FORWARD by Brenda Hayman

I am indebted to Mrs. Joan Smith of Hapton for drawing my attention to this all but forgotten part of Hapton.

Bridtwisell was the original name of this small hamlet in the south-east corner of Hapton, but the name has also been recorded as having many other spellings, amongst them, Byrtwesyll, Briddeswysell, Bridtwistle, Burwissel, and finally Birtwistle. I have therefore tried to keep to two spellings, Bridtwisle or Birtwistle, wherever possible for clarity.

Our predecessors had a penchance for using the same Christian names in their families, so I have endeavoured to make lineage clearer by the use of Roman numerals after the names.

There was originally no standard spelling of the names of people or places, so again I have tried to use one spelling where possible-e.g. Reyner (alternatively Raynor), de Lacy ( alternatively de Laci), de Legh (alternatively del Legh, de Ley).

Also, different dates and amounts can be given for events, in which case, I have given both figures.

I have endeavoured to give full respect and accuracy to recording the people and events of Birtwistle, Hapton and other relevant areas. As with old records, there is often a discrepancy or contradiction when trying to ascertain facts, so I apologise for any unintentional errors and omissions on my part.


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Both Hapton and Birtwistle (Bridtwisell) gave surnames to their respective possessors in the age of the Norman Conquest, Hapton to the Haptons ( line now extinct) and the de Bridtwisells (later the Birtwistles of Huncote (Huncoat) Hall, along with other branches of the family).

The original name Bridtwisell meant a clearing between two streams “where birds gather”. It was situated adjacent to Hapton and probably referred to a sheltered valley leading to a deep ravine known as the Clough, which, in early days, would certainly have been a place where birds and other wild life could find shelter from the windswept and exposed landscape of the surrounding hillsides.  


After the Norman Conquest of 1066 AD, the ownership of all land in England was claimed by the king, William the Conqueror. He granted the tenure of some of these lands to his trusted Norman Knights, on the proviso that they paid an annual fee to the King’s Exchequer.

In the years following the Norman Conquest, the hillsides and valleys around Pendle were covered with forests and small clearings where the Saxon folk had established their settlements. From 1080 the Norman barons had started to take control of the area, lands granted to them by the king. A knight named Ilbert, followed by Robert de Lacy established themselves at Clitheroe and later built the Keep in which to house their troops and store their arms and provisions.

During the next 100 years the de Lacy family became very powerful. They had control over vast areas in the North of England, from Pontefract, through Halifax to Clitheroe and on to the lands leading to Lancaster in the west. They were to remain Lords of the Honor of Clitheroe until 1310 when Henry de Lacy, the Great Earl of Lincoln, died without male heirs. The lands then reverted to the king who granted it to the Earls of Lancaster with whom the Honor remained until Henry, Earl of Lancaster, died in 1360.

The Norman barons granted the lands around the villages and hamlets to relatives or trusted servants in exchange for services rendered to the Lord of the Manor, though the ownership of the land remained in the property of the overlord.


Hapton was granted to the de Legh family. Birtwistle (then named Bridtwisell) was assessed as “half a plough land” held by the Lord of the Honor of Clitheroe at a rent of four shillings. Robert de Lacy (died 1193) granted Birtwistle to Eudo de Longville at that rent, with the proviso that “the forests and wild beasts thereon to be reserved for the grantor”. A few years later the village was the property of new overlords, the de Lacy family of Cromwellbottham, who were relatives of the Great Earl. Before the end of 13th century it was owned by John de Lacy of Cromwellbottham whose descendent Henry de Lacy of Clitheroe sold it in 1356 to Gilbert de Legh. Gilbert inherited the principal manor of Hapton.


In 1209 Reyner, the son of Ralph de Bridtwisell claimed “4 oxgangs (a) of land at Bridtwisell (Birtwistle) from Eudo de Longville. He was allowed, by Eudo, 3 (or 30) oxgangs on the east side of the village and 20 acres only on the west side. This is recorded by a deed of April 30th 1209 at Knaresborough. This transaction was confirmed in 1253 when John (i), son of Reyner, called upon John, the son of Eudo de Longville to observe the conditions of the rental in 1209.

Reyner de Bridtwisell granted 3 acres of land in Bridtwisell on the east side of the area called Old Tunstead to “God and Saint Mary of Whalley” for “the health of his soul and those of his father and mother and his ancestors”.

Records show that Adam (i), the other son of Ralph de Bridtwisell, was granted land at Bridtwisell at the same time, and one branch of the family descended from him, the other branch descended from his elder brother, Reyner.

After a few years it was evident that both of these families must have outgrown their lands at Bridtwisell. Henry (ii), the eldest son of John (iii), is recorded in 1311, after the death of Henry de Lacy, the Great Earl, as having 2 oxgangs at Habergam as well as his holdings in Hapton, and in 1306 William, the younger son of John (iii), was granted land at Bradley in Hapton.

Henry (i), son of Adam (i) is recorded taking over more land in Bridtwisell and Gilbert, his brother and Marjorie, Gilbert’s wife, rented extra land from the Towneley family at Worsthorne in Cliviger.

These various land transactions show the two distinct families at Bridtwisell, one descended from Reyner and the other from Adam, both sons of Ralph de Bridtwisell.


In 1331 Gilbert (iii), son of Gilbert de Bridtwisell (ii), gave his brother Adam (ii) land he had recovered from Henry (i), his great uncle, who had died without issue.

