Grimshaw History at Eccleshill and Clayton-le-Moors

Events in the Blackburn region of Lancashire County, including the Grimshaw locations in Eccleshill and Clayton-le-Moors, reflect the history of England, which is characterized by a series of invasions from the European mainland to the east.


Regional Historical Context

Grimshaw History at Eccleshill

Grimshaw History at Clayton-le-Moors

Roman Catholic Roots of Grimshaws

Clayton Hall and Dunkenhalgh


Figure: St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery on Clayton-le-Moors

The Context: Regional History of Lancashire County

The Blackburn area was occupied by Brigantes prior to the initial Roman invasion by Julius Caesar in 55 B.C. Permanent Roman occupation occurred when the emperor Claudius sent an army to Britain in A.D. 43. Ribchester, which is located seven or eight miles northwest of Grimshaw and Clayton-le-Moors, was a Roman fort that dates from about A.D. 791. The Roman Road, which passes within a few hundred yards west of Grimshaw in Eccleshill, led from Manchester to Ribchester during the Roman occupation. (With careful observation, Roman Road can be seen near the Grimshaw location on the Ordnance Survey map.) The Roman garrison was pulled out of Ribchester toward the end of the 300s.

After the Roman withdrawal, the inhabitants that remained behind, the Britons, were overrun by the Angles and Saxons from the Continent, mostly from between the Rhine and Denmark. Christianity arrived in England during this period, from A.D. 350 to 500. The Anglo-Saxon invasion apparently included the Lancashire area.

Viking raids began in the 700s and by 850 had become an invasion. “From Norway the Vikings conquered southern Scotland and the Hebrides, the Isle of Man, Cumberland and Lancashire, and finally Ireland” (Halliday2, p. 34). No doubt it was the descendants of these Vikings that initiated theGrimshaw name.

The next major historical event affecting the area was the defeat of England by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Although the system of manorialism was apparently in place in Lancashire prior to the arrival of the Normans, they greatly enhanced and expanded the system. The region around Blackburn (“the Blackburn Hundred”), was included in the Honour of Clitheroe, a grant to Roger of Poitou. Later it was given to Ilbert de Lacy, lord of Pontrefact, and “The hundred with the Honour of Clitheroe followed the descent of the barony of Lacy” (Farrer and Brownbill3, v. 6, p. 232). Both the Eccleshill and Clayton-le-Moors locations that figured so prominently in the early history of the Grimshaws were in the lands held by Lacy. During this period, the manorial system was developed extensively throughout the area. Eccleshill was associated with the manor at Mellor, and Clayton-le-Moors was derived from the manor of Altham.

Grimshaw History at Eccleshill

The Grimshaw family originated in Eccleshill (or possibly, earlier, at Grimsargh). Located in Blackburn Parish, Eccleshill “was another member of the knights fee granted about 1165 by Henry de Lacy to Robert Banastre” (Farrer and Brownbill3, p. 279). Abram4 (p. 596-597) traces the history of Eccleshill from its earliest inhabitants:

From the early period when Eccleshull wasan appurtenance of the lords of Walton, to the present date, its lands have been possessed by sundry proprietors. The first resident owners of the soil bore the townships name for a surname. They were benefactors to Stanlaw Abbey about the date 1250-1270. Robert de Eccleshull gave to the monks of that convent one perch of land “in his vill of Eccleshull” for the site of a barn, lying on the “west side of the Bruderudyng between Hoddisdenebrok [Hoddlesden Brook] and the Mill of Eccleshull.” A little later, after this donors death, Matilda, relict of Robert de Eccleshull, quit-claimed to the Abbey of Stanlaw her right in the land he gave in the vill of Eccleshull. Henry de Eccleshull, who occurs in 1214, perhaps was the father of the above Robert.

I conjecture that the De Eccleshull family were akin to the Grimshaws, who succeed them in this possession. In 1276 or 1277, Richard de Grymeshagh gave to the monks of Stanlaw half an acre of land in the vill of Eccleshull, contained in a croft called Bymmecroft, with easement and liberty to take timber there in his (donors) lordship. Grymeshaw was a tenement in Eccleshill beside the stream below Hoddlesden, and the family that named itself from this place of settlement became, temp. Edward III., lords of half the manor of Clayton-le-Moors by marriage of Adam de Grymeshaw with Cecelia, daughter and heir of John de Clayton. Thereafter, the Grimshaws dwelt at Clayton Hall, but they retained the estate in Eccleshill for many generations. It was found part of the inheritance of the heir of Thomas Grimeshawe, after his death, in 1540; and John Grymshaw, who died in 1587, also was found on the Inq. post mort. to have held these ancestral lands in Eccleshill. I have not found when the estate passed from this family. They had it still in 1650, when, in a Rental of Blackburn Wapentake, it was found that “Grimshall Hall” in Eccleshill paid 6d. yearly to that court, and “Mr. Grimshaws tennants” there 1s. yearly.

Author’s note: Notice in Whitaker’s5 descendant chart that this Richard was the son of Walter, the first Grimshaw on record, and brother of Henry, the first-born and heir. Thomas and John, further down in the paragraph, can also be found in Whitaker’s chart  with death dates only and with a difference of a year.

Farrer and Brownbill3, in describing the history of Eccleshill, indicate that it passed through several families, including the Eccleshill family

“until 1554, when John Moore, esq., and Anne his wife passed by fine to Richard Grimshaw fourteen messuages with lands in Eccleshill. These estates, including the manor, descended in the Grimshaw family of Clayton-le-Moors until after the death of Richard Grimshaw about the year 1672.” (Farrer and Brownbill, v. 6, p. 279).

Thus the Grimshaw family apparently increased their holdings substantially in 1554. The family continued to hold land at Eccleshill until at least 1672, more than 300 years after they moved to Clayton-le-Moors. The “manor” referred to in the quote apparently included the land and not a manor hall, as no description of a hall has been found.

Grimshaw History at Clayton-le-Moors

Clayton-le-Moors, like Eccleshill, was part of the Lacy holdings after the Norman conquest in 1066. Following the manorial practices of the time, the manor (considered a part of nearby Altham) passed to the family of Leofwine, lord of Altham, and then to the family and descendants of Henry de Clayton. As noted previously, Clayton-le-Moors then passed into the Grimshaw family when Adam Grimshaw married Cecily Clayton in 1345-47 (see Whitaker’sdescendant chart).

Because Cicely shared her inheritance with a sister, Clayton-le-Moors was divided by Adams son, Henry, with Henry Rishton, husband of Margaret, who was the niece of Cicely. (Whitaker5 erroneously shows Margaret as Cicelys sister). The subsequent history of Clayton-le-Moors was then in two parts – the Grimshaw (then Lomax) part, which was centered around Clayton Hall, and the Rishton part, which was later centered around Dunkenhalgh.

The Grimshaw family apparently had a rich history during their tenure at Clayton-le-Moors from 1345-47 until the manor passed to the Lomaxes in 1715. An excellent description of Grimshaw History at Clayton-le-Moors has been prepared by Ainsworth6 in his description of the old homesteads of the Accrington area. It is given on another webpage because it is rather lengthy. It begins with Cecily and Alice Clayton, co-heiresses of the Clayton estate, and describes Cecily’s marriage to Adam Grimshaw. Ainsworth’s history continues through the tenure of the Grimshaws at Clayton Hall until the male heirs ran out in 1715.

Beginning with Adam and Cecily, a total of 11 generations of Grimshaws lived at Clayton-le-Moors before the male heirs ran out. Rebecca Heywood, daughter of Mary Anne Grimshaw and John Heywood, married Richard Lomax in 1715 and Clayton-le-Moors passed into the Lomax Family after 370 years in the Grimshaw family.

From Walter Grimshaw through Mary Anne Grimshaw Heywood, about 65 descendants were born, of which about 43 were male. Although not all had families due to early death and other reasons, there were probably 30 to 35 potential “lines of Grimshaws” to spring from this original branch.

The post-Grimshaw history of Clayton-le-Moors under the Lomaxes has been well summarized by Pollard7 and is also provided on a separate webpage.

Clayton Hall and Dunkenhalgh

According to Ainsworth6 (p. 316), “the ancient Hall of Clayton in the 16th century was a two-storey building with gables and
high pitched roof. The principal front faced south and the domestic buildings adjacent.” The next Clayton Hall was built in 1772 and substantially added to in 1847 and 1887. During World War II, it was used to house servicemen. It did not withstand the ravages of time, however, and was demolished in 19777. A photograph of this former Clayton Hall is included on a separate webpage, in oversize form to minimize the interference caused by scanning a half-tone photo.

The current owner of the site has built a new home in recent times that appears to be a substantial replica of the former Clayton Hall, although what has been built to date replaces only a portion of the original mansion.

Dunkenhalgh is still in existence and has been acquired by one of the larger hotel chains in England, MacDonald Hotels, and is operated as an upscale hotel. It is incuded on another webpage and can be seen on the Ordnance Survey map of the Blackburn area.

Photos of both Dunkenhalgh and the “new”Clayton Hall are included on another webpage.

Roman Catholic Roots of the Grimshaw Family

The main line of Grimshaws that lived at Clayton-le-Moors for more than 300 years were apparently Roman Catholics and remained within the faith despite the sometimes intense anti-Catholic pressures, prejudices and penalties. Ainsworth(p. 312-313), in his description of Sparth, provides the following:

Jennet Cunliffe, like her father, was a member of the Independent Church at Altham. This Puritan maid was wooed, and not without success, by John Grimshaw, a younger son Of Richard Grimshaw of Clayton Hall. The Grimshaws of Clayton Hall were as firm Roman Catholics as the Cunliffes had been staunch Puritans. John Grimshaw’s addresses to the Puritan maid and co-heiress of Sparth were regarded with horror, first condemned, then forbidden by the Church of which Jennet was a member.

