Is a parish of 1,760 acres, containing the village of its own name and Broughton Cross. It is situated within Derwent ward and petty sessional division; the rural deanery and county court district of Cockermouth and Workington; and the poor law union and rural district of Cockermouth; and gives name to a division which elects a member of the county council. The gross rental of the parish is £7,060; the ratable value of the land, £1,932; and of the buildings, £3,945. The inhabitants, who number 818, are chiefly engaged in agriculture, but many of them find employment in the coal mines and quarries of the district. Both freestone and limestone are extensively worked, and the quarries of the latter at Brigham Low Houses, leased by the Allerdale Coal Co., rank amongst the finest in the county. The Cockermouth and Workington Railway runs through the parish, along the south bank of the Derwent, and has a station near the church, a short distance from the village, and another at Broughton Cross.

The Manor of Brigham, with its villa ad pontem, was given along with others by William de Meschines to Waltheof, lord of Allerdale, soon after the Conquest. The latter gave Brigham to Dolphin, son of Ailward, together with Little Crosby, Applethwaite, and Langrigg, in marriage with his sister. The Brigham family ended in two daughters, and the manor was divided in moieties, one of which was conveyed by marriage to the Huthwaites and the other to the Twinhams. The former passed in marriage to the Swinburnes, one of whom, John Swinburne, in the 35th of Henry VIII, - "held a moiety of the vill of Brigham of the King, as of the honour of Cockermouth, by Knight's service, 2s. cornage, puture of the sergeants and witnessmen, with suit of court at Cockermouth, from three weeks to three weeks." The other moiety, after remaining for some time in the family of Twinham, passed by marriage to the Herclas. Upon the attainder of Andrew de Hercla, Earl of Carlisle, the moiety was forfeited, and given to a chantry in the church of Brigham, by Thomas de Burgh, in the 16th of Edward II. After the suppression of monasteries, the moiety was granted to the Fletchers of Moresby, by one of whom it was sold to the tenants. The estates in the manor have long been nearly all freehold; but Lord Leconfield, as successor to General Wyndham, is lord paramount, and the tenants render suit and service at his honour courts, held at Cockermouth Castle.

The village of Brigham is situated about 2¼ miles west of Cockermouth. It is irregularly built, but commands beautiful views of the vale of the Derwent.

The Church, dedicated to St. Bridget, is one of the most interesting in the county, for the variety of styles of architecture which it exhibits, indicating the periods when the different restorations and additions were made. The semicircular or Norman arches, separating the nave from the aisles, and the thick rubble walls of that part of the church, point to the 11th century as the date of the erection of that portion. There are, however, not wanting evidences of an earlier church having stood here, upon the site of which the present one was built about 1080. The Early English style of the chancel, tower, and south aisle fixed the time of their erection to the latter half of the 12th or the beginning of the 13th century. The elaborate ornamentation of the 14th century is seen in one aisle, in which a chantry was founded by Sir Thomas de Burgh, at that time rector of the parish, whose tomb may be seen in the south wall, under a richly-carved crocketted canopy. The porch was probably added about 1390, and is of a decidedly transitory character. The east window, inserted during the early part of the 14th century, contains some exquisite tracery, of which Mr. Freeman gives a drawing in his elaborate work on window tracery. From the end of the 14th century until 1864 very little appears to have been done to preserve this fine old church to future generations in all the beauty and harmony of the original design. In 1759 the nave and aisle were re-roofed with lead, at a cost of £144. In 1790 the lead was stripped off and sold, and a less costly roof of slate put on. In 1864 a complete restoration of the nave, tower, and south aisle (the dilapidated portions) was commenced, under the superintendence of Mr. Butterfield, the eminent architect, of London. In 1875-6 the chancel was also restored, thus completing the renovation of the whole church. The total cost of these restorations and additions was £4,000; but the late Earl of Lonsdale defrayed the expense incurred in the restoration of the chancel, which belongs to that family. The architect has preserved the salient features of the ancient edifice, by a faithful copy of the old work, and the inhabitants have in their restored church a structure little, if anything, inferior to its ancient model. From an inventory of the goods belonging to this church, taken in 1348, after the death of Thomas de Burgh, and attested by Thomas de Lucy, baron of Cockermouth, and Sir John de Hooton, chantry priest, of Brigham, we gather that the reliquery of the church was well stocked with priceless remains. It contained "some milk of our Lady, in a glass mounted with silver; some hair of our Lady, set in crystal, well mounted with silver; some oil of St. Catherine, in two glass phials; . . . in an embroidered silk burse are part of the coat of Jesus Christ, some hair of our Lady, a stone from Calvary, a tooth of St. Calixtus the Pope, a bone of St. Catherine and some of her oil, some of the milk of our Lady, a bone of St. George the Martyr, part of the robe of Moses, &c., &c.; a portion of the stone of which the Devil said to our Lord, 'make bread of this stone,' and our Lord gave for a witness, and the stone became black; part of the rod of Moses, &c., &c." The original is among the Dodsworth MSS. in the Bodleian Library, but a transcript of the whole document is given in a paper on Brigham Church, by Isaac Fletcher, M.P., F.R.S., and published in the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archæological Society. Let us hope, for the reputation of the Church, that there were but few of the clergy who sought, by such pious frauds as the above, either to fill their coffers or to excite evanescent feelings of devotion in their too credulous hearers.

