This parish is bounded by those of St. Bees, Cleator, Haile, St. John Beckermet, and the Chapelry of Ennerdale. Lengthwise it stretches about three miles from north to south, whilst its breadth from east to west is about two and a half. The parish is without any dependent townships or divisions. The soil is principally a thin light mould incumbent on gravel. Iron is found in the district, and is worked to a considerable extent. The area of the parish is about 2,775 acres, which are rated at £58,188. In 1894 the castle and surrounding land (15 acres) were transferred from St. Bees parish to Egremont; and a small portion of St. John's, Beckermet, was added, for civil purposes only. The population at the commencement of the past century numbered 1,515; in 1881, 5,976; and in 1891 it had amounted to about 6,025. The people are chiefly engaged in the iron ore mines, but various other trades are carried on in the town. The parish is comprised within Allerdale-above-Derwent ward and petty sessional division; the deanery, union, county court, and rural districts of Whitehaven; and gives name to a division which returns a member of Parliament, and to two divisions, each of which elects a member of the county council.
The Urban District is co-extensive with the civil parish, and elects nine members.
Egremont was one of the eleven great baronies into which Cumberland was divided by Ranulph le Meschines or Ralph the younger, the first grantee under William the Conqueror. The Cumbrians maintained their independence against the Norman until 1072, when their complete subjection was effected by the overthrow of Malcolm in that year. William conferred the whole district, with part of Westmorland also, upon his companion in arms, Ranulph, on condition that he should hold the same of the King by homage, fealty, and the performance of military service whenever called upon by his Sovereign. To establish and maintain his authority over his immense acquisition, Ranulph parcelled Cumberland into eleven parts or baronies, and over each was placed some kinsman or trusty follower, who swore to uphold the authority of their lord, and render him military service.
The largest of these baronies was Copeland, which Ranulph allotted to his younger son, William le Meschin. Its ample domains extended from the river Derwent to the Duddon, a distance of thirty-five miles, and included within its limits several inferior lordships, rendering suit and service to the Baron of Copeland. Ranulph or Randal succeeded his father in the lordship of Carlisle, and on the death of his cousin Richard, Earl of Chester, in the ill-fated White Ship, he became heir to the immense possessions of the earldom of Chester. His Cumbrian baronies were surrendered into the hands of the King, and henceforward a change was effected in the tenure of these feudatories. Suit and service to the superior lord were abolished, and their possessions held in capite from the Crown, to whom only were they bound by the conditions of their enfeoffment. Confirmed in his possessions of Copeland upon the change of tenure, William de Meschines erected his baronial residence on the banks of the Egre or Ehen, and in later years the castle gave its name to the barony.
To secure a body of men at all times ready to uphold his rights and privileges, and prepared for military service, he divided his barony into smaller tracts or manors, which he distributed among his retainers as rewards for their suit and service, and to be holden as of the castle of Egremont. To Ketel, grandson of Ivo de Tailbois, Earl of Kendal, he gave Workington, Salter, Kelton, and Stockhow; to one of the Flemings he gave the manors of Beckermet, Frizington, Rotington, Weddicar, and Arlecdon; Mulcaster was given to an ancestor of the Pennington family; Drigg and Carleton to one of the Stutevilles; Millom to Godard Boyvill; and Santon, Bolton, Gosforth, and Haile to Thomas de Multon, of Gilsland. The Normans in the distribution of their favours never forgot the Church, or perhaps the churchmen never allowed their claims to the good things of this world, as well as to superior piety, to be lost sight of. To the Abbey of St. Mary, York, William gave Kirkby Begog (St. Bees), with its ample revenues. In an inquisition taken in 1578, we have a full and explicit statement of the rights and privileges appertaining to the seigniory of Egremont. The lord held his courts leet and baron; had view of frank-pledge and assize of bread and ale; he claimed the goods and chattels of felons, convicted persons, and persons beheaded, and also seawake, waif, stray, infangthief, toll, and a toll on ships and all merchandise sold in the havens of Copeland.
The Meschines held the lordship but one generation, when it was carried by an heiress to Robert de Romille; again, in default of male issue, it went with a daughter to William FitzDuncan, whose second daughter had possession of Egremont, and married Reginald Lucy. Two sons and three daughters were the fruit of this marriage. The younger of two sons, known in history as the Boy of Egremont, probably from the place of his birth, survived his elder brother, and became the last hope of the family. One day while out hunting in the woods of Bolton, within the Honour of Skipton, of which his father was lord paramount, he came to a spot on the Wharfe where the river "suddenly contracts itself to a rocky channel, little more than four feet wide, and pours through the tremendous fissure with a rapidity proportioned to its confinement." The place was then, as now, called Strid, from the custom of striding from brink to brink, by those who wished to cross. The boy, with greyhound held in leash, attempted the feat, but the dog holding back, his young master was drawn into the current and drowned. At a subsequent period, the manor was conveyed by marriage to the Multons, from whom it passed to the noble house of Percy. The lady Elizabeth Percy, sole heiress of Josceline Percy, 11th earl, in 1682 married Charles Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Their son, Algernon, succeeded to the title and estates of his father, and in right of his mother, he was created Baron Cockermouth and Earl of Egremont, with remainder to Sir Charles Wyndham, son of his sister Catherine, by Sir William Wyndham, Bart. Algernon, Earl of Egremont, died in 1750, the year following his elevation to the title, and his nephew, Sir Charles Wyndham, became Earl of Egremont, and from him the barony of Egremont and the honour of Cockermouth have descended to Lord Leconfield. The other principal landowners are Messrs. Lindow, Robert Jefferson, Esq., J.P.; T. Hartley, Esq.; Hy. Caddy, Hy. Birley Smith, Lord Lonsdale, Thomas Nelson, and Isaac Spedding, Esq.
George O'Brien Wyndham, third earl, F.R.S. and F.S.A., was educated at Eton, and filled the office of lord-lieutenant of Sussex from 1819 to 1835, when increasing infirmities compelled him to resign. The following brief account of him is taken from Jefferson's "Allerdale Ward-above-Derwent:" - "The Earl of Egremont was distinguished no less for the princely style of magnificence in which his correct taste patronised the fine arts, than for the countless acts of charity and liberality which brought down upon him the blessings of the needy living in the neighbourhood of his palace - the 'princely Petworth' - described as the temple of the noblest productions of genius, of whatever the scholar, the sculptor, and the painter could produce. Had he not been possessed of a splendid fortune, with a rental of late years of £81,000 per annum, his liberal spirit could not have derived enjoyment from dispensing, during the last sixty years of his life, the immense sum of £1,200,000 in acts of charity and liberality." His Petworth estates he left to his eldest son, and those in Cumberland to Major General Wyndham, his second son.
EGREMONT CASTLE - The venerable ruins of this ancient fortress, once the seat of the potent lords of the great barony of Copeland or Egremont, stand on an eminence a short distance to the south-west of the town, and exhibit indubitable marks of great strength and antiquity. It was built about the end of the 11th century, by William de Meschines, the first baron of Copeland. The approach and grand entrance from the south was by a drawbridge over a deep moat, and the entrance to the castle was by a semi-circular archway with a groined roof, and guarded by a strong square tower, which is the principal part of the castle now standing. The outer wall, which enclosed a quadrangle of considerable extent, has suffered so much from the destroying hand of time, that it is impossible now to form any conjecture as to the particular manner in which it was fortified. On the side next the town are the remains of a postern; and on the west are three narrow gateways, which have communicated with the out-works, and are of a more modern style of architecture than the other portion of the ruins. Beyond these gates is an artificial mound on which there stood a circular tower, 78 feet in perpendicular height above the ditch, built, it is supposed by some, on the crown of a Danish fort. Though little now remains of the once proud mansion of the erstwhile lords of Egremont,yet enough is left to tell the tale of its former strength and importance.
With this castle is connected the legend of the Horn of Egremont, which Wordsworth has made the subject of one of his poems. At the gate of the castle, according to the tradition, there hung in feudal times a horn,
" * * * which none could sound,
The blast of the horn proclaimed to all within and without the castle walls the advent of the rightful heir to take possession of the broad green acres, which were his by right of inheritance. Sir Eustace de Lucy had a second time to reclaim "Egremont's domains and castle fair" by the sound of the horn, through the perfidy of a treacherous brother. Sir Eustace and his brother Hubert rode forth to join in the Holy Wars against the infidel Turk. "If I fall in Palestine," said Sir Eustace to Hubert, "do thou return and blow the horn, and take possession, that Egremont may not be without a Lucy for its lord." Led away by ambition and the working of the evil spirit within him, Hubert hired ruffians to drown his brother in the Jordan. The ruffians claimed their reward, assuring Hubert that the deed had been done. Months passed away and time seemed to confirm the story of the hirelings.
"To his castle Hubert sped;
The foul deed which he had instigated seared his soul, and he dared not sound the horn.
"O that I
Years flew by, and Hubert's life was spent amidst feasting and revelry, by which he sought to drown his remorse. Suddenly, during a carousal with his retainers, the blast of the horn resounded through the vaulted rooms of the castle. The sound struck terror and dismay into the heart of Hubert, for well he knew that none but Sir Eustace could blow the horn, and that he had now returned to claim his right. Hubert fled by the postern, and after years of wandering he returned, and having obtained his brother's forgiveness, retired to a monastery, where he sought by a life of penance and mortification to atone for his perfidy and wickedness.
THE TOWN OF EGREMONT is pleasantly situated on the west bank of the Ehen, about three miles from the Irish Sea. At an early period of our history, when Members of Parliament were remunerated for their services, Egremont appears to have possessed the privilege of representation; but the burden of paying for services thus rendered was so great, that the inhabitants petitioned the King for disfranchisement, which was accordingly granted. About the reign of King John, Richard Lucy granted the burgesses a charter of privileges by the provisions of which the government of the borough was for a long time conducted. From this charter it appears that those who hold burgage tenure in Egremont are required to find armed men for the defence of the Castle for forty days at their own charge. They were further to provide twelve men for the lord's military array who were also to keep watch and ward. The lord was entitled to forty days' credit for goods supplied to him and no more. They were also bound to contribute towards the redemption of the lord or his heir from captivity should either have the misfortune to fall into the hands of their enemies. When one of the lord's sons received the honour of knighthood, or when a daughter was given away in marriage, they were again called on to contribute. They were prohibited from entering the forest of Copeland with bow and arrow. The burgesses were forbidden to cut off the feet of their dogs; this curious provision is explained by another, which required all persons living in or near the forest keeping dogs for defence to lop off one foot or more to prevent their chasing the game. A curious provision of the charter enacted that a burgess, committing fornication with the daughter of a rustic who was not a burgess, should not be liable to the fine imposed in other cases unless he had seduced her under promise of marriage. For the seduction of a woman belonging to the borough a fine of three shillings was payable to the lord. The burgesses who had ploughs were required to till the lord's demesne one day in the year, and every burgess had to find a reaper - their labour was from six in the morning until three in the afternoon. There appears at this time to have been only three occupations in the town bearing the character of craftsmen, viz., dyers, weavers, and fullers.
The Church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an old foundation, probably dating from Saxon times. William de Meschines, the first lord of Egremont, gave the church to the priory of St. Bees, a cell to the Abbey of St. Mary at York, and it still pays a pension to the church of St. Bees. In Catholic times there were attached to this church, in addition to the rector, a stipendiary and a chantry priest, both of which offices were endowed with grants of land for the performance of particular religious functions. These lands were granted by Edward V1, in the 2nd and 3rd year of his reign, to William Ward, Richard Venables, Henry Tamer, and Thomas Becker. At the dissolution of monasteries the living of this church was valued at, £9 11s., and to the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty it was certified at £45 15s. 10d.
In consequence of the increased population of Egremont it became necessary to provide more church accommodation; and to accomplish this, it was determined to displace the old fabric by a larger and more commodious structure. Towards the accomplishment of this object Lord Leconfield subscribed £1,500, and Mr. T. Hartley, Armathwaite, £1,000. The inhabitants also responded liberally to the call. The foundation stone was laid in April, 1881, and the consecration services were performed by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle on the 3rd July, 1883. The new building occupies the site of the old one, and is of the same architectural character-the Early English - a style prevalent about the 13th century. A portion of the old church has been incorporated in the present one, notably several windows and corbels. The edifice is cruciform, consisting of nave, north and south aisles, two transepts, chancel, tower, and baptistry. Its extreme length is 250 feet, width across the transepts 68 feet, and across the body of the church 40 feet. It will accommodate about 700 persons, giving an increase upon the old one of about 250 sittings. The principal entrance is through a noble arched doorway, supported on each side by three columns. This is surmounted by a canopy, on the apex of which is a carved cross. Separating the nave from the aisles on each side are five Gothic arches, resting upon cylindrical columns with moulded bases and carved capitals. In each transept are two bays, supported by clustered columns with moulded capitals and octagonal bases. The roofs are open-timbered, of pitch-pine stained and varnished. The chancel is lighted by four ancient windows taken from the old church, and by three of lancet shape filled with stained-glass. The interior is plain and unadorned; but we hope the funds will soon be forthcoming for its artistic decoration. The only highly ornamental objects are the pulpit and the baptistry. The former is the gift of the Rev. W.E. Strickland's family. It consists of a Caen stone base and an alabaster superstructure, supported by marble shafts. It is hexagonal in form, and the three centre panels carry figures of our Saviour, with St. Michael and the Virgin Mary on each side, cut in bas relief. The baptistry was the gift of the Freemasons of Egremont, and is an apsidal recess in the west wall, lighted by seven lancet windows, filled with stained-glass. The font stands on a raised platform, ascended by two steps, and is in the shape of a scalloped bowl supported by a kneeling angel with outstretched wings. Its design is a copy of one by the celebrated sculptor, Thorswalden. This was the gift of the children of Thomas and Georgina Elizabeth Hartley, of Gillfoot. The organ has been supplied by Messrs. Hill & Co., of London, and cost £400. The tower, as yet unfinished, carries two bells taken from the old church, but it is intended as soon as possible to complete the building of the tower which was stopped for want of funds, and hang a peal of bells. The church is built of the red sandstone of the district and has cost about £6,000, exclusive of internal furnishings. The living styled a rectory is valued at £180, and is held by the Rev. William Thwaites; patron, Lord Leconfield.
The Catholic Mission of Egremont is an offshoot from Cleator. The present school-chapel was erected in 1872, and is under the invocation of St. Bridget. The presbytery and garden were added in 1878. As soon as a suitable site can be found it is intended to build a new church and presbytery.
The Wesleyan Chapel is a handsome structure, erected in 1877 at a cost of £3,500. The old chapel, built in 1821, is now used by the Conservative Club. Attached to the chapel is a Sunday school. The United Methodists have also a chapel here, a neat stone building, with school and curator's house attached, erected in 1893 at a cost of £2,400; and the Primitive Methodists have a place of worship in North road.
The Cemetery, situated on the Whitehaven road, was opened in 1864. It -covers an area of seven acres, and is tastefully laid out. There are two mortuary chapels, appropriated respectively to the Church of England and Dissenters, and a residence for the curator.
The Bookwell Board Schools have accommodation for 230 boys, 218 girls, and 200 infants. There is also an infants' department in Main Street.
The Catholic School has accommodation for 132 mixed; average attendance, 125.
The Town Hall is a fine stone building in Main Street, erected at a cost of £5,000. The Market Hall is used for concerts, etc., and will accommodate 1,000 people.
The Oddfellows' Hall, in North Road, was erected in 1861, by the local lodge. The Freemasons and also the Rechabites hold their meetings here.
The Conservative Club is a neat stone building in Main Street, erected in 1882; opposite to it, and built in the same year, is the Liberal Club.
The Soup Kitchen in St. Bridget's Lane, is supported by voluntary contributions. Soup is distributed on Tuesdays and Fridays in winter.
The government of the town is vested in a borough sergeant or chief constable, two bailiffs, four constables, two hedge and corn viewers, and an assessor of damages. All these officers, with the exception of the borough sergeant, are appointed annually, at the Court Leet, held in spring by the lord of the manor. The Urban District Council consists of nine members, who are appointed triennially.
The Market, which was formerly held on Wednesday, was transferred many years ago to Saturday. Annual fairs for horses, cattle, &c., are held on the 17th of February, and the third Friday in May. On the three days following September 18th, a sort of feast is kept, when merry-making is the order of the day. Formerly burgesses were allowed to sell ale without a licence at this time.
A hiring for servants is held on
one of the market days at Whitsuntide and Martinmas. A court baron for the
recovery of debts under 40s. is held by adjournment every sixth Friday under Lord
Leconfield, lord of the barony of Egremont; and a court leet and a customary
court for the purpose of appointing inspectors of nuisances, &c., are held annually in
the spring. The town is well-lighted and paved, and supplied with water from Frizington.
The Recreation Grounds, adjoining Egremont Bridge, were opened in 1881 by Jonas Lindow, Esq. They are provided with various games, and a gymnasium adds to its usefulness.
The town was first lighted with gas in 1853. The works were established by a company of shareholders, who issued 120 shares at £10 each; they have holders capable of supplying 30,000 cubic feet.
The Co-operative Society was established here in 1859, and has at present upwards of 1,000 members. The premises are large, and fulfil every requirement for a prosperous and improving trade. There is also a branch establishment at Gosforth.
CHARITIES - Donor Unknown - There are two pieces of land situated in the parish of St. John's in Cumberland, called Dovehill Bank and Cowfield Bank, consisting of about three acres, which were purchased for £32 10s. by the churchwardens in 1718. It is understood that the purchase money was part of a fund called the parish stock, the whole amount of which is unknown as well as its origin. This property was let from year to year, from 1779 to the time of our inquiry, at £2 10s. per annum, the rent having previously been £2 5s. The income received is now £5 per annum, which is distributed among the poor of Egremont not in receipt of parish relief at Easter.
Mrs. Jane Birley's Charity - Mrs. Jane Birley, of Carleton Lodge, who died in 1833, left by will the interest of £50, to be distributed annually, on Good Friday, to the poor of the parish who are not receiving parochial relief. The income is now about £1 8s. yearly.
Margaret Richardson's Charity - Mrs. Margaret Richardson, by will dated 12th August, 1784, bequeathed to the poor householders of Egremont the sum of ten guineas. This money is supposed to have been distributed at the time.
John Nicholson's Charity - The date as well as the particulars of this bequest are unknown. It is supposed that one John Nicholson left by will £100, to be applied in putting out apprentices by lending £10 to the master of any boy, for seven years, without interest. The loan of £10 is so trifling an object to any person taking apprentices, that it has been found impossible to comply with the supposed directions of the testator; and in consequence thereof, the sum of £100 has been put out to interest for many years, and the produce thereof applied to the education of poor children.
An Exhibition Scholarship at St. Bees Grammar School was founded with the proceeds derived from the sale of the old infant school and site, applicable to a boy born in the parish of Egremont.
There are several other charities, the interest of which, about £5 8s. in all, is used for the benefit of poor children.
MOOR ROW is a considerable village about 2½ miles N. of Egremont. Here is Moor Row Junction, on the L. & N.W. and Furness Joint Railways. There is a Wesleyan Chapel, with accommodation for 130; a Primitive Methodist Chapel, capable of seating 250; a United Methodist Free Church, and a Working Men's Institute, in Dalzell Street. The Schools, which are under the Board, are attended by about 200 boys, 180 girls, and 150 infants.
BIGRIGG is a small village on the Whitehaven road, 1 mile N. of Egremont. The Chapel-of-Ease, dedicated to St. John, is a neat stone building in the Gothic style of architecture, built in 1879 at a cost of £3,000. The east and west ends contain memorial windows. There is accommodation for about 230 worshippers, whose spiritual welfare is watched over by a curate, who resides at Moor Row. The Board School was opened in 1869. The average attendance is about 200 girls, boys and infants. This village contains also a Methodist Free Church and a Working Mens' Reading and Recreation Room.
Woodend and Scalegill are hamlets in this parish. At the former is the Railway Station (L. & N.W. and Furness Joint Railway Companies) for Cleator and Bigrigg, each distant ¼ mile.
Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901
19 June 2015
© Steve Bulman