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Damhouse in 1631
The location of the varied household effects, which Adam Mort possessed at his death provides an outline picture of what the manor of Astley comprised, when it was bought from the Gerards. This was the mansion house that later generations of Astley men knew. In it was a large kitchen, a parlour, milkhouse, buttery. Adam's own chamber and a little chamber. There was a bedroom above Adam's room and the other upstairs rooms carry the common name of lofts. One such loft was designated the clock loft, with clock and bell and judging from another rather cryptic entry in the inventory there was a chapel incorporated within Damhouse. The great barn near to the manor had fallen down and large stones stood in the area it formerly occupied. The old house which was taken down in 1650 depended for water upon a well and not upon the brook.

Even at this early period the landscape name of the manor was Damhouse. It arose from the dam created to work the corn mill. In the range of domestic buildings in the manor fold was a turf house, cart shed and swine cotes. The Mort family used 40ozs. of silver plate to grace the tables. The great value of dried corn, almost £52 in valuation and £15 of oats besides it is solid proof of the profit derived from the Mort ownership of the tithes of grain and corn arising annually within Astley Township. For winter fuel the manor burned more turf than either coal or cannel.

The sons of Adam Mort, 1631
There were three sons and one daughter born to Adam Mort. The sons were Thomas, Richard and Adam. Richard died before his father and left children, who benefited under Adam's will. The eldest Thomas was trained in the law and it was he who invited the bishop of Chester on August 3, 1631, to come and consecrate the chapel his father had built. He succeeded to the Astley estates and inherited Smithfold and Peel Hall in Little Hulton. The youngest son became a prosperous draper in Preston, was mayor of the borough and was killed defending the town against attack by the parliamentarians during the civil war. His son Seth was later admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

The King and Adam Mort, 1631
Charles 1 in his efforts to rule without parliaments tried several expedients of raising money. One of these was known as forced loans. Men of ample means were obliged to lend money to the king, which when accepted, they knew in fact would never be repaid. Someone reported that Adam Mort of Astley was a likely person and of ability to lend money to his majesty. Mort speedily informed the king he had been misinformed he had no money to lend at all. Yet the occupation of the shrewd old man was banker and loan lender and that was his main source of income. But the king was not convinced by his answer and at Mortís death in 1631 it was disclosed that he had been trapped by the hated device of forced loans and had lent two sums of £20 and £5 under receipt of the privy seal. Fuller details come from the Mort papers. In the troublesome times of the civil war soon to follow, it is certain that this asset of the careful Adam was consumed and eaten away.

The consecration of the chapel, August 3, 1631
On this memorable moment, John Bridgeman bishop of Chester, appeared before the door of the newly-built chapel of Adam Mort in Astley. His purpose to consecrate for sacred and divine uses the oratory built by Adam in his lifetime. Here he was met by Thomas Mort, who humbly besought the bishop to dedicate this house of prayer, this daughter chapel of the mother church of Leigh, to the glory of God and in honour of the Christian martyr, Stephen. Bridgeman came in the forenoon, between the hours of nine and eleven. Thomas Mort explained that his father " led by pious and religious devotion built this house on a part of the common and because the distance to the mother church at Leigh was so great that people could not always repair thither without danger to their health he besought him to dedicate the chapel and parcel of land to the sacred use of Almighty God." The bishop then entered, followed by Gatley vicar of Leigh, Thomas Mort and sundry dwellers of Astley in the rear. Prayers were read, the bishop sitting in the ornamental chair and the reading from holy writ was taken from Chronicles, chapter 6, verses 14-31, the prayer of Solomon himself at the consecration of the temple. This first chapel of ease was almost as long as the 1760 building, yet almost half as wide and built of local baked brick. The consecration deed was sealed at Chester on September 8, 1631, and one shilling for synodals and two shillings for procurations at each visitation were fees specially reserved to the See of Chester for ever.

The grammar school, 1631
By his will Adam Mort established not only the village chapel, but provided for a village school as well. The building was in the chapel yard and to maintain the master, who was always elected by the householders of Astley, the founder set aside the rent of a farm in Pennington. Poor children were accepted free, but those whose parents could pay, were asked to defray the cost of their instruction. This first school in Astley served for 200 years. It was pulled down in 1833 and rebuilt with the foundation tablet set in the gable wall. Coming towards the chapel from the main road, a wayfarer read plainly in the shadow of the trees, Adam Mort 1631

The first master of Mortís School, 1632
Once the village school had been built and endowed, it remained to elect a master. Richard Worthinton appears to be the first of his long line. He was in this neighbourhood in 1632, when he witnessed a will for Henry Cowuppe and he died in the winter of 1660. His own testament bears the date December 27 1653, and in it he writes that he has taught school at Astley for many years. Worthington lived in Henfold near his neighbour William Partington. He had four children, John, George, Margaret, and Dorothy. But when John died, the grandfather assigned 13s. 4d. a year for the children's upbringing till they were 21. Of George; he was to have his share of what his father bequeathed to him at Christmas time, but to receive it in his own person. The heating of the school in relentless weather was a source of anxiety and Worthington left £5 to be put into stock to buy coal or other fuel. Within two years of his death they built an outile annexed to the school. This was a store place for the coals. Worthington made another true friend of his school to be overseer of the will. He was John Whittell and the other was William Vemon, the antiquary, who lived at Shakerley Hall. In February, 1641, Worthington took the great oath in Leigh parish church, where in the lists he is styled schoolmaster. During the civil wars he fought as a Roundhead; his swords and guns were among his military items in 1660.

The first curate, October 10, 1632
Thomas Crompton was the first curate of the new chapel. He came from the Grange in Bedford, where his father was a substantial yeoman. He entered Brasenose College, Oxford, January 23, 1629, and graduated from Exeter College, November 16, 1630. Crompton then prepared himself for the ministry and in 1632 was ordained deacon by the bishop of Gloucester. The Chancellor of York licensed him to the curacy of Astley chapel on November 25 1633. He laboured long and successfully throughout the turmoil of tempest and storm, which afflicted his day and generation. In the civil war he sided with Parliament and benefited enormously from the profits of confiscated estates of defeated Royalists. His chapel stipend was £16 a year and the profits of Hope House and Hudmads House in Tyldesley. The Roundhead commissioners increased this by £40 a year. They reported that he was a painstaking minister, but kept not the last fast appointed by parliament. In 1648 he signed the Harmonious Consent and continued safely at Astley to the year 1662. Like most of the local ministers he refused to subscribe to the Act of Uniformity and was ejected and silenced. After a while he appears to have regained possession of his living and to have continued to preach until his resignation in the late 1680's. He died fully an octogenarian and was buried January 17, 1692, along the south walk of the chapel where he served his long ministration. It was written of him that he was a great scholar, well acquainted with the Fathers, particularly Austin of most of whose works he could give a very exact account. He left a considerable library and a good name. He was a man of universal charity. A true catholic Christian of an exact inoffensive conduct and a rare example of self-denial and inortification, with respect to worldly pleasures, profits or honours.'

Thomas Mort July 12th 1638
Thomas, who succeeded the puritan Adam, died on this day leaving a son Adam, aged 15 years and 6 months to succeed. The estates thus fell into royal wardship with the widow Margaret recognised as guardian. She was assigned a third of the value of debtor thirteen shillings for similar work. Besides money earned from outside tillage, Withington household took in weaving and John Kemp was debited ten shillings for cloth. Robert Worsley lodged with the family and his diet and board was six shillings and eight pence in arrear. Within the low eaves of this thatched Astley home ticked a clock in 1635.



 
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