Brougham Parish


Is about five miles in length and from one to three in breadth, and lies at the north-eastern extremity of the West Ward, between the rivers Eden, Eamont, and Lowther, which unite here and bound it on all sides except the south, where it is margined by Clifton, Melkinthorp, and Cliburn. The commons, including Whinfell forest and park, were enclosed and divided upwards of fifty years ago, excepting 900 acres, which have been thickly planted with trees. The soil is generally fertile and in a high state of cultivation. The parish contains about twenty scattered houses, and 249 inhabitants, and the rateable value of its property is £3226. The largest owners of the soil are the Earls of Thanet and Lonsdale, and Lord Brougham.

BROUGHAM CASTLE - This majestic and venerable ruin, stands on the site of the Roman Station, Brovacum, near the confluence of the rivers Lowther and Eamont, three quarters of a mile S.E. of Penrith, and thirteen miles N.W. of Appleby. It is evidently of Norman architecture, and its earliest owner recorded in history was John de Veteripont, but in his time it was called the "house of Brougham," so that probably it was not then castellated. According to the Countess of Pembroke, the greater part of it was built and repaired by Roger de Clifford, who caused a stone to be placed over the inner gateway with the following inscription, "This made Roger;" but its ambiguity gave rise to various conjectures relative to its meaning. Some thought that he referred to the building of the castle, while others thought that he referred to the making of his fortune by his marriage with the wealthy daughter of Robert de Veteripont. "The parts of the castle built by Roger appear to have been the tower, at the south west corner, the rampire1, the chapel, and the western part of the building which faces the Eamont." His descendant of the same name enlarged and beautified it in 1380, but the whole was nearly demolished by the Scots in 1412. Edward IV, on the overthrow of the Lancaster dynasty, and the attainder of the Cliffords, in 1460, gave this with many other castles to Richard Duke of Gloucester, who resided a short time in Penrith castle, and who, by means the most atrocious, obtained the crown, and held Brougham castle till the decisive battle or Bosworth-field. When Henry Clifford was restored to the estate of his ancestors, he found this, and his other castles in Westmorland, much dilapidated, but he soon got them thoroughly repaired. After this, Brougham appears to have been one of the principal residences of that noble house; and we find that James I, on his return from Scotland in 1617, was entertained here three days by Francis, Earl of Cumberland. Soon after this royal visit the castle is supposed to have been much injured by fire, for an inscription records that it was repaired by the Countess Dowager Pembroke, in 1651, "after it had lain ruinous ever since 1617." The countess died here in 1675. The castle has been since neglected, and though every part except the marble room is now roofless and ruinous, it still wears such a majestic aspect, as recalls the mind to the remembrance of its former grandeur and magnificence.

The entrance was by a michiolated2 gateway, with iron gates, and nearly in the centre of the spacious area, within the walls, rises the keep or watch tower, a strong building of excellent masonry. "All the inner apartments are destroyed, except one vault, which we conceive was the dernier retreat for the family in time of assault. The roof of this vault is formed of groin and arches, supported by an octagonal pillar in the centre: the whole is elegantly finished with chisel work, and ornamented with sculptured faces and distorted figures." The inner gateway is also vaulted, but is formed with groined arches. The outward gateway is vaulted with common arches. Each gateway had a portcullis. At the south west angle is a strong tower, the under chambers of which are all destroyed. The remains of the chapel appear near the entrance of the south wall. The length of the chapel was thirty-five feet, its width nineteen, and its height from the floor to the ceiling twenty feet. On its south side is a recess composed of three Gothic arches, in a good state of preservation. The flight of steps, which commence with the level of the chapel and terminate at a low door-way, appear as fresh as if only recently put up. To the east of the chapel are ruins of buildings so destroyed that it is impossible to say of what offices they consisted. Not far from the castle is a lofty pillar, called the Countess's Pillar, erected in 1656, by Anne Countess Dowager of Pembroke, "for a memorial of her last parting in this place with her good and pious mother, Margaret Countess Dowager of Cumberland, the 2nd of April, 1616, in memory, whereof she also left an annuity of four pounds, to be distributed to the poor of the parish of Brougham every second day of April for ever, upon the stone thereby." This pillar is adorned with coats of arms, dials, and other embellishments, and is terminated by a small obelisk. The castle passed through the families of Veteripont and Cliffords to the Tuftons, and is consequently now possessed by the Earl of Thanet, "together with the manor and forest of Oglebird and Whinfell park, with free chace and warren3 thereunto belonging."

The paramount authority of the forest of Oglebird extends over the parishes of Brougham and Clifton, but whence its name is derived does not appear, unless it be from the family of Bird, whose genealogy is traced by Sir Wm. Dugdale, from the reign of Richard II to 1713.

Many coins, altars, and other antiquities have been found near the Roman Station, where the castle stands, and it is said that a town formerly stood here, under the protection of the garrison - a company of Defensores - from which circumstance the Saxons called it Burg-ham, signifying Castle-town. An inscription on an altar found here, in 1602, was read thus by Mr. Horsley: "Imperatori Cęsari Valerio Constantino Pientissimo Augusto;" and another thus - "Deabus Matribus Tramarinis Vexillatio Germanorum pro Salute Reipubicę votum solvit libens merito." The town or village of Brougham was destroyed by the Scots. In one of Mr. Machel's MS. volumes there is the plan of it with the market cross.

In 1333, Edward Baliol, king of Scotland, visited Robert de Clifford, when it is said "they ran a stag by a single greyhound out of Whinfell Park to Redkirk4, in Scotland, and back to this place, where being both spent, the stag leaped over the pales5, but died on the other side, and the greyhound attempting the same leap, fell, and died on the contrary side." The horns of the stag were nailed upon a tree as a memorial of the circumstance, but were clandestinely taken away about the middle of the 17th century. Though the length of the chace outrages all probability6, yet that a stag was killed here after an extraordinary hunt, there can be no doubt. Both the dog and his antagonist live in the following trite old couplet, -

"Hercules killed Hart-a-Greece,
And Hart-a-Greece killed Hercules."

The tree to this day is called Hart's-horn-tree, and the boundary mark of the property, divided between the two daughters of the last Robert de Veteripont, is still called Harts-horn-sike. From the improbable length of the course, it has been presumed that they only ran to the church of St. Ninian, the Scottish saint, and back again, a distance considered far enough for a greyhound to run.

BROUGHAM CHURCH, dedicated to St. Ninian, is a small low edifice, in a lonely situation, on the south bank of the Eamont, within an angular curve of the stream, nearly two miles E. by N. of the castle, and three miles E. of Penrith. It is vulgarly called Ninekirks, and is best known by that name. The benefice is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £16 10s. 7½d., in the patronage of the Earl of Thanet, and incumbency of the Hon. and Rev. Thos. Edwardes, son of an Irish peer.

At the west end of the parish, near the hall, is another church or chapel. It is supposed to be dedicated to St. Wilfred, and was erected for the convenience of the inhabitants who resided far from the parish church. The rectors appear to have formerly performed divine service at each alternately, but the service now performed in the chapel is only for the accommodation of Lord Brougham. These places of worship being in a dilapidated state, were rebuilt by the Countess of Pembroke, in 1658 and 1659, and the chapel has recently been much improved and beautified by Lord Brougham. In the interior of the church are so many splendid monuments to the Brougham and other families, with appropriate inscriptions, that even their enumeration does not come within the limit of this work. The interior of the chapel is exceedingly splended7. The pulpit is very superb. An elaborate parclose screen divides one part from the other. The altar piece, which has been brought from the continent, is of the most gorgeous character. "In an ambery are a collection of old ecclesiastical vessels of silver gilt, with an enamelled procession cross, and a singularly curious pyx," and the old piscina is still remaining.

BROUGHAM HALL8, the seat of Henry Lord Brougham and Vaux, and of his brother William Brougham, Esq., stands upon a beautiful eminence near the castle, one mile and a quarter S.E. of Penrith, commanding extensive views of the fertile vales of the Lowther and Eamont, and, from its elevated situation, has been not inaptly termed "the Windsor of the North." It is a lofty pile, with an embrasured parapet, and has a long front to the west, with a terrace of considerable breadth extending from north to south. The six Gothic windows of the great hall, or principal apartment, are filled with painted and stained glass, of old German manufacture. The dimensions of this magnificent apartment are from forty to fifty feet in length, by twenty in width, and twenty in height, with an oaken roof resting on spandrels, brightened up by gold and brilliant colours, lately renovated. Here are several suits and demi-suits of armour, and various other relies of antiquity, and objects of intense interest. In one of the bedrooms is a ponderous bedstead of carved oak, thickly covered with the heraldries of the Talbots. It came originally from Sheffield castle, and was perhaps once occupied by Mary Queen of Scots. The shrubberies and pleasure grounds are extensive, and are laid out with great taste. In a recess, near a fine spring, there was some years ago, a hermit's cell, a small circular building, covered with thatch, lined with mosses of various kinds, and furnished with matted seats, painted glass windows, with the usual characteristics of a recluse, as the hour-glass, cross and beads, and a scull9, but this has lately been thrown or taken down. On the brink of the Lowther stands a thatched edifice, with two rooms, one of which contains a collection of curious prints, and specimens of natural history, with a gallery, for the convenience of anglers; the other is the residence of a servant. An extensive wood, forming the segment of a circle, covers the bank, which rises gently from the meadows below, to a level with the terrace, and, when in foliage, casts an air of grandeur over the whole scene.

The MANOR OF BROUGHAM was, at an early period, the seat and property of the family de Burgham, or Brougham, the elder branch of which appears to have ended in three daughters, who, in the reigns of Edward I and II, were married to John Godberd, William Crackenthorpe, and Henry Ryden, amongst whom the manor was separated into three divisions. It continued to be held by three distinct families for about 350 years, till it was united in the family of Bird, who were seated at Croglin, as early as the year 1200. They removed to Brougham hall, in the reign of Henry V, when one of them married an heiress of the Ryden, or Redding family. The last of the Birds, of Brougham hall,  or Bird's Nest, as it was then called, was James Bird, who possessed one third of the manor by inheritances and the rest by purchase. He was an eminent lawyer and antiquary, and was for several years steward to the Countess of Pembroke, and afterwards to the Earl of Thanet. Though he had nine sons who arrived at "man's estate," he died without a male heir, and the manor was sold, in 1726, by his three grand daughters, to John Brougham Esq., of Scales, commonly called Commissioner Brougham, for £5000. He thus regained the ancient property of his family, who had removed to Blackhall and Scales, in Cumberland. John Brougham, Esq., was succeeded by his nephew, Henry, grandfather of the present Lord Brougham.

HORNBY HALL, now occupied by a farmer, was long the seat of the Birkbeck family, having been granted in the reign of Edward VI to Edward Birkbeck, Esq., by Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland. It is situated near the church. Mr. Simon Birkbeck, of this place, was an eminent preacher of the 17th century.

WOODSIDE, a small hamlet belonging to Brougham Castle, is situate near the confluence of the Eden and Eamont, two miles N.W. by N. of Temple-Sowerby. Brougham Hall stands in this hamlet, which, in 1422, contained "five messuages, worth nothing yearly beyond reprises10; twenty-four acres of arable land, and nine acres of meadows, worth 6d. per acre.

Henry, Lord Brougham and Vaux, the present owner of the Brougham estate, was born in Edinburgh, about the year 1780. As a barrister he was for many years very popular on the northern circuit, where he shared the employ with Sir James Scarlet, afterwards Lord Abinger, proving himself a mighty counterpoise to the weight of that gentleman's legal knowledge, talent, eloquence, and influence." By his able defence of the persecuted Queen Caroline, he gained the affection of his fellow-subjects "to an extent almost unparalleled, and his resolute attempts to throw open the corrupt arcana of the benevolent institutions of the country are duly appreciated by a discerning public." He is a voluminous author, and many of his works "discover the varied nature of his studies, and how well he has furnished his mind with the diversities of natural and artificial, as well as legal and political, science." He shows, by the productions of his pen, a mind capable of grasping at any subject, however intent upon the matter than the manner, yet his illustrations are very appropriate. He first took his seat in the House of Commons for the borough of Camelford, and made three unsuccessful attempts to become a Knight of the Shire for Westmorland. He was raised to the peerage by William IV, and was for some time Chancellor of England. But of late years
he has been charged with political tergiversation11 to such an extent that his popularity as a statesman is nearly gone.

"In Conrad's form seems little to admire,
Though his dark eyebrow shades a glance of fire;
Yet on the whole, who paus'd to look again,
Saw more than marks the crowd of vulgar men,
And oft perforce his rising lip reveals
The haughtier thought it curbs, but scarce conceals.
There breathe but few whose aspect might defy
The full encounter of his searching eye." - BYRON.


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




1. Rampart
2. A peculiar rendition of machicolated - fitted with holes allowing rocks or liquids (in traditional stories, boiling oil) to be dropped on an attacking force.
3. i.e. to chase game (probably deer) and to keep land for breeding and hunting rabbits or hares (sometimes also gamebirds).
4. Redkirk was a church (long washed away) on the coast near Gretna.
5. pales - fence posts; in local dialect, more usually "palings".
6. A round trip of roughly 50 miles, as the crow flies; significantly longer if the likely route is taken into account.
7. sic.
8. Brougham Hall has had a chequered history; built in early Victorian times, it survived for just over a hundred years, being largely demolished in 1934. The site, which I last visited about 4 years ago, is walled round, and was being excavated and redeveloped, many of the out-buildings being used as small retail outlets.
9. sic.
10. An annual charge.
11. ?

19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman