Treason and plot

One account of the Ashes Hall, Whitechapel, says it was "once the home of an important Catholic family. Ashes was pre-eminently adapted for the purpose of concealing conspirators and refugees.

"It is concealed some distance from the highway in a secluded spot, and traces of the moat which surrounded it are still visible.

"One of the walls is from four to six feet thick, and contains cavities in which several men might lay in hiding."

At this house - the house of the staunch Jacobite, Edmund Threlfall, conspiracies were hatched towards the close of the 17th century.

The conspirators' aims were the restoration of James II, arrangements for whose landing on the Lancashire coast were actually made.

This was known as 'The Lancashire Plot' and Edmund Threlfall was deeply involved.

The exiled king, who was in France, found means of communicating with Lancashire through Ireland.

Between Ireland and the Lancashire coast many a small vessel plied in the service of the conspirators.

The report was set about that Lancashire only waited for King James' commissions in order to immediately raise the standard of revolt.

The disaffected in Lancashire, burning to receive these commissions, despatched Threlfall, from Ashes, to fetch them.

One fine May evening in 1689 a small vessel named 'The Lion of Lancaster' slipped quietly out of the River Lune with Threlfall and two others aboard.

The sailors suspected nothing, they'd been accustomed to fetching cattle from the Isle of Man for Lord Derby. They thought they were heading for the Isle of Man.

When they had got out to sea however Threlfall persuaded the ship's master, partly by threats, partly by promises, to sail for Ireland.

They eventually landed at Dublin where commissions were obtained, and at the end of three weeks, Threfall, accompanied by Mr Lunt, an agent of the exiled king, sailed back to England and arrived in the Lune estuary, near Cockerham, on June 13, 1689.

They were put ashore before customers officers arrived. But Lunt had forgotten his saddlebags which contained the commissions and other compromising documents.

Lunt remembered the saddlebags just as he was stepping ashore from the ship's boat, and asked the sailors to bring them on to Cockerham.

But it was too late – the officers boarded the vessel before the sailors –and impounded the bags.

The fat was in the fire. Threfall had taken with him a 'hair portmanteau' (carrier bag) which contained the bulk of the commissions, and these were divided at Myerscough Lodge.

After he had refreshed himself Threlfall departed, and made his way to Yorkshire and Durham.

Having accomplished this mission he returned secretly to his home at Whitechapel where he remained without difficulties for some time.

His whereabouts were eventually suspected, and a warrant was issued against him by the Lord Lieutenant, and a detachment of militia was sent to arrest him.

He was found, one account says, by a corporal in a hollow place used for stacking turves.

The corporal attempted to seize him, but Threlfall violently snatched the musket out of his hand and knocked him down with it.

The corporal, recovered, drew his sword and ran it through Threlfall who died immediately.

Threlfall was buried at Goosnargh on August 26, 1690.

Ashes Farmhouse, which lies in the parish of Goosnargh is now a grade 2 listed building. A decorative feature on its doorway may be a posthumous representation of Threlfall.

Thanks to Albert Clayton for allowing the reproduction of this article, which first appeared in the August issue of 'In Focus.'