The History of Longridge
and the surrounding area

by David Singleton

Although giving its name to this article, it must be confessed that Longridge is noted not so much for its own history, or for what it contains in itself, but rather for its immediate vicinity.


The Roman's
The Ancient Britons and Saxons
The Norman's
The Tudors
The Stuarts
The Protectorate
The Early 1800's
The Longridge and Preston Railway

Anybody visiting Longridge for the first time readily discerns the philological reason for its name. The Long Ridge that stretches in an unbroken line for three miles to Jeffrey Hill plainly has given birth to the name of the town.

Rumour has a very plausible tale about this long ridge.

It has been said that Longridge owes its name to Oliver Cromwell, who, when on his way across the fells from Stonyhurst to Preston, said, "What a long ridge this is".

Pleasant as this tale is, history compels us to relegate it to the lumber-room, to which are consigned so many similar romantic stories. For mention is made in 1554, some hundred years before Cromwell's time, of "Sir Robert Cotome, priest of Longryche in Ribblechester".

For a very long time the town of Longridge had no legal existence. It was a "courtesy name" given to the two townships of which the town is composed.

In 1868 the Ecclesiastical district of Longridge was formed, the Chapel-of-ease under Ribchester becoming the Parish church of Longridge. Again in 1883, another important step was taken to alter the state of confusion that had prevailed by the formation of a Local Board district, co-terminus with the Ecclesiastical district.

The philological meaning of the words "Alston" and "Dilworth", the townships which Longridge is composed is not so plain as in that of Longridge.

The various ways of spelling Alston are:--

Actun 1066
Alsden 1311
Alston 1469
Howston 1650

There can be little doubt that the Anglo Saxon way of spelling was Athelstone. So called after King Athelstan, who defeated the Danes and Scots in a pitched battle that took place in 936 - 939 on the banks of the Ribble, near Elston.

The derivation of Alston may therefore be Athel; -- stone, the house of stone or castle (Scandinavian "stein").

Alston - Anglo Saxon Athel's ton, the town of Athelstan.

Dilworth is spelled a great number of ways:--

Dylleword 1199
Dilwhre 1210
Dileworthe 1227
Dilword 1254
Dilleworth 1291
Dylleworth 1292
Dilleworthe 1303
Dileworill 1311
Dilworth 1650

The origin of the word appears to be Dil, an idol and Anglo Saxon Worth, an enclosure. The meaning being the enclosure of idols.

The various ways of spelling Longridge are given here:--

Longerydche 1554
Longryche 1554
Langrigg 1560
Long-Ridge 1622
Langridge 1648
Langrytch 1698

For miles around, the town of Longridge is a prominent object in the landscape. Built on the south-western edge of the fell that bears its name, its situation is very picturesque. To the east, the range of hills, of which Pendle is most conspicuous. To the north-west, Parlick Pike and Bleasdale Fell shelter the Vale of Chipping and Leagram, through which the Hodder runs its rapid course, and the sluggish Loud winds like a serpent.

To the west is Beacon Fell, and further still the lofty buildings of Fleetwood and Blackpool are plainly visible. The estuary or the Ribble, and beyond the Welsh hills are to be seen to the south.

Almost at your feet is the Ribble, "Lancaster's greatest glory" flowing through Ribblesdale past many a beauteous and historic spot.

From information given in the Domesday book, we gather that the district contained in early times large forests and that bogs and morasses were very numerous.

The Romans

There are clear traces and remains to be seen of Roman roads and bridle paths in the district. Ribchester appears to have been connected by a direct Roman road with Lancaster.

Leaving the castrum it runs north-west, a modern road being placed upon it, past a place called Dale Hey, another called Pinfold and so on to a place called Preston Wives. Where it crosses at right angles a road leading east-north-east from the town of Longridge.

The Lancaster road keeps on past the "Written Stone". Where a still used road terminates, but passed near Stony Croft and by various fragments, now used as lanes, is traceable by "Stony Lane Farm", "Windy Arbour", near Lickhurst, Broadgate, Stangate, "Street Farm" near Stonehead, about a mile and a half from Shireshead and appears to have fallen into the road from Walton to Lancaster near Galgate.

The road from Manchester to Lancaster is generally considered to have been continued forward up to Longridge, communicating with the station by a short road from the point where it forded the river, but, as usual, near the station the traces of it are lost until we come to "Cherry Gate", where a road called Stonygate Lane ascends the hill. This though a zigzag road, is occasionally upon the track of the Roman road, though in most places the latter is to the left of the former being plainly visible. It continues to the summit of the hill near a point called "Jeffrey Hill" it falls at almost right angles on the road pointing towards Walton.

A Dr. Stukely visited Ribchester in 1775 and in his "Iter Boreale" gives a graphic description of the place. He mentions a street that is the Roman road running directly northward up the fell called "Green Gate". It passes over Langridge so through Bowland Forest.

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The Ancient Britons and Saxons

Perhaps a brief account of the religion of the Ancient Briton, Saxons and Danes should be given. Many places in the district still retain the names of the heathen places of worship, and some of the old customs of the people may be due to the sacred rites of the Pagan inhabitants.

In T.C. Smith's work "The History of Longridge" the Rev. J. Davies stated:-

"In the middle of the county we have Angle-Zark. The first part of the word is clearly from the name of the Angles tribe. The second is found also in Grimsargh and Goosnargh. All the names of places not far from Anglezark are probably the old High German 'haruc', Old Norse 'hörga', Anglo Saxon 'hearb', a heathen temple or altar. The Old Norse 'hörga' shows that it means primarily a lofty grove and thence a temple encircled with groves.

It answers, therefore, to the Danish 'lund' (a sacred grove). We know that all the Germanic races were wont to celebrate the rites of their dark and cruel worship in the gloomy shades of forests or groves, the word teaches us that the Angles were worshippers of the old Teutonic deities, when they took possession of Lancashire. The name, was probably given by the Angles themselves and if so, it indicates that the Anglian speech approached, in some words to High German form".

The conjoint worship of the Sun and Moon, the Samen and Sama, and Husband and Wife of nature have been from these early times so firmly implanted that ages have not uprooted it. Christianity has not banished it. The Saxons were guilty of it. Even as late as the 1800's Pagan rites where performed on the borders of the Ribble.

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The Norman's

In the Domesday book Actun (Alston) is stated to have contained one carucate of land. (a carucate, carve or plough land was generally about one hundred acres) while Dilworth is not mentioned at all, the land evidently being waste, making a total of one carucate for Longridge in the eleventh century.

The Domesday Book had the whole of Amounderness, which at that time, included Ribchester and Dilworth. Probably this district was covered in those days with large forests.

In the 20th year of the reign of King Edward III, (1347) the Abbot of Cockersand assumed that, by a charter of King John (1199 - 1216) he was exempted from the payment of rates and taxes in certain specified places. Dylleword is mentioned amongst their number.

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The Tudors

In the first year of the reign of Queen Mary, 1554, a Royal Commission was appointed "to enquire, serche and survey what land and tenements and hereditaments and bell and chalisses, plate, jewel and stocks of Kyen shepe mony and other things", which had not been surrendered to King Edward VI's Commissioners.

Edward Parker, who was appointed Sub-Commissioner by the former Commission, declared that he had not received certain bells, amongst which was "item, one lytell bell belongying to the chapell of Longerydche".

For which we find that "Syr Robt. Cottam, priest and John Tomlynson, chyrche reve, sworn and examined, depose and say, that there ys one belle yett remaynninge at ye said chapell specifyed in ye said sedule wch was lease and thuse of our late soveraigne lorde Kinge Edwarde ye vjth, by auctorytie of ye said Comyssion". The chalice, of silver gilt, weighing 7¾ ounces was given up, as were also the ornaments, which were valued at twelve pence.

In Gregson's map dated 1598 "Longridge" and "Langridge Hills" figure conspicuously.

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The Stuarts

At this time (1648) there was a great struggle raging between the King and Parliament. Nowhere did it rage more fiercely than on the Lancashire borders. It was at Longridge that Cromwell, who had made forced marches through Yorkshire, cane up and engaged the Scot's, commanded by Langdale and the Duke of Hamilton. In a letter to the committee of Lancashire, Cromwell writes from Preston, 17th August 1648.

"It had pleased God this day to show his great power by making his army successful against the common enemy. We lay last night at Mr Sherburn's of Stonyhurst, nine miles from Preston, which was within three miles of the Scot's quarters".

In another letter, dated 20th August, to the speaker of the House of Commons, Cromwell says -- "On the 14th we came to Hodder Bridge over Ribble where we held a council of war". (What Cromwell meant was Hodder, close by or over against the Ribble, and not what he says, which is of course absurd.)

The result of this council of war was that Cromwell decided to pass over the river (Hodder) and halted for the night at Stonyhurst. Very early the next morning, Cromwell marched towards Preston.

In this battle the Lancashire regiment bore the brunt of the struggle, and soon defeated the Scots with great slaughter, chasing them over Ribbleton moor and the Ribble as far as Wigan. The number of Scots slain Cromwell estimated at 1,000 and 4,000 prisoners. His own losses were very little.

The Protector's army numbered 10,000 at the most, while Hamilton had under his command not less than 30,000 men. "Truly it was" as Cromwell exclaimed, "a glorious day", for it was one of the most brilliant victories achieved in the war.

A good many relics of this Battle of Preston (which began in Longridge) as it is often called have been found, amongst others, a hidden treasure, consisting of about 300 silver coins discovered in 1853 in the roof of a thatched cottage at Tenter Hill, Whittingham. Nearer Preston, at Fulwood and Ribbleton clear traces of the site of this battle were visible as late as the mid 1800's.

The Earl of Derby set out, in April 1643, to put down disaffection in East Lancashire. Moving up the valley of the Ribble, he, "With all the other great Papists in this county issued out of Preston, and on Wednesday noon April 19th came to Ribchester with eleven troops of horse, 700 foot and infinite clubmen, in all conceived to be 5,000".

From Ribchester he marched, with discretion, over Ribble at Salesbury Boat and by Salesbury Hall", and he was well neare gotten to Whaley before he was discovered", his clubmen. According to their practice, plundering in most towns they passed by or through. The Cavaliers were no match for the Roundheads, the result of the expedition being a heavy defeat at Whalley, and were finally driven out of district by way of Ribchester and Salesbury. This "affair at Ribchester" would, perhaps, be more correctly described as the "Battle of Blackburn".

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The Protectorate

After the suppression of the Chantries, Longridge became the parochial chapelry of a poor district. In 1650 its poverty came forcibly before the Commissioners of the Parliamentary survey during the Commonwealth, when it was stated that it had neither minister nor maintenance. Although the district contained 140 families, who, deploring their spiritual destitution, humbly desired the Legislature to afford them a competent endowment, to appoint a minister, and to constitute their district a distinct parish.

The state of Lancashire during this period (1646 - 1650) was "sad and lamentable". "In this county hath the plague and pestilence been raging for these three years and upwards, occasioned chiefly by the wars. There is very great scarcity and dearth of all provisions especially of all sots of grain, which is fully six fold the price that of late it hath been. All trade, by which they have been much supported, is utterly decayed; it would melt any good heart to see the numerous swarms of begging poor, and the families that pine away at home, not having the faces to beg. Very many nowe craving almes at other men's dores, who were used to give others almes at their dores, to see paleness, nay, death, appear in the cheeks of the poor, and often to hear of some found dead in their houses, or highways, for want of bread".

Lancashire continued in an unsettled state until after the rebellion of 1745, after which year trade, learning and comfort have flourished to an almost unexampled extent.

It was shortly after these stirring times (1655), that Ralph Radcliffe laid a huge stone. The stone measured eight feet long, two feet wide and eighteen inches deep. The stone was laid in an old Roman private road called Written Stone Lane, in the township of Dilworth with the following inscription on it:--

RaVFFE Radcliffe laid this stone

To lye for ever A.D. 1655

The characters are not raised letters, a style prevalent in the seventeenth century, but deeply cut into the stone. We do not know why Radcliffe laid this stone, except, perhaps to commemorate some dear relative, or of himself. While history is silent about this point, as about every old and curious thing. The Written Stone has numerous stories that abound in the locality and maybe, some are more or less believed by the local residents.

The date on the stone speaks of the days when sorcery and witchcraft were rife.

Tradition declares this spot to have been the scene of a cruel and barbarous murder. It is stated that this stone was put down to appease the restless spirit of the deceased, 'which played its nightly gambols long after the body had been hearsed in the earth'.

Another story is told of one of the former occupants of Written Stone Farm, who, thinking that the stone would make an excellent 'buttery stone', moved it into the house and applied it to that use. The result was that the indignant or liberated spirit would never suffer the family to rest. Whatever pots, pans, kettles or articles of crockery were place upon the stone, were tilted over, their contents spilled and the vessels themselves clattered all night long seemingly at the beck and call of the restless spirit. Thus, worried out of his nights rest, the farmer soon found himself compelled to have the stone conveyed back to its original resting place. Where it has remained ever since. The good man's family were never disturbed again by inexplicable nocturnal noises.

Well may they say with Hamlet, " Rest perturbed spirit".

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Early 1800's

Prior to the 1800's, Longridge was little more than a hamlet, containing a few scattered cottages and a couple of inns. The greater portion of the land on the northern and north-western side of the fell was moorland and unenclosed.

In 1804 King Street was built, the old Club Row having been built a few years earlier. An old cottage in Fell Brow, for years went by the high sounding name of 'The Town's Hall,' and was the property of the late Rev. R. Parkinson, curate of Longridge.

Lime used to be carried in large quantities in panniers on mule's backs. Another thriving industry was the besom trade. They were carried from Longridge to Liverpool and the carrier used to load back with spirits.

Two days were set apart for the annual Guild. On one day was the horse race, and a foot race was held on the second.

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The Preston and Longridge Railway

The Preston and Longridge Railway was opened for traffic in May 1840. At first it was worked by horses, as the line was on a steep incline all the way, the horses, after drawing the trains to Longridge, used to ride down in the van on the return journeys. In 1848 the first locomotive was used, the service of trains was as follows:--

Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, two trains a day. The return fare (third Class) was 9d.

The line originally intended to be continued through Ribchester and Hurst Green to Yorkshire, but owing to the determined opposition of some of the leading landowners in the district, this scheme was abandoned.

On August 10th 1867, a serious accident occurred, a special train left Longridge shortly after the ordinary 7-30 p.m. train, near Fulwood, the special train ran into the leading train. Both trains were crowded with visitors returning from the Guild festivities at Longridge. Over sixty people were injured, several seriously.

But for the development of the stone trade, there can be little doubt that that Longridge would have remained in the same stationary condition as such places as Chipping, Goosnargh and Ribchester. The first large scale quarry was being opened in Longridge in 1830.

The quarries these days have been closed for years, but one was reopened in the early 1970's and stone taken for the building of the M55 motorway.

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The above article was kindly supplied by Dave Singleton.