Watermillock

Comprises about 7,035 acres, and stretches northward from the shores of Ullswater to the township of Hutton John, and Dacre Parish; 4,250 acres of common were enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1829, when a sixteenth share was allotted to the lord of the manor, who is now H.C. Howard, Esq. The following are also landowners - W.H. Marshall, Esq., Patterdale Hall; William Castlehow, Esq., O.G. Rumney, Esq., W.J. Irving, Esq., G.B. Foster, Esq., the Misses Hudson, Messrs. Hutchinson, George Donaldson, Joseph Stout, Benjamin Stout, John Miles, and other resident yeomen. The gross rental is £3,530; and ratable value, £4,971. The parish, which is beautifully situated on the northern shore of Ullswater Lake, is comprised within Leath ward, and petty sessional division; the deanery, poor law union, rural and county court districts of Penrith; and the county council electoral division of Greystoke.

The Church, dedicated to All Saints', is a pretty stone structure, erected on the site of the old chapel in 1881, from plans drawn by C.J. Ferguson, Esq., architect, of Carlisle. The church consists of a tower at the west end (the only portion of the old building raised in 1558, which has been used in the present structure), nave, chancel, and vestry. The chancel was erected at the sole expense of Mrs. Pritchard, in memory of her deceased husband, who held the incumbency till his death in 1880. The timber of the roof, the seats, and all the internal fittings are of solid oak, plain and substantial. An elegant font of polished Shap granite, which graces the porch, was the gift of the late Mrs. Le Grix White, of Leaming House. The total cost of rebuilding, including the chancel, was £2,050, a sum which the subscriptions more than covered. The east window, of stained glass representing the Crucifixion, was inserted by Mrs. Pritchard, in 1886. Another coloured window is to the memory of the Hon. Evelyn Mary Farrar placed there by her sisters, the Misses Spring Rice, in 1898. A new bell was hung in 1897, in memory of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The ancient burial ground, owing to its greatly over-crowded condition, was at the same time enlarged to more than double the former area. The new church was opened for Divine service January 6th, 1882, at which time also the additional burying space was consecrated by the Bishop of Carlisle. On a tombstone in the churchyard is the following quaint inscription, now almost obliterated:

"Walk softly by and cast an eye
Holy grass on me doth grow,
Be sure my friend, thy time will end,
Like me thou must lie low.

Robert Dowthaite buried June 1740 aged 74."

The incumbency is endowed with a house and 23 acres of land, also a farm of 70 acres, and a prescriptive payment of £6 11s. 4d., out of which £2 belongs to the rector of Greystoke, who is the patron of the living, which is now worth £180 per annum. The present incumbent is the Rev. T. Hackworth, B.A., who was inducted in 1893.

Of the ancient history of the church little has been recorded. A chapel stood on the margin of the lake as early as the reign of Edward III, but it was not possessed of parochial privileges until it was rebuilt by Bishop Oglethorpe, in 1558, at which time Watermillock was constituted a chapelry, and the new edifice was called New Kirk. The date of the removal from the shores of the lake to the present site is unknown. A rather amusing anecdote, which happened about 1669, is related of New Kirk. Priest's Crag, close to the church, was anciently well wooded, and on Sundays was a common resort for the country people for hunting, nutting, etc., to the great annoyance of the congregation, whom the noise disturbed at prayer. This roused the pious wrath of the minister, who accordingly one Sunday reproved and threatened the people in these words:- "O ye wicked of Watermillock, and ye perverse of New Kirk, ye go a-hunting, a-nutting, and a-rowing on the Sabbath day; but, on my soul, if you go any more I'll go with you." The Bishop, with the assent of the Duke of Norfolk, ordered the wood to be cut down.

There has been here, time out of mind, the Charity Commissioners tell us, a small school-stock of £101, the interest of which has been applied for the purposes of education. This sum has been increased from time to time by contributions, donations, and bequests, so that the endowment is now £825. The present school was erected in 1860, on a site presented by Mr. Marshall, M.P. It is attended by thirty or forty boys.

There is also a Girls' School situated near the church, built by the late John Marshall, Esq., in 1832, and endowed with £500 in 1847, by his wife, the late Mrs. Jane Marshall, of Hallsteads. It was further endowed, in 1858, by Miss Pollard, of Old Church, with £155. It is attended by about twenty-five girls.

There is a small wooden building used as a Wesleyan Chapel in the parish.

