A Brief History of Rishton

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The First Rishton Deed

This is the earliest manuscript known which deals with Rishton, originally wrote in Latin about 1200 AD, we see that Rodger de Rishton is lord of the manor, and in the deed is giving a portion of his land to his son, Adam.

"Rodger de Rishton grants to Adam his son and heir all that quarter of his land, namely half a carucate* except the land of his free tenants, beginning where the stream of Tottleworthdene falls into Hyndburn, up Tottleworthdene to where Northdene meets Salterford, and up this as far as Smalshaghsyke, then up by the Redecar to Risshelache, through the mid lake to Endemoss, through the mid-moss to and down the Holghclogh to Redbroke, along this to Hallhaede, up this to the old dyke, and along this to the greystone next Ediholes, which is the land of God and of St. John, Baptist, following the dyke which divides little Harwood and Riston waste lands as far as the Thyrsclogh and so down to Elvynkar, along the "kar" to Knuzdenbroke, up this to the clogh, near the Outlone, up this to Hayleybroke, down to Hyndburn, and down the Hyndburn to the dead water and to where the stream of Tottleworthdene joins Hyndburn, where we began."

*Carucatures varied from 50 to 100 acres.

Rodger de Riston also grants the services of his freemen in times of war. He tells us that twenty carucates makes a Knights fee in Rishton.

The deed was witnessed by:

Henry, parson (dominus) of Blackburn, John Phitun, Richard de Eluetham (Altham), Henry de Pleasington, Rodger de Samlesbury, Henry de Melver (Mellor), Henry de Praers, Adam, son of Henry de Blakburn, Gilbert, his brother, and John, the clerk who wrote this deed, along with many others.

The deed is interesting because of the boundary marks and names, which no longer exist. These names are mainly Saxon origin, hence they are splendid word pictures which describe the character of the countryside found in the district in the 12th and 13th Century.

Rodger de Riston died about 1215, leaving his estate to his oldest son Adam, who succeeded him as Lord of the vill, who had also, some time before his fathers death, received from his father a moiety of Dunkensale (Dunkenhalgh). Little more is known of this family, and in 1242 we find that another family of the same name  paid scutage ((Feud. Law) Service of the shield, a species of knight service by which a tenant was bound to follow his lord to war, at his own charge. It was afterward exchanged for a pecuniary satisfaction.) for the manor.

At an inquest held in 1258 upon the death of Edmund de Lacy, two years after Gilbert de Rishton was outlawed for Murder (see Holt Manor/Farm for the full story), we find Gilberts son, Henry, was in possession of one quarter of the manor. The chief Lord, de Lacy, had taken pity on the murderers son to a limited extent. The full result of the enquiry are here:

  • Edmund de Lacy held Rishton, in which were 16 oxgangs of ploughed land.

  • Henry de Lacy held four - rent 4/-

  • Richard de Cowhill held 40 acres - rent 1/2 a mark.

  • Richard de Tottleworth held 40 acres - rent 1/2 a mark.

  • Two men, unnamed, held Sidebeet.

  • Richard de Cunliffe held 6 acres

  • Two small cottages - rent 2/-

  • A mill near Hyndburn Bridge, worth 20/-

On the death of Sir Edmund Lacy, his son, Sir Henry, succeeded him as chief Lord, and he appears to have taken an even more lenient view of the whole affair, for in 1278, Gilbert, son of Henry de Rishton, and grandson of the murderer, is found settling the whole manor again on his illegitimate son Adam, who demised it, with the exception of Cunliffe and Sidebeet, to his father for life.

This 2nd Gilbert had two sons younger than Adam. One son, Richard de Richard received from his father the fourth part of the manor, which probably included Sidebeet and Cunliffe. This quarter of the manor was held by Richards descendants for the next 300 years, and during that time it became the family foothold in the manor, when the larger and more important part had passed to another family having no relationship with this de Rishton family whatsoever.

As a centre for industry, Rishton was well noted for its linen cloth around the 17th century, and in 1766 the town again made history as the first place to weave calico.

A good example of the marshes and Reeds that Rishton is built on and around may 2002.

To picture Rishton as it was three centuries ago we must sweep away all factories, paper mill, colliery and brickworks; the railway, canal, and reservoir; the broad macadamised highways; the rows of houses and well paved and lighted streets, with sewers and gas and water mains, as well as churches, chapels, clubs, and places of amusements.

In place of these we must put narrow, unlighted, muddy lanes and field tracks; cottages in all variety of position, as it suited the fancy of the builder â€" sometimes an isolated cottage, sometimes a little group clustered round a farm. At Sidebeet was such a little group of thatched cottages, at Lower Cunliffe was another little hamlet, and also at Tottleworth, at the flats, and at “Th’ Back Loyn”, while on the crest of Cowhill were four farmhouses which formed the “Fold”. On the North, where the land rises to a height of 700 ft., were scattered moor land farms, intersected by the old highway from Blackburn to Whalley.

Water was obtained from brooks, springs, and wells, some of these are still remembered. Spaw well with its pump, was situated to the West of Harwood road. Nanny well was near Eachill Farm, and supplied the cottages in Back Lane. Billy Well was in Billy Well Lane, Spaw well (another one), on the site of Spring Mill, was supposed to have medicinal virtues. At the Flats was a deep seated spring which gave an abundant and unfailing supply of cool, pure water.

Within memory, Billy Well Lane, which is now replaced by Spring Street, was in summer a flower decked lane, shaded by overhanging trees, and near the high street end was “Plunty (gamekeeper) Nook”. In a Southerly direction it was continued along Lower Lane near the line of Henry Street, down to Far Holmes, past Church Kirk and along Hyndburn Lane to join the old Manchester Road at the bull bridge in Accrington. In the opposite direction it went through Tottleworth to the Lidgett, past Bowley Hill and Th’ Back o’ Bowley to Whalley, while a branch went over Close Brow, along Th’ Top o’ th’ Heights, to join the Blackburn to Whalley Road at New Inns. Between Tottleworth and Lidgett there still exists an almost forgotten portion of this road, which has fallen into disuse since the construction of the “Dow Pad” (Dole Path).

The people were a hardy race of crofters, and handloom weavers. Working in his own home, the hand loom weaver lived an easy going life, free from restrictions. He brought his warp from a “putter out” at Lidgett or Blackburn, and, so long as it was woven and his “pieces” taken back at the appointed time, he was his own master. Sometimes he left his loom to help in farm work, to attend to the garden and orchard which were attached to his farm or cottage, or to inspect his hens, poultry, and pigs. Sometimes he neglected his work for less worthy purposes â€" to join in a “Marlock”, to drink with boon companions in the village ale house, or for any excitement that came his way â€" a dog fight, a cock fight, or a badger drawing, a run with harriers or other hounds, a days beating for a shooting party, or a little sport on his own account snaring a rabbit or “tickling” a trout  - for he had a wide knowledge of the habits of all things living on the countryside.

During the long winter evenings he had to provide his own amusements at his own or his neighbours fireside. He could not read, but he could sing the folk songs and recount, in his own dialect, descriptive and humorous stories and pieces of folk lore â€" of witches and boggarts â€" not forgetting the “ Dongla (Dunkenhalgh) Boggart”, which, after several futile attempts, was at last effectively “laid” by the vicar of Mitton, and was forbidden to appear again “while hollins were green”.

In these enlightened days we smile at the superstitious beliefs in witches and boggarts, but our forefathers considered it a necessary precaution to nail a horse shoe on the doors of the stable and shippon to keep away witches and it was easy to see ghosts in dark lanes when by fireside stories, the mind was prepossessed with a fearful expectation of a supernatural visitation.

By the turn of 1900 Rishton was to see a quite staggering rate of growth. The population of 800 was to swell to over 7000 people.

Much of the initial industry at this time was home based trade and cottage industries such as hand loom weaving as mentioned above.

The development of the town was mainly around what is now High Street, extending as far as the Great Harwood Road. There was little expansion past this road junction except for the main church of Saint Peters and Paul’s.

Hand loom weaving lingered many years after the introduction of the power loom. In the early  eighteen sixties hand looms were being worked in the loom shops of cottages in Back Lane. In 1874 Mrs. Ann Blackburn wove her final piece in a cottage in Cut Lane. She seems to have been the last Rishtonian to follow an occupation which had employed a large number of Lancashire men and women for many generations.

Most of the land in Rishton was pasture and meadowland, with a few cornfields interspersed. The corn was ground in the corn mill at the Holt, which was worked by water power from the River Hyndburn. Traces of the weir and mill pond are still to be seen.

The general fall of the land was Eastwards and in this direction ran the Norden, Spaw, and Shaw (Shear) brooks, each through its own prettily wooded clough.

Lancashire roads at the end of the Eighteenth Century were very bad. Where Turnpike Trusts took control, the costs of improvements and repairs were meet by tolls collected from the users of the roads at toll houses, where were placed large gates or bars, by means of which the passage of vehicles could be stopped. To reach Rishton from the East, toll had to be paid at Black Lane head, and, when approaching it by what old Rishtonians call “Blegborn Loyn”, toll was collected at a bar near the Rishton side of Whitebirk bridge. The gates were closed at night, and the late traveller had to rouse the gatekeeper from his sleep.

Before these improvements the best way of travelling was on horseback, but many people had only the choice of walking or being conveyed in a jolting, springless carrier’s wagon. It is no wonder, when we consider the expense, slowness, discomfort, and dangers of travelling, that many persons never went more than a few miles from the place where they were born, and, from much the same cause, were dependent for food mainly on the produce of their own farms, gardens, and orchards.

In 1761 the Bridgewater canal was opened for traffic. So important were the benefits derived from the use of this waterway, that others quickly followed the example of the Duke of Bridgewater.

In 1770 authority was given for the making of a canal from Liverpool to Leeds, which had to cross the Pennines at a height of 525 ft. At Rishton it is 400 ft above sea level. As there was a considerable length of the canal, as well as a large reservoir, to be constructed within the township, the work would rouse the greater interest among people who had been so shut in by bad roads. The completion of the canal would mean easy transit for passengers and goods to all the towns and villages along a route 127 miles in length.

At the beginning of the last century the easy going life of the hand loom weaver was beginning to be disturbed. During a lengthened peace preceding the Napoleonic Wars many inventions had been made. Kay, of Walmersley, near Bury, invented his fly shuttle; Hargreaves of Stanhill, his spinning jenny; Arkwright, of Preston, his “throstle”; Crompton, of Th’ Hall I ’th’ Wood, near Bolton, his Mule; and the Reverend Dr. Cartwright, his power loom. As more and more of these machines were erected in mills by the sides of mountain streams and later, in mills worked by steam, the work of the hand loom weaver gradually decreased, and he showed resentment to the change by attacks on mills for the purpose of loom breaking and plug drawing.

At the beginning of the last century the population of Rishton was 1,051. In 1811 there was a slight increase, and again in 1821; but from this time there was a steady diminution, till in 1851 the population was only 800. No mill had so far been erected in Rishton, and the decline in population clearly points to a migration to Accrington, Blackburn, and other places where mills had been erected. About this time Rishton mill was built, and at the next census in 1861 the population had risen to 1,196. In the following order were erected Wheatfield, Victoria, Spring, Daisy Hill, Bridgefield, Britannia, Wellington, York, and Albert Mills, so that each succeeding census has shown increasing population, till 1914 it is estimated to reach 8,000.

In 1830 the first railway was opened between Manchester and Liverpool. In 1846 one was made between Preston and Blackburn, which in 1848 was extended to Accrington through Rishton. The first Rishton railway station was built where the line crosses Blackburn Road, but this inconvenient position was changed I 1852 for the present site. Rishton was also the station for the people of Great Harwood till the loop line from Blackburn to Rose Grove was opened in 1877.

Later years obviously saw the introduction of power loom weaving on a large scale and the more commercial development of coal mining and brick making. Within a decade of 1850 the original individual houses of Rishton "town" had disappeared to be replaced by terraced dwellings built on a grid system to plans laid down by the Lord of the Manor, Henry Petre, to provide accommodation for local workers. Urban growth continued into the twentieth century and generally tended to follow the line of the main roads of Hermitage Street and High Street through the township.

The impact of the canal, the railway and the industrial revolution upon Rishton can be seen by the fact that by the 1900’s the town contained 11 mills, 3 brickworks, 5 quarries, 6 coalmines and at least 5 other various industries; including a brewery!

Rishton is one of the smaller North East Lancashire townships that later united to form the Borough of Hyndburn in l974. The present town is essentially a product of the last half of the nineteenth century and its development was very closely linked to the growth of the local textile Industry, but Rishton also had extremely productive industries in stone quarrying, coal mining and handloom weaving.

Following the first and second World Wars this boom was all but over, the canal and the railway survived, but the cotton mills were fast in decline. Not more than 20 years later most of the industry in Rishton was gone.

Today Rishton is very much a residential town and it is part of the ever-growing commuter belt. The motorway has ensured that people are now moving back into the area due to the convenience of travelling the relatively short distances into Manchester, Accrington, and Blackburn for work.

Notwithstanding, the website will show that at one time Rishton could boast as being one of the major industrial towns of the Northwest.


A Brief History of Rishton by H. H. Cormack, Published 1914

Rishton on Record, the Festival of Britain 1951.

Parish Church and School Jubilee 1927 by Carlton Noble.