Lies between the river Calder on the north, and the parish of Gosforth on the south, stretching in that direction about 1½ miles, and from east to west about 3½ miles. It is very thinly populated, the 2,426 acres which it comprises containing only 166 persons. Its ratable value is given as £1,999. The prevailing soil is a rich mould, except near the sea, where a strong clay prevails. Freestone is abundant, but neither coal nor iron is found here, though plentiful in the neighbouring parishes. Since the latter end of last century the parish has been extensively planted with trees, and now there are about 100 acres of woodland. The common is now all enclosed. The parish contains no dependent townships, but is divided into two constablewicks, Ponsonby and Calder. Ponsonby is included in Allerdale-above-Derwent ward and petty sessional division; the deanery and electoral division of Gosforth ; and the poor law union, rural and county court district of Whitehaven.
This Manor received its name from its early possessors, the Ponsons, and thence became Ponsonby or Ponson's town. In 1388 it was conveyed by purchase to Nicholas Stanleigh, lord of Austhwaite, in which family it has since remained. The present owner, William Stanley, Esq., resides at Southwaite Hill, Carlisle. The Earls of Derby and the Stanleys of Ponsonby, Hooton, and Alderley are branches of one family, each tracing their descent back to William de Stanleigh, of Stanleigh, in Staffordshire, from which they have taken their surname of Stanley. The family has invariably played a conspicuous part both in the civil and military history of our country. It was a Stanley who, picking up the crown after it had fallen from the head of Richard III at the battle of Bosworth, placed it upon the head of the Earl of Richmond, crying aloud "Long live Henry II" and the same family have been immortalised by Scott in the memorable couplet
"On, Stanley on !
The Cumberland branch has been settled here for about five centuries, during which time the domain has descended from father to son in unbroken succession.
Ponsonby Hall, the seat of William Barrow Turner, Esq., J.P., D.L., is situated in the midst of a large and beautiful park. It stands on an eminence, from which extensive prospects both by sea and land are obtained. The hall was erected in 1780 by the grandfather of the present proprietor, and is remarkable for the elegance and convenience of its apartments. In the hall are preserved many relics of bygone days; among these may be mentioned a curious old oak bedstead, brought from Dalegarth Hall, bearing the date 1345. The pillars are massive and curiously and richly carved, and each cornice is decorated with a shield charged with the arms of Stanley, quartered with those of Austhwaite. The apartments contain many valuable paintings, including six on copper by Holbein. Extensive alterations were made in 1892, when a new wing was added and the building re-roofed and generally improved. The hall is lighted by electricity. The gardens and pleasure grounds covering about seven acres, are laid out with great taste, and are especially rich in natural beauty. The river Calder runs through thickly wooded and steep banks; among which many winding paths form delightful walks. The sylvan character of the scenery was much improved about 115 years ago by George Ed. Stanley, Esq., who planted trees to the number of one hundred thousand.
The following are the principal landowners - William Stanley, Esq., J.P., D.L. (lord of the manor), Isaac Taylor Dixon, Jeremiah Gunson, J. Watson Mosses, Mrs. Bragg, and J. Murray.
The Church, of unknown dedication, is a beautiful stone structure, restored in 1874 at a cost of £1,800, raised by subscription. The west tower and spire were erected in 1840 at the expense of Mr. Stanley. The east window is of stained glass, and emblazoned with the arms of the Stanleys, Briggs, and Huttons. Several mural monuments commemorate various members of the Stanley family who have been buried here. The east window is a three-light one of stained glass, representing in the centre the Nativity and Crucifixion, with Saints Peter and Paul and Saints John and Barnabas at the sides. The west window is a memorial to Adah Turner, who died December 11th, 1893. It also is of coloured glass, and depicts Faith and Charity. The ancient piscina is still preserved in the chancel; also all ancient brass in memory of Frances Patrickson, daughter of Sir Thomas Whyet, Knight, one of the most Honourable Pryve Council to King Henry VIII. She died July 13th, 1578. The church of Ponsonby was given to Conishead Priory by John Fitz-Ponson, who lived in the reign of Henry II (1154-1199). To whom the church was granted when the canons of Conishead were, by the royal fiat, expelled from the priory, and their lands seized by the king, has not been recorded. The living was certified to the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty as worth £9 2s., of which £6 was paid by the impropriator; £3 given by William Cleator, M.D., for monthly sermons; and 2s. surplice money. In 1717 the same William Cleator gave the interest of £100 to the minister for preaching twelve sermons every year, till the impropriation should be restored to the church, and thenceforth to be applied to the support of a school in the parish; but part of this sum was lost, together with another sum given by the Stanleys. In 1789 the income was £22, besides the surplice fees, viz., £6 given by the impropriator. It has since been augmented with £1,000 from Queen Anne's Bounty, given at various times in sums of £200, and two other benefactions of £200 each given in the years 1790-92, making a total of £1,400, with the Nun-house estate, in Dent, Yorkshire, and the Green Moorside estate, in St. Bridget Beckermet, were purchased, the former for £200 in 1744, and the latter for £1,200 in 1793. In 1835 the living was stated to be worth £113 ; in 1881 it was returned at £81. Nearly 200 acres of the parish are tithe free, and the tithes of the remainder were commuted in 1846 for a yearly rent-charge of £19 0s. 1d., but this is now only worth £3 10s. The benefice is a vicarage in the impropriation and patronage of William Stanley, Esq., and held since 1877 by the Rev. Charles Blomfield. There is no school in the parish; the children attend Calder Bridge and Gosforth Schools.
The parish contains only about 25 houses, the greater number of which are in the hamlet of Calder. On Infell, a hill in this parish, are vestiges of an encampment, supposed to be Roman, but neither inscription nor other evidence has been found to corroborate the supposition.
Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901
19 June 2015
© Steve Bulman