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Wiswell is a small picturesque village occupying both slopes of a ridge from 1,000 ft to 600 ft high which emanates from Pendle in a south-westerly direction towards Whalley from where views over Ribblesdale may be had from it. One of the finest sections of Roman road in Lancashire lies between Wiswell and Lamb Roe.
The village was known as Wisewell and Wysewall in the thirteenth century, before taking on its current name Wiswell. There are a couple of theories about how the name came about. One is that it takes its name from a nearby landmark - Old Molly's Well, which later came to be known as the Wise Woman's Well (hence Wise Well). The other theory is that a spring was named after a local chief Wiga, and is a derivation of Wiga Well. Mention of Wiswell, or the "spring of Wiga," first occurs in the reign of Richard I., when it was vested in the de Lacys. In the 14th century, Richard Radcliffe held the manor for the manor of Whalley. The Braddylls, Watsons, Crombocks and Shireburnes were subsequently proprietors; and from the latter the property passed by marriage to the family of Weld, by whom it was sold, in 1830, to Robert Whalley, Esq., of Clerk-Hill.
Wiswell Shay Cross
Wiswell also has a preaching cross (Wiswell Shay Cross), which has an ancient pedestal with the cross itself being modern. The cross marks what was probably a halting place for funeral processions on their way to Whalley churchyard.
One of the most noteworthy families connected with Wiswell is that of Paslew, as it is believed the last Abbot of Whalley sprang from it. Francis Paslew of Wiswell was a Shireburne trustee in 1422 and again in 1438-9. The village's most famous resident was the 25th and the last Abbot of Whalley, John Paslew, who was killed in 1537 for providing help to participants in the Pilgrimage of Grace, a northern protest against the policies of Henry VIII. Wiswell Farm constructed on the site of Wiswell Hall, was the birthplace of John Paslew.
Wiswell Hall stood about a mile to the northeast of Whalley on the lower western slope of Pendle Hill. It was described as being in bad repair in 1876, at which time it was used as a farm-house, and was demolished in 1895. It was a stone building with low mullioned windows, bold projecting chimneys, and a porch of two stories on the north side, over the door of which were the date 1636 and the arms and initials of Francis Paslew, the owner. The house, however, appears to have been of earlier date, the porch being an addition in the 17th century when the building underwent great alterations. An account of the house written in 1883 describes it as being much patched and as having received in the course of years many barbarous and incongruous additions. An old font which used to be preserved in the hall is now in Whalley Church.
A Congregational Chapel at Wiswell was built in 1831, preaching having begun some ten years before by the minister of Wymondhouses, and a Sunday School having been opened. Services were held there till 1879, and the building was afterwards sold.
There is one pub in the village - the Freemasons Arms, which was formerly three cottages, one of which was a freemason's lodge. The previous public house, the Lamb Inn closed over 150 years ago, probably as the population declined. In 1851 the census showed there were 747 people in Wiswell, but this fell to 465 in 1861. The 1861 census attributed this to a "discontinuance of the print works at Barrow".
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