Parbold Village History

Situated on the edge of the South West Lancashire plain, the village of Parbold has grown up around a number of small, relatively scattered, agricultural communities through which the river Douglas meanders on its’ route from Wigan to the Ribble estuary.  with no evidence of Roman habitation and no mention of Parbold in the Doomsday survey, it can be assumed that, during those times, there was no main centre of population in a sparsely populated area.

First references to Parbold appear in the late 12th century in the documents of Burscough Priory, to whom grants of land were made.  Following the Norman Conquest, the area around Parbold was within the Barony of Manchester which was held by the Grelley family, but, by the mid 13th century, Parbold was held by the Lathom family.  From this period until the mid 18th century there was no economic development or significant social change, the area consisting of scattered rural hamlets whose economy was almost solely dependent on food production, either by farming or related industries such as milling.  Several water mills have operated in the Parbold area since the 13th century, although all traces have long since gone.

There are no physical remains of Parbold dating earlier than the late 17thcentury with the oldest surviving stone houses, Common House and Manor cottage, dating from that time.  Parbold Windmill, whose structure still remains, was built in 1794 but ceased operating in the mid 19th century.  Douglas Chapel, which served the religious needs of the people of Parbold and surrounding area from the 13th century, was demolished in 1878 and the stone used to build the school on Parbiold Hill.  The new church, Christ Church, was consecrated in 1875.

It wasn’t until the River Douglas was made navigable in 1742 and the subsequent construction of the Leeds and Liverpool canal which passed through the heart of Parbold less than 40 years later, that any significant economic development occurred.

On the western edge of the South Lancashire coalfield there are occasional thin coal seams, which in the 18th and 19th centuries supported 3 small collieries in the area.  The underlying sandstone provided the basis of a number of quarries in and around Parbold and was well known for its’ resistance to erosion.  Parbold stone was used in many projects in and around Wigan, including Haigh Hall.  The navigable waterways were therefore able to provide a means of transport for the coal and stone trade, as well as the area’s agricultural products.  This outward trade, along with the inward trade of corn for milling, lime and general goods, required the building of wharves and stockyards, which were connected to the quarries by rail systems.  Boat building in the 18th and 19th centuries also added to the economic development of the area during that time.  However, in contrast to the economic revolutions occurring in other parts of Lancashire, the changes in Parbold were minor and the population increased only slightly during the 19th century, being 255 at the beginning and 598 by 1891.

It was the arrival of the railway in the mid 19th century which provided the biggest boost to the population as Parbold became accessible as a commuter area for the better off.  Prior to this there had been no real centre of population, but with new domestic building and shops springing up, the scattered housing became more integrated and, by the 20th century, the village had almost assumed the layout which exists today.  With Parbold becoming clearly identifiable as a physical entity and its’ inconvenient distance from the mother church at Eccleston, the village became a civil parish in 1894.  It has continued to expand as a commuter town from that date.  what had been a rural community is now a popular dormitory town.

The gradual evolution of Parbold has therefore taken place over the centuries without any dramatic events having taken place in the locality.  Major political and social upheavals, which significantly affected other parts of Lancashire, impinged only slightly on the area around Parbold.  However, the very fact that the village has been a passive bystander rather than an active participant in the great moments of History has meant a continuity in it’s development and has provided a social cohesion which has given Parbold its’ appeal as a residential area.

Bibliography:  A History of Parbold – J.M Virgoe.

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