A pair of diarists left a remarkable portrait of the social and political life of Preston at the end of the 17th century. Thomas Bellingham and Lawrence Rawstorne were boon companions who shared a common delight in field sports and tavern life. Their days were spent with like-minded companions, wildfowling on the marshes, visiting the town’s inns and taverns and trying their skill at the bowling greens. Evenings would usually find them back in the taverns, where they consumed considerable quantities of alcohol, attributing the following morning’s hangover to the bad oysters of the night before.
Yet they were far from being the lightweight pleasure seekers this suggests. Both played an active part in the affairs of the town, being consulted when sober advice was required on matters of such grave concern as the dissatisfaction with James II that led to his exit and the arrival of William of Orange. Both were conscientious churchgoers, conservative in their worship and hostile to the deviations from Anglican orthodoxy of the town’s Whiggish vicar. They were loyal and affectionate husbands and fathers and on good terms with their neighbours. An entry in Bellingham’s diary when Danish troops were stationed in the town gives some indication of his level of education, the soldiers’ Danish chaplain had little English and Bellingham no Danish, so they happily conversed in Latin.
Bellingham is by far the better diarist of the two: his entries are far more detailed and colourful. Rawstorne’s efforts are generally limited to one-line entries, often recording little more than his attendance at church. Bellingham’s entries for the period when he was stationed in Ireland with William III are of more than local interest, Rawstorne’s offerings are more parochial in their concerns. For the purely local history of Preston the two diaries taken together provide a superb resource, cross checking between the two clarifies much that would otherwise remain obscure.
Preston historian and journalist Anthony Hewitson transcribed the Bellingham diaries and they were published in 1908 with his copious footnotes.  An earlier transcription of the entries relating to Ireland had been published in 1905 by Joseph Dolan for the County Louth Archaeological Society and Dolan tells us that other selections had been published in the Dublin Review. 
Hewitson’s was the first, and so far only, complete transcription, which means that great reliance has to be placed on his editing skills. A contemporary reviewer of his book was somewhat critical of those skills, writing, ‘…it is a pity the editor did not consult some one better acquainted with the topography and family history of county Louth in reference to the Irish portion of the diary … it would have saved him from making such blunders as he made on that portion, some of which no Irishman could have made.’ The reviewer then lists several examples of such blunders, including transcription errors that give ‘absurd readings’. One example from the review gives a measure of such absurd rendering. Hewitson has failed to understand that ‘bere’ is barley, resulting in the following reading, ‘ “26 July, 1690 … All the lead is cutt in Wmstowne,” for “All ye bear [bere] is cutt.” The “lead” is explained in a note as “being taken from buildings and then melted down and cast into bullets.” ’  Such wild extrapolation will not surprise anyone familiar with Hewitson’s writing. Another cause for concern is that Hewitson, in a prefatory note, states that, ‘The punctuation in the diary is irregular, and in many parts it is absent entirely: that adopted in the transcription is based on modern principles.’ He does not indicate in his transcription where he has amended Bellingham’s punctuation.
Two Rawstorne diaries were available at the beginning of the last century, one covering the years from 1683 to 1686, the other the years 1687 to 1689. Selections from the content of the first survive thanks to a partial transcription by Hewitson which appeared in the Preston Guardian in 1909.
Hewitson says that Lawrence Rawstorne of Hutton Hall allowed him to examine and make extracts from his ancestor’s diary. The diary covers the period from September 1, 1683, to October 6th, 1686. Hewitson does not explain his criteria for making selections, but, since he was preparing them for newspaper readers, he presumably left out what he felt they would find least interesting. He does not indicate whether missing dates represent Rawstorne’s omissions or his selection. The diary is described as “… in a good state of preservation. It is of small size, something like a pocket book, and is bound in vellum.”
The original was still available in the 1960s when it was used in preparing an account of the Rawstorne family at which time it was, ‘… preserved in remarkably good condition … in the form of a pocket book, in vellum, with a single clasp fastener.’  Its present whereabouts are unknown.
The second Rawstorne diary was also transcribed around the same time as the first by another Preston historian but came to be wrongly attributed. The mistake was corrected thanks to some excellent scholastic detective work by a Lancaster University student, Richard Harrison, who was editing a diary deposited at the university in 1989. This is how he established the correct authorship:
What is now known to be the Rawstorne Diary was initially given to me under the title ‘The Fleetwood Diary’, with the work being attributed to Edward Fleetwood of Penwortham … there being no overt indication of ownership given in the Diary.
