its name emanating from its location by a ‘rough
ford’, the original village of Rufford was located
on the Liverpool Preston Turnpike Road. The village was
known for it's Friday market, where monks from the abbey
at Burscough sold fish, caught in the waters of the nearby
Martin Mere was the largest lake in Lancashire
covering some 1300 Hectares laying claim to be the last
known home of King Arthur's sword Excalibur. In time the
lake was drained out to the River Douglas at the south
end of the village where Dam Brook Bridge now stands.
The village, over a very long period,
was a cluster of houses located mainly where the Hesketh
Arms now stands and spreading round the Flash Lane area.
The area near the Hesketh Arms was known as The Moor and
this would be the point where people would meet to buy
and sell their wares.
Records indicate that the area has been
manorial for well over 500 years and this is borne out
by the fact that in 1339 Richard III granted to Sir William
Hesketh the Lord of Rufford, a charter to hold a market
on Fridays and a fair on the Feast of St Phillip and St
James on the First day May each year. Many varied items
were sold at these fairs including Witches Bowls and Glass
Rolling pins together with livestock and produce.
It is known that a Chapel existed in 1346
being rebuilt in 1734 and leaving us with the present
St Mary's Church built in 1869. The Parish of Rufford
appears to have been formed when it separated from the
Parish of Croston in 1793
Rufford Old Hall was built in 1530 to
be followed by Rufford New Hall which was completed in
1798. The Lord of the manor employed a good proportion
of the population and the Hesketh family owned most of
the land and property at that period.
When the New Hall was built the Hesketh
family followed the trend of that era and created Rufford
Park, which extended from the boundary with Holmeswood
to the boundary with Croston and Mawdesley being split
by the Liverpool Preston Turnpike Road. The park development
resulted in many workers cottages being demolished and
the population being re-located within the village.
The Hesketh Family farmed the larger areas
of agricultural land with The Home Farm being the main
base. Many of the villagers who lost their small plots
with the building of the parkland were re-located to the
northern end of the village known as The North Fields.
The area still exists as farmland and was used by the
military as a horse depot in the 1914/18 war.
There was no mining or quarrying in the
area but it appears that some basket weaving took place.
The building of the Leeds and Liverpool
Canal commenced in 1767 and was completed in 1816 with
the Rufford branch being opened 1781. This provided an
important connection from the main branch at Burscough
to the River Douglas at Tarleton and on to the River Ribble
and Preston. Thus Liverpool and Preston were linked by
an inland waterway system. The old canal wharves where
goods were loaded and unloaded can still be seen in Rufford.
The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway also came through
Rufford connecting Liverpool and Preston and onward to
Glasgow and the north. There was a busy goods yard in
Station Road which handled produce and where coal was
brought into the village from other parts of Lancashire.
In the period 1914 to 1918 the Hesketh
family disposed of most of the properties and land in
Rufford in many cases to the sitting tenants. Not long
after that a few of the more astute members of the community
bought up much of the property and land and commenced
farming or business as produce merchants employing many
local people as transport workers and farm hands. Local
people also recognised opportunities to earn a living
from the growing trend in tourism and in the 1930 to 1950
period there were as many as eleven establishments serving
meals and light refreshments catering for travellers,
cyclists and hikers. There were two public houses with
restaurant facilities, both well supported by visitors
to the village and for some years a nightclub or roadhouse
called The Tango. There were also in the region of ten
shops providing groceries, meats and other necessary supplies
for the residents. Holmeswood boasted three shops and
two places of refreshment which were again well supported
by cyclists and visitors to the area.
This period was a complete change from
the manorial era and Rufford was, at this time, a thriving
and popular village. Sadly the refreshment establishments
started to disappear with the age of the motorcar in the
late fifties and the shops dwindled as people used their
cars to shop in nearby towns. The produce and transport
industry carried on until the late 1980/1990 period although
for various reasons, on a dwindling scale in the latter
years. The agricultural activity in Rufford and Holmeswood
remains much as it was with the exception of some land
used for building purposes.
Rufford Old Hall was passed to the National
Trust in 1936 and the New Hall when vacated by the Hesketh
family, was bought by the Liverpool Corporation and was
for many years operated as a pulmonary hospital. In latter
years, until about 1988 it was used by the NHS as a pre-convelesant
hospital employing many local people.
last piece of land owned by the Hesketh family was their
recreation ground until it was conveyed to the Rufford
Parish Council in 1937 for recreational use by the public.
This is the seven acres where the present Rufford Village
Hall stands, which was built there in 1974.
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