Caton-with-Littledale is a rural parish in the Lune Valley near Lancaster comprising four distinct settlements: Caton, Brookhouse, Caton Green and Forge Mill close to the river, and Littledale up in the hills. There are large areas of beautiful open countryside. The view from the nearby Crook O' Lune is famously immortalised in one of JMW Turner's paintings.

Mesolithic flints found locally show that the area was occupied by hunter-gatherers soon after the end of the last Ice Age and hut circles in Littledale show that herdsmen were living here before the Romans arrived when Romano-British farmsteads were established and the Romans built a road up from Lancaster to Burrow.

A village grew where the road was joined by the track from Littledale. The village took shape from around 650 AD and Caton is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. It is thought Caton may have been named after a local chief, 'Katti-tun', or from the Saxon 'Cae-ton' or 'hedged town'. The first record of a church is from 1230.

Over a thousand years ago the Parish boundaries in the Lune Valley were laid out so that each village had its share of the riverbank, fisheries, water meadow for grazing, the lower slopes for plough land and the moors for summer grazing. Caton-with-Littledale Parish still follows this plan, extending from the River Lune to Ward's Stone (561m) on the Bowland Fells and covers 3397 hectares.

By the 12th century much of the village had been acquired by Cockersands Priory. Their extensive records show that Caton was already a flourishing village by this time, mainly agricultural but beginning to diversify. A cross bow maker, a miller, a brewer, a smith, a carpenter, a hawker and a market trader are recorded along with specialised agricultural workers such as a beekeeper and a shepherd. There was already a dam on Artle Beck at Gresgarth which powered a fulling mill for cleaning wool and a corn mill.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the Parish was transformed by the industrial revolution. The mill race fed from Artle Beck at Gresgarth was harnessed to power up to 8 mills producing cotton, bobbins, silk and flax, the latter particularly for sailcloth. By Nelson's time Caton was one of the major suppliers of sails to both the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy. The hamlet of Town End grew to service the mills.

The Post Office eventually had problems with the wide area of the 'Caton' address and arranged with Lancashire County Council to formally split it into two villages calling Old Caton 'Brookhouse' (after Brookhouse Hall) and Town End becoming 'Caton'. This explains why Caton Green is no longer next to Caton but has Brookhouse in between.

The population grew substantially following the construction of the Turnpike Road along the valley in 1812, and the arrival of the railway in 1850. The railway opened the area for tourism in Victorian times, as witnessed by JMW Turner's paintings of the Crook O' Lune. The Victoria Institute opened in 1888.

Between the wars the villages grew very slowly with some housing on Copy Lane built in the 1930s. After the Second World War the Fell View estate was built and considerable new housing development occurred in the 1950s and early 1960s. In the late 1960s the planning policy changed to preserve the character of the village and only in-fill housing development was permitted. A clear 'green belt' between Caton and Brookhouse has been maintained. Some old mill complexes have since been converted for housing (Low Mill) or business use (Willow Mill). In 2014, Moor Platt, a disused old people's home in the centre of Caton was demolished and a modern housing development built. Another housing development followed further east, on what had been Bargh's transport site. Plans have been approved for more houses off Mill Lane in Caton, and for bungalows behind Hawthorn Close in Brookhouse.

Plans are underway to create an archive for residents' photos and documents of the parish, to be held at the Victoria Institute.

Lancashire Archives and Lancashire Libraries also hold relevant material.

See the Victoria County History: Lancaster (1914)

There are reminiscences of Caton in the early 19th century by Isobel Dawson.

View More Information About Isobel Dawson

An account of the Croft Family of Claughton and Littledale.

View More Information About the Croft Family of Claughton and Littledale

Listed buildings in the Parish can be seen in the National Heritage List for England.

View Listed Buildings

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