Monday 24 January 2022

Seventeenth Century Disputes over Edgworth Moor

Extract from the Enclosure of Edgworth Moor by James J. Francis, chapter 3, pages 6-7.

Edgworth v Entwistle, 1672

Due probably to the passage of time with no adequate records, there appears to have been much disagreement and wrangling over the rights of common on Edgworth Moor between the property owners of Entwistle and Edgworth.

Over 400 years had elapsed since Entwistle had been separated from Edgworth, but the Entwistle property owners had persevered in maintaining their ancient ‘rights of common’, while the Edgworth freeholders saw no logic at all in 'outsiders' having rights to their Edgworth Moor.

Townships of Bolton-le-Moors
The townships of Bolton-le-Moors
Entwistle, Edgworth and Quarlton outlined in red

This old territorial conflict came to the public's attention again when a pamphlet entitled ‘Edgworth Moors in the year 1672’ was published in 1896 by John Whitehead, Newsagent and Stationer, of 210 Blackburn Road, Edgworth.

This publication contained a reprint of an ancient document that had been in the Orrell family’s possession for nearly 200 years and was then in the keeping of William Orrell of Meadowcroft. 

The old document relates how the freeholders of Edgworth and Entwistle agreed - after many years of bickering and strife - to place the division of the ancient Common Land called Edgworth Moor in the hands of arbitrators. 

It seems there had been a long lasting series of controversies, grievances and suits between the freeholders of Edgworth and Entwistle concerning their respective rights and interests of, in and to the common as well as the ways to and from the common.

Both townships agreed that Henry Knowles of Edgworth, yeoman, and Francis Norbury of Entwistle, yeoman, should arbitrate on the dispute. Hugh Entwistle and George Longworth, both yeomen of Entwistle and Gyles Entwistle and Lawrence Horrocks, both yeomen of Edgworth, bound themselves and their fellow-freeholders in the sum of £400, to perform, fulfil and keep the arbitration order.

The arbitrators awarded the Entwistle freeholders and their heirs for ever, four score acres of the large measure. This would equate to approximately 140 acres out of the 480 acres total. The area allocated to Entwistle was to be walled off with a 6ft high wall - cost to be shared, and was designated as being an area to the west of the line from Wheatshaw Clough bank to ‘Edgworth-low above a certain place there called the Cross'

This allocated area must be walled within 2 years, both parties being jointly responsible for wall and watercourse maintenance. Access was laid down as being via Hob Lane Gate, with one gate only into the Entwistle part of the common ‘in some convenient place betwixt the new house lately built by George Longworth and the cross standing at Edgworth Low’.

The arbitrators closed with a little homily ‘that all and every parties of either of the said towns or hamlets shall from henceforth be loving friend and neighbours to the others of the other said town or hamlet, forgiving and forgetting all former quarrels, trespasses, controversies and grievances whatsoever by any of them against the other heretofore had moved or conceived by thought, word, deed or otherwise’!

The document was sealed by the Arbitrators Henry Knowles and Francis Norbury and signed by Entwistle Freeholders, John Entwistle, James Brandwood, William Horrocks, Peter Kay, David Whitehead and Raphe Entwistle; Edgworth Freeholders Thomas Thomasson, Robert Isherwood and Richard Isherwood. All these men signed and sealed in the presence of Richard Orrell and Jerahmiah Ainsworth, 18th March 1672.

We do not know whether this arbitrated award was carried out or whether the £400 surety was forfeited, but there seems no evidence that the division wall was built - suggesting that the inter-township difficulties continued!