Crosby Ravensworth Parish


Is generally a fertile and open district, except at its southern extremity, which forms part of the wild and mountainous township of Birkbeck Fells. It is nearly six miles in length and three in breadth, and is bounded by the parishes of Shap, Orton, Appleby St. Lawrence, and Morland. It contains an abundance of limestone, and is divided into the four townships of Crosby-Ravensworth, Mauld's Meaburn, Reagill, and Birkbeck Fells, and its population in 1841 amounted to 909 souls. The value of its lands and buildings, in 1845, was £7313, and its rateable value is £6466 6s. 3d.

CROSBY-RAVENSWORTH village is situated near the source of the Lyvennet rivulet, four miles E. by N. of Shap1, and five miles S.W. of Appleby. The term Crosby, from the Latin crux, a cross, and by, a town or village, is the primitive denomination of several places, but it is invariably followed by some distinctive appellation. It is probable that it originated from the circumstance of crosses being generally erected in commemoration of the visit of some distinguished preacher of the christian religion to those places. Historians inform us that St. Paulinus baptized 12,000 individuals in one day, in the river Swale, and if he visited the town of Penrith, as several writers are of opinion, it would seem likely that he might come up by Crosby-Ravensworth, and Crosby-Garret, and preach in those places on his way to Swaledale. His presence at Dewsbury is attested by a cross, and at Whalley there are three crosses, to which tradition has with one voice assigned the office of commemorating the same event. The distinctive appellation - Ravensworth, was in ancient times frequently written Ravenswath, and sometimes Ravensthwaite, but whether it had its name from the Danish standard, Raffen, or from its being formerly the resort of ravens, or from the situation of the place, has not been ascertained. The word thwaite, which signifies a level ground inclosed with hills and wood, may be appropriately enough applied to this secluded valley. Rateable value, £2050 16s. 6½d. The soil belongs to various proprietors, many of whom are resident yeomen.

The church, dedicated to St. Lawrence or St. Leonard, is a handsome fabric, "rebuilt between the years 1809 and 1816, chiefly at the expense of the following gentlemen, who gave the sums attached to their names, viz., William Dent, Esq., £500; Thomas Wilkinson, Esq., £250; John Dent., Esq., £150; William Thwaites, Esq., £100; and Robert Burra, Esq., £50, all of London. In addition to these liberal donations, the Earl of Lonsdale, being the impropriator, gave the oak timber, and rebuilt the chancel and the north aisle or porch, the latter of which belongs to the manorial mansion, an ancient tower building near the church, overshadowed with trees, and formerly moated round." In the reign of Henry I it was given by Torphin de Alverstain, together with two carucates and 140 acres of land adjoining, to Whitby Abbey; and the appropriation was confirmed by Popes Gregory IX and Honorius III. After the dissolution, the rectory was purchased by the Bellinghams, who sold it with their family estate, to Col. James Grahme, with whose daughter they were carried in marriage to Henry Bowes Howard, Earl of Berkshire, who sold the rectory to the Lowthers, but retained the advowson, so that Lady Howard, of Levens, is the patroness of the vicarage. It is valued in the king's books at £7 13s. 4d., and was certified to the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, at £35 12s. 7d., but, in 1721 was augmented with land at Lazonby, purchased with £200 given by Col. Grahme, and £200 obtained from Queen Anne's Bounty. The present vicar is the Rev. George Frederick Weston, instituted in 1848. Amongst the vicars of the parish since 1747, are George Williamson, presented in that year, by the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire; Samuel Reveley, presented in 1783, by Lady Andover; Joseph Briscoe, presented by the Hon. Col. Howard, in 1812; Salisbury Everard, and Edward Carus Wilson; and the total number of vicars, since 1303, is twenty-one. Walter, who was elected Bishop of Carlisle, in 1223, constituted a perpetual vicar in this church, and allotted to him the altarage, and twenty acres of land with two tofts2, on condition that he paid 20s. a year to the monks of Whitby, who were also to have the tithe of wool and lamb of the whole parish, with two-thirds of the tithe of the village of Meaburn. In 1845, the tithes were commuted for £142 6s. 4d., viz., rectorial, £98 3s. 3½d., and vicarial, £44 3s. 0½d.

