for more than a hundred years. It is pretty well understood that the executioner of the Earl was a man named Whowell or Whewell, who occupied a small farm on the edge of Edgeworth Moor, between Turton, Entwistle and Darwen, clearly to be seen by a railway traveller looking north-east to a towering chimney standing alone in the fields called "Bird" of "Birds Folly". from the circumstance of the chimney being erected some 40 years since, for the services of an intended chemical works which however, was never built. The name of Whowell Farm is still retained, the same branch having been resident there since 1651, and 181 years afterwards. The Derby axe, tradition says, lay hidden for more than a century at Whowell Farm, until a sale took place more than a hundred years ago, when the axe was put up by auction along with other old iron in a sack. The old iron was put into the sack to cheat the bystanders of the real contents and thereby veil the horrors by which the blood stained instrument was regarded. John Holt, clerk and sexton of Turton Chapel during the term of 70 years, being present at the sale, and knowing the precise contents of the sack, bid at the same, and it was sold to him. He held possession of it until his death 4th March 1824. His son, Nathan, succeeded to the church appointment, and inherited the axe. Nathan was a bleacher, and died at the age of 86 years, on the 18th December 1854. Nathan had a nephew James Wood Hold, who in due course became clerk and sexton, and also succeeded to the Derby axe. In Nathan Holt's declining years, this nephew had the government of the axe, and underwent diverse temptations to its sale. A nobleman Lord Londosborough was a bidder, when James Wood Holt had a new Haft put to it, out of an old stantion taken from the alter railings of Turton Old Chapel, when the latter gave way for the present edifice in 1840-1. James Wood Holt likewise had the blade reburnished in the vain hope that the the whole might appear to better advantage in the eyes of the nobleman. Lord Londosborough did not buy probably the heavy figure put on the axe, and also because of the new haft and burnishing. About the year 1851 the axe entered on a new career. It was sold by the late James Wood Holt, to the late Mr. William Sharples of the Star Inn, Churchgate, Bolton, premises, it is well known, situated a few paces from where the scaffold stood upon which the Earl was executed on the 15th October 1651. Mr. Sharples exhibited the axe in the Museum attached to the Star Inn. On the 13th July 1852 the Star Inn and Museum were burnt down, but the Derby axe, along with some other relics, passed unscathed. The possessor of it now is Mr. James Pitney Watson. It has a convex blade, very wide, heavy and keen.

In response to the above article published in the Bolton Chronicle 1880 the following letter was received from the Son of James Wood Holt

Sir - In your report "The axe used at the execution of the Earl of Derby at Bolton" there are a few inaccuracies that I would like to correct. I am Richard son of the late James Wood Holt, and I sold the axe by my mothers instructions to Mr. William Sharples in the year 1861, some months after the death of my father, which occurred on the 9th November 1859, so that the axe could not possibly have been in the possession of Mr. Sharples at the time of the fire at the Bolton Museum. And the amount stated was considerably more than what was stated.The part relating to the axe being so long in our family is quite correct, being originally bought by Mr. James Holt sexton and clerk of Turton, and was retained by four generations in our family, or rather five if I (who disposed of it can be counted as one. I trust this information may be of use in assisting to trace a correct history of the axe - Sir, faithfully yours, Richard Holt tin plate worker Darwen May 11th 1880.

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The Remains of Sir Thomas Tyldesley Discovered

In 1871 work began in rebuilding the old Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Leigh, the body of the old structure was crumbling but the tower was still sound, so it was decided that the tower would be renovated and the rest of the church demolished and rebuilt. When the workmen were taking out the foundations of the Tyldesley Chantry they came upon an oblong coffin 6 foot 2inches in length and 18 inches inside made from boards that were  one and a quarter inches thick and fastened at the corners with large nails. It contained a full sized skeleton which we may I think presume was that of Sir Thomas Tyldesley. About a yard to the north of this coffin was found another 5 foot 11 inches long and 15 inches inside, of the same shape, formed of boards one inch thick and contained a smaller skeleton having by it's side a wooden staff. Upon the side of this coffin was a crude wooden handle, hollowed so as to allow of the fingers, passage between it and the coffin; and upon the lid was the traces of a metal plate. From the middle of these coffins to the east wall of the Chantry was a distance of four yards; so local tradition was in this respect correct as to the position of Sir Thomas's body. Both of these coffins were buried at a lower depth in the same place they were found.

