Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ambrye Meadow Field Stones

As you drive along the Leyland By - Pass heading South towards Eccleston, you pass a field bisected by a row of stone fence post. The following is the research I undertook to discover the background of this unique feature in the Lancashire landscape.

Ambrye Meadow Grid ref. (SD525-213) lies on the south-west side of Leyland Lancashire in the small township of Earnshaw Bridge which is known locally as ‘Seven Stars’ due to the Seven Stars Public house which has stood on the site since 1686.

Today the remains of 38 stone fence posts can be seen running roughly north-west south-east in 2 rows standing in an old water meadow known locally as Ambrye Meadow. An access lane called Emnie Lane links the field to Leyland Lane, the main southern route into Leyland.

The field is surrounded on 3 sides by water, the River Lostock to the north-west, the remains of Wade brook to the south-east and Mill brook to the north-east.

In the early 1980's the area was bisected when the Leyland By-Pass was constructed. This resulted in straightening of the river Lostock, re-routing Mill brook 120metres to the south and redefining the route of Wade brook. All this re-engineering resulted in the near complete loss of northern row of fence posts (only one now remains standing and the base of another is just visible)

The stone fence posts appear to be made of sandstone, possibly originating from the old quarry known as Eccleston Delf on Banister Green, Eccleston. This lies approximately 3 miles south of Ambrye meadow. The quarry has been a source of local building stone for hundreds of years and similar stone can be seen in many of the older building in the area.

To try to ascertain the possible origin and definition of the field name, I contacted the English Place Name society. In their reply Mr. John Field details the origin of both the names of Ambrye and Emnie.

This may have been derived from the Middle English almerie for a storehouse or aumonerie, an almonary, a place where alms are distributed.

From the Latin word elemosynaria which later became aumonerie and then almonry.

In further research, I also found a reference to

A small recess in chancel wall, sometimes with a door, where the vessels used to celebrate Mass were kept. i.e. a storage cupboard or box.
Taken from the ‘Parish Churches of Britain’ by Richard Foster page 114.

The similarity of the forms of the names and the close connection of the meanings may have led to the convergence of the two terms, and their running together may possibly point to the fact that both activities of storage and distribution may have been conducted in the same place in the past.

It is possible that these ‘storage and distribution’ references point to a possible site of a Tithe Barn, where a payment of 1/10 of all produce was given to church. Evidence on the 1953 Aerial photographs (No1) shows the possible outline of a large building in an adjacent field to Ambrye meadow. Today, Tithe barn Lane still lies half a mile to the east of Ambrye meadow.

Ambrye meadow is referred to in several historical documents. The first reference I found was in the book 'The Surviving Past' published in the 1980’s by John Hallam the then Central Lancashire Development Corporation 's consultant archaeologist. It was suggested that the stone fence posts may have been erected in 1785 to divide the field into 3 equal areas which would provide a permanent field system.... ' more fitting the new agricultural methods'. The reference also states that a Robert Welch was the landowner and that Ambrye meadow was mentioned in an estate plan.

In a visit to Lancashire record Office I tried to verify these references and the search produced 2 documents relating to Ambrye meadow.

The first document was an Enclosure Award and Agreement (Ref – LRO: DDF 1991-1992) dated January 19th 1723. Several people are quoted who sign and seal the document; these include George Farington, Nicholas Rigby, R. Crook, John Wright, William Greene, William Woodcock, Elizabeth Woodcock, Hugh Charnock, Edward Atherton and Robert Weltch (Welch). The document then goes on to refer to the ownership of the lands in Leyland.

' The whole ancient lands in the township of Leyland that has not been enclosed from any commings is 961 acres out of which quantity their belongs to George Farington Lord of the Manor 897 Acres 3 Roods being the estate hereafter named. And where of there is now enclosed 54 Acres of commings which gives every acre of land (g.fall of perchy)[sic] only wanting (g.fall)[sic] which George Farington Esq is to have allowed him above his share in the next enclosure so that the share belongs to…”

Robert Welch, the above mentioned landowner, is documented as having 2 parcels of land. The first was rented from George Farington’s main estate and containing an area of 18 perches. The second parcel of 2 acres was owned by Robert Welch and was part of the lands of the township of Leyland outside the control of George Farington’s estate.

The second document was also an Enclosure Awards and Agreements (Ref – LRO:PR 2908/5/2) dated 2nd October 1785. This details exclusively the management and ownership of Ambrye meadow. The lands in the area around Ambrye meadow was owned by George Farington and contained 4 Acres, - 3 Roods - 16 ¾ Perches. The meadow was sold to 3 parties, Thomas Baldwin (the vicar of Andrews church, the Parish church of Leyland) and Thomas Baldwin Junior (his son) who acquired an area of 1 Acre - 3 Roods - 18 ¾ Perch for a sum of 10/-. John Woodcock also paid the same amount of 10/- and acquired 1 Acre - 3 Roods - 16 ¼ Perch. Robert Welch and John Nixon paid 5/- each and acquired 1 Acre - 2 Roods - 18 ½ Perch from George Farington. It is also stated that the fields were to be known as Ambrye Meadow. The document also states that Robert Welch and John Nixon were tasked to survey the entire area of land and re-divide the 3 parcels of land equally and as fairly as possible between the 3 parties.

“3 equal shares as same in value as might be and then each lot for the same which the allotment share of the said meadow lying and the Southe End therof containing 4 Acres, 3 Roods and 16 ¾ Perches and now divided and enclosed from the other parts of the said meadow by large stones set erect with rails through the same fell to the lot…”

After the re-division of the meadow, the Baldwins acquired 1 Acre - 2 Roods and - 18 ¾ Perches. John Woodcock acquired 1 Acre - 2 Roods - 19 ½ Perches. Robert Welch and John Nixon acquired 1 Acre 2 Roods - 18 ½ Perches. Robert Welch and John Nixon were also tasked to erect the stone posts and wooden rails to divide the meadow in accordance with their calculations. Once the meadow was divided and fenced the whole area was then leased to a Thomas Croft for a payment of 10/- per field.

A third document was brought to light by a visit to South Ribble Museum. This was the Leyland Tithe Map of 1838 and this showed that the meadow then existed as a 3 field group numbered 1008, 1009 and 960. (reading from south to north)

In 1738 Mr. Nixon and Mr. Welch along with 3 other parties, purchased a portion of water meadow lying to south west of Leyland Township from George Farrington the Lord of the manor. This meadow was surrounded on all sides by water in the form of rivers and brooks, on the eastern side by Wade brook, to the north by Mill brook and to the west by the river Lostock. George Farrington was the Lord of the manor and he owned a large proportion of the land around Leyland and it appears at this time he was disposing of some of his lands to local landowners by sale. Within the documentation relating to the sale of the land under investigation, it was also mentioned that the area would be called Ambrye meadow in future. This may have been a new name for the area of land, or it could represent the reuse of a much older name relating to a previous use of the meadow and the surrounding area as tithe land, or a site on which the tithes were collected or stored. However this would not seem very practical as the surrounding wet environment would not give an ideal location for the storage of grain.

Nixon and Welch were tasked with the job of surveying the field equally and dividing it equally between all the parties concerned. Once surveyed the internal field division boundaries where marked using stone fence posts erected approximately 8.5ft apart in 2 lines. These posts had 2 holes cut into them approximately 19 and 40 inches above ground level, designed to hold wooden rails. Looking at the heights of these rails it is evident that these fields were probably used for the penning of large stock or for arable farming rather than smaller stock animals.

Over the next hundred years the three fields were still in use and are mentioned on the Leyland Tithe Map of 1838. As we approach the present time aerial photographs covering the period from 1957 up to 1972 show that little has changed in the surrounding landscape apart from the movement of the River Lostock and the formation of an ox-bow lake on the western bank of the river Lostock.

During the early part of the 1980's the new Leyland by pass was commissioned and work began on its construction. This new road had a major affect on Ambrye meadow, causing the near total loss of all the posts in row 'B'. Major engineering work was also carried out to alter the routes of both Mill Brook and Wade Brook. The re routing of Mill brook has meant that the old confluence with the river Lostock has now been dammed up. Close inspection of this area reveals that many of the stone posts possibly from row 'B' have been broken up and have been used as ballast in the damming work.


• English Place Name Society – Mr. John Fields
Leyland Historical Society – Mr. Graham Thomas
South Ribble Museum – Mr. David Hunt
• South Ribble Borough Council – Miss. Jane Hudd

• Enclosure award and Agreement – (LRO: DDF 1991 – 1992)
• Enclosure award and Agreement – (LRO: PR 2908/5/2)
• Leyland Tithe Map of 1838.

• Parish Churches of Britain – Richard Foster (Basingstoke, 1988)
• The Surviving Past – John Hallam (Chorley, Not Dated)
• A Companion to Local History – John Campbell Kease (1989)
• The Oxford Dictionary of English Placenames – A.D. Mills (Oxford, 1991)
• The History of Leyland And District – David Hunt (Preston, 1990)
• Reading the Landscape – Richard Muir. (1981)

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