Preston law firm makes ancient find

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A collection of ancient documents dating back centuries is being made available by a Lancashire law firm for the first time.

Staff at Napthens, in Winckley Square, Preston, have found documents relating to poor houses established in 1665 while a property deed dating from the 1550s has also been uncovered.

John Ward, of the wills and estates planning department at the firm, found the poor house deeds while researching a collection of 12 alms houses to ensure they had been recorded properly with the Land Registry.

Mr Ward, who is also a secretary to the Osbaldeston Trust charity, said: "Deeds of this age are not needed for most legal work now, as the details of the property will be held by the Land Registry. However, they are a great record of the local history of an area.

"It is fascinating to read a document from more than 300 years ago, and I don't doubt that one day they will be useful for a researcher. We are delighted to be able to secure their future."

The poor houses had been established in 1665 by John Osbaldeston, of London, who left 500 in his Will to be invested to help the poor in Leyland. The homes were built in the Cow Lane area of the town, and moved in 1870 to Fox Lane, where they are still occupied.

The find comes after rural business solicitor Andrew Holden uncovered another property deed dating from the 1550s when he was dealing with the sale of some land in Catforth, near Lancaster.

The firm's rural business department head Geoff Tomlinson says they are the oldest documents he has seen in his 30-year career.

Ancient deeds, once recorded with the Land Registry, are no longer needed in their original format, and are often destroyed.

But solicitors at the business say that they "recognise their historic value" and are regularly handing the documents over to the county records office on permanent loan to be catalogued and stored properly.

Napthens solicitors, a law firm itself founded in the 1700s, has a long relationship with the Osbaldeston Trust with a solicitor from the practice regularly acting as its secretary.

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