In the town centre of Atherton, just behind the shops of Market Street and in the shadow of St. John the Baptist Parish Church lies Warburton Place. Today this quite little passageway or ‘ginnel’ as it is known locally, is home Numbers 2-4 better known as “The Pendle Witch Pub”. However unlike many other Athertonian public houses, The Pendle Witch is a relatively modern establishment within the last two decades. So what did it used to be?
Numbers 2 and 4 Warburton Place were constructed in the late 1870/early 1880s, the two properties were certainly completed by March 1881. They were designed as a pair of terraced houses or ‘cottages’ as they were described in the rate book of the time. They were very much dwellings of the working classes given their location, tucked away off the busiest street in the town (see map below). The houses were built at a pivotal moment in Atherton’s history when there was a population boom. In 1871 the population was 7,531 but only ten years later it had risen to 12,602. Speculative builders threw up cheap terraced houses like Warburton Place to house this growing population.
The homes were owned by James Warburton, who no doubt patronised the buildings with his surname. Who was James Warburton? A search of the 1881 census reveals only one James Warburton living in the locality. However he is only 18 years old at the time and living at the Red Lion Inn, Sale Lane, Tyldesley. It is possible he could have inherited the land from his father, Thomas Warburton who died in 1880. Another James Warburton was living in Kearsley, Lancashire but born in 1817 in Atherton who perhaps could have still had an interest in Atherton. The most likely option is that the land somehow belonged to the Warburton family who lived at Two Porches. John Warburton (1803 -1884) was a successful land agent in Atherton.
The Residents of Warburton Place
The first residents at Warburton Place are revealed through the 1881 census, where their address is listed as “Off Market Street”. At Number 2, is Henry Hodgkinson a 30 year old collier and his younger brother John Thomas Hodgkinson, 23 years old and also a collier in a coal mine. Next door at Number 4 is 25 year old Joseph Garswood, who is also a collier. He lives with his wife Alice and their 2 year old daughter Sarah. Alice’s occupation is recorded as “colliers wife”. I have seen other census records were the wife of the head of the family has been recorded as “farmers wife” for example and this normally meant she played an active role in her husband’s business or employment. Therefore Alice Garswood’s occupation could infer that she also works at a colliery, perhaps on the surface as a ‘pit brow lass’ sorting coal. Normally census enumerators would leave a wife’s occupation blank, even if she engaged in part time work.
A decade later the 1891 census reveals that the Garswood family have moved from Atherton to Prescot and Number 4 Warburton Place is uninhabited at the time of the census. At Number 2 John Hodgkinson is still there, along with his wife Nancy who he married in 1882 and their two daughters Martha Ann,aged 8 and Maggie, aged 5.
Nancy Hodgkinson died at the age of 40 in 1898 and in 1901 just her husband and two teenage daughters are recorded at Warburton Place. John’s occupation is recorded as a ‘coal dealer’. This is the last time the Hodgkinson’s are recorded at Warburton Place, from the marriage records of his daughters in 1912 and 1915 respectively we can see they have moved to 5 Millers Lane, Atherton. John Thomas Hodgkinson died in 1929 at the age of 73.
By 1901 a new family have inhabited Number 4 Warburton Place. Samuel Austin (1856-1931) and his wife Emma (1865-1936) are living there, renting the property. The census shows us that Emma was actually born in India, which was part of the British Empire at the time. Like many men in Atherton at the time, Samuel’s employment is in the coal industry and he is a “dataller” which meant he was paid his wage day by day and therefore it could be an irregular source of income. Therefore the couple have taken in a lodger, 76 year old John Ford. Shockingly for his advanced age John Ford still works as a “coal wagon examiner”, checking the coal that was mined each day. It must be noted that in 1901, the Old Age Pension Act was still several years away from fruition and employment was the only way the elderly like John (who seemingly has no close relations – note he is from Chester) could avoid a reliance on charity or the workhouse.
The 1911 census gives us a better clue about the houses at Warburton Place, as the records tell us that they each consisted of five rooms. In 1911 both Samuel and Emma are still living at 4 Warburton Place and at the time of this census they have two male lodgers living with them.
At Number 2 Warburton Place in 1922 is the Howard family. The head of the family is Samuel Howard (1857-1936), a general labourer. He is living with his wife Sarah (1850-1938) and two of their three children, Betsy aged 25, a draw frame weaver in a cotton mill and Walter aged 22, a coal dealer.
When Betsy marries Henry Hilton in 1914 at St. John the Baptist Church, she incorrectly gives her address as “2 Garden Place”. Garden Place was a row of terraced houses located just a few feet from Warburton Place but they were given odd door numbers. When Betsy and Henry’s first child, Marian is baptised in 1916 the address is again given as “2 Garden Place” but by 1918 when another daughter, Letitia Hilton is baptised it is recorded properly as “2 Warburton Place”. This mishap in the records could perhaps infer that locally Warburton Place was known as an extension of Garden Place, rather than as its own separate buildings.
At the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, the British Government made a list of the residents of the country. Recorded at Number 2 is Arthur and Margaret Edwards and next door is Benjamin and Bertha Banks and Henry Seddon. Even well into the 20th century the house was still used a dwelling. In 1976 Ronald and Jean Barnes are living at Number 2 and Thomas and Anne Taylor are at Number 4.Even as recently as 1986 Luke and Lynda Myers and Irene Grundy are recorded at the properties on the electoral register.
More recently the building was adapted, in 1990 it was known as Larian’s Cafe Bar before it opened in 1993 as The Pendle Witch. Both the exterior and interior of the properties have changed to accommodate its new role as a pub, which includes knocking the two buildings into one. However it is a very popular and successful pub especially for the real ales which it serves. In April 2015 it was voted CAMRA pub of the year for South East Lancashire.
Overall Warburton Place has an unusual hidden history and in its current role as the Pendle Witch it continues to add to the history of Atherton.
- Census Information – http://www.findmypast.co.uk
- Old Maps – http://www.digimap.edina.ac.uk
- Parish Records – http://www.lan-opc.org.uk/
- BMD Records – http://www.lancashirebmd.org.uk/
- John Lunn, Atherton: A manorial, social and industrial history, (Atherton: Atherton Urban Council, 1971)
- Phillip M.G. Chapman, A Potty, oops sorry, potted history of the pubs of Atherton, Self Published, 16 July 2007