The name Mawdesley is thought to have originated in the reign of Edward the First (1272 - 1308) with the use of the suffix 'ley' signifying a field, meadow or clearing - evidence of the village's rural origins. Discoveries of flints and stone implements indicate early settlements in the area and at the time of the Norman conquest, small hamlets and scattered farms typified the then settlement patterns of Lancashire. Records show that a Manor existed in 1250 AD on the site of the present Mawdesley Hall.
Hall itself stands in a commanding position on a sandstone outcrop. The
black and white timber framed building dates back to the early 17th
century when William Mawdesley lived there. The central hall is Tudor
and some of the inner walls are made from wattle and daub. The south
wing is of local red sandstone whilst the north wing is built of hand
made bricks made at the old Bluestone Lane brickworks. The stone
stairway leading up from the road was built about 1613.
Close by the Hall is City Farm and City Cottage, parts of the red sandstone farmhouse are believed to have been built in 1591; certainly there is a stone bearing this date on the wall. The low roofed black and white cottage was built in 1623; it is timber framed with wattle and daub walls. The Black Bull Inn was built in the 1580's, the windows to the left of the entrance have been blocked off and 'windows' painted on, this was probably a consequence of the window tax which was levied between the late 17th and the mid 19th centuries. Manor courts were held here at the end of the 17th century.
Wrest House is the oldest surviving house on New Street; the whole of the terrace used to be a single property. Built in 1631, it used to house a joiner and wheelwright, the family living at one end and the workshops being at the other.
The Lane End's House was built at the end of the 16th century. It is the home of the Finch family who suffered heavy fines for recusancy during the reigns of Charles I & II. One member of the family John Finch, was imprisoned and then hanged in 1584 for the offence. There is a Chapel hidden away in the attics where Catholics could practice their faith safely in secret during the troubled years of the Reformation, it continued to be used regularly long after the need for secrecy ended, indeed until St. Peter and St. Paul's Church was built in 1831. It was restored in the 1960's. Lane End's House is known locally as the "House of the Skull', referring to the bones that are kept there, thought to be those of a monk, Brother William Haydock, who died for his faith in 1537.
The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is the oldest of the three churches in the village and serves the Roman Catholics of Mawdesley and Croston. The religious persecutions of the Reformation made it very difficult for Catholics to practice their religion and led to hidden chapels, such as the one that was in Croston Hall and the one in Lane End's House, being constructed inside 'safe' houses. By the late 18th century conditions were better and a Chapel was built onto Croston Hall to replace the one hidden inside. This served the Croston Catholics until the Mawdesley Church was opened. The Chapel of the Holy Cross was built close by Croston Hall in 1858 but was only used for some 26 years before it fell into disuse, it was reopened in 1964.
The township of Mawdesley used to be part of the parish of Croston and it was not until 1840 that St. Peter's Church was completed. The altar is made of oak from the Douglas Chapel in Parbold, removed when the chapel was take down in 1878.
A Methodist Society existed in the village in 1811 but it was not until 1844 that a purpose built Chapel was constructed. The original Methodist Church still stands; Chapel House, now an attractive stone dwelling, stands end on to the road near Hurst Green Junction. The building, which had its own schoolroom attached, soon proved to be too small and in 1905 the present Church, situated at Four Lane Ends, was consecrated.
Other history resources for Mawdesley and the surrounding area:
British History online: A searchable source taken from the Victoria County History.
Online Parish Clerk: A searchable guide to Parish records.