Brief History of Warton Village

The origin of the name is rather uncertain, and different Wartons have different etymologies. Ours may be similar to one near Kirkham, meaning the watch out settlement, from Anglo-Saxon weard tun. It might also mean settlement on the Ware, now known as the Weir. There appears to have been a pre-Roman settlement on top of the Crag, but the Romans seem to have bypassed the area.

The shape of the modern village is very similar to that of the medieval village, dog-legging, as Main Street does, round the Church, with the old houses and cottages lining it. The oldest building in Warton is the Old Rectory, dating from the early fourteenth century. “Rectory” is rather a misnomer, as it served as a manor house. There would have been a church where the present one stands from the time when Christianity first arrived in the area, about 650 AD. As Warton was part of the Barony of Kendal after the Norman Conquest, the Lord of the Manor would have had the right to appoint a priest, hence “Rectory”. The main seat of the Lords of the Manor was Mourholme Castle (any remains of which are now under the water at Pine Lake).

The present Church, St Oswald’s, was begun in the fourteenth century, with additions in successive centuries. The parish then included Carnforth, Silverdale, the Yealands, Borwick, Priest Hutton and Lindeth. Warton has a connection with the Washington family, which is why the Stars and Stripes flies from the Church tower on 4th July. The tower itself was built in the fifteenth century, with money donated by Robert Washington. He was a direct ancestor of the first President of the USA, though the family did not stay here long after that, but moved to Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire. The Washington coat of arms is now displayed on the north wall of the kitchen area, and is said to have been the inspiration for the Stars and Stripes. Warton was actually quite important in the Middle Ages, and had a market charter. The “burgage” plots (i.e. long narrow strips of land for houses and their gardens) are still in evidence between Main Street and Back Lane. The parish also produced an Archbishop of York, Matthew Hutton, who endowed a grammar school towards the end of the sixteenth century.

The original grammar school is near the quarry car park, and the cottage called “The Old Grammar School” was actually a boarding house. Both village and school fell on hard times in the intervening centuries, with the consequence that the village changed very little in shape and population until the twentieth century, the effects of the Industrial Revolution, which dramatically changed Carnforth, largely passing it by. The school endowment was eventually channelled into the present primary school.

Unlike towns and villages in more prosperous areas, houses were not built in stone here until the seventeenth century. Those which seem to be the earliest ones, dated from that century, may actually belie their date stones, because some of these stones were rescued from earlier houses when rebuilding took place. However there is a cluster of seventeenth cottages near the Old School House, opposite the Church. The majority of houses on Main Street are from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while various small estates, off Main Street, are the product of the twentieth century.

For more detailed history see information displayed in the Church.

You may also be interested in Warton: the Story of a North Lancashire Village, published by the Village Society in 1976, copies now held by the Mourholme Local History Society, and available at various outlets.