The advowson (or patronage) was one of the appurtenances of the manor of Whiston, held by the Forester of Lancaser3, it descended from the Gernets to the Dacres4 and was acquired from Ranulf de Dacre about 1374 or 1375 by Sir John de Nevill, lord of Raby5.

In December, 1391, Ralph de Nevill, Lord of Raby exchanged it for the advowsons of Staindrop and Brancepeth in the bishopric of Durham, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, becoming patron of Prescot6.

The advowson descended with the crown until conferred by Healy VI on his new college of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Nicholas at Cambridge7 in 1445.

From that time to the present the right of patronage has belonged to King's College, together with the manor of Prescot. The rectory was appropriated to the college in October, 1448, a vicarage being ordained8.

The annual value of the rectory was assessed at £40 in 12919. Fifty years later the value of the ninth of sheaves, wool, and lambs, was declared to be £5010.In the time of Henry VIII the vicarage was rated at £24 0s 9d11 net. From the report of the Commonwealth surveyors in 1650 it appears that King's College had farmed out the rectory to the vicar of Prescot, the Earl of Derby, and others, so that they received but a small share of the revenue, the vicarage having about £60 from small tithes, as well as a house with 2½ acres of land. Various subdivisions were recommended12.

Bishop Gastrell in 1719 found the vicarage worth £140 a year. The gross value is now stated as £650, but the district attached to the parish church has become practically restricted to little more than the town of Prescot.13

The rectors and vicars of Prescot

The rectors were usually prominent men, as, after the patronage came into the possession of the dukes of Lancaster and the kings, the benefice was bestowed as a reward of public service.

These busy officials probably never visited Prescot, discharging their duties by a resident curate14. Hence the bestowal of the rectory on King's College was no loss to the parish, though the new vicars, sometimes men of importance in the university and holding other benefices, were probably not seen mach oftener by their parishioners than the old rectors.

The first account of the resident clergy of the parish is supplied by the Clergy List of 1541-215.

The vicar of that time is known to have resided at least occasionally. He paid a curate. There were three chantry priests, also chaplains or curates at Rainford and Farnworth.

Two priests were paid by John Eccleston, three lived de stipite, and one, Ralph Richardson, by the profits of lands.

There was that a staff of thirteen clergy serving the parish church, the four chapels and three chantries, and private oratories.

Eleven, including the vicar, appeared at the visitation of 1548; two of them had been chantry priests, but four of the names were fresh, to that three or four of those living here in 1541 bad disappeared, by death or migration. Three others are named under Farnworth16.

The effect of the changes made under Edward VI becomes manifest in the visitation list of 1554. The vicar and his curate alone remained at Prescot, and the curate at Farnworth, the staff of thirteen having been reduced to three17. Very little improvement was effected by Bishops Cotes and Scott, the list of 1562 showing the vicar and three assistants at Prescot, and a curate at Farnworth18.

Next year showed a decline. The vicar was absent in London, but the curate and the schoolmaster appeared as also those of Famworth19.The minimum seems to have been reached in 1565, when neither the vicar or the curate of Fanrworth appeared, the curate of Prescot being the only representative20.

In 1590 the vicar was described as a preacher, there was also a preacher at Rainford, but the chapels at St Helens and Farnworth had only readers21. Two years later it was alleged that the vicar and curate did not catechise the youth. Mr Mead appeared and stated that every Sunday and holiday he did interpret upon some parcel of Scripture both before and after noon, but he was ordered to catechise also.

The churchwardens were ordered to provide a decent communion table before Christmas, also a fair linen cloth for it, to use the perambulations and to make a presentment of offenders22. No change is revealed by a report made about 1610, but the vicar was the only preacher in the parish23.

The parliamentary authorities temporarily expelled Mr Day. Articles were presented against him in 1645, but he did not appear, having deserted the place, and it was next year ordered that the rectory should stand sequestered to the use of some godly and orthodox divine until the vicar should submit. It appeared that he had some scruples of conscience as to taking the Solemn League and Covenant24. Afterwards he was able to satisfy the authorities and was restored to the full enjoyment of the vicarage!25.

His successor, John Withins, conformed in 1662. From this time onward the vicars, except Edward Goodall, do not call for special mention.

It is noticeable that at the visitation in May, 1691, no clergy appeared from this parish26. The chapels of Rainford, Great Sankey, and St Helens were then in the hands of Presbyterians. The schoolmaster, Henry Wareing, licensed a year before, was the only representative27.


Notes
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3Lancashire Inquests and Extents (Record Society of Lancashire. and Cheshire), 43-4. 188
4 Final Concords (Record Society of Lancashire. and Cheshire), ii, 192, 68 n.
5 Lich. Epis. Reg. iv, fol. 87b.
6bid. vi, fol. 57; also Duchy of Lanc. Great Cowcher, i, fol. 70, n. 44; fol. 69, n. 43. See Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxii, App. p. 361.
7 The grant was made 6 Aug. 1445 (Pat. 23 Hen. VI, pt. xxii), and was specially exempted from subsequent Acts of resumption; Parl. R. v, 92, 523; vi, 91
8Lich. Reg. x, fol. 64 8b. There is a local story attributing the vicarage to the king's disgust at finding the rector so wealthy as to be able to shoe his horses with silver; Gregson, Fragments, 173.
9Lich. Reg. x, fol. 64Ã-8b. There is a local story attributing the vicarage to the king's disgust at finding the rector so wealthy as to be able to shoe his horses with silver; Gregson, Fragments, 173.
10Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 249.
11Inq. Nonarum (Rec. Com.), 40. The various townships contributed as follows: Rainhill, 60s; Whiston with Prescot, 50s, Eccleston, £4; Rainford, Windle, and Parr, 60s each; Sutton, £4 10s.; Bold, £5 8s 4d, Ditton with Penketh the same; Appleton, £7 1s 8d, Sankey, £2 13s 4d, Cuerdley, £3 8s 4d, Cronton, 60s.
12Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), v, 220. The bishop received 13s. 4d. a year, and the archdeacon 15s. 4d. The vicarage house was worth 5s. a year. There were three chantries in the parish.
13 Commonwealth Church Surveys 1649-1655 (Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire), 70-9.
14 William Brinklow, rector of Mancetter, was appointed to hear the confessions of the parishioners in 1395; Lich. Epis. Reg. vi, fol. 132b.
15 A List of the Clergy in Eleven Deaneries of the Diocese of Chester. 1541-42 The Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 15.
16Visit. List at Chester. For the church ornaments at this time see Ch. Gds. 1552 (Chet. Soc.), ii, 80; and Raines, Chantries (Chet. Soc), 270, 279.
17 List at the Chester diocesan registry. In his decree as to Farnworth, Bishop Cotes said of Prescot church: 'There is so great ruins and deformities and dilapidations in the roofs, ornaments, walls, and windows that unless speedy remedy be taken the said church is in a short time likely to fall down to the ground.'
18bid. The vicar, William Whitlock, appeared and subscribed, as did Robert Nelson; but Ralph Richardson who appeared, did not subscribe. The curate of Rainford's name is not entered; possibly he had relinquished his post. In 1559 Robert Nelson, curate, had refused to appear at the visitation; Gee, Elizabethan Clergy.
19Visit. List. There was also a blank, with the words 'cur. de Raynforth' following; so that while the services were supposed to be maintained no one was in charge.
20Ibid
21Gibson's Lydiate Hall, p. 248 (quoting S. P. Dom. Eliz. ccxxxv, n. 4).
22Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), x, 189. The offences named are adultery and like sins; marriage without banns; playing cards 'on the Sabbath day' at home at the time of evening prayer; and having a child baptized by some missionary priest.
23Kenyon MSS. 13.
24Minutes of the Accounts of the Committee for Plundered Ministers. (Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire), i, 11, &c. From 1644 to 1647 he lived as a fellow commoner at Trinity Hall, Camb.; Hall's Catalogue in King's Coll.
25Minutes of the Accounts of the Committee for Plundered Ministers. (Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire), i, 11, i, 47, 55-58. The committee of the county of Cambridge had in 1643 certified that Mr. Day was 'of a pious life and no way delinquent or ill-affected.' It appeared that he had some duties at King's Coll., and he professed his apprehension that it was not safe for him to live at Prescot, 'in regard of the wars and of the king's forces then frequent in those parts.' In 1650, the new vicar not having come down, the schoolmaster of Farnworth supplied his place, receiving 15s. for every Lord's day he officiated; Commonwealth Ch. Surv. 71.
26Thomas Wells was curate in 1689 and 'conformable'; Kenyon MSS. 230.
27 Visit. list at Chester.