One of the earliest records of Clayton-le-Woods stems from the 13th century when Gerald de Clayton was the Lord of the Manor. Over the centuries the Manor passed through many hands. An Elizabethan manor house, Clayton Hall, was built in the 1600s. The house was described as a picturesque brick building with mullioned windows. The hall was demolished in the 1970s although the ruins are still visible. The Hall was situated close to the Clayton Hall Landfill site off Dawson Lane.
Clayton Bottoms was the centre of the village in the 18th century. “Bottoms” refers to the lowest point in a landscape and Clayton Bottoms was the area in the dip between Town Brow and Sheep Hill Brow where Clayton-le-Woods C of E Primary School is located. In the mid 1800s this area contained a pub, the George and Dragon, a smithy which was situated where the car park to Cuerden Valley is now and a chapel in what are now the school grounds. The old school was located on the wide grassy verge that juts out into Sheep Hill Brow. All this was moved when the Townley-Parker family from Cuerden Hall decided to extend their parkland and improve their views.
Clayton-le-Woods thrived in the 19th century as the population grew to serve the expanding needs of the industrial revolution. Lancashire was the world’s largest producer of cotton and the Lower Kem Print works and Swansey Weaving Mill were local employers in Clayton-le-Woods. Before the advent of the factories, local people spun and wove cloth in their homes. Evidence of this can be seen in the weavers’ cottages at Sheep Hill Lane.
Swansey Mill was built in 1891 by James Nuttall Boothman. When the factory opened it had 1,200 looms, and it operated as a mill until 1958. In order to house his mill workers he bought the estate at Clayton Green which included the land from Radburn Brow up to Swansey lane and built the row of mill workers cottages along Preston Road and Swansey Lane. He also constructed a grand house for himself a mile up the road called the Pines, which is now the site of the Lidl supermarket.
Lower Kem Print Works was established in 1784, it had a chequered history, being at its most profitable in the late 19th century. The owner at that time, Albert Cunliffe moved into a large new house, Claytonfields which overlooked the print works. The works were destroyed in a fire in 1914 and went out of business. Claytonfields is still in existence at the rear of the Back Lane Woods Nature Reserve.
There are several listed buildings in Clayton le Woods that reflect the historical origins of the area. These include Crow Trees which is an early 17th century farmhouse at Gough Lane, the Lord Nelson Pub, which dates from 1668 when it was built originally as a farmhouse; St Bedes Church which was built in 1823 and Lilac Cottage Sheephill Lane which is a pair of Weavers Cottages. More information can be found on the Historic England website
Clayton le Woods expanded further in the post war years. The Central Lancashire Development Corporation was created in 1970 with a brief to develop a new town in the Chorley, Preston and Leyland area and this resulted in a swathe of development in Clayton-le-Woods, in particular the developments at Clayton Green and Clayton Brook.
Clayton-le-Woods is now a thriving place, which is continuing to grow, with excellent amenities and transport links to the motorway network in the North west of England.