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
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