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Exciting new research finds

The history of Lytham manorial court has been published by the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society. Written by local historian Peter Shakeshaft it spans the period from 1504, the year of the earliest surviving court record, to 1946 when the last manorial court was held at the County & Commercial Hotel, Lytham. This article was presented to James Hilton, the lord of the Manor at Lytham and Marianne Blaauboer, from Heritage Trust of the North West.

A manorial court was the lowest court in England and governed those areas over which the lord of the manor had jurisdiction, it applied to those who resided or held lands within the manor.

Lytham manorial court, which embraced present-day Lytham St Anne’s, like many other manorial courts, was a court of two parts. The court baron regulated matters relating to the manor, and was used to confirm the preservation of the rights of the manorial lord against the tenantry, and the rights of the tenantry against the lord; it was also the means of maintaining a record of changes in tenancy. The court leet dealt with civil matters such as punishing wrongdoers, hearing pleas, and making byelaws.

The first manorial court would have been held under the jurisdiction of the prior of Lytham Priory which stood on or near to present day Lytham Hall. At Lancashire Archives, there are pre-dissolution manorial court records for the years 1504, 1513/14, 1516-1518, 1522-1524, 1526, and 1532-1533. The priory was dissolved in 1536/7.

From c1539 to c1606 the tenants at the former priory were the Rogerley family, and there are surviving records of the manorial court being held during their tenure at Lytham. In 1606 Cuthbert (later Sir Cuthbert) Clifton purchased the manor of Lytham and held his first manorial court in May the same year.

A composite volume of court records for various Clifton family manors (in addition to Lytham it also includes Westby and Little Marton) contains a detailed coverage of the courts that were held from 1611 to 1712. A further twenty court books cover the period 1731 to 1772. There are no known surviving court books after 1772, but evidence that the Lytham court continued to be held is provided by various miscellaneous documents in the Clifton family papers, and by newspaper articles in both the Lytham Times and Lytham St Anne’s Express.

In April 1978 James Hilton of Lytham, the present lord of the manor of Lytham, and to whom Peter is most grateful for allowing him full and free access to all court documents, bought the title and manorial rights from the Clifton family. A year earlier the legal (criminal) jurisdiction of all manorial courts was abolished by the Administration of Justice Act. Although the Act stated that ‘any such court may continue to sit and transact such other business, as was customary for it’, such as the taking of presentments relating to matters of local concern, no such court has been held at Lytham.

Peter has also written an unpublished account of St Cuthbert’s Church, Lytham for the period 1536 to 1834. The status of the church throughout this period was far more complex that is sometimes appreciated, and is an intriguing story of religion and politics.

Arguably the most interesting aspect of Lytham history, that the research has revealed, is the previously unrecognised role of the Rogerley family. From documents held at both National Archives, London, and at Lancashire Archives it is now clear that the family were tenants at the former priory from c1539 when the manor was granted to Sir Thomas Dannett, and remained so during the subsequent ownerships of Sir Thomas Holcroft, and the Molyneux family.

There is mention of the Rogerley family throughout the period 1539 to 1606 in relation to both manor and church. And as early as 1541 George Rogerley acted as deputy steward, for the chief steward, the earl of Derby, at the manor court of that year. Perhaps more significant is the fact that in 1542 George Rogerley ‘de Litham’ married Ellin (Ellen) Clifton at Kirkham parish church. Ellin was the aunt of Cuthbert Clifton the grandfather of the Cuthbert Clifton who purchased the manor of Lytham in 1606.

The most conclusive evidence for the presence of the Rogerley family at Lytham is that of George Rogerley, junior, who in 1608 recalled that, from c1539 until 1598, his father and mother and he himself had been ‘farmers and occupiers of the same Lordship for the space of three score years or thereabouts’. The Rogerley family continued to reside at Lytham after 1598, as lessees of Sir Richard Molyneux, until the manor of Lytham was purchased by Cuthbert Clifton in 1606. Thereafter the Clifton family were lords of the manor of Lytham for another three hundred and seventy two years.

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