Beetham Parish


Is bounded on the west and south by Lancashire, and the sands of Morecambe Bay, and on all other sides by the parishes of Burton, Heversham, and Kendal. It is a large mountainous and romantic district, on the south western extremity of the county, intersected by the rivers Kent and Belo1, with several minor streams, and is divided into four townships and one chapelry, viz., Beetham, Farleton, Haverbrack, Meathop and Ulpha, and the chapelry of Witherslack.

BEETHAM township has a neat and well built village lying in the romantic vale of the Belo, one mile and a half S. of Milnthorp2, on the road leading from Lancaster to Ulverston. This road was formed about the year 1820, and is here carried over the river near the roaring cataract at Beetham mill. The rock3 crosses the river and is sixteen feet in perpendicular height, down which the liquid element, after heavy rains, tumbles "with a mighty noise," but in dry weather the water is nearly all diverted to the paper and corn mills on the opposite shore. The river, in old records, is called Betha, and has evidently given name to the village, whose beauty it considerably enhances. In 1311, Thomas de Betham obtained a charter from Edward II for a weekly market to be held here, but it has long been obsolete.

The church, which stands in the township of Haverbrack, on the margin of the river Belo, is dedicated either to St. Leoth or St. Michael, but to which has not been ascertained4. It is an antique Gothic edifice, consisting of nave, chancel, and side aisles, with a tower, in which are three bells, and is surrounded by sylvan and other scenery, well calculated to inspire devotional sentiments. In the interior are several neat monuments, well worthy of inspection, one of which was raised in 1845, in memory of the Rev. Joseph Thexton, the late vicar, who erected the new vicarage house, and made other improvements here during his incumbency. There is an ancient monument to the Betham or Middleton family, besides which the Smith, Wilson, and other families have monuments here, with inscriptions. The benefice is a vicarage in the patronage of the crown, and the incumbent is presented by the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. It is valued in the king's books at £13 7s. 6d., and was only certified to the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty at £13 6s. 8d. In 1777, the revenue of the vicarage amounted to £49, but is now worth about £100 a year, "arising from £13 paid out of the rectory; £4 10s. out of the small tithes; the rent of three enclosures at Kellet, purchased by Mrs. Dorothy Wilson, in 1707; an estate at Priest Hutton, purchased with £200 obtained from Queen Anne's Bounty; £100 given in 1722, by Edward Colston; £100 given by James French; and £60 by the Rev. James Smith, and an estate at Yelland, purchased in 1731, with £200, given by Eliz. Palmer, and £200 obtained from Queen Anne's Bounty." The rectory and advowson of this church was given by Ivo de Talebois to the abbey of St. Mary, York, and after the dissolution of the monasteries continued in the crown till 1612, when James I granted the rectory to Sir Francis Ducket, of Grayrigg, reserving the ancient fee farm rent of £25 and the yearly payment of £13 to the vicar. The great tithes were afterwards sold by his descendants to various proprietors, and the small tithes were purchased, in 1756, for the use of the vicar, "but as the whole crown rent of £25 is now settled on them, he only derives from them about £4 10s. yearly." The present incumbent in the Rev. William Hutton, M.A. The tithes have recently been commuted for a yearly rent charge.

About one hundred yards from the church there formerly stood a chapel dedicated to St. John, near to which place many human bones have been found. Where the bones were dug up is now converted into a garden, but there can be no doubt that it was once used as a cemetery. Some eighty years ago, a mole cast up an amber bead here, nearly as large as a shilling, on one side of which was a representation of the crucifixion of our Saviour, with the letters J.N.R.J., being the initials of the words "Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judæorum," which were written on the cross of our Redeemer by the order of Pilate. On the right of the crucifix was a crescent, and on the left a rising sun. At the bottom was represented the Blessed Virgin Mary, in a weeping attitude; and on the reverse a lamb, with the standard of St. Andrew's cross. The bead, which was of an oval shape, had a hole through it, and had probably been worn suspended round the neck of some pious Catholic, in order to bring more vividly before his mind, the passion and death of his beloved Redeemer.

BEETHAM GRAMMAR SCHOOL was built out of the parish stock in the year 1663, and rebuilt in 1827. It has been endowed with bequests amounting to about £37 a year, arising from 26A. 1R. 37P. of land, awarded in 1815, at the enclosure of the commons, the interest of £245, and £200 given about eighteen years ago, by John Yeates Thexton, Esq., with a few other small endowments. It is free for reading to all the children of the parish, and is now very efficiently conducted by Mr. Thomas Bond, who
also takes a few boarders.