The attribution to Fleetwood had been made by a nephew of the Brooks [the couple who deposited the diary at the university] who was studying at Lancaster University. [David Brook emailed 14 June 2017 with a correction, ‘ I was the student who instigated the donation (actually permanent loan) of the diary to Lancaster University. The diary was actually in the possession of my father (not my uncle) Richard Brook, at the time.’] Taking the list of intimates given in Clemesha’s History of Preston in Amounderness  as his starting point, he proceeded to eliminate as possible authors all those mentioned in the Diary by name. Using this method he arrived at the conclusion that Edward Fleetwood must be the author.
He was, however, not alone in this conclusion. In Clemesha’s History, mention is made of a diary kept by Edward Fleetwood of Penwortham, covering the dates 1st May 1687 to 25th December 1689, obviously referring to the Diary that was to come into the possession of the Brooks. This attribution was repeated in A. Hewitson’s edition of The Bellingham Diary. In a prefatory note, Hewitson mentions a journal he says was kept by Edward Fleetwood of Penwortham Hall in the context of his relationship with Thomas Bellingham. Thus it would seem that at the beginning of the century local historians were agreed that the Diary was the work of Edward Fleetwood.
My work proceeded assuming that the Diary was Edward Fleetwood’s until a visit to the Lancashire County Record Office in Preston uncovered a typescript copy of a diary with the following title page:
Laurence Rawstorne of Hutton
May 1687-Dec 1689
This was copied by H. W. Clemesha
from a diary in the possession of a Mr Gilbotson
The text was identical to the typescript I had prepared from the microfilm, though no footnotes or introduction were included. Quite how Clemesha had come to credit this Diary to Rawstorne in this edition and Fleetwood in his History is unknown, as is the possible relationship of Mr Gilbotson to the Brooks.
This discovery did however tally with certain inconsistencies I had discovered in the text. The text placed Fleetwood at places at times that did not correspond with the entries in The Bellingham Diary, and references to sons in the Diary did not tally with the fact that Fleetwood was thought to have no children.
Dr Mullett [Harrison’s supervisor] and I agreed however that the only way to authoritatively attribute the Diary would be to compare the microfilm with examples of the handwriting of Fleetwood and Rawstorne. The only known examples of their handwriting were however in a manuscript collection closed to the public, the Kenyon Collection, held at the Lancashire County Record Office, Preston. Lord Kenyon kindly granted permission for me to examine examples of the handwriting of Rawstorne and Fleetwood held in his collection …
On looking at the letters of Fleetwood and Rawstorne it became immediately apparent that the author of the Diary was Laurence Rawstorne. Rawstorne’s letters were in a far more legible hand than Fleetwood’s, and had the rounder characters that are a feature of the Diary. The Diary and Rawstorne’s letters used identical abbreviations while Fleetwood’s hand was more angular and made little use of abbreviations.
Thus the attribution was established, and it became apparent that the Brooks’ Diary was in fact the second volume of the Rawstorne Diaries. 
In his notes on the diary Harrison adheres to the spelling that Rawstorne himself uses: Laurence Rawstorne. More usually he is referred to as Lawrence Rawstorne as, for example, by Hunt,  in the Lancashire Library catalogue and in the account of the Rawstorne family noted above. Less usually he is named Lawrence Rawsthorne with the addition of an ‘h’, as is found in French.  Unusually French chose to use the Clemesha transcription (who used the Rawstorne spelling as is shown above) rather than Harrison’s. Here the style adopted will be Lawrence Rawstorne as conforming most closely to standardized modern spelling rather than 17th-century usage, when, as Macaulay says, ‘It is notorious that a proper name was then thought to be well spelt if the sound were preserved.’
Given that both diarists have had their work transcribed and edited it might seem superfluous to return to the text. The justification is that the internet now provides access to a wealth of material that was not available to earlier editors and the time constraints that limited Richard Harrison’s investigation do not apply here. As he notes in his preface, ‘The footnotes … are as full as is possible given the time constraints imposed upon the course, although at times some individuals and places have proved too elusive to be given a footnote.’ Since the interest here is primarily the history of Preston no further investigation of the Irish sections of Bellingham’s diary will be attempted. Much of the material that relates to Preston still remains obscure: clarifications gratefully received, and acknowledged..
- The Bodleian Library bought the Bellingham diary at auction at Christie’s in 1978. 
- The latest and most comprehensive guide to the historiography of the 1688 Revolution is by Steve Pincus. Unfortunately neither the Lancashire County Library nor Lancashire Archives appear to have a copy. This is especially surprising given that Pincus makes extensive use of the resources at Lancashire Archives, including using Harrison’s edition of the Rawstorne diary. It would have been kind of his publishers to supply a complimentary copy.
- The present editing begins with the entries for August 1688 for this is the point at which the two diarists begin to overlap and at a particularly interesting period in British history.