Farming and Agriculture, Rishton

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Street: Unlisted Residents
Town: Rishton
Post Code: BB1 4LB

Before the Norman Conquest, when the Saxons settled in Rishton, there is evidence of a little agriculture, especially in names the Saxons gave to districts.Cowhill was the hill on which the village cows were grazed for example.

During the first 6 centuries after the Norman Conquest, there was unlimited scope for land reclamation schemes in North East Lancashire and Rishton was no exception to the general practice.

“In 1284 Adam, son of Rishton De Cowhill complained that Gilbert Rishton disposed him of his common pasture at Cowhill”.

Agriculture in medieval Rishton seems to have been mostly confined to the Holt area. The arable or ploughed land was divided into strips as in Saxon days, and some of the few freemen who lived on the estate had five strips, others more.

During the early Eighteenth century most of the original oak woods were cleared, and most covered soil was turned to cultivation. A typical farm stock of this period consisted of: -

6 bullocks    6 Cows

2 heifers    8 calves

1 bull    8 twinters (cows of 2 years)

7 horses

Elizabeth Sharp Haymaking in 1930 with company. Mrs Sharp had relatives who later worked as a teacher at Saint Peter & Paul's School.

It was the early farming community that formed the nucleus from which Rishton developed. The conditions that faced farmers were hard, but not as harsh as those of the farmers on the surrounding moorlands. Never the less soils are thin and acidic, there is a short growing season, frequent frosts and low temperatures with little sunshine.

The 17th Century was a golden age for the small working farmer, they received encouragement to use new ideas introduced from abroad, and wool was required in great quantities in Halifax, Leeds, and Huddersfield, and it was common at this time to se a thousand horse packs of such goods from this side of the county. Village yeomen were prosperous during this century, and led to a more ambitious style of living for them.

During the month a considerable quantity of food stocks had been condemned, it was reported on the 13th March 1952. An outbreak of swine fever had been reported from a local farm, and a total of 20 pigs had been slaughtered, 11 on the farm and 9 at the Blackburn Abattoirs. An inspection of the pigs slaughtered locally revealed that the offal was unfit for consumption, but the carcases were sound.

Agriculture in 1966

The landowners in Rishton were theDunkenhalgh estate and all the farms were tenant farmed. Some of the smaller farm tenants have been given the opportunity of buying the farms, but the price was to high.

The farms vary in size from 20 acres to 120 acres and there was no arable farming. The boulder clay content of the soil makes ploughing unprofitable. During the Second World War, the Rishton farmers were compelled to plough their land, and they grew mainly oats, a little wheat, Swedes and turnips.

The growing season is short and there are frequent frosts, but more important is the acidic nature of the soil that makes constant liming necessary. There is also considerable atmospheric pollution from thepower station at Whitebirk.

George Lucus working the fields in 1938
George Lucas working the fields in 1938 near Tottleworth.

All the farms have a dairy bias, the greatest percentage held of the herds are Frisians with some Ayrshire’s, though one farmer had a jersey herd. According to the size of the farm, the number of milking cows varies from 6 to 30. All the milk in Rishton is now Tuberculin tested. None of the farmers make silage, and they feed their cows from their own hay, buying concentrates and other foodstuffs from large concerns. They find this more economical than growing their own animal feeding stuffs. Most of the milk is collected by the milk marketing board lorries and taken to the dairies at Blackburn. However, all the farmers bottle by machine a certain percentage of their milk for retail in Rishton. Only two farmers deliver their milk by horse and float, the rest have land rovers and trailers.

Two farmers keep pigs – large whites, which are long lean pigs. Poultry consists of Black and white leghorns crossed with Rhode Island reds or white leghorn and is not restricted to farms. Many small allotment holders also keep poultry.

A few sheep are kept on the dual slopes ofTop O’ th’ Heightsand Cowhill. They are half-breeds, the dominant strains being Wensleydale, Suffolk, and Swaledale. They are sold mainly for meat at the Haslingden market and in June each year a certain amount of clip is sent to the Bradford wool auction and bought by the Scottish – English wool board.

All the farms are mechanised and are family concerns employing perhaps one regular farm labourer and hiring about two temporary helps at hay making time.

Links to the Farms 

Still to investigate and update:

Bay Horse Farm

Dry Stone WallsWhy stone walls, and how they were built, their pupose, and uses.
HedgingHedges round fields were once common place, this explains why they were used.
MilkmenWhatever happened to the milkman?
Aincross Farm
Blacklaw Farm
Clarke FarmAssumed to be around the Clarke Street area before the street existed.
Close Nook FarmPart of the set of cottages along the current Wilpshire Road.
Cutt Farm
Dunscar Farm
Eachill Farm
Far Holmes FarmFound at New Rishton.
Height House FarmPossibly the highest building in Rishton at over 750 feet above sea level.
Hicks FarmIt can only be that the street is named after the farm.
Higher Sidebeet FarmOne of three farms that could be found at Sidebeet.
Higher Whitebirk Farm
Higher Whitebirk Moss
Holt Farm
Lords House Farm
Lower Hen Moss FarmAt the fork in the road between Parsonage Road and York Road.
Lower Cunliffe Farm
Lower Sidebeet Farm
Lower Whitebirk Farm
Manor House FarmOne of the farms in Tottleworth.
Master Barn Farm
Middle Mickle Hey
Moorside Farm
New Barn Farm
Norden Farm
North Mickle Hey
Parkers Farm
Redcap FarmThe former farm on Accrington Road.
Rose Cottage
Shear Brook FarmFirst found on maps about 1949.
Sidebeet Farm
Tan House Farm
Thornhill FarmA Farm sat in this location, before the street was built.
Tottleworth Lee
Upper Mickle Hey
Whitebirk Moss FarmTwo farms adjacent to each other at Whitebirk.
Whitebirk South Farm
Willis Farm
Windy Bank


178 Rishton, A North East Lancashire Cotton Town Marian Sleigh
  • Sunday, January 1, 1978 0