From Lancashire Record Office: Lancashire Quarter Sessions Petitions (QSP 216-287)
Petition Lancaster, Midsummer, 1664
Caton - Hearth Tax for Grysyarde Hall, leased by Mr Cumpton to Christofer Bland, Robert Bell and John Hodgson of Caton.
CATON, a township, a chapelry, and a subdistrict in Lancaster district, Lancashire. The township lies on the river Lune and the Midland railway, 4¼ miles NE of Lancaster; is in Lancaster parish; includes Littledale hamlet; and has a station on the railway, and a post office under Lancaster. Acres, 8,373. Real property, £6,683. Pop., 1,160. Houses, 223. The property is much subdivided. A rising ground commands a noble view, much praised by the poet Gray, of the valley of the Lune, backed by Ingleborough mountain. Coal and slate are found; and the cotton manufacture is carried on. The chapelry comprises all the township, except Littledale hamlet. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Manchester. Value, £100. Patron, the Vicar of Lancaster. The church was rebuilt in 1864. There are Independent and Wesleyan chapels, a national school, and charities £20. The subdistrict contains also Quernmoor township and Claughton parish. Pop., 1,817. Houses, 346.
John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72)
'The old road through Caton was a track in Celtic times. Rotten Row still survives where it forded the stony beck by the Black Bull (from “rhodden” Celtic= wheels “ruh” OE = rough. i.e. a stony ford over the beck, rough for wheels). Later, the Romans built a road through, from Lancaster to Burrow.
A village was established where the road was joined by the track up to Littledale to the other Roman road going east over the fells to Ivah (past the lookout on Swaintley Hill).
It became the Saxon Katti-tun, set on a rise with a good stream for water.
The ancient road ran on the high ground above the flood plain of the Lune, following the easy route by the river up to Tebay, then over Ravensworth Fell and along the Eden valley. This road through Caton became the main road north, travelled by kings and armies. James I had to cross Artle Beck Bridge in 1618 and it was so dilapidated that he was afraid to cross and he ordered that it be rebuilt, costing the locals £100!
The Normans built a church on the mound between the two streams and the village clustered around it. They called it Cattun. Nothing changed much until the late 1700’s and into the 1800’s when the mills were built, taking water from the Arkel Beck (a Norse settler), a mile down the road. Another village grew there to service the mills, around the ancient hamlet known as Town End i.e. the part of Caton nearest Lancaster Town.'
Enquiries to trace Grysyarde Hall proved fruitless, but the following suggests that it is now referred to as Grassyard Hall or latterly as Gresgarth Hall:
Catun, Dom. Bk.; Caton, 1184 and usually; Catton, 1200.
The greater part of this township is hilly, the land sloping north from Clougha Pike and Ward's Stone, 1,836 ft. above sea level, to the wooded valley of Artie Beck, then rising again to Caton Moor, where over 1,000 ft. is reached, and then descending to the Lune. By the riverside is a level tract of land, where the pleasant village is placed, with the church at Brookhouse a mile and a half to the east of it and the hamlet of Caton Green still further east on higher ground. Artle Beck, already mentioned, rises near the centre of the eastern border, flows west and north-west for over 3 miles, passing Crossgill and Hawkshead and receiving various tributary brooks, the chief being Foxdale and Udale Becks from the southern side; it then turns north by Grassyard, reaching the Lune to the east of the village. By the church Tarn Beck, joined by Kirk Beck, runs down to the Lune. The hill-side district south of Artie Beck is called Littledale. Apart from the wooded land named there are some other plantations in this part of the township. The area of the whole is 8,395 acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 there was a population of 1,181.
The principal road, that from Lancaster to Hornby, passes through the northern end of the township, having branches north to Halton by a bridge over the Lune, and south to Quernmore. Nearly parallel to it, but on higher ground, is another road, from the village past the church and Caton Green to Claughton, where it joins the main road again, and from it a road branches off to Crossgill on the southeast. The Midland Company's railway from Lancaster to Hellifield runs through the township on the north side of the main road, and has a station at the village named Caton.
Mason, the friend of the poet Gray, thus described the view looking east from Caton: 'The scene opens just 3 miles from Lancaster. To see the view in perfection you must go into a field on the left. Here Ingleborough, behind a variety of lesser mountains, makes the background of the prospect: on each hand, up the middle distance, rise two sloping hills, the left clothed with thick woods, the right with variegated rock and herbage; between them in the richest of valleys the Lune serpentines for many a mile, and comes forth ample and clear through a well-wooded and richly-pastured foreground. Every feature which constitutes a perfect landscape of the extensive sort is here not only boldly marked, but also in its best position.' (fn. 2)
A Roman milestone was found in Artie Beck. (fn. 3)
William Gibson, one of the early Quakers, was born at Caton in 1629. He served in the Parliamentary army, endured much suffering for refusing to take oaths and pay tithes, and published some theological books. He died in 1684. (fn. 4) Michael Jones, an anticjuary and genealogist, son of Michael Jones of Caton, was born about 1775 and died in 1851. (fn. 5)
The township is governed by a parish council.
In the village is the Victoria Institute and Reading Room, built in 1888. In 1826 there were cotton mills, and the coal and slate of Littledale were worked. (fn. 6) A cotton mill and bobbin mills still exist, and tiles and bricks are made. Bobbins used to be made at Littledale. The land is mostly in grass; the soil is a loam. An attempt made in 1804 to find coal near Grassyard Hall proved a failure.From: 'Townships: Caton ',
A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8 (1914), pp. 79-85.
Date accessed: 20 April 2009.
Caton was originally a mill town, which had up to eight mills. They produced bobbins, silk, cotton and grinding corn. Some of the buildings have now been converted to offices or houses. In 1803 villagers discovered a 6ft high Roman milestone nearby marking it 5 miles from Lancaster. In the Ship Inn 'Fish Stones' granite slabs can be found around an old oak tree. The legend tells of the monks who used to sell their catches of salmon. Another interesting story tells of the 'Plague Stone' near the Bull Beck Bridge where a small hollow in the rock was filled with vinegar. Money was left to sustain the sick living outside the village. Nearby 'Gresgarth Hall’ originally known as 'Grassyard Hall' contains red sandstone. The vaulted cellar revealed its origins as a retreat house for the Abbot of Furness in the 11th century. St Paul’s is a church that serves all who live within the parish boundary of Caton-with-Littledale. St Paul's was rebuilt in 1865 but the tower is believed to date from the 16th century. It is believed a church has existed on the site since the 12th century.
Map of Caton