Adam de Bridtwisell (ii) is mentioned in the 1329 Coucher Book of Kirkstall Abbey on a jury, representing Lancashire at the Court of Enquiry which had been set up to look into the right of the Abbot of Kirkstall to have control of such large areas of the best lands around the Forest of Pendle. From the records it appears that Adam and his family must have been the dominant landlords at Bridtwisell. This position, however, was not to last long, owing to trouble in the family.

Adam (ii) had two sons, John and Nicholas and a daughter, Joan. Joan married Nicholas, son of Richard of Kighley (Keighley?), from Yorkshire. John, the eldest son, held land at Bridtwisell in 1340, and Adam (ii), at his death in 1354, is recorded as making a settlement on his son, Nicholas, and also on Nicholas de Kighley, for the benefit of his daughter, Joan.

However, by 1356 Nicholas de Bridtwisell was in dispute with his brother-in-law, Nicholas de Kighley. Henry de Lacy of Clitheroe intervened and took the lands held by John and Nicholas de Bridtwisell, and gave it to Gilbert de Legh. There is no further mention of the John and Nicholas branches of the Bridtwisell family in the area.

A few years later, on the death of Nicholas de Kighley in 1380, part of the land he held at Bridtwisell was sold to Gilbert de Legh and the rest was disposed of to John de Towneley. This sale was confirmed in 1395 when Gilbert, John and William, all sons of Nicholas de Kighley, witnessed the deed and it strengthened the position of the Towneleys in Hapton for many generations to come. In this deed the estate was called the Manor of Birtwistle.


In 1316 or 1318 John, the son of William de Huncote decided to exchange his land at Huncote (Huncoat) for those at Bradley, Hapton, belonging to William de Bridtwisell. The result of this transaction was to make William de Bridtwisell the first occupier of th land and house at Huncote, which was to remain with the descendants of his family for the next 450 years, The association of the Birtwistle family with Huncote (Huncoat) Hall ended with the death of John, the son of Oliver Birtwistle of Huncote Hall in 1761 and that of Oliver Birtwistle himself.

After 1316 William de Bridtwisell of Huncote started to attend the Halmote Court in Accrington along with John de Huncote or his family in the district around Pendle.

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AFTER 1320

After 1320 William de Bridtwisell was firmly established in Huncote, with John de Towneley and Gilbert de Legh as neighbours in Hapton, and the connection of the de Bridtwisell family with Hapton/Bridtwisell was over. Eventually the family became known as Birtwistle.

There does not appear to be any record of male descendants of the Henry (ii) and Amira branch of the de Bridtwisell family who remained at Bridtwisell after William, his brother, moved over to Huncote in1316 or 1318, so the destiny of this branch of the family is unknown.

A Richard of Shuttleworth had land in Bridtwisell in 1369 including Fennyfolds

The following had the feoffees (b) granted in 1380-81, Richard de Shuttleworth, Isabel, daughter of John de Birtwistle, and Thomas, son of Richard de Birtwistle, and Emot, daughter of Alice de Berewinde.

In 1411 Isabel, widow of John de Legh of Shuttleworth, gave feoffees (b) lands in Hapton, Huncat and Birtwistle.

In 1430 brothers John, Gilbert and Lawrence de Legh of Shuttleworth granted to their mother, Isabel. Widow of John de Legh of Shuttleworth, the manor of Shuttleworth and lowlands, rents. etc. In Hapton and Birtwistle which had belonged to her father Richard de Shuttleworth. Fennyfolds and some other areas were exempted.

In March 1539 Robert Shakerley remitted all rights to 50 acres of pasture land in Huncote and Hapton to Edmund Assheton and his heirs on payment of £40. In August 1539 he remitted all rights to land, meadows, woods, manor and pasture in Hapton, Huncote and Birtwistle.

In 1509-10 Thomas, son of Robert Shakerley (later called Standish) released to Thomas, son of Christopher Lister, the land called Fennyfolds in Birtwistle. This was sold to Miles Clayton in 1544. This Clayton holding was sold to John Towneley in 1586.

In 1607 or 1608 John Towneley died. He was selsee (c) in fee of the manors of Towneley, Hapton, Cliviger and Birtwistle.

It would appear that the last mention of Birtwistle as a separate entity apart from Hapton is around 1800. It was recorded that Henry Ashworth of Birtwistle in Hapton, born in 1794 of Quaker parentage, distinguished himself as an opponent of the Corn Laws. He wrote “Recollections of Richard Cobden” and died in 1880.

There is no trace of Birtwistle on the Ordnance Survey map, Birtwistle had evidently been amalgamated into Hapton, (perhaps through de-population?) Although small, this little hamlet had been very much a part of the history of this area, and its people and events certainly need to be remembered.

(a) Oxgang – an old land measurement – the area amount of land which could be ploughed using one ox in a single annual season. One ox = an average of 15 acres.

(b ) Feoffees – a feoffees is a trustee who holds a fief (or Fee), that is to say, an estate of land for the use of the beneficial owner.

(c) Selsee – I have been unable to find an exact definition for this term.


A History of the Original Parish of Whalley and Honor of Clitheroe – Thomas Dunham Whittaker LL.D.F.S.A. Vicar of Whalley

The Birtwistle Family 1200-1850 A.D. – William A. Birtwistle, assisted by Ray Aspden

John Hudson – “The Padiham Advertiser” 1971


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