The manor of Crosby-Ravensworth passed from the Alverstains to the Hastings, Threlkelds, and Pickerings; the latter of whom sold it, with part of the demesne, in the reign of James I, to Sir John Lowther; to whose descendant, the Earl of Lonsdale, it now belongs, but the estates called Bank and Row, on the east side of the Lyvennet rivulet, form part of Mrs. Howard's manor of Garthorn, most of which is in Asby parish. The park, in which Sir Lancelot Threlkeld kept his deer, lies a little south of the village. It is now called Crosby Gill and is said to have been enclosed with a wall three yards high. A little south of this place is Black Dub,* where King Charles II halted and regaled his army, on his hasty march from Scotland, in 1651. This solitary spring, which is the source of the Lyvennet, is surrounded on all sides by uninclosed moors, and though this place is now so silent and deserted, it was once the great thoroughfare from Scotland, through Lancashire, to the metropolis of England. On the 13th August, 1843, a rustic obelisk was erected here, to commemorate the circumstance of King Charles and his Scottish army having dined there, and drunk of the waters of the spring. The obelisk has on one side the following inscription, carved by Mr. Thomas Bland, of Reagill: -

Here, at Black Dub, the source of the Lyevennet, Charles II regaled his army, on their march from Scotland, August 8th, A.D. 1651.

On the east of Crosby Gill, is Penhurrock3, a remarkable heap of stones, supposed to cover the remains of an ancient Briton. The British word pen signifies a head or summit, and the Saxon word hurrock means a heap of stones.

The village school was endowed in 1630, by the Rev. William Willan, with £100, and, in 11144, was rebuilt by William Dent, Esq., who, in conjunction with Viscountess Andover, Robert Dent, Esq., and William Wilkinson, Esq., endowed it with £500, which, in the year 1800, was invested in the South Sea annuities, as also was £47 10s. given by other benefactors. Besides the interest of these sums the master has £12 a year from two fields, purchased about fifty years ago with £145 of the original school stock, and 20s. a year from Mauld's Meaburn Hill estate, left in 1749 by Edward Thwaites, who also left 10s. yearly to buy books for the poor scholars. There is also a girls' school in this village, endowed by subscription in 1830, when the school house was built on land given by Mr. George Gibson, who also contributed largely to the endowment fund.

Gills is a hamlet in this township, near Blasterfield, and the source of the Lyvennet, two miles N. of Orton.

BIRKBECK FELLS township is a large mountainous district, partly in the parishes of Shap and Orton, containing about thirty scattered houses, distant from three to five miles and a half S. by E. of Shap, and forming a lordship within the manor of Crosby-Ravensworth, belonging to the Earl of Lonsdale. Most of the tenements have been sold to freehold, the lord reserving only the royalties, and suit of mill after the 20th multure, and power to enclose 200 acres of the common, and should the tenants agree to enclose the remainder of the common, the lord is to receive 6d. an acre as rent. The rateable value of Birkbeck Fells is £353 13s. 2d.

