This is a parish extending westward from Cross Fell about six miles, with a breadth from north to south of about a mile and a half, situated in Leath ward and petty sessional division; the county council electoral division of Edenhall; the poor law union, county court and rural districts of Penrith; and the deanery of Penrith E. It is bounded on the north by Melmerby, on the south and east by Kirkland, and on the west by Addingham. Its superficial extent is about 8,000 acres, but the portion enclosed under tillage does not exceed more than 3,685 acres, of which the gross rental is £3,37; the ratable value of the land, £2,370; and of the buildings, £700.
This part is tolerably fertile, having generally a red marly soil, varied in some places by a light sand. The principal crops are oats, barley, turnips, &c. The rest forms a large common, from which rises Green Fell, to a height of 2,500 feet above the sea-level. It lies between Cross Fell and Hartside Fell, and affords pasturage to large numbers of sheep. Across this Fell the Romans constructed one of their roads, vestiges of which may still be seen in several places. It has descended to us under the perplexing name of the "Maiden Way," and has been more fully described under the parish of Melmerby. In 1801 Ousby contained 253 inhabitants; at the last census the population was 275, most of whom are engaged in agriculture and sheep farming. The land, which has a gentle inclination from the Fell towards the Eden, is often subject to the fierce blasts of the Helm wind. This peculiar aerial phenomenon has been fully described on page 427, to which the reader is referred. The proximity of Ousby to the lead-producing district of Alston Moor led, in the past, to several attempts to: discover veins of that metal, but so insignificant were the "finds " they did not cover the working expenses. At the foot of the Fell is a thin seam of coal, which was worked some years ago.
The Manor of Ousby was held at an early period in moieties by two sisters; it appears subsequently to have been broken up into small parcels, whereof some were given to Lanercost Priory, and others to the prior of St. John of Jerusalem. Many small parcels were sold, and some distributed among the families of Crackenthorpe, Salkeld, Crofton, Beauchamp, and Raughton. The estate has since remained in severalties, but the manorial rights appear to have centred, by purchase or otherwise, in the family of Crackenthorpe, of Newbiggin, Westmorland, and are now held by M. Crackenthorpe, Esq. The other principal landowners are Messrs. Hare, Norfolk; the Whitehaven Banking Co. Ltd.; J. Houghton, Esq.; E.W. Parker, Esq., Carleton; W. Sowerby, Joseph Nicholson, A. Varty, Thomas Westmorland, J.A. Howe, Messrs. J. and J. Braithwaite, and Mrs. Ann Atkinson.
The village of Ousby, or as it has been variously written at different periods, Ulnesby, Ullesby, and Ulfsby, is about nine miles E.N.E. of Penrith, and about 12½ miles S.W. of Alston. If the derivation of the name as given by Mr. Denton be correct, the village can claim a very respectable antiquity. Here he tells us lived Ulf, or Olave, a Dane, who took possession of the district when the county was over-run by his countrymen, in the ninth or tenth century. He was one of the three sons of Haldan; the other two, Melmor and Torquell, settled respectively at Melmerby and Torquelby, near Keswick.
The Church, dedicated to St. Luke, is a plain stone building, restored and almost entirely rebuilt in 1858, chiefly at the cost of the Rev. James Bush, at that time rector. In this restoration the old stone sedelia, in which the priest sat during mass, has been retained, as also has the piscina. In the chancel lies, the effigy of a knight, carved in oak, a material but rarely used in those old days. The figure is now in a very mutilated condition, a state due perhaps as much to the vandalism of an ignorant and fanatical populace as to the unceasing effects of time upon such a perishable substance. By whose lissome fingers it was carved, or whom it was intended to commemorate, no record is left to tell the tale; but from the position of the legs, one over the other to represent a cross, we may conclude that he was some warrior bold, who fought under the Standard of the Cross in the Crusades. A coat of mail indicates his military character; and his hands are raised in the attitude of prayer. Bishop Nicolson records the following tradition of the origin of this statue which is believed to be correct by many people in the district:- "He was," he tells us, "an outlaw who lived at Crewgarth, in this parish, and was killed while he was hunting at a certain place on the neighbouring mountain, which from that accident keeps the name of Baronside to this day. For all great men were anciently called barons in this country." The church was thoroughly restored in 1896 by the present rector, the Rev. Richard Bott. In his possession is an old silver chalice, upon which is the following inscription:- "Ex dono doni Leonardi Milbourne Rectoris hujus ecelesię parochiali de Ulnesbie alias Ousbie per spatium 50 annorum." The registers date from 1663, and show that Leonard Milbourn was buried here in 1672, and held his benefice all through the Commonwealth. The living is a rectory, entered in the Valor of Pope Nicholas (1291) at £11 19s., and in the King's Book at £13 13s.; it is now worth £238. The tithes have been commuted or a yearly modus of £220; besides which there are also 53½ acres of glebe. The patronage is vested in the Bishop of the diocese.
The Rev. Thomas Robinson, B.A., rector of Ousby from 1672 to 1719, is well known to literati by the works he published on the Natural History of Cumberland and Westmorland, and of "This World of Matter and this World of Life."
The small Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, erected in 1838, for the accommodation of 80 worshippers, was superseded in 1872 by a larger and more ornate structure, erected at a cost of £800, and capable of seating 200 persons. The school was erected in 1856 at a cost of about £300, and is attended by about 45 children. It was endowed with 40 acres, at the inclosure of the common., Bradley, Fell Side, and Row, are hamlets in this parish.
In the western part of the parish, at a place called Crewgarth, are the vestiges of what appears to have been a British fort, consisting of an outer and an inner rampart, with a ditch between them, and enclosing a pentagonal area, in which an urn and several fragments of walls have been found. The main road leading to the village of Ousby, passes through the fort, and has probably been constructed upon an ancient British way.
Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901
19 June 2015
© Steve Bulman