Clitheroe, Lancashire Family History Guide

Clitheroe is an Ecclesiastical Parish and a market town in the county of Lancashire, created in 1723 from Whalley Ancient Parish.

Alternative names:

Parish church: St. Michael

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1570
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1572

Nonconformists include: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Independent/Congregational, Primitive Methodist, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan Methodist, and Wesleyan Methodist Association.

Adjacent Parishes

Parish History

A Topographical Dictionary of England 1848

CLITHEROE (St. Michael), an unincorporated borough, market-town, and parochial chapelry, and the head of a union, in the parish of Whalley, Higher division of the hundred of Blackburn, N. division of the county of Lancaster, on the eastern bank of the Ribble, 30 miles (N.) from Manchester, 49 (N. E.) from Liverpool, 26 (S. E.) from Lancaster, and 216 (N. N. W.) from London; the township containing 6765 inhabitants. The ancient name of this town, Cliderhow, is of a mixed derivation from the British Cled-dwr, which signifies the hill or rock by the waters, and the final syllable how, a Saxon word for hill; being descriptive of its situation on an isolated eminence, terminating in one direction in a lofty rock of limestone whereon stands the keep of a castle, the original erection of which is involved in considerable obscurity. The place was the scene of an engagement, in 1138, between a small party of the English army and the Scots, in which the former was totally defeated by superior numbers; and traces of this sanguinary conflict have been discovered near Edisforth Bridge, and along the banks of the Ribble.

Some ascribe the foundation of the Castle to Robert de Lacy the first; but, on the authority of a manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it is assigned to Robert de Lacy the second, in 1179, which account is confirmed by Dugdale, who states that the castle and the chapel of St. Michael annexed thereto, were built by the latter. Dr. Whitaker, however, in his History of Whalley, considers it to be of earlier date. The castle originally consisted of a keep, with a tower, and arched gateway, and was surrounded by a strong lofty wall, built on the margin of the rock; it was used as a species of fortress for dispensing justice and receiving tribute by the Lacys, who were lords paramount of the honour. This honour, which extends over the parishes of Whalley, Blackburn, Chipping, and Ribchester, the forest of Bowland, and the manors of Tottington and Rochdale, and includes 28 manors, formed part of the possessions of the house of Lancaster, from the time of the marriage of Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster, with Alice, sister and heiress of Henry de Lacy, until the Restoration, when Charles II. bestowed it upon General Monk, Duke of Albemarle, for his services: it has a court for the recovery of small debts, extending over the hundred of Blackburn; and a similar court is held for the wapentake of Bowland. During the wars of the Roses, Henry VI., on his deposition, sought a temporary refuge here among the hereditary dependents of the house of Lancaster, but was betrayed to his rival by the Talbots of Bashall and Colebry, and sent bound to London. In the civil war the fortress was among the last surrendered to the parliament, by whose directions, in 1649, it was dismantled; the keep, a square tower, being all that remains. The site, and a certain portion of ground occupied by the demesne and forests of the baronial edifice, are extra-parochial, and commonly designated the Castle parish. A modern castellated edifice has been erected within the precincts of the castle. An hospital for lepers, called the Hospital of Edisforth, founded here by some of the earliest burgesses, and dedicated to St. Nicholas, shared the fate of the smaller monasteries at the Dissolution.

The town, from its elevated position, is clean and pleasantly situated: the houses, consisting principally of shops, are neatly built; the streets are macadamized, and lighted with gas, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water from several springs. The neighbourhood abounds with an almost inexhaustible bed of limestone; at Pimlico, a short distance northward from the town, ten kilns are kept burning forty weeks in the year, and produce in the aggregate 4000 windles, or 28,000 strikes, weekly. In Hardhill Park is a racecourse; and immediately outside the town is a spa, with hot and cold baths, extremely efficacious in scorbutic affections. There are extensive cotton-manufactories and print-works, which are yearly increasing, in the town and its vicinity. The market is on Tuesday: fairs are held on the 24th and 25th of March, 1st and 2nd of Aug., the fourth Friday and Saturday after the 29th of Sept., and on the 6th and 7th of December; there is also a fair for cattle and sheep every alternate Tuesday. The first sod of the Blackburn, Clitheroe, and North-Western Junction railway, was cut, at Clitheroe, on December 30th, 1846; and an act of parliament was passed in 1846 for a railway from Clitheroe to the town of Preston.

Clitheroe is a borough by prescription: its first charter, dated in the time of Henry de Lacy, who died in 1147, was confirmed by Edward I., who granted the burgesses the same privileges as those enjoyed by the citizens of Chester, and subsequently by Edward III., Henry VIII., and James I. By the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the corporation now consists of 4 aldermen and 12 councillors, and the mayor is elected annually out of that body; the municipal boundaries are co-extensive with those of the township of Clitheroe, comprising 2283 acres. The Moot-hall is a neat modern edifice, ornamented in front with the borough arms cut in stone, and surmounted by a spire 62 feet high. There is a court of pleas, having jurisdiction to an unlimited amount, in actions of debt arising within the borough; it is holden every three weeks before the recorder and mayor, and has existed from time immemorial. The powers of the county debt-court of Clitheroe, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Clitheroe. The mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace; and a police has been established under the corporation, consisting of a chief constable and assistants. The borough did not return members to parliament until the first year of the reign of Elizabeth, from which period it regularly sent two, till it was deprived of one by the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45. The privilege of voting is exercised by the £10 householders, of whom there are about 400; the limits of the electoral borough embrace 13,788 acres, and the mayor is returning officer.

The chapelry consists of the townships of Chatburn, Clitheroe, Heyhouses, Mearley, and Worston. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Rev. J. H. Anderton; net income, £127, with a glebehouse. The church has been rebuilt, with the exception of the tower and the east window, which form a good specimen of the later English style: the Incorporated Society granted £1500 towards defraying the expense. The former edifice was of great antiquity, being designated, in a deed of the 13th of Edward IV., the church of St. Mary Magdalene; against the south wall of the nave was a brass plate, bearing a curious enigmatical diagram, and an inscription in Latin to the memory of Dr. John Webster, the celebrated judicial astrologer, and curate of Clitheroe, who was interred here, June 21st, 1682. In 1838, an additional church, dedicated to St. James, was erected by subscription, aided by James Thomson, Esq., of Primrose, who, and his family, were the principal contributors: the living is in the gift of Five Trustees. At Chatburn and Heyhouses are other churches. There are places of worship for Independents, Methodists, and Roman Catholics. The free grammar school was founded in 1554, by Philip and Mary, and endowed with the rectorial tithes of the parish of Almondbury, and with certain lands in the district of Craven, in Yorkshire; the head master receives a salary of £200, and has a handsome residence, and the second master is allowed £100. The poor law union of Clitheroe comprises 33 parishes or places, of which 19 are in the West riding of York, and 14 in the county of Lancaster; and contains a population of 23,018. Heyhouses is in Burnley union. The Rev. James King, chaplain to the house of commons, and father of Captain James King, who accompanied Captain Cook in his voyage of discovery round the globe, and of Walker King, Bishop of Rochester, was, during the early part of his ministry, incumbent of Clitheroe.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis 1848

Parish Records

Lancashire Archives

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Lancashire BMD

England, Lancashire, Parish Registers 1538-1910

England, Lancashire Non-Conformist Church Records, 1647-1996

Catholic Parish Registers of Liverpool 1741-1773

St James’ Cemetery Burials Liverpool

Manchester Burial Records

England, Lancashire, Oldham Cemetery Registers, 1797-2004

England, Lancashire, Rusholme Road Cemetery 1821-1933

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Chorlton Upon Medlock Burials 1821-1933


Lancaster Convict Database 1800s

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Lancashire Lantern - archive of local old photographs, postcards and other images

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Records for England

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England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975

Great Britain, Births and Baptisms, 1571-1977

England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008

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Death Records

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England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991

Great Britain Deaths and Burials, 1778-1988

England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

England and Wales, National Index of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1957

England and Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1640-1660

Non-Conformist Records

England and Wales Non-Conformist Record Indexes (RG4-8), 1588-1977


England and Wales Census, 1841

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England and Wales Census, 1911


United Kingdom, Merchant Navy Seamen Records, 1835-1941

War and Conflict

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United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners’ Service Records, 1760-1913

United Kingdom, Royal Hospital Chelsea: Discharge Documents of Pensioners 1760-1887 (WO 122)

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United Kingdom, Militia Service Records, 1806-1915

United Kingdom, World War I Service Records, 1914-1920

United Kingdom, World War I Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Records, 1917-1920

Newspaper Archives

British Newspaper Archive, Family Notices

British Newspaper Archives, Obituaries


  • County: Lancashire
  • Civil Registration District: Clitheroe
  • Probate Court: Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory)
  • Diocese: Manchester
  • Rural Deanery: Whalley
  • Poor Law Union: Clitheroe
  • Hundred: Blackburn
  • Province: York