Billinge and Winstanley
Billinge and Winstanley were originally one manor, though divided at an early date. Billinge later divided into two townships, Higher End and Chapel End, the latter now forming part of St Helens.
The settlement of Billinge Higher End grew up along the road from Upholland to St Helens, on the eastern side of a high ridge with fine views of west Lancashire and the coast. The chief estate was Bispham Hall, named after the family of Bispham who acquired the estate by marriage in 1346. It remained in this family until 1730 when it passed to the Leigh family of Whitley Hall, Wigan. It was then bought by Meyrick Bankes of Winstanley Hall in the nineteenth century.
The present Bispham Hall, built about 1560, was bought by the Boy Scouts in 1948. It was gutted by fire in 1978, and in 1984 came under a compulsory purchase order by the Borough Council, intended to preserve what remains.
Local industries included quarrying - most of the older buildings are made of local stone - and coalmining. Nail-making, a domestic industry requiring little skill, was predominant in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries but was in decline by 1825. There was also a thriving chair-making industry; Billinge chairs are rush bottomed with high backs.
Two popular beauty spots are Billinge Hill, with fine local views across Lancashire, and the tranquil Billinge Plantations - an important local nature reserve.
Winstanley Manor was held by the Winstanley family from at least 1252. About 1560, Edward Winstanley abandoned his manor house, the site of which is still marked by a moat, and built nearby a new stone house, in the same style as Birchley Hall and Bispham Hall in Billinge; this became the core of the present Winstanley Hall. In 1596 the estate was bought by London goldsmith and banker James Bankes and it has remained in the same family until the present decade. In 1984 with the death of Captain James Bankes, the last resident, the hall was put up for sale, and is likely to be converted into an elderly people's home.
At the time of James Bankes' purchase in the sixteenth century, the chief economic activities were agricultural, coalmining, nail-making and domestic weaving. From the seventeenth century coalmining became predominant but, since the landscaping of that part of the estate which was subject to opencast working during the middle decades of this century, agriculture has become important once again. Winstanley has also given its name to a popular residential area south-west of Wigan.