The Manor House and the Bailiff
Little or no trace of the former ancestral home at Warburton Park can now be found but the name of two farms, The Park and Park Gates, suggest it was situated on the mound now occupied by Park Farm House built a century ago by R. E. Egerton-Warburton and which contains one of the original walls of the old Hall. The two ponds still in existence are probably the remains of a bridged moat, which surrounded the manor house. The bridge has now been replaced by a brick causeway leading into the farmyard, on the left of which is a fine example of an Elizabethan timbered outbuilding built on the wall of the moat and reputed to have at one time been the stallion stable.
The oldest part of the house is situated at the rear and is believed to have been the private chapel. On the roof there is an ancient bell which probably served the dual purpose of raising an alarm and calling to devotions. The interior suggests that there may have been either a small gallery or Rood loft in existence at one time. A few hundred yards to the East, is an artificial mound overgrown with trees and is in fact an ancient and disused burial ground. It could be that of the early Warburton family. Local opinion (although without supporting evidence) is that it was the burial place of the Norbertine Monks who founded the Abbey.
Newton states that a branch of the family continued to live there until the latter part of the 17th Century. From this point forward, the fate of Warburton Park and its occupiers is uncertain and no evidence has yet been found to support this statement. On the contrary, the rentals of the Park appear to have been divided into a number of farms with cottages, in all probability before the Warburtons moved to Arley Hall, the old manor house becoming Park Farm. Sir Peter Leycester, in his Cheshire, gives some indication when Sir Peter Dutton, son of the late Geoffrey, moved to Warburton: "Towards the end of Edward the first and his son, Peter was styled de Warburton under Edward the second. His succeeding heirs (1408 Wise Piers) afterwards disliking the seat at Warburton, either for the inundation of the water, or for some other cause, removed their seat to Arley in Ashton, near Budworth, in 1469". This old reference, interesting as it is important, does not, however, give any indication that the family members did remain behind, and the two centuries bridging the gap to Newton's statement are silent.
Although the historian is mute, the contemporary documents may bridge this gap and perhaps fill it in. Land was the most valuable possession of the senior family and, however it was shared amongst the succeeding members by fief, lease or rent, its return was always assured by some legal document.
The farms referred to previously, appear to have been occupied by others than Warburtons, although the holding proper would have been of considerable extent. There was Warburton Park, Little Park and Park Gate. The latter may have been a hamlet, or two or three small holdings with cottages. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the Warburtons of Hefferston Grange and those of Partington seem to have been the principal tenants. In 1673, Richard Warburton is shown in the Rent Rolls and Hearth Tax returns as having five hearths and this, by the size of the building so taxed, would imply that Richard, son of Hamnett Warburton and brother of Thomas of Partington, was of Warburton Park and, incidentally, responsible for the extension to the church and possibly the building of the Park Pews referred to elsewhere, and shown on the Drinkwater pew seating plan.
The work of implementing most of the agreements between the senior family at Arley and those now occupying the presumably divided Park was by the bailiff, and Drinkwater gives some information about his own family which is of interest:
Old Richard Drinkwater was born 1563 and dyed about 1651 being very old (88). He built Bent House 1620 (only South part) and ye barn ano. 1633. So yr one may prsume ye Bent Lane was made abot.,1640. He occupied Bent estate for about 40 years after his fathers death.
Arnold Drinkwater, his son born abt ye year 1618 and dyed anno 1671 (being about 53 yrs of age then, who occupied ye Bent abt 17 yrs.
Rchd. Drinkwater Arnd. Son born 1648 and was about 23 yrs of age when his father dyed and R.D. dyed 30 May 1729 being full 80 yrs old when he dyed (he occupyd ye Bent estate for about 16 yrs and then afsigned it to
Richard Drinkwater son to Arnd (born 1718) and he began to occupy the Bent estate 1748 (being then marryd to Eliz.Chantler) burd 23 Dec.1754. (The widow alienated ye Bent estate) when she was married to Thos.Howe in 1755. 1736 Arnd grandfather of that Arnd Drinkwater who was defended in the suit re Bent Lane dyed about 65 years before 1736 (1671). This lst Arnd made the Bent Lane.
Note: The legal battle between the Drinkwaters and the villagers of Warburton over right of way to Bent Lane is referred to in more detail elsewhere.
Where lord and bailiff were close friends, the latter was invested with many responsibilities which required powers tempting to usurp. He knew the estates better than any, often knew the financial situation, preserved continuity between generations and, like the priest, was often the only means of communication in feelings and language between the upper and lower Saxon levels of the estates.
Although there is no evidence available, it may not be unreasonable to assume that the Drinkwaters filled this function in medieval times and operated from Bent House in the Tudor period if not earlier.
