Extends shout five miles along the north bank of the Derwent, and is surrounded on the other sides by the parishes of Bridekirk and Torpenhow. It is divided into the three townships of Blindcrake, Isel and Redmain; Isel Old Park; and Sunderland, whose united areas cover 6,901 acres.
Agriculture is the principal employment of the people, who number in all 432. The parish is comprised within the ward and petty sessional division of Derwent; the deanery of Keswick; the electoral division of Bridekirk; and the poor law union, county court, and rural districts of Cockermouth. The fond hope once cherished by the inhabitants that both coal and copper would be found some day in the parish, is now known by the geological character of the rocks to be fallacious. The cavities, mistaken by Hutchinson for old copper workings are, geologists assure us, fissures or rents in the rocks, produced at some early period by the upheaval of the range of hills, which extends through the parish.
The whole parish forms but one manor, though formerly Redmain possessed distinct manorial privileges. Isel was originally a demesne of Allerdale, but being granted by Alan, to Ranulph de Engayne, it became a dependent manor of the barony. It passed by marriage to the Morvilles, one of whom, Hugh de Morville, was implicated in the murder of Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the reign of Henry II. An heiress conveyed the manor to the Multons, and subsequently it passed to Thomas Leigh. A descendant of the same name, in the reign of Elizabeth, married the lady of the manor of Redmain, and thus united the two. She survived her husband, and by a second marriage with Wilfrid Lawson, knighted by James I, conveyed the united manors to that family, whose descendant, Sir Wilfrid Lawson, is the present lord. About one-third of the parish is demesne land, of the remainder the following are the principal owners:- Col. Green-Thompson, Miss Dodgson, John Pattinson, General Steele, Joseph Allison, and Miss Simpson, Penrith.
The township of Blindcrake, Isel, and Redmain contains about 4,250 acres, which are assessed at £3,484 10s.; and are inhabited by 292 persons. At the commencement of the past century the population amounted to 188; in 1851, it was 370; and in 1883, 325. The soil varies much in different localities, but in general it is better adapted for grass or pasture than for root or cereal crops.
The village of Isel is pleasantly situated on the north bank of the Derwent, 3¼ miles E.N.E. of Cockermouth.
The Church, dedicated to St. Michael, stands in a sequestered spot an the bank of the Derwent. It is a small ancient-looking building, consisting of nave and chancel, with porch and bell turret carrying two bells. The old Norman door and the channel arch of the same style, fix the date of its erection between 1150 and 1200. The church was restored in 1878, at a cost of £1,000, raised by voluntary contributions; but the characteristics of the original design have been scrupulously preserved. During the restoration, a monumental brass was discovered, and is in a good state of preservation, and bears the following inscription:- "Hic jacet Thomas de Sandes, Armiger, qui obiit Quarto decimo die mensis Novembris Anno Dui Millo ccccxv. Cujus anime p'piciet Deus. Amen. (Here lies Thomas de Sands, Knight, who died the 14th of November, 1415. On whose soul may God have mercy. Amen.)" There are also two ancient monuments to members of the Lawson family. The church was formerly possessed of rectorial privileges, but having been appropriated to the Priory of Hexham, it thence became a vicarage, and has so continued. At the Dissolution of Religious Houses by Henry VIII, the church and tithes of Isel fell to the Crown, and were given in 1559 by Queen Elizabeth to Thomas Leigh, Esq., from whom both advowson and tithes have descended with the manor to Sir Wilfrid Lawson. The living was valued in the King's Book at £8 13s. 9d.; but it is now worth about £100, and is in the incumbency of the Rev. Jas. F. Macnabb, M.A. (Camb.) The whole parish, with the exception of Redmain, is tithe free; the commutation took place at the enclosure of the commons (1810), when an allotment of land was made to the church in lieu of that impost. Near the church is an Alms House, founded by the late Miss Mary Wyberg, of Isel Hall, for the support of four poor widows. The appointment of these widows is vested in trustees of whom the vicar is one.
The National School was rebuilt in 1836, at a cost of £120, and again restored in 1873; it has an average attendance of about 50 children. It possesses a small endowment of £6 per annum, the interest of £200, left about the year 1823, by Mr. Cannell, a London merchant. The same gentleman also bequeathed £300 in the three per cents. for the benefit of the poor.
Isel Hall, long the honoured residence of the lords of the manor, occupies a pleasant situation on the north bank of the Derwent. It stands on a slight elevation, from which splendid views east and west along the valley of the Derwent are obtained, whilst on the other side the prospect is bounded by gentle eminences clothed with wood. The hall was evidently built during those troublous times when the gentry of the border counties held both life and property on insecure tenure, and were obliged to reside in their peel castles, the strength of which enabled them to defy the assaults of the enemy. The oldest portion, the strong embattled tower, appears to be of the period of Henry VI, and the remainder of the Elizabethan age. The hall is occupied by Wilfrid Lawson, Esq., J.P., eldest son of Sir Wilfrid Lawson, late M.P.
Blindcrake is an irregularly-built village, 4 miles N.E. of Cockermouth; and Redmain is a small but neat village 3 miles N.E. of the same town. The manor of Redmain was given by one of the early lords of Allerdale to Gisburne Priory; but after the suppression of that house, the Redmain estate was granted to the Curwens of Camerton, by one of whom the tenants were enfranchised for 80 years' purchase. The manor was subsequently sold to Sir Wilfrid Lawson. At a place called Chapel Guards, or Chapel Yard, are the remains of extensive buildings, supposed to be the ruins of some religious house or oratory; and the adjoining land, known as the Trinities, leads to the surmise that the edifice, whether chapel or hospital, was under the invocation of the Holy Trinity. The site of the ancient hall of the Redmains, near the village, is still pointed out by the inhabitants.
The family of Simpson long held possessions and resided in the village, and here were born two of the name, Joseph and Bolton, who became eminent D.D.'s of Oxford, 1780-90. They were both renowned classical scholars, and each gave to the world some learned works in the Greek language, which still retain their reputation.
The Primitive Methodist Chapel was converted out of dwelling-houses in 1894, at a cost of about £120. It has accommodation for about 100 worshippers.
The Reading Room was formed out of two cottages by the Rev. W.H. Sharpe, and opened in 1877. There is a library for the benefit of the members, containing about 300 volumes. The room is also used for religious services of the Established Church. In the wall, adjoining the village pump, is a tablet bearing the following inscription:- "In memoriam, C.L., 1873. As birds drink, and straight lift up their head; so must man sip, and think of better drink he may attain to after he is dead."
ISEL OLD PARK. - This township contains about 1,844 acres, and has a population of 78. The land is poorer than in some parts of the parish, and its cultivation is the sole occupation of the inhabitants. Besides the lord of the manor, Thomas Hartley, Esq., and the Rev. James Frederick Macnabb are landowners of the township.
"The name of this parish, Isell, seems to have been more properly, in former times, written Ishall, or the hall which is nearly surrounded, as an isle, by the waters of the Derwent and by a brook which flows into the river, on the west of the edifice. The word Blendcrake, or Blindcrake, as it is sometimes written, is uncommon in its form. It might be compounded of Bla, an old Icelandic word, signifying a village, and the Teutonic word Crake, a crow. The neighbouring woods have always been remarkable for the immense number of rooks that frequent and build in them." *
SUNDERLAND - The area of this township, exclusive of woods, is about 806 acres, and its population 62. The village is small, but pleasantly situated, about 6 miles N.E. by E. of Cockermouth. The geological features of the parish are of interest to those who delight in unravelling the mysteries of the earth's crust. Its position in the series of strata is between the mountain slate and the coal deposits of Aspatria.
A hill in the parish reminds us by its name of the old English game of archery. Here they were wont to fix their targets and practice the long how until, with unerring aim, they could split the white wand.
Besides the lord of the manor, the following are landowners in this township:- Mrs. Thirlwall, John Gate, Jonathan Harryman, and Mr. Cobham.
* Whellan's History of Cumberland and Westmorland.
Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901
19 June 2015
© Steve Bulman