By the early eighteenth century there were several farms centred on Lowerfold, and one of these farms had been in the hands of a branch of the Mercer family since the previous century. The first entries made in the Lay Subsidy of 1660 are those for the Lowerfold area and one of the people listed is a Richard Mercer, single. Richard died later that year and his nuncupative, or verbal, will on his deathbed named his brother Thomas as heir to all his goods. Thomas was not listed on the Lay Subsidy and it is possible that he was living elsewhere when Richard died and that he returned to the town to take up the lease on the Lowerfold tenement.

When Thomas made his will in 1675 he states that he was ‘of Lowerfold’. The will is damaged, particularly the upper portions, but useful sections can be read. From it we know the names of his family:

o Wife Bridget.
o His father-in-law Henry Halsall.
o Son William ‘to have and to hold’ – presumably the tenement at Lowerfold and named as Duckworth’s.
o Elline Coubourne, daughter
o Elizabeth Mercer, daughter
o Henrie Mercer, son
o Grace Mercer, daughter – under 21
o Richard Mercer, son – under 21

William was named as the executor of the will and the total of the inventory was £52 14 shillings. Grace and Richard, not having reached the age of 21, were therefore born sometime after 1654 and the other children before that year. However, the baptisms of the children of Thomas and the marriage of his daughter Elline do not appear in local parish registers, or if they do they cannot be distinguished from the children of other Thomas Mercers baptising children at that time. There is a possibility that they were missed if born during the years of the Civil War, or it could be that they were born outside the area.

Bridget remarried in 1673 to Robert Chew of Billington. Her father Henry Halsall died in 1678, and Robert Chew in 1682. Bridget herself died in 1696:

Burial: 27 Jun 1696 St Bartholomew, Great Harwood, Lancashire, England
Bridget Chew, Widow
Abode: formerly from Lower fold in ye town of Harwood but late from Accrington

The William who inherited the Lowerfold tenancy died in 1728 but he did not leave a will, so the only means of tracing his line is through the parish registers. The probable marriage for William is to Elizabeth Sudell in November 1675. The Lay Subsidy of 1660 shows a William Mercer as the servant of the Sudell family, probably at Heys, the Sudell farm. At that time the status of servant was rather different from later times and was often a form of apprenticeship between families of a similar status, so it is not impossible for a servant to marry the daughter of his master. Perhaps significantly, William married on the 4 November 1675, just over a month after the death of his father in late September that year.

There are several entries for the children of William Mercer in the parish registers but only three are stated to have been born at Lowerfold: Thomas 1677, William 1686 and Grace 1697. However, there are children recorded as being at Peg Nance:

o 1677 baptism of Thomas son of William Mercer of Lowerfold
o 1686 baptism of William son of William Mercer of Lowerfold
o 1692 baptism of Nicolas son of William Mercer of Peg Nants, Upper Town
o 1693 burial of Nickolas son of William Mercer of Pegnants
o 1697 baptism of Grace daughter of William Mercer of Lowerfold
o 1698 burial of Grace daughter of William Mercer of Peg-nants

Nicolas was the name of Elizabeth Sudell’s father, and I have only ever come across one other instance of the use of Peg Nants as a place name and that was in the Blackburn registers for the burial of the widow of Thomas Sudell of Pegnance in 1647, so this was a place associated strongly with the Sudell family. Both facts are evidence to link Elizabeth Sudell as the wife of William of Lowerfold. No burial has been identified for Elizabeth.

A survey of Hesketh estates in 1735 records William Mercer aged 49 as being the tenant of lands at Lowerfold; this was the William in the above list born in 1686. He was probably the William Mercer Junior who married Mary Patefield in 1713 and whose son David was born in 1715. There do not seem to be any other baptisms for children of this William and there do not seem to be any records for David after that of his baptism – it seems likely that he died as a child or young adult. Mary, wife of William of Lowerfold, died in 1752. His will, made 1754, bears out him having no living wife or descendants – he leaves bequests to nephews and nieces and various other people. He names his brother Thomas (deceased), a brother Richard (deceased and whose baptism does not appear to have been recorded) and their families.

Other people mentioned by William in his will were:

o Ellen Tattersal wife of James Tattersal daughter of Richard Mercer his brother
o Mary Mercer wife of William Mercer, innkeeper of Whalley
o Mary Boocock widow of Benjamin Boocock deceased of Downham
o Elizabeth Wigglesworth wife of John Wigglesworth carpenter of Downham
o Jennet Tattersall widow of Lawrence Tattersall of Downham
o Tamer, sister of William Mercer skinner of South Oram, York
o Mary Hindle, housekeeper
o Thomas Mercer son of Alexander Mercer of Harwood
o William Whittaker son of William Whittaker of Rishton
o William Mercer, skinner of South Oram, the eldest son of his brother Thomas Mercer deceased the residue.

The inventory total was £36 8s 9d and listed the rooms and buildings at the farm:

o The House (hall or main chamber)
o Parlour
o Buttery
o Chamber over Buttery
o Lower Parlour
o Stable
o Barn

The holding now passed to William Mercer of Southowram, the son of his brother Thomas. Thomas appears to have migrated to Yorkshire and his daughter Tamar’s baptism is recorded at Bingley in 1707, but no record has been found so far for the baptism of his son William. William’s marriage to Martha Bridge in 1731 is recorded though, and the baptisms of his children in Northowram in Yorkshire. That William had relocated his family to Great Harwood is confirmed in the rentals for the farm at Lowerfold and land allotted to them on enclosure:

DDLX 9/1

1 May 1758
William Mercer
12 acres 33 perches
Live of:
Lessee 52
William Mercer 9
Thomas Mercer 40

Clinkham (near) (Harwood Moor)
5 acres 1 rood 34 perches
William Mercer
Lives of:
Rachel daughter 19
Leah daughter 16
William son 14

Mercer Tenement at Lowerfold

The map is from a private collection held by John Michael Trappes-Lomax which he generously shared, enabling us, in conjunction with other documentary sources, to pinpoint exactly where most farms in Great Harwood were located.
The pink area is where a large barn was located until sometime around 1978. This barn has a datestone with the letters TM and the date 1752 and it might be that the TM stands for Thomas Mercer. It isn’t certain however, which of the buildings shown on the map relate to particular farms.

This William Mercer outlived many of his children; when he died only Leah, Martha and William were still living but in his will he mentions his grandchildren, sons and daughter of his daughters Elizabeth and Sarah, who had married John Taylor and Robert Hindle. There are many descendants of these women now living, both in Great Harwood and around the world.

The Will of William Mercer of Lowerfold 1780

In the Name of God Amen the Twentyth day of September in the Year of our Lord God one Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty I William Mercer of Great Harwood in the County of Lancaster Yeoman being a Little infirm of Body but Sound of in Mind and Memory Understanding and Considering the Uncertenty of this Transitory Life , do Make and publish and Declare this My Last will and Testament Hearby revoking all former and other wills Heartofore by me Made I give devise Dispose of the Same in the following Manner and form First it is My mind that all my just Debts and Funeral Expences be paid and also the probate of this My will, Then I give and bequeath unto William Mercer My Son all that Leasehold Estate Situate Lying and being in Great Harwood in the Lowerfold in the County of Lancaster aforesaid with all the Appurtenances there belonging to hold to him his heirs and Assigns and Likewise I give unto William Mercer my Son Forty pounds of Lawfull Money to the raised out of My Quick and dead Goods Shuch as Cattle Corn and hay and other Household goods, I give unto Martha Taylor Daughter of John Taylor Deceased five pounds I give unto Pegey Taylor Daughter of John Taylor five pounds, I give unto Rachel Taylor Daughter of John Taylor five pounds, then I give Jeffery Taylor Son of John Taylor aforesaid the Sum of Thirteen pounds and the Interest arising from the said sum since the Twentyth day of January one Thousand Seven Hundred and Twenty two which laid down the said sum upon Mortgage of the Estate of the aforesaid John Taylor in Rishton in the County of Lancaster aforesaid holden by Lease, I give and Bequeath all the Residue of the Money unto My two Daughters Martha & Leah and the two Children of My Daughter Sarah Deceased Share and Share alike but with this proviso that their be Twenty pounds Deducted out of the two Children share Twenty pounds for Value reserved By My Daughter Sarah and her Representatives and My Mind is that the Share of the two Children is to be Retained in the hands of my Executors till such times as they come at age and if any Sickness happen them in the Meanwhile My will is that the Shares of the two Children is to be left to my Executors Discresion as they think proper for the Sustainance of them and if they Both Dei before they Come at age if their by any Residue of their Shares is to be Divided Equalley among that is Martha Mercer Leah Mercer Martha Taylor Pegey Taylor Rachel Taylor I give unto Leah My Daughter the New Clock Cards and the rops thereunto being And I constitute and Make William Mercer My Son and James Ellison at Oakenshaw in Clayton le Moores in the County of Lancaster executors of this My Last will and Testament hopeing they will Faithfully perform the same as My Trust is in them reposed In Witness whereof I the said William Mercer Testator have Hearunto Set My hand Seal the day and year first above Written
Wm Mercer
Sealed Signed Published and Declared by the testator William Mercer to be his Last will and Testement before us
John Hoyle
Cuthbert Gibson
Henry Gibson

Martha was the last of the family at Lowerfold to die, and William was the last life; having left their effects to the Hindle side of the family, it would seem the role of this branch of the Mercer family at Lowerfold now ended.

There is another family that are quite likely to be descendants of William Mercer and his wife Martha Bridge, that of Thomas their son. There is some convincing evidence but also elements of doubt and these are listed here:

o Thomas Mercer married Mary Hindle in 1756, a witness at the wedding was John Taylor, very probably the John Taylor who married Elizabeth Mercer daughter of William and Martha later that same year.
o Thomas son of Thomas Mercer of Lowerfold was baptised in 1757.
o Edward son of Thomas Mercer of Lowerfold was baptised in 1758.
o Thomas Mercer of Lowerfold was buried in 1760.
o Thomas born in 1757 married twice and had thirteen children one of whom he named Sarah, an unusual name for the Mercers at this time and possibly named after his aunt Sarah.
o Thomas had been baptised in February 1739 and his marriage to Mary took place in February 1756, making him only seventeen when he married. Possible, but unusual.
o William Mercer, father of Thomas born in 1739 does not mention Thomas in his will, although he does mention those of his children still living and the children of his deceased daughters Elizabeth Taylor and Sarah Hindle.

The last two facts mentioned above cast some doubt over this line of descent. The young age of Thomas at marriage was unusual, but if there was the wherewithal to support a family it would not have been a barrier to his marriage. The last-mentioned fact is somewhat more problematic, but it was not unknown for children not to be mentioned in a will for a variety of reasons, it was more often that those children were already provided for rather than because of a family rift.

On balance I believe Thomas and Edward to be the grandsons of William and Martha; it is possible that Mary their mother remarried and they were assumed to be provided for, or that they had been provided for before the will was made.

There is a possibility that the following information relates to the earliest generations of the Mercer family of Lowerfold. However, there is not quite enough evidence for this and, although I am outlining the possibilities here, I have not included it in the pedigrees associated with this line.

When William Mercer, a tanner, made his will in November 1610 he was only a young man but was sick and he died the following January. The inventory taken shortly after William died shows that he had goods, money and debts owed to him valued at over £234 – making him one of the wealthier inhabitants of the town at that time. In his will he names his father as Richard Mercer of Great Harwood and his uncle Christopher Mercer of Simonstone. William had married Ellena Wade of Hapton in 1602 at Padiham, and they had three children named in his will, Jennet, Richard and Thomas.

Ellena was now a young widow with three small children, although she appeared to be well provided for. It is not possible to assign any marriages or burials to Ellena, or for her daughter Jennet, but there is a strong probability that her sons Richard and Thomas were the two brothers later associated with Lowerfold as outlined at the beginning of this essay, but further documentary evidence is needed before any certain conclusions can be made.

© Barbara Youds 2021

Barn at Lowerfold c 1979.

This barn appears to have a datestone with the intials TM and the year 1752.
There is a possibility this is a building associated with the Mercer tenement, there is certainly a building on this spot on the map of 1763.

With thanks to Great Harwood Civic Society for permission to use the photograph.


Copyright B.Youds and Great Harwood History Society 2021

Thanks also to Ian Fairclough for the map of Mercer lands based on a map held by JM Trappes-Lomax.

Links are included to transcriptions of material on this site.

Survey of the Estates of Thomas Mercer c. 1735 Manchester Archive L1/35/5
Parish Registers of Great Harwood Printed transcription and accessed from
Trappes-Lomax lease register Lancashire Archive DDLX 1/1
Lay Subsidy 1660 Images from National Archives
Field map of Great Harwood c 1763 JM Trappes-Lomax
Trappes-Lomax Notebook of leases Lancashire Archive DDLX 12/7
Probate documents:
Mercer, Edward 1825 Lancashire Archive
Mercer, Martha 1809 Lancashire Archive
Mercer, Richard 1660 Lancashire Archive
Mercer, Thomas 1675 Lancashire Archive
Mercer, William 1611 Lancashire Archive
Mercer, William 1754 Lancashire Archive
Mercer, William 1809 Lancashire Archive