This parish is situated in Derwent ward; Keswick petty sessional division, rural deanery, county court district, and electoral division; and the poor law union and rural district of Cockermouth. It has an area of 4,318 acres, having a gross rental of £3,669; rateable value of land, £1,287; of buildings, etc., £1,934. The inhabitants, who in 1891 numbered 506, reside in the hamlets of Grange, Rosthwaite, Seathwaite, Seatoller, Stonethwaite, and Watendlath. Sheep farming was formerly the chief occupation of the people, but at present many are employed in the quarries and mines. The Honister Slate Quarries find work for about 100 hands. Here is produced the famous Cumberland green slate at the rate of several thousand tons yearly.
Borrowdale in the olden time belonged to the abbot and convent of Furness; and at Grange were the barns and granary in which they stored their corn. For grand and sublime scenery there are few spots in England that can equal the vale of Borrowdale, where "rock riots over rock, and mountain intersects mountain, in one semicircular sweep."
Between Grange and Rosthwaite lies the famous Bowder Stone, perhaps the largest fragment of rock in the world, which has fallen from the heights above. It is a huge mass of basaltic or porphyritric greenstone, 62 feet long, 36 feet high, and 89 feet in circumference; it contains 23,090 solid feet, and weighs 1,971 tons. In this valley also are two of the four magnificent yew trees commemorated by Wordsworth:-
"Fraternal four of Borrowdale."
The other two were blown down by a gale in 1884.
Near Stonethwaite is the tremendous cliff called Eagles' Crag, where formerly those great birds built their nests. The manor of Borrowdale was a part of the ancient manor of Castlerigg, which belonged to the Derwentwater estate. The Lawsons also owned a small portion of the valley, to which manorial privileges were attached. Borrowdale was granted to the abbot and convent of Furness, with right of ingress and egress from the valley. At the dissolution, the manor was seized by the Crown, and afterwards granted by Henry VIII to Richard Grame and his heirs. It is now the property of Lord Leconfield, who holds a court baron yearly at Rosthwaite. The other principal landowners are:- John Musgrave, Esq., L. Langton, Esq., J. Simpson, Mrs. Simpson, etc.
The Church is a small plain structure near the hamlet of Rosthwaite, rebuilt in 1825 at a cost of £300. It was thoroughly restored in 1873, when a chancel was added, and a stained-glass window inserted to the memory of Mr. Fisher. Originally a chapel-of-ease, it has now an ecclesiastical district allotted co-extensive with the civil parish. The living is a perpetual curacy in the gift of the vicar of Crosthwaite, and is now worth £130. A commodious residence was added in 1842 at a cost of £900, including the site, of which sum £800 was the bequest of the late Joseph Fisher, Esq., and £200 was received from Queen Anne's Bounty, thus leaving a balance of £100, which is invested in the 3 per cents. for the benefit of the living.
The School was considerably enlarged in 1899, and is now attended by about 60 children.
A Mission Room (undenominational), situated between Rosthwaite and Seatoller, was erected in 1892 by the Buttermere Slate Co.
Grange is a small but picturesque hamlet in this township, situated near the entrance to the dale. Here a few monks from Furness were stationed to look after the interests of their convent, to which Borrowdale belonged. It contains a small Wesleyan Chapel, erected in 1859. About half a mile from the village is the Bowder Stone before alluded to; and close by is Castle Crag, from the summit of which (900 feet) some splendid views are obtained. The gorge is so narrow that at the foot there is only room for the road and the river. In the village is a small church, erected in 1860 by Miss Heathcote. The living is worth £30, and is held in conjunction with Borrowdale. The village contains a school, built in 1894 to the memory of Miss Heathcote, to whom the villagers were indebted for the previously existing one. The other hamlets in this parish are Stonethwaite, 7 miles; Seatoller, 7½ miles; Seathwaite, 8½ miles; Lodore Falls, 3 miles; Grange, 4 miles; and Rosthwaite about 6 miles south of Keswick.
Watendlath is a range of rocky mountains projecting over a deep glen, down the steep and broken declivity of which pours the cascade of Lodore, rendered famous by the playful lines of the poet Southey. Numerous other falls occur in the dale; some of which, though not remarkable for the volume of water, pass through lovely patches of sylvan scenery.
Shut out from intercourse, as it were, with
the outer world, the inhabitants of Borrowdale long retained their primitive simplicity;
and numerous anecdotes are related illustrating the unsophisticated state of the natives
up to a very recent date. In the middle of the 18th century a cart was unknown in
Borrowdale; and all loads were transported on the backs of horses. Nor were the properties
of lime any better known to the dwellers in the dale than the wheeled vehicle just
mentioned. A rustic, having been sent by his master, a travelled Borrowdalean, for some of
that commodity - never heard of in the dale before - was overtaken on his return by a
shower of rain. The lime in the sack began to swell and send forth a large volume of
smoke, whereupon the messenger, terribly alarmed, filled his hat with water at the
neighbouring stream and applied it to the lime, but the more he wetted it the room it
smoked. He was now covinced that the Evil One himself must be in the sack, and he tossed
it off the back of the horse into the stream, where its hissing and cracking made him flee
with affright from such dangerous proximity to his Sulphuric Majesty. Another story, still
current in Keswick, tells us that in Borrowdale was actually begun the erection of a wall
to keep in the gowk or cuckoo, and thus ensure eternal spring. Be this as it may,
"Borrowdale gowk," is a term of ridicule often applied to the people of
Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901
19 June 2015
© Steve Bulman