Tuesday 14 December 2004

The Knotts Farms of Harwood 1600-1670

Extract from Harwood Hill Farms and Riding Gate by James J. Francis, pages 1-8.

Chapter I - The Knotts Farms of Harwood 1600-1670 

The north-western area of the Township of Harwood bounded by the Township of Bradshaw and Riding Gate Brook, stretching from Brookbottom Farm in the south-west to Old Ned's Farm in the north-east, is loosely referred to as the Knotts. This area has been defined from the 14th Century being surrounded on the west, north and east by Bradshaw Township and the common land of Great Harwood Lee to the south.

Map of Harwood Township
Page i - Map of Harwood Township

The name Knotts is derived from the Old Norse ‘Cnotts’ meaning hill and the study area is in Harwood on the hill side stretching up towards Affetside. Knotts land varies between 700 ft and 850 ft above sea level.

The Knotts area has been enclosed within recorded history and from the early 1600s has been made up of three separate holdings which up to 1603 were in the occupation of Henry Haworth, William Haslam and Matthew Harrison and are now described as Top o’th’ Knotts (West), Top o'th' Knotts (East) and Hoyles Fold, respectively. The total acreage of this area was approximately 66 Cheshire Acres, the measure used at this time and equivalent to 142 Statute Acres.

The earliest lease record of one of these holdings is dated 1607 from Sir Nicholas Moseley to Elizabeth Haslam, the widow of William Haslam deceased, who was buried at Bolton Parish Church on 23rd February 1603. The widow Elizabeth Haslam lived with her son Robert Haslam who had been baptised at Bolton Parish Church on 25th May 1595. Unfortunately place names were rarely noted in these early documents other than 'the said messuage or tenement in Harwood'. However, later records place this holding as the Top o'th' Knotts Farm (East).

On May 1st, 1612, the Moseley Manor of Harwood - a little over half of the area of Harwood Township was sold for £1,100 to a group of five Harwood yeomen: Matthew Harrison, Henry Haworth, Raufe Higson, Lawrence Horrocks and Edward Greenhalgh. This sale was conditional that these Trustees would convey the various holdings to their occupants if they so chose, each to pay 'a proportional part of the purchase money if so minded'.

It is interesting to note that two of the five Trustees lived in this northeastern corner of Harwood, namely Matthew Harrison and Henry Haworth. We have no record of Matthew Harrison's purchase but Henry Haworth bought his holding on 21st December 1613 from the other four Trustees for £160. The Haworth holding was described as 'All that messuage or tenement in Harwood now or late in the occupation of Henry Haworth'. From a later deed of 1620 we can identify this original holding as Top o'th' Knotts Farm (West). However, before this purchase, Henry Haworth had married his neighbour, the widow Elizabeth Haslam and his purchase from the Trustees would have included both the Top o'th' Knotts farms, East and West. Robert Haslam, now stepson of Henry Haworth, married Marie Astley, daughter of Gilbert Astley of Turton, Clerk - probably the Curate of Turton Chapel - at Bolton Parish Church on 6th November 1614.

As was customary with the more well to do marriages, portions were offered by the brides father while the bridegroom's father was expected, in return, to give some security for both the bride and any resultant children. In this case a lengthy Marriage Settlement Agreement was concluded on 4th April 1620 between Henry Haworth, stepfather of Robert Haslam and four Trustees acting on behalf of the bride's father Gilbert Astley.

In consideration of £120 paid by Gilbert Astley to Henry Haworth as the marriage portion of Robert and Mary Haslam, Henry Haworth conveyed his estate to the four Trustees - Thomas Astley of Livesey, gentleman; Christopher Horrocks of Turton, gentleman; James Nuttall of Dedwayeclough, gentleman and Richard Wood of Turton, gentleman. There were various conditions of occupancy but after the deaths of Henry Haworth and his wife Elizabeth, all the estate would devolve to Robert Haslam and his heirs 'for ever'. If Robert and Marie Haslam had only daughters, then these daughters should eventually receive a 'portion' and an annuity of £10 per year for up to 14 years. Should Robert re-marry then the first son would be the heir to his estate.

The holding then in the occupation of Henry Haworth was to remain for the use of him and his wife Elizabeth rent free for six years or to the 'longer liver of them'. This was the original holding of Henry Haworth before his marriage to Elizabeth Haslam, widow. They also retained proportional commons rights. Field names given included Higher Carr, Lower Carr, Greaves, Lowmost Rydinge, Middlemost Rydinge, Limed Rydinge, Wald Rydinge, Little White Rydinge, New Close, Green Gate, Knotts, Lower Filcroft, Higher Filcroft, Rye, Calliade and Garden, Swine Orchard, Heighthill Acres, Rough Meadow, Green Fence and Brones.

Henry and his wife Elizabeth had the liberty to use the kilne and ovenhouse with one moiety of 'housing with fire house over the hearth wall abutting towards northwest with the chambers over them'. They had the use of the Higher Barn and the byre in the Great Barn called the 'old wainhouse'.

Other parts of the holding were allotted to Robert and Marie Haslam including two parts of housing and barn with liberty of the fold (yard/lane area) and fields named Rye Highfield; Roughing Bank; Lower Hanging Bank; Little Hanging Bank; Calfeheye; Another Calfeheye; Wife's Piece; Holt; Hill Meadow and Calfe Croft.

It seems that Henry Haworth and his wife Elizabeth occupied Top o'th' Knotts Farm (West) and Robert Haslam and his wife Marie occupied Top o'th' Knotts Farm (East), the latter being the earlier Haslam holding from at least the beginning of the 1600s.

It was agreed that Robert Haslam had the power to get coal from the one coal pit and stone from the stone pit. This (1620) is the earliest recorded evidence of a coal mine in Harwood. Robert could also sink new coal pits throughout the two farms, paying compensation to Henry Haworth for damage and trespass where necessary. Henry Haworth however could take stone as well as timber for necessary building work and could have coal from Robert Haslam for their 'necessary firing and fuel'.

Elizabeth, wife of Henry Haworth died and was buried at Bolton Parish Church on 31st December 1621. Henry died the year after and was also buried at Bolton Parish Church on 26th May 1622. His Will of 12th February 1622 was proved on his death and his Inventory appraised on 26th May 1622.

List of Tenants and Owners of the Knotts Farms

Although in the previous property Indentures Henry Haworth is described as a yeoman, in his Will he describes himself as a mason. From details of his debts owing and owed he notes payments to Richard Wood of the 'Oak' and 'Bernard Wood for the work at the West Bridge at Sharples'. This suggests he operated as contracting mason as well as a farmer.

Apart from leaving his estate to his stepson and heir Robert Haslam, Henry Haworth also left Robert two suits of clothes he had lent him, the standing bed, a chest of drawers, 'the chest and arke wherein all the evidence of this house are kept' (the deeds) and 'the gold chain given me for serving the Churchwarden'.

Henry Haworth specified many minor bequests including a brown heiffer and a sidesaddle to Alice Berry, wife of Henry Berry. He gave his servant William Greenhalgh his bed and other furniture as well as £20. He made £5 bequests to Alice Warburton's children, £20 to his sister Alice Nuttall and £20 to his nephew John Nuttall as well as £20 each to grandsons Edward and David Nuttall. To Bernard Wood he bequeathed his best doublet with silver buttons and black fabric. To John Sharples he left his lined cloak and £20. His winter boots went to Henry Prescot. He gave to nephew William Liptrott his best gloves and £10 and to all the children to whom he stands as Godfather 17 pence apiece. Henry gave his servant Katherine Morris 12s.6d and the wheel (spinning). To John Haslam he gave a doublet and a pair of breeches while Henry Aferam of Edgworth received his silver dagger and William Bradshaw the great chair.

The rest of his goods, chattels and debts he bequeathed to 'Henry Darrow also Haworth' - could this have been his illegitimate son?

Henry Haworth's inventory, appraised (valued) by James Jaques, Laurence Brownlowe, Edmond Wood and John Crompton is most interesting and gives a good picture of a yeoman farmer in 1622.

The most valuable item in the inventory were two oxen worth £9, while two mares and two horses were valued at £3 each. He had nine cattle, three calves and nine sheep. There were three saddles, a plough, pitchforks and other farming tools.

There are later references to the 'Great House' and the furniture listed match a house of this description. He had five beds, one being a standing bed with curtaines (four poster). Four chests were valued at 47s-4d while a table, two forms, a chest and a cupboard were worth 42s-6d Pewter and brass items at £4-3s-11d and Henry Haworths apparel at £6-2s-2d All the items were listed and valued, even 'Dung and Manure' at 20s. The total valuation was £105-2s-7d

It seems that Robert Haslam and his wife Marie moved to live in the Great House after the death of their step father Henry Haworth because a Deed of 5th December 1630 details the sale to William Crompton, yeoman of Breightmet for £160, of the holding Robert and Mary had previously occupied i.e., Top o'th' Knotts (East) also referred to at a later date as 'Houghs' - possibly after a sub-lessee tenant.

This holding was described as 'All that little house standing on the south side of the Great House with all the chambers thereunto belonging'. The great barn on the south side of the fold - one bay of which was to remain in the ownership of Robert Haslam, one little house standing at the west side of Middlemost Meadow near to Affetside. The fields were named and tied up with those detailed in the Marriage Settlement of 1620 with minor changes such as 'Wife's Piece' now named 'Missys'.

The Rights of Common for this holding went with the purchase by William Crompton, as did all other rights and responsibilities. These would include mineral rights but as no mention is made of existing coal pits we can assume the only local coal mines at this date are within the Top o'th' Knotts (West) holding.

Top o'th' Knotts (West)
p27 - Fig. 13 - Top o'th' Knotts (West) farmhouse in 2002
Described as the  "Great House" in early documents.
This is the rebuild of 1784.

The holding that eventually became known as Hoyle's Fold was owned by Matthew Harrison when he bought it from his four fellow trustees after 1614. However one part of this holding was sold on 13th June 1634 by William Harrison to John Higson, yeoman of Harwood for £220. This sale included the messuage tenement and land in Harwood containing 21 acres previously in the occupation of Matthew Harrison, late father of William Harrison and now in joint occupation of John Higson and William Harrison but after the conveyance to be for the sole use of John Higson. Rights of Common were included.

On May 22nd, 1639 in the 14th year of King Charles I, Robert Haslam and William Haslam his son with William Crompton conveyed the holding previously contracted to William Crompton - the Top o'th' Knotts (East) to Ralph Platt of Rumworth for £270. It would appear that the sale of 5th December, 1630 was not finally completed and the Haslams had retained part ownership - hence the tripartite partnership sale to Ralph Platt. As before the property conveyed did not include one bay of the barn. However the following March 1st, 1640, Robert Haslam, now described as a gentleman, and his son and heir William Haslam sold to Ralph Platt, a tanner of Rumworth for £3, the 'One bay of building to the south-east end of the barn of the said Ralph Platt' - probably the 'old wainhouse' referred to in the 1620 Marriage Settlement. This sale was conditional on an annual 'rent of one pig born at the Feast of the Pentecost yearly if it be lawfully demanded'. Later documents refer to a peppercorn rent.

We have no record of changes during the Commonwealth period of Cromwell, but on the restoration of King Charles II to the throne, Top o'th' Knotts (East) was bought by the Lever family in whose hands it remained for the next two hundred years. This occurred on 2nd February, 1660 when Joseph Platt of Rumworth, a yeoman, sells his holding to Thomas Lever of Chamber and his son Nathan Lever both designated as gentlemen, for the sum of £360. This was described as the property late in the holding of Ralph Platt (who bought it in 1639).

'All that little house standing on the south side of the Great House with all the rooms and chambers thereunto belonging - together with one upper chamber over the Great House in the north adjoining the little house, the Great Barn on the south side of the fold, one dwelling house at the west side of Middlemost Meadow nearunto Affetsid, one swinehouse in the little fold, a garden and moeity of the Fold’. The fields were noted as Middlemost Meadow, Furthest Meadow, Great Highfield next to the Higher Barn, Rye High Field, Higher Hanging Bank, Lower Hanging Bank, Little Hanging Bank, Lower Kilne Croft, Great Calfhey, Missies, Park, House Fell Meadow, Fell Meadow Head and Hanging Bank - totalling 20 acres.

Thomas Lever was a member of the ancient Lever family of Bolton, who at this time were Lords of one quarter of the Manor of Great Bolton and lived at Chamber Hall, just to the west of the town on the River Croal.

The 21 acre holding bought by John Higson in 1634 changed hands again in 1662 when on September 14th Thomas Bridge, yeoman of Harwood and his wife Alice, daughter of the late John Higson, sold the holding to Thomas Lever of Chamber, gentleman, for £100. The Indenture refers to 'One messuage or dwelling house with appurtanences in Harwood wherein the said Thomas Bridge now inhibiteth'. The old barn, the lower barn and one other messuage or dwelling house called the higher house, barn, garden and foldstead 'as is now marked and staked out or bounded' - implying that a larger holding was being split up. Fields are named as Great Broome, Lower Broome, Little Broome, Great Croft otherwise called the Field towards Haslams and the wood under the same, Half Acre, Rye Field, Field at the Door and Field above the Well, totaling 15 acres (Cheshire) being 8 acres of land (tilled), 2 acres of meadow and 5 acres of pasture.

Plan of Top o'th' Knotts, Hoyle's Fold and Old Neds
Plan of Top o'th' Knotts, Hoyle's Fold and Old Neds

This Indenture agrees that Thomas Bridge and his wife Alice may continue to occupy the holding if they pay Thomas Lever £6 on 1st September, 1662 and the sum of £106 on the 1st September, 1664 at which date on payment Thomas Lever will convey the property back to Thomas and Alice Bridge. This could be said to be an early short-term mortgage arrangement. The planned re-payment did not take place but Thomas Bridge and his wife Alice continued to occupy the holding on lease at £12-13s-4d per annum up to 1674.

From 2nd February 1667, Thomas Bridge also leased from Thomas Lever at £10 per year for three years the holding that had previously been in the occupation of Ralph Platt - Top o'th' Knotts (East). This lease document included the condition that Thomas Bridge should not plough more than three acres in any of the three years. He was also responsible for putting in repair and keeping in good repair all the houses, out-houses. hedges, fences and ditches and being responsible for paying 'all the leyes, hearth money, taxation and impositions whatsoever imposed or due for the premises to Church, King, Lord, Highways or otherwise due in anywise during the said term'.

On 2nd April 1669, Thomas Bridge, his wife Alice and John Bridge son and heir apparent of Thomas and Alice sold to Thomas Lever of Chamber for £40 a holding 'heretofore in the occupation of John Higson deceased late father of Alice Bridge and now in the occupation of John Bridge'.

This holding included one messuage or dwelling house, one barn, garden and fold and several closes of land named Higher Field, New Close and the Heath, totaling six acres. This was made up of three acres of land (tilled), one acre of meadow and two acres of pasture. All Rights of Common were included. Thomas and Alice Bridge signed with their 'mark' while son John Bridge could sign his full name.

This purchase by Thomas Lever completed his ownership of all the land between Old Neds boundary and that of Top o'th' Knotts (West). These included the purchase from Joseph Platt in 1660 of Top o'th' Knotts (East) of 21 acres, the purchase from Thomas Bridge in 1662 of a 15 acre holding and later also from Thomas Bridge in 1669 a holding of 6 acres. These latter two holdings made up what was to form Hoyle's Fold Farm of 21 acres.

Field Names and Total Acreages of the Knotts Farms  

(As recorded in the 1600s)

Top o’ th’ Knotts (West)

Coal Pit Field
Higher Bent
Barn Field
Kill Bank
Higher Green Glade
Lower Green Glade
Lime Field
Lower Lime Field
Great Way Riding
Coal Pit Croft & Higher Meadows
Lower Meadow
Hal Field
Thomasson Meadow

Statute Acres  51a-2r-10p
Cheshire Acres  24a-0r-12p

Top o’ th’ Knotts (East)

Middlemost Meadow
Furthest Meadow
Great High Field
Higher Field next to Higher Barn
Rye Highfield
Higher Hanging Bank
Lower Hanging Bank
Little hanging Bank
Lower Kiln Croft
Great Calf Hey
Little Calf Hey
Fell Meadow
Fell Meadow Head
Hanging Bank

Statute Acres   44a-2r-0p
Cheshire Acres  20a-0r-0p

Hoyles Fold

Old Barn
Lower Barn
Great Broome
Little Broome
Great Croft (also called the Field towards Haslams)
Half Acre
Rye Field
Field at the Door
Field above the Well
Higher Field
New Close