This parish stretches about six miles along the coast, and is bounded on the landward side by Ponsonby, Drigg, Irton, and Nether Wasdale. The soil consists of a light red sand, and in its cultivation the inhabitants, who are much scattered over the parish, find their chief employment. The land, though not mountainous, is rather high, and is refreshed by several small brooks, which flow eastward, and fall with the Bleng into the Irt. Though adjacent to the coal and iron districts, yet, neither have been found in Gosforth, but freestone is abundant. The parish is divided into four constablewicks, viz., Gosforth, Boonwood, and High and Low Bolton, whose united area is 7,563 acres, and ratable value 6,054. The population is about 1,021. Seascale has of recent years been constituted a distinct civil parish, but is still included in Gosforth for ecclesiastical purposes. The Whitehaven and Furness railway runs through the parish. Gosforth is comprised within Allerdale above Derwent ward, and petty sessional division; and the union, rural and county court districts of Whitehaven. It forms the basis of a rural deanery, and also of a division for the election of a member of the county council.

The manor of Gosforth or Gosford, in the times of the early Edwards, was held by a family who took their name from the place; the last of whom was Robert Gosforth, who divided his lands amongst his five daughters, and the name henceforth disappeared from the local annals. From an inquisition of the barony of Egremont, taken in 1578, we learn that "The tenants of the lands in Gosforth hold the said lands by like service (homage, fealtie, and suit of court), and by the rent of 12s. 8d. for fee rent, cornage, seawake, and sergeant's food de propartia, Dui. Fitzwater." When Mr. John Denton compiled his voluminous manuscript History of Cumberland in the middle of the 16th century, the manor was held by Pennington, Kirkby, and Senhouse of Seascale. The Kirkby portion of the manor was purchased by a Mr. Robert Copley, who erected for himself a large handsome house and gardens, but these had gone to decay in 1776. The manorial rights are now possessed by the freeholders, but Lord Leconfield is lord paramount, and the landowners attend his court but pay no fines. Gosforth Hall, now a farm house, appears to have been built about the reign of Elizabeth; and the initials, R.C., 1658, on a stone in the outbuildings, are probably those of Richard Copley, by whom it may have been erected.

Bolton is another manor in this parish, and appears at an early period to have been held by a family of the name of Waybergthwaite. In 35th Henry VIII (1543), we find William Kirkby holding the manor of the king, as of his castle of Egremont, by knight's service, 10s. cornage, seawake, homage and suit of court. The family of Senhouse next appear as owners, from whom it passed to the Lutwidges, and in 1777 Charles Lutwidge, Esq., was the proprietor. He was succeeded by his brothers Henry and Admiral Skeffington, and ultimately by the nephew of the latter, Major Skeffington Lutwidge.

High and Low Bolton form two constablewicks, the former one and a half miles S.E., and the latter one mile S. of Gosforth. Boonwood is another constablewick, one mile to the north of Gosforth. At the latter place fairs are held twice a year, viz., on the 25th of April for cattle, and on the 18th of October for cattle and sheep. In 1811, when the commons were enclosed, six acres were allotted for these fairs.

The principal landowners are the Trustees of Anthony Benn Steward, Esq.; Sir Thomas Brocklebank, Bart.; Thomas Brocklebank, Esq.; John Tyson, Trustees of Mrs. Barker, Messrs. S. and J. Lindow; J.S. Ainsworth, Esq., J.P., C.E.; James Gaitskell, Esq.; C.A. Parker, Esq., M.D., F.R.S., J.P.; Rev. R. Keene, William Robinson, Joseph Jackson, and the resident yeomen.

Gosforth is a large, irregular village, situated on the southern declivity of a gentle eminence near the Whitehaven road, six miles S.S.E. of Egremont, and five miles N. of Ravenglass. The Church of St. Mary is a neat structure, which underwent such considerable repairs in 1789 as nearly to efface every vestige of antiquity. The ancient pointed chancel arch of the old building, resting upon Norman piers, has been retained. The church was again restored in 1898, at a cost of over 3,000, raised by public subscription, and now consists of spacious chancel and nave, north aisle, organ chamber, vestry, and porch. The west end is surmounted by a belfry, containing a clock and three bells. The period, and the person by whom the original church was founded, are alike lost in the mists of antiquity; but the remains of the old stone cross, according to Dr. C.A. Parker, F.S.A., in his notable work on "The Ancient Crosses at Gosforth," lead us to assign it to the sixth or seventh century. This relic of antiquity still remains standing in the churchyard. According to a paper by the late Rev. W.S. Calverley and Dr. C.A. Parker, read before the Royal Archaeological Institute at Carlisle, it is 14 feet high, and is perhaps the tallest ancient stone cross in Britain. They assign it to the period when the Irish-Scotic missionaries began to spread the humanizing influence of
the Gospel among the Pagan Northmen, who had formed settlements in Cumberland as early as the sixth and seventh centuries. The sculptural ornamentation on its four sides, though mixed with much Norse mythology, tells the story of Christ's triumph over the powers of darkness and death. On the south face, the Saviour, as man, is depicted armed and on horseback, to do battle against the evil one; higher up we see Him as the heavenly Hart, trampling on the Fenris wolf and the Midgard snake, two of the three horrid offsprings of Satan, overcoming the world and placing it under a bond. On the east side Christ is crucified, and the centurion is piercing His side. The woman tramples on the head of the serpent, and waits beneath the Cross to anoint Him for his burial. Above, wielding the staff of omnipotence in His right hand, He proceeds to wrench open the jaws of hell, that he may overcome death and the King of Death. On the north side, Christ is seen armed and on horseback, at the head of His holy hosts, and Death on the pale horse is overthrown. On the west side, intelligible to the native heathen of that day, appears Heimdal, the watchman and warder of Asgard (where the gods dwelt); in his left hand is the famous Giallar horn, by whose blasts the holy hosts were summoned to drive back the foe. Above all are the sacred symbols. Portions of other crosses have also been found in the churchyard, and in 1896, during the recent restoration, an ancient hogs-back tombstone was discovered by Dr. C.A. Parker, F.S.A. This is now preserved in the church, and several old stone coffin lids may be seen in the walls of the porch and vestry. The church is lighted by many fine stained-glass windows.

About the middle of the 14th century the patronage of the church belonged to the Penningtons, of Muncaster, but it subsequently reverted to the Crown; and Edward VI, 1552, granted it to Fergus Greyme, by whom it was alienated a few years later to Thomas Senhouse, Esq., for the fine of 16s. 10d. paid into the hanaper. The advowson now belongs to the Earl of Lonsdale. In the reign of Henry VIII the living was valued at 17 14s. 7d.; to the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty it was certified to be worth 35 a year; and in the Diocesan Calendar of the present year the income is given as 195. The present rector is the Rev. Rees Keene, M.A.

The parish registers commence in 1571, and in 1599 an entry informs us that out of a population of 600, no fewer than 115 died in the parish in one year of the plague which was then raging in Cumberland. The old parsonage house was taken down in 1880, and replaced by a handsome and more commodious stone one, a short distance from the church.

The Wesleyan Chapel in the village was erected in 1874 at a cost of 500. It is a red sandstone building, with little architectural beauty.

The Parish School was built in 1873 to accommodate 140 children. In 1886 a classroom was added, the gift of Sir Thomas Brocklebank, with further room for 60. Adjoining the school is the master's house, built in 1888, by Sir Thomas Brocklebank, in memory of his wife.

A Library and Reading-room was established in 1860 by Col. Barker. It contains 900 vols., and is supplied with newspapers and magazines.

Parknook is the property and seat of Charles Arundel Parker, Esq., M.D., F.S.A., J.P., in whose family it has remained for many generations. The date 1575 may be seen on a portion of the house.

Steelfield Hall, the property and residence of William Henry Watson, Esq., J.P., F.G.S., is a large square built mansion, standing in its own extensive grounds, from which views of mountain, landscape, and sea may be obtained. Newton Manor is now only used as a summer residence. It was built by Anthony Benn Steward, and is now the property of his grand-nephew, William Watts Curwen Falcon, who is a minor.

CHARITIES. - In 1717 the poor stock belonging to the parish was certified at 24. Before the year 1797 there was a sum of 61, the interest of which was distributed among poor householders of the parish. When or by whom this money was left is not known. In 1797 it was in the hands of Henry Lutwidge, who died insolvent, and only 32 11s. was recovered. 1 7s., the interest of this money, is distributed on the Sunday after Easter.

Isaac Hartley's bequest of 200, left about 25 years ago, produces 3 7s. 8d. half yearly, half of which is applied to educate poor children, and the rest to the poor on St. Thomas' Day.



Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman