How Cool is this Medieval Reference?

Back in 2010 I discovered an enclosure with a triple ditch (thanks to Google Earth), an enthusiastic English Heritage archaeologist kindly helped volunteers survey it.

3ditches I also saw an adjacent site with a single bank and ditch also clearly visible from aerial photographs. A large man-made looking mound was later discovered when I visited the site (it was hidden by trees).

The Ancient Enclosure

In December 2012 I found this medieval reference to the site with 3 ditches… This reference is over 800 years old and a Latin transcription from the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey (charter 44 in Roman Numerals XLIV) is shown below., locumantiquae

In Latin locum antiquae means ‘ancient enclosure’ – so it was old 800 years ago! You can recognize the location (Smallshaw) easily from the place-names and topography mentioned in the charter. The second part of the charter is shown below.


There’s More…

Thanks to Jeff Lord’s aerial photographs and evidence from early maps of the area it looks like this was originally quite an extensive settlement. There is more archaeology to be surveyed and more charters and other documents to check! Draft Presentation (PDF file reader needed). SmallshawPlaces44


Schofield – the Place and the Name

I got a request for early references to the name “Schofield” so here is some information.

Schofield, in East Rochdale was in the township of Butterworth. Schofield was also adopted as a surname, let’s trace the roots of the Schofield family and the place back to Medieval times. As usual Fishwick’s History of Rochdale is a good place to start, it’s freely available online.  Fishwick covered the pedigree of the Schofield family name in the chapter on the Old Houses and Families of Butterworth.

Schofield Family

This information was deposited in the Duchy of Lancashire Court on 1537 as evidence of  James Scholfield’s claim to lands in “Wittaker”.

What does Schofield mean?

The modern study of Lancashire place-names started with Ekwall’s Placenames of Lancashire.  This is the most comprehensive survey, but it is not the latest work on Lancashire place-names and some of Ekwall’s work is disputed.

Ekwall on Schofield

“Scholefleld, or Schofield : de Scholfele 1212 LI, de Scolefeld 1374 LF, Scolfeld 1582 DL. O.N. skdli ” hut ” &nd field. “

So a “hut in a field” is the probable meaning., with the Old Norse word for hut being the first element in the name.

LI is an abbreviation for:

LI : Lancashire Inquests, Extents, and Feudal Aids. Ed. W. Farrer. Record Soc. xlviii, liv. 

Other Early References to Schofield

Both the Lancashire and Greater Manchester record offices also have documents of interest as does Touchstones in Rochdale.


The black Book of Clayton (Bodleian Library) includes documents that mention “Schofield”. The Raines manuscripts have many references too.  Chethams and Rylands Libraries in Manchester also have original material relating to Schofield.

Manor Surveys

The 17 thC. Manor Surveys have many references to the place and the people names Schofield. The manor court records also should be checked for Schofield references.


You can also search the British History Online site, and of course the National Archives, which include the British Library Collection. The Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey has references to Schofield, start with the index.

Later Entry from Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey

Here is an example from the Appendix of the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey, perhaps early 16th. C



Schofield Hall



The site of the Hall has some field boundaries but little trace of the hall remains. The Old Hall was depicted in the Raines Manuscripts. There were many of these old halls, Fishwick’s History has some illustrations.

Under construction…


Published in: on June 27, 2014 at 9:32 am  Comments (2)  
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Medieval References to the Wool Trade in Rochdale

While there are many references (such as in the Manor court rolls and Manor surveys) to the wool trade in Rochdale from the 16th century Medieval references are rare, here are two from the Rochdale Manor Court Rolls of 1336, translated from the Latin in Fishwick’s History of Rochdale.

Henry the dyer

John de Aulus for not producing Henry the dyer [Lister] and John the smith, whom he essoigned (meaning made an excuse for not appearing in court) iiii . d.

So John made  a payment of 4 pence for because Henry the dyer did not appear at the manor court. Did Henry dye local wool? looks like an early indication of a specialist in the significant and valuable wool trade.

 Thomas the mercer

Henry the son of Thomas the Mercer, for ingress to a burgage in Castleton: surety Nicholas of the Slakes xviij.

The mercer’s son broke in to a burgage (Rochdale was a medieval borough). A reference to a mercer is rare at this time in Lancashire, there is only one mentioned (from Chester?) in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey. A mercer was someone who sold fine cloth such as silk and flax.

Imported wool from Ireland and Yorkshire

Lancashire was importing wool from at least the early 16th Century (Source Lowe).

Local Wool Production

By the 16th. Century some areas of common land around Rossendale had up to 30 sheep gates (Lowe, p8). Evidently sheep were becoming a much more common site on pastures in the  Rochdale area.

Here is an extract from page 9 of Norman Lowe’s book:

page 9


Rochdale market dates back to at least 1251, to put this into perspective, Suffolk’s famous medieval wool trade village,  Lavenham  has a market from 1257. The 13th century was a time of economic expansion and wool was England’s main export, Rochdale was evidently an important centre for both the production and trade in wool in Medieval times.


The Lancashire textile industry in the sixteenth century by Norman Lowe, Manchester 1972.

Manor Records, Chapter XV the History of Rochdale by Henry Fishwick

Medieval Wool Trade in Europe

The History of British Wool


(C) SMM 2014
Published in: on April 7, 2014 at 10:08 pm  Comments (2)  
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Chadwick Family Charters Aquired by the British Library in 1913

There are a total of 634 charters (British Library Catalogue 57624-58263) that belonged to the Chadwick family and are now in the British Library, 100 of these charters relate to places in Salford Hundred.

Salford Hundred

One Manchester Charter from 1744
Charter 57629.

6 Radcliffe charters from 1300-1511
Charters 57630, 57631, 57633, 57678, 57679, 57681.

93 Rochdale charters from 1295-1703.
Including Blatchinworth, Buersill, Castleton, Healey, Hundersfield, Spotland, Wardle, etc.
Charters 57632-57724.

Search the British Library manuscript catalogue here.

Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 10:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Hearth Tax

Although levied in the 17th Century and after the Medieval period the hearth tax is an important resource for Medieval population estimates and detailed settlement information. The hearth tax can be a way of judging the size of a house or old hall. It is a vital layer for any archaeological/historical GIS (Graphical Information System).


Naden Head, Spotland township, Rochdale Parish, In the Hearth Tax it was assessed for 6 hearths. Evidently a substantial house and was called a “Capital Messuage” in the 1626 Rochdale Manor Survey and was claimed as the “Manor of Spotland” by a member of the Holt family.

So a 2012 archaeological survey’s claim that Naden Head was just a “farmstead” appears hard to support.

Rochdale 1666 Hearth Tax Summary



Comprehensive Hearth Tax Lancashire map and county survey under construction.

The Hearth Tax Website can be found here.

Published in: on March 16, 2014 at 1:50 pm  Comments (3)  
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Salford Hundred Heritage Society Press Release 18th December 2012



Surprising Archaeological Discoveries North of Manchester

During 2009/2010 major archaeological sites were discovered, including a fortified site and burial sites (see one of the barrows above), as old as four thousand years old. This information is made public today. The two thousand year old fortified site (hill fort), with triple ramparts, was described as “ancient” in a Latin manuscript from 800 years ago.

Hill Fort

Hill Fort

A nearby site has a bank (clearly visible) cutting off a peninsula of land. There are also extensive early cultivation sites and field boundaries as well as many ruined farmsteads. One expanse of moorland is punctured by dozens of small pits, of unknown origin, some big enough to fall into, but never recorded on any maps of the area. Many more sites remain undiscovered, even though they are above ground.

Whitworth, to the north of Rochdale, has around one hundred medieval charters referring to smallholders land transfers in the area, which firmly secures it’s place as one of the best documented medieval villages in the country.

However a 2007 archaeological survey just west of Whitworth found no medieval evidence for the area, and ignored the ruins of the nearby medieval manor house.

Why are we releasing this information now? Simply because there are plans to erect a wind farm on this land, and the public need to know the real heritage of this location before it is lost forever. Without the release of this information the wind farm will go ahead unchallenged

See background post here.

Balshaw Mystery

There are literally hundreds of medieval references to places in Rochdale, most places can still be traced, a few have disappeared from the map. But most interesting of the vanished places is Balshaw, and the people who lived there in medieval times.


In the Coucher Book Balshaw is written as Balschagh and appears to have been near to Healey Hollows by a brook or Brok (as it was written in the charter).


In charer 68 one of the signatories, Adam, appears to have lived in Balschagh and is referred to as Ada de Balschagh.


The Bedelry

In 1281 Adam de Balshaw purchased the serjeancy of the “free court of Rochdale” in exchange for land in Rossendale and ‘Holkenheved,’ at a rent of 2 marks a year; Byron Chartul. (Towneley MS.), 1/248.

If this was the same Adam that witnessed Coucher Book charter 68, where did he get his wealth from? Why did he have land in Rossendale? and where exactly did he live, and what was his reason for buying the serjeancy (which means it was originally a gift from the King)?

See British History Online – The Parish of Rochdale fn 40

“In 1298, the ‘heir of Adam de Balshaw’ paid 26s. 8d. for the bedelry; Compotus, 7; and in 1311 the holder was a John de Balshaw;”

De Lacy Inq. 20

De Lacy 1311 John de Bal...

Ultimately the serjeancy was sold to members of the Radcliffe family by a John de Balshaw in 1341, perhaps the same John mentioned in 1311.

See British History Online – The Parish of Rochdale fn 40

The special legal status of Rochdale is evident from the Domesday entry for Rochdale and the “free court of Rochdale” presumably evolved  from this.


The name Ball Barn on Syke Road in Rochdale may preserve elements of the old Balshaw name, it is in the area mentioned in the charters.

Not to be confused with…

By coincidence there is another Balshaw in Ainsworth, and in a land grant by Roger de Middleton, about 1200 there is mention of a “syke” that led to Ballshaw. syke was a common local dialect word(from Old Norse) for a ditch.

The grant is included in the Cockersand Chartul. (Chet. Soc), ii, 733.

Under construction….

Rochdale in the Domesday Book

Before the conquest,   Game the Thegnl had jurisdiction over Rochdale (Rochdale was called “Recedham” in the Domesday Book, ) except for  six exemptions, which  included “forestalingl”. In the medieval context this was the purchasing of goods to monopolise them and raise prices or restricting open access to goods at a market, however in Domesday this may be seen as relating to highway robbery and other crimes of violence mentioned under Rochdale’s Domesday entry.

West Derby ,which was a hundred,  had a  similar system to Rochdale (which was not a hundred), also being exempt from all but six infringements, each carried a 40 shilling fine, as in Rochdale.


Although Rochdale was a large parish, it was part of Salford Hundred, but it was called a “wapentake” in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey. It is worth noting that Saddleworth was in Yorkshire, even though it was part of Rochdale Parish.


Gamel is thought to have been based in Eland in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.  The Elland name was adopted by Gamel’s descendants and

“Hugh de Eland had in 1202 granted 2 oxgangs in Hundersfield to Thomas son of Jordan at a rent of 2s. 8d.”

‘Townships: Todmorden and Walsden’, A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5 (1911), pp. 229-234. URL: Date accessed: 15 August 2010.

The Ding or originally “Dinge” place-name on the moors north west of Rochdale may well refer to a “thing” or meeting place of the “wapentake”. You can read more about this place-name and the historical context for Rochdale here.

National Archives Domesday information is here.

Under construction…

(C) Stuart Mendelsohn 2009

Published in: on April 26, 2009 at 11:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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