The manor of Beetham is of the Richmond fee, but at the conquest was possessed with the rest of the parish, by Tosti, Earl of Northumberland, and at the time of the Domesday Survey, belonged to Roger of Poictou, under whom it was held by Eruvin, the priest, "Nunc habet Rogerus Pictaviensis et Eruvin presbyter sub eo." - Domesday. It was afterwards held by a family of its own name, one of whom is Thomas de Betham, who was several times knight of the shire for Westmorland, and who died in A.D. 1314. It was afterwards carried in marriage to the Middletons, the last of whom on record is Sir George Middleton, who was knighted by Charles I. Lord Clifford sold this manor in 1767, with the demesne called Cappleside, to Daniel Wilson, Esq., of Dallam Tower, for £2560, whose descendant, George Wilson, Esq., is the present owner. He holds a court leet and baron and view of frankpledge here, yearly, within a month of Michaelmas. Arbitrary fines and heriots are paid on the death of lord or tenant, but many of the estates have been enfranchised. Cappleside had anciently a hall, "containing in front, including the two wings, 117 feet," and appertained to the chapel, already noticed.

BEETHAM HALL, or, as Leland5, who visited this place in the reign of Henry VIII, calls it, castle, stands in an area seventy yards long and forty broad, enclosed by a wall three and a half feet thick, with loop holes for the archers at proper distances, being about three feet from the ground, two and half feet in height and breadth, sloping out to three and a half inches. The front of the house was eighty-seven feet in length, but a great part of it has long been in ruins. The hall was thirty-nine feet long and thirty-five wide, and its windows had "much Gothic work about them." At the foot of the southern descent from the "castle is a good spring, which supplies two large
ponds with water," and Camden says that another spring near the ruins of the park lodge, is of a petrifying quality. Beetham Hall is now occupied as a farm house.

About one mile and a half south of Beetham are the ruins of Helslack Tower6, within one mile of which is Arnside Tower, also in ruins. These towers appear to have been erected to guard the bay of Morecambe, as there are on the opposite shores vestiges of Broughton and Bazin Towers, eastward from which the peat mosses of "Melthop, Ulva and Foulshaw" were inaccessable.

The township of Beetham extends along the south side of the mouth of the Kent, to the headland called Arnside Point, beyond which the river is navigable for small vessels to the hamlet of Storth, which is in this township, two miles S. by W. of Milnthorp. Hale, another hamlet, one mile and a half S., and Whasset, another, two miles S.W. of Milnthorp, are also in Beetham township, as are likewise Arnside, Helslack, and Slackhead7.

"Beetham sands are well adapted for bathing, and though there is only water sufficient for this healthy recreation, during three or four of the highest tides in each fortnight, several visitors come hither in summer, the air being remarkably salubrious, and the scenery in the neighbourhood beautifully diversified.8" Near the village is Beetham house, the handsome villa of Wm. Hutton, Esq., and near it is Elmfield house, the seat of W. Cottom, Esq.

Ash meadow, the seat of Jas. Dickson, Esq., occupies a pleasant situation at the foot of Arnside Knot, and commands an extensive view of the Sandy bay, "covered one hour with ships, and another with carriages and pedestrians." Though many of the trees are within a few yards of high water mark, they are extremely luxuriant. Beetham house9, the seat of Wm. Hutton, Esq., and Ashton house, the seat of J.Y. Thexton, Esq., are also pleasant mansions in this township.

FARLETON township has a pleasant village in a vale on the east side of the canal, three miles east of Milnthorp. It also includes the two small hamlets of Akebank10 and Overthwaite, and contains 1175A. 3R. 18P., rated at £1403 15s. 0½d., mostly the property of Wm. Hutton, Esq., Rev. Geo. Cartmel, and Messrs. Wm. Cartmel, and John Atkinson.

Farleton Knot11, which rises in towering majesty above the village, is a lofty scar of limestone rock, commanding extensive views, and on its summit are seven springs, with several musical stones, possessing, it is said, all the richness of the piano-forte. The tone is best produced by striking gently upon the stones with six wooden mallets, and the music may be executed by three performers, one playing the melody, another an inner part, and the third the fundamental bass. On this lofty eminence a beacon was sustained during the Scottish irruptions.

The manor, which was anciently part of the manor of Beetham, was sold to the tenants by Sir Richard Hutton, in 1693, and now pays only a free rent of 24s. per annum to the Earl of Derby, as lord paramount. At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, there were some lands in Farleton belonging to Shap abbey.

HAVERBRACK township contains the parish church and part of the village of Beetham, and has a hamlet of its own name, half a mile north west. Dallam Tower, the seat of George Wilson, Esq., is situated in this township, near the confluence of the Kent and Belo. The original edifice was erected by William Thornburgh, Esq., out of the ruins of an old tower which formerly stood here, and from which circumstance the building has its name. The present elegant mansion was erected in 1720, by Daniel Wilson, Esq., but has been much enlarged, improved, and ornamented by his successors. The park was planted about the same time, and has now a grove of fine old oaks, and abounds with deer. In the turn of the river, near the mansion, is Dallam Wheel, where there was formerly a strong eddy, in which three brothers were drowned whilst bathing; one of them being first drawn into the circling water, the others also perished by endeavouring to save him. The manor of Haverbrack was given at an early date to Conishead priory12, and in 1546, was granted by Henry VIII to William Thornburgh, Esq., to hold of the king in capite by the twentieth part of a knight's fee, and the yearly rent of 18s. 3d. He died in 1610, and the manor was subsequently purchased by three adventurers, who expected to find here a lead mine. It was soon afterwards sold to Henry Parker, whose successor, Edward Parker, Esq., sold it to Edward Wilson, Esq., an ancestor of its present owner, George Wilson, Esq., who receives arbitrary fines from such tenants as have not enfranchised their estates. Daniel Wilson, who built the present mansion, was member of parliament for Westmorland, nearly forty years, and is represented as a man of the strictest honor and integrity. The present proprietor, whose name was George Smyth, Esq., son of J. Smyth, Esq., of Heath hall, Yorkshire, having married the heiress of Dallam Tower, assumed the name of Wilson, and succeeded to the estates in 1824. George Edward Wilson, Esq., of Heversham, is his son and heir apparent. At Helslack, in this township, is a school supported solely by Mr. Wilson.

MEATHOP AND ULPHA13 are two hamlets, forming a joint township in Witherslack chapelry, and lying on the north side of the estuary of the Kent, distant from three to four miles W. by S. of Milnthorp.

WITHERSLACK township and chapelry is separated into two divisions, called east and west sides, by a long and lofty scar, broken in some places like a fortress, and contains a number of dispersed dwellings, with the hamlets of Witherslack, Foulshaw, Low Wood, and Town End, distant from two and a half to five miles N.W. of Milnthorp. Here is also another remarkable range of rocks, called Whitbarrow Scar, the summit of which affords an extensive and romantic view of the surrounding country. The largest owners of the soil are George Wilson, Esq., of Dallam Tower, the Earl of Derby, and Mr. John Barrow Thornborrow.

The chapel, dedicated to St. Paul, is a neat edifice, with a square tower, and three bells. It was erected by Dr. John Barwick,* Dean of St. Paul's, who, in 1664, bequeathed the impropriate rectory of Lazonby, in Cumberland, for that purpose, and also for allowing a curate, who should teach the children of the chapelry gratis, the sum of £26, (now £76) together with £4 a year for the repairs of the chapel, 40s. yearly to the vicar of Lazonby, and £10 a year for binding poor boys apprentices, or marrying deserving poor maids within the chapelry. To this bequest his brother, Peter Barwick, M.D., ordinary14 to Charles II, added the demesne and hall of Hareskeugh, near Kirkoswold15 in Cumberland. But these allowances which were then worth little more than £40 a year, having been greatly augmented, in consequence of the increased value of property, now produce upwards of £400 per annum, and the trustees have been enabled to procure at different times augmentations to the chapel from Queen Anne's Bounty, and to give dowries with deserving brides amounting sometimes to £30 or £40 each. In 1749 and 1759, it received two augmentations from Queen Anne's Bounty amounting to £400, to meet a subscription to the same amount contributed by the trustees of Dr. Barwick, the executors of Commissary Stratford, and the Rev. John Hunter, who was then curate and schoolmaster. The whole £800 was soon after invested in property, so that instead of £26 the curate now receives £76 per annum. In addition to the boys' school, founded by Dr. Barwick, the trustees, in 1824, erected a girls' school, which is now conducted by Mrs. Simpson, and the boys' school is taught by Mr. Joseph Felton.

