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THE LIBRARY

OF
THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA
LOS ANGELES



ECHOES OF OLD LANCASHIRE.



Five hundred copies of this book printed,
and this is N



ECHOES . . .

OF

OLD LANCASHIRE.

BY WILLIAM E. A. AXON.




LONDON:
WILLIAM ANDREWS & CO., 5, FARRINGDON AVENUE, E.G.

1899.



TO THE

EARL OF CRAWFORD,

THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ANCIENT

LANCASHIRE FAMILY OF

BRADSHAIGH OF HAIGH,

THE HEAD OF A GREAT HISTORIC SCOTTISH HOUSE,

THE CHIEF OF THE LINDSAYS ;

A SUCCESSFUL WORKER IN SCIENCE,

AND AN ARDENT LOVER OF LITERATURE,

THIS LITTLE BOOK,
DEALING WITH SOME PHASES AND EPISODES

OF THE PAST LIFE OF THE

COUNTY PALATINE OF LANCASTER,

IS DEDICATED.



preface,

""HIS volume is intended for those who find
* it pleasant, at times, to wander in the
byways of topography and local literature. The
development of Lancashire, especially in its
relation to modern industrial life, has been told
by more than one able historian, and all that is
here attempted is to glean in the ample harvest
fields. The bygone customs, forgotten worthies,
outworn superstitions, historical episodes and
travellers' tales here recorded, will, it is hoped,
not be without interest. If some of the articles
seem more modern than the title would strictly
justify, it must be remembered that the changes
in the condition of the County Palatine have
been so rapid that many things have become
obsolete in the life time of the existing genera-
tion.

To several friends, and especially to the Rev.
Dr. Casartelli and Mr. C. W. Sutton, thanks are
due for various suggestions.

WILLIAM E. A. AXON.

Moss SIDE, MANCHESTER.



Contents.



PAGE



THE "LANCASHIRE PLOT" i

Di; OUINCEY'S HIGHWAYMAN ->-, - _^x^f^- i^

SOME LANCASHIRE CENTENARIANS 22

WHAT WAS THE FIRST BOOK PRINTED IN MANCHESTER ? - 39

THOMAS LURTINO : A LIVERPOOL WORTHY .... 44

KUFIC COINS FOUND IN LANCASHIRE - 56

NEWSPAPERS IN 1738-39 61

A LANCASHIRE NATURALIST : THOMAS GARNETT ... 72

THE TRAFFORDS OK TRAFFORD 80

A MANCHESTER WILL OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY - - 106

A VISITOR TO LANCASHIRE IN 1807 in

How THE FIRST SPINNING MACHINERY WAS TAKEN TO

BELGIUM 119

MERRY ANDREW OF MANCHESTER 127

A MANCHESTER JKANIE DEANS .... 129

SOME LANCASHIRE GIANTS 130

A NOTE ON WILLIAM ROWLINSON 137

LITERARY TASTE OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 143

HUGH OF MANCHESTER : A STATESMAN AND DIVINE OF THE

THIRTEENTH CENTURY 146

MRS. FLETCHER IN LANCASHIRE 157

MANCHESTER AND THE FIRST REFORM AGITATION - - 165

THE FOLK-LORE OF LANCASHIRE 197

MANCHESTER GRAMMAR SCHOOL MILL ..... 222

THE RISING OF 1715 231

THE FOOL OF LANCASTER 243

ALEXANDER BARCLAY AND MANCHESTER - - - 245

INDEX 255



Echoes of Ib ^Lancashire,



Gbe " OLancasbire flMot.'




HE town of Manchester
was in a state of in-
dignant and feverish
excitement on the
1 7th of October, 1694,
being the sixth year of
the reign of William
the Deliverer. Everywhere groups of towns-
people were discussing the all-absorbing topic
of the " Lancashire Plot," for on that day there
came to the town four of their Majesties'
judges, with every circumstance of pomp and
parade, to try for their lives gentlemen of the
best blood of Lancashire and Cheshire ; un-
fortunate prisoners who were accused of having
conspired against the Deliverer, of having been
guilty of the treason of remaining faithful to the
old King, whom the rest of the nation had cast off.




