The Lingards is a beautiful Victorian property located in Astley. When I was a pupil as the high school located across the road from it, I must have spent hours looking at the house whilst waiting for the bus, wondering what it was like inside and who lived there. Many years later, here is its hidden history.

The Farnworth Family

The story of The Lingards starts with the Farnworth family. It appears the house was first built in the late 1860s or early 1870s, as it does not appear in any archival records before then. The owners of this new property were Thomas and Mary Ann Farnworth. The house itself was named after the Lingard family, whose name became synonymous with this area of Astley. John Lingard, a farmer in Town Lane, was a neighbour of the Farnworths and he had farmed the land there since at least 1812. He died in 1852 at the age of 87 but his surname lived on.

Thomas Farnworth (1816-1883) was the son of John Farnworth (1778-1845) and Rachel Peters (1780-1853). The Farnworth family had held a long, influential standing within local society in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During his childhood Thomas lived ‘The Farnworth’ with his parents and siblings; Elizabeth (b. 1806), Arnold (b.1808), Peter (b.1812) and John (b.1813). The Farnworths was a large house located in Town Lane, Astley. It still stands today and it is currently The Cart and Horses Pub.

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The Lingards, 2015 (Source: Own Photograph, 2015)

Thomas and his brother Peter went into the cotton manufacturing business and their mill, Union Mill, was situated off Chapel Street in Bedford, Leigh. The mill, which was supplied with water from the Bedford Brook, held 14,500 spindles and featured a card room, scutching room, warehouse, mechanic’s workshop and smith’s shops. According to Dr John Lunn, the mill caused some disruption between the two brothers. On Manchester Road (opposite The Farnworths) one brother built a row of cottages, which led the other brother to build a row of cottages adjacent to these with the intention of spoiling the view. These cottages were known locally as “Triangle Row” and stood until the 1960s as a testament to the rivalry between the Farnworth brothers.

The mill was later sold after the death of the brothers and it was replaced by another mill, Alder Mill. There are little secret clues to the legacy of the Farnworth family which are still evident today in Leigh today. Farnworth Street, Thomas Street, Peter Street, Battersby Street, Lingard Street and Astley Street are all names and locations associated with the Farnworth family. A further legacy was Leigh Infirmary, established in 1905 with a financial bequest left by Elizabeth Farnworth after her death in 1886.

Thomas and Mary Ann Farnworth

Thomas Farnworth married Mary Ann Battersby in December 1860 at St. Stephen’s Church, Astley. At the time of the marriage, Thomas was 44 years old and Mary Ann was aged 22. Despite her young age, Mary Ann had already experience a hard life, with much heartbreak.

Mary Ann was born in 1838 and she was the daughter Peter Cocker, a silk agent. In 1855, at the age of 17, she married her first husband, Thomas Battersby, a cotton manufacturer at St. Leonard’s, Middleton. They had three children; James in 1856 and twins Mary and Thomas in 1858. The family lived in Culcheth. Their daughter Mary sadly died shortly after birth in December 1858 and her twin, Thomas passed aged 10 weeks in February 1859. Just three months later, in May 1859, Mary Ann lost her husband. Then in February 1860, James Battersby died aged 3. The loss Mary Ann must have felt is unimaginable. Within the period of 14 months she had lost her entire family.

After her second marriage, Thomas and Mary Ann Farnworth, who had no children of their own, lived at the Mill House, located on Mill Lane in Bedford. Mary Ann’s older sister Alice was employed by the couple as a maid. By 1871 they were living at The Lingards in Astley. The house was constructed behind The Farnworths. They were living at the property along with Ann Smith (a maid), Elizabeth Cocker (Mary Ann’s sister) and Mary and Alfred Fletcher, their eight and six year old niece and nephew.

After the death of her husband in 1883, Mary Ann lived alone at The Lingards. In 1886 Mary Ann moved into The Farnworths, where she lived until her death in 1920.

The Arrowsmith Family

From at least 1889 The Lingards was the home of the Arrowsmith family. Like the Farnworths, the Arrowsmithss were another prominent local family. The origins of the family can be traced back the mid-eighteenth century in Astley, alongside links to Westleigh and Pennington.

John Arrowsmith married Alice Harrison in 1773 at St. Mary the Virgin in Leigh. They had four sons; James, John, Henry and Robert.  In 1833, Robert and his brother James built Astley’s first and only cotton mill in Astley Green, next to the Bridgewater Canal. They also built cottages for the workers.

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Charles Henry Arrowsmith (Source: John Lunn, ‘Astley – The History of a Lancashire Township’)

IRobert (1784-1867) married Ann Allen (b.1802) in 1823 at St. Oswald’s Church, Winwick. Robert and Ann lived at Scott House in Astley Green, near the mill. They had several children: William, Peter, Thomas, Charles Henry, Mary Alice, Anne, Samuel, Robert Allen and Louisa. After Robert’s death, his sons Thomas and Charles Henry inherited the business and the mill. Charles Henry Arrowsmith was in sole control of the business after the death of his brother in 1875.

Mixed Fates

Charles Henry Arrowsmith (1843-1907) married Alice Mary Jane Holland (b.1847) in 1869 and their first child, Mabel (b.1870) arrived the following year. In 1871 the family were living in Higher Green, Astley. Charles and Alice had two more children; Frank (b.1875), and Janet (b.1885).

By 1901 the Arrowsmith family had firmly settled into life at The Lingards. Charles Henry was the managing director of the mill and his son, Frank was the manager. In 1898 Frank married Kate Walmsley in Southport. Sadly, Kate died aged only 22, following the birth of their daughter Violet in 1899.

Sadly, the first decade of the twentieth century was one of mixed fortunes for the family. By 1905 the family had moved from The Lingards to The Villa in Astley Green. In January 1905, Alice Mary Jane Arrowsmith died following a seizure. In 1907, Charles Henry Arrowsmith died following a sudden heart attack. However, in the midst of this, there was some happiness, which grew from the Arrowsmith’s time at The Lingards. In 1906, Frank remarried. His new wife was Hannah Barnes. Hannah had resided at The Farnworths for years under the care of her aunt, Mary Ann Farnworth and it is quite romantic to think these two met and fell in love simply because they were neighbours.

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Advertisement placed by the Arrowsmith family for a servant. (Source: Lancashire General Advertiser, 21 May 1902, p.6)

The Peters Family

By 1906, The Lingards was home to the Peters family. Ralph Peters was born in 1838 in Astley and grew up on a farm. At the age of 22, he was working as a coal proprietor’s clerk. In the typical Victorian tradition of hard work and a desire for social mobility, he rose to become a coal agent. He was a member of the Manchester Coal Exchange from its formation, acting twice as President and from 1879 until his death, he held the position of treasurer. The Peters family were very much a middle-class family, his wife and two daughters had no occupation and his three sons worked as a coal merchant’s clerk, a bank clerk and a shipping office clerk.

The 1911 census gives us a snapshot of The Lingards. Living at the property was Ralph and Mary Anna and their unmarried son, Frank. Also with them at the time of the census was Annie Edith Simpson and three year old John Ralph Simpson, Ralph and Mary Anna’s married daughter and grandson. The Peters family also employed Henry Lewis Owens as a gardener and coachman. Ralph Peter died in January 1915, just five days after his wife. He left £5862/9s/6d in assets (modern equivalent is around £423,700).

The Smith Family

Thomas Smith (1860-1934) was born in Astley, the eight child and fourth son of James and Margaret Smith, who farmed at Hilton’s Farm in Astley Green. In 1887 he married Mary Chadwick (b.1866) and they had several children together; James (b.1888), Margaret (b.1891), Daniel (b.1893), William (b.1897), Anne (b.1900) and John (b.1910).

Thomas worked as a colliery representative before rising to become the managing director of Astley and Tyldesley Collieries Ltd. The Smith family lived at Park House in Astley for over decade between 1898-1911. They then moved to Peel Hall in Astley Green before settling at The Lingards in 1915.

In 1913, Margaret Smith married George Holden (1890-1937) (later Sir George Holden). The marriage was celebrated with much fanfare and the Leigh Chronicle devoted an entire page to discuss the events, outfits of the guests and the gifts. George became managing director of the Combined Egyptian Cotton Mills and twice-served as Mayor of Leigh 1920-1922 (as did his father). George and Margaret Holden lived at Atherton Old Hall.

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Sir George and Lady Margaret Holden, 22nd May 1922 (Source: PC2010.69 Wigan Archives and Leigh Local Studies)

Three of the Smith brothers played their parts during the First World War. James was an ambulance driver for the Red Cross and Daniel served as 2nd Lieutenant in the North Staffordshire Regiment. He was awarded the Silver War Badge in October 1916. Fortunately, both brothers survived the war.  Sadly, their a third brother, Willie was not as lucky. He died aged 20 in 1916. James lit the logs of the bonfire at Spen Field, Astley held in 1918 to mark the end of the war

A Tragic End

Throughout the 1920s, The Lingards was occupied by Thomas and Mary Smith. Thomas later served as a Justice of the Peace. Sadly, tragedy seemed to follow the family, Thomas Smith was removed from his position within the collieries after they merged companies during the 1920/30s. After his death in 1934, the Smith family left The Lingards, as Dr. John Lunn noted, they were “virtually bankrupt”. Mary Smith, along with her daughter Anne and youngest son John, moved to Culcheth. Mary lived to be 100 years old but sadly outlived three of her five sons.

John Smith died in a shooting in a boathouse on Lake Windermere on Christmas Day 1937. The gun was fired by Mary Evelyn Dillon who was married to Major T. A. Dillon. The couple first met whilst she worked as a shop assistant in Preston. Major Dillon arranged for Mary to attend a “finishing school” and after they married they went to India, where they had a son in 1928. John Smith and Mary Dillon were friends and she was acquitted of manslaughter for firing the gun, as it was determined ‘death by misadventure’. John Smith and Mary had arrived at the boathouse, which had an attached bungalow, on Christmas Eve. John took out a shotgun and shot it at the ceiling, he then told Mary to have a go and to aim the gun at him. When he fell to the floor she thought he was joking until she noticed the blood, after which she ran from the boathouse across the fields to the first house she could find to alert the call for help. There was no sign of a struggle. John was cremated in an intensively private ceremony, probably given the nature of his death and the high-standing position of his family and also the position of Mary and Major Dillon.

James Chadwick Smith, the other brother, died in 1939. He lived at Park House, his childhood home and he was responsible for restoring the Hewlitt Memorial in St. Stephen’s church yard and he also purchased land along The Ley for the people of Astley. Sadly, Daniel Chadwick Smith, who lived at Lark Hill House, was crushed to death by one of the tubs in a mine accident in 1942.

A New Occupant

From the mid-1930s until 1983, The Lingards was the home of Charles C. Abbott, a herbalist. Charles Clement Abbott was born on 29th May 1889 in Aspull to John Thomas and Catherine Abbott. In September 1891, John Thomas Abbott died aged only 31 and Catherine, who was around seven months pregnant, was left a widow with two young children. Catherine gave birth to her third son in November 1891 and the family continued to live in Apsull.

By 1911 Catherine and her three sons had moved to Leigh, where they were living on Twist Lane. In 1911, Charles was 21 years old and working as a dataller below the ground in a colliery. However, just a few years earlier, when he was 17, Charles had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, which at the time was a deadly disease. Somewhat miraculously he was cured by a herbalist in Bolton, which sparked Charles’s lifelong interest in herbal medicines.

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Charles Clement Abbott (1889-1983) (Source: Leigh Life https://leigh.life/index.php?page=5&id=leighlife:railwayroad#charles_abbott)

Around 1910 (although more likely 1911 considering the census information) Charles Abbott opened his own consulting rooms and shop at 56 Railway Road in Leigh and he began practising herbal medicines, despite having no formal qualifications to do so. In 1929 he introduced a new piece of equipment, a “black box”, which used blood from his patients and vibrations to diagnose medical conditions and therefore, allowed him to prescribe the necessary herbal medication. Needless to say, medical professionals did not agree with Abbott’s practices but Abbott was a success and he was very popular with local people. He was known as “Charlie Abbott” in Leigh and in the early 1930s he lived in a large house, Claredon Villa, on St. Helens Road, Leigh.

Run-ins with the Law

By the early 1930s, Abbott began to have several run-ins with the law concerning mistreatment of medical conditions. His first conviction had been in April 1920, when he was fined £10 for illegally treating venereal diseases. In March 1933 he was acquitted of manslaughter after Charles Wrigley Taylor, an eleven year old boy Abbott had been treating, died. The jury acquitted Abbott and the crowd erupted in cheers and ran up to Abbott, who fainted under all the commotion.

What was interesting about the court case was the number of witnesses who were called to testify in favour of Abbott. These were people whom he had treated. They reveal a wide breadth of his patients: men, women and children, rich and poor and covering a wide geographical area: Leigh, Wigan, Irlam, Cadishead and Radcliffe. Among those he cured were:

  • William Hart – restored his eyesight and feeling in his fingers
  • Daniel Bailey – treatment removed lumps which doctors said were tumours
  • Edith Crasley – cured her son of measles and pneumonia in fourteen days
  • Joseph Parr – cured of vertigo and restored the elasticity to his arteries
  • William Snailham – cured of pleurisy and tuberculosis
  • James Holden – cured both his sons of meningitis
  • Jane Lyon – cured of brights disease and dropsy
  • Margaret Gibbins – cured her son who had been bedridden for seven years and couldn’t walk
  • Elizabeth Sarah Bellamy – cured of internal bleeding which she had suffered from for two years

It is important to remember that Abbott cured these people using only herbal and holistic remedies. He did not charge huge bills, in the case of James Holden, he charged 7 shillings per child but for Margaret Gibbins, he did not charge at all, as she was struggling financially. Following his trial, Abbott launched a campaign to have Parliamentary recognition of herbalists.

In January 1934, Abbott faced the courts again when a coroner disagreed with his cause of death for a patient. As he was unlicensed, Abbott had to call in a medical professional to sign to the death certificate. In this instance it was found Abbott had done all he could for his patient.

In June 1939 he once again appeared in front of the court to defend his black box method. The trail lasted 30 hours but he was acquitted. During this case he reported he earned £2,500 a year and lived on £5 a week. Abbott faced another trial in 1952 and in 1955 he received a prison sentence for two years, alongside his former secretary, for forging a receipt for £2,415. However, after serving four months the conviction was quashed by the Criminal Court of Appeal. His business continued to grow and Abbott had thousands of patients.

Family life at The Lingards

Charles married his first wife, Bertha Blackshaw in 1919. In 1931, he married his second wife, Alys Mary Pearson. Perhaps it was Alys who was in the car with him in April 1931 when he was fined £5 for reckless driving as “the police stated he had his left arm around a girl“. Charles and Alys had a daughter together. In 1956, Charles married Annie Berry in Blackpool. Annie helped Charles with his business and prescribed medicines based on his black-box findings. Annie died in 1974 and Charles married for a forth time in 1976, to Nellie Swindells.

The Abbott family lived at The Lingards from the late 1930s onwards. During their time there, Charles took great pride in the large garden, at one time he hired six gardeners. From the 1950s onward there was an outdoor pool at the property.

Sadly, Charles died in an unfortunate accident in 1983, at the age of 94. He had been for a meal with his wife at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. When leaving the hotel, he stepped in the path of a lorry and fell backwards hitting his head on the curb. Nellie Abbott continued to run the business but it closed after her death in September 1997. It was subsequently taken over by Napiers, a herbalist firm based in Edinburgh, but that too closed, in 2013.

A Colourful Local History

Following on from Charles C. Abbott the property was purchased by Doctor Eric Sydney Marsden (1936-1993). Dr. Marsden was a local GP and he also worked at The Firs, a maternity home in Leigh and to this day he is still fondly remembered by generations of women who were treated by him.

Dr. Marsden married Pamela Jackson in 1960 and they lived at Beech Grove on St. Helens Road. In 1981, after the death of his wife the year before, the Marsden family moved from Leigh and eventually settled at The Lingards. A daughter of the family remembered it as “one of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever been in – besides Chatsworth!”, it had a large sweeping staircase, a ‘ballroom’ and a freshwater spring in the cellar. The gardens and pool were still intact but since the Marsden’s occupation, the land has been parcelled off and built upon.

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Dr. Eric Marsden presenting a long service award at The Firs Maternity Home. (Source: Old Leigh Photographs, post by Sarah Hughes 12 January 2014)

The Lingards has been home to some of the most influential and colourful characters in our local history; encompassing Astley, Leigh and Tyldesley. Through the lives of those who lived there, we have seen fates and fortunes of local industries and businesses. If those walls could talk, I am certain they would tell us a lot more!

Researched and Written by Thomas McGrath

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