The Hesketh Family
When William de Fitton died in 1289 he divided his lands between his three daughters, Matilda, Elizabeth and Annabel. Matilda, who was married to William de Hesketh, was given the Manor House of Martholme and the demesne land and land at Rufford.
Ancient glass in the church window
William's grandson, Sir John de Hesketh, who already owned half of the Manor of Rufford married Alice heiress to the other half and became Lord of the Manor there. Heskeths continued to live at Martholme but eventually Rufford became the family's main home.
The family were great benefactors of the Church of Great Harwood. Thomas Hesketh (d.1523 ) founded a Chantry at the church, then named St. Lawrence, in 1521 and endowed it with land which produced £4 6s 8d (£4.33) "to support an able priest to pray and say Mass and other Divine Service there". An ancient piece of glass from this Chantry can be seen in a window of the church depicting the wheat sheaf, part of the Hesketh arms, and the initials T. H.
Thomas' son, also Thomas (1519 - 1588), was knighted on 2nd October 1553 at the coronation of Mary Tudor. He was a fervent supporter of Queen Mary, a Roman Catholic, but was able to retain the confidence of her sister the Protestant Queen Elizabeth when she came to power in 1558 and served her with distinction at the Siege of Leith in Scotland. Sir Thomas and his family lived at Martholme for some time, two of his sons, Thomas and Richard, were christened at the Chapel (Parish Church). He carried out much rebuilding of the house and, showing his rehabilitation in the new order, was High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1563. However when he died in 1588 he was buried at Rufford.
Sir Thomas was succeeded by his eldest son Robert (d.1620). He married three times, first to Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir George Stanley, Knight Marshall of Ireland, by whom he had five sons; secondly to Blanche, daughter and co-heiress of Henry Twyford of Kenwick; thirdly to Jane Spencer, daughter of one of his tenants at Rufford. Jane had been married to Richard Harsnape and had three children during his lifetime, Nicholas, Holcroft and Jane, but all are recorded as having Robert Hesketh as their father. Further they also had an illegitimate son, Robert, and then after they married another son Cuthbert.
If he was, perhaps, not loyal to his wives Robert was loyal to the Monarchy being one of 79 gentlemen who signed a "loyall bond of allegiance to James I on his accession to the throne". He sat as a member of Parliament for Lancashire in 1597 and was High Sheriff of the County 1599-1600. His brothers were not as "loyal".
The second son, Thomas, openly supported the Roman Catholic faith and he was closely watched. A note in the Parish Register reads "Thomas Hesketh, recusant did notify his cominge to Martholme to dwell with his mother, to me, William Herris curate of Moch Harwode the fourte day of October a regne Elizabeth 35 (1593)". Here he took up botany and medicine which he practised at Clitheroe.
Richard, the third son, was involved in the Lancashire plot to place the 5th Earl of Derby on the throne, in succession to Elizabeth, was betrayed and sentenced to death.
On his death in 1620 Robert bequeathed his lands in Great Harwood, Tottleworth and the house at Martholme to his third wife, Jane, but she soon married Sir Richard de Hoghton so if she did ever live there it was not for long. Instead she leased it as a farm and from this time the family ceased to live in Great Harwood. Stewards were appointed to look after the estate but direction and orders came from Rufford.
The early 19th century was a bad time for Great Harwood. Mechanisation and better transport hit farming and weaving hard, markets fell and farmers couldn't pay their rents. Appeals for rents to be lowered were refused and finally in 1819 Sir Thomas Dalrymple Hesketh decided to sell up. From several potential buyers for the Upper Town Richard Grimshaw Lomax of Clayton-le-Moors was successful paying £75,000. This brought to an end the Hesketh Lordship of the Manor which had lasted over 500 years and meant that Lomax owned almost the entire town having already bought most of the Lower Town in 1772.
Old Harwood. Louie Pollard and Harry E. Eaton. (Great Harwood Civic Society 1973) Page 2
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