2 JEcboes of lfc Xancasbtre.

The prisoners were brought into town strongly
guarded, amidst the sympathetic demonstrations
of their neighbours, who were equally liberal of
groans and hisses for the wretched informers who
were about to do their endeavour to bring them
to the scaffold.

Lancashire, which in the civil war struck some
hearty blows for the Parliament, was now a hotbed
of disaffection. The old cavalier families, in spite
of bitter experience of Stuart ingratitude, remained
faithful in spirit to the exile of St. Germains ; and
the common people would have no love for King
William, who was a foreigner, nor for Queen
Mary, who sat upon the throne of her royal father,
whilst he wandered a weary exile in a foreign land.
The accused would have been pretty certain of
sympathy had the public mind been convinced of
the reality of the supposed conspiracy. How much
more so, then, when it was shrewdly suspected that
the charge had been trumped up by a gang of
villains eager for blood-money, and supported by
greater rogues anxious for a share of the estates
which would be forfeited upon the conviction of
their victims ? Nor was the suspicion altogether
groundless ; covetous eyes were fixed longingly
on these fine Lancashire acres, and the Roman



Xancasbtre plot." 3

Catholic gentry ran great danger of being de-
frauded of their inheritances.

In 1693, a commission sat at Warrington to
inquire into certain lands and property alleged
to have been given to "superstitious uses," i.e., to
ascertain whether the Roman Catholic gentry had
applied any portion of their estates or income to
the promotion of their faith, or the sustenance of
its ministers, and if they could be convicted of
this heinous crime the property was confiscated,
and one-third portion was to be the reward of the
undertakers. So confident were these persons
of their prey, that the plunder was prospectively
allotted. As the result of this commission, where
the defendants were not heard, the matter was
carried into the Exchequer Chamber. Here it
was pretended that at a meeting at the papal
nuncio's house, Lord Molyneux, William Standish,
Thomas Eccleston, William Dicconson, Sir
Nicholas Sherborne, Sir W. Gerard, and Thomas
Gerard, had all promised money or lands for
Popish uses. But the accusers had been very
clumsy, for the falsehood of each separate item of
the accusation was so abundantly proved, that the
Government was forced to abandon all further
proceedings.



4 Ecboes of Ifc Xancasbire.

When, therefore, in the next year, it was bruited
about that a plot had been discovered to bring
back King James and murder King William of
Orange ; that men had been enlisted, commissions
received from St. Germains, arms bought and
concealed in the old halls of Lancashire and
Cheshire, and that those who had by the Warring-
ton inquiry been in danger of losing their broad
acres, were now also likely to lose their lives ;
men said, not unnaturally, that it was a base and
horrible conspiracy against the Lancashire gentle-
men ; that this was the next move in the iniquitous
game began at Warrington. If broken tapsters
and branded rogues were to be encouraged in
devoting to the traitor's block gentlemen of rank
and estate, whose life was safe ?

Such was the state of feeling amongst the
crowds which surrounded the Sessions House,
opposite to where our present Exchange is
erected. It was not until the 2oth that the
trial before a jury began. On that Saturday,
Sir Roland Stanley, Sir Thomas Clifton, William
Dicconson, Philip Langton, Esquires, and William
Blundell, Gent., were placed at the bar and, in
long verbose sentences, accused both in Latin
and English generally of being false traitors to



" Xancasfoire plot." 5

our Sovereign Lord and Lady, and specifically
of having accepted commissions for the raising
of an army from James II., late King of
England. After the case had been opened,
Sir William Williams, their Majesties' counsel,
called, as first witness, John Lunt, who was
asked if he knew all the five men at the bar.
Lunt, with front of brass, answered that he did
know them all. Here Sir Roland Stanley cried
out, "Which is Sir Roland Stanley?" Where-
upon, to testify how intimately the informer was
acquainted with them, he pointed out Sir Thomas
Clifton ! Great was the outcry in the court,
which did not lessen when the judge bid Lunt
take one of the officers' white staves, and lay
it on the head of Sir Roland Stanley, and he
again indicated the wrong man. Being asked
which was Sir Thomas Clifton, he unhesitatingly
pointed out Sir Roland Stanley. Having thus
shown his accuracy, he was allowed to proceed
with his narrative of the plot. His evidence
asserted that in 1689 one Dr. Bromfield, a
Quaker, was sent by the Lancashire gentry to
the court at St. Germains, to request King
James to send them commissions, that they might
enlist men for his service. Bromfield, being



known as a Jacobite agent, it was determined to
employ some one less known, and Lunt was
pitched upon for the purpose. So, in company
with Mr. Threlfall, of Goosnargh, he came over
in a vessel which landed at Cockerham, that
famous village where the devil dare not come.
At the residence of Mr. Tildesley they sepa-
rated, Threlfall went into Yorkshire to distribute
commissions, and Lunt was summoned to attend
a midnight meeting of the Lancashire Jacobites,
held at the seat of Lord Molyneux, at Croxteth.
Here the persons now accused were present, and
many others, none of whom Lunt had ever seen
before. The commissions were delivered, the
health drunk of their Majesties over the water,
and some little additional treason talked. At this
point in the evidence Sir Roland Stanley remarked
how improbable it was that he should accept a
commission which might endanger his life and
estate from an utter stranger. " But," cries Lunt,
" I brought you with your commission Dr.
Bromfield's letter." Then the judge said to
Sir Roland, " You are answered that was his
credentials ; " but did not think fit to say that
Lunt had made no mention in his depositions of
this circumstance, which was evidently invented



ZTbe "Xancasbire plot." 7

on the spur of the moment to confound Sir
Roland Stanley. The judge also observed there
was no great matter in Lunt not being able to
point out the prisoners correctly. Lunt, thus
encouraged by Sir Giles Eyre, proceeded with his
veracious narrative swore that the Lancashire
gentlemen had given him money to enlist men
and buy arms ; that he beat up sixty men in
London, who were quartered in different parts of
the County Palatine ; and particularised some
persons to whom arms had been sent. In 1691
(about July or August), he was sent to France, to
acquaint the Pretender with what his friends had
been doing, and to inquire when they might
expect him in England. The spring following
was named as the happy time when the Stuarts
were to be re-established on the English throne.
He also named a meeting at Dukenhalgh, when
some more commissions were distributed by Mr.
Walmsley, one of the accused. Mr. Dicconson
now asked Lunt why he had not disclosed the
existence of this terrible plot, or why he had
revealed it at all. Lunt was evidently prepared
for this inquiry, and his retort was prompt and
crushing. Some proposals had been made to
which he could not assent. Being pressed by the



Ecfoocs of Ifc Xancasbire.

Court to be less reticent, and explain his meaning,
he said there was a design to murder King
William ; that the Earl of Melfort (the Pretender's
friend and minister) had asked him to aid in the
assassination ; he had consented to do so, but a
Carthusian friar, to whom he had revealed it
under confession, told him it would be wilful
murder if King William were killed, except in
open battle, and he had revealed the plot lest his
old colleagues should carry out their wicked
project.

Such, in brief, was the evidence of Lunt,
deviating often from the tenour of his previous
depositions, which had been made before he had
been under the moulding influences of Aaron
Smith, that unscrupulous Jacobite hunter, whose
duty it was to manage these little matters, to
procure witnesses and favourable juries. Favour-
able judges were supplied by his betters. And to
fully understand the gravity of the prisoners'
position it should be recollected that they could
not have the assistance of counsel ; their
witnesses could not be compelled to attend ; they
were ignorant of the witnesses to be produced
against them ; and, until they stood in the dock,
had not heard the indictment against them.



Tlbe "Xancasbire flMot." 9

Every circumstance was in favour of the crown.
Lunt's evidence was corroborated by Womball, a
carrier, and one Wilson, who had been branded for
roguery, as to the delivery of commissions and
arms. Colonel Uriah Brereton (a saddler's
apprentice and common sharper) testified that he
had received money from Sir Roland Stanley for
the service of King- James. This worthy Captain
Bobadil being asked if he was not poor and
necessitous when he received these gifts, cried
out, in true ruffler style, "Poor! That is a
question to degrade a gentleman." The remaining
evidence we need not go into, save that of John
Knowles, who, having been sworn, declared " by
fair yea and nay, he knew nout on't."

Then, after short speeches by Stanley and
Dicconson, the witnesses for the defence were
examined. The first half-dozen made some
damaging attacks upon the character of John
Lunt, representing him as a mean scoundrel, a
bigamist, and a notorious highwayman. Then
Lawrence Parsons, his brother-in-law, testified
that he had been invited by Lunt to aid him in
denouncing the Lancashire gentlemen, but had
refused the offer of 2os. per week and ^ 1 50 at
the end, rather than "swear against his country-



io lEcboes of lo Xancasfoire.

men that he knew nothing against." Mr. Legh
Bankes, a gentleman of Gray's Inn, told how
Taafe, an intimate friend of Lunt's, and who was
expected to be a witness for the crown, had been
to the wife of Mr. Dicconson, and revealed to her
the whole design of Lunt, offering to introduce
some friend of the prisoner's to Lunt, as persons
likely to be serviceable in any swearing that might
be needed to hang the prisoners. Mr. Bankes
was suspicious of this being a trap ; but having
been introduced to Lunt, that worthy, over a glass
of ale, very frankly said that he wanted gentlemen
of reputation to back his own evidence, and if
Bankes would join he should be well provided
for. He produced his " narrative of the plot,"
and Taafe read aloud this manuscript, which
named several hundreds besides the prisoners.
" Why were these not taken up also ? " inquired
Bankes. Lunt's answer was, " We will do these
people's business first, and when that hath given
us credit, we will run through the body of the
nation." When the next witness arose, Lunt and
Aaron Smith must surely have trembled, for it
was their old friend Taafe, who, after adding his
testimony to Lunt's villainous character, gave a
brief account of that worthy gentleman's career as



Zlbe "Xancasbire plot." u

a discoverer of plots. How the first one he
discovered (it was in Kent) came to nothing, as
he had failed to find corroborative evidence ; and
how he was near failing again from the same
cause ; how Aaron Smith had edited and
improved his original narrative. Lunt wanted
Taafe as a witness, complained that the men he
had hired to swear were blockish, and of such low
caste as to carry little weight. Could Taafe
introduce him to some gentleman (God save the
mark !) willing to perjure his soul, consign
innocent men to the scaffold, and receive blood-
money from Aaron Smith ? Taafe, from some
motive not clear, determined to baulk the villany
of his fellow-informer, hence the circumstances
narrated by Mr. Legh Bankes, whose suspicions
of treachery had prevented a full discovery.
Taafe had partially opened his mind to the Rev.
Mr. Allenson, who had also distrusted him in a
similar manner. In Roger Dicconson, brother of
the prisoner, he found a bolder and more
adventurous spirit. The evidence of Mr. Allenson
need not be analysed. He was followed by Mr.
Roger Dicconson, who told how he was introduced
at a coffee-house in Fetter Lane, by Taafe to
Lunt, as a proper person to aid in the plan.



iz Ecboes of It) Xancasbtre.

Dicconson called himself Howard, a member
of the Church of England, willing to join in the
plot for a valuable consideration. Lunt said they
had gold in for ,100,000 a year, and that the
informants were to have a third of the forfeited
estates. He asked Lunt if he knew Dicconson's
brother, and Lunt, all unconscious that he was
sitting face to face with him, replied, " Yes, very
well ; for he had delivered commissions to Hugh
and Roger Dicconson about Christmas ! "

Many more witnesses were examined, some of
whom established that certain of the prisoners
were not in the neighbourhood of Croxteth and
Dukenhalgh at the time of the alleged Jacobite
meetings at those places ; whilst others gave most
damaging evidence as to the utter rascality of
Lunt and his chief witnesses Womball, Wilson,
and Brereton. The judge, in his summing up,
contented himself with saying that the matter
deserved great consideration, in which opinion the
jury did not agree, for, after a short consultation,
and without leaving court, they returned for each
prisoner a verdict of NOT GUILTY. Mr. Justice
Eyres then discharged them, with an eulogy upon
the merciful and easy Government under which
they lived, and advised them to beware of ever



Ube " Xancasbire plot" 13 .

entering into plots and conspiracies against it.
Lord Molyneux, Sir William Gerard, and Bar-
tholomew Walmsley, Esq., were then put to the
bar, but, no witnesses appearing, they were also
declared Not Guilty, which gave Mr. Justice
Eyres an opportunity for another cynical speech,
concluding with these words : " Let me therefore
say to you, go and sin no more, lest a worse thing
befall you." As they had just been pronounced
innocent, the meaning and fitness of his remarks
are somewhat questionable. But if his bias pre-
judiced him against the prisoners, they would
have compensation in the popular satisfaction at
their acquittal. Manchester went mad with joy.
Lunt and his merry men were pelted out of the
town, and only escaped lynching by the inter-
vention of the prisoners' friends ; and all concerned
in the prosecution came in for a share of popular
hatred. The peril which the Lancashire gentle-
men thus strangely escaped was a very great one,
but the peril which the country escaped was
greater still, for had there been wanting the
disaffection of Taafe to his brother rascal Lunt,
the courage and address of Roger Dicconson, and
the honesty of the Manchester jury, England
might have seen a repetition of the atrocities of



14 Ecboes of lo Xancasbtre.

Titus Gates and William Bedloe ; might have seen
a bigamist highwayman going from shire to shire
and fattening on the blood and ruin of the best of
her nobles and gentlemen.

Such will be the impression left on most minds
by a candid examination of the proceedings at
this remarkable trial as recorded in the volume
edited by the Rt. Rev. Alexander Goss, D.D., for
the Chetham Society in 1864. It is only fair
to add that those who believe in the reality
of the "plot" may cite the resolution of the
House of Commons (many witnesses on the
subject were examined some months after this
trial), that there had been a dangerous plot, and
that the special assize at Manchester was justi-
fiable. That resolution strikes one as being more
political than judicial. A prosecution for perjury
against Lunt was abandoned, because it was
understood that persistence in it would bring on
the prosecutors the weight of the harsh penal
laws.



2)e (SUuncep's

" It was, in fact, the skeleton of an eminent robber, or perhaps of a
murderer. . . . It is singular enough that these earlier grounds of
suspicion against X. were not viewed as such by anybody until they
came to be combined with another and final ground. Then the
presumptions seemed conclusive. But by that time X. himself had
been executed for a robbery, and had been manufactured into a
skeleton by the famous surgeon Cruikshank, assisted by Mr. White
and other pupils." Thomas de Quincey's " Autobiographic Sketches,"
chap. xiv.

IN " The House on the Marsh," a novel that
has had a wide popularity in recent years,
the authoress, Miss Florence Warden, has chosen
for " hero " a highwayman, or rather burglar, who
lives in the style of a country squire, and, having
access to the "best houses," manages to make his
position in society contributory to success in the
11 profession " he has selected. There is a curious
parallel to the theme of this story in the life-history
of a man who was at one time an inhabitant of
Manchester, and whose strange career has already
furnished material to Thomas de Quincey and
Mrs. Gaskell. More than a century ago there
stood and still stands at Knutsford a house on
the heathside known as the Cann Office. The
tenant appeared to be a man of independent
fortune, kept horses, joined in the hunting sports



1 6 Ecboes of Ifc Xancasbire.

of the district, and obtained access to the houses
and tables of the neighbouring squires. According
to the tradition, he had one night noticed the dia-
monds of Lady Warburton, and followed her
carriage on horse-back, but on coming up with it
was disconcerted to hear her say, " Good-night,
Mr. Higgins ; why did you leave the ball so
early ?" On another occasion he is said to have
noticed in Chester a ladder left accidentally against
the wall of a house in one of whose bedrooms he
noticed a light. Ascending, he saw a girl in her
ball dress take off her jewels, and place them on the
dressing-table. As soon as the maid withdrew and
the young lady was in bed, Higgins opened the
window, and, getting into the room, secured the
valuable plunder. A slight noise partially awoke
the sleeper, who said, " Oh, Mary, you know how
tired I am ; can't you put the things straight in
the morning?" and then fell asleep again. If
she had awakened and seen him he would
certainly have murdered her. Some suspicion
that Higgins was not altogether the plain country
squire he wished to be supposed may very well
have been excited by his occasional absences.
It is traditionally stated that his horse's feet were
cased in woollen stockings for his nocturnal expe-



H)e Quincep's ftigbwagman* 17

ditions. The murder of Mrs. Ruscombe, an old
gentlewoman, at Bristol, caused some noise. The
murderer was Higgins. Before the murder was
known at Knutsford, in his anxiety to establish an
alibi, he put in an appearance at an inn, and made
an incautious allusion to it which piqued one of
the company, a confirmed newsmonger, who
prided himself on having the first intelligence
of every event of interest. Suspicion was thus
cast upon Higgins. He was arrested at his own
residence, but managed to elude the constables,
and vanished from the neighbourhood of Knuts-
ford. He played the same role of country squire
a few months later at French Hay, near Bristol.
Thence he removed into Wales, "where he broke
open Lady Maud's house at West Mead." For
this he was tried at Carmarthen, and, notwith-
standing that he managed to have a forged respite
sent to the Sheriff, he was hanged at Carmarthen
on Saturday, 7th November, 1767. He died, we
are told, in a very sullen humour, but before he
was "turned off" delivered to the officials a letter
to the High Sheriff. From this document and
the contemporary accounts it appears that the
High Sheriff was acquainted with the birth and
parentage of Edward Higgins, about which no



1 8 Ecboes of Ifc Xancasbire.

details are given. His first exploit was that
of eloping from the house of his mother with a
neighbour's wife. This was the beginning of
"all kinds of wickedness." He was tried at
Worcester, i4th May, 1754, for housebreaking,
and was sentenced to transportation. " The
day before the transports were sent off from
Worcester, his sister came to him early in the
morning, and desired to speak with him in a
private room ; this was refused. She then
requested that he might have permission to show
her the dungeon ; thither they went, and stayed
some time in close conference. She had not
left the gaol more than half an hour when a farmer
who lived near Worcester came in to enquire
whether his sister had not been there, ' for,' says
he, ' I have been robbed of ^14, and I have
reason to suspect her, and that she has given
the money to her brother.' The turnkey told
him what had passed. Higgins was searched,
but nothing was then found. He was brought
down to Bristol, put on board the Frisby for
Maryland, and delivered, with the other convicts,
at Annapolis. The farmer who lost the ,14 (as
above) came with him from Worcester to Bristol,
and when Higgins was stripped on board the



2>e (Stuinceu'9 Ibiflbwagman. 19

transport the farmer's money was found concealed
in the lining of Higgins' hat ; but as it could not
be taken from him, the farmer was obliged to


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