Brigham was formerly possessed of rectorial privileges, but is now a vicarage. Thomas de Huthwaite conveyed the advowson of the church to Isabel, Countess of Albermarle, in the reign of Henry III; and in 1439 it was given to the Collegiate Church of Staindrop, in the county of Durham. In 1579 the Bishop of Carlisle assumed the patronage, and in 1618 Sir Richard Fletcher and one Hodgson presented. The Earl of Lonsdale is the present impropriator and patron. The living was valued in the King's Book at £20 16s. 0½d., but it is now worth £350. When the commons were enclosed in 1821, an allotment of 202 acres was given to the Earl of Lonsdale in lieu of corn tithes.

The vicarage is a commodious house, near the church, erected in 1847 by the Cockermouth and Workington Railway Company, who purchased the site of the old vicarage.

The small Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1856, has been superseded by a larger edifice, raised in 1882, at a cost of £700. The building is a plain substantial one, of Brigham stone, with a covering of cement, and will accommodate 230 worshippers. The new chapel is contiguous to the old one, which is now used as a schoolroom for Sundays and evenings.

The National School, situated about halfway between the two villages of Brigham and Broughton Cross, is a small stone building, erected in 1847, and opened January 11th, 1875. It was endowed with two acres of land, which have, however, been sold, and the proceeds invested with the Charity Commissioners, yielding at the present time £7 7s. 4d.

CHARITIES. - Susannah Slater, about the year 1711, left £100 to the parish of Brigham. Of this sum only £50 now remains, the other moiety having been distributed by a former vicar. This £50 is now invested, and the interest, £2, distributed annually.

Myles Sawrey, by will, in 1774, bequeathed £400, the interest of which was to be divided among eight poor widows of the Church of England, not receiving parish relief. The investment of this sum produces £15 per annum, whereof £7 16s. 6d. is divided as the testator directs, and the remaining portion, £7 3s. 6d., is expended in the management of the trust.

Francis Brown left the sum of £10 in 1770, and the interest of this, 8s., is distributed by the churchwardens amongst the poor.

George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends, visited Cumberland in one of his preaching expeditions. He tells us in his "Journal" that he went into Brigham Church one Sunday afternoon, when the congregation were assembled, and, standing on a seat, he preached for three hours. He visited Brigham a second time, and on this occasion he held a theological discussion with the Rev. Mr. Wilkinson, the vicar, which occupied such a length of time that the vicar's dinner was spoiled. The result of the argument was the conversion of the vicar and the majority of the congregation, and Mr. Wilkinson afterwards became a distinguished exponent of Quaker tenets.

The Nun's Well, in this township, has been graphically described by Wordsworth in one of his sonnets. How it came to be so named does not appear to be known; the poet tells us that

"O'er the brink and round the limestone cell
Of the pure spring (they call it the 'Nun's Well,')
A tender spirit broods - the pensive shade
Of ritual honours to this fountain paid
By hooded votaresses with saintly cheer."

Yet we have no record of any convent of nuns within the parish. Not far from the well is the parsonage farm which bears marks of great antiquity with its buttresses and Gothic windows now blocked up; it is said to have been the chapel belonging to the convent.


Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901

19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman