Wyre Archaeology

Welcome to the Wyre Archaeology website. Our name dates back several years but our interests are not confined to just the Wyre District but cover the whole of Wyre, the Fylde and beyond. The resources will include information on our digs, areas of interest, various maps (OS, Tithe, other), other primary documents (wills, inventories, letters, newspaper articles, etc,) some secondary sources (books/commentaries) and historic or aerial photographs.  

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Broughton Pinfold

Our first, tentative, findings from the Broughton pinfold dig can be found here:-


Cup-Marked Stone

On the 6th April 2019, several members of the group met at Nicky Nook to investigate a possible cup and ring stone.  On a beautiful day, with magnificent views of the Fylde, the stone and the surrounding area was investigated.  It was found at the junction of a couple of ancient walls - which may, possibly, be investigated at a later date.  More information will be reported at the next meeting.


The find was reported to Lancashire Historic Environment Record only to find that it had already been reported & recorded.


Following a request, more details and photographs have been added to our Kirkham dig from several years ago.  This is now more important with the news that a housing development at Brook Farm, Dowbridge, has been given planning permission. 

The recent (2018) Dowbridge dig has uncovered a number of finds have been uncovered including a bronze age cup stone and the base of a Roman oven.  It is understood that more investigations will take place in the summer of 2019.

More information to follow.

Chapter 3 - The Candidates


Two parties contested the 1768 election in Preston; Whigs and Tories. The Whigs, backed by the Stanleys and other powerful families in the area, were strongly pro-Hanoverian whereas the Tories, nominated and backed by the Corporation, were a little more fluid in their beliefs.


When the election was called in the summer of 1767 the standing MP was Sir Peter Leicester – a nominee of the Corporation. He had only recently taken over from Nicholas Fazackerly Esq, who had died early in 1767. Leicester was elected unopposed in the 1767 bi-election with no sign of the turmoil to appear later that year. Sir Peter belonged to a family with large estates in Cheshire and, unlike Fazackerly, had no obvious link to Preston. In fact he was only made a freeman of Preston in the March of 1767 about the time the bi-election (1).
In all of the documentation relating to the election, Leicester generally presented a low profile and, in his short time in Parliament, there is no record of him making any speeches. He was to die two years later in 1770.

The second Tory candidate chosen, at the dissolution of Parliament, was Sir Frank Standish who was nominated in 1767 as a replacement for the recently retired Edmund Starkie.  Sir Frank had acquired most of his wealth through family interests in the coal-mines of the Wigan area and lived at Duxbury Hall, Chorley.  At the time of the election he was a comparatively young 22 year old and seems to have been chosen to bring money and local support to the Tory campaign.

It should be mentioned at this time that the two previous Tory MP’s, Nicholas Fazackerly and Edmund Starkie, had been accused of having Jacobite leanings and, with that, possible Catholic sympathies.  One rumour surrounding Starkie was that he had housed the “Young Pretender” when the Jacobites came through Preston in 1745.  What was certain was that the Mayor and Corporation, when nominating some Catholics (and not Whigs) to be free burgesses, only reinforced the view that the Corporation had Jacobite leanings.  As we will see later, this suspicion will be used against the Tory party to foment divisions and encourage Hanoverian support.

The personalities and background to the two Whig candidates will be examined later but it was the Stanley family that seemed to be pulling the political and financial strings for this election.   The Stanley family had been, and still were in 1768, a prominent family in the area and demonstrated by their political muscles by a Stanley monopolising the role of Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire from 1714 until 1851.  This run of Stanleys only ending with the 14th Earl of Derby becoming Prime Minister.  In earlier years they had been influential in choosing, or at least nominating, an MP for Preston but in the years before 1768 a rift opened between the Whig Stanleys and the staunch Tory Corporation, who now adopting a more independent standpoint.  This eventually manifested itself in the aggressively contested 1768 election. 

As Abram wrote in his Sketches (2).

It came after about a century of almost uninterrupted political inertness and indifference in Preston.

This isn’t quite true since there had been the occasional disputed election but nothing at the level, as we will see, of the 1768 election.
The ancestral home of the Stanley family was to be found at Knowsley, South Lancashire, but they also retained a large house in Preston – Patten House in Church Street.  Being property owners and employers along with supporting the local economy and church guaranteed then a large core vote from the town. 





Chapter 2 - Background


Although this may seem a little strange, the most important factor governing the result of the 1768 election took place a little over 100 years earlier, in 1661. In that year there was a disputed election and, as we will see, all disputed elections create great animosity and bad feeling between the various parties. In the 1661 election there were three aspirants for the two available seats; Dr Rigby, Dr Fife and Dr Rishton. Dr Rigby collected votes from all sections of the voters but Dr Fife, who was the nominee of the corporation, lost the election to Dr Rishton who was supported by the “freemen at large”. A more complete explanation of the different voter types will appear later but, for the moment, these individuals were freemen of the town but not permanent residents. As far as the corporation was concerned this expanded electorate was greater than they desired since, by restricting the voting electorate to the “in-burgesses” or “in-freemen” who were nominated by the Mayor and corporation, would mean that their nominee was more likely to win. When the corporation lost this election the case was put to the parliamentary committee of privileges and elections. The question posed being


whether the Mayor and twenty four burgesses had only voices, or the inhabitants at large.


The committee responded with the ruling


that all inhabitants had voices in the election


meaning that all the freemen including all those at large should be allowed to vote and Dr Rishton should be the elected MP. By phrasing their conclusion in these words the committee had, perhaps unintentionally, sanctioned universal male suffrage. As far as Preston (and the rest of the Country) was concerned, for the next hundred years the outcome of this election and the decision of the parliamentary committee was largely ignored. It was rarely mentioned and, even when it was, it had no obvious effect on the subsequent elections.


Preston wasn’t the only Borough in the Country where the Mayor and Corporation controlled the electorate in this way. Rotten Boroughs notwithstanding, it was, more often than not, the general situation around the country. By 1768, this issue of manipulating the electorate had come to a head in that a number of cases were presented to the King’s Bench citing the abuse power by local Corporations. Maidstone and Northampton particularly stand out and, in fact, Northampton also suffered similar rioting in 1768.

It should be explained at this point that, in Preston for the 1768 election, the opposing parties were the Whigs and Tories - but this was only in name only. The Mayor and Corporation backed the Tory candidates whereas the Stanley and Hoghton families supported the Whigs. It seems that splitting the groups on party lines was largely less important than the personalities involved and the powerful factions in the background.


In the years just prior to the 1768 election, the MP (or MPs) for Preston tended to be a “shoe-in” nominee of the Corporation. The only people who would be allowed vote, in local and national elections, were the freemen or in-burgesses of the town. The Mayor and Corporation had, for some time, ignored any Whigs who, all things being equal, would have expected to have been nominated. By this underhand manner the Mayor and corporation reinforced the status quo. According to Abram (1)


More than one-third of the householding residents of Preston in 1768 were excluded from the Burgess Roll, and thereby were deprived alike of the Municipal and the Parliamentary franchise.


How he came about this figure is unknown and the position of Catholics is also unstated but we will come to this later.


A number of other categories of “potential” voters appear in the 1768 election; the military, Catholics and “foreigners”. Each of these groups had a presence in the town causing disputes as to the validity of their vote - without clear resolution.


Another conflict rumbling in the background was that the relationship between the Corporation and the Stanley/Hoghton families and, in the years running up to the 1768, it had broken down. The Stanleys and Hoghtons could lay claim to being the most influential families in the area and they, or a nominee of theirs, had been adopted by the Corporation in most elections until 1741 – in fact Sir Edward Stanley had been the mayor in 1731. By 1768 the Corporation had declared independence from these families and the battleground was set.

1. W. A. Abram “Sketches in Local History” – printed as a series of articles in the Preston Guardian between 1878 and 1881. A more convenient way of examining these articles can be found as a “cuttings book” in the Harris Library with the reference P12 ABR.

Chapter 1 - Introduction


In 2014, Wyre Archaeology group were invited to excavate an old water mill at Hollowforth, near Woodplumpton. Whilst researching the background to this area I came across the following reference to Hollowforth in the Haydock Papers (1).


In 1768, during the anti-Jacobite and No-Popery fermentation at Preston, Newhouse chapel narrowly escaped destruction. An infatuated mob, after destroying St. Mary's chapel, in Friargate, Preston, and burning that at Cottam, moved in the direction of Newhouse for the purpose of demolishing the chapel there. But a neighbouring Protestant, named Hankinson, a descendant of the family of the man who betrayed George Haydock, the martyr, met the mob near Hollowforth Mill, and persuaded them not to touch the chapel. He entreated them not to molest Mr. Carter, whom he highly praised. He then provided them with food and drink, which appeased them, and thus they marched back to Preston.



All of this was new to me even though I had a keen interest in the history of Preston. Riots in Preston! Burning down of churches! A quick on-line search revealed that, even after 250 years, the 1768 election was known as “The Great Election”. Why should this election be famous? I needed to know.

More online research provided another reference to the election in "The Gentleman's Magazine" and contains "A letter from Preston, in Lancashire” dated February 21st, 1768, which reports:-


"The contest here is attended with imminent danger. I have just escaped, with many friends. The country is now up in arms. As the town is now abandoned by our [the Tory party's] men, the cry is, 'Leave not a freeman alive !' God knows where this will end. I think to-night, or tomorrow, may be fatal to many. This is shocking work in a civilised country."

Local histories provide a little more background information. From them, it seems that this election stood out from the hundreds of other elections down the centuries for a number of reasons; the many thousands involved in riots, running battles in the streets, lack of official intervention, churches being burnt down, houses ransacked, corruption in the “buying” of votes, the MP’s initially returned had their election win overturned by a Parliamentary committee, comprehensive records giving the full details of the male population of Preston and, not least, universal male suffrage.



For me, it was the phrase “universal male suffrage” which stood out since this election took place exactly 150 years before the 1918 Representation of the People Act which gave full voting rights to all males across the country - so something out of the ordinary was taking place in Preston. Amazingly, and an explanation for this will be revealed later, a large number of documents still exist covering the election and its aftermath. Through these comprehensive records a unique glimpse of lives at the time can be viewed; the paupers, the criminals, the ordinary man in the street trying to make a living as well as the rich and powerful flexing their political muscles. After reading some of these documents in which the ordinary lives of 18th Century Prestonians were revealed, I became hooked.


This booklet is intended to provide a slightly different view of this election through these original sources and links to transcriptions of these sources. The most revealing of the documents provide a listing the male population of Preston; sometimes their age, employment, background, relationships, if they like a drink, trustworthiness and voting intentions together with the actual vote. Movement of individuals, power struggles between the local gentry and legal arguments all added to the complex background surrounding the election. And where else could you find out that there were 7 peruke (wig) makers in Preston in 1768?