Skerton

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Skerton is an area in the north of Lancaster, England, on the other side of the River Lune to the castle. It was formerly a township, but in the late 1800s it was incorporated into Lancaster and the neighbouring townships. Skerton Bridge takes the A6 northwards from the city towards Carlisle.

Origin of the name[edit]

The origin of the name is based on Old Norse sker, Skerton meaning the tun by the reefs (i.e. sand banks in the River Lune which ran through the original Township).[1] The history of the Township to 1914 is shown in the Victoria County History.[2]

Neighbouring Lancaster annexed parts of Skerton in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the Township was divided between Lancaster and adjacent parishes.[3] The records, show variants the name over time,'Skerton'(1200),'Skereton'(1292), 'Storton'(1201), and 'Sherton' (1292). Of those evolutions of the original Norse name Skerton is the modern version.[4]

History[edit]

1066 to 1297[edit]

After the Conquest of 1066, which saw control of the 'realm of England' transferred from the Saxon kings to William the Conqueror, the town of Lancaster was seized as the personal fiefdom of the Norman King. The historic hill that now plays host to the castle had previously been the site of a Roman fort and, following the Norman Conquest, was designated as the site upon which to build what is now Lancaster Castle.

The land being carved up by the Norman aristocracy, the land playing host to 'Schertune' was granted to the Halton fee, of which Earl Tostig, (See Tostig Godwinson), was a member. Tostig, having been loyal to the Norman King was rewarded in this instance with personal possession of Skerton, (Amongst other rewards of land). During his possession, the Skerton was assessed as being 'six-plough lands'.

After Tostig's possession, Skerton was retained in demesne by the Lords of Lancaster; in 1094, demesne tithes from Skerton were granted to St Martin's at Sees by Count Roger of Poitou, (See Roger the Poitevin). The land surrounding Skerton remained more or less 'Virgo intacta', an exception being made when half a Plough-land was granted to William De Skerton, (Reeve from 1201 to 1202), to be held by this Serjeanty.

It has been revealed that around this time, the ancient assize rent of the vill for ten oxgangs of land in bondage was seven Shillings and Sixpence, (7s 6d). By 1200, this had increased considerably to forty-two shillings and nine pence, (42s 9d), or, more accurately, (£2 2s 9d). It is also recorded that allowance was made for the want of Plough teams between 1200 and 1202, at the rate of six shillings and eight pence, (6s 8d), per team.

Skerton contributed to the tallage between 1205 and 1206, paying thirty-nine shillings, (39s), or, (£1 19/-). Similar contributions were made in 1226 and by 1240 to 1260, was making a contribution of around £20 per Annum. During 1246-1248, the Lune Mill, (Held by the Lords of Lancaster), the farm at Skerton and other issues of the manor were, (Over the course of a year and-a-half), of the sum total of thirty-one pounds, eighteen shillings and nine-and-a-half pence, (£31 18s 9.5d). Pleas and perquisites of the court came to sum total of eighteen shillings, (18s). Due to the possession of the land by the Lords of Lancaster, all proceeds, (and later possession of the land), ultimately came back to the English Crown.

In 1297, it has been recorded that there were three free tenants, (That is to say, those not in bondage to another master but free citizens in their own right.), these being Alan de Paries, the Abbot of Furness and Lawrence, the son of Thomas De Lancaster.[5]

1297 to 1788[edit]

It is interesting that during the course of the 18th century, three charities should arise in connection with the settlement of Skerton...and that two of them should be geared towards the endowment of education. A school is known to have existed in Skerton since 1734, (making Skerton the second-oldest provider of education in Lancaster, after the establishment of the Lancaster Royal Grammar School in 1235, some five hundred years earlier), when the trust deed of one Jane Jepson, (dated the 25th of March 1734), confirmed that £100 was delivered into the hands of John Housman for the fulfilment of a number of purposes; particularly, that £60 should be earmarked for either the purchase of construction of a schoolhouse, and that any remainder or surplus should be lent out at interest...and the return from this latter investment used to employ a schoolmaster for the teaching of poor children.[6]

A later endowment came in the form of Henry Williamson's trust deed, (dated the 10th of February, 1767), when he bequeathed £100 to be used for investments that would yield a sufficient rate of return: "...towards teaching young children belonging to the township to read the Bible, write, knit or sew, and if any overplus should be, that the same should be laid out in clothing such children as would be indigent".[7]

Intervening between these two noble patronages, we are also aware of an apparently-anonymous endowment, referred to only as 'Money's Charity'...which, (we learn from Cross Fleury's 1891 history of Lancaster), had emerged under an indenture dated the 13th of December, 1760, (in recitation of an earlier indenture of mortgage, dating from the 2nd of November, 1750), whereby 'two messuages and a garden situate in Skerton', (see Messuage) had been mortgaged to James Rigmaiden and Peter Cook, (referred to in contemporary documentation as 'Sidesmen' of the parish), as trustees on behalf of the residents of Skerton in the interests of securing support for those poor inhabitants of the same, requiring relief...as per agreement between the aforesaid trustees and John Money, who undertook to demise same premises in pursuance thereof, for a period of one thousand years.[8]

Whilst the archaic language of 18th century land-conveyances and trust deeds would appear to ensure that much of this complex arrangement remains incomprehensible to the modern reader, it is with the careful paraphrasing of Cross Fleury that we are able to determine that the 'Money's Charity' thus primarily entailed the effective transfer of four dwellinghouses and a cattleshed to the care of the parish of Skerton; with a view to the sub-leasing of the same and the use of the rents therefrom, in relief of the poor.[9]

1788 to 1888 (Completion of the New Bridge to Incorporation)[edit]

In the intervening years leading up to Incorporation of the Township of Skerton in 1888, we read of the two 'National Schools' attached to the parish church of St Luke, brought under government inspection following the Education Act 1870, and enlarged in 1877 at the cost of around £900; with a subsequent annuity of £27 paid from the endowment of the historic Williamson and Jepson Charities, (at that time administered by the Vicar and Church Wardens of St Luke's Church, as named trustees).[10]

1888 to the Present (Incorporation of the Township and later Amalgamation into Lancaster Proper)[edit]

The 1888 Incorporation of Skerton as a township brought with it a flurry of new buildings inclined towards the civic advancement of the people. A new county police station, (comprising four cells), was completed in 1889 and still stands today on Owen Road, (where it now houses offices for the local NHS health team). Referred to by Cross Fleury in 1891 as having cost £5,000,[11] there are other accounts which refer to it having cost in the region of £6,400. Irrespective of the cost, it was certainly of some importance in its own time; accommodating a sizeable contingent in the form of 45 constables, 8 sergeants, one inspector and a superintendent in its heyday, and most likely serving as the divisional headquarters for the surrounding jurisdiction falling outside the precincts of the Lancaster Town Police.

Tramways are also known to have run through Skerton; served by the Lancaster Corporation Tramways, which were in operation from the 14th of January, 1903, until the 4th of April, 1930...when services ceased.[12] As around 3 miles of tramline are known to have been laid down, (and mention is made in contemporary sources dating from 1914 of a route having passed through Skerton on its way to Morecambe),[13] we should perhaps assume that this route was laid over Skerton Bridge, on account of it being the only road-bridge across the River Lune, at this time.

Education[edit]

In 1235, the 19th year of the Reign of Henry III, (House of Plantagenet), the Lancaster Royal Grammar School was established. Coincidentally, there has been a school in Skerton since 1734, meaning that Skerton is the second-oldest provider of education in Lancaster. The oldest existing school buildings still in Skerton are those built for the Parish of St. Luke's in 1870, making Skerton the location of the third oldest school in Lancaster. Meanwhile, the buildings that comprise the former secondary school for the area date from 1932, however Skerton Community High School closed in 2014.

References[edit]

  • Fleury, Cross (1891), Time-Honoured Lancaster: Historic Notes on the Ancient Borough of Lancaster, Eaton & Bulfield 
  1. ^ Ekwall E,The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names 4th Edition 1960. reprinted 1970, pp. 424, 425.
  2. ^ For a fully referenced history see the on-line Victoria County History, A History of the County of Lancaster, Vol 8, Eds. William Farrer & J. Brownbill, (1914) pp.98-61
  3. ^ See W Farrer & J Brownbill op. Cit..
  4. ^ See Ekwall op. cit..
  5. ^ Fleury 1891, p. 550
  6. ^ Fleury 1891, p. 561
  7. ^ Fleury 1891, p. 561
  8. ^ Fleury 1891, p. 561
  9. ^ Fleury 1891, p. 562
  10. ^ Fleury 1891, p. 560
  11. ^ Fleury 1891, p. 563
  12. ^ The Golden Age of Tramways. Published by Taylor and Francis.
  13. ^ For a fully referenced history see the on-line Victoria County History, A History of the County of Lancaster, Vol 8, Eds. William Farrer & J. Brownbill, (1914) pp.98-61