History of Billington

The Parish of Billington is situated in the Ribble Valley is steeped in history. Its' easterly and northerly boundaries are the River Calder and the River Ribble.

From Dinckley in the west, Billington is divided by the Dinckley Brook, a stream that flows down from the hill on the border of Wilpshire and empties into the Ribble by Braddyll.

The southern boundary of Billington is generally the summit line of the long, irregular ridge that extends from Wilpshire Moor to Whalley Nab, overlooking Whalley Village and the River Calder.

The area of Billington is 2960 acres. Its' greatest length is from Whalley Bridge to the Cenotaph at the top of Elker Lane and its' width is from the River Ribble to the boundary on Snodworth Moor, roughly two miles wide.

The contour of the land descends steeply from Billington Moor and between the foot of the ridge and the two rivers, it has a few gentle rises, mostly covered in light woodlands.

In AD 798 the Saxons momentous battle of Billangahoh is recorded. The king of Northumbria, Earduff, was in battle against Wada and Alric, they were the prime instigators behind the murder of the previous king, Ethelred. This battle was believed to have taken place on the right bank of the River Ribble at Hacking Hall, near to the village of Walalege (Whalley). On either side many where slain. Earth mounds close to Hacking Hall are suggested to be burial mounds of the fallen.

Doctor Whittaker, a historian of this district states that in 1836 he was called to Brockhole Farm by the tenant Thomas Hubbersty, who had been removing two artificial looking mounds on his land, when he discovered a 'Kist-vean' (grave) formed of rough stones, containing some large human bones and rusty remains of some spearheads of iron. As he was working on the land, the hole crumbled to dust upon exposure to the air.

During the long history of Billington there are a few points of interest. It has been noted that on 20th April 1643 a battle took place in Whalley. This was during the Civil War between Charles I and Parliament. The Earl of Derby, had advanced on Whalley for the conquest of the Blackburn Hundred to the Kingís Authority, and suffered a quash at the hands of the Roundheads, under Colonel Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe, mainly due to foolish panic of his men.

The Royalists retreated across the Calder at Chew Mill Ford and at Potter Ford, passing through Billington by the road from Chew Mill to Old Langho Church. They then passed over Dinckley Brook to Dinckley moving through Salesbury and onto Preston. The Roundheads pursued them vigorously down the valley as far as Ribchester.

A portion of Prince Rupert's army passed through Billington during the same war, on route to York and Marston Moor in June 1644.

Billington is mentioned more in history books upon the establishment of Whalley Abbey, when its land and families became an ever increasing part of the Abbeyís life and function.

The first of the families mentioned are the De-Billington's whose name was derived from the name of the village. The families lived on a cleared portion of land who claimed ownership before the Norman invasion.

After a settlement the De-Lacey's of Clitheroe, superior Lords of the region, granted the village of Billington to Hugh, the son of Leofwine a saxon land-owner who lived in the vicinity, at about the time of King Stephen. Later, William an ancestor of Hugh passed over his rights in Billington to Ralph, the son of Geoffrey De-Billington, who became the legalised Lord of the Village. In 1288 the title of Lord of the Village past to Sir Adam De-Huddlestone and eventually to the Abbot and Monks of Whalley Abbey.

The Abbot and Monks, being successful benefactors, where given many parcels of land in Billington. Countess Margarette De-Lacey gave the Abbot land in Billington, in which to have a barn for the storage of grain. Willam De-Dinckley also gave the Abbot half an acre on which to build another barn.

Sir Adam De-Huddlestone gave the Monks the right to graze on Billington Common which is said to have been two and half miles long. This is where they grazed eight large beasts and other smaller animals such as sheep, goats, pigs and geese. He also granted the right to dig and dry turf (peat) and quarry stone upon his land. Sir Adam also granted the Monks forty cart loads of turf to be collected annually for the community.

The Vicar of Blackburn gave the Monks Snodworth field and Richard De-Billington granted them seven acres called Longdale and four acres names Bentham. Many other gifts of land were made and the last one of note was that given by Alicia, Countess of Lincoln, daughter and sole heiress of Henry De-Lacey. She gave the Abbot of Whalley a charter of Quit-claim confirming all her rights and claims of the manor of Billington. The community prospered, and from various gifts of land and properties we find that by the time of the dissolution, the Abbey had become principle land owners and Lords of the Manor of Billington.

They were very easy landlords and allowed the same families to occupy their farms from generation to generation. After the suppression of the monasteries the Manor remained the property of the crown. Eventually it was sold, together with its bits and pieces to Sir Thomas Holdcroft. He is presumed to be the founder of the Chapel at Old Langho. From Sir Thomas, the parish was sold to Judge Walmesley, son of Thomas Walmesley of Snowley Hall, Clayton-le-Dale.

The Walmesley's held Billington for a hundred years, but the line ended with the Judge's grand-daughter, Catherine Walmesley who married Robert, the 7th Lord Petre about 1712. The Walmesley's family seat was Hacking Hall. Both families managed the estate well, especially the Petre's and notably Henry Petre (1790-1852).

Henry Petre must have spent a lot of money during his stewardship, as his initials H.P. can be found on many farm houses and buildings throughout the parish, upon houses that he had built and others which he renovated. In 1836 Henry gave land and built a church in the croft of Riley's Farm. This church was the first Roman Catholic Church in Billington was named St. Mary's Billington. There was a small room behind the Church, which served as a school room and Catholic children from as far as Whalley and Wilpshire received their learning there.

Up to the middle of the 17th century, the populated area of the parish was around Chew Mill and Old Langho. The new lower road to Blackburn, via Painter Wood brought the development of cottages to that locality. These people would earn there living, hand loom weaving and working on the land as estate workers.

The new turnpike road from Whalley to Preston saw the building of the Judge Walmesley Hotel and the transfer of the ale licence from the Pub at Chew Bank to the new Hotel.

The coming of the railway saw the beginning of the parish as we know it today. Prior to this neither Langho or Billington existed. About 1845 the Blackburn and Bolton Railway Company decided to extend their line to Clitheroe.