Birker and Austhwaite

Is a civil parish containing 1,414 acres of enclosed land, and about 7,000 acres of mountains and common. It is assessed at 583, and is very sparsely populated having at the last census returns only 90 inhabitants, who have the privilege of marrying, burying, etc. at the neighbouring chapel of Eskdale, in consequence of the distance from the church of Millom in which parish Birker and Austhwaite is included for ecclesiastical matters. It lies within Bootle ward, petty sessional division, union, and rural district; the county court district of Millom; and the electoral division of Muncaster. There are several places of interest to the tourist in this district. Devoke Water is a lonely tarn among the bills, but the most lovely scene is Stanley Ghyll Fall, which has a leap of about 60 feet. The body of water is not great, but the narrow ravine, with its densely-wooded sides, affords one of the most picturesque sights in the country. Birker Force is another but less beautiful cascade in the parish. Iron ore is found here and worked by the South Cumberland Iron Co.

The manor of Austhwaite was granted in 1102, by Arthur de Boyville, lord of Millom, to an ancestor of the family, who assumed the local name. This family continued in possession of the manor until 1345, when the male line became extinct, and an heiress carried it by marriage to Nicholas Stanley, in whose family it remained until 1888 when it was purchased by Lord Muncaster, who is the present lord of the manor. The other landowners are - W.B. Benson Towers Tyson, John Hird, Dixon Sharpe, the Trustees of John Vicars, and a few others. Dalegarth Hall, now a farmhouse, was the ancient residence of the Stanleys, the former lord of the manor.

Birker partakes of a small charity administered from Eskdale.

On the summit of the first ascent of Hard Knott, a mountain in the northern part of the parish, are the remains of a British or Roman fort, known as Hard Knott Castle. Some writers have supposed the ruins to be those of some little chapel or cross erected upon the mountain at which the traveller, whose route was over the wilds, might pray for the safe completion of his journey. A cross on Cross Fell gave its name to the mountain. Situated at a height of 800 feet above the sea, Hard Knott Castle commands a magnificent view of the surrounding mountain scenery, embracing within the range of vision some of the highest peaks of the lake district, and also the Irish Sea. Recent investigations clearly prove that the ruins are the remains of a Roman camp, and as such, the position was possessed of several strategic advantages. The walls are constructed of the stones found lying around, and in several places rest upon the bare rock. In one corner are the foundations of what appears to have been a circular tower, and on either side of the north-east entrance may be detected the remains of the guard chambers. Facing the north-east is a cleared space called the Bowling Green, which was probably used for drill purposes.

 

Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901


29 July 2006

Steve Bulman