The interior of the chapel is handsomely fitted up, and the burial ground is very remarkable for the number and beauty of yew trees, with which it is margined. At the east end of the chapel is a white marble monument in memory of Dr. Barwick, bearing the following Latin inscription

Reverendus admodum et primævæ pietatis vir,
Qui post operam indefesso studio navatam.
Afflictiones infracto animo toleratas,
Res tandem, licit summe arduas, feliciter gestas,
Pro collapso regni et ecclesiæ statu,
Ad curam et dignitatem Decanatus,
Primo Dunelmensis, deinde Paulini,
Merito evectus,
Hanc ædem
In Dei honorem et suorum gratiam
Structam et donatam voluit,
Et bonorum residuum egenis legavit,
A.D. 1668.

The living is a curacy now worth about £95 a year, in the patronage of the trustees of Dr. Barwick's charity, and incumbency of the Rev. Thomas Marshall Postlethwaite.

The Simpson's Ground Estate, in Cartmel parish, which was purchased in 1755, now yields £15 yearly to the poor of Witherslack.

"About a mile from the chapel is Holy Well, where a spring of laxative and purging chalybeate water was discovered in, 1656," but it has long since lost its sanative properties.

Witherslack manor, which comprehends the whole chapelry, belonged anciently to the De Harringtons, or Haveringtons, but on the attainder of James Harrington, it was granted by Henry VII to Sir Thomas Broughton, of Broughton Tower, in Lancashire, who was also attainted of high treason, and the estate was again escheated to the crown. It was afterwards granted by the same king to Thomas, Lord Stanley, first Earl of Derby, to whose descendant, the present earl, it still belongs, though it was many years withheld by the Leybourns and Withams, the hall and demesne having been seized by Oliver Cromwell, who conveyed them to John Leybourne, Esq., of Cunswick, for £130. The earl holds his manor court yearly at the Derby Arms, on the second Tuesday after Trinity.

The hall, which is now occupied by Mr. Wm. Dodd, farmer, was once inhabited by the Leybourns, and had then a park well stocked with deer. Near to it is an extensive wood, between the scar and the rivulet which divides Westmorland from Lancashire, opposite Cartmel fells. "The fishery in the river Belo belongs to the Earl of Derby, Mrs. Howard, and George Wilson, Esq., the two last claiming16 from St. John's Cross, upon the sands, up to another cross of the same name above Beetham Bridge."

* John Barwick, D.D., successively Dean of Durham and St. Paul's, was born at Witherslack, in 1612. He was a stanch17 royalist, during the civil wars, in the reign of Charles I, and was committed to the tower by the parliament, for carrying on a secret correspondence between the king and queen. Mr. Walker, in his "Sufferings of the Clergy," says, that in his prison he was subjected to the most inhuman and barbarous treatment, being only fed with bread and water for several years, "which however," says the same writer, "had an effect contrary to that which his persecutors expected, as it conduced in a striking manner to the recovery of his health," which had been previously much impaired. After the restoration he was offered a bishopric, which he refused. He died in 1664, having written during his active life, only a few pieces, amongst which are "The Fight, Victory, and Triumph of St. Paul," and the "Life of Dr. Morton, Bishop of Durham." His brother, Peter Barwick, M.D., was also born here, and previous to his death, in 1705, he wrote in elegant Latin the life of his brother.


Mannix & Co., History, Topography and Directory of Westmorland, 1851




1. Now Bela.
2. Now Milnthorpe.
3. Can anyone with local knowledge clarify what this means ?
Added February 2004 - Paul Lyncombe has advised that this refers to a natural waterfall at the site of Beetham Mill, the rock having an artificial dam added to it to hold back water for the mill. He says 16 feet is about right for the whole height.
4. Pevsner says St. Michael.
5. John Leland (1503 - 1552).
6. This is probably what is now called Hazelslack Tower, but it's W.S.W. from Beetham, not south.
7. Whasset is only about half a mile from Milnthorpe, and S.E. rather than S.W. Helslack is probably now Hazelslack, and Slackhead is now Slack Head.
8. I heartily agree - the whole area is well-wooded and thoroughly charming.
9. This has already been mentioned in the preceding paragraph.
10. Now Aikbank.
11. Now Farleton Fell.
12. Near Ulverston.
13. Not to be confused with another Ulpha, north of Broughton-in-Furness.
14. This should perhaps be read as "physician ordinary".
15. These are properly Haresceugh and Kirkoswald.
16. i.e. claiming exclusive fishing rights.
17. sic.

19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman