There are nearly 100 medieval charters relating to Whitworth in the Coucher Book of Whalley (that’s a lot!). With additional Medieval Whitworth documentation in deeds and court records, this area is of great interest in the study of medieval South East Lancashire. The large number of charters make it possible to trace medieval boundaries in the fields and moorland around Whitworth.
“Time out of mind”
Whitworth was manor, though it was part of Spotland township in the Parish of Rochdale. Around 1200 it was stated that since “Time out of mind” the Manor of Whitworth was held jointly between John Elland and Robert Liversedge, both lived in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In the Domesady Book Gamel, an ancestor of John Elland held Rochdale later replaced as overlord by a Norman. However Gamel kept some land and this accounts for John Ellands holding, the other, Robert Liversedge was descended from a vassal of the Norman overlord de Lacy. Just as the overlord granted land to his vassals his vassals did the same, breaking up landholding into smaller parcels. But even in the 12th Century there were many people able to grant land in Whitworth, Jordan of Comb granted land to Whalley Abbey, for example, but there were many others.
Sokemen and Settlement in Spotland
Sokemen were generally freeholders who could buy and sell land and have land inherited. At least two landholdings were held in “sokeage” in Spotland and were recorded in Wolstenholme and Dunnishbooth, south Whitworth (both in Spotland township, Rochdale Parish) in the 16th and 17th centuries.
This is an indication of a tenure often, but not exclusively, associated with the Danelaw and can perhaps explain the number of charters in Whitworth recorded in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey.
If there were many sokemen in Whitworth, they would have each been able to trade land with Whalley Abbey and inherit land, so this could explain the number of Whitworth transactions that appear in the Coucher Book.
After the medieval period we have detailed 16th Century and 17th. Century records, such as manor surveys and parish records, this is a great area to study the medieval landscape and how it evolved.
Search for Medieval Places
Early Ordnance Survey maps of Whitworth can be found here at British History Online. Early maps are held in library local studies, and also Whitworth Museum. Aerial Photographs can be seen on Google Earth and Lancashire’s own Mario as well as English Heritage’s archive of photographs.
The Raines Manuscripts in Chethams Library (Manchester) contain a lot of Whitworth references:
For example E.4.5-E.5.2 bundle no. 1 (13th. to 14th C. deeds).
A later entry in the Coucher book mentions that a yearly court was held for Rochdale (including Whitworth) tenants of Whalley Abbey at a place called “Overland” location unknown.
Medieval Land Transfer
C. D. King’s 1991 thesis includes a detailed chronology of medieval Whitworth land transfers, details can be phone on another of my posts, here.
Extracts from the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey
Medieval Whitworth (Whiteword, in these medieval records) : places transcribed from the Coucher book of Whalley Abbey
Bikeden, for example, is modern day Bagden on the East of what is today known as Rooley Moor.
‘Kor lacus’ translates to lake Kor (Old Welsh perhaps?), which was at Harsenden near Prickshaw. probably on the site of Prickshaw Dams.
Yrifford was probably on the Roche near Chadwick and not in Whitworth. Ford means it was a river crossing point.
Scandinavian place-name elements
Some examples are:
- Booth or both (as in Bothestudyerdh for example) often associated with a farm or vaccary (cattle ranch)
- Rakes or rakis (lane, track)
- Scholes or skole, hut or barn
- Sike or sik (ditch)
- Slack – valley
Whitworth Personal Names
This index covers all four volumes and is taken from the index of Volume IV.
Latin abbreviations – de means of, fils. means son and frat. means brother or family member.
Contents pages (Volume III) relating to Whitworth
Volume III holds many (but not all) charters relating to Whitworth here are the contents pages, translated into English.
The “us” in the translation above refers to the Abbey.