In 1066 CATON was one of the twelve manors held by Torfin. The ancient assessment is not recorded separately. Afterwards it was held of the honour of Lancaster by a thegnage rent of 20s. Adam Gernet, lord of Heysham, held it till his death in 1200–1, and his son Thomas in 1212; Vivian, the son of Thomas, succeeded in 1221 and held till his death in 1246. After a time the mesne lordship of the Gernets of Heysham and their successors was neglected, and Caton was held by a younger branch of the family, which adopted the local name.
Matthew Gernet in 1199 obtained the king's confirmation of a former grant of pasture land in Caton afterwards known as Littledale. Matthew, who died in 1202, was succeeded by John Gernet, whose son Roger de Caton succeeded him in 1241, and dying ten years later was followed by a son John, only three years old. He held the whole manor in 1297 of the Earl of Lancaster, paying 26s. 8d. a year, i.e. 20s. for Caton and 6s. 8d. for Littledale.
Another Matthew Gernet, ancestor of the lords of Burrow, held 3 oxgangs of land in Caton in 1212 by grant of the first-named Adam Gernet, paying 6d. rent, and his son Roger succeeded him in 1215. In this way there were three lords of the place in 1230, when they renounced any right to the advowson of the chapel there in favour of Lancaster Priory.
The John de Caton of 1297 was succeeded by a son or grandson Thomas, whose daughters Alice (or Aline) and Agnes succeeded before 1317, and thus the manor became divided into moieties. Alice married William son of Sir John de Lancaster of Howgill in Westmorland. Agnes married John de Culwen or Curwen, and this moiety descended in the Curwen family till the 17th century.
The Lancaster moiety descended to William son of William de Lancaster, who proved his age in 1365, he having been baptized at Caton Church in September 1344. Sir William de Lancaster died at the beginning of 1399 holding the moiety of the manor of Caton and of the pasture of Littledale by rents of 10s. and 3s. 4d. respectively. His heir was his son John, aged thirty and more. This part of the manor was afterwards acquired by the Harringtons of Farleton and Hornby, and so passed to the Lords Mounteagle, by whom it was held in the 16th century. Their seat was called Caton Hall. The estate was dispersed about 1600, and this part of the manor was sold to William Croft, after which it can be traced for about a century. Sir Henry Compton of Brambletye, the purchaser, was a Royalist and recusant, and had his estates sequestered in the Civil War; they included a manor of Caton and part of the lordship, for which he compounded. He died in 1649, and his younger son George appears to have succeeded. He may have purchased the other moiety of the manor, which was afterwards in 1673 sold to Richard Biddulph, and in 1688 the manor was held by Robert Dalton of Thurnham. With Dorothy, one of his daughters, it went to Edward Riddell of Swinburne Castle. It was purchased by Henry Rawlinson in 1780 and by his son Abraham's representatives sold to Thomas Edmondson in 1806. The new owner settled at Grassyard two years later, and at his death in 1835 the manor passed to his only son John, who died in 1868. Thomas Grassyard Edmondson, his only son, succeeded, and on his death in Scotland in 1900 the manor went to his three sisters, the Misses Edmondson. The manor courts have been revived, and they are held at Caton in December.
Caton Hall was acquired by the Baines family, but the Mounteagle manor appears to have been separated from it. The Crofts of Claughton would not require a manor-house in Caton. A messuage called Ellers was in 1562 claimed by Peter Barwick in right of his wife Margaret daughter of Richard Curwen against William White (grantee of Lord Mounteagle) and the jurors of Caton Court.
The Curwen moiety descended from John and Agnes de Culwen, married between 1329 and 1331, to Roger de Curwen who died in 1403 holding a moiety of the manor of Caton of the king as of his duchy by a rent of 10s., also the moiety of Littledale by 3s. 4d.; his son Walter was aged twenty- four. The seat of this part of the manor, in later times at least, was at Gresgarth or Grassyard. Walter died in 1457 holding similarly, and leaving a son and successor John, aged forty. The next step is uncertain, but Gilbert Curwen died in 1483 holding the moiety of the manor, and was succeeded by his son John, twenty-seven years of age. John Curwen died in September 1500 holding one ploughland in Caton of the king as duke by services unknown to the jurors. His son Richard was twelve years old. The pedigree recorded a century later states that Richard had a son Thomas, who was succeeded by a son Nicholas, living in 1613, and whose heir was apparently a sister Elizabeth wife of Thomas Morley of Wennington. It seems to have been acquired by the Girlingtons of Thurland, whose issue probably sold the manor to George Compton in 1666.
Lancaster Priory, Cockersand Abbey and the Knights Hospitallers held lands in Caton in connexion with which the Dobson family occurs. The rectory of Tatham had a tenement. A number of minor families occur in pleadings and inquisitions, including some bearing the local surname, but there are only fragmentary notices of them. Nicholas Curwen was the chief resident freeholder in 1600, but there were a number of small holders.
LITTLEDALE went with Caton, as has been shown, but it does not seem to have been regarded as a manor. In the 17th century the names of Smith, Farthwaite or Faithwaite of Pott Yeats and Foxcroft occur as owning land there. Richard Walker in 1630 compounded for his recusancy by a fine of £2 a year.
There is a local tradition that the estate called the Cragg in Littledale was by the first Lord Mounteagle granted in fee to the then tenant, Richard Baines, for his bravery at Flodden Field in 1513. It afterwards belonged to a family named Parkinson, from whom it descended by marriage to the Faithwaites.
Ralph Fincham and Robert Scruton had their tenements sequestered by the Commonwealth authorities in the Civil War time. Robert Croskell and Edward Bullenwere indicted for recusancy in 1678, and Elizabeth Wilson, widow, as a 'Papist,' registered her estate in 1717.
An Inclosure Act was passed in 1815, and the award, made in 1818, is kept at Lancaster.
From: 'Townships: Caton ', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8 (1914), pp. 79-85. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=53270.