Brigham Parish

  > This parish extends about 12 miles in length from north to south, and 9 miles in breadth from east to west; is intersected by the river Cocker, and bounded by the Derwent and Maron1 rivers, the lakes of Bassenthwaite, Buttermere, Crummock, and Loweswater. The soil, which varies from a rich and fertile loam, to a dry gravelly and cold clay earth, is generally very productive, especially about Brigham and towards the banks of the Derwent. All the common lands have been enclosed, and the chief part of the parish is now in a high state of cultivation; and amongst its mineral treasures are coal, limestone, freestone, and blue slate. It contains the ancient Borough and Parochial Chapelry of Cockermouth2, the townships of Brigham and Blindbothel, the chapelry of Buttermere, the township of Eaglesfield, the parochial chapelry of Embleton, the township of Greysouthen, the chapelry of Mosser, the chapelry of Setmurthy, the township of Whinfell, and the parochial chapelry of Lorton, which includes the townships of Brackenthwaite and Lorton, with the chapelry of Wythop.

Lowes Water, a lake about a mile in length and half a mile in breadth, is situated six miles and a half N.N.E. of Ennerdale Bridge. Woods, groves, waving inclosures, with neat farm houses, ornament the view from the end of Mellbreak; but taking the view in an opposite direction, the lake makes a middle distance to a chain of lofty mountains. This lake contains pike, perch, and some trout, but no char.

Crummock Lake is of an oblong form, expanding its pellucid bosom beneath the lofty mountains of Grasmoor and Milbreak3, about three miles in length by three quarters of a mile in breadth, and situated within one mile of the lake of Buttermere, and two miles east of Lowes Water. "It has three or four small islands, but they are placed too near the shore to add much to its beauty. The best general views of the lake are from the rocky point on the eastern side, called the Hause; and from the road between Scale Hill and Lowes Water; and the views of the mountains from the bosom of the lake are excellent." Its fish are char, pike, perch, eel, and trout; and its outlet is at the north-east corner, by the river Cocker. There is a comfortable inn at Scale Hill, between this and Lowes Water lake, and another at Buttermere. The celebrated waterfall of Scale Force is on the south-west side of Crummock, and issues from Flontern tarn4, which serves as a landmark in passing between Buttermere and Ennerdale.

Buttermere Lake5 is situated in a fruitful and luxuriant valley of its own name, encompassed by rocky mountains except on the west, where its stream flows to the Crummock. The lake is a mile and a half long, half a mile broad, and fifteen fathoms deep. The village of Buttermere is pleasantly situated on the eastern borders of the vale, and here lived Mary Robinson, (popularly called the Beauty of Buttermere,) noted for her beauty and her misfortunes." She was the daughter of an innkeeper, and had long lived in this sequestered spot, as contented and happy as virtue and innocence could make her. Her beauty, which required not to be set off by the decoration of art, was the theme of many a shepherd's song; and so unsullied was her reputation that scandal had never ventured to circulate a tale to her dishonour. Such was Mary in 1802, when she had the misfortune to give hew hand and affections to the notorious Hatfield,† an outlaw and a fugitive from justice." The author of a "Fortnight's Rambles" was the means of bringing this inoffensive and amiable female first to public notice, by the following tribute to her beauty :- "Her mother and she were spinning woollen yarn in the back kitchen. On our going into it, the girl flew away as swift as a mountain sheep, and it was not till our return from Scale Force that we could say that we first saw her. She brought in part of our dinner, and seemed to be about fifteen. Her hair was thick and long, of a dark brown, and though unadorned with ringlets, did not seem to want them; her face was a fine oral, with full eyes, and lips as red as vermilion; her cheeks had more of the lily than the rose, and although she had never been out of the village, she had a manner about her which seemed better calculated to set off dress than to adorn her. She was a very Lavinia, seeming

"When unadorned, adorned the most."

Such was Mary's character in 1792, at the age of sixteen. A general respect towards her grew out of her suffering, and in a few years after the foregoing incident she was married to a respectable yeoman, and became the mother of a numerous family. She died in 1834.

Burtness, or Bleaberry Tarn lies on the south-west side of Buttermere, in a recess between High Stile and Red Pike; its stream forms the cataract called Sour Milk Gill.

Brigham township has a pleasant, but irregularly-built village of its own name, 2 miles W. of Cockermouth, commanding a beautiful view of the vale of Derwent, and a great part of the Derwent division. The village contains a neat mansion called Brigham Hill, with a few other good houses, and about half-a-mile west from Cockermouth, is Fitz Cottage, the handsome residence of John Simpson Esq., but the property of H. Senhouse Esq. Here are three freestone and several extensive limestone quarries; and the Cockermouth and Workington Railway, which runs through the township on the south bank of the Derwent, has a station near the church, about half-a-mile from Brigham, and another at Broughton Cross.

The church, dedicated to St. Bridget, is an ancient structure consisting of a nave, chancel, one side aisle, porch, and square tower. It was formerly rectorial, and, in 1644, was presented to by the members of Straindrop College. In 1579, the bishop of Carlisle assumed the patronage; and, in 1618, Sir Richard Fletcher and one Hodgson presented. The earl of Lonsdale is the present patron and impropriator, and pays a stipend of 20 a year to the vicar. The vicarage, which is valued in the king's books at 20 16s. 0d., was returned to the governors of queen Anne's bounty, at 45 15s. 11d., and certified to the ecclesiastical commissioners at 190, but is now worth about 220 per annum. It is in the incumbency of the Rev. John Wordsworth, M.A, who resides at the vicarage, a commodious house near the church, erected in 1847 by the Cockermouth and Workington Railway Company, who purchased the site of the old vicarage house. At the church gate is a Sunday school, built by subscription in 1839, at a cost of 70. The school land allotted at the enclosure of Brigham common, now lets for 2 10s. per annum; and 10s. a year, the interest of 10 left by Francis Brown, in 1770, are distributed to the poor at Easter.

"Brigham, villa ad pontem, was one of the five towns which William Meschines, lord of Copeland, gave to Waldeof, lord of Allerdale, at the Conquest." The latter gave it "to Dolphin, son of Ailward, together with Little Crosby, Applethwaite, and Langrigg, in frank marriage with Matilda, his sister." It was afterwards possessed by Beatrice de Lowther and Thomas de Huthwaite, who gave their part of the rectory to Isabel, countess of Albemarle, then lady paramount of Allerdale. The Huthwaites' moiety passed in marriage to the Swinburns, and the other to the Twinhams; one of the latter of whom endowed a chantry, in Brigham church with his part which, on the dissolution, was granted to the Fletchers, of Moresby, one of whom enfranchised the tenants. "In the 35th of Henry VIII it was found by inquisition, that John Swinburn held a moiety of the king, as of the honour of Cockermouth, by knight's service, 2s. cornage, puture of the sergeants and witnessman with suit of court from three weeks to three weeks." The estates in the manor have long been mostly all freehold, but general Wyndham, as successor to the earl of Egremont, is still lord paramount, and the tenants render suit and service at his honour courts, held at Cockermouth castle, (see Cockermouth.) The rateable value of the township is 3375, and its principal landowners are the earl of Lonsdale, J. S, Dickinson, Esq., J. R. Wilson, Esq., and Messrs. L. and F. Grave. Population, in 1841, 490.

Blindbothel township contains only 1200 acres of freehold land, rated at 864 7s. 4d. and about fourteen scattered houses, bearing different names, 2 miles S. of Cockermouth. The largest owners of the soil are Messrs. Wm. and Isaac Nicholson, and Mr. John Norman, but general Wyndham is lord of the manor. Here is a school endowed with 20 acres of land, now yielding 16 a year, awarded at the enclosure of Blindbothel and Eaglesfield commons, for the education of poor children of both townships. At a place called Green Trees, in Blindbothel township, was born, in 1657, James Dickinson, who was one of the earliest propagators of the doctrines of the Society of Friends in this neighbourhood.

Brackenthwaite township contains 1056 acres of land, rated at 738 13s. 2d, belonging to various owners, many of whom are resident, but general Wyndham is lord of the manor. At Scale Hill, 6 miles S. by E. of Cockermouth, and near the lakes of Loweswater, Crummock, and Buttermere, is a very commodious and delightfully-situated hotel and posting house, where boats are kept for the convenience of tourists visiting the majestic scenery of the neighbourhood. Brackenthwaite "is said by some to derive its name from the brackens or ferns that abound there." It was part of the possessions of the Moresbys, till purchased by Thomas Multon, who took the name of Lucy, in whose family it continued till it passed by the heiress to the Percys, and was given to the crown by the eighth earl of Northumberland. It was afterwards granted to lord Grey, of Wilton, and another, from whom it passed by sale to one Richard Robinson, clerk; and "in the 4th and 5th of Philip and Mary, a license was issued to enable John Robinson to alienate to Thomas Stanley, Esq., and the Stanleys conveyed it to the Fishers;" some of whose descendants still hold estates here. In this township is situated the lofty eminence called Grasmoor, on which fell such a waterspout on the 9th of September, 1760, about midnight, as swept the whole side of the mountain, and charging itself with the rubbish it found there, made its way to the valley below, tearing up trees, soil, and gravel in its course, to a plot of ground, which it covered with so vast a bed of stones, that no human being can ever again restore the soil.' *

Buttermere township and chapelry comprehends the beautiful lake and vale of Buttermere, the lofty cascade called Sour Milk Gill, and some of the most abrupt and rocky precipices, the wildest and most desolate looking mountains in Cumberland. Buttermere village (which contains two inns) is situate between Crummock water and the lake of its own name, in a deep and cracked valley, encompassed with towering heights and pendant rocks; distant about ten miles S.W. of Keswick and S.S.E. of Cockermouth.

The chapel of ease is a small plain building, with a ball turret, rebuilt, in 1841, by the Rev. Vaughan Thomas, of Oxford, at a cost of 300. The old chapel was perhaps the most diminutive in all England, being incapable of receiving more than half-a-dozen families within its walls. The curacy was "certified at 1, paid by contributions of the inhabitants;" and it was also certified, "this chapel and Wythop were served by readers, except that the curate of Lorton officiated there three or four times in the year." The living is now worth about 58 per annum, and is in the patronage of the earl of Lonsdale and incumbency of the Rev. James Matthias Woodmason, who is also incumbent of Wythop chapelry, which is worth about 50 a year. The tithes of Buttermere have been commuted for a yearly rent charge of 30. This township, with the lakes, is held of general Wyndham, as part of the manor of Derwent Fells, and contained only 84 inhabitants, in 1841. Some of the labourers here are employed in the blue slate quarries, on the rugged mountain called Honister Crag, which forms the south bank of the narrow vale of Gatesgarthdale. "The area of this valley is, in general, concave; the sides almost perpendicular, composed of a kind of broken craggy rock, the ruins of which everywhere strew the valley, and give it still more the image of desolation. The river also which runs through it and is the principal supply of the lake, is as wild as the valley itself." The vale of Buttermere, which extends many miles below the lake, is a wide variegated scene, full of rising and falling grounds, woody in many parts; well inhabited in some; fruitful and luxuriant in all. In the cheerful and healthy looks of the inhabitants, we meet new proofs of the narrow limits in which all the real wants of life are comprised,

To our notice of the "Beauty of Buttermere," we may add, that upon her story were produced several dramas and melodramas, in the London theatres, and, for many years after, numbers of tourists crowded to the scene of her brief romance; though so "little visited previously that it might be described almost as an undiscovered chamber of that romantic district." Beautiful, in any emphatic sense, it is said, she was not; everything about her face and bust being negative; simply without offence. It is also stated that the expression of her countenance was often disagreeable, but that this arose from her dependant situation, connected as it was with a defective sensibility and a misdirected pride.

"Here glitt'ring Crummock sleeps below,
There Buttermere encircled lies,
Where other murmuring riv'lets flow,
And other vapours rise;
Just glance across that glassy deep
With fresh made circles spangled o,er;
How bending willows guard its sleep,
And decorate its lively shore.

And who would think that vice could live
'Mid scenes of beauty such as these,
Where admiration ought to give
Delight and virtue - joy and ease;
Yet here alas ! e'en vice hath trod,
And made the tender heart to wail;
For Hatfield came with blighting rod,
And smote the "beauty of the Vale."

* Mr. Gilpin.

† This impostor married the beauty of Buttermere in 1802, and was executed at Carlisle the year following. He paid his addresses to poor Mary under the assumed name of the Honourable Colonel Hope. He possessed considerable talent, was well acquainted with the world; and having a penetrative mind, could discern with great acuteness the peculiar features that form the character of individuals - qualifications which, under the guidance of virtue and honour, might have raised him to an important station in society.


Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847




1. The river Maron is now the Marron.
2. Cockermouth, which is in this parish, has been given a separate entry.
3. Milbreak (sic.) - Mellbreak.
4. Flontern Tarn - now Floutern Tarn, but this isn't the source of Scale Beck.
5. The descriptions of the lakes, and the story of the Beauty of Buttermere (but not the paragraph beginning "To our notice of the "Beauty of Buttermere," we may add," are interpolated from other sections of the book. A full account of the Beauty of Buttermere, and the trial and execution of John Hatfield, are available here.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman