The Parish Council are grateful to John Winterburn, the author of the article reproduced here. This article was originally published in October 1975.
The Parish Council for Culcheth and Glazebury established by Government Order on 8th October 1973 is the third Parish Council the district has had. The first one, called the Culcheth Township Committee, operated for about a hundred years from the date of its establishment, which was 19th May 1716. The second one called Culcheth Parish Council operated from 14th January 1895 to the 22nd September 1933, a period of nearly 39 years, while the third one under the title of Culcheth and. Glazebury Parish Council is, one must hope, a healthy infant.
The Culcheth Township Committee
It was fairly common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for Township Committees to be set up by the inhabitants of well-defined parts of Parishes, particularly in the north of England where Parishes were usually very large.
Culcheth was part of the very large Parish of Winwick, but it had had its own church since the early sixteenth century and had for long been recognized as a distinct township when the meeting to form a committee was held in 1716. The record of that meeting, and all the subsequent meetings for a century, are in the handwritten Culcheth Township Book in Leigh Public Library.
Some while ago I asked the Irlam Divisional Librarian (Mrs. Beeston) to have a photostat copy of the book made, which she kindly did, and it is now in the local history collection at Culcheth Library. I have read it through and copied the more interesting parts. For example the proceedings at the first meeting which say “The inhabitants of Culcheth Township do mutually agree consent that for the future there shall five men only be chosen and appointed, out of each Lordship… to take and allow all accounts”.
From this and succeeding minutes of meetings it is clear that a committee of twenty representing the four manors of Culcheth, Holcroft, Peasfurlong and Risley as wards of the Township, ran Culcheth in respect of the administration of the Poor Law, the policing of the district, the maintenance of highways, and the regulation of disputes between inhabitants.
As examples of decisions may be quoted:
- 14th January 1754 “agreed with Samuel Clayton that he buy twenty tons of good paving stones at four shillings a ton and lay then down in needful lanes within Culcheth, Holcroft and Risley”.
- 30th March 1815 “it is mutually agreed that Thomas and William Thompson of Kendale, Westmoreland do promise to kill and destroy the moles within the township of Culcheth for seven whole years for the sum of six pounds six shillings yearly to be paid out of the poor rates”. This appears to have been one of the last decisions of the committee for the records lapse shortly afterwards though it is of course possible that they may have been lost.
Why the Township committee withered away in the middle nineteenth century is not known for certain, but there was a general tendency about that time for local powers to become concentrated in the hands of the squires. In Culcheth’s case, the Hall was bought after apparently long being empty, by the Withington family, in 1828. Thomas Ellames Withington was the third squire, and also Churchwarden and Justice of the Peace for most of the Victorian period, so it is quite possible that the growth of a local autocracy was a reason for the decline of the more democratic Township committee.
Culcheth Parish Council (1895-1933
The Local Government Act of 1894 set up Parish Councils of the modern type in all villages situated in Rural Districts but did not allow them for villages in Urban Districts. Culcheth was put in Leigh Rural District in 1894 so was given a Parish Council which functioned until 1933 when it had to be abolished for the technical reason that Culcheth was transferred that year to Golbome Urban District when Leigh Rural District was abolished.
The Culcheth Parish Council consisted of nine members, three elected for each of three wards which were, Glazebury, Newchurch and Risley, for until 1933 Risley was part of Culcheth being transferred that year to Croft. The Parish Councillors were elected at ward meetings, of electors held every three years in Glazebury School, Newchurch School (ie the present old part of the. Parish Hall) and Risley School, which was demolished about two years ago but stood opposite the Risley Garage.
Meetings of the Parish Council were held in Newchurch School until the last few meetings, in 1932/3 which were held in the new Council School ie the old part of the present Culcheth High School. The new school had been built in 1932. You can see the date above the door now.
The two minute books of Culcheth Parish Council, totaling 488 large, hand written pages, are preserved in the Lancashire County Record Office at Preston. I was recently able to borrow and read then, and decided that 130 pages were of sufficient interest to be copied. Therefore I made photostats which I have bound with explanatory notes in a cardboard folder. Study of these has revealed a number of interesting transactions and decisions.
The Minutes of Culcheth Parish Council
At the first meeting on 14th January 1895 Dr. Sephton, the local G.P after whom Sephton Avenue is named, was proposed: as Chairman, but an amendment was carried, by five votes to three, to write and ask the squire to accept the position. Dr. Sephton however presided over the first meeting, and at the second meeting, a letter from the squire declining to accept the position was read and then Dr. Sephton was unanimously elected Chairman.
A very interesting meeting was held on 9th March 1917, actually a full Parish Meeting held after the ordinary Council Meeting. It was to consider a proposition by the’ Rector of Newchurch (The Rev. E.W. Kaye) that a monument in memory to the late squire who had died in 1915, should be erected on the semi-circular ancient Maypole Green in Common Lane. After a warm debate, 17 votes were cast both for and against the proposition whereupon Mr. Kaye withdrew it. So no monument was built, but the green which was apparently very untidy in those days was improved, and in 1937 a tree which is still there was planted to mark the Coronation of George VI.
Towards the end of the Parish Council’s life, many agitated meetings were held to discuss the Local Government Reorganisation of 1932/3 which resulted in the abolition of the council. Naturally they resisted this, and the following extract from the minutes of the meeting held on 17th February 1933, make the position of the then Parish Council very clear.
“Resolved that Culcheth Parish Council is unanimously opposed to the proposal to join Culcheth or any part of it to the Urban District of Golborne. Culcheth has no affinity with Golbome either commercially or socially”.
After giving many other reasons why amalgamation with Golborne was opposed the resolution goes on to suggest to the Ministry that If Leigh Rural District is abolished, then Culcheth should be joined to Warrington Rural District. As we all know, this suggestion was only marginally accepted in that the Risley part of Culcheth was joined to Warrington Rural District and the main part of Culcheth and Glazebury added to Golborne with the unfortunate result that the Parish Council was abolished.
How the new Parish Council of Culcheth and Glazebury was set up
The prime cause is that the Local Government Act, 1972 does away with the arbitrary distinction between Rural and Urban Districts. Henceforward, Parish Councils are to be allowed for all villages and small towns with populations below 20,000 and which are distinct communities separated from large built up areas by green, belt or other open space. Culcheth obviously qualifies.
Although Culcheth with Glazebury was clearly the kind of district to get a Parish Council, it cannot be over emphasized that in order to be successful it was absolutely necessary that Golborne Urban District should be divided between two main new local government areas. If the whole of the Urban District had been put in the Wigan District of Greater Manchester, as was suggested by the Maud Report, there could have been no Parish Council for Culcheth.
This is because the population of Golborne Urban District (28,000) is above the limit for allowing a Parish Council, and that new Parish Councils are only to be made either from complete Urban Districts or parts of Urban Districts if they happen to have been allocated to different main local government areas. Thus the campaign conducted to get Culcheth and Glazebury joined with Warrington, instead of Wigan, so leaving Golbome and Lowton with Wigan and dividing the Urban District, had as an important object, the creation of Culcheth and Glazebury Parish Council.
Fortunately the campaign was successful, and so our two villages, having been severed from Golborne and Lowton and having a joint population of only 9,000, are to have their Parish Council. Initially it will consist of the existing six Urban District Councillors, three representing Culcheth Ward, and three representing Newchurch Ward, but it will be possible after 1st April 1974 for Warrington District Council to adopt a scheme enlarging the council to perhaps ten members. When one considers that the old Parish Council abolished in 1933 had nine members, six only does seem too few. However, that is for the future, and we are here concerned mainly with history.
Note about the Badges on the front cover of this bookle
The shield on the front cover is quartered with the arms of the medieval families who held the four manors into which Culcheth was then divided. The idea of quartering a shield in this way was prompted by four separate illustrations of the devices in the Victoria County History of Lancashire.
The quartered shield was first used on the front cover of the Guide to Culcheth, published by Culcheth Methodist Church, and has subsequently been used on the front covers of the brochure advertising the first Culcheth Civic Society Festival and the History of Culcheth by J. Winterburn.
Recently the same shield has been adopted by Culcheth Lions Club for their silken pennants which they give to other Lions Clubs when they visit or themselves receive visits. At a meeting of the committee of Culcheth Civic Society held on 6th July 1975 it was agreed, subject to the cost not being too great, to have a silver badge to the same design made and offered as a badge of office for the chairman of Culcheth Parish Council.
The Shield is quartered with the arms of the Radcliffe, Culcheth, Holcroft and Risley. Culcheth, Holcroft and Risley were the names of the families holding manors of the same names in the ancient Township of Culcheth. Radcliffe was the name of the family holding the fourth manor of Pestfurlong (or Peasfurlong) in the same township The colours are Black on a silver ground, except the Drinking Horns (Blue) and the Infant in Red Swaddling clothes banded with Gold.
The name Culcheth comes from a Celtic word meaning ‘back of the wood’ and the first mention of Culcheth is in a survey of the year 1212.