Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Jan 2010

Tue 12 Jan 2010
John Virgoe
on Basil Thomas Eccleston (c1712 - 1789) of Eccleston, Eighteenth Century Squire, Farmer and Diarist.

Recent heavy snowfalls meant the cancellation of Januaryís scheduled talk. At short notice though John Harrison arranged for a friend, John Virgoe, to step in and talk about Basil Thomas Eccleston.
He is of particular interest not so much as a diarist but because of the memoranda books he kept from 1757 to 1789. Over 1037 entries were made that chronicled topics such as farming, weather, national and international matters.
He was actually born Basil Thomas Scarisbrick in Eccleston, near Prescot. The Scarisbricks were a prominent southwest Lancashire Roman Catholic family. He was the 8th boy in a family, which included 4 girls. Educated at English speaking Roman Catholic schools on the continent he returned to England with little chance of gaining an inheritance.

Old Eccleston Hall. From a pencil drawing made in 1824

However, he did inherit the Eccleston estate. This was by way of a series of family deaths where there were no heirs. His first dated memoranda book is 15 years after he inherited the estate. There is no evidence of any earlier volumes.
He married and had 3 children. One died as a baby and his wife died too. He was left with a son and daughter.
Johnís slides showed memoranda book extracts that gave an insight 18th century rural life. For example, detailed accounts of a cowmanís wage, £6 a year for a skilled man in 1767, also of sales of wheat and cheese. Coal, too, was found on his estate. He didnít work it but accounts detailed income gained from leasing it.
Additionally, evidence exists in the books of pensions £10 a year paid to former servants and of his taking into account of poor market prices in reduced rents to tenants.
His books are a record of social commentary providing an important source of economic fortunes of lesser gentry. It is full of quantitive data, especially on farming and is a significant contribution to Lancashire history.
An unscheduled but a very interesting talk to start 2010.

P. Robinson

No picture of Basil Thomas Eccleston has been found.
This is his son.