The Nowell Family
The Nowell family pedigree goes back to the time of Henry I when Adam Nowell married the heiress of Stephen de Mearley so bringing the estate of Great Mearley into his family. His son Roger married Elizabeth co-heiress of William de Fitton. When William died in 1289 he divided his lands between his three daughters, Matilda, Elizabeth and Annabel. Elizabeth and her husband Roger Nowell were given the Netherton (Lower Town) of Great Harwood and they were for a time joint Lords of the Manor with the Heskeths and the de Leghs. When the de Leghs sold their share of Great Harwood to the Heskeths, however, the Nowells became subservient and had to pay homage and pledge Knight's Service for their share of the estate to the Heskeths.
Adam Nowell, the son of Elizabeth and Roger, fought in wars against Scotland and in 1338 was rewarded by King Edward III with a Charter allowing him to hold a market every Thursday and an annual Fair on St. Lawrence's Day. Despite this early advantage making the Lower Town the centre of commercial activity Nowells still had to pay homage to the Heskeths as chief Lords of the Manor. The earliest surviving record of the Homage Ceremony is from Easter 1390 when John Nowell pledged his loyalty to Thomas Hesketh for the lands he held in "Harewode".
The Nowells also acquired land at nearby Read in 1364 and at the dissolution of Whalley Abbey Roger Nowell was able to buy almost all of the rest of that manor and build Read Hall. He had three half brothers each famous in their time, Alexander was Dean of St. Paul's, Lawrence was Dean of Lichfield and Robert who was a lawyer at Gray's Inn. Before Roger died in 1567 he made an agreement with his two sons Roger and Thomas so that the former would succeed to the whole estate.
Another Roger (1582 - 1623) as Sheriff of Lancaster was responsible for bringing the Pendle Witches to trial. His grandson, Roger (1605 - 1695), was the next to inherit the estate and he was active during the Civil War raising an army at his own expense and defending Latham house for the King. Finishing on the losing side the Nowells were again "in favour" with the restoration of Charles II. Roger built Great Harwood's first school in Delph Road but with no endowment it was often without a master Roger's son Alexander died before him so he was succeeded by his grandson yet another Roger (it's just as confusing for me) who died in 1725.
Read Hall 1750
The son of this Roger, also Roger (1697 - 1734), had no sons so his brother Alexander was to inherit the Nowell estates. Roger, however, wanted to make provision for his wife Mary and daughters Rebecca and Dorothy and had an Act prepared and brought before Parliament. Fortunately all parties concerned agreed to the Act by which, on Roger's death, Mary was to receive £1,500, a nephew James £200 and each daughter £2,000 when they became 21 years old or married. The daughters' money was to be raised by mortgaging land but if they were to die before either event the money need not be raised. All remaining lands were held in trust for Alexander. When Roger died land and estates in Yorkshire were sold to cover the expenses of the Act of Parliament and trust, Mary's legacy, James' legacy and all Roger's other debts.
Alexander died in 1745 with the legacies of Rebecca and Dorothy still outstanding and his son, Alexander, succeeded him.
Both legacies became due in 1746 and Rebecca's husband the Rev. J. Cayley claimed hers when she died. Land in Read was mortgaged to raise the money and Alexander borrowed a further £1,500. It was said he "possessed a wife who had brought expensive habits from London" Charlotte the only daughter and heiress of Colonel James Ramsey of Soho and in spite of his debts he made many alterations to Read Hall.
In 1770 some farms had to be sold to pacify his creditors but not enough money was raised and Alexander instructed his Trustees to sell as much land as was necessary to cover his debts. So the entire Lower Town was put up for sale at the Black Bull, Blackburn. Neither this sale nor one in 1771 at the Swan, Whalley were great successes.
Alexander died in 1772 and the following year his holdings in Great Harwood were once more put up for sale at the Queens Head. Mr. James Lomax of Clayton-le-Moors bought all the land to add to his acquisitions at the previous sales and Sir Thomas Hesketh bought the rights to the market and Fair. Charlotte returned to London with her daughter Elizabeth Eleanor who died aged twelve bringing an end to this branch of the Nowell family.
Old Harwood. Louie Pollard and Harry E. Eaton. (Great Harwood Civic Society 1973) Page 2
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