|This parish is bounded on the south and west by the sea,
on the north by the parish of Kirkby Ireleth, and on the east by the parishes of
Aldingham, Urswick, and Pennington, being about ten miles in length and four in breadth.
It contains nearly 17,000 statute acres, and the annual value of its rateable property in
1841, was estimated at £19,724. All the islands to the south and west, on the coast of
Furness, belong to this parish, which is divided into the four townships of Dalton, Above
Town, Hawcoat, and Yarlesdale, and contained in 1801, a population of 1954; in 1811, 2074;
in 1821, 2446; in 1831, 2697; and in 1841, 3229, viz., 1651 males, and 1578 females, being
an increase since 1831, of 532 souls.
DALTON is a small town, pleasantly situated on a gentle acclivity, five miles S.W. of Ulverston, and one and a half mile N.E. of the venerable ruins of Furness Abbey, "in the midst," says Mr. Close, "of a tract of country almost unparalleled for the fertility of its soil, and the extent of its cultivation." It consists of one street, the west end of which forms a spacious market-place, where stands an ancient castle or square tower, supposed to have been erected by one of the abbots of Furness, out of the ruins of one still more ancient and extensive; but the exact time of its erection in not known.
The ground plan of this edifice is an oblong square, the east and west sides measuring each forty-five, and the north and south, thirty feet; and the walls at the foundation are between five and six feet in thickness. Its present main entrance is by a small door on the west, whence a spiral staircase ascends to the room where the courts for the liberty of Furness are held. The top of the castle, which is surmounted by a parapet, commands a pleasing view of the surrounding country. The name, Dalton, which signifies a meadow, or valley town, was no doubt conferred upon this place, in consequence of its situation bordering upon several narrow dells or valleys. In consequence of the privileges granted to the abbot by King Stephen, Dalton soon became the capital of Furness, and retained this provincial superiority till the dissolution of the monastery; after which the market began to decline, and Ulverston being more eligibly situated for trade and commerce, gradually attained that pre-eminence which it now holds in this insulated portion of Lancashire. The market, which was held on Saturday, under a charter granted by Edward III, has been long since discontinued, but three cattle fairs are held here annually, on April 28th, June 6th, and October 23rd; and malting is carried on in the town to a considerable extent.
The church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, stands on the declivity of a hill, within the precincts of the ancient castellum; it is of very remote origin, but has undergone several alterations since its first erection. It was nearly all rebuilt in 1826, considerably improved in 1832, and is now a handsome edifice, consisting of a nave, side aisles, chancel, two porches, and a tower, with three bells. The benefice is a discharged vicarage, in the gift of the crown, in right of the Duchy of Lancaster, in the impropriation of the Earl of Burlington, and incumbency of the Rev. James M. Morgan, who resides at the vicarage house, a neat building, a short distance east of the church. In 1760, the living was augmented with £200 by Queen Anne's Bounty, £100 left by Dr. Stratford, and £100 given by Lord George Cavendish. In 1844, the tithes were commuted for a yearly rent charge of £405. The present income of the clergyman is about £150 per annum. The ancient chapel of St. Helen, which stood near Dalton, has long been converted into a dwelling house, and has undergone so great an alteration, that the only part now remaining to suggest any idea of its original appropriation, is the eastern Gothic window. In the town is a Wesleyan Chapel, erected in 1822; and also a Free School, endowed with about £94 a year, arising from an estate in the Isle of Walney, purchased with £200 left in 1622, by Thomas Bolton, Esq., a citizen of London, who also left £20 towards the erection of the school, which is free to all the children of the parish of Dalton; but those not born within its limits, pay one shilling entrance money. It is under the management of twenty-four "sidesmen," and is now very efficiently conducted by Mr. John Slee, the present master. The Sunday School, also held here, is attended by about 200 children. In connection with the latter is a parochial library, of about 400 vols., belonging to about 100 subscribers, who pay one shilling each yearly. The schoolmaster is secretary and librarian. In 1847, a Female Preparatory School was established in Dalton, by a number of shareholders, and is now conducted by Miss Eliza Aspden. A taste for reading and literature is also promoted here by means of a long-established and well-conducted Book Club, consisting of about twenty-five members, who pay half a guinea per year each. Mr. Thomas Butler is librarian and secretary to this useful society. Dalton township contains only 824 acres, and its rateable value in £2527. The largest owners of the soil are the Earl of Burlington, John Postlethwaite, Esq., and R.B. Postlethwaite, Esq. An estate called Billincoats, purchased many years ago, with various benefactions, bequeathed to this parish for charitable uses, now lets for about £270 per annum. An Agricultural Society, established at Dalton, in 1846, is now in a prosperous state, and its advantages seem to be fully appreciated by the yeomen and farmers of this district. The Railway Station, at Dalton, was built in the year 1847.
The history of this once splendid religious establishment has been so faithfully recorded, and the description of its magnificent ruins so ably delineated by the Rev. Thomas West, author of "the Antiquities of Furness," that we shall take the liberty of placing before our readers lengthy extracts from that valuable and interesting work; and also some of the rich fruits of the all-accomplished mind of Mrs. Radcliffe, whose eloquent description of these hallowed remains, and the picturesque locality in which they are situated, cannot fail to gratify the mind, and awaken the soul to sentiments of grandeur and sublimity.
"This abbey," says Mr. West, "was founded by Stephen, Earl of Mortaign and Boulogne, afterwards King of England, A.D. 1127, and was endowed with the lordships of Furness, and many royal privileges. It was peopled from the monastery of Savigny, in Normandy, and dedicated to St. Mary. In ancient writings, it is styled St. Mary's, of Furness. The monks were of the order of Savigny, and their dress was grey cloth; but on receiving St. Bernard's form, they changed from grey to white, and became Cistercians; and such they remained till the dissolution of the monasteries.
"The situation of this abbey, so favourable to a contemplative life, justifies the choice of the first settlers. Such a sequestered site, in the bottom of a deep dell, through which a hasty brook rolls its murmuring stream, and along which the roaring west wind would often blow, joined with the deep-toned matin song, must have been very favourable to the solemn melancholy of a monastic life.
"To prevent surprise, and call in assistance, a beacon was placed on the crown of an eminence, that rises immediately from the abbey, and is seen over all Low Furness. The door leading to the beacon is still remaining in the inclosure-wall, on the eastern side. The magnitude of the abbey may be known from the dimensions of the ruins; and enough is standing to show the style of the architecture. The round and pointed arches occur in the doors and windows. The fine clustered Gothic, and the heavy plain Saxon1 pillars stand contrasted. The walls show excellent masonry, are in many places counter-arched, and the ruins discover a strong cement. The east window has been noble, and some of the painted glass that once adorned it is preserved in a window in Windermere church. On the outside of the window, under an arched festoon, is the head of the founder, and opposite to it, that of Maud, his queen; both crowned, and well executed. In the south wall, and east end of the church, are four seats, adorned with Gothic ornaments. In these the officiating priest, with his attendants, sat at intervals, during the solemn service of high mass. In the middle space, where the first barons of Kendal are interred, lies a procumbent figure of a man in armour, cross-legged. The chapter-house has been a noble room of sixty feet by forty-five. The vaulted roof, formed of twelve ribbed arches, was supported by six pillars in two rows, at thirteen feet distance from each other. Now, supposing each of the pillars to be two feet in diameter, the room would be divided into three alleys, or passages, each thirteen feet wide. On entrance, the middle one only could be seen, lighted by a pair of tall pointed windows at the upper end of the room; the company in the side passage would be concealed by the pillars, and the vaulted roof, that groined from those pillars, would have a truly Gothic disproportionate appearance of sixty feet by thirteen. The two side alleys were lighted each by a pair of similar lights, besides another pair at the upper end, at present entire, and which illustrate what is here said. Thus, whilst the upper end of the room had a profusion of light, the lower end would be in the shade. The noble roof of this singular edifice did but lately fall in, and the entrance or porch is still standing; a fine circular arch, beautified with a deep cornice, and a portico on each side. The only entire roof now remaining, is of a building without the inclosure-wall. It was the school-house of the abbot's tenants, and is a single ribbed arch that groins from the wall.
"There is a general disproportion remarkable in Gothic churches, which must have originated in some effect intended by all the architects; perhaps to strike the mind with reverential awe at the sight of magnificence, arising from the vastness of two dimensions, and a third seemingly disregarded; or, perhaps, such a determinate height and length was found more favourable than any other to the church song, by giving a deeper swell to the choir of chanting monks. A remarkable deformity in this edifice, and for which there is no apparent reason or necessity, is, that the north door, which is the principal entrance, is on one side of the window above it. The tower has been supported by four magnificent arches, which rested upon four tall pillars, whereof three are finely clustered." "The west end of the church," continues Mr. West, "seems to have been an additional part intended for a belfry, to ease the main tower - but that is as plain as the rest. Had the monks even intended it, the stone would not admit of such work as has been executed at Fountains and Rievaulx abbeys. The east end of the church contained five altars, besides the high altar, as appears by the chapels; and probably there was a private altar in the sacristy. In magnitude, this abbey was the second in England, belonging to the Cistercian monks, and the next in opulence to Fountains Abbey, in Yorkshire. The church and cloisters were encompassed with a wall, which commenced at the east side of the great northern door, and formed the strait enclosure; and a space of ground, to the amount of sixty-five acres, was surrounded with a strong stone wall, which enclosed the mills, kilns, and fishponds, belonging to the abbey, the ruins of which are still visible. This last was the great enclosure now called the deer park, in which such terraces might be formed as would equal, if not surpass any in England." The ruins are situated in a narrow and secluded valley, called the "glen of deadly nightshade," six and a half miles S.W. of Ulverston, and one and a half mile beyond Dalton. Mrs. Radcliffe says, "In a close glen branching from this valley, shrouded by winding banks clumped with old groves of oak and chesnut, we found the magnificent remains of Furness Abbey. The deep retirement of its situation, the venerable grandeur of its Gothic arches, and the luxuriant yet ancient trees that shadow this forsaken spot, are circumstances of picturesque, and if the expression may be allowed, of sentimental beauty, which fill the mind with solemn yet delightful emotion. This glen is called "the vale of night-shade,' or, more literally, from its ancient title, Bekangsgill, 'the glen of deadly night-shade,' that plant being abundantly found in the neighbourhood. Its romantic gloom and sequestered privacy, particularly adapted it to the austerities of monastic life: and in the most retired part of it, King Stephen, while Earl of Mortaign and Bulloign, founded in the year 1127, the magnificent monastery of Furness, and endowed it with princely wealth, and almost princely authority, in which it was second only to Fountains Abbey, in Yorkshire.
"The windings of the glen conceal these venerable ruins, till they are closely approached, and the bye-road that conducted us is margined with a few ancient oaks which stretch their broad branches entirely across it, and are fine preparatory objects to the scene beyond. A sudden bend in the road brought us within view of the northern gate, a beautiful Gothic arch, one side of which is luxuriantly festooned with nightshade. A thick grove of plane trees, with some oak and beech, overshadow it on the right, and lead the eye onwards to the ruins of the Abbey, seen through this dark arch in remote perspective, over rough but verdant ground. The principal features are the great northern window, and part of the eastern choir, with glimpses of shattered arches and stately walls beyond, caught between the gaping casements. On the left the bank of the glen is broken into knolls capped with oaks, which in some places spread downwards to a stream that winds round the ruin, and darken it with their rich foliage. Through this gate is the entrance to the immediate precincts of the Abbey, an area said to contain sixty-five acres, now called the deer park. It is enclosed by a stone wall on which the remains of many small buildings, and the faint vestiges of others, still appear; such as the porter's lodge, mills, granaries, ovens, and kilns, that once supplied the monastery; some of which seen under the shade of the fine old trees, that on every side adorn the broken steps of this glen, have a very interesting effect.
"Just within the gate, a small manor house of modern date, with its stables and other offices, breaks discordantly upon the lonely grandeur of the scene. Except this, the character of this deserted ruin is scrupulously preserved in the surrounding area; no spade has dared to level the inequalities which fallen fragments have occasioned in the ground, or shears to clip the wild fern and underwood that overspread it: but every circumstance conspires to heighten the solitary grace of the principal object, and to prolong the luxurious melancholy which a view of it inspires. We made our way among the pathless fern and grass to the north end of the church, now like every other part of the Abbey, entirely roofless, but showing the lofty arch of the great window, where instead of the painted glass that once enriched it, are now tufted plants and wreaths of nightshade. Below is the principal door of the church, bending into a deep round arch, which, retiring circle within circle, is rich and beautiful; the remains of a winding staircase are visible within the wall on its left side. Near this northern end of the edifice is seen one side of the eastern choir, with its two slender Gothic window frames; and on the west, a remnant of the nave of the Abbey, and some lofty arches which once belonged to the belfry, now detached from the main building.
"To the south, but concealed from this point of view, is the chapter house, some years ago exhibiting a roof of beautiful Gothic fret-work, and which was almost the only part of the Abbey thus ornamented, its architecture being characterised by an air of grand simplicity, rather than by the elegance and richness of decoration, which in an after date distinguished the Gothic style in England. Over the chapter-house were once the library and scriptorium, and beyond it are still the remains of cloisters, of the refectory, the locutorium, or conversation room, and the calefactory.2 These, with the walls of some chapels, of the vestry, a hall, and of what is believed to have been a school-house, are all the features of this noble edifice that can easily be traced: winding staircases within the surprising thicknesses of the walls, and doorcases involved in darkness and mystery, the place abounds with.
"The Abbey, which was formerly of such magnitude as nearly to fill up the breadth of the glen, is built of pale red stone, dug from the neighbouring rocks, now changed by time and weather to a tint of dusky brown, which accords well with the hues of plants and shrubs that every where emboss the mouldering arches.
"The finest view of the ruin is on the east side, where, beyond the vast shattered frame that once contained a richly painted window, is seen a perspective of the choir and of distant arches, remains of the nave of the Abbey, closed by the woods. This perspective of the ruin is said to be 287 feet in length; the choir part of it is in width only 28 feet inside, but the nave is 70; the walls as they now stand, are 54 feet high, and in thickness five. Southward from the choir extend the still beautiful, though broken, pillars and arcades of some chapels, now laid open to the day; the chapter-house, the cloisters, and beyond all, and detached from all, is the school house, a large building, the only part of the monastery that still boasts a roof."
"As soothed by the venerable shades, and the view of a more venerable ruin, we rested opposite to the eastern window of the choir, where once the high altar stood, and, with five other altars, assisted the religious pomp of the scene, the images and manners of times that were past, rose to reflection. The midnight procession of monks, clothed in white, and bearing lighted tapers, appeared to the mind's eye, issuing to the choir through the very door case by which such processions were wont to pass from the cloisters to perform the matin service, when, at the moment of their entering the church, the deep chanting of voices was heard, and the organ swelled a solemn peal. To fancy, the strain still echoed feebly along the arcades, and died in the breeze among the woods, the rustling leaves mingling with the close. It was easy to imagine the abbots and the officiating priests seated beneath the richly-fretted canopy of the four stalls, that still remain entire in the southern wall, and high over which is now perched a solitary yew tree, a black funereal memento to the living of those who once sat below.
"Of a quadrangular court on the west side of the church, 334 feet long, and 102 feet wide, little vestige now remains, except the foundation of a range of cloisters, that formed its western boundary, and under the shades of which the monks, on days of high solemnity, passed in their customary procession round the court. What was the belfry is now a huge mass of detached ruin, picturesque from the loftiness of its shattered arches, and the high inequalities of the ground within them, where the tower, that once crowned this building, having fallen, lies in vast fragments, now covered with earth and grass, and no longer distinguishable but by the hillock they form.
"The school-house, a heavy structure attached to the boundary-wall on the south, is nearly entire; and the walls, particularly of the portal, are of enormous thickness, but, here and there, a chasm discloses the staircases, that wind within them to chambers above. The school-room below shows only a stone bench, that extends round the walls, and a low stone pillar in the eastern corner, on which the teacher's pulpit was formerly fixed. The lofty vaulted roof is scarcely distinguishable by the dusky light admitted through one or two narrow windows placed high from the ground, perhaps for the purpose of confining the scholar's attention to his book.
"These are the principal features that remain of this once magnificent abbey. It was dedicated to St. Mary, and received a colony of monks from the monastery of Savigny, in Normandy, who were called Grey Monks, from their dress of that colour, till they became Cistercians, and, with the severe rules of St. Bernard, adopted a white habit, which they retained till the dissolution of monastic orders in England. The original rules of St. Bernard partook, in several instances, of the austerities of those of La Trapp, and the society did not very readily relinquish the milder laws of St. Benedict for the new rigours imposed upon them by the parent monastery of Savigny. They were forbidden to taste flesh, except when ill, and even eggs, butter, cheese, and milk, but on extraordinary occasions; and denied even the use of linen and fur. The monks were divided into two classes, to which separate apartments belonged. Those who attended the choir slept upon straw in their usual habits, from which, at midnight, they rose and passed into the church, where they continued their holy hymns, during the short remainder of the night. After this first mass, having publicly confessed themselves, they retired to their cells, and the day was employed in spiritual exercises, and in copying or illuminating manuscripts. An unbroken silence was observed, except when, after dinner, they withdrew into the locutorium, where, for an hour, perhaps, they were permitted the common privileges of social beings. This class was confined to the boundary wall, except that, on some particular days, the members of it were allowed to walk in parties beyond it, for exercise and amusement; but they were seldom permitted either to receive or pay visits. Like the monks of La Trapp, however, they were distinguished for extensive charities and liberal hospitality; for travellers were so scrupulously entertained at the abbey, that it was not till the dissolution that an inn was thought necessary in this part of Furness when one was opened for their accommodation, expressly because the monastery could no longer receive them.
"To the second class were assigned the cultivation of the lands, and the performance of domestic affairs in the monastery.
"This was the second house in England that received the Bernardine rules, the most rigorous of which were however dispensed with in 1486, by Sixtus the Fourth, when, among other indulgencies, the whole order was allowed to taste meat on three days of the week. With the rules of St. Benedict, the monks had exchanged their grey habit for a white cassock, with a white cowl and scapulary. But their choir dress was either white or grey, with cowl or scapulary of the same, and a girdle of black wool; over that a mozet or hood, and a rochet.* 3 When they went abroad they wore a cowl and full black hood.
"The privileges and immunities granted to the Cistercian order in general were very abundant; and those to the abbey of Furness were proportioned to its vast endowments. The abbot, it has been mentioned, held his secular court in the neighbouring castle of Dalton, where he presided, with the power of administering not only justice, but injustice, since the lives and the property of the villain4 tenants of the lordship of Furness were consigned by a grant of King Stephen to the disposal of my Lord abbot! The monks also could be arraigned for whatever crime only by him. The military establishment of Furness likewise depended on the abbot. Every mesne lord and free homager, as well as the customary tenants, took an oath of fealty to the abbot, to be true to him against all men, excepting the king. Every mesne lord obeyed the summons of the abbot, or his steward, in raising his quota of armed men, and every tenant of a whole tenement furnished a man and horse of war for guarding the "coast for the border service, or any expedition against the common enemy of the king and kingdom. The habiliments of war were a steel coat or coat of mail, a falce or falchion, a jack, the bow, the byll,5 the cross-bow, and spear. The Furness legion consisted of four divisions - one of bowmen, horsed and harnessed; bylmen, horsed and harnessed; bowmen, without horse and harness; bylmen, without horse and harness.
"The deep forests that once surrounded the Abbey, and overspread all Furness, contributed with its insulated situation, on a nook of land running out into the sea, to secure it from the depredations of the Scots, who were continually committing hostilities upon the borders. On a summit over the abbey, are the remains of the beacon± or watch-tower, raised by the society for further security. It commands views of Low Furness, and the bay of the sea immediately beneath; looking forward to the town and castle of Lancaster, appearing faintly on the opposite side; on the south to the isles of Walney, Foulney, and their numerous islets, on one of which stands Peel6 Castle; and on the north, to the mountains of High Furness and Coniston, rising in a grand amphitheatre round this islet of the Irish Channel."
Mr. West gives the dimensions of the church, which formed the north aisle of the Abbey, as follows; - Inside length from east to west, 275 feet 8 inches; thickness of the east end wall, and depth of the east end buttress, 8 feet 7 inches; thickness of the west end wall, 9 feet 7 inches; depth of the west end buttress, 10 feet 8 inches; extreme length of the church, 304 feet 6 inches. Inside width of the east end, 28 feet; and the thickness of the two side walls, 10 feet; making a total width of the east end, 38 feet. Inside length of the transept, 130 feet; south wall, 6 feet; and north wall, 3 feet 6 inches thick; inside width of the transept, 28 feet 4 inches; the thickness of the two side walls, 8 feet 8 inches; making the whole breadth of the transept 37 feet. Inside width of the nave, 66 feet; thickness of the two side walls, 8 feet; making the whole width of the nave, 74 feet. The height of the side walls of the church has been about 54 feet. The inside of the chapter-house, which has been the most elegant apartment of the whole edifice, is, 60 feet by 45 feet 6 inches; and the thickness of each wall, 3 feet 6 inches; the inside width of the cloisters 31 feet 6 inches; and the thickness of the two walls, 8 feet. The area of the quadrangular court, 338 feet 6 inches, by 102 feet 6 inches. On solemn days the monks walked in procession round the court, under a shade. In a fabric of these dimensions, what exalted devotional feelings - what intense emotions of sublimity and reverence was not the impressive service of the catholic church calculated to awaken in the minds of her children, - heightened by the solemn harmonies of the full-voiced choir, -
"Whence through the long-drawn aisle
and fretted vault,
The eastern window of the church was of extraordinary dimensions, consisting, says Mr. West of seven compartments. "In the third, fourth, and fifth, are depicted, in full proportion, the crucifixion, with the Blessed Virgin on the right, and the beloved disciple on the left side of the cross; angels are expressed receiving the sacred blood from the five precious wounds; below the cross are a group of monks in their proper habits, with the abbot in a vestment; their names are written on labels issuing from their mouths; the abbot's name is defaced, which would have given a date to the whole. In the second partitions are the figures of St George and the Dragon. In the sixth is represented St. Catherine, with the emblems of her martyrdom - the sword and wheel. In the seventh are two figures of mitred abbots; and, underneath them, two monks dressed in vestments. In the middle compartment above, are finely painted, quarterly, the arms of France and England, bound with the garter and its motto, probably done in the reign of King Edward III. The rest of the window is filled up by pieces of tracery, with some figures in coats armorial, and the arms of several benefactors, amongst whom are Lancaster, Urswick, Harrington, Fleming, Millum, &c." In the front of this superb window stood the high altar, having behind it the circumambulatory. "In the south wall was placed the piscina, or cistern, at which the priest washed his hands before service; there is also a small niche, and over it hung the manutergium, on each side of the cistern, for receiving the purificatories. Below these are four stalls, or seats, in the wall, richly ornamented in the Gothic style, in which the officiating priest, with his assistants, sat at intervals, in time of celebrating high mass."
Previous to noticing the dissolution of the abbey, the motives that led thereto, and the changes thereby produced in the state of Furness, it may be necessary to take a summary view of the origin and progress of monastic life, the various religious orders, and the introduction of monachism into this country.
No sooner had the Christian religion made some progress in the East, than a succession of the most direful and bloody persecutions, especially under the Emperors Decius and Dioclesian, constrained its professors, in order to secure themselves from the unrelenting malignity of their enemies, to retire to the mountains, deserts, and other solitary places, where they found a safe retreat, and time to devote to the exercise of piety and divine contemplation. This ascetic life was afterwards, in the time of the Christian emperors, embraced through choice; and, about the middle of the 4th century, Pacomius drew up rules for regular societies, and founded some monasteries in the environs of Thebes, in Egypt. They soon spread over the Christian world, and, it is evident from Gildas7 - the most ancient British author now extant - that they had been established in England long before St. Austin and his associates were despatched by Pope Gregory I, in 590, to preach the gospel to the Anglo-Saxons. Many of those religious communities were destroyed by the Saxons previous to their conversion to Christianity. At Bangor ys Coed - Bangor under the Wood - in Flintshire, twelve hundred defenceless monks were murdered by them; and all the precious books and records belonging to the monastery were completely destroyed - a loss the more considerable, as this place had been for ages the seat of learning, and the repository of much that was valuable. But soon after the conversion of the Saxons to the Christian religion, they themselves founded several monasteries, and St. Austin laid down rules for their conduct.
Here we beg to present our readers with a brief notice of St. Benedict, whose rule has been the most universally followed in the western world. He was born about the year 480, of noble parents, in Nursia, in the dukedom of Spoletto, in Italy. Having received a liberal education, he withdrew from society, and concealed himself in a cave, where, known only to a brother monk, who supplied him with the first necessaries of life, he spent three years in divine contemplation and prayer. After this retreat, the fame of his sanctity brought to him several monks who desired to be guided by his council, and governed by his code of monastic laws and institutions. The Benedictine rule, in all its purity, was first settled in England by St. Dunstan, abbot of Glastonbury, about the year 950. A branch of the Benedictines, called the Cluniac order, was introduced into England, by William Earl of Warren, son-in-law to the Conqueror, soon after the Norman invasion; and about the same time several other branches of the same order were also brought to this country. The next branch of the Benedictines was the Cistercian order, so named from Cistertium, or Cisteaux, in Burgundy, where it had its rise, in A.D. 1078. St. Bernard, abbot of Clarveaux, or Clareval, having by his sanctity and learning, greatly dignified the order, the monks have been since his time indiscriminately called Cistercians or Bernardins. He was born at Fountains, a castle near Dijon, belonging to his father, who was a person of the first rank, in Burgundy, and after having completed his studies at Chalon, went to Citeaux, accompanied by his uncle Gauter, Lord of Telvellon, and three of his brothers, with twenty-seven noblemen, all of whom embraced the severe Cistercian rule, in A.D. 1133, when St. Stephen was abbot. Bernard soon made such progress in a spiritual life, that Stephen, who was an Englishman, observing his extraordinary abilities and talents for governing others, bestowed on him a crosier, and, appointing him abbot, ordered him with twelve monks, amongst whom were his three brothers, to found a new monastery in the diocese of Langres, in Champagne.¶ This house, which was founded in 1115, became so renowned from the sanctity of its abbot and the piety of the monks, that their number soon increased to 130, and in compliment to that fraternity, the valley in which they built their cells, was afterwards called Clara-Vallis, or, Clareval, now Clarveaux.
"The Cistercian order," says Mr.
West, "in its origin, was devoted to the practice of penance, assiduous
contemplation, and the angelical functions of singing the divine praises: wherefore it did
not admit of the ordinary dissipation which attends scholastic enquiries. St. Bernard, who
was himself a man of learning, well knowing how far reading was necessary to improve the
mind even of a recluse, took great care to furnish all his monks with good libraries. Such
of them as were best qualified were employed in taking copies of books in every branch of
literature, many of which, beautifully written on vellum, and elegantly illuminated, are
at this time to be seen in their libraries.§
Cardinal Vitri, who wrote in the 13th century, says, that "they used neither furs nor linen, and never eat any flesh, except in time of dangerous sickness; and that they abstained even from eggs, butter, milk, and cheese, unless given to them in alms. They had belonging to them certain religious lay brethren, whose office was to cultivate their lands, and attend to their secular affairs; these lived at their granges and farms, and were treated in like manner with the monks, but were never indulged with the use of wine. The monks who attended the choir slept in their habits upon straw; they rose at midnight, and spent the night in singing the divine office. After prime and the first mass, having accused themselves of their faults in public chapter, the rest of the day was spent in a variety of spiritual exercises with uninterupted silence. From the feast of the exaltation of the holy cross, the 14th of September, until Easter, they observed a strict fast. Their hospitality to strangers, and their charity to the poor, was extensive. Flesh was banished from their infirmaries from Septuagesima until Easter." After the year 1485, they were allowed to eat flesh meat three times a week, viz., on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. This order was introduced into England about A.D. 1128; and the first of the Cistercian houses, whose monks came immediately from Clareval, was that erected near Helmsley,8 in Yorkshire, about the year 1130. Their rule and manner of living proved so agreeable to the prelates and people in general, that in a few years no less than eighty-five houses of this order were established in England and Wales, though there never were more than two in the County of Lancaster, viz., Furness and Whalley. All the houses belonging to the order were dedicated to the blessed Virgin.
Another religious order was founded at Savigny, about the year 1112, by Vitallis de Mortain, a native of Fierciville, three leagues from Bayeux. After having acquired a perfect knowledge of literature, he was ordained priest, and became chaplain to Robert, Earl of Mortain, brother, by the mother's side, to William the Conqueror, who conferred upon him a prebendary in the collegiate church, which he had founded in his own town, in A.D. 1082. "About ten years after this," says Mr. West, "Vitallis being desirous more perfectly to obey Jesus Christ, who in His Gospel he believed had placed perfection in the renunciation of all things, quitted his benefices, disposed of all that he had to the poor, and being convinced of the vanity of this world, retired amongst the rocks of Mortmain." In 1093, he repaired to St. Robert D'Abrissel, in the forest of Craon, in Anjou, and having divided the numerous disciples of St. D'Abrissel into three colonies, he founded with one of them the order of Fontevraud; another he committed to Raoul de la Futaye, who retired with his division into the forest of Ned de Merle, and the third repaired, under the guidance of Vitallis, to the forest of Fongeres, on the confines of Brittany. They afterwards left this forest, and settled in that of Savigny, where they built a monastery to the honor of the Holy Trinity, in the year 1112. They chose for their dress a grey habit, and their numbers increased so rapidly, that in thirty-six years the order of Savigny became one of the most celebrated in France. The monks of Furness were originally of the order of Savigny, but the whole order being matriculated in 1148, into the order of Citeaux, by Pope Eugenius III, out of regard to St. Bernard, under whom he had been himself a monk, the abbey of St. Mary, in Furness, from this time to its dissolution, belonged to the Cistercian order. Previous to its matriculation, the inmates were called "grey monks," from the dress which they had worn under the rule of St. Benedict; and afterwards, "white monks," in consequence of having changed their dress from grey to white cloth. When they attended the choir, they wore either a white or grey cassock, with a cowl or scapulary of the same colour, and a girdle of black wool, "all surmounted by a mozet or hood, and a rochet, the front of which descended to the girdle, where it ended in a round, and the back part reached down to the middle of the leg behind ; but when they went abroad they wore a cowl and a full black hood". The abbot wore a mitre, and carried a crosier or pastoral staff, the latter of which he bore in his right hand, whilst a bishop carries his in the left. The word abbot is derived from abbatis, the genitive of abbas, which is the Greek and Latin form of the Syriac abba, the original being from the Hebrew ab, father.
That the monasteries were the nurseries of learning and religion, may be inferred from the words of the venerable Bede, who speaks of the monastery of Bangor, already alluded to, as "a school for christian learning, for the improvement of christian knowledge, and for supplying the faithful with fit pastors;" and the following translation of the charter of Hen. I, confirming a grant made to the priors of Gisburgh, in Yorkshire; and also of the foundation grant of Stephen to the abbot of Furness, will show the spirit of those times, and evince the cause of its great progress in this as well as in almost every other christian country.
"In the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity. By the munificent gifts of kings and princes, the church is enlarged, and now spreads herself over the world. We also rejoice that in our kingdom the number is increased, by which religion is augmented, and the numbers of religious multiplied, by whose prayers the strength of our kingdom is established, and a passage to heaven is mercifully opened to such as truly seek for it. Wherefore, I, Henry, by the disposition of God, King of the English, son of William the Great,9 for the good of my soul, the soul of my wife, and the souls of my predecessors, do, by royal authority, grant and confirm whatever Richard de Brus hath given to the church of Gisburgh, and the brethren there regularly serving God, as well the church itself, as the lands, possessions, and other rents, to the honour of God and the holy church," &c. The next is a translation of Stephen's charter, both from Mr. West. "In the name of the Blessed Trinity, and in honour of St. Mary, of Furness, I, Stephen, Earl of Bologne and Moreton, consulting God, and providing for the safety of my own soul, the soul of my wife the Countess Matilda, the soul of my lord and uncle, Henry King of England and Duke of Normandy, and for the souls of all the faithful, living as well as dead, in the year of our Lord, 1127, of the Roman indiction, the 5th and 18th of the epact. Considering every day the uncertainty of life, that the roses and flowers of kings, emperors, and dukes, and the crowns and palms of all the great, wither and decay; that things with an uninterrupted course, tend to dissolution and death: - I therefore return, give, and grant to God, and St. Mary, of Furness, all Furness and Walney, (Wagnea) with the privileges of hunting; with Dalton, and all my lordships of Furness, (infra Frudernesiam) with the men and every thing thereto belonging, that is, in woods and in open grounds, in land and in water; and Ulverston, (Olvestonam) and Roger Braithwaite, with all that belongs to him; my fisheries at Lancaster; and Little Guoring (Guorenum Parvum) with all the land thereof; with sac„ and soc,¤ tol¢ and team,æ infangenetheof,# and every thing within Furness, except the lands of Michael le Fleming; with this view, and upon this condition: That in Furness an order of regular monks be by Divine Permission established: which gift and offering I, by supreme authority, appoint to be for ever observed: and that it may remain firm and inviolate for ever, I subscribe this Charter with my hand, and confirm it with the sign of the Holy Cross.
After reading the foregoing, we cannot help admiring the spirit of self-denial which prevailed in those days, and the salutary contempt with which so many of the great ones of the earth looked upon all mundane possessions; nor can we but venerate that religion which inculculated,10 and could so profusely disseminate such principles amongst her followers. They evidently believed the church to be the infallible oracle of God, the ark of Heaven, 'the spouse of Jesus Christ,' 'the pillar and ground of truth,' 'pure without spot or wrinkle,' 'the mountain upon the top of mountains;' and would, no doubt, cheerfully subscribe to the truth of the following eloquent effusion of a modern author, respecting the Catholic Church:- "Like the vast and universal arch of Heaven, she over-canopies alike all christian climes and ages; and like that arch she is one-unbroken, wheresoever she appears. Sectarian systems are the dark and shifting vapours that obscure the surface of the heavens; and their ever-varying masses are drifted into numberless fantastic forms by every passing gale, 'by every wind of doctrine,' as St. Paul expresses it. Cloud after cloud has fallen in rain, or melted away into the boundless fields of ether; 'they were and are not,' while other vapours occupy their place as fleeting and as unsubstantial. But the arch still stands - for the sacred word of everlasting truth is pledged for its perpetual stability."