Dr. Joseph Brown, provost of Queen's College, Oxford, was born here in 1700, and James Clarke, the author of the "Survey of the Lakes," published in 1787, first saw the light of day at High House, in this parish. Bordering Watermillock on the south, and separating Cumberland from Westmorland, is Ullswater, a lake which has been compared to that most exquisitely beautiful of the world's lakes - Lucerne, in Switzerland. It is supposed to have received its name from Ulphus, the Saxon owner of Greystoke, Ulf's Water, whose broad acres probably extended to the shores of the lake. It is nine miles in length, by somewhat less than one in breadth - a narrowness that would detract much from its beauty were it not for its winding shape. Its average depth is from 20 to 30 fathoms. In point of size Ullswater ranks second among the English lakes, but it divides the honours with Derwentwater for the title of Queen. The position of the mountains gives the lake the form of an irregular Z, thus dividing it into three portions locally termed reaches. The country about its foot is rather tame, but its head is situated amongst some of the most majestic mountains, whose sides are embellished with a variety of native wood and rocky scenery. The first reach, commencing at the foot of the lake, is terminated on the left by Hallin Fell, which stretches outward to a promontory, from the opposite side, called Skelly Neb, upon which stands Hallsteads; the middle and longest reach is closed in by Birk Fell on the left, and on the right Stybarrow Crag, far away above which "the dark brow of the mighty Helvellyn" rises into thin air; the little island called House Holm, spots the water exactly at the termination at this section of the lake. The highest reach is the smallest and narrowest, but the mingled grandeur and beauty which surround it are beyond the power of the liveliest imagination to depict. Four or five islands dimple the surface, and by their diminutive size impress more deeply upon the beholder the vastness of the hills which tower above them; whilst Stybarrow Crag, and other offshoots from Helvellyn on one side, Birk Fell, and Place Fell on the other, springing from the lake's margin, almost at one bound, shut in this paradise. At the opposite end, Dunmallet, a wooded hill, stands like the guardian president of the lake. Saddleback seems to brave the heavens with its many pointed tops, and in some views appears the king of the mountains with a crown upon its head. A grand view of the lower reach of the water is obtained from Eusemere, near Pooley Bridge, and also of the mountains in Martindale, Glenridden, and Hallin Fell, which, by their aŽrial recedings, appear more like enchantment than reality.

In common with other lakes, situated amidst mountains, there is a replication of any loud sound that may be made. If a gun be discharged at Watermillock a loud reiterated noise like thunder follows, and two French horns produce the effect of a sweet concert. The sound of a gun will continue for twenty seconds, the distant mountains returning the report one after another, so that when it seems to have ceased, it is in a few seconds again repeated. This wonderful effect is still more striking on the lake near Hallin Fell, where the astounded ear would fancy "the whole chaos of rocks tumbling to the centre."

The lake abounds with large and excellent trout; a few char may also be found in it, while in autumn a great quantity of eels are taken in the river Eamont below Pooley Bridge as they migrate from the lake. Great shoals of a peculiar kind of fish called skelly formerly disported themselves beneath its clear waters, but of late years they have almost become extinct, owing, it is thought, to the poisonous water from the Greenside Lead Mines being especially fatal to that species. A short time ago an attempt was made by John Bush, Esq., of Beauthorn, and Major Parkin, of Ravencragg, to restore this fish. Some thousands of fry were put into the lake, but whether they will thrive or not time will show.

Skirting the margin of the lake and within the parish of Watermillock is Gowbarrow Park, covering upwards of a thousand acres, and once filled with a profusion of sylvan scenery. The park has lost much of its ancient beauty, and is now but the "grace of forest charms decayed," still innumerable sylvan groups of great beauty remain, round which herds of deer may be seen quietly feeding. The park is the property of H.C. Howard, Esq., to whose father it was devised by the Duke of Norfolk. In the park stands Lyulph's Tower, a castellated building, erected by a former Duke as a shooting box. It is said to occupy the site of an earlier tower, erected by Lyulph, the first Baron of Greystoke. Near the tower is Aira Force, one of the most beautiful cascades in the lake district. The water rushes through a narrow rocky dell almost hidden from view by over-arching trees. Two wooden bridges are thrown from bank to bank, one above the other, below the fall. "Huge rocks in every variety of form hem in the stream, here in a state of foaming agitation, there a dark pool, whilst the over-arching trees and shrubs exclude the glare of day, and cast a solemnity of beauty over the scene which, without exception, is one of the finest in the lake district." Legend has also lent its pathetic charm to the glen, upon which Wordsworth founded his poem of the "Somnambulist;"

"List, ye who pass by Lyulph's Tower
At eve; how softly then
Doth Aira Force, that torrent hoarse,
Speak from the woody glen !
Fit music for a solemn vale !
And holier seems the ground
To him, who catches on the gale,
The spirit of a mournful tale
Embodied in the sound."

This "mournful tale" told briefly is to the following effect:- In a castle which occupies the site of Lyulph's Tower, there dwelt in days long passed away, a fair demoiselle, the wooed of many suitors. Sir Eglamore, the knight of her choice, was in duty bound to prove his knightly worth by seeking and accomplishing deeds of high emprise in distant lands. He sailed to other shores, and month after month passed away without bringing tidings of him. The love-sick maid fell into a state of despondency; by night and by day the image of her absent lover haunted her bewildered brain, and often in the unconsciousness of sleep would she wend her way to the holly bower by Aira's stream, where she parted from her lover. At length Sir Eglamore returned without apprising anyone, and when, approaching the castle by night, the vision of Emma met his eye,

"Soul-shattered was the Knight, nor knew
If Emma's ghost it were,
Or boding shade, or if the maid
Her very self stood there."

He went up and touched her, when she suddenly awoke with the shock, and fell shrieking into the stream below. The knight plunged in and rescued her, but only to receive her dying expression of belief in his constancy. Within the narrow glen where the melancholy event occurred he built a cell, and there shutting himself out from the world he spent the remainder of his life in solitude and prayer.

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Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901


19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman