The ancient manor of Eccleshill covered the area between the Forest of Rossendale and the two Darwens – Over Darwen and Lower Darwen. It stretched to the Hoddlesden Brook on the east, running through Waterside, Grimshaw, Davyfield and across to the river Darwen in Lower Darwen village. To the west, Eccleshill reached beyond the Roman Road and included land that eventually became part of the Borough of Darwen.
The Roman Emperor Julius Agricola ordered the Roman Road to be built in the 1st century AD to link the forts at Ribchester and Manchester. The road passes through Eccleshill although its line has changed somewhat over the years where people (Vikings?) have found it convenient to build their farmhouses and shippons on the hard surface or where carters have deviated to wind around steep hills.
The Blackburn Weekly Telegraph printed an interesting article about the Roman Road in 1914. We have transcribed it so that you can read it by clicking on the link or you can download it by pressing the button.
Eccleshill from the Middle Ages to the 19th century
We know little about our area during Saxon times but we do know that after the Norman Conquest, Henry de Lacy who was one of William the Conqueror’s barons, was granted large chunks of land in northern England as a reward for his help in putting down the Anglo-Danish rebellion of 1069-70. This very bloody effort to suppress the revolt is known as the Harrowing of the North.
The first mention of the manor of Eccleshill we can find is when Henry de Lacy’s grandson, also Henry de Lacy, granted it to Robert Banastre the lord of Pontefract and Clitheroe in 1165, along with Walton le Dale, Mellor, Little Harwood, Over and Nether Darwen. We may estimate from this that Eccleshill was not a valuable area as it represented only 1/16 of a knights fee – ie 1/16 of the amount of rental required to keep just one knight ready to fight for the baron, and ultimately for the king, for maybe 40 days in each year.
Throughout the Middle Ages the area remained poor, sparsely populated by scattered communities dependant on small farms for their food production and domestic manufacture of cloth for their own needs and for some income. Little changed in this respect before the end of the 18th century except that coal and clay were dug out of the ground by drift mining. At this time Eccleshill was held by Sir Richard Clayton of Adlington and then by his son, also Sir Richard, who sold it in 1814 to Thomas Wilson, a banker from Preston.
Industry came to Eccleshill during the late 18th century when Grimshaw Bridge water-powered carding and spinning factory was set up by William Yates of Woodhead in 1782 which became a paper mill in 1872. A small cotton mill was built at Waterside and Shaws tile works in 1897.
What happened to the Manor of Eccleshill?
We find a quite detailed description of the Eccleshill manor in an advert in the Lancaster Gazette of December 31, 1814 offering it to be let in thirteen lots. Thomas Wilson of Preston had bought the estate earlier in the year, and his heirs still held it in 1836. We know it was offered for sale in 1838 and again in 1848 and was eventually sold in 1859 to James Hodgson, a shipbuilder of Liverpool , who lived for a while at Clerkhill, Whalley. He died in 1867 and probate was granted to his brother Robert of Eccleshill and his heirs held the manor from then until it was auctioned in 1920.
We have a very detailed source for the extent, occupiers and nature of the land in 1843 when the Tithe Commissioners visited Eccleshill and published maps and schedules.