New volume sheds light on 18th century life and industry

21st July 2017

James Buckley's cash book from 1729 to 1733 has been published as Volume 154 of the Society's texts. Buckley was a land agent and surveyor and a trustee of Cranage Forge near Knutsford and the records which are published are his detailed accounts of all the money he received and expended throughout the four years. They include matters concerning the business of the forge and also Buckley's private affairs and those of his associates and family. The cash book sheds light on the development of the iron industry in the area, and also on the everyday lives of the local population Edited by Jim Sutton, the volume gives a fascinating look at the lives of an upwardly mobile man of business and his circle.

The volume will be of particular interest to people interested in he following families, whose names are mentioned repeatedly in the cash book: Askham, Booth, Cotton, Hall, Kenerley, Leadbeater, Okell and Vawdry.

Launch of Volume 152

13th March 2017

Members and friends of the Record Society met last month in Liverpool to launch volume 152, The Letters of William Blundell the Cavalier, edited by Geoff Baker with Nick Martin-Smith. Dr Baker holds a visiting fellowship at Liverpool Hope University where he began his historical studies; the University was delighted to welcome him back to celebrate the publication of his volume.

Mr Mark Blundell, representing the Blundell family, opened proceedings with some fascinating observations about the remarkable life of his seventeenth-century predecessor who managed to travel widely at home and abroad while living under the supposed restraints of the penal laws. Dr Baker responded by explaining how his interest in the career of William Blundell developed following a thought-provoking lecture on the ‘Popish Plot’ during his undergraduate studies and the advice he later received to focus his doctoral work on the later seventeenth-century Catholic community. Dr Baker also drew attention to the large body of William Blundell’s correspondence and other papers still awaiting a modern critical edition.

The Record Society’s President, Dr Colin Phillips, drew attention to the connections between volume 152 and the Society’s other titles focusing on Lancashire and recusant history, and the importance of early modern work in our back catalogue. He thanked the previous speakers, emphasising the importance to record societies of interesting historical evidence and willing volume editors. Before formally launching the volume, Dr Phillips also thanked the Record Society’s general editor, Dr Martin Heale, for his work in overseeing recent publications.

Those present were invited to visit the university’s Special Collections to see some of the books on deposit from the Archdiocese of Liverpool’s Gradwell Collection and the Diocese of Lancaster’s recently-deposited Talbot Collection. Thanks are due to Liverpool Hope University for the refreshments and warm welcome and to Karen Backhouse for inviting us to visit the Special Collections.

The photograph shows Mr Mark Blundell (right) of Crosby Hall congratulating the volume editor, Dr Geoff Baker.

Launch of the Letters of William Blundell the Cavalier

8th January 2017

The Record Society and Liverpool Hope University jointly extend a warm welcome to members to an event to launch Volume 152 of the Record Society's publications, from 5pm to 7pm on 15 February 2017. The event will be held in the Senior Common Room in the Hilda Constance Allen building of Liverpool Hope University, L169JD.

The Letter of William Blundell the Cavalier, edited by Geoff Baker with Nick Martin-Smith is a fascinating collection of letters relting to a Catholic gentleman, covering the second half of the seventeenth century. It details the ways in which Blundell survived the Civil Wars and how he navigated the penal laws and developed Catholic connections throughout England and continental Europe. Dr Geoff Baker, who edited the volume, is Principal of Cromer Academy and holds visiting fellowships at both the University of East Anglia and Liverpool Hope University.

Refreshments will be served, and in addition to celebrating the volume, there will be an opportunity to tour the Sheppard-Worlock Library's Special Collections vault to see the Archdiocese of Liverpool's Gradwell Collection and the Diocese of Lancaster's recently-deposited Talbot Collection.

RSVP to Dr Fiona Pogson at 0151 291 3115

New way of accessing Star Chamber records for the two counties

19th December 2016

A new project created a finding aid to some of the most difficult to use Elizabeth records relating to Lancashire and Cheshire. The Elizabethan Star Chamber Project, hosted by AALT at the University of Houston, is putting county names to cases in the National Archives class to Records of the Court of Star Chamber (Class STAC5). You can access the new lists and indexes here.

