This parish is situated in Allerdale-below-Derwent ward and petty sessional division. It forms the basis of a county council electoral division, rural deanery, poor law union, rural district, and county court district. The urban district is co-terminus [sic] with the town, and elects twelve members. The parish lies generally low, but the numerous streams which intersect it carry off all the surface water, and leave a dry and fertile soil. Red freestone is abundant, and is quarried at several places, but neither coal nor limestone has been met with. The civil and ecclesiastical parishes are not co-extensive; the latter contains an area of 12,020 acres, whilst the former extends over only 1,650 acres, of which the gross estimated rental is £13,809 8s.; the ratable value of the land, £1,677; and of the buildings, £9,987 5s. Oulton, Waverton, and Woodside, formerly townships in Wigton, have, according to the Local Government Act of 1894, been constituted distinct parishes for all civil purposes, but for matters ecclesiastical they remain united with the old parish.

The barony of Wigton, which included Wigton, and the townships of Waverton, Blencogo, Dundraw, and Kirkbride, with their appurtenances, was an ancient demesne of Allerdale, until Waldieve, son of Earl Gospatrick, gave it to Odard de Logis, with whose descendants it continued for five generations, till Margaret, the only issue of Sir John de Wigton, carried it in marriage to Sir John Gernon. Shortly after her death it passed to Thomas Lucy, lord of Allerdale, about the reign of Edward III; and in his right the seigniority of Wigton was extinguished, and has since been united to the ancient barony of Allerdale, of which Lord Leconfield owns all the manorial rights and privileges.

Wigton is a small but neat and well-built market town, occupying a pleasant situation on the right bank of the Wiza, 11 miles S.W. by W. from Carlisle, 21 miles N.W by W. from Penrith, 15 miles N.N.E. from Cockermouth, and 306 miles N.N.W. from London.

The Church. - The first church at Wigton is supposed to have been erected by Odard, to whom the district was granted by Waldieve or Waltheof, lord of Allerdale; and the materials used in its construction are said to have been taken from the Roman station of Old Carlisle. Nicolson and Burn, who wrote while the old church was still standing, tells us there are "under the eaves of the north side, both of the church and chancel, several rude antique sculptures, which have occasioned a tradition that these stones were brought from the ruins of Old Carlisle." But Hutchinson, who had evidently seen these "rude sculptures," says they were nothing more than the "gaping heads which are dispersed over almost all the old Gothic churches." There is no doubt that the ruins of the old Roman city have been a veritable quarry, from which the stones used in building Wigton were obtained. In many old walls and old houses may be seen stones, on which the keen eye of the antiquary can detect unmistakeable signs of the Roman chisel. The old church was taken down in 1786, and a handsome edifice erected on the site. It is said to be a copy of one of Sir Christopher Wren's churches. The gallery is supported on columns of the Tuscan order; those on the gallery are Doric, and those in the chancel Ionic. Not only was the workmanship excellent, but special provision was made in the specifications for the selection of the very best materials. In 1881 the church was thoroughly restored and decorated at a cost of £1,320; and about a century ago for little more than that sum (£1,500) the same church was built from foundation to roof. The floor has been laid with White's Prepared Wood Blocks, of which 15,000 were required to cover the entire surface. The blocks are laid in a thick coating of cement, and as all the joints are filled in they present the appearance of solid planks. Each block was subjected to Burnett's patent process for the prevention of dry rot. This portion of the work was entrusted to Messrs. Hampson, of Wigton, and has been executed in a most skilful manner. The organ, which cost £320, was presented by the late George Moore, Esq., in remembrance of his apprenticeship, which was served in Wigton; and a beautiful pictorial window has been inserted by subscription, to the memory of that philanthropist and merchant.

In the church and churchyard are a few old tombstones and tablets, but none reach further back than the 17th century. One to the memory of the Rev. Thomas Warcop, was the work of his own hands, and stood in the churchyard many years before his death, awaiting the addition of the date. It bears the following inscription in verse very un-Miltonian:

"Thos. Warcop prepared this stone,
To mind oft of his best home;
Little but pain and miserie here,
Till wee be carried on our beere;
Out of the grave and earthly dust,
The Lord will raise me up I trust,
To live with Christ eternallie,
Who, mee to save, himself did die.

Obiit Anno MDCLIII.

Mihi est Christus et in vita et in morte lucrem. Phil. I.,21."

A brass tablet on the wall is inscribed as follows:

"A memoriam epitaph for the worthy and loving Colonel Thomas Barwise, who
dyed the 15 day of December, 1648. Ætates suæ 27.

Stay passenger for the bold Barwise lies,
Whose sancted spirit soared above the skyes,
Stout, wise, yet humble, fitted in each part,
The more command, of comelie bodie, pious hart;
Deare to his people, country, kindred deare,
Deare his knowne associates everie where;
Who living, was life's linelie portraiture,
And dying, Colonel lies crowned here."

Another, to the memory of Arthur Glaister, who died in 1748, thus moralizes on life's brief day:-

Attend all You yt (that) here pass by,
As you are now, so once was I;
As I am now, so shall you be,
Prepare for death, and follow me."

Of the ancient history of the church we need say but little. It was given by Margaret de Wigton, a descendant of Odard, the first holder of the barony, to the abbey of Holme Cultram, for the better support of that religious house, after the devastations made by the Scotch in the 14th century; a vicarial stipend of 26 marks of silver to be paid yearly by the abbot and convent, with one messuage and ten acres of arable land in the village of Kirkland, and one acre in Wigton, near the mansion house; and that they might find four chaplains, monks of their own house, to perform divine service in the church of the abbey, and two secular chaplains to officiate in a chantry of the church at Wigton, for the soul of the said Margaret and of her husband John Gernon, and of her ancestors, the right of collation to the vicarage being reserved to the bishop. After the dissolution, Queen Elizabeth, in the 30th year of her reign, granted out the corn tithes of Wigton, Waverton, and Oulton; the rest of the rectorial rights, except tithes of eggs, geese, and apples, were granted out in the reign of James I to the Fletchers, of Hutton. The tithes of pigs and geese, the former belonging to the vicar of Wigton, and the latter to Sir Robert Brisco, have been commuted. The rectorial tithes belonged to Sir Frederick Fletcher Vane, Bart., as impropriator, but he obtained an Act of Parliament to convert them into other property, and sold them to the proprietors of the land. The benefice is a vicarage, valued in the King's Book at £17 19s. 9d., but now worth £371, and in the patronage of the Bishop of Carlisle. Present incumbent, the Rev. J.B. Kayss, M.A.; curate, the Rev. W.B. Sayers.

St. Mary's Parish Rooms, in Hudson Square, erected in 1899, at a cost of £1,800, are a good substantial block of buildings in the Gothic style of architecture.

There appears to have been formerly near Wigton, a hospital, or small monastic foundation, dedicated to St. Leonard, which is supposed to have stood at the place now called Spital; and Kirkland, three-quarters of a mile distant, is said by tradition to have been the site of a chapel belonging to the hospital. The lands connected with it were granted by Edward VI to Thomas Dalston and William Denton.

The Catholic Church is a neat Gothic structure, commenced in 1835 by the Rev. John Dowdal, and completed in 1857, by the late Very Rev. Canon Brown, from the designs of Bonomi. Above the high altar there is a large stained-glass window, designed and executed by the late Mr. Francis Barnett, of Leith; and, as a work of art, its tone, harmony, and style of execution, render it a picture of great worth. In addition to the church and presbytery, a large convent, occupied by the Sisters of Mercy, has been erected in a situation adjoining, and also public Catholic Elementary Schools, the children attending which, are taught by these nuns. The convent and schools are largely indebted for their foundation to the late Miss Anne Aglionby, of Wigton Hall. The present incumbent is the Rev. M.T. Bourke, M.A. The Friends' Meeting House, situated in West Street, is a red freestone building, erected in 1829 upon the site of an older edifice. The Independent Chapel, in Water Street, was built in 1834, at a cost of £1,900, including burial ground and minister's house. The Wesleyan Chapel, High Street, erected in 1883, is an ornate Gothic building, of red freestone, with Fallsbrow dressings, and cost £1,914 9s. 5d., including site. The old chapel in George Street has been sold, and converted into dwelling-houses.

The Nelson School was erected and endowed at a cost of £28,000, out of the sum of £40,000 left by the late Mr. Nelson, of Moor Row, for use in charitable purposes. The school, which has an average attendance of 50 boys, was opened in 1899 by the lord lieutenant of the county. It is a handsome block of buildings of red freestone, in the Domestic style, standing in extensive grounds, laid out for cricket, football, and other sports which tend so much to the physical development of our youth. The school itself contains a fine central hall, several classrooms, and laboratories replete with the most recent requirements of the Science and Art Department. All the floors are laid with maple blocks, and the rooms well-lighted and warmed by a patent system of heating. The headmaster's house close to, is well adapted for the residence of boarders.

The Thomlinson Girls' Grammar School, opened October, 1899, was founded partly out of the trust funds of the old Free Grammar School, by special permission of the Court of Chancery. The site and building known as Westmorland House was purchased, enlarged, and improved at a cost of £3,000.

About a mile west of Wigton is Brookfield Academy, belonging to the Society of Friends, erected in 1826 at a cost, including purchase of land and master's house, of £6,100. The institution was previously at Highmoor. It has several times been altered.and enlarged. A detached nursery was erected in 1876. The institution is supported by subscription, and by the interest of endowments valued at £12,000.

CHARITIES - The Widows' Hospital was founded by the Rev. John Thomlinson, in 1724, for indigent widows of Protestant beneficed clergymen. It was endowed with a yearly rent charge of £45 12s., payable out of land at Haughton, in Northumberland; £6 per annum out of land at Gateshead, in the County of Durham; £6 per annum out of land at Blencogo, and a further sum of £3 10s. out of the latter estate, purchased with £100 left by Mrs. Read of Carlisle, sister of Dr. Thomlinson. The hospital was incorporated by the name of the Governors and sisters of the College of Matrons, or Hospital of Christ in Wigton. Widows of clergymen, in the diocese of Carlisle, and in that part of Cumberland, in the diocese of Chester, also those of the parishes of Rothbury, in Northumberland, and Whickham, in the County of Durham, were eligible to this charity. Widows of clergymen, who had served as curates in either of the above places for two years, were, according to the tenor of the institute, also eligible; but those of beneficed clergymen had the preference. No widow was admitted under 46 years of age. £9 a year was paid to each of the six inmates, and 10s. extra to the eldest, who was appointed governess. The hospital was situated on the north side of the church, and was sufficiently commodious to allow three apartments to each of the six inmates. The trustees of the charity placed it in the hands of the Charity Commissioners, and the premises were sold for £650. The interest of the money is now divided among six poor widows, who each receive about £19 yearly. The trustees are the Vicars of Wigton, Bromfield and Caldbeck, the Rector of Aikton and the chancellor of the diocese. The same benevolent gentleman left a further sum of £50 to be divided among the poor. This, together with a like amount from an unknown donor, is invested in M. and C. debenture stock.

Francis Barwis, by will, dated 1657, gave to the poor of Westward and Wigton, a rent charge, of 40s. yearly, payable out of land at Stankbank, of which sum 10s. is appropriated to Wigton. In 1798, Thomas Thomlinson left the sum of £60 for the benefit of the poor; the interest thereof is distributed by the vicar, according to the donor's intentions. Barnes' Charity - £50 was left by John Barnes, which was to be so invested as to produce 40s. yearly for the poor. Sanderson's Charity - Richard Sanderson, Esq., of Norbury house, Croydon, in the County of Surrey, merchant, and citizen of London, but a native of this neighbourhood, by will, dated September, 1836, bequeathed £5,000, bank stock, three per cent. consolidated annuities, upon trust to the vicar, churchwardens, and overseers, for the time being, after the death of Honor Thompson; the interest thereof to be distributed by them on the 26th of December, in each year, amongst 20 poor persons, of either sex, born and resident in the parish of Wigton, who shall have attained the age of 50 years; each person to receive not less than £5, nor more than £10.

Hodge's Bequest - Mr. Joseph Hodge, manufacturer, of Wigton, who died 27th March, 1846, bequeathed to Messrs. Banks, Henderson, and Banks, £1,500, bearing interest at 3½ per cent., for the education of poor children of the parishes of Wigton and Westward, viz., £900 to the former, and £600 to the latter, and directed the residue, if any, to be given in clothing to poor women. Upon the death of the last survivor, the money is to be placed in the public stocks, funds, or other Government security; and on the death of a trustee, the remainder are to elect one to fill up the number. "The trustees are not to be ministers, curates, or parish clerks, either of the Established Church, or of Dissenters; schoolmasters, or teachers." This bequest was transferred to the Charity Commissioners in 1879, from whom £26 6s. 12d . interest is received by Wigton.

Miss Margaret Pattinson, in 1847, left £20 for the benefit of the Sunday school; and, in 1868, Joseph Studholme, Esq., left £50 for the same purpose. Joseph Rook, Esq., of Rosley house, in 1869, left the sum of £100 to be invested for the benefit of the poor of the town.

Glaister's Charity - The interest of £600, to be distributed on St. Thomas' Day to 20 poor people of the age of 60 years or more, inhabitants of the villages of Lesson Hall and Waver Bridge, and Wigton parish. Relph's Charity - £100 was bequeathed by a donor of the above name, the interest to be distributed annually in food and clothing, on Christmas Day. Walker's Charity - The interest on the sums of £150 and £50 goes to the school, and the interest of £100 is received by the poor of the town of Wigton.

MARKET, TRADE, AND MANUFACTURES. - The Messrs. Lysons, in their History of Cumberland, tell us that "the market of Wigton is by prescription," and that "John de Wigton proved his right to it in the reign of Edward I," but in a survey of the barony taken in 1578, upon the attainder of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, it is stated that a weekly market and a fair of three days were granted by charter, dated at Westminster, the third day of February, in the 46 Henry III (1262). From this document it appears the market day was then as now, Tuesday. After the restoration of Charles II, the scandalous practice of holding the Butcher Market on the Sunday crept into use. The butchers, we are told, hung up carcases at the church door, to attract the notice of customers, as they went into and came out of church, and it was not unusual to see people, who had made their bargains before prayer began, hang their joints of meat on the backs of the seats, until the clergyman had finished the service. The Rev. Thomas Warcop, a pious and zealous minister, who then held the vicarage, after having long but ineffectually endeavoured to make his congregation sensible of the indecency of such practices, undertook a journey to London, on foot, for the purpose of petitioning the King to have the market day established on the Tuesday, and which, it is said, he had interest enough to obtain. The lofty wooden pillar, which so long served the purpose of a Market Cross, was burnt in the huge bonfire which the people, in the exuberance of their joy for the battle of Trafalgar, lighted in the market place. There stands here now a handsome drinking fountain, erected by the late George Moore, Esq., to the memory of his first wife. From a base, seventeen feet square, rises a graceful pyramid of granite, decorated with floral designs in bronze. On the sides of the base are fine bronze castings by Woolner, representing the four "Works of Mercy - 'Visiting the afflicted,' 'clothing the naked,' 'instructing the ignorant,' and 'feeding the hungry.'" The monument is considered to be the finest of the kind in England, and cost £12,000.

A new Market Hall was erected in 1882, and opened on the 21st December of that year. It is situated in Church street, and cost £3,000, including the site. It is largely used for entertainments, etc. Fairs are held on the 20th of February for horses, and on the 5th of April for cattle, merchandise, &c. The former was once one of the largest fairs in the north of England. The hirings for farm servants are held on Whit-Tuesday and Martinmas Tuesday.

The manufactures of Wigton were more varied and important formerly than now. In the 18th century there were made here osnaburghs, tow-cloths, coarse linen, striped checks and ginghams. The making of these, Hutchinson tells us, was a convenient winter employment for a village family, who reared their own flax, and prepared it in every stage, until it was made into cloth or sold as yarn to the manufacturers of Kendal or Lancaster. There are now two tanneries, which form the staple industries of the town.

The Gas Works, in Tenters' Field, were erected in 1831, and rebuilt and enlarged in 1854, at a cost of £3,000. There are two gasometers, having a cubical capacity of 36,000. The works belong to a company of shareholders, of whom a committee of ten have the management. The gas is of fair illuminating power, and is supplied at 4s. 7d. per 1,000 feet.

The Wigton Sewerage Scheme was commenced in 1882, the first sod being cut on the 19th April of that year. The outfall is in the Longtens meadows, about a mile from the town.

The Cemetery, opened in 1856, is pleasantly situated on Station Hill. The ground, which was enlarged in 1894 by an additional five acres, is very tastefully laid out. It is divided into three portions, allotted respectively to the Church of England, the Nonconformists, and the Catholics; but mortuary chapels have been provided for the two former only.

Wigton Poor Law Union is divided into three sub-districts, viz: Abbey Holme, Caldbeck, and Wigton, containing in all the following parishes: Aikton, Allhallows, Allonby, Aspatria and Brayton, Blencogo, Blennerhasset and Kirkland, Boltons, Bowness, Bromfield, Caldbeck, Dundraw, Hayton and Mealo, Holme Abbey, Holme East Waver, Holme Low Ward, Holme St. Cuthbert's, Ireby High and Low, Kirkbampton, Kirkbride, Langrigg and Mealrigg, Oulton, Sebergham, Silloth, Thursby, Torpenhow and Whitrigg, Uldale, Waverton, Westnewton, Westward, Wigton, and Woodside. The total area of the union, including water, sea coast, &c., is 176,529 acres, but the ratable acreage is only 137,646, which are assessed at £179,560. The Workhouse is situated at Station Hill, and is capable of accommodating 250 inmates, but the number in residence here at the present time is only 22 men and 9 women. The cost of maintenance, including clothing, is 3s. 6d. per head weekly. Two vagrant wards, for males and females, were added in 1883. The average weekly number who seek shelter in this department does not exceed 8.

The town is in railway communication with the east and west coasts, and is provided with a Mechanics' Institute and Free Library.

In June, 1866, power was obtained by Act of Parliament to form a company for the purpose of supplying the town with water. The capital was fixed at £6,000, in 600 £10 shares, with borrowing powers to £1,500. The Spring known as the Boiling Spring, on the Bolton Park estate, with an additional supply from the river Waver, was found to be quite adequate for the requirements of the town. The supply is entirely by gravitation, and no filters are used.

Highmoor House, the residence of Edwin Hodge Banks, Esq., stands in the midst of a park of nearly 100 acres, in which may be seen disporting themselves three or four different kinds of deer. The house is in the Italian style, surmounted by a handsome clock tower, in which is a clock by Dent, of London, chiming the quarter hours upon a peal of nine bells. A carillon is also attached to the clock, which plays thirty-six tunes every three hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and sacred music on Sundays.




Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901

19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman