Wednesday 27 March 2024

Where was Birchwood in Turton?

The following article is reproduced from our newsletter number 104, contributed by Stephen Tonge

Finding Birchwood 

Farrer’s ‘A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5’, published in 1911, says that the estate of Birchwood in Turton ‘gave a name to its ancient owners’.  There is no such modern day place name, so I wondered – where was Birchwood?

View of Horridge Fold Barn looking west from Turton Heights
View of Horridge Fold Barn
looking west from Turton Heights, 2017

The footnotes in Farrer’s volume give some references from the medieval period:-

Roger de Birchwood gave all his land in Turton to Robert son of Thomas de Longworth in 1297; Towneley MS. DD, no. 699. Roger's brother Henry is named. The bounds of Birchwood began at Redclough Head.

Searching more recent documents yielded no further clues; there were no records of the place name Birchwood in the 1800s, or the 1700s.  It was not to be found on any map of Turton, and was not recorded on the census, rating valuations, tax returns, parish registers or rental records.  The name had clearly fallen out of use centuries ago.

Digging into the Turton deeds collection from earlier centuries was more fruitful.  One deed from 1660 is labelled on the outside 'Birchwood Tenement' with an additional label 'Conveyance of Horwich Tenement in Turton'.   Horwich tenement (alternatively spelled as Horridge tenement) is what we now know as Horridges Farm.

Close up of Birchwood Edge lease document 1588
Close up of ‘Byrchewoodde edge’ from the 1588 lease to Leonard Ashawe and his wife Elizabeth

In 1588, William Orrell of Turton Tower, conveyed a 12 acre plot of land to Leonard Ashawe of Shaw Hall in Flixton, and Elizabeth his wife.  It was situated at the east end of an enclosure belonging to Ashawe called 'the new house' which Thomas Horridge rented.  Turbary (peat for fuel) was to be dug from the hill named Birchwood Edge, which we now know as Turton Heights (the hill between Egerton and Entwistle Reservoir).  In 1605, Ashawe granted a lease to George Horridge, on the condition that he allowed his parents Thomas and Isabell Horridge to continue to live there.

By 1666, John Horridge was the tenant until his death in 1690.  A new lease was granted to his nephew George Horridge in 1693, who likely lived there until he died in 1732.  

Shortly afterwards the farm was leased to the Warburton family who remained there for just over a century.   Occasionally it became known as ‘Warburtons’, but later reverted back to ‘Horridges’, which has stuck to this day.  ‘Horridge Fold’ was chosen as the name for one of the roads on the nearby residential estate, built in the 1960/70s.

No trace of the old name Birchwood remains in the district though, it having faded from memory centuries ago.