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History of Melling & Roeburndale 


For over three centuries Fox’s lived in and around Roeburndale, one of the rural ‘townships’ of the Manor of Hornby and ancient ecclesiastical parish of Melling in the Hundred of Lonsdale in the county of Lancashire, England.  At least two hundred and fifty years of this time saw the Fox’s reside at a house called ‘Scale’, a small sheep farm, two miles south of Wray and about fifteen miles east of Lancaster.

Melling is a very pretty area of hills and dales, still remarkably unspoiled with a rich history.  Melling the town is a mile north of the designated “area of outstanding beauty”, The Forest of Bowland.  “Scale” is in the Northern part of this area.  The discovery guide of this area contains the following summary:

“There are two areas in Lancashire which have been designated as “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).  The larger is the Forest of Bowland, which has an area of 310 square miles (803 sq kms).  The other is much smaller, at 209 square miles (75 sq kms), but the Arnside and Silverdale area is no less valued for that – though only Silverdale is in Lancashire.

An AONB differs from a National Park in being administered locally rather than by Central Government.  The visitor has no right of access to these areas other than by “rights of way” already established.   The main purpose, therefore, of declaring an area one of “outstanding natural beauty” is to encourage land use which will promote conservation and maintain the landscape and also give it a degree of protection with regard to planning development.  At the same time, it enables the public to enjoy the area with the minimum disruption to those who live and work in the area.

The Forest of Bowland – The title Forest of Bowland is a misnomer, as the area is in fact a treeless moor, with rugged fells to the North and softer dales to the South.  it is still an undiscovered part of the North West, despite being central and easily accessible, and remains an area of isolation and grandeur.

The central upland core, a spur of the Pennines, dominates the scenery, which features contrasting gritstone fells, deep valleys and peat moorland.  On the one hand the bleak moors are exposed to the elements, while on the other, the hills and river valleys offer gentler farming areas and woodlands, picturesque in character.  Ward’s Stone, near Tarnbrook Fell is the highest point (560 meters – 1,836 ft).  When the area, which stretches approximately 20 miles (over 30 kms) in diameter, was designated an AONB in 1964 it included the majestic Pendle Hill (552 meters – 1,810 ft).

The origins of the name Bowland are imprecise but it most likely came from the long-standing connection of these parts with archery – the ‘land of the bow’.   Other theories include a bow in the river, or that it came from : ‘the land of cattle’.  For many centuries much of Bowland belonged to Yorkshire and even at one time formed part of Northumbria.  But in 1974, when the boundaries changed, it became part of Lancashire.  It is defined by the Rivers Lune and Wenning to the North and the Hodder to the South, and lies sandwiched between the Lancashire plains to the West and moorlands to the East.  In the past, wild boars, deer and wolves roamed freely in the Forest, along with wild cats and game.  Hence, it was once a much-valued hunting ground and royalty stretching back to Anglo Saxon times hunted here.  The land was in fact a ‘chase’, which needed only a few trees with open spaces for the hunt to pass through easily.

This area offers spectacular walking and cycling country and a recent venture has resulting in five YHA Camping Barns being provided, sited on working farms.  The Countryside Management Service organise each year a program of guided walks.”



Recorded history of this area goes back to the Roman occupation.  There was a Roman station at the mouth of the River Lune from which the station drew its name.  Lancaster stands there today.  To the east of Scale only about ? miles is a Roman road running roughly North South from ? in the south to ?.

The inhabitation of this area when the Romans arrived were Brittons, part of the Celtic move that inhabited Ireland and Scotland too.

Its hard to speculate on the influence of the Romans in this area but it was near the northern extremity of their influence, only ? miles south of Hadrians wall, built by the Romans to keep out the savage barbarians to the north.  The Romans called these savages Picts in reference to their heavily painted bodies.

The Welsh too, were never completely subjugated by the Romans, but the remainder of what is now England were ‘Romanized’ and one would have to conclude that this included our area of interest also.

The population of the time would have consisted of in a series of single huts in small clearings, with large areas of wilderness without permanent occupation.  Apart from the trials of cold and hunger, they also had to contend with slave raids by the Irish.

From around 400 AD we had the raids and settlement by the Angloes who were mainly in the northern areas.  The Saxons and Jutes occupied the southern areas during the same period.  Irish missionaries began to exert an influence from around 600 on, with local centres being at Ripon and Durham.  The Vikings/Danes came into the area from 800 on and the Norwegians in the northwest after 900.

Again the brief summary from the Discovery Guide is probably the best way to introduce the reader to the history of the area:

“Gaunt, who persuaded the young Richard II to give him the right to bequeath both his title and palatine powers to his male descendants.  In 1399, when Gaunt died, his heir Henry of Hereford had been recently banished for ten years and so Richard divided the land between three of his own loyal supporters.  But Henry returned and successfully regained his inheritance with the help of his noblemen friends and seized the throne.  He became – ‘His Majesty the King; Duke of Lancaster.’  So in 1399 it began, the close royal connection, which continues to this day, with our present Queen still the Duke of Lancaster.

Lancashire today retains these special powers, especially as the Duchy and Monarchy are vested in one and the same person.  The present day Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is now a political officer, but he continues to carry out a number of traditional duties.  He appoints the Vice-Chancellor, who presides over the Lancashire Court of Chancery, as well as appointing the Sheriff of Lancashire and the County Court Judges.  He appoints the Justices of the Peace for the Country and boroughs too.  The J.P.s for every where else in England are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, but in Lancashire, in the name of the Duke, the Chancellor of the Duchy performs this task, thus underlining the Country’s individuality and independence.

The War of the Roses  The medieval history of Lancashire is mainly a story of rivalries between great families.  The long protracted Wars of the Roses (1455-85) were not fought between Lancashire and her neighbour Yorkshire, but between the Houses of York and Lancaster.  The latter used the emblem of the red rose and the badge of York was a white rose.  Both houses were descended from Edward III and both believed they had a right to the throne.  By the rules of inheritance, the Yorkists had the better claim, but had missed out when Richard II was deposed and succeeded by Henry VI, the first Lancastrian king.  Richard of York led the struggle against Henry and, at the Battle of St. Albans in 1455, was victorious, gaining leadership of the government.  But four years later, the battle was renewed, resulting in York’s defeat and death.  His son, the capable and strong Edward IV, with the help of the Earl of Warwick, obtained the throne.  In 1470 Henry VI was returned to the throne, aided by his French wife Margaret, and the contrary Warwick.  But the following year – and with much bloodshed – Edward regained it.

Even that was not the end of the matter and, some twelve years later, Lancaster’s Henry Tudor took up the conflict.  At the Battle of  Bosworth, he defeated and killed the last Yorkist king, Richard III, winning the crown for himself.  Newly installed as King, Henry finally resolved the long-running strife and married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV.  The red and white roses were at last united in the Tudor rose, the emblem of the new line of English kings.

The Civil War  During the Civil War, most people’s sympathies were decided by their religious beliefs.   The strongest Catholic support could be found in Lancashire, after Elizabeth decided to govern the church in the late C16th.  By the time of Charles I, the towns in the south east of the County generally supported Parliament, with the country gentry being for the King.  But during the fighting a number of towns were held first by one side and then the other.  The Parliamentarians eventually captured Lathom House near Ormskirk and this concluded the first phase of the War, but in 1648 a second developed.  The Battle of Preston that same year confirmed the eventual defeat of Charles I, when Cromwell proved victorious over the king’s Scottish supporters.  A further battle was fought with the Scots three years later, when they were again defeated, resulting in the beheading of Royalist sympathiser, the Earl of Derby.

Jacobite Rebellions  The C18th saw the Jacobite Rebellions, led by supporters of James II of England and his descendants – Jacobite is derived from the Latin word for James, ‘Jacobus’.   The son of James II, James Edward, was known as the Old Pretender and in 1715 was invited to invade England through Lancashire.  This resulted in James Edward being proclaimed King at Lancaster.  But less than a week later, two government armies forced his surrender.  A repeat Jacobite uprising took place thirty years later, led by ‘Bonny Prince Charlie’ the son of James Edward, who raised support in Lancaster, Preston and Manchester.  He was known as the Young Pretender, and he decided to march to London but had to abandon this plan at Derby and return north.

The next great battle that Lancashire had to endure came with the social strife of the Industrial Revolution when the County played a key role in England’s growth and prosperity.


Specific Points of Interest


High above the town stand the Norman castle and the Priory Church side by side.  On the east in Williamson Park, similarly perched aloft, is the amazing Ashton Memorial.  Below lies the county town of Lancashire, only made city in 1937, but with a proud and long history behind it.  The Castle is still used as a prison, although this may end and the Castle will become a tourist attraction only.  But visitors are welcomed into the Georgian Courtrooms, Shire Hall and medieval dungeons.  Here too were the Lancashire Assizes, held since 1176, where it is said more people were sentenced to death than anywhere else in England.  This dark fortress also imprisoned, tried and put to death the Pendle Witches.


The Castle stands above the Wenning in one of the most beautiful villages in the County.  The first Lord Monteagle, Sir Edward Stanley, built the fine octagonal tower owned by the Parish Church, as a thank offering for his safe return from Flodden Field.  Nearby is the Norman earthwork of Castle Stede.  The pretty rows of ancient sandstone cottages, the river and the rural setting make this an idyllic spot. 

Links to Associated Articles on this Website:


John Fox of Scale in Roeburndale Home Page


Acknowledgements & References


Background to Fox Family 


Origins of the Fox Name


Farming in Lancashire 


Fox's of Scale Family Tree


Fox's of Highwinder Family Tree