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SHWORTH is one of those places in Lancashire about which very little has been written. Baines in his history of the county dismisses it with a bare mention, and other succeeding writers have added but little to his record; yet it is a district which probably has an interesting history. The very name, with its terminative "worth," indicates its Saxon origin, and leads one to suppose that its first inhabitants belonged to the same race as those whose dwelling-places gave the names to Butterworth, Hollingworth, Wardleworth, and other places in its immediate neighbourhood. The chapelry of Ashworth has long been attached to the parish church of Middleton, and, although it comprises an area of over one thousand and twenty-one acres, it is even in the present but thinly populated, and at the time when the dispute as to the boundary in question arose the houses must have been few and far asunder, and the most part of the land was a common pasture for sheep. It may be well here to note that Ashworth is a township
detached from its parish, and is almost surrounded by the parishes of Bury and Rochdale.
In the time of Edward VI. the chief landowner (if not the only one) here was Robert Holt, of Ashworth, whọ was the plaintiff in the suit referred to. He was the son of Oliver Holt, of Ashworth, and he died in or about 1559, his will bearing the date of 6th November in that year. The defendants were Christopher Nuttowe and Arthur Kay, who were tenants of the Earl of Derby. The complaint was lodged in the Duchy Court, and on the 8th July, 1549,* a commission was appointed to enquire into the "variance of long time depending" between the parties, and to this end the commissioners were instructed to visit the "ground" in dispute and to collect evidence on the spot. The commission consisted of Sir William Radcliff (of Ordsall), Sir Thomas Holte (of Gristlehurst), Sir Robert Langley (of Agecroft), knights, and Thurston Tyldesley (of Tyldesley), esquire.
The proceedings, like arbitrations of the present day, commenced with a series of postponements. Sir Thomas Holte and Sir Robert Langley were the first in action, and they issued a certificate that on a certain day they went to Ashworth and examined the boundaries, but they "could do no good," because Sir William Radcliffe and Thurston Tyldesley would “neither examine the witnesses of the plaintiff nor agree to a platt."+ After this another day was fixed, but Thurston Tyldesley applied for the matter to be deferred until after Candlemas Day (2nd February), but this was not agreed to, and 19th October the same two commissioners having made a "platte" of the ground they examined all the witnesses, but as some of
them could not "on account of great age and impotence labure to the ground," they rode to their respective houses and there examined them. The plaintiff and the defendants each put in their plans, which of course materially differed; neither appears to have been made from actual survey or drawn to a scale.
The following is a brief extract of the evidence given: Edmund Wolfenden, tenant to Thomas Belfeld, aged seventy, said that for fifty-four years he had known the "meres" (boundary) called Warmedenhed, Foulbrige, Foulbrigker, and Cowlomme, near Henyroade, out of which moss and waste a water or "beke" sprang and ran into the water called Penkesden. The "beke" at some season of the year was dry. This evidence was corroborated by James Hardman, tenant to Philip Shangwis, aged seventy; Thomas Grene, aged fifty-two; Robert Naden, aged fifty-one; and Alan Holt, aged sixty-eight; and all agreed that the said boundaries were in Ashworth. It is singular that unless we take Cowlomme to be the place now known as Cheeseden Lumb not one of the above boundaries is marked on the ordnance map.
The next meeting was on the 21st January, 1550, when other witnesses were examined. Roger Nuttawe, of Rossendale, smith, tenant to the king, aged seventy-six, deposed the water running on all the west side of Ashworth waste is called "Cheseden Broke and not Penkesden, and it was not a boundary between Ashworth and Bury." All the waste in "variance" was parcel of the lordship of Bury, and the rightful owner was the Earl of Derby. He further said that the tenants of the Earl of Derby and of his ancestors, and before their time those of Sir Thomas Pylkington, had always occupied the waste with their cattle, and that they had regularly paid their tythes to the parson of Bury and not to the parson of
Middleton. The water came direct from the north end of a waste called "Cheseden Linns," and through all its length was known as "Cheseden Broke" until quite recently, when Robert Holt had named it "Penkesden." The ditch from Cheseden Linne going east to "Codshaw Bowre" was called the "White Ditch," and formed a "meyre" and division between Bury and Rochdale. The deponent
further said that the ditch from Codshaw Bowre westward to Horelowe Shawe, and from thence southward to Hare Hyll and also Stanley Syke, were "the very meres, boundaries, and divisions" between Bury and Ashworth, and the tenants of Bury "used to enteromen" past these "meres" or wyndle until they came to the inclosures of Robert Holt.
There is no trace on the ordnance map of Codshawe Bowre, Horelowe Shawe, or Hare Hill, but Stanley appears as Stand Lees and Wyndle is Wind Hill, but the description does not answer to the present township boundary.
Jeffraye Bryde, of Tottington, aged seventy-five, tenant to John Greenhalgh, Esq., said that he had heard that "the water of Penkesdeyne met Cheseden Broke ferre bynethe" all the waste in dispute. His testimony was corroborated by Richard Heype, of Rossendale, aged sixty-seven, one of the king's tenants. Olyver Holte, of Rossendale, aged seventy-five, also a king's tenant, has
ever since he was 8 years old" heard the water called "Cheseden Broke." Rychard Broke, of Rossendale, a king's copyholder, aged seventy-one, deposed the same.
Robert Smethurst, aged ninety-one, tenant to Arthur Smethurst, said that when Sir Thomas Pylkyngton was lord of Bury he (deponent) drove his father's cattle (then being a charterer) to the waste in dispute, as did all the other tenants, and they occupied the waste without
interruption from anybody until lately: his father also appointed him to look after the lambing of his sheep, telling him that for those that did lamb on Stanlees or on any other part of the waste he must pay tithe to the parson of Bury: for those on the north side of the White Ditch he must pay to "Rachedale," and if beyond Stanley Syke on Wyndle Hill he must pay tithe to the parson of Middleton. More than seventy years ago he had heard aged men say that the water of Penkesden began at Warmeden Well, running thence down to "Cattes oke," between High Ashworth and Low Ashworth, and "so descendyng between the lands of Ashworth and Gristylhurst" (Gristlehurst).
Cat's Oak and Warmeden Well have disappeared, but we have a Wham and a Wham Hill.
John Kaye, of Basthouse, aged seventy-two; Bertyn Kaye, of Tuche Roode (now Touch Road), aged seventyfive; Peres Lumalx (Lomax), of Dwerributtes (now Glory Butts), aged seventy-two; Thomas Woode, of the Halgh, aged sixty-four; Henry Lord, of Bury, aged fifty-eight; Ellis Fleecher, of Wamersley (Walmersley), aged seventyfive; Roger Kaye, of Shepulbotham (now Shipper Bottom), aged fifty-three, and Bertym Kaye, the younger, aged fifty-three, all tenants of the Earl of Derby, deposed that the water of Penkesdeyne came from Warmeden Well, and went a short distance in an easterly direction and then turned southwards to "the place where a grett oke dyd growe called Cattes Okes and so still Southward" passing between the lands of Gristlehurst on the west side and Ashworth on the north-east side, and that it met Cheseden Brook more than half a mile below the lands at variance. This evidence was supported by James Howorthe, of Ballydene, aged ninety, tenant to the king; Christopher Lumalx, of Tottington, aged eighty-two,