A civil parish and chapelry, extends along the Cumbrian side of the river Duddon, a distance of about eleven miles, and is comprised within Bootle ward, petty sessional division, poor law union, rural and county court districts; and the deanery of Gosforth. The lower part is very woody, and contains some good land; but the upper part is rocky and barren. The chapelry is thinly populated, there being only 280 inhabitants. The total area, including mountain and common, is 13,092 acres, which are assessed for the county rate at 1,895. The northern part of Ulpha partakes of a decidedly Alpine character, though wanting in those features which are so attractive to the tourist. The mountains are bleak and sombre looking, relieved only by the silvery streaks of the mountain torrents as they dash down the hides of the huge masses. The higher lands are chiefly devoted to sheep farming, but a large part of the chapelry is covered with woods and coppices, which are periodically cut to supply material for the bobbin mills. The most interesting physical feature of the parish is the river Duddon, whose beauties have been wedded to immortal verse by Wordsworth.

The Manor of Ulpha is said to have derived its name from Ulf, son of Evard, whose posterity enjoyed it till the time of Henry III, after which it passed to the Huddlestons, lords of Millom, by whom a portion of land was enclosed for deer, and is still known as Ulpha Park. It continued a demesne of Millom until it was sold by Sir Hedworth Williamson and his wife (heiress of the Huddlestons) to Mr. Singleton, of Drigg. It has since passed through various hands, and is the property of the Earl of Lonsdale, the present lord of the manor. The old hall, now in ruins, is of great antiquity, probably dating from Saxon times, and is supposed to have been the residence of the lords of Ulpha in days long gone by. Near to is Lady's Dub, a hole in the ghyll, where tradition tells us a lady was killed by one of the ravenous wolves that formerly infested this region.

The Chapel of Ulpha, dedicated to St. John, is distant twelve miles north from the mother church, and was certified to the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty as of the annual value of 5, of which 3 6s. 8d. was the ancient chapel salary. It has since been augmented by donations from the same fund, and in 1835 was returned as worth 49 per annum. The registers commence in 1703. When the chapel was consecrated the small tithes of the district were allotted to the minister for his support; or rather a modus in lieu of them, as it is a fixed annual payment from every landowner and tenement on the chapelry. The benefice is a perpetual curacy, now worth 194 nett a year, in the gift of the vicar of Millom, and held by the Rev. Charles Whitaker, B.A. The chapel was restored and re-seated at a cost of 200 in 1882. A Lych gate and new porch were also added, the cost of which was defrayed by Dr. Danson. A carved oak pulpit was presented in 1898 by Mrs. Gunson, of Oak Bank. The piscina may still be seen in the chancel, and the ancient octagonal fort partly built in the south wall.

Wordsworth makes this little church the subject of one of his beautiful sonnets:-

"Kirk of Ulpha to the pilgrim's eye
Is welcome as a star, that doth present
Its shining forehead through the peaceful rent
Of a black cloud diffused o'er half the sky;
Or, as a fruitful palm-tree, towering high
O'er the parched waste beneath an Arab's tent;
Or the Indian tree whose branches, downward bent,
Take root again, a boundless canopy.
How sweet were leisure ! could it yield no more
Than mid that wave-washed churchyard to recline,
From pastoral graves extracting thoughts divine
Or there to pace, and mark the summit's hear
Of distant moonlit mountains faintly shine,
Sooth'd by the unseen river's gentle roar."

The Wesleyans have a place of worship here. Ulpha school was built in 1874.

The village of Ulpha is delightfully situated amid romantic scenery in the vale of Duddon, five miles N. by W. of Broughton-in-Furness, and twelve miles N. by E. of Millom. A Library was founded here in 1897.

Ulpha Kirk is a small hamlet in this chapelry, where old world manners and primitive usages still linger among the inhabitants.

Odd sprinklings of learning are sometimes found in these out-of-the-way places as in Scotland. Some years ago the Plough Inn, now a farmhouse, was kept by Mr. John Gunson, who was a good classical scholar. Some students from St. Bees, on a tour through the district, stayed at the Plough. When they were about to depart they sent in a note to the landlord in Latin requesting him to send in their bill. Mr. Gunson replied by sending it in written in Greek and Hebrew. This was too much for the St. Bees men they were nonplussed, and confessing their ignorance of the two languages, asked for the account in English.

Scattered over the mountains are numerous remains of the Ancient Britons, who probably lived here in security long after the rest of the island had been brought under Roman subjection. These consist of cairns and tumuli, or sepulchral mounds, some of which have been opened and found to contain a rudely formed chamber, enclosing calcined human remains and the horns of stags and other animals.

CHARITIES. - William Danson, of the parish of St. Clement Danes, London, left by will, dated November 17th, 1793, 3 per annum, chargeable upon the Foulds estate, to be distributed among the poor of Ulpha, his native place.

In 1890, the late Joseph Gunson, of Oak Bank, endowed Ulpha school with the sum of 500. The money is invested in Manchester Corporation Stock, and produces 16 yearly.



Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman