ELSWICK'S HISTORY BEFORE 1500
Nobody has any real idea how old Elswick is.
The first mention of the village occurs in the Doomsday book in 1086 when it was referred to as Edelswic, a hamlet with 300acres of land under cultivation. The name of the village denoted that it was the wick or dwelling place of someone
known as Ethyl and this is reflected in later references when the name of the village was recorded as Ethelswick.
Evidence suggests that the early village was situated to the East of its present site in the grounds of Elswick Manor which stands on the left of the avenue of trees on the B5269.
The Testa de Neville, a transcript made in 1302 of about 500 earlier records of feudal tenure dating from 1198-1293 records that Warin de Warington and Alin de Singleton held respectively the eighth and sixteenth parts of a Knights fee in
Elswick from the Earl of Lincoln. In 1379 John o' Gaunt the Governor of the City of Lancaster took the manor by force for his brother Richard (the second).
The 15th Century equivalent of Avian flu devastated the village in 1485 when half the population was wiped out by the sweating sickness. A similar catastrophe occurred in 1565 when sore sickness hit the village.
By this time the village had moved to its present location with the main settlement forming today's High Street. The centre of the village was roughly where Stafford Close now stands and was the site for the village stocks.
1500 TO 1900
In 1586 the first windmill was built in the village in Mill lane. How long it stood is not known but the odds are that it didn't survive beyond 1643 when the Earl of Derby stayed in the village with his troops during the Civil War. After
capturing the town of Preston for the Royalists his troops plundered and burned the village. Five years later fortunes were reversed when Oliver Cromwell overcame the Royalist army at the Battle of Preston. One battle was fought at the rear of Grange Farm
where in recent years a cannonball has been unearthed during ploughing.
The following year Charles 1 was beheaded and the first Nonconformist church in Elswick was founded. The Parliamentary Commissioners reported that, "the inhabitants being fifty families and five miles from their Parish Church had with the
voluntary and free assistance of some neighbouring towns, erected a chapel."
The first chapel was built on a common called Lees which is thought to have been sited near to the old Manse in Roseacre Road and Leys close. The first minister was The Rev William Bell who in 1650 is said to have been paid £50 per annum
from the Plundered Ministers fund.
The opening of the chapel, which ever since has been seen at the cradle of Nonconformity in Lancashire, occurred at a time of great religious persecution. It is particularly remarkable that the church has survived to today considering that
Parliament passed many acts at the time such as The Five Mile Act which made it illegal for Nonconformist ministers, who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the king (Charles the second), to go within 5 miles of any city, corporate town or borough.
Although Rev Bell's successor in Elswick Rev Cuthbert Harrison, obtained a licence in 1672 from Charles (the second) for a meeting house in Elswick Lees, "for the use of such as did not confirm to the Church of England, commonly called
Congregational" it was just a few months later that Parliament decreed that the king's authority was insufficient and revoked the permission. This forced the worshippers to meet in secret at private houses in the area but failed to deter the worshippers.
In 1753 the chapel at Elswick Lees was replaced by a new building which was enlarged in 1838 and now serves as the church hall. The present church was built in 1874.
As the cradle for Nonconformity in Lancashire the church is rightly famous and as such attracts visitors from all over the world. Each year the church celebrates its anniversary (next year will be the 357th) and always attracts a large
attendance. In 1933 the event attracted 1500 people.
We know from the censuses undertaken that the village population in 1801 was 232 and steadily rose during the 19th century to 327 in 1831 before it started to fall as a result of the Industrial Revolution. By 1871 the population had declined
to 254 and the village was clearly in decline. The turn of the century arrested this trend and with the rapid growth of Blackpool, Elswick started to be the venue for trips from the resort. At that time the village was renowned for its orchards and spring
blossom (see Alan Clarke's Windmill Land).
MODERN TIMES - 1900 ONWARD
Elswick in 1900 was probably little different than it had been during the previous century. Although trips were starting from Blackpool it was still remote from major areas of population and was a farming community where virtually the entire
population was employed in agriculture. It was no doubt the village's isolation and healthy embracing air that led to the village being chosen as the venue for both a smallpox hospital (where the four large houses at the entrance to the village on
Roseacre Road now stand) and a Tuberculosis Sanatorium (later the infamous Hoole House Bail Hostel). Both these institutions brought employment, facilities and visitors to the village.
Eventually Elswick found itself on the tourist map with the emergence of Bonds of Elswick with its famous ice cream two pubs and Bonds rival One Ash Café. Coach tours and illuminations traffic brought people from all over the country to
Elswick and again brought jobs to the village.
In the 1950s the population of the village started to rise with the construction of new council houses in Roseacre Road. A few years later the population doubled almost overnight with the construction of married quarters for Weeton with what
is still referred to today as the army estate. Around this time there were big plans to significantly increase the size of the village and make Elswick a small town. Thankfully nothing ever came of this project but small estates have sprung up since
across the village.
Sadly any village traditions that there might have been in Elswick have long since died. The last was the village Gala which was revived for the Queen's silver jubilee in 1977 but died through lack of support less than 20 years later. People
who have lived in the village for some time will no doubt recall the sight of the Kings Own Royal Border Regiment full military band leading the procession. Fifty five military musicians in scarlet tunics and white helmets is something that the village
will never see again due to cutbacks and security measures but it is nevertheless hoped that one spin off from the Parish Plan will be the revival of the Gala.