Sebergham

Is a parish in Allerdale-below-Derwent ward and petty sessional division; deanery of Carlisle; union, rural, and county court districts of Wigton; and county council electoral division of Caldbeck. It is bounded on the north and North-west by Dalston and Westward, on the east and north-east by Castle Sowerby, and on the south and west by Caldbeck. Hutchinson says, "if this parish were enclosed, it might, with a particular propriety, be said to be surrounded by a ring fence, its form being nearly circular, and its circumference about 14 miles." It is intersected by the river Caldew, the picturesque banks of which are richly clothed with wood, whilst the Shalkbeck forms its uninterrupted boundary for a considerable distance towards the west and north-west. The soil is of a variable character; approaching the bank of the Caldew it is generally fertile, but along the south and west sides it is rather cold, and but moderately productive. Agriculture is the chief employment. The parish comprises two townships, named respectively High Bound and Low Bound, whose united area is 5,557 acres; gross rental, 5,425; ratable value of land, 3,100; of buildings, 980; and population, 520. Limestone is found in the parish, and was formerly quarried and burned. Coal was also worked on a small scale in Warnell Fell, but the mine has been laid in for many years. It is proposed shortly to restart mining operations, but it is doubtful whether it will be a success or not. The commons were enclosed in 1765.

SEBERGHAM HIGH BOUND covers an area of about 3,723 acres. The village, commonly called Sebergham Church Town, occupies a pleasant situation near the river Caldew, two and a half miles N. by E. of Hesket Newmarket, eight miles S.E. of Wigton, and ten miles S. by W. of Carlisle. Mr. Denton thus accounts for its name: "Sebergham," he says, "is so called from the place where it stands which is a hill or rising ground in the forest of Englewood, which, of the west side, was dry ground or woodland; but the north-east side was a wet spongy earth covered with rushes, which the country people call sieves, and thereupon the place was called Seevy-burgh." This etymology, however, does not satisfy Mr. Hutchinson; "a more simple one," he says, "is obtained by the natural and obvious terms sun and sea, which in this country at least, are (and in distant times were in many others) equivalent to north and south, and berg is the well-known Saxon term for a hill, as ham or hame, also is a place of abode or permanent residence." About the latter end of the reign of Henry II, i.e., about 1188, there lived at the south-west corner of Inglewood Forest, a hermit, called William Wastell, or de la Wastell. There are but few records to be found of his life or manner of living, and it is a matter of mere conjecture as to what induced him to adopt a hermit's life, whether he fled from his enemies after the commission of some crime, or whether, disgusted with the lawlessness of the times, he desired to retire to some remote corner where he might live a life of peaceful retirement, probably the latter. It is recorded of him in the Denton MSS. that "he lived to an extreme old age by the labour of his hands and fruit trees which he planted." At this time this part of the country was a great forest, and the hermit set himself to work at making a clearing, much after the manner that our modern colonists do. It may easily be imagined that as the work of cutting down, &c., progressed, others would associate with him and become his assistants; so sprang up a little colony about the hermit's cell, and thus was founded the village or hamlet of Sebergham. He seems to have had a due regard for the spiritual welfare of his followers, for we are told that he had a chapel "where the church now stands, and a little cell." This small chapel, the origin of the church of Sebergham, was, in all probability, a private chapel used by him, and at which he might assemble at will his dependents for public worship. He is supposed to have died about the end of King John's reign, or at the beginning of that of Henry III, in the odour of sanctity and fulness of years. King John had granted him the land that he had cleared, and thus he became what we should call lord of the manor. At his death he bequeathed this manor to the prior of Carlisle, on condition that the spiritual wants of the inhabitants should be supplied by the inmates of the priory, and until very recently, this manor was held by the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle, but has since been transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, in whose hands it now remains. All that portion of the parish which was formerly common land forms a distinct manor, at present held by the Duke of Devonshire.

Warnell is a mesne manor in this parish, which was once held by Andrew de Hercla. Upon his attainder it was forfeited to the crown, and was subsequently granted to Ralph, Lord Dacre. From this family it passed by exchange to the Dentons; and in 1774, it was sold by John Denton to an ancestor of the present Earl of Lonsdale. It now belongs to the Duke of Devonshire. The demesne contains about 600 acres. Warnell Hall, an Elizabethan mansion much dilapidated, once the manorial residence, is now a farmhouse. Near the west end of it there was formerly a strong square tower, whither the family retired for safety when the Scottish freebooters paid one of their unwelcome visits to the district. Legend tells us that this tower was built by a Scotch nobleman, who had the misfortune to be taken prisoner by one of the Dentons at the battle of Flodden Field, in 1513. The task was imposed upon the canny Scot as the condition of his ransom. The tower was built and he was permitted to return to his native heather. On the high ground near the hall there was a beacon to apprise the inhabitants of their danger on the approach of the enemy, and from this circumstance, the hill, it is said, received the name of Warn-hill. Parson's Park is a small manor belonging to the rector of Caldbeck; and Hartrigg is another formerly possessed by the Dalstons, but now the property of J.P. Fletcher, Esq. The principal landowners are the Duke of Devonshire, the Earl of Lonsdale, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, G. and H.M. Heysham, Joseph Fletcher, J.B. Milner, John L. Sowerby, Robt. Benn, A. McKindley, Jas. Connell, Ed. Bewley, Exors. of J. Barnes, Joseph Banks, Thomas Graham, and Mrs. E. Bainbridge.

The Church. - In fulfilment of the conditions imposed upon the prior by the hermit's bequest, Wastell's small chapel was enlarged or rebuilt, and the place made parochial. This enlargement seems to be the origin of the present church. It was an unpretending looking edifice, consisting of a nave and chancel of the same width, about 25 feet; the length of the whole was 64 feet, and the height 13 feet. Since that time the church has been so often altered that it is almost impossible to trace, in the present structure, the various alterations that have been made. The principal features of what we may call the prior's church are five fine lancet windows in the chancel, one of which is blocked up with cement. Two others were also filled in, in the same manner when the church was repaired 1775; these were, however, re-opened, and are now exposed to view. Two ancient doorways were also discovered, known as the priest's door and the people's door. An old saying which has been handed down in the parish from generation to generation, is that when the priest walked in at one door, "his Satanic Majesty" walked out at the other. The first alteration in, or addition to the prior's church, was a keep or fortified tower built at the west end, the masonry of which has been of the most solid and substantial character, and quite different from that of the other parts of the building. This keep was probably found necessary when the country was overrun with border robbers; it has now been added to the church. It is not improbable that this "keep" was taken into and made part of the church in the year 1775, when the whole edifice underwent thorough repair, and a gallery was erected in the part of the church thus acquired. At this date the church assumed its present proportions, the roof was raised four feet, thus making the height 17 feet, and the length 75 feet. Ten years after this the chancel was repaired, the three-light lancet window at the east end was built up, and in its stead a very mean Tudor one in a wooden frame was inserted. This has since been taken out and the present window re-instated on its ancient lines. It is somewhat curious to. find, from the registers of the parish, that at this date disputes were rife on the subject of pews, very similar to those that are carried on at the present time. In 1706, repairs seem to have been made in the interior of the church; probably some of the pews were altered, and so bitter was the dispute about the possession of them that the Bishop was called upon to settle it. The following item in the register for that year gives the Bishop's decision in the matter:

"Upon view of the Church at Sebergham this day, I do hereby direct that the pulpit be fix'd under the south window in the body of the Church, and that Thomas Granger have the chief seat next to the pulpit, and that M. Watson and Richard Clark remove to the seat on the other side, where Robert Simpson and others now also sit.
18th Oct., 1706.
W. CARLISLE."

From 1785 the church seems to have remained with little if any structural alterations till 1825, when the work of its restoration was again taken in hand; the old pews were removed, and replaced by those at present existing; the old north doorway belonging to the prior's church was blocked up; a tower built at the west end, and the main entrance made under the north side of the tower, and in the latter a fairly good bell was placed. The tower is altogether out of proportion to the church, and has a very mean appearance. It was erected after considerable opposition by the parishioners, and upon the re-opening of the church, after this new addition, the following rhyme was found nailed to the church door:

"The Parson and Miller erected this steeple
Without the consent or goodwill of the people
A tax to collect they tried to impose,
In defiance of right and subversion of laws.
The matter remains in a state of suspension
And likely to be a sad bone of contention;
If concession be made to agree with us all,
Let the tax be applied to build the church wall."

If the parson and the miller were instrumental in restoring the other parts of the church, as no doubt they were, as well as in building the tower, the parishioners ought to have been very grateful to them. The state of the church previous to 1825 must have been very miserable - the pews, in the form of square boxes, facing each other on the north and south sides, with a very uneven mud floor - these pews were now ranged in order, all of them facing the east, and a good stone floor made in the church, and an attempt, though an unsuccessful one, made to heat the church by means of hot air. In this state the church remained until 1878, when it was found that the water lodged behind the rough-cast and extramural monuments, with which the exterior of the church was covered; the walls were fast decaying: and the inside of the church was never dry. This roughcast was removed as well as the monuments; and the old features of the church, as far as possible, restored. The cost of restoration was about 600. It is to be hoped that ere long funds will be forthcoming to allow of further improvements being made in this old and very interesting church; the gallery, which now disfigures the interior, should be removed; the floor paved with wooden block; the seats replaced by open benches, and the south windows enlarged. The interior of the church is rich in mural tablets, the chief in interest being those to the Denton family and the poet Relph.

The Dean and Chapter of Carlisle are the impropriators of the rectory of Sebergham; they also exercise the right of presentation. It does not occur in any of the ancient valuations; in 1739 it was certified to the governor's of Queen Anne's Bounty at 19. On the enclosure of the common an allotment of 36 acres was made to this living; and another similar estate has been purchased with grants received from the Bounty Fund, together with 200 given by John Simpson, Esq., and a handsome contribution from the parish. The living is now worth about 242, and held by the Rev. Robert Vaughan. The payment of tithes in this parish is particularly easy and pleasant, and we might say unique. These payments consist of two moduses - one called the ancient prescription amounts in the whole to 9 1s., and the other is the payment of a fixed quantity of wheat (267 Winchester, equal to 89 Carlisle bushels), as settled by Act of Parliament in 1771. From the Reformation until 1689 there does not appear to have been any resident minister; the Dean and Chapter as impropriators, collected the revenue, and sent one of their own body once a month to perform a little clerical duty.

The new Parsonage-house was erected in 1873, at a cost of 1,750, of which sum 200 was received from Queen Anne's Bounty, and the rest was subscribed by the Bishop, the Church Extension Society, and the parishioners. There is a school in the village, attended by about 40 children.

Sebergham Bridge is a hamlet in this township delightfully situated on both sides of the bridge which here crosses the Caldew, and which was built in 1689, by Alexander Denton, Esq., Justice of the Common Pleas. Bell Bridge, about a mile lower down the river, consists of one lofty arch, erected in 1772 on the site of one swept away by a flood the previous year.

Newlands and Warnell are two other hamlets in this township, the former one mile N.E. of Hesket Newmarket, and the latter one and a half miles W. by N. of Sebergham. At a place called Iron Gill, near Warnell, is a mineral spring, the waters of which are strongly impregnated with iron.

SEBERGHAM LOWBOUND contains the hamlets of Upper and Nether Welton, the former eight, the latter seven miles S. by W. of Carlisle. The area, ratable value, and gross rental are included in the parish returns. The principal landowners are J.B. Wilmer, Mrs. Lee, G.M.W. Heysham, Esq., Carlisle; James Connell, Esq., Isle of Wight; John Steel, Holm Cultram; and H.B. Lonsdale, Carlisle. High Welton, the principal village of the township, is eight miles S. by W. of Carlisle and Nether Welton, part of which lies within the parish of Dalston. In the former village is situated a chapel-of-ease, dedicated to St. James, which is now licensed for marriages. It was erected in 1872, at a cost of about 1,000, upon a site given by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and consists of nave and chancel. The seats in the nave are all of pitchpine, and those in the chancel of oak, as likewise are the pulpit and organ. The village school at Stoney Cross was first built in 1745, and enlarged in 1796. It was rebuilt in 1865 by the landowners and occupiers of Welton and Borrans Hill, and remained under their sole control until transferred to the Sebergham School Board, in 1874. It was enlarged in 1895, and has now accommodation for 100 children; average attendance, 56.

Borrans Hill, the residence of Colonel Archibald Wyberg, is a beautiful mansion occupying a pleasant situation overlooking the banks of the Caldew. Bell Bridge House is the name of a farmstead near Bell Bridge. It was long the residence and property of a family of the name of Bell, from whom both the house and bridge have been named. In 1718 we find it in the occupation of Mrs. Elizabeth Bell, who that year assigned the lease of it to her son-in-law, Captain Thomas Morris, whose widow four years afterwards sold it to the Rev. D. Bell, of Aspatria. Above the door cut in stone is the cognizance of the family, three bells.

BIOGRAPHY. - The Rev. Josiah Relph, "the past'ral bard of Cauda's Vale," was born at Sebergham Church Town, in 1712, of humble but respectable parents. He was educated at Appleby school and Glasgow university, and was many years curate and schoolmaster in his native village; where he inculcated amongst the inhabitants that esteem for learning which, Hutchinson says, "travellers, even of the present day, observe in a people whose ancestors were tutored by Relph." His miscellaneous volume of poems, in the Cumberland dialect, has passed through several editions. He was an inimitable delineator of the "passions and customs operative on low life;" and his description of the innocent loves of the Damons and Cloes of the vale of Sebergham is very accurate. He died, unmarried, in the prime of life (it is said from actual want of the necessaries of life), June 17th, 1743, at the place of his nativity; and lies buried in Sebergham churchyard.

The Rev. Thomas Denton, who was born at Sebergham, in 1724, and received his school education under Mr. Relph, published a number of excellent poems, and edited the supplementary volume to the last edition of the Biographical Dictionary. He died (June, 1777), in the 53rd year of his age, after having been 23 years rector of Halstead, in Surrey.

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Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901


19 June 2015

Steve Bulman