As previously mentioned, prior to 1600 there was only one road in Warburton, which came from the direction of Lymm. For the convenience of Bent Farm, Richard Drinkwater in 1637 cut a more direct route which became known as Bent Lane, and every effort, on Drinkwater's part, was made to keep it private. A gate was placed at either end and individuals could pass only by leave of the family.
This authoritative action appears to have been unacceptable to the townspeople, and their growing resentment resulted in a lawsuit at Knutsford Sessions on 7th October, 1735.
This action of freedom could possibly be indicative of the decaying special relationship of Lord, Bailiff and Townspeople.
Feelings ran high and tempers were lost until matters came to a head on 16th July, 1736, when Arnold Drinkwater was indicted and the following extract from the brief he prepared for his counsel is of interest:Between our Sovereign Lord Yr King and Arnold Drinkwater... The defendant stands indicted on ye 16 day of July ye ninth in ye reign of our Sovereign Lord George II...etc., (with placing) two wooden stoops in and upon ye Kings highway lying in ye township of Warburton aforesaid and leading from ye market town of Warrington in ye county of Lancaster towards the market town of Stopford in the said county of Chester and one barr of wood across the same highway did fix place....from 16th July...and continue by means whereof the Kings highway aforsaid for all ye time aforsaid was stopped and all ye subjects of ye said Lord and King within that time having occasion to travel or pass by or through the Kings highway with ye cart or other (sundry) carriages have all ye time aforsaid been hindered and offended from travelling or passing with such their carts and other carriages by or through the same highway to the great damage and common nuicence of all ye said subjects of ye said Lord and King and against the peace of our Lord the King his Crown and Dignity...
Naturally, in preparing his case, Drinkwater sought many witnesses to prove that Bent Lane was acknowledged throughout the district as private property and among those was John Warburton, of Partington, who, although he provided the evidence required was not sworn as a defence witness. Drinkwater's statement is as follows:
Witness 1736. John Warburton aged 65. To proof of ye witness was born in
Partington a township contiguous to Warburton has known Bent Lane about 60 years
has heard his father who died 49 years since and was 60 years old when he died talk
about Bent Lane in Warburton and said it was no highway and that he had often
gone through it with carts never durst do it without leave...has been with his father
when he asked leave...has gone that way himself with cart but always after leave...
that all or most of his time there was a barr to stop carts sometimes at Mossland gate
and sometimes nearer Bent house...that about 39 years or 40 years ago he went with
one Royal (sic Royle) who carted Warrington and stayed with ye cart at Mossland
lane gate whilst Royle went to Bent house and got leave to go through Bent Lane...
that he has known others go by leave and someto pay...has known money refused
and carts forced to another way...that ye highway to and from Warburton Bridge is
through Longacre Lane...has heard ancient people now dead that there was NO
highway through Warburton till the stone bridge was built and after it was through
The above witness, John Warburton, was the son of George Warburton, of Partington. His father's youngest brother, Richard, of Heatley in Lymm, was an ancestor of the Warburtons of Wet Gate, Lymm, and who occur in the Lymm registers down to recent times.
The result of the case is inconclusive except for the fact that the lane is now open to the public, but a search of the court records was made (Book 19a 1734-41) and contained the presentment of Arnold Drinkwater of Warburton at the general sessions at Northwich on Tuesday in the first week of Epiphany (i.e. 13 January 9 Geo. 2. 1735-6) for not repairing the Kings highway there called Bent Lane from Lymm to Manchester by reason of his tenure. The case was presented by S. Cholmondeley and H. Wright Esqs. In the margin of the record "App(eare)d" is written, but no entry of the indictment, 16 July 9 Geo. 2. (which fell in 1735) could be found, nor for that matter as far as 1739. It would appear, therefore, that the case was not proceeded with and that the justices were satisfied that Bent Lane was not a public highway.
It had, however, to be kept in repair by the local townsfolk and it is recorded that Sir George Warburton's tenants, 24 of whom were summoned to the work on 24th August, 1736, were granted a week's delay because they were fully occupied with the harvest. This order applied, of course, to the roads in general.
On 12th July the following year, the inhabitants of Warburton and Partington were again presented for not repairing the highway "leading from Lymm and the Market town of Manchester". A marginal note in the record of proceedings was made "Respited to Michaelmas 1738".
The levy of service appears to have been a strict law for Drinkwater points out that when the roads became bad, each holding was required to provide a man and spade, a horse or horse and cart etc., according to the size of the holding. A day was appointed for the work and any defaulters were fined. If the road was not repaired, a complaint was made to Chester and the principal inhabitants were summoned to answer for the default of the village.
The importance of Bent Lane can be appreciated from a study of the geography of the area. Apart from the circuitous route via Wigsey Lane, passage to the river was very difficult. The principal means of access to Warburton was, of course, by river and later by horse-drawn barge on the Bridgewater Canal. This mode of transport continued until the cutting of the Ship Canal.