Kuerden, Richard – doctor and antiquarian

Dr Richard Kuerden, the first historian of Preston, was born Richard Jackson at Cuerden, between Preston and Leyland, in 1623, the son of Gilbert Jackson, who died in 1662, to judge by entries in the Leyland parish registers. [1]

When and why Richard Jackson became Richard Kuerden is not known. He is recorded as Richard Jackson alias Keurden in 1645 and 1647 when he took his BA and MA degrees, but by 1663, when he took his medical degree, he was listed as Richard Keurden. [2] In 1664 he was writing to his brother-in-law from Preston and signing himself Kuerden. [3] And in his family’s entry in the 1664 Visitation of Lancashire, which was probably prepared by himself, not only is he styled Kuerden but so is his father Gilbert. On the Visitation pedigree it is necessary to go back to his great-grandfather to find the Jackson surname. [4] Yet on his father’s tombstone in the Leyland churchyard was carved ‘Gilbert Jackson alias Kuerden’. [5]

Kuerden was educated at the school in Leyland and at Oxford and Cambridge. As a staunch royalist he had a difficult time during the interregnum and, although he studied medicine at this time, did not take his MD until after the restoration of Charles II. [6]

At or shortly before the restoration he appears to have established a medical practice in Preston, appearing on the guild rolls as doctor in 1662 and 1682. [7] In 1673 Kuerden signed a sacrament certificate for the town’s schoolmaster. [8] And the court leet records show that ‘Edward Rigby, Serjeant at Law, and Richard Kewerden, Dr. in phisicke’ were the corporation’s highways overseers in 1675. [9]

While practising as a doctor in the town much of his time was given up to antiquarian interests. In the early 1660s he assisted Dugdale in the preparation of his Visitation of Lancashire and collaborated with fellow antiquarian Christopher Towneley in preparing a history of Lancashire, which he continued working on after Towneley’s death in 1674. As late as 1688 Kuerden was announcing the imminent publication of a five-volume history of the county, but it never appeared. [10]

How long Kuerden remained in Preston is uncertain. His name does not appear on the 1685 list of property owners and occupiers in the town nor does he appear in the pages of the diaries of Rawstorne and Bellingham which cover the years 1683 to 1690.

It is possible he retired to his house by the green at Cuerden to devote himself to his antiquarian pursuits and to attempt to complete his history of Lancashire. Hardwick quotes Kuerden’s own description of the Cuerden property, which description he dates to the ‘latter portion of the 17th century’, but does not give a source. Kuerden writes, ‘Another fayr square fabrick, a brick building, adorned about with tall pyne and fir trees, situated pleasantly upon the edge of Kuerden Green, not long since built in a fayr court, and a spacious orchard and garden on the south side thereof, planted by Ri. Kuerden, Dr. of Physic …’. [11]

It is unclear when he died; the DNB settles for some time between 1690 and 1695, although elsewhere he is reported as still alive and passing through Wigan in 1695. After his death his extremely large collection of notes for his never completed history of Lancashire was dispersed and portions are now held at the College of Arms, the Bodleian Library, the British Library, the Chetham Library and Lancashire Archives.

His work did eventually find a form of publication at the beginning of the last century in the eight-volume Victoria History of Lancashire. Kuerden’s notes and transcriptions were mined by the editors of those volumes and his name appears on page after page of footnotes throughout the publication. His account of Preston in the late 17th century has also been published; it includes a detailed topographical description of the town and also describes the functioning of its market. [12]

Kuerden might also have played some part in the preparation of plans of the town in 1685, now housed at DDX194 at Lancashire Archives.

[1] Walter Stuart White, ‘Leyland Parish Registers’, Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society 21 (1890): 2.
[2] Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxionienses, Early Series E-K (Oxford: Parker and Co, nd), 795.
[3] E. Baines, History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster, History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster, v. 1 (Fisher, son & Company, 1836), 200, https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ZrJCAQAAMAAJ.
[4] William Dugdale and F. R. Raines, ‘The Visitation of the County Palatine of Lancaster: Made in the Year 1664-5’, The Chetham Society, OS, 85 (1872): 168.
[5] White, ‘Leyland Parish Registers’, 2.
[6] C.W. Sutton, ‘Jackson, Richard (1623–1690×95), Antiquary and Physician, Rev. D. R. Woolf’, in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Harrison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27096.
[7] W. A. Abram, The Rolls of Burgesses at the Guilds Merchant of the Borough of Preston, Co. of Lancaster, 1397-1682 (Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 1884), 132, 171, https://archive.org/details/rollsburgessesa00langoog.
[8] ‘QSJ/8/3/13 Preston. Richard Taylor, M.A., Schoolmaster. Witnesses. Richard Kuerden, Esq., Doctor of Phisicke, and Evan Wall, Gent.’, Lancashire Archives Catalogue, 6 July 1673, http://archivecat.lancashire.gov.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=Q%2fS%2fJ%2f8%2f3%2f13&pos=7.
[9] ‘Preston Court Leet – April 1675’, accessed 19 May 2016, http://c5110394.myzen.co.uk/mw/index.php?title=April_1675.
[10] Sutton, ‘Jackson, Richard (1623–1690×95), Antiquary and Physician, Rev. D. R. Woolf’.
[11] Charles Hardwick, History of the Borough of Preston and Its Environs, in the County of Lancashire (Preston: Worthing, 1857), 662.
[12] R. Kuerden, A Brief Description of the Burrough and Town of Preston, and Its Government: Originally Composed Between the Years 1682 and 1686 … (Wilcockson, 1818), https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=KCAwAAAAYAAJ.

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