SHAP WELLS are situated at Lodge How, a wild, heathy, and desolate eminence, in that part of Birkbeck Fells, which is within this parish, three miles and a half S. by E. of Shap, half a mile E. of the great high road leading from Kendal to Carlisle, and about 150 yards W. of the Lancaster and Carlisle railway. Dr. Burn, who wrote about seventy years ago, say "by the side of the river Berbeck, was discovered some few years ago a spa water, now known by the name of Shap Well, to which in the summer season, is a considerable resort. It is impregnated with sulphur, and smells like rotten eggs, or the barrel of a musket just fired, and hath been found serviceable in scorbutic disorders." In 1828, a chemical analysis and medical treatise of this spa was published by Dr. Alderson, of West-house, Yorkshire, who was assisted in the composition of the work, by Dr. Fyfe, lecturer on chemistry in Edinburgh. The doctor, in his preface, says, that its operation is milder than the Harrogate purgative spa, and much more active than Gilsland water, and that it will be found in many essential respects superior to the Middleton spring, and greatly to be preferred to the waters of Croft. Indeed, it is said that there is not a medicated spring in the kingdom more generally efficacious than the Shap spa, in rousing the energies of the debilitated stomach, and inspiring the whole frame with a new animation, giving to the blanched and cadaverous cheek, the glow of health; and to the turgid and spiritless eye, the sparkle of life and energy. The water is remarkable for the great quantity of saline matter which it contains, there being in every pint, wine measure, 26.26 grains of muriate of lime, 14.62 grains of muriate of soda, 4.68 grains of sulphate of soda, 0.92 grains of carbonate of soda, 0.7 grains of carbonate of lime, with traces of iron, 0.1 grain of selica, 1.0 grain of vegetable matter, and 0.5 cubic inch of carbonic acid, with, it is supposed, 00.02 grains of magnesia, making the total quantity of saline matter 75.5 grains. Dr. Granville, in his work entitled "The Spas of England," speaking of the Shap spa, says, that the presence of sulphuretted hydrogen gas in the water is made manifest by its taste and smell, its deposition, its action upon lead and iron, and lastly on the oil paint in the bath room5. It approaches nearer to the quality of the celebrated Leamington water than any other yet analyzed in England. Here is a good hotel with every convenience for the accommodation of visitors; and a range of extensive buildings, containing hot and cold baths, have recently been erected. The spa is easy of access, and within a few hours' ride of the lakes of Haweswater, Ulswater, and Windermere, and its immediate vicinity presents a variety of the most delightful scenery, so gratifying to the curiosity of the mind, and at the same time, conducing to the health of the body, for the great importance of recreation and mental excitement to invalids, who are not unfrequently predisposed to mope in gloomy apathy, from the absence of interesting objects to rouse them to exertion, is now universally admitted. On a hill north of the hotel is an octagonal column, surmounted by a richly ornamented capital "to commemorate," as the inscription records, "the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne of these realms, June 20th, 1837." It was erected in 1842, and including the base and capital is twenty-three feet six inches high, and the statue is six feet two inches high, making a total of twenty-nine feet eight inches. On the north panel is a beautiful wreath of palm and olive, emblematic of peace and plenty, surmounted by the Lowther Arms; on the west panel is represented, in bass relief, the British Lion, with its paw resting upon a figure of the globe; and on the east panel, a graceful figure of the goddess Hygeia, pouring medicinal waters from a goblet, into a shell, held by an aged invalid. This affecting piece of work must be the production of a reflective and comprehensive mind. The design is exceedingly chaste, and the contrast between the elegant figure of the goddess and that of the enfeebled supplicant is beautifully imagined. The statue of Britannia is also a work of great merit. In the anatomy of the figure, and the adjustment of the draperies into graceful broad folds, the sculptor has been admirably successful. The bass-relievos and statue are the work and gratuitous contribution of Mr. Thomas Bland, of Reagill, a self-taught artist. The pillar was designed by Mr. Mawson, of Lowther, architect.

The mineral waters spring from a bank near the junction of the old red sandstone and the alternate slate rocks, which here assume the form of a fell-spar porphyry, and conglomerate, - the source being probably contained in some beds of shale, subordinate to the old red sandstone, or it may be secreted in pyrytous beds, subordinate to the old slate formation.

MAULD'S MEABURN village is pleasantly situated on the banks of the Lyvennet, in a fine rich vale of pastures, four miles and a half E. by N. of Shap. A fair for horses, sheep, and cattle was established here in 1828, to be held yearly on the Monday before Easter. In the township is a stinted common of 250 acres, called cow-close, belonging to thirty-two land owners. Grayber, an open field containing 122 acres, was enclosed and divided in 1818. About three miles lower down the vale, in the parish of Morland, is King's Meaburn, which, with the intermediate space and this village, anciently formed one manor, called Meaburn, or Medburn, but being forfeited by Sir Hugh Morville, for assisting in the assassination of the sainted Thomas ą Becket, one half of it was escheated to the crown, and hence the name King's Meaburn. The other portion was settled upon Maud, sister of Sir Hugh's, and wife of William de Veteripont, one of the Norman adventurers who came into England6 with the conqueror. Mauld's Meaburn passed from the Veteriponts to the families of Frauncey, and Vernon, but has been held by the Lowthers since the reign of James I, and is now possessed by the present Earl of Lonsdale. The other principal landowners are W. Dent, Esq., Messrs Salkeld, J. Betham, and J. Richardson. Rateable value, £1970 13s. 10½d.

Witherslack is a hamlet in this township, three miles and a half east of Shap.

Joseph Addison, A.M., who was born at Mauld's Meaburn, in 1632, and educated at Appleby school, was, after the restoration, made chaplain to the garrison a Tangier, in Barbary, where he wrote a description of the eastern parts of Africa7, which he published on his return in 1670. He was subsequently promoted to the rectory of Milston, a prebend of Salisbury, the archdeaconry of Coventry, and deanery of Lichfield, where he died in 1703, having written several learned works, amongst which are a "Treatise on the state of the Jews," and an "Essay on the Nature and Tendency of the Mahometan Religion."

Joseph Addison, son of the above, was the celebrated author of Cato and other dramatic pieces, and the share which he had in the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian, is known to nearly every reader. He received his early education at the Charter House, from whence he removed to Queen's College, Oxford, where he first distinguished himself by his Latin compositions in the Musę Anglicanę. His first English publication was a copy of verses to Mr. Dryden, which was followed by a translation of Virgil's fourth Georgic. The government allowed him £300 a year during his travels through several parts of Europe, as Commissioner of Appeals, and was ultimately made Secretary of State. He died in 1719, in the 49th year of his age.

REAGILL, anciently called Renegill, is a pleasant village and townships, three miles N. E. of Shap. It was granted, in the 13th of King John, by Robert de Veteripont, to Shap Abbey, but after the dissolution was given to Thomas, Lord Wharton, from whose descendants, the manor and demesne passed by purchase to Sir John Lowther, and are consequently now the property of the Earl of Lonsdale. There was formerly a chapel here, at a place called Chapel Garth. In 1733, Rev. Randal Randerson left £120 for
the endowment of a free school at Reagill, and at the enclosure, in 1803, allotment of twenty-eight acres was awarded for the like purpose. Joseph Thwaites, Esq., of London, has also been a liberal benefactor to this school which is now taught by Mr. John Bell. Rateable value, £1285 16s. Besides the resident landowners, there are also
a few non-resident proprietors, the largest of whom are the Earl of Lonsdale, Thomas Salkeld, Esq., Richard Gibson, Esq., Mrs. Nicholson, and Mr. H. Wilkinson.

* Dub, in the Westmorland dialect, signifies a piece of water.


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




1. The village is due east of Shap; the source of the Lyvennet is about 2½ miles further south.
2. toft - a dwelling, probably with some land and out-buildings.
3. S.E. of Crosby Gill there is a feature marked on the OS map as Robin Hood's Grave; perhaps this is what was once known as Penhurrock.
4. Evidently a typo.
5. ?
6. Unlikely - William conquered England in 1066. Thomas ą Beckett was murdered in 1170; so William de Veteripont must have been well over a hundred years old !
7. Tangier is in Morocco, in north-west Africa, so a treatise on eastern Africa seems unlikely.

19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman