This is a parish in Allerdale below Derwent ward and petty sessional division; union, deanery, county court and rural districts of Wigton; and county council electoral division of Caldbeck. It is bounded on the north by Boltons; on the west by Torpenhow; on the south by Bassenthwaite; and on the east by Caldbeck and Uldale. The south-east part of the parish is high, and the soil a light red loam; on the other side the soil is also loamy, rising of a strong clay, and well adapted for the growth of wheat, barley, oats, etc. Limestone is abundant, and both grey freestone and coal are also found. The only stream is the Ellen, which is crossed by several bridges. The parish is divided into the two townships of High Ireby and Low Ireby, which together contain 3,923 acres, and have a population according to the Ordnance Survey of 390.
LOW IREBY township comprises 1,190 acres, assessed at £1,956. The manor of Low Ireby was at an early period possessed by a family of its own name; and afterwards by the families of Tilliol, Colvil, Musgrave, and Ballantine; from the latter it came to the Dykes of Dovenby, and is now the property of Mrs. Dykes. The other principal landowners are - A.E. Burdon, Cramlington, Northumberland; E.H. Railton, Snittlegarth; and the resident yeomen.
Ireby, anciently a market town, is still a considerable village, situated on the west side of the river Ellen, in the township of Low Ireby, seven miles S.W. of Wigton, and 16 miles S.W.S. [sic] from Carlisle. Its market charter was granted in the year 1237 to William de Ireby, empowering him to hold a market on Thursday, and a three days' fair at the festival of St. Matthew. This market appears to have drawn so large an amount of trade from Cockermouth that the inhabitants were much impoverished by it, and the town likely to be ruined by its continuance. Thus we read in an inquisition taken in 1578 that "Cuthbert Musgrave, Esq., hath in like manner erected a market at Ireby, with two fairs in the year, taking toll and stollage, and other like duties there, the which, if it should continue is very like greatly to decay his lordship's said market at Cockermouth, and utterly impoverish the inhabitants of the said town, which thing is to be reformed, for as much as the said town of Ireby is within his lordship's barony or seigniory of Allerdale." Two hundred years ago, Ireby market was well supplied with all kinds of grain, which Mr. Denton, writing in 1688, tells us, was sold at a larger measure and at a cheaper rate than any market in the north. The market has long been obsolete; but two fairs are still held annually, on February 21st, for horses and cattle, and October 18th, for sheep. The ancient Market Cross, after lying in ruins for nearly a century, was restored by H. Grainger, Esq.
The Church, dedicated to St. James, is a neat Gothic structure, built in 1845-6, at a cost of £500, of which sum £100 was subscribed by H. Grainger, Esq. It contains a beautiful stained-glass window, consisting of upwards of 5,000 pieces, the gift of the above gentleman. There are 264 sittings in the church, all of which are free, except one reserved to Mr. John Stoddart, the representative of Mr. W. Railton, who gave the site on which the present structure is built. The font of the old church and a monumental stone taken from the wall, commemorating John de Ireby, who died about 1245, and his wife, are preserved here. The church was restored and re-decorated in 1897, at a cost of about £150, and a new memorial window added by the Grainger family in memory of their father and mother, who were formerly the owners of the High Ireby Grange estate. Both the founder and date of the original edifice are lost in the mists of antiquity. A church must, however, have stood here at an early period after the Conquest, for we find that Alan, the second lord of Allerdale, gave it to the prior and convent of Carlisle, a grant which was afterwards confirmed by Henry II and Edward III. The Dean and Chapter of Carlisle, as successors to the prior and convent, have, since the dissolution of religious houses, exercised the patronage. The benefice has been augmented by several grants from Queen Anne's Bounty, with which land and a parsonage house were purchased. The living is now worth about £220 a year, and is held by the Rev. James Joseph Burrows, B.A. and S.C.L., Oxford, who built the vicarage, a commodious residence near the church, in 1880, at a cost of about £1,500. The chancel is all that remains of the old church. It was restored in 1844, at a cost of over £300, and is now used as a mortuary chapel. There are some very interesting early Norman windows in the east end. In the "Resurrection days," this church was often visited by parties in search of bodies. Glasgow and Edinburgh would most likely be the centres supplied.
The Wesleyans have a small chapel in the village, erected by subscription in 1870.
The School, built in 1880, at a cost of £1,095, raised by voluntary subscriptions, consists of one large room, and class-room, with accommodation for about 180 children, and an average attendance of 84. In 1726, Matthew Caldbeck founded the school, and endowed it with £100, the interest of which was to provide education for 14 poor children. All the scholars are now free, and the interest (£14) is used towards the maintenance of the school. The old building has been sold and converted into the Oddfellows' Hall, a branch of the society having been established in the village.
Ellenside House, the property of Robert Holder, Esq., occupies a pleasant situation on the banks of the river from which it takes its name.
HIGH IREBY - This township contains 2,733 acres, and is assessed at £1,752. The district is entirely agricultural. The manor of Higher Ireby was given by Alan, second lord of Allerdale, to Gospatrick, son of Orme, who thence styled himself Orme de Ireby. The name became extinct about the commencement of the fifteenth century, and the manor became the property of the Barwis family, one of whom - Anthony Barwis, Esq., held it in 1578, by homage, fealty, and suit of court, and paid for it yearly, for cornage and sea-wake, 4d. It was purchased from this family by an ancestor of Sir H.R. Vane, Bart., the present proprietor. Ruthwaite is another manor in this township, the manorial privileges, of which also belong to Sir H.R Vane. Other landowners are Miss Agnes Gough, Whitefield House, and Oxford; and John Boustead, Esq., Craven Street, London. This was long the residence of John Peel, yeoman, whose hunting proclivities were well known throughout the whole north country. He was the subject of the popular hunting song, "D'ye ken John Peel ?" The famous old Nimrod went to his rest on the 13th of November, 1854, and the gifted author of the song, Mr. Grave, has also joined the great majority. The son of John Peel, who also bore the same Christian name, died in 1887 at the ripe age of 90 years.
Whitefield House, the principal mansion in the parish, is the property and residence of Miss Gough. It is delightfully situated in a fruitful valley, about two miles from the base of Skiddaw. The estate has been much improved during recent years by an extensive planting of trees.
The Grange is another neat mansion, the residence of Joseph Edmund Carter Wood, Esq.
Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901
19 June 2015
© Steve Bulman