This parish is bounded by those of Crosthwaite, Isel, Torpenhow, Ireby, Uldale, and Caldbeck, and contains about 6,930 acres, which, together with the buildings are assessed at £5,084 10s. The gross rental of the whole is £5,589. The population in 1851 was 557; in 1881, 509; and at the last census totalled 541. It is comprised within Derwent ward; Keswick petty sessional division, rural deanery, and county court district; the county council electoral division of Derwent Fells; and the poor law union and rural district of Cockermouth. The principal landowners are Thomas Hartley, Esq., J.P., Armathwaite Hall; the Trustees of the late Lady Jane Spedding; Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Bart., Brayton Hall; Sir H.R. Vane, Bart., Hutton-in-the-Forest; the Trustees of the late Captain D. Bird Robinson; S.G. Rathbone, Esq., J.P., Bassenfell; John Rook, Joseph Bragg, J. Pearson, William Slater, J. E. Brockbank, Thomas Ewart, and others.
The parish contains two hamlets, viz., Halls or Hawes and Chapel. The principal employment is agriculture. The soil is generally fertile, and near the mountains and along the shore of the lake is mostly light and gravelly; here and there it is loamy, but in the north-west the ground is wet and cold.
In extent the parish is about four square miles, and includes within its limits some of the most varied and interesting scenery in Cumberland, comprising the expansive lake to which it gives its name. Skiddaw, the fourth highest of our English mountains, runs along the whole of the east side of the parish; and the several houses situated at its base command a beautiful view of the verdant meadows, sweeping in gentle undulations to the margin of the lake, and also overlook the water itself, which stretches a full mile across the valley, and ends on the opposite shore in the beautiful woods of the Wythop Brows.
Many valuable minerals are known to exist in the bowels of Skiddaw, but no mines are wrought on the Bassenthwaite side of the range. Antimony was found at a place called Robin Hood, at the north end of the parish, but although on several occasions attempts have been made to obtain it, no one has ever succeeded in making it a remunerative speculation, and the mine has now been closed for many years.
The Manor of Bassenthwaite was given by Waltheof to his illegitimate son Gospatric, whose family assumed the local name of Bassenthwaite, and possessed it till the time of Edward II, when it was divided between the daughters of Adam de Bassenthwaite. One of these carried her moiety in marriage to the Irtons of Irton; but having no issue and surviving her husband, she married a second time one of the Lawsons of Little Osworth, in Northumberland, and her share was vested in that family, in whose posterity it has since continued, and is now held by Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Bart. The other sister married a Martindale, with whose descendants her share remained until the attainder of Roger Martindale for treason, when it was granted by the Crown to the Earl of Derby. In 1714 this estate passed in marriage with Henrietta Stanley to John, Lord Ashburnham, who in the following year sold it to the tenants for £1,825. The manorial rights and privileges are consequently vested in Sir Wilfrid Lawson and the landowners; but Lord Leconfield is lord paramount, and receives a yearly quit-rent of £3 4s. 10d. from the parish. He is also the proprietor of the fine lake of Bassenthwaite, and has the sole right of navigation and fishing, with the exception of three draughts, called Ewes Bridge, Stone Wall, and Ellers Stile, in which Sir H.R. Vane has a right.
The Church, dedicated to St. Bridget, stands alone at the margin of the lake, about 5 miles N.N.W. of Keswick. It was restored and almost entirely rebuilt in 1874, the expense of which was borne chiefly by the Spedding family; and a memorial window to Thomas Storey Spedding, Esq., has been inserted by public subscription. The ancient iron frame for the hour glass still remains attached to the south side of the chancel arch. The church was formerly rectorial, and was given by Waltheof, son of Gospatric, to the Abbey of Jedworth, and was soon afterwards appropriated to that monastery. The patrons of the living are the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle, who have held the privilege since the suppression of monasteries. The incumbency is now a vicarage, and is worth £170 a year. The tithes were commuted in 1774, when 187 acres of common were allotted to the curate in lieu of them. There are also 22 acres of glebe. Matthew Cape, a merchant of Carlisle, founded a lecture in the church, and endowed it with the lease of corn and hay; the farms from which this tithe is derived are situate in the parish of St. Cuthbert's Without.
Halls or Hawes and Chapel are two hamlets in the parish. The chapel-of-ease at the latter was replaced in 1878 by a neat church with spire, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. The entire cost of the building was £5,000, which was defrayed by J. Boustead, Esq., formerly of Armathwaite Hall. It is built of freestone, brought from the quarries at Howrigg, and the facings of the interior are of the same material polished. The woodwork is of oak. A good organ was placed in the church in 1794, built by Jardine, of Manchester, at a cost of £300. The burial ground surrounds the church, to which entrance is obtained through a lych gate. The original chapel is now used as a parish room and Sunday school.
CHARITIES. - Mr. John Graves left a house and about five acres of land, consisting of three fields and a small piece of woodland. This was taken under control by the parish council, and the house and woodland were sold for about £130, which was invested by the Charity Commissioners, and together with the three fields, yields an annual income of about £23. This is distributed by trustees at Christmas and Easter, 15 poor persons receiving about thirty shillings annually.
A small estate has also been left for the benefit of the poor, by some person unknown, which produces about £14 a year.
An avenue of lime trees, given by T. Hartley, Esq., has been planted on the village green, in commemoration of her late Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.
Mire House, the seat and property of the Misses Spedding, is a handsome mansion situated between Skiddaw and the lake.
Armathwaite Hall, the residence of T. Hartley, Esq., J.P., occupies a delightful situation at the lower extremity of Bassenthwaite water, and commands a fine view of it.
Bassenfell, the residence and property of S.G. Rathbone, Esq., J.P., has a nice position on the side of the hill above the hamlet, and from it can be obtained splendid views of the lake and surrounding fells.
The school is at Chapel, and has an average attendance of 90 children. The School Board, formed in 1871, is presided over by T. Hartley, Esq.
There is a Reading Room and Library, erected in 1874 at the expense of S.G. Rathbone, Esq., containing at present over 400 volumes.
The Wesleyans have a small chapel adjoining the Reading Room but there is no resident minister.
Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901
19 June 2015
© Steve Bulman