Love knows no barriers, or laws of ecclesiastical prohibition, and Jennet Cunliffe, refusing to give up her lover, was, after many fruitless remonstrances, and exhorted by all the eloquence that her pastor, Jollie, could command, expelled from the Church in the following curious formula

Jennet Cunliffe, for keeping company with a Papist, and promising him marriage, against the advice of the Church, founded on the Word of God, and persisting in it, after admonitions, was cast out of communion in the ensuing form:

I do, in the name and with the power of the Lord Jesus and in the name of the people of God, cast out Jennet Cunliffe out of the Church, and deliver her up to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

This was pronounced by Jollie in Altham Church, and hence-forth Jennet Cunliffe was an outcast and a pariah, whom everyone had to shun. No one had to have any dealings with her, or even have conversation with her. No helping hand of sympathy and consolation could be extended to her by any of her neighbours under pain of themselves coming under the ban. If she died during the period of interdict Christian burial would be denied. The cross road or near some wayside cross was a fit place for the burial of one who was outside the pale of the Church.

This occurred at the close of the year 1655. That the alliance between these two lovers was consummated is proved by the pedigree entry in “Dugdale’s Visitations” in 1664:

John Grimshaw married Janet, daughter of Robert Cunliffe, and co-heir to her brother, Christopher Cunliffe, of Sparth.

Christopher Cunliffe, Jennet’s only brother, died about 1656. The Altham Church book records the entry, in 1656, “Mr. Cunliffe’s male issue extinct, and his estate likely to fall to a Papist. So it would when Jennet, wife of John Grimshaw, became sole heir by her brother’s death. However, the good fortune of this member of the Grimshaw family was short lived. According to a statement recorded in the notebook of Thomas Jollie, whom naturally John Grimshaw hated, on account of the treatment meted out to his wife (no doubt the feeling was mutual) he was an agent in expelling Thomas Jollie from Altham Church on the Act of Uniformity coming into force in 1662 during the reign of Charles II. It would appear that John Grimshaw died of intemperance in 1663:

Mr. John Grimshaw, being one who shutt me out, of the publique place, dyed in the prosecution of his most debauched practices, and with unspeakable horror.

The date of his death was December 14th, 1663.

The influence of Catholicism continued at Clayton-le-Moors after the estate  passed from the Grimshaws to the Lomaxes. St. Marys Church was built at Clayton-le-Moors in 1819, as described on a descriptive marker (see figure at the end of this webpage) at the cemetery on Clayton-le-Moors where the church used to stand:

St. Marys, Enfield, as it was sometimes called, was built on land given by R.G. Lomax of Clayton Hall, whose family inherited the ancient Catholic estate of the Grimshaws of Clayton Hall. People came from outlying places such as Accrington, Church, Rishton, Great Harwood and Padiham. This church became the mother church to several modern ones.

The church was opened on July 11, 1819. Father Charles Brooke, S.J. was the first Parish Priest. As Clayton-le-Moors developed, St. Marys Church became increasingly inconvenient. This and the incursion of dry rot and the corrosive effects of nearby industry caused the demise of the building, and it was demolished in 1959.

A new church was built on Devonshire Drive, Clayton-le-Moors. The last interment in the cemetery took place in 1974.


1Hodge, A.C., and J.F. Ridge, 1997, Ribchester – A Short History and Guide: Preston, England, Carnegie Publishing, Ltd., 12 p.

2Halliday, F.E., 1995, England – A Concise History: London, Thames and Hudson, 240 p.

3Farrer, William, and J. Brownbill, 1911, A Victoria History of the Counties of England – Lancashire, v. 6: London, Univ. of London Inst. Of Historical Research (Reprinted by Dawsons of Pall Mall.)

4Abram, W.A., 1877, A History of Blackburn, Town and Parish: Blackburn, J.G. & J. Toulmin, 784 p. (republished 1990 by T.H.C.L. Books, Blackburn, Lancashire, England)

5Whitaker, Thomas Dunham, 1872, An History of the Original Parish of Whalley, and Honor of Clitheroe (Revised and enlarged by John G. Nichols and Ponsonby A. Lyons): London, George Routledge and Sons, 4th Edition; v. I, 362 p.; v. II, 622 p. Earlier editions were published in 1800, 1806, and 1825.

6Ainsworth, Richard, 1928, The Old Homesteads of Accrington & District, Embracing Accrington, Baxenden, Stonefold, Oswaldtwistle, Church, Clayton-le-Moors, Great Harwood, Rishton, Hapton, Huncoat, Read, Simonstone, Altham, Whalley: Accrington, Wardleworth Limited, unk p.

7Pollard, Louie, 1978, Great Harwood Gleanings: Lancashire County Library and Leisure Committee, unk p.

Marker at St. Mary’s Cemetery

The descriptive Marker at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Clayton-le-Moors is shown below. Mr. Harrison, shown here with his son, lives in the nearby former Butlers Cottage; they have contributed substantially to the restoration of the cemetery.

Webpage History

Webpage posted July 2000.