Moresby

Covers an area of 2,141 acres, which are assessed at 7,246. It is embraced within Allerdale-above-Derwent ward and petty sessional division; and the deanery, poor law union, rural and county court districts of Whitehaven; and gives name to a division for the election of a member of the county council. The soil in places is rich and fertile, in others cold and sterile. The commons were enclosed about the year 1774, since which time the land has been much improved by careful cultivation. Coal is abundant, and was first won in 1835 by the Earl of Lonsdale, who sank the "Countess" pit in that year, and in 1849 the "Moresby" mine was opened. The Walk Mill pit was sunk in 1879. This parish formerly included Parton within its limits, but that township has, in accordance with the Local Government Act of 1894, been formed into a distinct civil parish, but the two are still united for ecclesiastical matters.

The first recorded possessor of the manor was one Maurice or Morris, who settled here at an early period after the Conquest, and has left his lasting memento behind in the name Mauriceby, Moresby, i.e., Maurice's town or dwelling. The manor continued in the possession of this family until 1499, when Sir Christopher Moresby, the last male heir, died, leaving behind him an only daughter, who conveyed it, upon her marriage, to Sir James Pickering, the representative of a knightly Westmorland family. After two descents, the male line of the Pickerings also became extinct, and their domains were carried by an heiress, to Sir Henry Knevett. From the Knevetts the manor passed by purchase to William Fletcher, Esq., of Cockermouth. In 1720, Moresby was sold under a decree in Chancery, to John Brougham, Esq. , of Scales, by whom it was conveyed, in 1737, to Sir James Lowther, of Whitehaven, ancestor of the present noble owner, the Earl of Lonsdale. The other principal landowners are - J.W. Hartley, Esq., Miss Graham, J. Dalzell, Esq., and W. Burnyeat, Esq.

The village of Howgate is pleasantly situated about 2 miles from Whitehaven, on the Workington road. Many of the houses are of a very superior kind, inhabited chiefly by gentry. Moresby Hall, long the residence of the Fletchers, lords of the manor, is an ancient building, the front of which is said to have been built or rebuilt from the designs of Inigo Jones, the architect of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, London. The style is a combination of Italian and English. During some alterations, "several skeletons, embedded in the floor, were dug up, which, having lain some time exposed to view, were subsequently re-interred in the adjacent cemetery. Of the history of those to whom such mouldering fragments of humanity once belonged, no trace has been fallen upon, as neither relic nor legend was found associated with them that threw any light upon their story. From the mode of sepulture, however - each being enclosed between four stones or slates - it is probable they were the bones of some of the early inhabitants of this country, who terminated their existence ages before the erection of the hall." The shield, charged with the armorial bearings of the Fletchers, which formed an appropriate finish to the principal doorway, having suffered from the effects of time and weather, was removed when the last alterations of the hall were effected; "but a repetition of the same elegant enrichment, smaller and less elegantly adorned, still forms a prominent and interesting fenestral embellishment over the stately centre window of the principal floor." The interior of the hall underwent considerable restoration in 1882. Moresby House is a modern mansion in the village, and Rose Hill is another delightfully situated residence in this township.

Moresby Parks is a village of recent growth, situated at the southern extremity of the parish. Here is Walk Mill Pit, belonging to the Moresby Coal Co., which was sunk in 1879. The output reaches nearly 500 tons per day, and employment is afforded to about 400 hands.

The Church, dedicated to St. Bridget, occupies a conspicuous position on an eminence overlooking the sea, and within the limits of what was once a Roman camp or fort. It is a substantial building without any pretentions to architectural display, and replaced an old one taken down in 1822, but whether this was the original one or only replaced a still older one, cannot now be ascertained. The Gothic arch of the old chancel still remains in the churchyard, indicating the site of the building, on it is a slab bearing the following inscription

"Here lies the remains of
William Fletcher
Henry Fletcher
Henry Fletcher
William Fletcher
Thomas Fletcher."

The Church contains three stained-glass windows representing, respectively, the Holy Child and His Blessed Mother, the Crucifixion, and the Ascension. A new chancel has been added, and the whole fabric thoroughly restored at a cost of 2,008. It is probable that a church was founded here at a very early period by one of the Moresbys, lords of the manor; and this supposition seems to be strengthened by the circumstance that the advowson has always been attached to the manor. The earliest notice of the church is in the valuation of church livings made by order of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291, wherein we find it returned as worth 4 13s. 4d. per annum, a sum insignificantly small now, but no inconsiderable amount in those days, when the best grass fed ox could be bought for 16s., a fat cow for 12s., a sheep for 1s. 2d., a goose for 3d., and a bushel of corn for a penny. A few years later it was recorded as worth "nothing," a state of impecuniosity consequent on the marauding excursions of the Scots into the district. In the reign of Henry VIII the yearly income was worth 6 2s. 3d.; and to the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty it was certified at 22. The tithes have been commuted for a yearly rent charge of 47 3s. 0d. The benefice, styled a rectory, is now worth 170, and is in the gift of Lord Lonsdale. There are no monuments within the church deserving special mention. In the churchyard is an old tombstone, bearing the following inscription, which we give as a specimen of the sepulchral literature of the age:-

"September 17, 1663.
William the Father And Thomas His Son
Sirnamed Brittons lies vnder this stone
Seamen Both And in one ship together
This day lost, next found and brovght Hieer (hither)."

A handsome and substantial rectory has been raised at a cost of 1,700. In 1899 the burial ground was enlarged by the addition of an acre of land, the gift of the Earl of Lonsdale, and consecrated by the Bishop of Barrow.

The Primitive Methodists have a chapel here; it is of corrugated iron, and was constructed in 1886 by public subscription.

The Board School, erected about 1884, has accommodation for 250 pupils, mixed and infants, with an average attendance of 210. The Reading Room was established in 1884. It is supplied with the leading periodicals, and contains two full-sized billiard tables.

The Romans formed at Moresby one of their important stations, and many relics of their occupancy have been found. The western and southern ramparts are still in good preservation. The church and churchyard border upon its western wall, and during the rebuilding of the edifice numerous coins and other articles of Roman fabrication were found. "A sculptured stone, evidently chiselled by Roman hands, lies upon the spot, under the ruined chancel arch of the old church. This important slab, bearing the name of the Emperor in the genitive case, was found in digging for the foundations of the present church. A military way ran along the coast from this station, by way of Maryport, to the extremity of the Roman Wall at Bowness. By this means the defence of the coast could be more perfectly secured. As the distance between Maryport and Bowness is considerable, a small camp was planted at Malbray [sic], which is about midway between the two places. The site of it is now a ploughed field. The station or camp at Moresby is identified, by inscriptions found on the site, with "Morbium" of the Notitia, a place occupied by the cavalry called Equites Cataphractarii."

The following altars, etc., have been found at Moresby, viz. :-

DEO. SILVAN.
COH II. LING.
CVI. PRAEES(T)
G. POMPEIVS. M...
SATVRNIN.
D.M
SMERT
> MAC.
M. COH. II. (?)
(T) HR AC.
Q. STIP
X. VICSIT
XXX. Q.V.

The above are both lost.

IMP. CAES.
TRAIAN. HADRI.
ANI. AVG. P.P.
LEG. XX. VV.
COH. II.
THRAC. FEC
This is at Whitehaven Castle. This is at Lowther Castle.



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Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901


19 June 2015

Steve Bulman