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A Brass for Sir Thomas Tyldesley

For some time in 1875 Thomas Whitehead and James Worsley historians of the old Parish Church have been collecting for an appropriate memorial to Sir Thomas Tyldesley the great cavalier that will take the form of a brass, which will intensify the interest in Leigh Parish Church his resting place.

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Sir Thomas Tyldesley's Monument at Wigan

 

Letter 20th May 1750 – For many years I have frequent occasion to travel from Cheshire through Wigan to the north-east parts of Lancashire, and in my journeys always with due regard took notice of a column placed about a quarter of a mile to the north of Wigan, in the hedge or fence on the east side of Wigan Lane; this, about seventy years ago was erected to the memory of an approved warrior and gallant loyalist, who about thirty years before, on that very spot, bravely died fighting for his rightful prince, who was then in arms near the centre of England, endeavouring to regain his kingdom from a horrid and bloody usurpation. “The pillar was of hewn stone, plain and quadrangular, rising from a projecting base; and on its top, on the neck of a conical pedestal, a stone globe. On the front of it, towards the west was a vacancy of about 18” square and 2” deep, which seemed to have contained some inscribed marble or flat stone which had been injuriously carried off; yet the column was left, and still served to perpetuate the fame of the worthy gentleman who in that place so honourably but immaturely fell.” “Some time ago I was passing that way, and, to my no little surprise observed that the pillar was likewise taken down and totally moved away, so that no its situation is not likely to be discerned. It seemed strange to me that this column should be ordered to be destroyed, as it was intended to commemorate as remarkable action as most that happened during those civil wars; and as especially as it made mention of that noble and valiant commander who was the glory of Lancashire (not to say of Britain) and likewise the honour of his ancient race viz, James, the seventh Earl of Derby who was a person highly accomplished with learning, prudence, loyalty and valour, whereof he gave signal proofs on several occasions in the Civil Wars; especially in that memorable encounter in Wigan Lane, where with 600 horse he maintained a fight of two hours against 3,000 horse and foot commanded by Colonel Liburne; and though in that action he received seven shots on his breastplate, thirteen cuts on his beaver, five or six wounds on his arms and shoulders, and had two horses killed under him, yet he made his way to his sovereign, King Charles 11, and then to Worcester.” “As I have a regard for inscriptions, memorials etc. I was very desirous to come at a sight of what had once been placed here, and, after much trouble and enquiry, at length got intelligence of it, and was told that it had been hid for several years in a little alehouse not far distant from its once proper station; it was a black marble of the dimensions of the hollow square above described: the letters had been gilded but now much injured yet, with some difficulty I could make out the inscription, which is linearly and literally as follows:-

A high Act of Gratitude erected this Monument, &

Conveighs the

Memory of SIR THOMAS TYLDESLY to Posterity

Who Served K: C: 1st as Left: Col: at Edghill Battell

After raised

Regiments of Horse, Foot & Dragoons

And for the desperate Storming Burton upon Trent

Over a Bridge of 36 Arches

Received the Honour of Knighthood

He afterwards served in all the Wars in great Command

Was Govenour of Litchfield

And followed the fortunes of the Crown through the 3 kingdoms

Would never Compound with the Rebels, though strongly

Invested

And on the 25th August: Anno 1650

Was here slain Commanding as Major General under

E : of Derby

To whome the grateful Erector

Alex : Rigby Esq. was Cornet:

And when he was the High Sheriff of the County of Lancaster

Anno 1670 placed this high Obligation

On the whole Family of the Tyldesley’s

 

The monument was subsequently treated with more respect, and a new tablet inserted bearing a similar inscription, which still remains. The pillar itself was restored, and surrounded by iron railings.

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THE JACOBITE REBELLION

General Wood the Dissenting Minister 1715

 In the year 1715 Sir Henry Haughton of Houghton Towers who had been called on by General Wills to confer and advise with him on the attack to be made on the Pretenders forces at Preston, sent a letter from Wigan dated 11th November, to the Reverend James Wood the minister of the Presbyterian Dissenters Chapel in Atherton desiring him to raise all the forces he could, with all arms they had fit for service and to come to Cuerdon Green the following day to aid the Kings forces at Preston. This letter was countersigned by General Wills. It is a well known matter of history how Mr. Wood and his congregation responded to the call, and with what courage and gallantry they acquitted themselves. An entry was found in the Churchwardens accounts for that year of payment made of the ringers of the Leigh church bells when the news came of the Pretenders defeat and of the successful efforts of General Wood and his contingent.