The suits in this series include cases alleging perversion of justice, abuse of legal procedure, frivolous litigation, false imprisonment, or crimes unpunished, often because of corruption. Such cases might involve corrupt jury verdicts, perjury, improper procedure, and falsification of records either by officials of the court or by the interested parties, including forgery of bonds, wills, and deeds. Other criminal causes included allegations of murder, abduction, assault, and riot

There is now a sufficient number of cases identified to make the website interesting to local historians, and there is a large number of suits from Lancashire and Cheshire. All of the original documents are in English, but most of the cases are completely unknown to historians, largely because of the impenetrable way the records were originally filed, and then catalogued at the National Archives (cases may have up to twenty different references). This is the first time most of them have had a usable finding aid.

Some of the cases in STAC5 relate directly to material found in Record Society Volumes. For example, the Cheshire case of Sir Robert Remington and Elinor his wife versus Thomas Starkey and others is clearly about the same issue as the Exchequer Deposition relating to the same parties, which is calendared in Volume 11 from 1885. This gives details of the Remingtons’ dispute with Starkey and his associates, relating to lands in Frodsham.

Exciting new 20th Century Volume

26th October 2016

Volume 153 - A Londoner in Lancashire - is an exciting new volume from the Society that reproduces major selections of a the wartime diary of Annie Beatrice Holness, who was evacuated from Barnet in North London to Morecambe in Lancashire. Annie Holness was a middle-aged civil servant who began a diary for Mass Observation, a social research project that had begun in 1937. Her thoughtful and observant diary records everyday life in all its detailed diversity - her billet, her enjoyable country walks, her sometimes dreary job, her usually gratifying leisure activities (night classes, music, theatre, her allotment), the congestion and the sights and sounds of wartime Lancashire. She often lamented feeling like an 'exile' in Morecambe and returned to London after the war ended, but she could not stay away and two years later came back to settle permanently in Lancashire. This volume will be fascinating to many people interested not just in Lancashire history but in the reality of life in wartime Britain.

New volume of Forest pleas

20th September 2015

The latest volume from the Record Society shows what life was like for people living on the Wirrall in the fourteenth century. Subject to 'forest law,' which restricted their activities so as to preserve hunting rights for royalty, the area was perodically visited by judges to check that the inhabitants were not digging ditches that might trap the king's deer, enclosing land or taking wood or other commodities that they were not legally entitled to.

This is a fascinating insight into a system that has long since been forgotten but which was a very real presence in the late 1350s, when these records were created.

Two volumes of fascinating thirteenth century lives

28th July 2015

The two latest Record Society publications bring the total list of volumes to 150, and they give a wonderful insight into the lives of thirteenth century Lancaster. The Crown Pleas of the 1292 Eyre of Lancashire constitute a detailed record of crime and disorder, official misconduct, threats to the king's rights and much else that had happened during the previous two decades. Roger of Bare prosecuted William Haverhill of Staynall for assault. Mabel Smith wanted to prosecute Geoffrey Pleasington but he had died. Richard son of Henry had drowned and his father had found his body; as the first finder of a corpse, he was automatically suspected of foul play, but the two men who were supposed to have arrested him could not produce him, so it was they who were in trouble.

There are over 1000 entries in the volumes, with the original Latin text published side by side with an English translation. The work of Margaret Lynch and other members of the Ranulf Higden Society, these two volumes gives a remarkable picture of life over 700 years ago.


17th April 2015



31 July 2015, at 6-30pm

Margaret E. Lynch. who has edited volumes 148, 149, and 150 of the Society’s publications, invites all members of the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (RSLC) to a book launch of the 3 volume edition of Crown Pleas of the Lancashire Eyre, 1292, translated and transcribed with members of our Society and the Ranulf Higden Society. RSLC published the first volume of the trilogy as its volume 148, in December 2104. Volumes 2 and 3 of the trilogy will be RSLC vols 149 and 150, due out in the summer this year.

