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The County Palatine
And Duchy
By Edward Baines, ESQ. MP

Published in 1836 By Fisher, Son, & Co., London Paris and New York
Extracts published for reference only - All rights reserved
Transcript © 2002 Copyright Hubmaker
All rights reserved. Reproduction strictly prohibited

Vol. III. Leyland Hundred
Hesketh with Becconsall Parish

Hesketh is the most westerly of the five parishes which have been separated from Croston. On the north it is washed by the Ribble; and on the east by the Douglas, or Asland; while to the south and west it is bounded by the parishes of Tarleton and of North Meols. The length of the parish, taken from Hoole to the east and North Meols to the west, is from two miles and a half to three miles, and its breadth from Hesketh Bank on the north to Tarleton on the south one mile.

At flood-tide the Ribble is here three miles wide from Hesketh Bank to the Guides House on Freckleton Marsh, though at low water the river is fordable under the conduct of a guide appointed for the purpose. The Douglas, as well as the Ribble, is navigable, and many small vessels from twenty-six to forty-five tons burden are employed in conveying coal from Wigan to Lytham and Preston, as well as to Ireland.; and in the importation from that country of grain, meal and butter. These vessels are registered at the customs-house at Preston, but an expectation exists that facilities will be given to this growing branch of commerce by the erection of a customs-house at Hesketh Bank. At present there are two ferries on the Douglas, one at Longton and the other at Hoole, which save a circuit of nearly four miles to Preston by the Bridle road.

This parish and the adjoining parish of North Meols, include Southport, the fashionable bathing-place for South Lancashire, would be much benefited by a bridge over the Douglas, near the parish church, which might be connected with the highway in Hoole by a new road about a mile in length, by which more than three miles would be saved out of four to the traveller, in the communication with Preston, the principle market town in the neighbourhood. In the summer season Hesketh is a place of considerable resort for bathing and marine recreations, and the visitors are plentifully supplied with salmon and flounders taken near the mouth of the rivers. The grazing of sheep is carried on to a great extent on the marshes, the pasturage of which is rendered agreeable and nutritious to the flocks by the slight impregnation of salt.

Anciently a beacon was placed near the confluence of the Douglas with the Ribble, and the name "Beacon's Hill," or Becconsall, is supposed to be derived from this harbinger of approaching danger.

According to the Testa de Nevill, Pagan Villers, the first feodary in this parish upon record, gave to the hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem one carucate of land in Bekanshaw in pure alms.

From the "Genealogye of the worshipful and auncient familie of the Heskforths of Ruffourd in Lancashire," it appears that Hellarth, the first of the family, was great-grandfather to William Heskayth, to whom, in 55 Henry III, Richard, son-in-law of Richard Totleworth, gave lands in marriage with his daughter and heiress. William was the father of Sir William Heskayte, knt. lord of Heskayte and Beconsawe, 4 Edward I., who married Matilda, daughter and coheir of Richard Fytton, and had all the lands of the other coheir by gift as explained in the history of Croston parish. Between the reigns of Henry VIII. and William III. Becconsall and Becconsall Hall were the property and residence of the de Becconsalls, while Hesketh was vested in the Heskeths of Rufford. Subsequent to that period Becconsall descended to the Molineuxes; and on a large stone now lying at the end of the farm buildings belonging to Becconsall Hall is inserted "John and Lucy Molinevx bvilt this Hovse, Anno 1667. T.H." A descendant and heiress of the Molineuxes conveyed this property by marriage to the ancestors of the present proprietor sir Thomas Hesketh. bart. of Rufford Hall, the lord of the manor of Hesketh and Becconsall, for which a court leet and court baron are held annually at the Hesketh Arms, about the 24th or 25th of October.
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The parish church of Hesketh stands one mile below Hesketh Bank, and is generally called Becconsall chapel. The building is a plain brick fabric, with a turret and one bell. The interior is destitute of all ornament, and presents much more appearance of a parochial chapel than that of a parish church. The date of the original erection is 16th century, and it was then used as a domestic chapel for the Becconsall family. In the year 1765 the chapel was rebuilt and enlarged. In 1821 an act of parliament was passed, severing Hesketh and Becconsall chapel from Croston, and elevating Hesketh to the rank of an independent parish church where the rite of marriage is celebrated. The patronage of the living is in the Rev. Thomas Cooper, curate in 1755, who died in 1783, and was succeeded by the Rev. Thomas Whitehead, the officiating minister for thirty-nine years, who died in 1822, and was succeeded by the Rev. Edward Ellwood, the present stipendiary curate. The register here is of recent date, commencing with the year 1745, and exhibits the following meagre results:-

None Celebrated

Formerly there were two dissenting chapels in this parish, but there is now only one, namely the Primitive Methodist chapel, which was built in 1827; the Independent preaching-room having been recently closed, after existing about eight years.

The population has within the last thirty years been augmented from 352 to 523, and is still slowly on the increase. Hesketh-cum-Becconsall participates in the benefit of the bequests left in the year 1710 by Dr. Layfield to the poor in all the townships of Croston, and distributed in books and clothing to persons who support themselves by their own industry without relief from the parochial rates. A little hand-loom weaving of cambries, muslins, and handkerchiefs is found here, but the employment of the principal part of the people is agricultural. The soil, which is sandy near the coast, and peaty at a distance from the river, with a mixture of marl, is well cultivated, and about one-half of the 952 acres which form the admeasurement of the parish is arable. For many ages the remains of the subterraneous forest were exhibited on this coast by trunks of trees, which became visible on the reflux of each successive tide, but they have now all disappeared. In that great depository of decayed vegetable matter called Tarleton Moss, oak trees are frequently found embedded in the soil, which seem to have been here uprooted by an overwhelming irruption of the ocean.

WILLIAM FLEETWOOD, an eminent lawyer and recorder of London in 1569, was born in this parish, and died in the year 1592, after having distinguished himself by several published and MS. works, amongst the latter of which is the "Ducatus Lancastria," inserted in the first volume of this work, chap. V. p. 195-198. Wood says of him, that "he was a learned man and a good antiquarian," His principal works are,
1. "Annalium tam regum Edwardi V. Richardi III. et Henrici VIII."
2. "A Table of the Reports of Edmund Plowden." And, 3. "The Office of a Justice of Peace."

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