On this day … 24 December 1688

The entry in the diary of Thomas Bellingham (pictured) for 24 December 1688 included:

Col Thomas Bellingham

‘Ye 24th. A great frost. Ribble was frozen over. Mr. Gregson and I went a gunning, but gott little, only some few small birds. Capt Bold went hence. We din’d att Dr Lees. Was wth Capt Clayton and his sonne att Mittons [a Preston tavern] …’

Bellingham spent most of his days in the company of local gentry, engaging in similar activities. Servants and other members of the lower orders get few mentions in his diary. Landed gentry such as Bellingham, and his fellow Preston diarist Lawrence Rawstorne, who owned the whole of Hutton, lived off the rents from their landed estates.

Bellingham’s was an Irish estate. His father was a goldsmith in Dublin who acquired the Gernonstown estate, near Dundalk, at about the same time as he was appointed high sheriff of County Kildare in 1656. The estate, extending to some 1744 acres, appears to have been a reward for his support for the Cromwellian campaigns in Ireland in which he may have served as an officer.

The Mr Gregson mentioned in the diary entry was Josiah Gregson, who had been appointed town clerk in 1684 and went on to serve as mayor in 1695 and guild mayor in 1702.

Capt Bold was probably Peter Bold of Bold Hall, Prescot, who was elected MP for Lancashire in 1679, served as mayor of Liverpool 1686-7 and was high sheriff of Lancashire in 1690. Bellingham had recorded in an earlier entry that Capt Bold ‘was much in drinke’, at Penwortham Priory, the home of Edward Fleetwood.

Dr Lees was probably Dr Charles Leigh, who had a house in Preston. He attended Brasenose College, Oxford, which he left in debt after graduating in 1679. He must have continued to pursue his studies for in 1685 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, while still in his early 20s. He was one of the local doctors.

Capt Clayton was Capt Robert Clayton, the major landowner in Fulwood at this time, who had a town house in Church Street. The son was probably William, who was shortly to be elected mayor of Liverpool. William later served two terms as MP for Liverpool.

The state effectively devolved its authority to these local gentry. Lancashire was governed by its magistrates, and the quarter sessions where they met, the forerunner of the county council, had far more power than its present-day successor.

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