This is a small parish of 1,010 acres, situated in Derwent ward and petty sessional division; the deanery of Maryport; the poor law union and rural district of Cockermouth; and the county court district of Cockermouth and Workington. Bridekirk is the basis of a division for the election of a member of the county council. The ratable value of the land is 1,813. The civil and ecclesiastical parishes are not co-extensive; the latter comprises about 9,751 acres, and contains Dovenby, Papcastle, and Tallantire, which have recently been constituted distinct civil parishes. Agriculture is the principal occupation of the inhabitants, who number about 75, and chiefly reside in the village of the same name, which is pleasantly situated on elevated ground overlooking the Derwent, 2 miles N.N.E. of Cockermouth. Almost in the centre of it is Bridekirk Hall, the residence of Lieut-Col. Green Thompson. Wood Hall, the seat of E.T. Tyson, Esq., is a fine mansion, built on an eminence above the river, and lighted throughout by electricity.

The Church and Manor were given by Waltheof, first lord of Allerdale, to the monastery of Guisborough, in Yorkshire; but, after the dissolution, Henry VIII, in the 35th year of his reign, granted the manor to one Tolson, to be held in capite, by the 20th part of a knight's fee, and 26s. rent. In 1701, Henry Tolson, Esq., enfranchised the tenants. The lands are now all freehold, and are owned chiefly by Lieutenant-Colonel Green Thompson; E.T. Tyson, Esq.; the, Trustees of the late F.L.B. Dykes, Esq.; and of the late H.M. Dawson, Esq.

The Church, dedicated to St. Bridget or Bride, has given name to the village. The original structure was no doubt of Saxon foundation, and probably built of wood. Of this not a vestige remains, except a curiously carved stone font, the antiquity of which has been much discussed. It is profusely ornamented with sculpture, possessing a finish which we would scarcely expect to find in that rude Saxon age. Indeed, the style of the ornamentation is thought by many to indicate the Norman period rather than the Saxon. One side of the font contains a Runic inscription, of which various readings have been offered. According to Bishop Nicholson it is- "Er Ekard han men egrocten, and to dis men red wer Taner men brogten." (Here Ekard was converted, and to this man's example were the Danes brought.) A more recent reading gives it as- "Ricard he me
iwrocte, and to dis merth gerur me brocte," which is thus interpreted, " Richard he me wrought, and to this beauty carefully me brought." The sculptured work is elaborate, and not easily deciphered. The Baptism of Jesus by St. John, and the descent of the Holy Ghost as a dove, are the most readily recognisable; and some suppose the expulsion of our first parents from Eden to be symbolised by the carving on the north side. Whatever may be the date, whether the 10th or 12th century, or the correct reading of the Rune, the font is one of the most interesting in England.

The old church was superseded in 1870 by the erection of a more commodious edifice, in which a portion of the old one has been incorporated. The architects, into whose hands the work was intrusted (Messrs. Cory & Ferguson), being anxious to preserve as much of the old fabric as was worth retention, have adopted a style in harmony with that of the original edifice - Norman. The church is cruciform, having a chancel, north and south transepts, and nave. From the junction of the four springs a tower, in which is a large bell-loft, worthily filled by a noble peal of bells, presented by J.W.B. Dykes, Esq., of Dovenby Hall. The chancel roof, like the tower, is groined with brick, having stone ribs, which not only looks well, but preserves a more equable temperature, resisting equally the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The roofs of the nave and transepts are semi-circular, lined with oak boarding. The chancel, built at the expense of the lay rectors, is fitted with oak seats. The reredos is of red terra cotta, executed by Messrs. Blashford, from designs furnished by the architects. The total cost of the building and its furnishing was little short of 5,000. The advowson of the vicarage was granted by Queen Mary to George Cotton and William Manne, to hold as of the manor of Greenwich, by fealty only, and not in capite. Subsequently the presentation was in the Lamplugh family, from whom it has descended to the Trustees of L.F.B. Dykes, Esq., the present patrons. The living is valued in the King's Book at 10 8s. 6d., but it is now worth 200, and is held by the Rev. A. Sutton, M.A., who was inducted in 1881. The tithes were commuted in 1840.

Contiguous to the church is the vicarage, a good substantial building, considerably enlarged in 1857.

BIOGRAPHIES. - Amongst the eminent men who were natives of Bridekirk, are the following:- Thomas Tickell, the poet and statesman, was born here in the year 1686, where his father, the Rev. Rd. Tickell, was vicar. He was educated at Queen's College, Oxford, a famous Cumbrian foundation, and in which many from the North Countree have distinguished themselves. He obtained his degree of M.A. in 1708, and two years after he was elected Fellow, but he did not comply with the statutes by taking orders. By his marriage, in 1726, he was obliged to sever his connection with the college. A warm and lasting friendship existed between Tickell and Addison, probably the result of kindred sympathies and tastes, though it may have been strengthened by a relationship between the two families. In 1717, when Mr. Addison was raised to the dignity of Secretary of State, he appointed his friend Tickell Under-Secretary. Mr. Tickell's poetical works hold a distinguished place among those of the minor poets, though they were much more esteemed by our fathers and grandfathers than they are by the present generation. He excelled chiefly in elegy and the ballad strain; and his lines on the death of Addison, rank among the finest specimens of elegiac poetry in the English language. Several of Mr. Tickell's pieces appeared in the Spectator, of which his friend Addison was editor; and on the death of that gentleman, he bequeathed to him the task of publishing his works. Little is known of the public life of our author. His widow long survived him, but no mention is made of any family. He died on St. George's Day, 1740.

Sir Joseph Williamson, son of the Rev. Joseph Williamson, who was inducted to the vicarage in 1625, rose from a clerkship to the office of Secretary of State. In 1674 his name appears in the catalogue of Oxford graduates, as created D.C.L., and he was soon afterwards knighted. In 1678 he was sent to the tower for granting commissions to Catholic recusants, but was next day released by the king. At the treaty of Nimeguen, in 1679, he was one of the plenipotentiaries, on the part of the king of Great Britain, and had the like character at the pacification concluded at Ryswick, in 1696. He resigned the seals in favour of the Earl of Sunderland, who paid him 6,000, and 500 guineas for his office. He gave and bequeathed to Queen's College in plate, books, buildings, and money, to the value of 8,000; and his donation of books to the library of St. Bees was considerable. He left 500 to the grandchildren of his patron, Dr. Langbaine, and gave to Bridekirk, bibles, prayer books, communion plate, etc.


Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman