is thought that the chantry (a place for the singing or
chanting of services or masses) or chapel has existed
on the site since the early 16th Century. The original
structure which was probably made of wood, is thought
to have been erected by the de Becconsall family, squires
of Becconsall Hall.
at this time lay within the parish of Croston, who's 12th
Century parish church lay some 5 miles away as the crow
flies. The Becconsalls being isolated geographically from
Croston by the river Douglas or Astland, would, in periods
of adverse weather or flooding, have to make a 5 mile
journey to Rufford (the first bridge crossing of the river)
and then a further 3 miles to Croston over treacherous
and boggy terrain in order to attend church on a Sunday.
There was, therefore, a need to have a place of worship
on the western side of the river Douglas. Records show
that the parish of Croston had 3 "Chantry Chapels"
endowed in the 16th Century at Hoole, Tarleton and Becconsall.
present building was erected in 1765 and was paid for
by £60 raised and subscribed by local farmers and
£30 raised by levy on the parish. Bricks (hand made
locally) were supplied by Sir Thomas Hesketh, Lord of
1821, an Act of Parliament was passed severing Hesketh
with Becconsall chapel from Croston parish and elevating
Hesketh to the rank of independent parish church where
the right of marriage could be celebrated.
name "Becconsall" it self is thought to be derived
from "Beacons Hill". In ancient times a beacon
was kept on high ground adjacent to the confluence of
the rivers Ribble and Douglas to guide shipping to Hesketh
annual payment of £2.16s.5d has been paid by the
Duchy of Lancaster since 1535 for prayers to be said in
Hesketh-with-Becconsall chapel for mariners on the river
Ribble. This payment is still made to the church today.
ship's charter dated 1563 shows that a Nicholas Bonnde
chartered the ship "Bartholomew" of Liverpoole
and discharged a cargo of 3 tons of ferri (iron) at Hesket
Bancke. Later, Bonnde bought the "Bartholomew"
and a later charter shows that in 1565 it discharged at
Hesket Bancke 3 tons of ferri, 1 ton of sal (salt), 25
windles of avenax (oats), 2 sacks of pissax (peas) and
6 windles of fri (wheat).
through Hesketh-with-Becconsall increased still further
with the opening of the Douglas Navigation in 1742. The
river Douglas was made navigable for small vessels to
Wigan. The civil engineering work was carried out by William
Squire and Thomas Steeres. The Douglas Navigation was
subsequently canalised and absorbed by the Leeds and Liverpool
flourished to such an extent that a customs officer was
stationed in Hesketh Bank in the early 1800's, the old
Customs House is now known as Douglas Bank Farm. The customs'
returns from 1847 to 1851 show that as many as 300 vessels
a year were sailing from the river Douglas.
declined in 1855 after dues were imposed upon traffic
using the river and the Customs House was closed down.
Becconsall, was a very isolated place. Situated on a clay
ridge, with rivers to the north and east and to the west
a moss which, in ancient times was a treacherous and impassable
morass of wasteland and marsh. It is understandable, therefore,
that the ferrying over the rivers and guiding over the
marshes became an important occupation.
such guide was James Blundell who died in 1844. His grave
stone epitaph in Becconsall church yard reads:
times I have crossed the sands
And through the Ribble deep
But I was found in Astland drown'd
Which caused me here to sleep
It was Gods will it should be so
Some way or other all must go
crossing from Hesketh to Freckleton Naze was quite dangerous
as the Ribble was 3 miles wide at this point at high water,
but fordable at low water.
1655 William Tomlinson of Warton, who had been a guide
for 40 years, petitioned for a horse stating that in his
years of service he had "lost above the number
of ten to his great impoverishment"
the dangers, the route was well used as a journey between
Lancaster and Chester could be shortened by 28 miles by
crossing from Freckleton to Hesketh instead of at Preston.
people found that the crossing not only saved time but
also saved their lives. In 1643, during the civil war,
the Royalists were in retreat and escaping northwards
hotly pursued by the Parliamentarians. "By the
time that the Colonel was to come to Ormskirk, he had
knowledge that the Lord Molinex and Tidsley with their
forces were marched over the Ribble watters at Hesketh
Bankes into Fyld, and were quartered in Kirkham parish."
By the time the parliamentarians reached Hesketh from
Ormskirk it would have been impossible to cross until
the next low water.
ferries operated from Becconsall, one to Longton and one
the occasion Hewitson visited Hesketh-with-Becconsall
Church, he crossed the Douglas by ferry from the Hoole
side, at a point near the church by a sharp bend in the
river. The short cut saved him four miles and it must
have been busy because five ferrymen were on duty. At
the time Hewitson arrived they were "taking matters
very pleasantly, lying full length on the ground, getting
as much sunshine on their backs as they possibly could,
with two of them playing leap frog".
house opposite the church is known as Ferry House. The
present owner's great-grandfather was the last ferryman,
a Mr Wareing.
completion of the new All Saints Church in 1926 the old
church fell into disuse, to be used only for funerals
and on "Old Church Sunday" when the prayers
for mariners on the Ribble were said.
bombs dropped by the Germans during World War II did considerable
damage to the grave yard breaking several stones and pock
marking the front of the church with shrapnel. The bombs
were said to have landed in the field and on the occupation
road opposite the front of the church, one piece of shrapnel
passed through the door of Ferry House and embedded itself
in the mantle piece.
1985 the Church had fallen into such a bad state of repair
that it was no longer safe for public use and was closed.
The 'Old Church' Sunday service was still held, but in
the field to the west of the Church.
the 1990's the building was taken over by the Churches
Conservation Trust who restored it and in May 1999 it
was reopened and the annual 'Old Church' Sunday Service
could again be held inside.
History of The County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster, Baines,
A History of Tarleton & Hesketh Bank, J.A. Perkins
North Meols to South Ribble,
More About Hesketh and Becconsall, T.E. Whittingham
Friends of Becconsall Old Church are a group of people who
have got together to look after the Church and to promote
its use on behalf of the Churches Conservation Trust. If
you would like to join them, please complete one of the
forms in the Church.
of Becconsall Old Church
Church & Chapel - 1872