Formerly a chapelry and township in Greystoke, is now a separate parish both civilly and ecclesiastically. It covers an area of 7,225 acres, and is comprised within Leath ward and petty sessional division; the rural deanery of Penrith, W.; the county council electoral division of Greystoke; and the poor law union, rural and county court districts of Penrith. The gross estimated rental is £2,539; the ratable value of the land, £1,401; and of the buildings, £801. The hamlets of Matterdale End, Wallthwaite, Dockray, and Dowthwaite Head are included within the limits of the parish.
The Manor, a dependant of the barony of Greystoke, is encompassed by lofty mountains, the highest of which is High Dodd, whose summit is nearly on a level with Skiddaw. The sides of these hills afford excellent pasturage for sheep, and the peat moss which covers their summits supplies the inhabitants with cheap fuel. Wester Mell Fell is another of these hills, somewhat conical in shape, and commanding an extensive prospect, including the Scottish mountains and a part of Yorkshire and Cheshire. Two centuries ago, Andrew Hudleston, Esq., lord of the manor of Hutton John, sought to rob the inhabitants of Matterdale of their right of pasture upon the slopes of this hill; the people energetically resisted his pretensions; a protracted law-suit resulted, which terminated in 1690, when a decree was obtained confirming the right of pasture. "The inhabitants are said to have expended one-half of their estates in defending their title to the pasturage; and there is a tradition that a person who was zealous about the matter walked on foot from Matterdale to London in three days, in a pair of wooden-clog-shod boots." The manorial rights are now held by H.C. Howard, Esq., to whom the landowners pay annually for each tenement 8s., and 2s. 6d. to the vicar. The principal landowners are James Hudson, Esq., Penrith; James Harrington, Esq., Sowerby; J.E. Brownrigg; I. Bennett, Liscow; James M. Moorsom, Esq., P. Gilbanks, Esq., William Dobson, Thomas Dobson, and Thomas Wilkinson.
The Church is a plain building erected in 1685, to which a small tower was added about thirty-six years ago. It was further improved in 1881 by the re-arrangement of the seats, the addition of a new stained glass pictorial window, and the substitution of new choir seats, at a cost of £160. Matterdale was made parochial in 1580, by Bishop Meye, with the consent of the rector of Greystoke, but "without prejudice to him or his successors, in right to tithes or other ecclesiastical dues." Thus were the interests of the rector jealously guarded; and the parishioners had, for the privilege thus granted them, to contribute as heretofore, tithes and dues to Greystoke, and to maintain "at their own charge a proper minister, provide him with a suitable dwelling, and to keep the chapel in repair." The benefice is now a vicarage in the. patronage of the rector of Greystoke, and is at present held by the Rev. R.V. Nanson, LL.B. A few years ago H. Howard, Esq., the late lord of the manor, contributed the handsome sum of £1,200 towards the improvement of the vicarage house, and the augmentation of the living, which is now worth £126.
CHARITIES - In 1716, the Hon. H.O. Howard gave one and a half acres of land, on which in 1722, the Rev. R. Grisdale erected a school, and endowed it with the interest of £200. This sum was further increased in 1819 by a legacy from Thomas Clarke. The school is attended by about 40 children. In 1832, Jonathan Murray, Esq., of Matterdale, bequeathed to trustees £1,000, the yearly proceeds thereof to be paid as follows:- £2 to the minister for preaching an annual sermon to aged people, and £2 for another sermon to young people; £10 to be distributed yearly to the poor, in meat and other necessaries; and the residue to be applied to the use of the school. The poor have also about £4 distributed yearly amongst them from various other bequests.
Matterdale is one of the few places in Cumberland in which the curious custom of "bidding and laiting " is still practised. Perhaps a few words of explanation here, might not be out of place. Upon the death of a resident in one of the parts in which this ancient usage is observed a certain number of the immediate neighbours go as a duty to prepare the corpse for burial. When all is ready comes the "bidding," that is, the asking personally at every house, within a certain distance, of the inmates, to the funeral. This custom is very generally followed in this district.
Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901
19 June 2015
© Steve Bulman