Cumwhitton Parish

  > Lies on the west1 side of the river Eden, and is bounded on the north by Great Corby, on the east by Cumrew and Carlatton, and on the south by Leath Ward. It comprises 5670 acres, rated at 2902 10s., mostly belonging to resident yeomen, but the earl of Carlisle is lord of the manor and principal owner of the soil, which has been greatly improved, by assiduous and skilful cultivation, within the last twenty years. These estates have passed for centuries in a regular line of descent in the same families, and some of the distinguished name of Dryden have been settled here for several generations. "From an old writing remaining in the family, made in the reign of Elizabeth, it appears that Erasmus Dryden, Esq., of Canons-Ashby, who was an ancestor of the poet Dryden2, had then some estates in Cumwhitton parish; and the present possessors are of the same family." In justice to the inhabitants of this parish, we feel bound to endeavour to dispel from their character the dark shade thrown upon it by Mr. Housman; for, instead of being as he represents them, ignorant and superstitious, we can confidently assert that a more intelligent and respectable rural population we have not met with in the county. The air is "remarkably salubrious, and the inhabitants are healthy and live long;" and here are many excellent springs, one of which is said to be chalybeate. The parish forms a manor of the barony of Gilsland; the customary tenants pay two years rent on change, and a twenty-penny fine on the death of the lord. It is divided into the two townships of Cumwhitton and Moorthwaite, which, in 1841, contained 533 inhabitants.

Cumwhitton township has a small villages seven miles S. by W. of Brampton, and contains 242 inhabitants. The Church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient edifice, and was rectorial till appropriated to the prior and convent of Carlisle, from whom it descended to the dean and chapter, who appoint the officiating minister. Hutchinson says, "the dean and chapter demise all the rectory of Cumwhitton, except the curate's house and garden; viz., all the glebe lands and meadows (called Kirkcrofts), tithes, oblations, &c., under the yearly rent of fifteen eskeps3 of haver4 meal, and 10s. in money, besides the curate's stipend of ten pounds." He also states that "the curacy was augmented by lot, and the money laid out in the purchase of land in Nichol forest, which now yields 9 rent per annum. By the bounty of the dowager countess Gower, who gave 200, an additional augmentation was had, by which lands were bought in the parish of Addingham, yielding now near 15 a year; the whole making a comfortable stipend." In 1840, all the tithes were commuted for a yearly rent charge of 175; viz., great tithes, for 105, and meal tithes, 70; the former being leased to William Hodgson, Esq., and the latter to W. Nanson, Esq. The curacy is now worth about 110, and is enjoyed by the Rev. Robert Robinson. The parish school, at Sandy-syke, is endowed with the interest of 200, left, about ten years ago, by Mr. Adam Hodgson, of Hornsby. Mr. Joseph Dodd is the present master.

There were formerly, on the village green, two artificial mounts, which had been used as butts for exercising archers, and designated High and Low Willy Wastel, "probably from the great archer recorded in the old song5;" and the old custom of holding a wake on the eve of St. John, with lighting fires, &c., was only discontinued a few years ago.

Upon an eminence in the middle of a dark and dreary waste, commonly called King Harry, in the southern part of the parish, is a Druidical temple, designated Grey Yauds, from the colour of the stones. The circle is 52 yards in diameter, and the monument consists of 88 stones, the largest of which is not more than four feet in height. "The ground is everywhere rent with torrents, and the deep worn channels are filled with stones; whilst intermingled plots, where vegetation appears, are just covered with a scanty growth of earth; we scarce knows a more desolate spot." This moor is supposed to have taken its name from one of the Henrys, who encamped here. In accordance with an ancient and singular custom, the owner of Nunfield estate pays a goose and a cartload of coals yearly to the lord of Nunnery, in Ainstable parish, and is toll-free throughout England.  

Moorthwaite township contains 291 inhabitants, and the hamlets of Moorthwaite, 1 mile S,; Hornsby, 1 mile S. by E.; Northsceugh (High), 3 miles S. by E.; and Northsceugh (Low), 2 miles S. by E. of Cumwhitton. Philip Henry Howard, Esq., is the largest proprietor of this township.



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




1. It seems strange that the original authors chose to italicise that Cumwhitton lies on the west side of the Eden, because it lies to the east !
2. Dryden - John Dryden, 1631-1700.
3. Consulting a number of dictionaries, including ones devoted to local dialect, has failed to reveal the definition of an eskep.
4. Haver - oats.
5. Willy Wastel - I'm not familiar with the song referred to above, but would appreciate it if anyone can enlighten me.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman