Upper Denton Parish

This parish comprises a small district within Eskdale ward and petty sessional division; electoral division, union, deanery, county court, and rural districts of Brampton. It is bounded on the east by Northumberland, on the south-west by a detached part of Lanercost, and on the west and north by the river Irthing, and contains within its limits only 1,027 acres of land, the ratable value of which is 722, and of the buildings, including railways, 3,140 ; the gross rental is 4,149. The population in 1891 numbered 167. The Newcastle and Carlisle section of the N. E. Railway runs through the parish east to west.

The Manor belonged in the reign of Edward I to one Richard Stonland, by whom it was conveyed to the Witheringtons, in which family it remained for several generations. The next possessors were the Tweedales; it was subsequently conveyed to the Howards, and is now held by the Earl of Carlisle. Besides the lord of the manor, R. Lamb, Esq., Messrs. Milvain, and Messrs. Richardson, are landowners.

The village of Upper Denton is six miles E. of Brampton. The church, which is situated in this village, was restored about twenty years ago. The old fabric was a very humble structure in the Early Norman style, built of stones taken from the Roman Wall, and had undergone very little change during the course of many ages. The living is now a vicarage in the patronage of the Earl of Carlisle, and at present in the incumbency of the Rev. A. Wright, vicar of Gilsland with Over Denton. For ecclesiastical purposes, this parish has been united with the district attached to St. Mary Magdalene, in Gilsland. In early times this church belonged to the priory of Lanercost, to which it was appropriated by Hugh Pudsey, bishop of Durham, to whose diocese it then belonged. The Earl of Carlisle is lay rector and impropriator of the tithes, but the patronage is vested in the present vicar and others. The value of the living is about 50, all of which arises from lands purchased with Queen Anne's Bounty, except a small annual sum paid by the Earl of Carlisle. Near the church is an old pele tower, supposed to have been originally the vicarage house. The old church bell, which was replaced by a new one in 1881, is preserved in the tower as a venerable relic of antiquity. The school, belonging to the Church of England, has accommodation for 118, and an average attendance of 80. Whilst the foundations for the school were being dug out, the workmen came upon the remains of a pavement 14 feet wide, supposed to be part of that, great engineering design, the Roman Wall, which crossed the parish.

Mumps Hall, familiar to every reader of Sir Walter Scott's "Guy Mannering," is a small hamlet in this parish; here lived Margaret Carrick, the original Meg Merrilies of that story. Her tombstone, bearing the following inscription, may be seen in the churchyard:— "Mumps Hall. Here lies the body of Margaret Carrick, ye wife of Tho. Carrick, who departed this life ye 4 of Decem., 1717, in the 100 year of her age;" and close by is the tombstone of her daughter, Margaret Teasdale, who died in 1777, at the age of 98.

In a note appended to the story, Scott says:-

"There is, or rather I should say there was, a little inn, called Mumps Hall - that is, being interpreted, Beggar's Hotel - near to Gilsland, which had not then attained its present fame as a spa. It was a hedge alehouse, where the Border farmers of either country often stopped to refresh themselves and their nags in their way to and from the fairs and trysts in Cumberland, and especially those who came from or went to Scotland, through a barren and lonely district, wthout either road or pathway, emphatically called the Waste of Bewcastle. At the period when the adventures described in the novel are supposed to have taken place, there were many instances of attacks by freebooters on those who travelled this wild district, and Mumps Ha' had a bad reputation for harbouring the banditti who committed such depredations.

"An old and sturdy yeoman, belonging to the Scottish side, by surname an Armstrong or Elliot, but well known by his soubriquet of "Fighting Charlie of Liddesdale," and still remembered for the courage he displayed in the frequent frays which took place on the border some fifty or sixty years since, had the following adventure in the Waste, which suggested the idea of the scene in the text:

"Charlie had been at Stagshaw-bank fair, had sold his sheep or cattle, or whatever he had brought to market, and was on his return to Liddesdale. There were then no country banks where cash could be deposited and bills received instead, which greatly encouraged robbery in that wild country, as the objects of plunder were usually fraught with gold. The robbers had spies at the fair, by means of whom they generally knew whose purse was best stocked, and who took a lonely and desolate road homewards—those, in short, who were best worth robbing and likely to be most easily robbed.

"All this Charlie knew full well, but he had a pair of excellent pistols and a dauntless heart. He stopped at Mumps Ha', notwithstanding the evil character of the place. His horse was accommodated where it might have the necessary rest and feed of corn, and Charlie himself, a dashing fellow, grew gracious with the landlady, a buxom quean, who used all the influence in her power to induce him to stop all night. The landlord was from home, she said, and it was ill passing the waste, as twilight must needs descend on him before he gained the Scottish side, which was reckoned the safest. But Fighting Charlie, though he suffered himself to be detained later than was prudent, did not account Mumps Ha' a safe place to quarter in during the night. He tore himself away, therefore, from Meg's good fare and kind words, and mounted his nag, having first examined his pistols, and tried by the ramrod whether the charge remained in them.

"He proceeded a mile or two at a round trot, when as the waste stretched black before him, apprehensions began to awaken in his mind, partly arising out of Meg's unusual kindness, which he could not help thinking had rather a suspicious appearance. He therefore resolved to re-load his pistols, lest the powder had become damp; but what was his surprise, when he drew the charge, to find neither powder nor ball, while each barrel had been carefully filled with tow, up to the space which the loading had occupied! and, the priming of the weapons being left untouched, nothing but actually drawing and examining the charge could have discovered the inefficiency of his arms till the fatal minute arrived when their services were required. Charlie bestowed a hearty Liddesdale curse on his landlady, and re-loaded his pistols with care and accuracy, having now no doubt that he was to be waylaid and assaulted. He was not far engaged in the Waste, which was then, and is now, traversed only by such routes as are described in the text, when two or three fellows, disguised and variously armed, started from a moss-hag, while, by a glance behind him (for, marching, as the Spaniard says, with his beard on his shoulders, he reconnoitred in every direction), Charlie instantly saw retreat was impossible, as other two stout men appeared behind him at some distance. The Borderer lost not a moment in taking his resolution, and boldly trotted against his enemies in front, who called loudly on him to stand and deliver. Charlie spurred on, and presented his pistol. 'D--n your pistol!' said the foremost robber, whom Charlie to his dying day protested he believed to have been the landlord of Mumps Ha'. 'D--n your pistol! I care not a curse for it.' ' Ay, lad,' said the deep voice of Fighting Charlie, 'but the tow's out now.' He had no occasion to utter another word, as the rogues, surprised at finding a man of undoubted courage well armed instead of being defenceless, took to the moss in every direction, and he passed on his way without further molestation.

"The author has heard this story told by persons who received it from Fighting Charlie himself; he has also heard the Mumps Ha' was afterwards the scene of some other atrocious villany, for which the people of the house suffered. But these are all tales of at least half a century old, and the Waste has now been for many years as safe as any place in the kingdom."

Near the Mains, on the south side of the Irthing, is a spring, which petrifies the moss through which it passes in its course to the river. 

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Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901


19 June 2015

Steve Bulman