Category Archives: Ashton Under Lyne

Happy New Year 2017



1966 World Cup final shirt worn by Sir Geoff Hurst could fetch £500,000 at auction

Geoff Hurst during the 1966 World Cup final

The football shirt worn by Sir Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup final is expected to fetch up to half a million pounds at auction.

Born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Sir Geoff became the first and only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final during England’s historic 4-2 triumph over West Germany at Wembley.

The auction on July 12 will come almost 50 years to the day of the game – England’s greatest footballing triumph.

The red long-sleeved jersey, with the famous Three Lions badge on the front and the number 10 in white stitching on the back, was going on display at Sotheby’s auction house in London today ahead of the sale next month.

Striker Sir Geoff, who went on to make 49 senior appearances for England, scoring 24 goals, was awarded a place in the starting line-up after striker Jimmy Greaves was injured earlier in the tournament.

He went on to guarantee his place in English football history by scoring the game’s decisive goals.

Geoff Hurst’s football shirt, pictured in 1998, sold for more than £90,000 in 2000

Auctioneers Sotheby’s estimate the cotton Umbro jersey will attract bids of between £300,000 and £500,000.

Gabriel Heaton, a specialist at the auction house, hailed a ‘really special, unique item’.

He said: “Half a century on, the immense importance of this match to the English game and nation is being underlined once again with the extensive commemorations of the match’s 50th anniversary.

“This shirt, worn by the match’s star player, is the most significant obtainable artefact relating to this historic match. It represents a legendary moment in the annals of English football, and a sporting achievement that has never been repeated in half a century.

“It’s a really special, unique item – there is a premium attached to it and it’s these sort of items that increase in value over the years.”

The shirt has been auctioned before – in 2000 it was sold by Sir Geoff for more than £90,000, Mr Heaton said.

The jersey will go on display at Sotheby’s auction house in central London ahead of the sale on July 12.

The famous final gave rise to one of the most iconic sayings in English football, when Bolton-born BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme said “some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now” as Sir Geoff’s final goal went in.

(216) Assheton of Downham Hall, Whalley Abbey, Great Lever and Middleton Hall, baronets and Barons Clitheroe – part 1

Assheton of Downham Hall,
Barons Clitheroe

The first part of this post provides an introduction to the Assheton family and its estates, and describes the houses they owned. Part 2 gives the detailed genealogy of the family.

The Ashton or Assheton (as the name came to be spelled) family are one of the most important and oldest gentry families of central Lancashire. They take their name from Ashton-under-Lyne near Manchester, where they are recorded as holding the manor from the 12th century onwards. It descended to Sir John de Assheton (d. 1427), a knight who fought at Agincourt and was employed as an administrator in France in his later years. His eldest son, Sir Thomas Assheton (c.1403-60), who inherited the Ashton-under-Lyne estate, was bred up as a knight but had very different interests, and in 1446 was given a licence to practice alchemy. His descendants held Ashton until the early 16th century, when it passed to the Booth family by marriage.
Sir John’s younger son, Sir Ralph Assheton (c.1425-88), the half-brother of Sir Thomas, was a Yorkist knight with an unenviable reputation for violence and brutality, who held high office under King Richard III but seems to have avoided being present at Bosworth field, when Richard was killed and Henry Tudor seized the throne. His first wife was heiress to the Middleton estate, but he seems to have lived in the early part of his career mainly at Fryton (Yorks NR) where he held appointments in the Honour of Pickering, and later on at Westenhanger (Kent), where his second wife brought him property and he had grants of land from the Crown.

From Sir Ralph the Middleton estate passed to his eldest son, Sir Richard Assheton (d. 1507) and grandson, Sir Richard Assheton (c.1482-1549), both of whom were knights in the military service of the Crown. The younger Sir Richard distinguished himself at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, and commemorated his part in that devastating English victory against the Scots through the remodelling of Middleton church and the installation of a window depicting his troop of archers. Both men, however, received royal pardons for civil offences, suggesting they may have inherited some of Sir Ralph’s lack of self-control.

Sir Ralph’s second son, another Sir Ralph Assheton (fl. 1501) married Margaret, the daughter and heiress of Adam Lever of Great Lever near Bolton, and they established a junior branch of the family at Great Lever. This Sir Ralph was succeeded his son, Ralph (fl. 1509) and eldest grandson, Ralph Assheton (d. 1559), whose younger brother, Richard Assheton (d. 1579), no doubt a lawyer by training, became one of the senior officials of the Court of Augmentations. Through his position there, he was able to acquire former monastic properties in three counties, including the site of the Cistercian abbey of Whalley, where he converted part of the conventual buildings into a house. In 1558 he also purchased the manor of Downham, which had always been in lay hands. Having no children of his own, he divided his estates between his great-nephews Ralph Assheton (c.1552-1616) of Great Lever, who received Whalley, and his younger brother Richard Assheton (fl. 1595), who received Downham; this established a third branch of the family.

In 1614, Radclyffe Assheton (1582-1645), a younger son of Ralph Assheton (c.1552-1616), joined with his father to buy the manor of Cuerdale near Preston, and there established a fourth branch of the family, so that at the outbreak of the Civil War the family were established on estates all over south and central Lancashire: Sir Ralph Assheton (1579-1644), who was made a baronet in 1620, inherited Great Lever Hall and Whalley Abbey, but sold the former in 1629 to the Bishop of Chester and lived thereafter at Whalley. Another Ralph Assheton (1606-51) had inherited Middleton Hall as a minor in 1618, and was to play a leading role in the Civil War in Lancashire as one of Parliament’s Major-Generals. Radclyffe Assheton (1582-1645) was at Cuerdale Hall, and Richard Assheton (d. 1657) was at Downham Hall.

In 1657 Richard Assheton of Downham Hall died without issue and left his estates to Sir Ralph Assheton (c.1611-80), 2nd bt., of Whalley. Sir Ralph also had no surviving children, and since he was on poor terms with his half-brother and heir, he settled the Downham estate on his cousin Richard Assheton of Cuerdale in 1678, while Whalley, which was entailed, passed to the half-brother, Sir Edmund Assheton (1620-95), 3rd bt., a London lawyer. Sir Edmund contested the settlement of Downham, but to no avail, and since he was unmarried and without issue, when he died Whalley passed briefly to his brother, Sir John Assheton (1622-97), 4th bt., and then to his sister’s son, Sir Ralph Assheton (1657-1716), 2nd bt. of Middleton Hall. When Sir Ralph died without sons, the Middleton Hall estate passed with the baronetcy to his nephew, Sir Ralph Assheton (1692-1765), 3rd bt., but Whalley was left to his youngest daughter, Mary (c.1694-1776) and her husband, Sir Nathaniel Curzon (1675-1758), 4th bt. of Kedleston (Derbys), and passed out of the family. In 1765 the same fate befell Middleton, when the 3rd baronet died without sons, and the estate passed to his eldest daughter Mary (1741-1823) and her husband, Sir Harbord Harbord, 2nd bt. and later 1st Baron Suffield.

So with hindsight, the Civil War – when four branches of the family held five estates between them – was the highwatermark of the family fortunes. By the late 18th century only Cuerdale and Downham were left in Assheton hands. William Assheton (1758-1833), who inherited the estate as an infant, came of age in 1779 and immediately embarked on a remodelling of the old house at Downham. Perhaps because of a shortage of funds, however, his transformation was abandoned unfinished, and he lived in York rather than on his estates. It was left to his son, William Assheton (1788-1858), to bring in George Webster to complete the remodelling in 1834-35, and from this time onwards at least, Cuerdale Hall seems to have been used as a farm only. William was succeeded by his son Ralph Assheton (1830-1907) and grandson, Sir Ralph Cockayne Assheton (1860-1955), 1st bt., who had business interests in the coal and banking industries which brought new wealth to the estate. Downham Hall was restored and remodelled in the years either side of the First World War, creating the house that exists today. Sir Ralph’s son and heir, Ralph Assheton (1901-84), combined even wider business interests with a career in politics which saw him serve as MP for three different constituencies between 1934 and 1955. The high point of his ministerial career was three years as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, at what must have been a very demanding time, 1942-45. On his retirement from Parliament in 1955 he was created a peer as 1st Baron Clitheroe, and on his father’s death a few months later he inherited the family baronetcy and the Downham estate. In 1984 the titles and estate passed to his elder son, Ralph John Assheton (b. 1929), 2nd Baron Clitheroe, who handed the estate over to his son, the Hon. Ralph Christopher Assheton (b. 1962), in about 2012.

Ashton Old Hall, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire

The medieval seat of the Ashtons was a large house occupying high ground between the parish church and the River Tame, but after it passed to the Booth family in the early 16th century it seems to have passed out of regular use as a gentry house and was eventually converted to tenements. In 1795 John Aikin described it as a building of great antiquity and said it had been erected in 1483, but gave no specific reason for assigning that date to it. At that time, part of the house had until recently been used as a prison and the part which was in use as tenements had been altered to create separate entrances to each dwelling. According to Aikin, “It has two courtyards, an inner and an outer, with strong walls. Over the outer gate was a square room ascended to from the inside by a flight of stone steps and very ancient. It has always gone by the name of the Gaoler’s Chapel . . . [but] was taken down in 1793. The house to the inner court is still standing, and in tolerable repair. . . . The front of the old hall adjoining the prison overlooking the gardens and the River Tame [has] a beautiful prospect. On this side of the building are strong parts of immense thickness with numbers of loopholes.” When first recorded on a plan in 1824 the house had ranges around three sides of a courtyard, but whether it was ever as extensive as Aikin describes is unclear. The first Ordnance Survey 6″ map, surveyed in 1845, suggests that there may not have been room on the site for more than one courtyard.

Ashton Old Hall: Ordnance Survey 6″ plan of 1845 showing the surviving fragment of the house.
Ashton Old Hall, Ashton-under-Lyne: west front, shortly before demolition in 1890

The house was repaired and modernized in 1838 for the occasional residence of the Earl of Stamford, to whose family it had descended, and a good deal of old fabric was probably lost at that time; certainly the L-shaped footprint in 1845 was smaller than in 1824. In 1862 John Higson, a local antiquary, wrote a description of the house. The long west wing overlooking the valley had then two small bays and projecting chimney-shafts in its west front, and an apparently 17th century two-storey porch, but was covered with rough-cast coloured black. On its east side the greater part was also rough-cast, but a portion at the south end was of timber and plaster. The roofs were covered with stone slates. The east inner elevation had doors and windows with semicircular heads, and over the door was an escutcheon with the arms, crest, and supporters of the Earl of Stamford, so all this part was probably altered in the 1838 remodelling. The hall is thought to have had a floor inserted in the 16th century, but a portion of the medieval roof remained in 1862, with shaped braces forming quatrefoils in the spaces between the principals and the purlins.

Ashton Old Hall, Ashton-under-Lyne: south front, a reconstruction drawing of 1910.
Image: Victoria County History/University of London
Higson thought the south wing was probably early 16th century. In his day it had three square-headed windows on each floor of two trefoiled lights, and was flanked at each end by a round tower standing a little in advance of the main wall, and rising considerably higher than the roof. The walls of the towers were about 2 ft. 6 in. thick at the bottom, and the interior was square to the height of two stories, above which it finished off as a circular tower. The roofs were of stone with a central finial, and the towers had evidently served the purpose of garderobes. In the late 19th century the south side of the south wing appears to have had larger three-light windows inserted, with pointed heads on the first floor.  In 1824 part of the east wing also survived, but this had been demolished by the time of Higson’s description.
By the late 19th century the house was surrounded by railway lines, and it was pulled down in 1890 by the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company, to make way for improvements to Park Parade Station, unfortunately without being properly recorded.

Descent: William de Kirkby granted temp. Henry II (1154×1189) to Orm, from whom by descent to Sir John de Assheton (d. 1427); to son, Sir Thomas Ashton (c.1403-60); to son, Sir John Ashton (d. 1484); to son, Sir Thomas Ashton (c.1447-1514); to co-heirs in the Booth and Hoghton families…Sir George Booth (d. 1652), 1st bt., acquired both moieties c.1596; to grandson, Sir George Booth (d. 1684), 2nd bt and 1st Baron Delamere; to son, Henry Booth (d. 1693), 2nd Baron Delamere and 1st Earl of Warrington; to son, Hon. George Booth (d. 1758); to daughter Mary (d. 1772), wife of Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford; to son, George Harry Grey (d. 1819), 1st Earl of Warrington; to son, Hon. George Harry Grey (d. 1845); to grandson Hon. George Harry Grey (d. 1883); to kinsman, Harry Grey, 8th Earl of Stamford, who sold to Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Co.

Great Lever Hall, Lancashire

Great Lever Hall stood on high ground between the River Croal and the Bolton to Manchester road, close to the former town. The site was a naturally defensive one, being directly accessible only from the west.

Great Lever Hall: shown on 1st edition 6″ OS map surveyed in 1846.

Of the house of the Levers and Asshetons probably little or nothing survived the 17th century rebuilding by Bishop Bridgeman about 1630 and later changes, and much of the Bishop’s house is said to have been demolished in 1760. By 1911 the house had a very irregular plan and the greater part of the building was then said to be of modern construction, with elevations of brick or stucco. The house was divided into three portions, the oldest of which was used as the rectory for the parish of Great Lever. The eastern wing was entirely modernized and used as a Conservative Club, while a north-west wing, at right angles to the older part of the house, had been converted into cottages.

Great Lever Hall: watercolour of the house in the 19th century, Image: Trustees of the Bradford Estates.
The rectory did, however, retain on the south front a portion of the 17th-century timber facade built by Bishop Bridgeman, bearing his initials and the date 1631 in two ornamental panels; the timber construction of the house also showed on the north side. The timber front of the rectory facing the court was coved at the first floor, and there was also a cove under the gable. The black and white ‘timbering’ of the gable was just paint on plaster, but the walls were genuine half-timbering. On both the ground and first floors, the house had long strip windows of thirteen lights, with the sills of the three outside lights at each end being higher than the rest; by 1911, most of the windows had been replaced but a few were still old. The lead of the diamond quarries was very broad and painted white, with a white fillet painted on the glass on each side. The roofs of the old portion of the house, as well as of the chapel, were of grey stone slates, and the chimneys were of red brick.

Across the courtyard from the south front was a detached building containing the domestic chapel built by Bishop Bridgeman in 1634 and consecrated two years later, with a house attached. The position of the chapel could imply its having originally formed part of the south wing of a courtyard house, but there seems to be no other indication that the house was so planned. By 1911 the chapel was entirely detached and the court open at both ends, and it was probably always so.

Great Lever Hall: the west front of the hall in 1939, when it was clearly derelict, and perhaps in the process of demolition.
The interior arrangements of the house had been so much altered that the original plan could not be determined in 1911. The ground floor had low rooms with old oak beams running across the ceilings, those in the kitchen being very massive and of great length. The floors both upstairs and down were very uneven owing to subsidence caused by local mining. The dining-room had some oak panelling under the window, and high up on the wall over the fireplace were two small shields, one on each side, with the arms of Bridgeman. Upstairs, the library was a handsome room running across the house and lit by a long window at each end. This room, which was under the timber gable facing the courtyard, was richly wainscoted on the west side and at the two ends, the detail consisting of pilasters framing square panels, with a richly carved frieze along the top under a classical cornice. The fireplace had Ionic pilasters, and the ceiling was of plaster divided by beams into four bays, the two end ones having ornamental plaster-work, and the middle ones being plain. In the bay at the west end of the ceiling were the arms of the see of Chester on a large shield surrounded by strap-work with four smaller shields, one at each corner, bearing the arms of Bridgeman. Another room on the first floor was also panelled in oak, but was less rich in detail.  Samuel Pepys, writing under date 10 November 1662, refers to some heraldic glass in the windows at Great Lever, but this had disappeared by 1911.

Great Lever Hall: the house and chapel in 1907. Image: Bolton Libraries & Museums.

The chapel was built of brick on a stone base, and was separated from the house by a courtyard paved with cobbles. It formed the eastern half of a building the rest of which is thought to have been used as a house for the chaplain. A stone wall at one time inclosed the court on the east side, but later gave way to a lattice screen. The brickwork of the outer walls of the chapel was yellow-washed, and the roof was covered with grey stone slates. Inside the chapel was quite bare in 1911, and it was lit by an eight-light window at the east end with stone mullions and double transoms, and square-headed six-light mullioned and transomed windows on the north and south walls. A description of the chapel in 1787 says it had then fallen out of use, although marriages had been held there as late as 1767. ‘At the end, opposite to the altar’ says the writer, ‘ is a gallery formerly for the use of the family, and a bench runs round the chapel below.’ By 1911, the gallery no longer survived, but its position was marked by coupled roof-trusses about 5 ft. apart at the west end. The ridge of the roof did not coincide with the centre line of the chapel, but was slightly to the south of it, making an irregular gable at the ends. The ends of the two roof-trusses rest on the wall in the usual way on the south side, but on the north they projected in front of the wall and carried the roof in the form of a penthouse further forward over the entrance doorway. This may have served originally as shelter to a doorway higher up in the wall, giving access to the gallery from the outside, the bricked-up opening of which was still visible in 1911.

Great Lever Hall fell into very poor repair and it was finally demolished in 1939 or just afterwards. Efforts were made to find a way of preserving the chapel but this was also taken down just after the Second World War. Even the site on which the house stood has gone, quarried away for the widening of the A666.

Descent: Adam Lever (d. c.1450); to daughter, Margaret (d. c.1483), who later married Sir Ralph Ashton, kt.; to son, Ralph Ashton (fl. 1509); to son, Ralph (or Richard) Ashton (fl. 1533); to son, Ralph (or John) Assheton (c.1523-87); to son, Ralph Assheton (c.1552-1616); to son, Sir Ralph Assheton (1579-1644), 1st bt., who sold 1629 to Rt. Rev. John Bridgman (d. 1652), Bishop of Chester, who rebuilt it…. Earl of Bradford (fl. 1939), who demolished the house.

Middleton Hall, Lancashire

Middleton Hall was situated a little to the south of the church in the centre of the little town; it was a house of some size, taxed on 18 hearths in 1666. It was already dilapidated in the late 18th century, and after being partially rebuilt it was used as a house for Lord Suffield’s agent until it was pulled down in 1845, when a cotton factory (Albany Mill) was built on the site.