Speakers expected are:

Professor Paul Brand (University of Oxford)

Dr Alan Crosby

Dr Simon Harris (Chairman of The Ranulf Higden Society)

(all introduced by Dr Colin Phillips, President, RSLC).

Attendance is free, but for security reasons you must book in advance and only those who have booked will be admitted.

To book a place email to:

Bookings will be taken on a first-come-first-served basis because numbers are limited. Bookings will be acknowledged, and rejections because of the numbers limit notified.

This is a major publication, and your support at Lancaster will be much appreciated. The Eyre was held in Lancaster Castle, an appropriate place, therefore, to launch this edition.

The RSLC membership secretary is Jim Sutton:

The Battle of Preston

25th March 2015

In a fascinating Special Lecture following the Society's AGM, Professor Dan Szechi told the story of the Battle of Preston in November 1715. The political context, the international dimension, novice Jacobite commander and the Government's strategy of keeping its best troops close to London all contributed to a situation in which two sets of soliders, neither of whom was especially well trained, fought a disorganised series of confrontations within the town of Preston.

When large numbers of Government troops were killed and retreated out of the town, everyone thought the Jacobites had won, but their commander Thomas Forster unexpectedly offered to surrender, seemingly horrified by the sight of dead and wounded men in the marketplace. The Jacobite cause in England was lost for good, and Lancashire acquired the distinction of hosting the last significant battle ever fought on English soil.

A fascinating story expertly told brought to life the people and events of the Northwest three hundred years ago this year.

Cheshire Sacrament Certificates

13th March 2015

The Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire has mounted hundreds of names of ancestors from the North West online to mark the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Preston. Local and family historians will be able to search for ancestors who were forced to prove they were not Roman Catholics, after the Catholic supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie were crushed by the government army at Preston in 1715. More details are here

At a public lecture in Liverpool on Weds 25th March, Prof Daniel Szechi of Manchester University will ask why the Jacobites failed to recover after their defeat at the Battle of Preston in 1715, often described as the last full scale battle fought on English soil. At the same time, the Society is publishing the first tranche of 1,000 names taken (by Dr Peter Cotgreave) from documents called Sacrament Certificates, which were needed to prove that anyone in a position of authority – clergymen, tax collectors, mayors and so on – were practising members of the Church of England. The Certificates had to be signed by witnesses, so the names also include many more ordinary members of local parishes.

The President of the Society, Dr Collin Philips said: “For over 130 years, the Record Society has been making historical documents of the area available to professional and amateur historians and this year we will bring out our 150th printed volume. This new venture for the Society of publishing material online will allow us to expand the range of historical records that are readily available to genealogists, people interested in local history and professional history researchers. The Society is open to anyone interested in the history of Lancashire and Cheshire.”

Dan Szechi’s lecture Preston 1715 and the Failure of English Jacobitism will be at 2.15pm on Wednesday 25th March in the Department of History of the University of Liverpool, Abercromby Square, L69 7WZ. Admission is free. More details of the Society, the lecture are available here.

New volume of Lancashire eyre roll

18th December 2014

The Society's latest volume (Volume 148) is noe published, and discusses murders, bribery, theft and violence. The first of three volumes dealing with the Crown Pleas of the Lancashire Eyre of 1292 is a fascinating introduction by Henry Summerson. It places into context a whole range of legal cases that today would be called criminal actions and public order offences. Land and property, wealth and poverty, lords and criminals are all discussed, and placed into the fascinating context of a county far from the central government in London during the reign of Edward I. In 2015, two further volumes will publish the text of the rolls in the original Latin and in English translation. Volume 148 can be purchased by non members for £25. Details of how to buy copies of the Society's volumes can be found here.

Peter McNiven

27th June 2014

It is with great sadness that the Society records the death on 24 June 2014, at the age of 69, of Dr Peter McNiven, our general editor from 1984 to 1994 and from 2002 until 2012.

Peter was born in Doncaster, Yorkshire, on 22 September 1944. By 1947, when Peter’s sister Tina was born, the family was living in St Helens in Lancashire. Peter was educated at Prescot Grammar School and Manchester University. He gained a First in History in 1965, and was awarded an MA in 1967 for a thesis entitled, ‘Rebellion and Disaffection in the North of England, 1403-08’. His PhD, supervised by Professor John Roskell and awarded in 1977, was on ‘Political Development in the Second Half of the Reign of Henry IV, 1405-13’.

Peter joined the University of Manchester Library in 1969. Although he spent most of his career working in the University Library on Oxford Road (holding a number of posts, including History Cataloguer and Librarian, Guardian Archivist and University Archivist), he will be best remembered for his outstanding work as Head of Special Collections (1988–2000), based in the John Rylands Library, Deansgate. He played a pivotal role in revitalizing the department through the first John Rylands Research Institute, and the ‘Visitor Initiative’ which saw the appointment of the Library’s first Exhibitions Officer and the refurbishment of what is now known as the Rylands Gallery (then the only space open to the public on the ground floor), and the rewiring of the building in 1994. He also coordinated the Library’s successful bid to HEFCE for a major retro-conversion and cataloguing project in the mid-90s. Another of his lasting achievements was the special issue of the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library in 2000, which contained his articles on the history of the Library since 1972 and a catalogue of the ‘Scholar’s Paradise’ centenary exhibition, which remains an invaluable reference tool.

Peter was a highly respected medieval historian who, despite holding an important and demanding role in the University Library, was able to write a substantial monograph (Heresy and Politics in the Reign of Henry IV: The Burning of John Badby, 1987) and many academic articles. He was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. In Manchester, he played an active role in many historical societies, including the Manchester Medieval Society, the Chetham Society and the Record Society.

It was Peter’s work as general editor of the Record Society from which he derived particular pleasure, especially after his retirement from the University. He always said that if he could have afforded to be a full-time editor and writer, he would have been very happy. Until serious ill-health dictated otherwise, he did work on behalf of this Society in a near full-time capacity from 2002. His work always extended well beyond the vital oversight of layout, or of printing and binding – the bread and butter tasks of a general editor. The late Professor RHC Davis credited Peter with ‘great scholarly skill’ for his arrangement of the documents in our volume 126, published in 1988, The Charters of the Anglo-Norman Earls of Chester, c.1071-1237, edited by Professor Geoffrey Barraclough who had died in 1984. Peter certainly went well beyond a general editor’s role to help with the transcription of the texts of the second and third volumes of Henry Prescott’s Diary, work recognised by naming him as joint editor on their title pages. In all, he supervised the publication of some eighteen volumes. Though three lay in his own specialist academic area of later medieval England, most post-dated medieval times: ‘his’ volumes ranged from the eleventh century to 1929! He achieved an almost equal spread of subject matter between the two palatine counties.

When colleagues and friends reminisce about Peter, the most common description of him is that of a ‘true gentleman’. This is not to say that he was quaintly old-fashioned; he was not. He disliked being a ‘boss’, although ironically he was good at it. He was a fair man and an exceptionally kind and compassionate person who commanded great respect from all who knew him. His interests were wide. Beside historical pursuits, he was an accomplished amateur ornithologist, artist, budding novelist and a great political and sports pundit. He will be sorely missed by all of us who were privileged to know him.

In 2002 Peter and his wife moved to Carmarthen when Betty became a vicar in the Church in Wales. Together they coped with several personal and family tragedies which would have broken most people, including the death of their eldest son, John, at the age of 27. They have supported Joanne and their four grandchildren in a quite remarkable way. Peter was an unassuming man with a self-deprecating wit, but he was fearlessly supportive of his friends and family. He was immensely proud of Betty’s position as a pioneering ‘female priest’, skilled tailor and craftswoman; and of his younger son’s academic achievements in a field (Physics) about which he was, on his own admission, sadly ignorant.

There will be a family funeral for Peter in South Wales on 7 July. A memorial service will be held at St Wilfrid's in Northenden on Thursday, 28 August, at 11am.

If anyone would like to write to Betty McNiven, please email Dorothy Clayton for contact details

Dorothy Clayton

Council Secretary

27 June 2014

On this day

23rd March 2014

On 24 March 1697, Henry Prescott ate dinner with a Mr Leftwich and then went for a walk around the fields near Chester. He then met with two booksellers called Minshall and Hodgson to discuss the possiblity of forming a lottery. Since he never mentioned the project again in his diary, it presumably came to nothing. Prescott was an official of the local ecclesiastical court and his diary is packed with the names of local people whom he met and interacted with. The month of March 1697 includes references to Mr Thane, Mr Boucher, the Chancellor of the Consistory Court, Henry Sachaveril, Dr Foulk, Mr Fogg and Sir William Meredith. It also contains fascinating details of ordinary life - a couple of days before he dined with Leftwich, Prescott had eaten oysters and ale with Mr Thane and Mr Hulton. There are details of the weather - earlier in the month "a storm falls about Broxton", and endless references to medicines. But it is not clear whether Prescott was sleeping well towards the end of the month because of "a larger dose of Elixir" or more probably because he abstained from ale!

The details of life in Chester can be found in The Diary of Henry Prescott LLB, which wa published in three parts, as volumes 127, 132 and 133, edited by John Addy, John Harrop and Peter McNiven (1987, 1995, 1997). Details of how to buy copies are available here.

On this day

14th February 2014

On 14 February 1636, the will of Gilbert Woollam of Wrenbury Frith was proved at Chester Probate Court. The references of his wife hardly sound like those of a loving Valentine. She is described simply as "Margery Woollam my wife," where his neighbour Thomas Gray referred to his "loving wife Ellen". But Woollam did better than Robert Wade, also of Wrenbury Frith, whose will simply mentions "my wife" without even saying what her name was. Gilbert Woollam's real concern was clearly for his son Robert and especially his daughter Alice, who was to receive £110. He provided for his wife, but he expected her to work for it. As soon as Gilbert was dead, she was to go "with what convenient speed she may" to their landlord, William Massey, and renew the lease on their property. He may not have described her in loving terms, but Gilbert Woollam clearly trusted Margery; he made her the executor of his will.

This and many other fascinating family stories can be found in Volume 144 of the Society's publications Wrenbury Wills and Inventories 1542-1661, Edited by Paul B Pixton (2009). Details of how to purchase a copy are available here.

New volume of manorial documents

20th January 2014

The publication of Volume 147 in the Society's series gives a fascinating insight into the lives of the people of Church Lawton in Cheshire from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Presided over the Lawton family, the manorial court dealt with two kinds of business. The Court Baron dealt with manorial issues such as the rights of tenure while the Court Baron considered minor matters that might otherwise be dealt with by higher courts - minor breaches of the peace and maintaining quality standards in the supply of bread or ale. On 6 October 1641, 10 people including Mary Gally, John Twemlow and Richard Low were fined for affray, while a further nine were punished for breaking the assize of ale and bread. Many more were fined for taking soil from common land, including William Lawton (who must have been a relative of the manorial owners), Elizabeth Kent, Richard Gibson and Richard Eardley.

Like all long series of records, there are gaps that could be explained by some old documents having been lost over the centuries, but the lack of records from 1779 to 1840 has another explanation. In October 1841, the steward of the manor, Christopher Moorhouse, wrote to lord of the manor, Charles Bourne Lawton, explaining that the court had been revived after a gap of over half a century. The first meeting of the revived court took place at the Lawton Arms Inn, the home of Cornelius Cooper. The foreman of the jury was George Pointon and the meeting appointed constables (Samuel Pointon and James Faram) before perambulating the boundaries of the manor from Snape Bridge through Old Rose, Wolstanton, Audley and Alsager and finishing at Linley Lane Bridge.
Church Lawton Manor Court Rolls 1631-1860 is edited by Guy Lawton.

Details of how to purchase a copy of Church Lawton Manor Court Rolls are available here.

On this New Year's Day.

1st January 2014

On 1st January 1729, Clement Taylor of Finsthwaite in the Lake District credited Sarah Fell with £3/2/2 for peeling bark from 18 quarters and 5 bushels of wood, which he would turn into charcoal. It was one way in which Widow Fell paid her rent, her husband having died a few months earlier. One James Dixon paid the rest of the rent, and over the next few days Jane Woodburn, Edward Danson, William Book, Miles Harrison and Christopher Coulton appear in Taylor’s accounts. Clement Taylor’s account books tell a fascinating story of a farmer and businessman living on land that had belonged to his family for over a century and a half. His direct descendents would live at Finsthwaite until 1821, when his great nephew died and left the estate to someone he described as “a relation,” Roger Taylor. Such was the power of family ties that the “relation” must have been a very distant cousin indeed - so distant that the nature of the supposed relationship cannot now be established.

The Finsthwaite accounts are published in Volume 135 of the Society’s publications, The Account Book of Clement Taylor of Finsthwaite 1712-1753, edited by Janet D Martin (1997).

On this day

24th December 2013

Christmas 1831 was a busy time for the Manchester Special Board of Health. The outbreak of cholera that was affecting the country was not taking a festive break, and Manchester needed to be prepared. So the Committee met at 11 o'clock on Christmas Eve under the Chairmanship of Rev Dr Thomas Calvert, the Warden of the Collegiate Church. Sixteen members were present in the Manchester Town Hall, including seven doctors - J D Hume, J P Kay, S A Bardsley, W Johns, E Lyon, H Gaultier, and R W Whatton. They first considered a report about whether it was safe for ships docked at Liverpool to sail to Spain or whether there was too much of a risk of carrying infection and then they decided to write to the Privy Council about their exact legal status. After appointing Dr Bardsley as the official Medical Correspondent of the Board, they adjourned until Boxing Day. That meeting brought bad news - George Murray has refused to let his factory in Union Street for the purposes of a temporary cholera hospital. Cholera eventually reached Manchester in May 1832, when a 29 year old coachman called James Palfreyman was "seized with vomiting and purging" at 1am on a Friday and died the following day.

The fascinating records of the Board of Health are published in volume 145 of the Record Society's publications, The Challenge of Cholera: Proceedings of the Manchester Special Board of Health 1831-1833, edited by Alan Kidd and Terry Wyke.

On this day

9th October 2013

The Council of the RSLC last met on 9 October 2013. On that day in 1645, negotiations between the parliamentarian besiegers and the royalist defenders of Chester having broken down, the mayor and the governor sent a letter to the besiegers which stated that

“… We are therefore ready to defend ourselves against the utermost of your rage, not doubting God’s blessing and protection upon us. Chas Whalley, mayor; John Byron [military governor]”

Usually Byron signed such letters first, and that he allowed Whalley to sign this one first suggests, in R. N. Dore’s view, a deliberate demonstration of unity between soldiers and civilians within the besieged city.

See The Letter Books of Sir William Brereton, volume II (edited by R. N. Dore, published as the Society’s volume 128, in 1990), p. 88.

The late Norman Dore was a distinguished historian of the Roundheads v Cavaliers Civil War in north-west England. His massive (1,190 pages) two volume edition (volume 1 was published as the Society's volume 123 for 1984) of the letters of the parliamentarian commander, Sir William Brereton, presented a major text for the military history of the two counties, with a scholarly introduction placing the men, and the events, in context.

Review of a volume full of salacious cases

14th April 2013

The Society's latest volume has received an excellent review in The Local Historian. Justice and Conciliation in a Tudor Church Court details all the cases that came before the Consistory Court of Chester in a period at the end of the 1550s. Some of the more salacious include Thomas Hoghton accusing his wife Katherine of adultery. Others involved wills - John Matt said that "he knows perfectly [that Thomas Skelicorne] left diverse and sundry bequests" - and others concern defamation. Dorothy Rosthorne was alleged to have put up a sign on the highway insulting Sir Robert and Lady Langley. The review, which describes the introduction to the volume as "an invaluable guide" can be read here.