Is an extensive parish in Leath ward, and the petty sessional division of that name; county court district of Carlisle; union and rural district of Penrith; and deanery of Carlisle S. Hesket forms the head of a division for the election of a member of the county council. It lies on the left bank of the Eden, and stretches westward to the confines of Middlesceugh and Braithwaite. On the other sides it is bounded by Cumberland ward, Hutton-in-the-Forest, and Lazonby. The following townships are comprised within its limits:- Upper Hesket, Nether Hesket, Armathwaite, Aiket Gate and Nunclose, Calthwaite, Itonfield, Petteril Crooks, and Plumpton Street, whose united area is 15,834 acres; gross estimated rental, £28,700; and ratable value, £25,836.The soil varies much in quality in different parts of the parish, ranging from a light loam and gravel to a strong clay, but may be described as generally fertile. The population in 1871 numbered 2,180; in 1881, 1,965; and in 1891, 1,902.

This parish stands within the ancient royal forest of Inglewood, which was granted in 1696 by William III. to William Bentinck, a Dutchman, who followed his Dutch master, William, Prince of Orange, to England, and was created first Earl of Portland. It continued in this family till 1787, when the manor of Inglewood Forest was purchased by William Cavendish, fifth Duke of Devonshire, and still belongs to that noble house.

The manorial court, called Swainmote, is held on the feast of St. Barnabas (June 11), in the open-air, on the great north road to Carlisle. The spot is marked by a thorn called the Court Thorn, beneath whose branches, through unnumbered years, have the tenants assembled to pay their feudal services. The owners of 20 mesne manors attend the lord's behest, from whom a jury is empannelled and sworn. The Duke's tenants are chiefly copyholders, who pay a yearly copyhold rent, a year's rent on change of tenant, but nothing on the death of the lord. There are in the parish several mesne manors.

On Wragmire Moss there stood the last tree of the great forest which once stretched from Carlisle to Penrith. This old oak, which had weathered the storms of nearly a thousand years, fell from sheer old age on the 13th June, 1823. It was for 600 years the recorded boundary mark between the parishes of Hesket and St. Mary's Carlisle, and between a manor belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle, and that which is now held by the Duke of Devonshire.

The great north road traverses the parish, passing over Wragmire Moss, and appears, from the following entry, to have been kept in repair out of the spiritual treasury of the church:- "In 1354, a grant was made of forty days' indulgence to any that should contribute to the repairs of the highway through Wragmire; and to the support of John de Corbrig, a poor hermit living in that part."*

The following are the principal landowners:- The Earl of Lonsdale, the Trustees of the late W.E.A. James, Esq.; Joseph Harris, Esq., Calthwaite Hall; G.H.H. Oliphant-Ferguson, Esq.; Edward Eckroyd, Esq.; Rev. J. Arlosh, Wreay; the Misses Harris, Wigton; J.W. Wilson, Esq., Langwathby; Sir H.R. Vane, Hutton Hall; General Dawson-Scott; and Mr. Natteau Richardson, Low Plains.

UPPER HESKET township has an area of 1,807 acres; its gross estimated rental is £2,936; ratable value, £2,697; and population, 131. High Hesket is a long village, on the high road between Carlisle and Penrith, and mid-way between the two. In its immediate vicinity is Tarn Wadlyn, formerly a lake 100 acres in extent, but now filled up and converted into good grazing and arable land. On the. crest of a lofty eminence on the north-east side of the tarn there stood, some years ago, the ruins of an ancient fortress called Castle Hewen. Here, according to an old historical ballad, while king Arthur lived with his Queen Guenever "in merry Carlisle," there dwelt a man.

"Twyce the size of common men,
Wi' thewes and sinewes stronge,
And on his back he bears a clubbe
That is both thick and longe."

His wild, untamed nature made him the terror of all who passed that way:

"Noe gentle knighte or layde faire,
May pass that castle walls;
But from that foule discourteous knighte
Mishappe will them befalle."

A "fair damselle," whom the rough baron had ill-used, laid her grievance before King Arthur, who, in his chivalrous spirit, immediately set off to punish his infamy. But the baron was in league with the powers of darkness; and when King Arthur approached the "Magicke grounde on which the castle stoode," he was spell-bound; his wonted courage vanished, and his arm hung powerless by his side. The King was permitted to depart on condition that he would return next New Year's Day with an answer to the question, "What is it that woman loveth best?" Arthur tried in vain among the gay ladies of his court to obtain the information; but whilst riding over the moor one day he was accosted by an old hag in a scarlet cloak, who said she would reveal to him the secret of what woman loved best if he would marry her to some gallant knight. Arthur assented, received the desired information, and riding to the castle, he thus answered the baron: "Woman loveth her own will best." The King returned to Carlisle and told his gay knights the promise he had made to the old hag, when Sir Gawaine, in an ecstacy of loyalty, vowed he would wed her. The marriage was consummated. The spell which had transformed her into an old hag was dissolved, and she stood before him the fairest of the fair. Of the castle wherein the "discourteous knight" dwelt, the annalists of the county have deemed it worthy of but slight notice. Leland, who wrote in the reign of Henry VIII., mentions it as then in ruins: "In the forest of Ynglewood, a VI miles fro Carluel, appere ruines of a castel cawled Castle Lewen." The foundations, which were visible a few years ago, show the castle to have been 233 feet by 147 feet, with walls in some places eight feet thick. Here dwelt, according to a popular legend, Ewan Cæsario, a man of gigantic stature, who ruled over "Rocky Cumberland," and who, if we may believe another local tradition, lies buried in Penrith Churchyard, in a spot which posterity has named the Giant's Grave."

The Church, dedicated to St. Mary, consists of nave and chancel, with small bell turret carrying twin bells. Hesket is supposed to have been, in ancient times, a chapelry in the parish of St. Mary, Carlisle; but Nicolson and Burn say it was returned as a distinct parish as early as the reign of Edward III., and having been appropriated to the monastery of St. Mary, Carlisle, one of the canons of that house performed all ministerial functions. According to a tradition related by Dr. Todd, the chapel was first erected here in 1530, when an infectious disease was raging in the country, and the people bringing their dead as usual to be buried within the city, the mayor and citizens shut the gates upon them, and from the walls advised them to carry back the corpse, and bury the same at a place called Walling Stone, and that if they did the mayor and others would prevail with the bishop to have a chapel built and consecrated there, which would be of perpetual use to them and their posterity. In pursuance of this promise, after the cessation of the plague, a church was built with burial ground attached, and the parochial limits defined. The tradition probably refers to the rebuilding of the church or chapel, which may then, for the first time, have had the privilege of sepulture conceded to it. After the suppression of monasteries the patronage was transferred to the Dean and Chapter, who still continue to exercise that privilege. The benefice, now a vicarage, is held by the Rev. John A. Scott, who is also perpetual curate of Armathwaite Chapel. The incumbency at the commencement of the present century was worth about £43 a year. Since then several benefactions have been received from private sources, and grants from Queen Anne's Bounty, with which some land has been purchased. The income is valued at £313.

The Vicarage house is a good stone building, erected in 1870, at a cost of between £1,500 and £1,600, most of which was contributed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

The School was erected in 1853, at a cost of about £300, and is attended by about 74 children. In 1763, Mr. John Brown left the sum of £200, the interest to be applied in increasing the master's salary; Mr. R. Parker, of Heaton Norris, near Manchester, also left £100; besides which, there have been several other bequests, making a total of £462, exclusive of £200 left by Mr. Parker for the benefit of the Sunday school.

NETHER HESKET forms a separate township, containing 634 acres, of which the gross estimated rental is £1,001 ; and the ratable value, £984. The population numbers about 185. The village of Low or Nether Hesket is about 7½ miles S.S.E. of Carlisle. A neat Wesleyan Chapel was erected here in 1869, at a cost of about £300, which was raised by subscription.

ARMATHWAITE township contains the village of its own name, and the hamlets of Aiket Gate or High-cot-gate and Nunclose. Its area is 734 acres; gross estimated rental, £3,140; ratable value, £2,168; and population, 282. Armathwaite village is pleasantly situated on the left bank of the Eden, two miles E. by N. of High Hesket. The manor is a mixed one, consisting of freeholders and customary tenants, who do their suit and service at the court held at the castle. It was long possessed by the Skeltons, one of whom represented Cumberland in Parliament in the reign of Edward II. John Skelton, poet laureate to Henry VIII, is supposed to have been a younger brother of this family. "Taking holy orders, he was made rector of Diss, in Norfolk, where he was esteemed far fitter for the stage than for the pulpit." His satires were coarse and ribald, and frequently directed against those of his own order, but especially the Mendicant friars. For his attack on Cardinal Wolsey he was pursued by the officers of that powerful minister, and fled for sanctuary to Westminster Abbey, where he remained under the protection of Bishop Inscip until his death. The manor remained in the possession of this family until 1712, when it was sold by Richard Skelton to William Sanderson, Esq. In 1846 it was purchased from the Trustees of Robert Sanderson Milbourne by the Earl of Lonsdale, to which noble house it still belongs. The castle occupies the site of an ancient fortress upon a rock washed by the river Eden. It is the property of the Earl of Lonsdale, and is now inhabited by a gamekeeper.

The Chapel, dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin, which is situated on an eminence near the castle, is a very rude edifice. It was re-built by Richard Skelton, previous to the year 1688, when it was in a state of great decay, and was used as a shed for cattle. Mr. Skelton also endowed it with £100, which now bears interest; besides, it has lands in Lazonby and Ainstable parishes, purchased with £100, left by Mr. John Brown, in 1763; £100 given by the Countess Dowager Gower; and £200 obtained from Queen Anne's Bounty. The living is a donative, and is in the incumbency of the Rev. John A. Scott.

The School, situated in the village, is attended by about 70 children, and has a small endowment, left by Mr. Baxter. The building was enlarged in 1884, and has now accommodation for 90 pupils. In 1894 a schoolyard was added at the expense of E. Eckroyd, Esq. The Midland Railway passes through the township, and has a very comfortable and convenient station at Armathwaite.

AIKET GATE AND NUNCLOSE together form one township with an area of 1,411 acres, which are assessed for rating purposes at £1,556. The gross estimated rental of the township is £1,839, and population 136.

The Manor of Nunclose was given by William Rufus to the prioress and nuns of Armathwaite. The King granted to its possessors freedom from tolls throughout England, a privilege still possessed though now of little advantage. After the dissolution of religious houses, it was granted by Edward VI. to William Greyme, from whose descendants it passed through several purchasers to the Milbournes, of Armathwaite Castle, and is now the property of the Earl of Lonsdale.

CALTHWAITE township has an area of 1,856 acres, gross rental £3,646, and ratable value £3,444. The population in 1891 was 252. It is intersected by the L. and N.W. Railway. The village is situated on the west side of the Petteril, about seven miles N. by W. of Penrith. The stream is here crossed by a good stone bridge, erected by subscription in 1793, and near is a row of good cottages built by the Railway Company for their employés. A school was erected here in 1852, and rebuilt in 1875. Divine service is held in it every Sunday afternoon. Calthwaite Hall occupies a beautiful situation contiguous to the village, commanding an extensive view of the fells and surrounding country. It was erected about sixty-five years ago, at a cost of'£7,000. The style is that generally known as the Elizabethan, and the material, dressed red freestone from the local quarry. The hall is now the property and residence of J. Harris, Esq., J.P., whose lands here cover nearly 3,000 acres.

ITONFIELD township embraces an area of 3,126 acres; its gross estimated rental is £2,977, and ratable value £2,710. The population in 1891 was 215. It has no village of its own name, but contains the hamlets of Broadfield, Sceughhead, and a portion of the village of Ivegill. Broadfield House and estate, the property and residence of G.H.H. Oliphant-Ferguson, Esq., J.P., is in this township. Monk Castle, formerly a mansion, is now inhabited by a farmer. Near Broadfield is a small mission room, supported by the owner of Broadfield estate, in pursuance of a clause in the will of one of the late owners.

PETTERIL CROOKS is a township covering an area of 3,575 acres, of which the gross rental is £7,194, and the ratable value £6,710. The population in 1891 was 478. It lies along the banks of the Petteril, from which it takes its name, and is chiefly devoted to agriculture. Birkthwaite, Mellguards, Petteril Bank, Sewell Houses, and Southwaite, are hamlets in this division. Although this country has taken a gigantic stride towards universal enlightenment during the last forty years, yet in these out of the way places some of the superstitions of by-gone days still remain, and here in Petteril Crooks may be found persons whose confidence in the potency of charms is as strong as their faith in the Bible. Barrock Park, a pleasant and commodious mansion, has passed through the families of the Skeltons, the dukes of Portland, and the Grahams, and is at present in the hands of the Trustees of W.E.A. James, Esq., the late owner, and occupied by Captain H.B. Rhodes. Whellan, in his History of Cumberland and Westmorland, says, "the mansion was built at three several times. The centre was a yeoman's house, erected by one Skelton." This is the same Richard Skelton who rebuilt the chapel at Armathwaite. The other parts of the building, the north and south fronts, were added by later owners, and the whole fabric now presents a pleasing appearance. It is situated on the verge of a high bank, in the valley through which the Petteril flows, both sides of which are lined with fine old oaks.

PLUMPTON STREET is a thinly populated township, adjoining Plumpton Wall, in Lazonby parish. Although bearing the name of Plumpton Street the township contains neither village nor hamlet, but was thus designated from its position on the great Roman road or street leading to Carlisle. It contains 2,687 acres, of which the gross estimated rental is £5,864, ratable value £5,565, and population 223.

* Bishop Nicholson's MSS.



Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901

19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman