The History of the Church and Manor of Wigan/Edward Fleetwood

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Edward Fleetwood was admitted and instituted on 8th February, 13 Eliz., 1571, to the parish church of Wigan, vacant by the resignation of the last incumbent, on the presentation of Queen Elizabeth by reason of the minority of Thomas Langton the patron.[1] He paid his first fruits on the 12th of the same month.

This rector was a younger son of Thomas Fleetwood, of the Vache, Esq., Treasurer of the Mint, and some time M.P. for the county of Bucks, by his second wife Bridget, daughter of Sir John Spring of Lavenham, in the county of Suffolk, knight, and nephew of John Fleetwood of Penwortham, who married the daughter of Sir Thomas Langton, knight.[2] Mrs. Bridget Fleetwood, his mother, was afterwards married to Sir Robert Wingfield of Leatheringham, in the county of Suffolk, knight, and was living in 1571 when her son became rector of Wigan.[3] Edward Fleetwood, to whom Edward, Earl of Derby, was godfather,[4] must have been very young when he was made rector of Wigan, for by inquisition taken at Lancaster on 26th March, 13 Eliz. 1571, on the death of the above-named Thomas Fleetwood, Esq., Edmund Fleetwood, the eldest child of the first marriage, was found to be the said Thomas Fleetwood's heir, and 28 years of age and upwards, so that Edward, the 3rd son of the second marriage, could not have been more than 24 years of age at that time, unless his brother's age is much understated.[5] Canon Raines, however, calls Edward the fifth son of the said Thomas Fleetwood, and (probably following some old pedigree) says that he was born in 1534,[6] which is highly improbable.

Unlike most of his predecessors he had the merit of being a resident rector; and as the property of his church had suffered much from the neglect of his predecessors he was involved in several lawsuits to obtain possession of his rights. In the first year of his incumbency he commenced a suit against the Langshaws to recover seizin of two ancient water mills, which are described as Walke mills,[7] in the town of Wigan. In his bill of complaint he says that the evidences, writings and muniments concerning the said mills, proving his title to the same, have casually come into the hands of Hugh Langshaw, Gilbert Langshaw, and James Langshaw, who have entered the said mills, and put out the said Fleetwood, and refuse to deliver up the said deeds.[8]

Three years later, namely in 16 Eliz. (1573-4), Edward Fleetwood makes further complaint that William Langshaw, Robert Pennington and Thomas Pennington, of Wigan, husbandmen, in August last past, with sundry other persons, did riotously assemble themselves together at Wigan, and "then and there with force did enter into one walke myll beying buylded upon parcell of the said mannor and of right belonging to the said orator" and did expel and put out Robert Langeshaw and Robert Hasteley who occupied the same, threatening to beat and kill the said Edward Fleetwood or any who should enter the said premises. The said Fleetwood therefore is without any tenant to his great losse and hindrance, "which wilbe to the disinheritans of the seid orator and his successors, parsons there, for ever."[9]

The answer of Hugh Langshaw, Gilbert Langshaw, and James Langshaw, given in 18 Eliz. (1575-6), is that the said bill is only devised of malice and "evill will " to put them (being poor men) to charges and expenses, by the special procurement of Peter Nelson, "being a greate enemye to James Langshaw, and havyng manye tymes sought hys utter undoinge as is manyfestlie knowen to all their neightbours." They declare the said title to be determinable at the Common Law, at which court they pray the case may be tried. Hugh Langshaw says that he and all his ancestors have used and enjoyed a 4th part of one of the said water mills mentioned in the said bill, or such profit as amounted to the 4th part, paying to the parson of Wigan for the time being the 4th part of the rent of the said mill. Gilbert Langshaw says that he is seised of an estate of and in a 4th part of the other water mill by good and lawful conveyance in law. James Langshaw says that he is seised of and in one 3rd part of a 4th part of the last-mentioned water mill. The said defendants deny that the parson has any right to the said mills, or that they have in their possession any writings or deeds concerning them, and aver that they claim only that part to which they are justly entitled.[10]

The answer of William Langshaw, given on 6th February, 1583, was that the said mill had been erected and built "longe tyme since as he hath herd" by some of his ancestors, and that ever since he and his ancestors, and his and their assigns, have continued in the quiet occupation thereof: that about 7 years ago "controversie did growe" between the said defendant and certain persons as to the occupation of the said mill, and, the same being committed to the hearing of Edmund Winstanley, "stuard" of the complainant, it was agreed that, in consideration of the sum of 40s. to the said Edmund in hand paid by the defendant, he should hold and enjoy the said mill during the time that the complainant should be parson of Wigan; that the complainant fully agreed to this and appointed the defendant to make certain reparations on the said mill, which were done, to the value of 20 marks and above.[11]

The only decrees or orders with reference to this case that I can find are the two following; one of which was made in Trinity Term, 26 Eliz., 1584, in the matter of Edward Fleetwood, plaintiff, and Pennington and others, defendants, in which it is ordered that the said complainant may amend his bill as touching the usual suggestion for the maintenance of the jurisdiction of this court only, and also it is ordered that, forasmuch as Thomas Pennington, one of the said defendants hath in his answer disclaimed to the mill in variance, he, the said Thomas Pennington and his assigns, shall forthwith depart from the possession and occupation of the same, and as touching Robert Pennington, one other of the defendants, against whom an attachment was heretofore awarded calling upon him to make answer to the same bill, but who hath made no such answer, it is further ordered that if he do not, either by dedimus potestatem or otherwise, answer the said bill at or before Michaelmas next coming, then the said Robert to leave the occupation of the same mill until he shall have made a good and perfect answer to the said bill.[12]

The other decree was given in Hilary Term. 27 Eliz., February, 1584-5, in the matter of Edward Fleetwood, plaintiff, versus Langshaw and others, defendants. Upon the hearing of the matter on behalf of the plaintiff, in the absence of the defendants, it appeared to the Court that the plaintiff, in right of his church, is seised of the mill in controversy to him and his successors. It is therefore ordered that Robert Pennington, one of the defendants, shall presently avoid the possession of the said mill, and quietly permit the plaintiff and his assigns to occupy and enjoy the same; and if William Langshaw, another of the defendants, shall not before the third return of the next term show some good cause for his occupation of the said mill, then it is ordered that the plaintiff shall have the possession of such part and parts of the said mill as the said Langshaw now occupies; the plaintiff to have such costs and charges as shall be assessed by this Court, provided that the said plaintiff shall give notice of this order to the said Langshaw at or before the beginning of the next term.[13] This last decree seems to have determined the suit in favour of the rector.

Another bill of Edward Fleetwood, clerk, parson of Wigan, made in 18 Eliz., 1575-6, sets forth that whereas the said Fleetwood now is, and his predecessors parsons there "of long tyme" have been, lawfully seised in his and their demesne, as of fee as in the right of their said church, of and in the manor and lordship of Wigan, with the appurtenances thereof, whereof one parcel of waste ground known by the name of Whelley Lane, containing twelve acres, and lying on the east part of a parcel of the said manor called the Scoles, is parcel, and so being seised hath taken the profits thereof to his own use ever since he was parson there,—of late certain deeds, evidences, charters and writings concerning the said premisses, and of right belonging to the said Fleetwood, have casually come into the possession of Charles Banke, Robert Asteley, Raffe Fayrebrother, and Reynold Maudesley, who since Michaelmas last past have entered into the said waste ground "with force and wronge and thereof have by lyke force and wronge disseised and expulsed your seid Orator and [deprived him] of the profittes thereof in digginge coale pyttes and taking coales[14] out of the same to a great value," and although the said Fleetwood hath sundry times "most gently and frendly desyred" the said persons to deliver unto him the said deeds and to permit him to enter into and occupy the said ground, they refuse to do so, and do still withhold the said writings, neither will they permit him to take the profit of the said lands but appropriate the same to their own use.[15]

This dispute remained unsettled for many years and at length resolved itself into a controversy between the rector and the burgesses of Wigan for possession of the manorial rights. They were claimed by the burgesses as having been given to them by the charters of King Henry III. and parson Maunsell. Maunsell's deed had recently been confirmed by bishop Stanley, rector of Wigan, in 1561, and with a view to strengthening their claim it was enrolled in the court of chancery at the request of Charles Banke, Mayor, and the said burgesses, on 6th May, 27 Eliz., 1585.[16]

In the meantime Fleetwood had a lawsuit with Roger Bradshawe (Bradshaigh) of Haigh, Esq., for the recovery of tithes in the township of Haigh. This suit commenced about the year 1583, though it is recorded under 29 Eliz. (1586-7). In his bill of complaint he says that he has been for twelve years seised as of fee of the rectory and parsonage of Wigan, and is lawfully entitled to have all the tithe corn and grain within the town or hamlet of the Haghe, otherwise Haie, in the parish of Wigan. That Roger Bradshawe of the Haghe, Esq., and some of his ancestors have been farmers or tenants at will of the said tithes to Edward Fleetwood and his predecessors, and have paid rent for the same. The lease having expired, Roger Bradshawe has been accepted as tenant from year to year, but two years since the said Roger claimed the inheritance of the said tithes, and hath neglected to make due satisfaction for the same, but hath got together certain books of account and other writings belonging to the said Fleetwood. In consequence of which Fleetwood discharged the said Bradshawe from the occupation of the said tithes and warned him to meddle no further with them. The said Bradshawe, however, hath wrongfully taken the said tithes to his own use. In his answer Roger Bradshawe, Esq., defendant, denies all the statements made by the complainant; and Fleetwood in his reply reiterates all he had formerly stated.[17]

Since no decree can be found in this case I presume that the parties came to terms, and that Fleetwood recovered the tithes, which are still in the rector's possession.

On 30th May, 1595, parson Fleetwood prefers a fresh bill in the Duchy court complaining of the usurpation of the burgesses and asking for a remedy. This document is unfortunately in very bad condition, and in many places illegible, but as it is a document of some importance in connection with the exercise of the manorial rights of the township of Wigan I shall here give as much of it as can now be deciphered :—

"In moste humble wise complayninge, showeth unto your honor your supplyaunt and dayly orator Edward Fleetwood, parson of [Wiggan in the] countie of Lanc', clerke, that whereas your said orator and all his predecessors, the late parsons of the said rectorie and parsonage, [by all the time whereof the] memory of man ys not to the contrary, have been seized in their demesne as of fee, as in the right of their church of [and in the mannor lordshipp or towne of Wiggan] in the said countie of Lanc' with the appurtenances, and of and in all and singler the demesne lands and other the . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . parcel of the said mannor lordshipp or towne of Wiggan, and also of and in certaine annuall rentes being rente service . . . . . tenementes and hereditaments sett lyinge and beinge within, and parcell of, the said lordshipp manner and towne of Wiggan aforesaid . . . . . . . . . . . the said mannor amounting to the some of twentie three poundes or verie neare thereabout, and likewise also of and in . . . . . . . . liberties profyttes and appurtenances unto the said mannor lordshipp and towne of Wiggan and other the said premises beinge . . . . . . . . . . rentes, suites, services, franchizes, liberties, profyttes and appurtenances, your said orator and all his predecessors the parsons of the said . . . . . . . . . . . bene seised in right of their churche of Wiggan aforesaid and thereof have had seisin by the payment of the tenantes of the . . . . . . . . . . . his and their verie tenentes and likewise also is and have been seised in their demesne as of fee, as in the right of their said [church], . . . . . . tenementes rentes and hereditaments sett lyinge and beinge in Wiggan aforesaid as parcel of the said lordshipp mannor or towne . . . . . . . . . . . value of tenn poundes; and whereas also your said orator and his predecessors, parsons of the said rectorie and parsonage of Wigan . . . . . . . . . parcell of the said wastes and waste groundes lyinge within and beinge parcell of the said mannor lordship and towne . . . . . . . thereon and rented the same and have been seised and had full possession and seisin of such said rentes; and whereas [your said orator and all his predecessors the parsons] of the said rectory and parsonage, by all the tyme whereof the memory of man ys not to the contrary, have been seised in their demesne [as of fee, as in right of their church of Wigan aforesaid], of and in one great howse or buildinge standinge and beinge in Wiggan aforesaid commonly called the Moot hall of the said towne . . . . . . . belonging unto the said mannor and rectory of Wiggan and wherein your said orator and all his predecessors the parsons of Wigan [and lords of the] said mannor lordshipp and towne of Wiggan have by all the tyme wherein the memory of man ys not to the contrary kept . . . . . . . . . . whereunto all the freeholders of the said mannor lordshippe and towne of Wigan do owe suit and service; and whereas . . . . . . . . . of the said rectory and parsonage have from tyme to tyme and by all the tyme whereof the memory of man ys not to the contrary . . . . . . . . . thereof unto them made, the certentie whereof your said supplyaunt knoweth not for want of havynge of the said charter by . . . . . . . . mannor or towne of Wigan aforesaid kept courtes viz: as well courtes Baron from three weeks to three weekes whereunto all the f . . . . . . . . . as aforesaid as also two courtes Leetes yearly for and within the said mannor lordshipp or towne of Wiggan aforesaid and also two fayres . . . . . . . . said mannor lordshipp or towne of Wiggan and have likewise also from tyme to tyme taken and had and used to take and [have] . . . . . . . . happeninge or chauncinge within the said mannor lordshipp or towne aforesaid as parcell of incident or belonginge unto . . . . . . . . . . enjoyed divers other fraunchyses, liberties, privileges, commodities, appurtenances, emollmentes and hereditaments unto the said mannor . . . . . . . . . . . . by force of such said auncyent charters thereof amongst other the premisses and other thinges thereof unto them maid or els by prescription . . . . . . . . . . all other his predecessors, the parsons of the said rectory and parsonage lordes owners or inheritors thereof have from tyme to tyme . . . . . . . . . . . . . profyttes, issues and commodities thereof coming to their and every of their owne uses accordingly; but nowe so it is if it may . . . . . . . . . . auncyent charters, scriptes, wrytinges, evidences, muniments and court rooles of right belonging unto your said orator and . . . . . . . . misses . . . . . . . . . tytle in and unto the said premisses are now of late by usuall meanes come unto thandes, custodie and possession of [Francis Sherington Mayor of the] Burrowe of Wiggan aforesaid, William Lathwaite his Balyffe, William Leigh seriaunt, William Foore potter, Edmond Ch[alenor] . . . . . . . . of the said towne and Myles Gerrard of Ince in the said countie of Lanc' gent . . . . . . . . Maior and burgesses of the said towne to be lordes and owners of the said town and the burgesses of the same Burrowe . . . . . . . . . . . wastes thereof and by pretence thereof, of their owne wronge and without any right or tytle or color of right or tytle so to do, . . . . . . . . . . . . laste past improved dyvers parcells of the said comons and waste groundes late lyinge within the said mannor lordshipp or towne of Wigan beinge . . . . . . . . . erected and builded howses thereupon and have rented the same and have placed tenantes therein, and by color thereof the said . . . . . . . . . . howses, edifices and buildinges upon parcell of the soile and inheritaunce of your said supplyaunt in the right of his church . . . . . . . . . . . . . great annoyance of her Majesty's people and losse of your said orator; and yet not so contented the said Maior and burgesses . . . . . . . . . . . and wronge and by pretence and color of tytle as aforesaid have vewed and surveyed such . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . said comons and wastes soile and ground of your said supplyaunt within the said lordshipp manor or towne of Wigan . . . . . . . . . . . . . one Hugh Langshey by the assent of your said orator was in setting upp, erecting and buildinge uppon . . . . . . . . . . the said wastes of the said lordshipp manor or towne of Wiggan aforesaid to be pulled down and overthrowen by one . . . . . . . . . . . . Edmond Chalenor an alderman of the same, and have likewise unlawfully digged delved and made mynes for cooles . . . . . . . . . . . . . demesnes of the said mannor, lordshipp or town of Wigan without the assent of your said orator or of any . . . . . . . . . . . the said . . . . . . . . . thereof are made impassible and have likewise of their owne torte and wronge . . . . . . . . . . last paste taken and yet do take all such wayves and strayes as happen or chaunce . . . . . . . . . . . converted and taken and yet do convert and take to theire owne uses and behoof . . . . . . . . . . . . . aforesaid and thereof do unlawfully deteine and keep the possession from your said orator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . of for and within the said manor lordshipp or towne of Wigan aforesaid viz: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . as well much and greatly increased inhanced and rased the fees of the said . . . . . . . . . . . and payable within the said court baron of the said lordshipp manor or towne of Wiggan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . have notwithstandinge such great fees so by them taken as aforesaid used as . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . oppressions and losses of her Majestie's poore subjects being sutors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . suffered your said orator being lord of the said mannor to . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . answere in an action of debt of 24s. taken against him by one Thomas . . . . . . . attorney . . . . . . . . . . . . . nor any other his predecessors parsons of the said rectorie or parsonage have ever bene . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . manor or towne of Wigan and of such courtes Baron ther kept and have in like manner in their owne name kept and . . . . . . . . . . . . within the said lordshipp mannor or towne of Wigan which in right belongeth and hathe tyme owte of mynd of man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . courtes injuriously kept the said Maior and burgesses in their owne right and names afore said as well dyvers persons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . mannor or towne of Wigan and holdinge their landes and tenements of your said orator, as of his said [church] . . . . . . . . . . . to pay unto your said orator certeine quite rentes have been encouraged to withhould theire said rentes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . one William Foord alderman of the said towne or burrowe who hath withdrawen certeine free rentes . . . . . . . . . . and in regard that the said courtes are kept by the said Maior and burgesses in their . . . . . . . . . . . . . redresse nor otherwise cannot have any due remedie for many other injuries and wronges to . . . . . . . wayes and other passages which do lye most fytt for your orator his use and purpose and by the which your said . . . . . . . . . . . as aforesaid and by authoritie thereof have of their like tort and wronge directly against the lawesand statutes . . . . . . . . . your said orator his tenantes and prejudiciall to the inheritance and right of your said orator and of the said . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . stallages and taxes not only upon your said orator his said tenantes and of those that are . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . intent and purpose to maintayne the excessive wages of the said Maior and his officers . . . . . . . . . . and accustomed in the said towne and yett all theis notwithstandinge . . . . . . . . . . . . . make levies to impose taxes and stallages yet do not in any wise . . . . . . towne but contrariewise do very negligentlie or rather . . . . . . . . . . . . . such an unreasonable rate of ale even in the deare . . . . . . . . . . . . . drounkennes and idlenes and the service of God neglected . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . to . . . . . . . . . . . . . the revenewe of the said rectory and parsonage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . without any right or tytle so to do have kept the said fayres . . . . . . . . . . . taken the toll of all the wayes with great extremitie not only of . . . . . . . . . . and also by force of dyvers other hard and extreme orders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . impoverishing of the poor inhabitants of the said . . . . . . . . . . . and of the officers where with all th'inhabitantes of the said manor or towne of Wiggan . . . . . . . . . . . . hundreth at the least have made their humble suite to the said Maior and . . . . . . . . . . . . . in verie extreme sorte aggravat their extreme dealinge whereupon . . . . . . . . . . and his successors and also tendering the common good of the said towne . . . . . . . . . . . . . his brethren tutching the matters of his right in the premisses and hath yielded him . . . . . . . . . . . . . . said Maior and burgesses wold in no wise concent but utterly refuse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . dealing with your said orator contrary to all lawe righte equitie . . . . . . . . . . . beggaringe of the inhabitants of the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . the watercourse of one water . . . . . . . . . . . . of their comon course and channell into his . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . milne belonging unto and beinge parcell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . many times in most gentle and frendlie . . . . . . . . . . . . . likewise also William Lathwait, baliffe, William . . . . . . . . . . . Myles Gerrard of Ince gent and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . suffer your said orator and his undertenants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . thereof to take the rents,"[18] &c.

The remainder of the membrane is so utterly disconnected and vague that it would be useless to attempt to transcribe it.

It is probable that a commission was issued to enquire into the matter; and the pretensions of the Mayor and burgesses may be guessed by the replication of Fleetwood to the answers of Francis Sherington and others. The case of the defendants will have been strengthened by several years' possession and by the influence and authority of the aldermen, who, being hereditary burgesses as holding burgages within the town, had probably been chosen with a view to this controversy, and whose rank and position in the neighbourhood would have naturally had much weight with a local commission. The complainant's replication is as follows:

"Whereas the defendants say that there are annually elected a Mayor, two bailiffs and sundry burgesses, for the town and borough of Wigan, the present aldermen being the Earl of Derby,[19] Sir Thomas Everard, knight, Thomas Holcrofte,[20] John Atherton[21] and Myles Gerrard,[22] Esquires;" complainant says that "altho' the town of Wigan be an ancient borough by force of some ancient charters granted by the Kings of the realm to the late parsons of Wigan, yet the said burgesses have not any grant whereby they may be enabled to have a Mayor to be head of their corporation, but that the same, with many other privileges by them challenged, are and have been for divers years used by mere usurpation, and that if any of the said honorable persons named have been, or are, aldermen it is of very late years, or done without due rite. [And] whereas the defendants say that King Henry III., by his letters patent did grant unto John Mansell, then parson of Wigan, that the said town should be a free borough for ever, and did grant that the burgesses should have divers liberties and customs to keep yearly courts and to have divers profits and commodities within the said town, and that John Mansell by his deed gave and granted to the burgesses of Wigan, their heirs and assigns, that they should have their town free, and all customs rights and privileges which the said replicant and his predecessors have and yet do retain from the defendants, and by the said deed did reserve unto him [John Mansell] and his successors certain yearly rents by him alleged to be given for all services, exactions and demands; and that afterwards the said deed of John Mansell was confirmed by Robert Bannester, patron of the said rectory, and Roger then Bishop of Coventry, by virtue of which the predecessors of the said defendants were seised in their demesne as of fee of and in the town and borough of Wigan and the profits and liberties, neither the said Fleetwood nor his predecessors having any right to any part of the said borough;" Fleetwood replies that the said burgesses "have no right by charter to keep the courts leet nor any other court claimed by him in his bill of complaint, —nor any right to the customs and liberties or other things by them alleged; that the supposed grant was made to the burgesses of Wigan, their heirs and assigns, and not to their successors, and that the said grant is void because they have not proved that they had at any time been incorporated by the name of the burgesses of Wigan and so at the time of the said supposed grant there was not any such corporation, and if they then had a corporation incorporated by the name of the Mayor, bailiffs, aldermen and burgesses of Wigan, as they pretended to have, the supposed grant was and is void in law, the corporation not being rightly named therein: also that the courts which were then kept were kept and used by the Stewards and bailiffs of the then parsons of Wigan, the said parsons being then and ever since lords and owners of the lordship and manor of Wigan: that the charter granted to John Mansell by Henry 3rd, by which the town was made a free borough, was forfeited by a Quo Waranto, and that afterwards, by the grant of King Edward the 3rd, the same was renewed and confirmed unto the then parson of Wigan, with the limitation that the said parsons should enjoy the same; which hath been the case until of late years the Mayor and burgesses of Wigan by reason of some grant or agreement given to them by Thomas Stanley late bishop of .... have usurped the same." [The last part of the first membrane of this document is very faint]. The complainant denies that the Moot hall is the inheritance of the said burgesses or that they and their predecessors have lawfully kept "courtes Baron, courtes leetes, and other courts, fairs, [and] markets" and taken all "wayffs and strays" within the said town, or received the profits thereof except for the last 34 years, during which time they have wrongfully usurped the same: that the said defendants had no right to pull down a wall or building erected by Hugh Langeshawe upon the Wawkmilne green, nor to stay the building of any houses or erections upon the waste ground."[23]

The suit resulted in a compromise, by which the Mayor and burgesses acquired certain rights which had formerly belonged to the parsons. The decree which was delivered in 39 Eliz., 1596, is as follows, — It is ordered by the court that the said Mayor and burgesses and their successors shall and may from henceforth keep all such courts as by them and their predecessors have heretofore been usually kept only by themselves (except the leets) and take the profits thereof to their own uses; and as touching the leets that are to be kept there [at the Moot hall] the complainant may from time to time appoint some discreet man to sit as his steward with the Mayor and burgesses or their steward, and the profits of the leets to be equally divided between the plaintiff and defendants. Touching the digging of clay and stone, it is ordered that the defendants and their successors may dig clay and stone as they have used to do, saving that the ways are to be amended in as short time as convenient, and that the moat[24] of the plaintiff shall be amended by the defendants if it have received any hurt. Touching the fairs and markets[25] and the profits of the same it is ordered that the same may or shall be kept and taken by the defendants and their successors, saving that as touching toll stallage and such like it is ordered that the said defendants and their successors shall not take any greater toll upon the tenants of the plaintiff than heretofore hath been accustomed, and a commission is this day awarded to Edward Challinor, now Mayor of Wigan, Richard Molyneux of Hawkeley, gentleman, John Wrightington, Esq., and William Leighe parson of Standishe, authorising them thereby to apportion such rents as are in arrear to the plaintiff, which being done the defendants have assented that all arrearage of such rents shall be satisfied to the plaintiff and to do their best for the quiet payment thereof hereafter. Dated 27th November, 1596.[26]

After this Fleetwood had several other lawsuits for the recovery of his lands and tithes. By a bill of 16th November, 1598, he complains that being seised, as parson of Wigan, of the manor of Wigan, with the rights and appurtenances thereof and of and in the demesne lands of the said manor (of which one close or meadow ground near the town of Wigan is part) and of divers messuages, burgages, shops, lands and tenements situate in Wigan as belonging to the said manor, and of one messuage with appurtenances in Wigan of the yearly value of 30s., and of one butcher's shop under the Moot hall of the yearly rent of 5s. now or late in the tenure of James Hyde,—the said James Hyde, Roger Ryecroft and others, having obtained possession of sundry charters and writings concerning the said close and messuage, have joined together to defraud the said Fleetwood of the rents and profits of the same and to disinherit him and his successors thereof. That in or about the 11th of July, 1598, "armed, arayed and weaponed in very warlicke and outragious maner with swordes, daggers, long pyked staves, billes, pitchforkes, and other engynes and weapons as well invasyve as defensyve" they assembled at night near Wigan with the intent to carry away the said Fleetwood's hay, then newly mown and waiting to be removed, burst in sunder a certain gate and carried away the said hay amounting to 10 or 12 cartloads, to the house of Hyde, and did also assault and wound some of Fleetwood's servants, who were sent to stay their riotous behaviour, and caused the said servants to be hindered by the bailiffs. The said defendants still keep possession of the said meadow with the profits thereof, contrary to all right and equity.

In his answer James Hyde says that he and his ancestors have been tenants of the said messuage and land for 80 years and more. About 18 years ago the defendant's father arranged a marriage between Katherine, daughter of Thurstan Pemberton, and the said defendant, and the said Pemberton desiring to know the position of his intended son-in-law went to Fleetwood to enquire whether the said James Hyde should have the said messuage and land at his father's death, to which Fleetwood agreed, and the marriage took place. He declares that the hay was his by right, and that he took possession of it in a peaceable manner.[27]

The other defendants also deny the charge of riot and unlawful assembly. Roger Ryecroft says that he has occupied "two bayes of howsynge" and a garden as undertenant to James Hyde for 10 years at a yearly rent of 8s., and James Kydde alias Ireland says that he has occupied a shop as undertenant to James Hyde and his father, the late William Hyde, for the space of 44 years at a yearly rent of 4s. Fleetwood repeats his charge against them, that they had violently and unlawfully broken into his fields and carried away his hay, illtreated his servants and procured their wrongful arrest and imprisonment, that the said Hyde unlawfully kept possession of his meadow, and that he and other of the defendants had intruded into the possession of the messuage, tenement and shop mentioned in the bill, detaining the rent due for them, and had framed and contrived sundry leases and other conveyances to the prejudice of the complainant's rectory and church.[28] A commission was issued, but I find no decree in the matter, which was probably amicably arranged, as the "parson's meadow" (which appears from the after pleadings to have been the close or meadow in question) is now held in demesne by the rector.

There was also a complaint laid by Fleetwood in the Duchy court on 28th April, 1598, against Rauffe Worseley, gent, John Bankes, Thomas Snarte and Henry Bibby, for a riotous assault. There is no bill recorded, but Rauffe Worseley denies the charge of riot, and speaks of himself as one who was a "dutifull comer to the churche, and a dutifull hearer of dyvine service, and so hath alwaies bene, and hath also moved and persuaded divers others to doe the lyke, whych have bene, and yett are, backe ward e in religion, as he thinketh much the rather by reason of the neglecte and contempte of the complainant (Fleetwood) in not observing that forme and order of praier and admynistration of the Holye Sacraments whych ys, to this defendant's knowledge, appoynted by the boke of comon prayer." A commission was issued and a list of interrogatories drawn up to be administered to certain of the defendants, as to whether Robert Thompson,[29] minister of Wigan, was assaulted by the said defendants, struck on the head with staves, otherwise illtreated and his hat knocked off, also as to whether defendant Snarte called the said Thompson a "red-hedded knave," and said to him "Farewell and be hanged," or other such "disdainful speeches."[30]

From the Book of orders and decrees[31] it transpires that the defendants did not appear in court in the following February when summoned to make answer to the charge, but it was offered on their behalf that they would personally appear there in the first return of the next term, when they would likewise be called upon to ansvyer for their contempt of court, and John Bankes would also have to answer for having used contemptuous and opprobrious words to the plaintiff after the privy seal had been served upon him. They appeared accordingly at Easter, 1599, and were committed by the Chancellor to the custody of the Messenger of this court for their several contempts. At Michaelmas they had further respite granted to them to shew cause why the charge should not be heard and determined on the 5th February, 1600, after which there is no further mention of the suit, which was probably withdrawn on the parties coming to an amicable settlement.

The last lawsuit in which I find parson Fleetwood engaged was one with the Earl of Derby for possession of the tithes of Dalton and Upholland. In this case the Earl of Derby was the plaintiff. It appears that the Earls of Derby had long held the tithes of the townships of Dalton and Upholland at a low rent, and now claimed the right to hold them in fee on payment of the said rent as a composition or modus, Fleetwood therefore commenced the dispute by sending his servants to carry off his tithes of corn and grain in kind. In his bill, Lord Derby asserts that he and his ancestors have been accustomed to pay unto the parsons of Wigan the sum of £12 13s. 4d. yearly in full satisfaction of the tithes of corn and grain growing within the towns, lordships, hamlets and fields of Holland and Dalton; that Henry VII., by his letters patent bearing date 25th February, 4 Henry VII. (1488-9), granted to the complainant's ancestor, Thomas, Earl of Derby, the said manors, lordships and tithes, to him and his heirs. By virtue whereof the said Earl of Derby was of them lawfully seized as of fee tail. In the month of August last past, or thereabouts, Edward Fleetwood, clerk, parson of Wigan, having obtained possession of divers ancient writings testifying the continued use and occupation of the said tithes by the said complainant's ancestors, by force of the same called in question the validity of the said customs, and did confederate with Robert Thompson and other persons, endeavouring to obtain possession of the said tithes. During the months of August and September, in unlawful manner, they did break into and enter at different times the divers closes and parcels of ground in Dalton and Holland, being arrayed with swords and other weapons, and did carry away the corn and assault Christopher Robie, John Berrye and Robert Byllinge, the complainant's officers for the gathering of the tithes.[32] Fleetwood's case is that "whatever the complainant or his ancestors have enjoyed of the said tithes has been obtained at and by the special licence and consent of the said Fleetwood and his predecessors, parsons of Wigan, for a certain yearly rent, and that the late Earl of Derby did often acknowledge that he was tenant of the said tithes unto Fleetwood, without claiming any right of inheritance; that the complainant and his ancestors have paid a yearly rent £12 13s. 4d. unto the parsons of Wigan for the said tithes."[33]

The decree of the court, in the matter of William, Earl of Derby, plaintiff, and Edward Fleetwood and others, defendants, was given at Easter, 43 Eliz., 1601, as follows: "Whereas upon the hearing of the matter in variance between the said parties and debating thereof in open court two several days by counsel learned of both parts, the last term before Mr. Baron Gierke and other her Majesty's commissioners of this court, it was ordered that if the said cause touching the tithes in controversy should not be compounded at or before the third return of this present term, that then the said defendants were dismissed unless the complainant shall show better matter than had been by him shewn; and as touching the riots, forasmuch as the said complainant hath not shewn any better or other matter, neither is the cause compounded, as both parties do confess, therefore it is ordered that the said defendants as touching the tithes in controversy be henceforth dismissed, and as touching the riots, the same to be heard when the plaintiff shall call the defendants by process of this court ad audiendum judicium."[34]

Though Lord Derby took nothing by his lawsuit against Fleetwood it does not appear that the latter ever recovered his tithes. The chief portion of the tithes of Upholland and Dalton are still held by the Earl of Derby's assigns, and the same modus of £12 13s. 4d. is still paid, namely £8 8s. 10½d., from Upholland and £4 4s.d. from Dalton, the portion that belongs to the rector besides this modus being, as I suppose, the small tithes of hay, &c.

Parson Fleetwood lived at a time when religious differences ran high, especially in Lancashire, where parties were more evenly divided than they were in other parts of England. He was himself a zealous reformer, and took an active part, as a justice of the peace, against the Popish recusants, as they were called.

The papal bull for the deposition of Elizabeth in 1570, declaring her an excommunicated heretic, and as such depriving her of her pretended title to the crown, had served to bring out England's loyalty towards her, while the horrors of the butcheries of Alva the Spanish general in the Netherlands, and the massacre on St. Bartholomew's day, revived the memories of the bloodshed of Mary's reign. These national sentiments greatly strengthened the hands of Elizabeth, and enabled her to enforce the act of Uniformity in 1579. But while the country was quietly settling down to the reformed religion, the zeal of the seminary priests, who came over in 1576 from the college at Douay, stirred up many of the Roman Catholic gentry to resistance. By the bull of deposition Rome had set herself in the fore front of the Queen's enemies, and Elizabeth, accepting it as a declaration of war, naturally viewed the Douay priests, sent over by the pope, as his political emissaries.

This will account for much of the persecution that followed. The comparative toleration of the Roman Catholics during the early part of her reign had arisen partly from the sympathy and connivance of the gentry who acted as justices of the peace, and partly from the Queen's own impartiality. But the act of uniformity placed the magistracy in the hands of the reformers; and as Elizabeth passed from impartiality and indifference to suspicion, and from suspicion to alarm, she put less restraint upon the bigotry of those around her.[35]

In 1580, when two thousand papal soldiers were sent over in five ships to Ireland to stir up the people to rebellion, Edward Fleetwood, rector of Wigan, John Caldwall, rector of Winwick, and John Asheton, rector of Middleton, three of the Lancashire clergy, were, on the 29th September, 1580, required by the Queen in Council to fit out each one light horseman by the 20th of October next following, for the service of the Queen in Ireland "to resiste certain foraine forces sent by the Pope and his confederates."[36]

On 1st September, 1585, Mr. Fleetwood, M.A., parson of Wigan, with Mr. Leigh, B.D., parson of Standish, Mr. Welshe, the vicar of Blackburne, and Mr . . . . . . the vicar of Lancaster, were appointed by William Chaderton, bishop of Chester, to be moderators for the deanery of Amoundernesse, who were ordered to hold their first exercise at Preston on the 4th Thursday in the month of February.[37]

In January, 1586, Fleetwood was one of those ordered to provide one horse with furniture, or else £25 to enable such horse and furniture to be purchased on the Continent, for the expedition to assist the Hollanders in the Low Countries against the King of Spain.[38] In the same year he was one of the Lancashire Magistrates who signed the injunctions sent to churchwardens and constables to suppress the violation of the Lord's Day occasioned by wakes, fairs, bull-baitings, pipings and huntings in time of Divine Service, and ordered that not more than a penny should be charged for a quart of ale.[39]

At this time men's minds were much exercised by the thought of a threatened Spanish invasion, and the seminary priests were very active in stirring up popular feeling in favour of the Spanish King. The popish recusants, therefore, and all who were believed to harbour the seminary priests, were closely watched, and Fleetwood made himself particularly busy in this matter.

It was deemed essential by those in authority, at this critical period, that the county magistracy should be sound and well affected towards the government; and although the Earl of Derby did not conceive any material change to be necessary, the lord treasurer, on the suggestion of Edward Fleetwood, rector of Wigan, and others, caused a new commission to be issued, in which the names of several fresh magistrates were introduced, and a considerable number of those who were thought to be favourable to the recusants omitted.[40]

It is clear that the newly commissioned justices entered upon their work with renovated vigour. Among the Harleian MSS. (cod. 360) at the British Museum are a number of original papers relating to "recusants and other religious criminals." One set of these papers record the names of such as were "detected for receiptinge of priests, seminaries, &c., in the countie of Lancaster." They are scheduled as having been pointed out by different informers—clergy, churchwardens and others; and among them occurs the following record, "this appeareth by the pnʼtmte of the pson of Wigan. These Persons pnʼted (by greate and Comon fame and reporte) to be receiptors of Priests hereafter named, vʒ. Bell: Buxton: Mydleton. Alex: Gerrerde brother to Miles Gerrerde of Innce esquier; James Foorde son to Alex Fourde of Swindley gent; John Gardner brother to Robte Gardnʼ of Aspull gent.; Alex: Markelande sonne to Mathewe mkelande of Wigan; Pilkington borne in Standishe pishe; Worthington borne in the same Parishe; Stopforth.[41]

But the full result of this new commission may best be gathered from the following letter of Parson Fleetwood to the lord treasurer (Burghley), which is dated from Wigan on 7th September, 1587, and preserved by Strype.[42]

"Rt. honorable,

Being by your special good favour made acquainted with your honourable action, concerning the placing and displacing of the justices of the peace in the county of Lancaster, I have thought it my part to advertise you of the sequel thereof: which [that] I might the more fully be able to do, I bestowed my attendance at the assizes, when I perceived in them that stand displaced no small indignation towards those whom they could any ways suspect to have been furtherers, or suppose to be favourers, of that honourable action. Wherewith also they presumed to possess the rt. honorable the Earl of Derby, as of a matter of no small dishonour unto him and deep discontentment. Whereupon for the present time and place I thought good (myself remaining in some part of jealousy with them) in general to lay forth, as occasion served, in the pulpit to their faces, that which before I had more particularly delivered to your honour concerning the corrupt state of the whole country; that every guilty conscience of them might gather up that which was due unto it. Whereof it pleased my lords the judges to take so good notice, that they delivered the chief points thereof after to the juries in charge, and the same also more especially recommended to the justices of peace, to be in their continual service regarded. All which so nearly touched the guilty consciences of the discontented sorts, that they began, for the residue of the assizes, to pluck down their high looks, and somewhat better to pacify their discontented minds, and to brook their emulated friends, than before they seemed to do. After which immediately when matters were at the hottest, I also thought good to attend the rt. honourable, my very good lord the Earl of Derby, by way of accustomed duty, which I accordingly did; thereby to give opportunity to his lordship of speech in the premised matters, and myself also to win occasion to lay forth that to his honour concerning the unsoundness of divers of his council, as might either fully satisfy his lordship, or at the least clearly justify your honour's most considerate action. But I obtained not one word of the premised matter, tho' I endeavoured to stir him up thereto by many words on my part uttered concerning your honour's direction of the ecclesiastical commission: whereat he seemed to have great good liking, and professed his best furtherance thereto. Wherefore, however, the discontented sort (the rather to countenance their discontented state) will seem to cast upon his lordship a prefixed purpose of discontented expostulation; yet I am persuaded, when he shall come in presence with your honour, it will be wholly turned into an honourable request of a most dishonourable matter. Wherein that your honour should not be narrowly overtaken, as unfurnished of sufficient intelligence, I have with all speed adrest these my letters to your honour, as soon as I understood of the Earl his sudden departure towards the Court; by which to give your honour to understand, that as our state standeth the satisfaction of his lordship's request, or rather of the suggestion of some evil instruments about him, shall breed not a little inconvenience to your honour, his honour their reformation that are displaced (sic), to the public service, and to the good estate of the sincere professors, both of the commission and of the whole country. For first it shall argue your honour's former action of insufficiency; being indeed in all judgment of those that fear God among us most sincerely, discretely, and fully to all good purposes accomplished, both for the sincere comfort of the faithful professors of the truth, and the rare disparagement of the adversaries thereof in our country. Then it shall not a little nourish in the Earl that humour of careless security in tolerating, and no ways soundly reforming, the notorious backwardness of the whole company in religion, and chief of the chiefest about him. In sum, it shall harden the discontented in their former state of unsoundness; it shall drive the zelous gentlemen from the public service, and settle in the minds of all the true professors an utter despair of any good course of reformation hereafter to be taken in these parts, when they shall se your honour's first acts, and the same of so great importance to their well doing, to receive so speedy and untimely an overthrow; and therby a main wall as it were of corrupt magistrates set up here at home among us, against all good directions of your honours hereafter to be made from above.

These considerations, rt. honorable, have caused me to wish the Earl to want in this matter some part of his desire. Whom yet I honour many ways not unworthily: and so likewise many others, if such there be, that seek to have their private humours of singular sovereignty still nourished with public discommodity. Neither may your honour think that two, or but one more of his lordships counsil added (as it were but Mr. Halsall, or Mr. Farrington) to the commission, or Mr. Rigby of the quorum, shall work no great prejudice; for one bad man among many, not all good, shall be able to do no small hurt Halsall is a lawyer, presented these last assizes as a recusant in some degree. Farrington is as cunning as he: not anything sounder in religion, tho' much more subtil to avoid the public note than he. Rigby is as cunning and unsound as either, and as grossly to be detected therein as Halsal. All three of them as buisy contrivers of dangerous devices against the peace of the ministry, and free course of the Gospel, and direct proceding of justice, in all common opinion, as any that ever bore authority among us. If there were yet room for any more of his lordships counsil, it might rather be wisht that Mr. Tildesly or Mr. Scarsbrick, gentlemen of best note among the rest, for honest and upright dealing in civil matters. But much rather to be wisht that his honour would be persuaded to hold himself sufficiently contented with those three of his counsil and chief about him, which your honour hath already unrequested freely given to his lordship, namely, Sir Peter Lee, Sir Richard Sherborn, and Mr. Rigby, all three of the same affection of the rest: and yet Rigby as discontented, and as presumptuously using his speech against your honour's former proceedings, as any that remain wholly expulsed. But it may be that his honour, or some other, the rather to gain their purpose, shall bring in question the state of the present commission, in respect either of the whole body of the commissioners, or of the particular members therof. Wherefore I thought it also most expedient to lay forth unto your honour the sundry observations which I have made in this behalf. First for the whole body of the commissioners, they are so apportionably allotted to the Shire, as our store of sound men would any way afford. Five, or four, or three justices at the least unto every hundred: by means wherof every hundred hath his sufficient magistracy within itself, and every quarter sessions (entertaining the most of them two hundreds) a competent number of justices, and the general assizes a full furnished bench of worshipful gentlemen to countenance and attend that great and honourable service. Which appeared evidently in the ey of all men this late assizes, by the most plentiful concourse of all the gentlemen justices well affected, from all parts of the shire: providing thereby that neither the common service, specially laid upon them, should be disfurnished of due attendance, nor the discontented sort should obtain any just occasion to argue your honour's direction of insufficiency, or them of any neglect of duty. Where they employed themselves so throughly in the cause of religion, that then ensued a most plentiful detection of 600 recusants by oath presented; as also the indictment of 87 of them (as many as for the time could be preferred to the jury). And further a notification by oath of 21 vagrant priests usually received in Lancashire; and 25 notorious houses of receit for them. Such are the manifold commodities which we feel already of your honour's most sound direction. In respect wherof it is of all that desire reformation among us (as justice of her children) most confidently justified.

The only want in general is the want of sound gentlemen in most parts of the country, wherof (I assure myself) they that promote the office against your honours direction will say little. Hereunto your honour conceived a most apt and necessary supply, namely, the attendances of the justices of Salford hundred at the quarterly sessions of other parts of the country worst affected. To which effect it is given out that your honour hath already sent down letters to the earl; but, I fear me, his lordships absence, and the sinister emulation of some of his counsil, as, namely, of Mr. Farrington (as I certainly hear), will disappoint them of their due success. Wherefore it were good your honour's more especial letters were written to the gentlemen themselves, of whom I doubt not but they shall enjoy a most dutiful acceptance, and a most effectual regard to the great commodity of myself and others that dwell in the most desolate parts of the country, from all goodness and good men. Then for the particular gentlemen, by your honour's more particular direction assigned to this service; as, namely, Mr. Warren and Mr. Talbot, most commodiously borrowed of the two countries next adjoyning; Mr. Banister and Mr. Hopwood, for their former most approved service put forward to the quorum Mr. Wrightington and Mr. Brodshaw, for the special benefit of the ministry most happily planted in the parts where they both dwel; necessarily added; Mr. Lancton, Mr. Eccleston, still retained in place, most disfurnished of able men for that service; there is no exception to be taken, either for their gentry, livings, affections in religion, good discretion, and well furnished experience for all parts of the services. And so I beseech your honour to rest most resolute upon my poor credit with your honour; which I be easily able to uphold in this matter with your honour; with the most plentiful testimony and censure of my brethren, the preachers of the country, and of the gentlemen best affected in the commission, if your honour require it of me.

In the meantime I shall crave your honour to vouchsafe me your special letters unto them of encouragement and direction, by which they shall not a little be strengthned in the buisy charge they have in hand, for the suppressing of many ungodly enormities of the Sabbath, imposed upon them by my lords, the justices of assize, at the special instance of myself and some other of my brethren. Where I must not omit to signify unto your honour the special good countenance I enjoyed at their lordships hands; being indeed the more favourably bestowed upon me, as upon special notice they had some way taken, and there openly professed, of your honours good favour towards me: whereupon, I suppose, your honour shall gather convenient occasion to make your honourable good liking of their effectual procedings this last assizes in the cause of religion to appear unto them. Wherby, no doubt, they shall receive no small encouragement to continue the same hereafter, to the great comfort of the true professors and faithful preachers. For the which I shall not cease to be thankful to the Lord, with all my brethren of the ministry, by which we shall enjoy a most sound means of thankfulness to your honour.

Concerning my procedings with the commission ecclesiastical I have, according to your honour's direction, wholly possest Mr. Soliciter therewith. And he further required of me and Mr. Goodman a full advertisement of our manifold enormities, which by mutual conference with all my brethren I have readily furnished; and against the next week to attend the bishop and Mr. Solicitor by their appointment. I fear nothing therein but my lord of Derby his discontinuance, lest it breed some inconvenient delays. But your honour's continual presence and ready mind shall work us, I trust in the Lord, a more speedy dispatch.

Thus commending my humble duty to your honour, and your soul and spirit and body to the most comfortable presence of Christ's Spirit in you now and for ever, I humbly take my leave. From Wigan, the 7th day of September, 1587.

Your honour's most bounden in the Lord,
Edward Fleetwoodde, pastor of Wigan."

The new commission of justices of the peace, to which this letter refers, was in addition to a commission ecclesiastical likewise sent down, to be put in execution,[43] in which Fleetwood seems to have also had a hand. Canon Raines, who quotes from the Cotton MSS.,[44] says that on the 5th of September (two days earlier than the previous letter) Fleetwood addressed a letter to Lord Burghley "touching the state of Lancashire," in which he complains of the recusants; and, quoting from Baines,[45] he adds, Fleetwood proposed that a new ecclesiastical commission should be issued, and that many of the lesser clergy and gentry from the several hundreds of the county should be included in it, which proposition was so offensive to the Bishop of Chester, Lord Strange, Sir Richard Sherburne and the aristocratic conclave assembling at Knowsley and Alport Lodge,[46] on the ground that individuals of higher rank would refuse to act with the new Commissioners, that a remonstrance was sent to Lord Burghley, dated 22nd May, 1588, from Alport Lodge, which was, however, disregarded, and Mr. Fleetwood's advice preferred.

Strype tells us that soon after writing this letter Fleetwood, whom he calls "this active and worthy divine," was now about to accompany the Archbishop of York, and the solicitor and others to a sitting of the ecclesiastical commission for those parts, which abounded much with popish priests and Jesuits and such as harboured them. And for their better proceeding in this commission, the lord treasurer had sent instructions to the said rector, which he was to communicate to the rest.[47]

The sentiment of freedom, implanted in the breast of every Englishman, and the anxiety which had been felt throughout the country while Philip was collecting forces for his long threatened invasion, threw religious controversy into the background for a while, and caused men of all religious views to vie with one another in furnishing ships and arms to repel the common enemy. The destruction of the proud Spanish Armada in 1588, in which the whole nation rejoiced, must have poured oil upon the troubled waters and caused a temporary diversion from the prosecution of religious rancour. But the respite was only for a short time. On 30th October, 1592, we find the Earl of Derby, lord lieutenant of Lancashire, writing to the lords of the privy council concerning the papists in that county, and giving directions for dealing with them. He concludes his letter by praying their lordships to credit "Mr. Fleetwood, parson of Weegan, a discreet and painful labourer in the church of God, who can truly make known unto your lordships, upon demand, the state of this country and private affection of the most persons of account."[48] Fleetwood himself appears to have been the bearer of this epistle, for a copy of it is enclosed in a letter of the same date from the Earl of Derby to Sir Thomas Heneage, Vice-Chamberlain and Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, in which, after he had intimated its contents and his own "intent to have the presumption of public and secret papists being temporizers suppressed," he says, "for any particulars touching that sort of this county, this bearer, Mr. Fleetwood, parson of Weegan, a discreet and learned preacher, can inform you truly, whom you may believe."[49]

From the expression used by Fleetwood in one of his letters to Lord Burghley, in which he speaks of himself as dwelling in a desolate part of the county, "from all goodness and good men," it would seem as if he had not carried his neighbours and parishioners at Wigan along with him in his political views. Indeed we know from a schedule of names given in 1590, in a "Vewe of ye state of ye countie Palatine of Lanc., both for Religion and Civil Governmēt," preserved among the State Papers,[50] that most of the leading gentry in or near Wigan were either ill-affected or indifferent to the reformed religion. Of Sir Thomas Gerrarde of the Brynne, knight, Thomas Langton, baron of Newton, Myles Gerrarde of Ince, Esq., and Roger Bradshaw of Haigh, Esq., among the knights and esquires in the commission of the Peace, it is said that, though in some degree of conformitie, yet in general note they were of evil affection in religion, were non-communicants, and the wives of most of them were recusants; and among the "gentlemen of the better sorte" Edward Langton of Hyndley, in Wigan parish, was a "recusant and of such indicted." Roger Rigbie of Blackleyhurst, John Ashton of Bamfurlong, senior, . . . . Ashton, his son and heir, Myles Ince of Ince, Rauffe Worseley of Pemberton, Richard Molyneux of Hawkley, Rauffe Houghton of Kirckeleys, all in the parish of Wigan, were "comers to church, but no communicants, and their wives very little better than recusants." Only Robert Hyndley of Hyndley, Roger Bradshaw of Aspull, John Byllinge of Byllinge, and Will. Ashurst of Ashurst, among the parishioners of Wigan are described as being "soundly affected in religion." While it is said that all the ladies, widows and gentlewomen whose names are given, among whom are Annie Langton, wife of Thomas Langton, baron of Newton, and Johane Lethwet of Pemberton in Wigan parish, are recusants.

Fleetwood's intolerance of the religious views of others will have doubtless made him many enemies. On one occasion the following abusive letter, written by some seminary priest or popish recusant, was thrown into his seat in church:—

"I.H.S. — Edward Fletewood, parson of Wigane I heaire of yor Invious Hereticall words againste our Feathe that I canot stay my pen from writing unto youe to commaunde you to leaffe blasfeminge againste thees our Catholike Feath or eles yow will drink of Joudas sope, moreover if yor hereticall mind will not be stayed againste or Feathe I most nide a counte yow woorse then the Rovinge Souldeerse that Persequted Christe for they would stint vntell the had Christ for to persequt him therfore I most nyde acount yow one of those becauc you will never stintt vntell that you hav persequted the poore Catholick. And Againe it is very on naturall a speretuall māe so to forswere him self[51] in so indetinge so many of yor town wiche ar as good Goers to the Churche as you ar therfore I most nide Acount you worse then Jou or turke or Infideile. I worse then A doupe thinge In so For swer Ringe yor selfe, I if tyme and plase did so Requer I could so proff it therfor Reste wth this and be contented and I will writt vnto you her After. G.C." Indorsed : "L're intercepted Pap."

This letter is preserved in the Harleian MSS.,[52] and entitled "A strange libel thrown into the pew of the Rev. Edward Fleetwood, parson of Wigan, about 1596." From the marginal note it must have been preserved amongst Mr. Fleetwood's papers, or sent by him to the authorities in London.

The town of Wigan at this period was progressing in civilization and its attendant luxuries; and Holinshed, in his Itinerary from Cockermouth to London, enumerates, amongst other places, Kendal, Burton, Lancaster, Preston, Wigan, and Warrington, where the inns were well furnished with "napierie, bedding, and tapisserie. Each commer," says he, "is sure to lie in cleane sheets wherein no man hath been lodged since they came from the landresse. If the traveller haue an horse, his bed dooth cost him nothing, but if he go on foot he is sure to paie a penie for the same: but whether he be horsman or foote, if his chamber be once appointed, he may carie the kaie with him, as of his owne house, so long as he lodgeth there."[53]

In 1590 there were 3,000 communicants at Wigan parish church, the parson, Edward Fleetwood, was "a preacher," as also was another minister whose name is not given. At the two chapels of Holland and Billinge there were no preachers.[54]

At the visitation of David Yale, LL.D., chancellor of the diocese of Chester, 19th September, 1598, the charge against the wardens of Billinge chapel is that the chapel was out of repair, that there were no books but a Bible of the largest volume. They had never levied the forfeiture of 12d. for every one absent from the church service. There were no collectors for the poor. Very few received [the Holy Communion] thrice yearly, but warnings were generally given. The charge against the curate is, that he is "no minister, but one licensed to reade. Comp'uit, et tolleratur, et dimittitur" The charge against the parishioners is, that they "cannot saie the catechism when they come to the communion and [there are] manie that cannot say the creed, the Lord's prayer and ten commandments."

As to Holland chapel in the parish of Wigan, the charge against the parish (or chapelry) itself is that there is no curate there, "though by Mr. Fleetwood's means they have never wanted service on the Sabbaoth daie." Against the wardens there it is charged that there are "no books but the Booke of Comon praier, and the Byble wch is ould and torne." There is "a table, but an yll favored one, no comunion cup of silver; no blacke coveringe for the Comunion Table; no cheste, nor Boxe for the Poore. The surples [is] verie olde. One Mr. Mosse hath done service for the space of a moneth, but [is] not licensed. The catechisme [is] not used. Manie receive the communion that cannot saie the catechisme. The Register Book [is] of late years. The forfeiture of 12d [was] not collected from the absents from church."

There is a charge against Henry Sankie and William Mosse, clerks, "for playing at Tables[55] upon the Sabbaoth daie and, as it is thought, all the weeke longe." Mosse and Sankie appeared at the visitation, and the chancellor enjoined them that thereafter "they do not plaie att Tables, and because ytt appeareth they plaied uppon the Saboth daie and wel most too other daies" they are respited to the lord bishop.

There is a charge against William Smallshaw[56] of Holland "for speaking openlye in the church to the churchwardens theis words, 'what [for] due you suffer yonder Red-headed fellow to bee in the pulpitt or to saie service wthout a surplus, to the great disturbance of the congregation?' and soon after went [he] out of the church." Smallshaw appeared to answer the charge, and "for that he confesseth hee gave the lyke words the Judge hath injoined hym to confes his falte in Holland Churche and to ask forgiveness of Robert curate who hee called Red-headed fellowe at service time,— sub pœna excom. Ludovic Asmall is likewise charged with "being out of the church at service tyme, and being required to come in [he] answered he had been at service and would come no more except he [the curate] wore the surples." He too appeared before the chancellor, who enjoined him "that he give the curate no such words hereafter, sub pœna excom."

The curate of the parish church at Wigan, [Robert] Thompson was at the same time charged that he "did reade service divers times, and doth usuallie, contrarie to the Book of Comon prayer, [and] doth not saie service neither Wednesdaie nor Frydaie."[57]

As to parson Fleetwood, however we may deprecate his intolerance of the conscientious opinions of others and his officious pertinacity in hunting out and denouncing those who would not conform to the reformed religion, we must acknowledge that he had the courage of his opinions, whether in matters of religion or civil policy, and he certainly stood up manfully for the temporal rights of his church against powerful opponents. He was a very active magistrate, and one of the most influential of the political clergy of his day. Moreover he was an able preacher, and appears to have been respected as a divine by his bishop and by the laity of the reformed church. We find him to have been a frequent visitor at the house of the Earl of Derby, who always speaks of him with respect, and he seems to have occupied a good position in the county.

He was a married man; and probably the first married rector of Wigan, unless we except the volatile Standish, who may perhaps have been a married man during the few months he was rector of that parish. Mr. Earwaker, who has made large collections for the history of the Fleetwood family in all its many branches, informs me that Edward Fleetwood married Christian, daughter of Paul Wentworth of Lillington, in the county of Bucks, Esq., by whom he left surviving issue, Edward Fleetwood, who subsequently lived at Samlesbury, in the county of Lancaster, Bridget and Dorothy. The names of several of his children occur in the baptismal register as having been christened at Wigan, namely, "Theodor Fleetwoode f. E. f'woode baptized 6th August, 1591;" "Christian Fleetwoode f. E. ff. baptized 29th March, 1593," who was buried at Wigan 13th November, 1599; and "Dorothie daughter of Edw. ffletwood pastor of Wigan baptized 20th Maie, 1599."[58]

Parson Fleetwood died in June, 1604. The benefice was void before the 29th of June in that year.[59] As the record of his burial is not to be found in the Wigan register, it is probable that he died suddenly in London; for on 2nd May, 1604, it is recorded that "a petition by Egerton, Fleetwood, Wooton, Clark and others, for reformation of the Book of Common Prayer [was] imparted to the Lower House [of Convocation] in presence of the petitioners;"[60] and at Somerset House there is an administration of the goods of Edward Fleetwood, of London, in July of that year, which probably refers to the rector of Wigan.[61]

His wife, Mrs. Christian Fleetwood, survived him, and was living in August, 1618.[62]

Dame Dorothy Legh of Worseley, relict of Sir Peter Legh of Lyme, in the county of Chester, in her will dated 8th February, 1638-9, leaves legacies to Mr. Edmund (? Edward) Fleetwood and to Mrs. Dorothie Fleetwood, daughter to the parson of Wigan, who were two of her godchildren.[63]

Parson Fleetwood died in May or June, 1604; and on the 21st June of that year the benefice was sequestered into the hands of Alexander Ford, Alexander Lathwait, William Crampton and Matthew Travis to preserve the fruits for the next incumbent. On the 6th October following Brian S. Vincente, clerk, Sacræ Theologiæ baccalaureus, personally appeared before Richard [Vaughan], bishop of Chester, and proffering the letters of presentation of [John] Sueting and William Hobbes to the rectory and parish church of Wigan, dated 30th August, 1604, sought to be admitted by virtue of the said presentation; whereupon the bishop replied that he must take time for consideration until the King s pleasure was made known to him in accordance with the King's command.[64]

It appears that Sir Thomas Langton, by certain indentures, had mortgaged the advowson of the parsonage of Wigan to John Sweetinge and William Hobbes, with a reservation of certain powers of redemption; but this mortgage was more or less affected by subsequent transactions between the said Sir Thomas and one John Lacy, citizen and grocer of London. Sir Thomas Langton was still living at the time of parson Fleetwood's death, though he died within a year afterwards, and it is probable that on the avoidance of the rectory neither Sweetinge and Hobbes, nor any one else, could make out a clear title to the patronage. This will have afforded the King a pretext for stepping in, and the result was that Brian S. Vincent's claim was rejected and the King's nominee accepted by the bishop.

  1. Chester Diocesan Register. Thomas Langton, then in his minority, was the son of Leonard, 6th son of Sir Thomas Langton, knight, and grandson and heir of the said Sir Thomas. He succeeded his grandfather in 11 Eliz. 1569, being then 8 years of age. This last baron of Newton of this name did not add to the lustre of his family. In the year 1589 he was concerned in a fatal affray at Lea Hall, when Mr. Hoghton was slain, and it is supposed that he made his peace with the family by ceding to them his manor and principal residence of Walton-in-le-dale, in the county of Lancaster. He was Knight of the Bath at the Coronation of James the First, and died 20th February, 1604-5, without issue, when his cousin Richard Fleetwood, eldest son of Thomas Fleetwood, succeeded as heir of entail under the will of his grandfather Sir Thomas Langton. Dodsworth preserves a record of the following tablet originally placed in Wigan Church, but which had then been removed to Duxbury :—
    "To oblivion
    And ye due [drie] bones of Sir Thos Langton of ye Honble order of ye Bathe Knt. Baron of Newton Mackersfeld ye last of his name and ye undoubted patron of this Church descended from a most ancient famous and farre renouned family of Langton of Leicestershire who some times were of great authority both in ye Church and Commonwealth of this kingdome and for ye space of 300 yeares have flourished in this County. A gentleman yt many times tuggd wth extremetyes and made warre with ye worst of misfortunes &c. He departed this lief in ye citty of Westminster 20 Feby. 1604 when he had lyved 44 yeres and lyes buried nere ye high altar in St. Peter's
    Church adjoyning to the Abbay."

    In the inquisition taken four years after his death, that event is said to have happened at Newton (Lancashire and Cheshire Wills and Inventories, Chetham Tract li. p. 251. See also History of Langton by John Harwood Hill, pp. 19-23).

  2. Priory of Penwortham, Chetham Tract xxx. p. liii. Mr. Thomas Fleetwood, who died 1st November, 1570, was buried in the church at Chalfont, St. Giles, in the county of Bucks. He died seised of the manor of Northbreke and a messuage called Rossal Grange, &c. Arms; per pale nebulée azure and or, six martlets counter-changed.
  3. Bishop Bridgeman's Wigan Ledger.
  4. Ibid.
  5. John Fleetwood of Penwortham (his uncle) by his will dated on 1st September, 1585, ordained his "trustie and welbeloved cosyn Mr. Edward Fleetwoode, parson of Wigan," to be one of his executors (Hulton's Priory of Penwortham, p. lvii.)
  6. Stanley Papers Chetham Tract xxxi. p. 168.
  7. Walke mills; Bamford (Dialect of South Lancashire, p. 255) describes a walke mill as a fulling mill, i.e. a mill for fulling cloth or making it compact and firm.
  8. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings, 13 Eliz. vol. li. F. No. 14.
  9. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings, 16 Eliz. vol. li. F. No. 6.
  10. Ibid., 18 Eliz. vol. lvii. F. No. 4.
  11. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings, temp. Eliz., vol. lxxxv. F. No. 3.
  12. Duchy of Lancaster Draft Decrees and Orders, Trinity 36 Eliz., July, 1584, Division 5 & 6.
  13. Duchy of Lancaster Draft Decrees, Hilary 27 Eliz. Division 5 & 6.
  14. This is the first mention I meet with of coal being worked on the Wigan glebe.
  15. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings, 18 Eliz. vol. lx. F. No. 1.
  16. Vide ante, p. 11.
  17. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings, 29 Eliz., vol. ci. F. No. 2.
  18. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings [Eliz.] vol. cxxxiii. F. No. 8.
  19. Henry Stanley, fourth Earl of Derby, who succeeded in 1572 and died in 1593. His wife Margaret was the daughter of Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, by Eleanor his wife, daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and Mary, sister to King Henry VIII., so that she was very nearly related to Queen Elizabeth.
  20. This Thomas Holcroft, Esq., was probably the son and heir of Sir Thomas Holcroft, knight, grantee of the dissolved monastery of Vale Royal in Cheshire, and younger son of John Holcroft of Holcroft, in the county of Lancaster. The younger Thomas Holcroft was afterwards knighted by King James I., in the palace gardens at York, on Sunday the 17th of April, 1603 (Ormerod's Cheshire vol. ii. p. 75; Palatine Note Book, vol. ii. p. 164). There was another Thomas Holcroft living about this time, who was a younger son of Sir John Holcroft of Holcroft, knight, but this last Thomas Holcroft was a priest (Local Gleanings relating to Lancashire and Cheshire, vol. ii. p. 122).
  21. John Atherton of Atherton, Esq. (son of Sir John Atherton, knight), who was sixteen years of age at the time of his father's death in 15 Eliz. By his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Byron, knight, he was father of another John Atherton (Dugdale's Visitation of Lancashire), who is now represented by Lord Lilford, owner of Atherton Hall.
  22. Myles Gerrard of Ince, Esq., was the son and heir of William Gerrard of Ince, by his wife Jane, daughter of Sir Alexander Osbaldeston, of Osbaldeston, knight, and grandson of Myles Gerrard of Ince. The squire of Ince and alderman in question had been imprisoned as a popish recusant in 1593, and accused of harbouring divers seminary priests contrary to the statute. With this he was charged by Bell (a seminary priest who had turned informer). He was examined in April, 1593, by Dr. Goodman, Dean of Westminster, and said that he had frequented the church these seven years, but he had not received the communion ; he desired respite and conference therein, hoping that he should conform himself. He had never taken the oath of allegiance, but was willing to take it if it should be tendered (Strype's Annals vol. vii. p. 262.)
  23. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings, 39 Eliz., vol. cxlviii. F. No. 9 [1596].
  24. There was formerly a moat round the old Hall at Wigan, which was only filled up about the beginning of the present century.
  25. The decision affecting the markets and affairs was modified by another decision given about 20 years later.
  26. Duchy of Lancaster Draft Decrees and Orders, 38 & 39 Eliz., vol. xxi. fo. 700.
  27. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings, 40 Eliz., vol. cxli. F. No. 14.
  28. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings, 41 Eliz., vol. cxlviii. F. No. 2.
  29. Robert Thompson, the curate, must have been quite a young man, for on 10th June, 1601, he gave his age as 28.
  30. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings [41 Eliz.], vol. xli. F. No. 15.
  31. Duchy of Lancaster Draft Orders and Decrees, 39 & 40 Eliz., nol. xxii. fo. 428. Ibid., Easter, 41 Eliz., fo. 491. Ibid., 41 & 42 Eliz., fo. 631.
  32. Duchy of Lancaster Pleadings, 43 Eliz,, vol. clxii. D. No. 4.
  33. Ibid., vol. clvii. D. No. 3 & No. 8.
  34. Duchy of Lancaster Draft Decrees and Orders, Easter, 43 Eliz., vol. xxiii. fo. 365.
  35. Green's History of the English People vol. ii. p. 407.
  36. Peck's Desid. Cur., vol. i. p. 95, as quoted by Canon Raines in Stanley Papers, part ii. (Chetham Tract xxxi.) p. 13a; Baines' Lancashire, vol. i. p. 535.
  37. Strype's Annals vol iv. pp. 547, 548. The clergy who failed to attend these exercises, which were intended for "the furtherance of the good proceeding and course of religion," were to be fined heavily, according to their degree. They were all to meet at 8 o'clock in the morning, and so continue till 10. From 10 to 11 a sermon was to be made by one of the moderators, on the same text of Scripture which had been handled and treated of before by the speakers and writers. From 11 to 12 they were to take their repasts and refreshing. They were to meet again before 1 and so continue till 3, in March, April, May, June, July and August; and till 2 in the months of September, October and February. All the people and the whole congregation were to resort to the sermon, but none to the other exercise but the clergy.
  38. Baines' Lanc. vol. i. p. 541.
  39. Ibid. vol. i. p. 550; vol iii. p. 543.
  40. Strype's Annals vol. v. p. 702.
  41. Baines' Lancashire vol i. p. 543.
  42. Annals, vol. vi. p. 488; from Cotton MSS. "Titus." b, 2.
  43. Strype's Annals, vol. v. p. 702.
  44. Stanley Papers, part 2 (Chetham Tract xxxi.) p. 168; Cotton MSS. "Titus" 2.
  45. Baines' Lancashire, vol. ii. p. 264.
  46. Alport Lodge in Manchester was one of Lord Derby's Lancashire seats.
  47. Strype's Annals vol v. p. 704.
  48. Strype's Annals, vol. vii. p. 183.
  49. Ibid., p. 184.
  50. Dom. Ser. Eliz. vol. ccxxxiv. No. 4; quoted in Lydiate Hall, p. 243.
  51. Against this is written, in the margin, "I was not sworn."
  52. Harl. MSS. Codex 286, as quoted by Baines, Hist, Lanc., vol. iii. p. 543.
  53. Baines' Lanc., vol. i. p. 578.
  54. Lydiate Hall, p. 248.
  55. The game "at Tables" is now better known by the name of Backgammon. In Latin it is called Tabularum Indus, and in French Tables. It was a very common amusement at the commencement of the last century, and pursued at leisure times by most people of opulence, especially by the clergy, which occasioned Dean Swift, when writing to a friend of his in the country, sarcastically to ask the following question: "In what esteem are you with the vicar of the parish; can you play with him at backgammon?" (Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the English People, ed. of 1801, pp. 238, 240).
  56. The Smallshawes appear to have been hereditary offenders, for on 20th December, 1620, George Smallshaw and William Bigbie [Rigby ?] of Holland, were presented "for sellinge meate upon the Saboth daie." The judge ordered them not even to expose it for sale on that day, under pain of excommunication, and to acknowledge their offence before minister and churchwardens, and they to certify the performance thereof under their hands. (Liber correct. Cestr. quoted in Raines' MSS.)
  57. Canon Raines' MSS., vol. xxii. p. 184; from the records of proceedings in the Ecclesiastical Court Chester.
  58. Wigan Par. Register. The oldest register Book at Wigan commences with the year 1580.
  59. Bridgeman evidences at Weston.
  60. Strype's Annals, vol. vii. p. 553. The first session of this Convocation was begun at St. Paul's the 20th of March, 1603, A° 1° Jacobi, sede archiepiscopi vacante.
  61. Ex. inf. J. P. Earwaker, Esq.
  62. Bishop Bridgeman's Wigan Ledger.
  63. Ex. inf. J. P. Earwaker, Esq.
  64. Chester Diocesan Register.