As has been already seen, the abbey of Furness was a filiation of Benedictine monks from the monastery of Savigny, in Normandy. They had placed themselves under the guidance of one Evanus, or Ewanus, who brought them to England; and after remaining three years and three days at Tulket, near Preston, they removed to Beckang's Gill, which they took possession of on the fourth of the Nones of July, 1124.11 They enjoyed all the privileges and immunities common to their brethren, besides some peculiar favours from the see of Rome, and in addition to the princely grant of Stephen, afterwards confirmed by Henry I and succeeding kings, the proprietors of neighbouring estates, made them many conveyances of lands and other offerings. The abbots were summoned to parliament in the several reigns of Henry III, Edward I, and Edward II, but they never attended, owing, no doubt, to their remote situation, the peninsulated position of Furness, and the want of facilities for travelling, rather than from any want of the requisite qualifications. Soon after they settled in Furness, the resources of the district began to be developed, agricultural improvements encouraged, the condition of the people improved, knowledge, civilization, and religion advanced, and universal charity and hospitality extended and cultivated. These happy results of their judicious policy, were, however, much retarded by the devastating irruptions of the marauding Scots, who continued to harass the inhabitants, and spread desolation and ruin through the land. The abbot held his court at Dalton, where he probably transacted all the civil affairs of the district, and deliberated upon the best means of defending his territories against the frequent incursions of his northern neighbours. "Not an abbot in the kingdom" says the learned Dr. Whitaker, "was so much a monarch as that of Furness. His territory was marked by boundaries so nearly impassable - by the sea, with its ever-varying sands, on more than two sides; and by mountains almost insuperable on the remainder - that Furness was a little nation within itself. In point of extent it was equal to the kingdom of Man.12 Within these limits the abbot was lord paramount, and exacted the same oath of fealty which was paid to the king. He had the patronage of all the churches, excepting one; had free warren13 over the whole district; and was immediate owner and occupant of almost half the low country. Under such circumstances his power would be almost unlimited; but when to these we add the opinion of superior sanctity, upheld in general by great propriety and decorum of manners; the dignified hospitality of the house; the friendly intercourse maintained with all the neighbouring gentry; the gratuitous education afforded to the youth of the country, of every rank; the lodging and tender protection extended to their own wards; the vast number of shepherds and husbandmen employed upon their domains; the despondency and dejection, the depopulation and decay which must have followed upon the instantaneous cessation of all these, may be more easily conceived than expressed."
But the fiat for its destruction had gone forth - an act of parliament was passed to legalize its suppression; and thus, through the lawless will of a licentious monarch,14 was this splendid monument of our forefathers' piety levelled with the dust. Furness abbey was dissolved. No more was the Vale of Deadly Nightshade to echo with the rich tones of the pealing organ, "all was hushed, - save the sound of the axe, which was lifted up on the pillars of the temple, or the rude jeers of the destroyer - the lamp on St. Mary's altar was extinguished forever." This took place in 1537, four hundred and thirteen years after its first establishment.
The following reflections and remarks on the dissolution of the English monasteries, are from Mr. West's Antiquities of Furness.
Lord Herbert, in his History of the reign of
Henry VIII says, "After the visitation of religious houses by commissioners from the
king, divers of those commissioners did petition the king, that some of the houses, both
for the virtue of the persons, and the benefit of the country (the poor receiving thence
great relief, and the richer sort good education) might be spared. Bishop Latimer also
moved, that two or three might be left in every shire for pious uses; but Cromwell (by the
king's permission) invaded all, whilst, betwixt threats, gifts, persuasions, promises, and
whatever might make a man obnoxious, he obtained of the abbots, priors, and abbesses,
&c., that their houses might be given up; amongst which, those who offered their
monasteries freely, got best conditions of the king; for, if they stood upon their right,
the oath of supremacy, and some other statutes and injunctions, brought them into danger,
or their crimes at least made them guilty of the law (that created them) which was also
quickly executed; and particularly on the abbots of Glastonbury, Colchester, and Reading,
who more than any else resisted. In conclusion, the title made to these houses, seems not
to be grounded upon a grant by statute, or claim of right, but either was some voluntary
surrender, purchase, or forfeiture; however, the king thought fit to have these
proceedings presently confirmed by an act of parliament, which he summoned 28 April,
1539." And the noble author adds, "But the Christian world was astonished at
these doings; and though the excessive number of houses excused the king in the first
part, for the first suppression of the lesser houses under £200 per annum, yet the latter
suppression of the great houses, has no such specious pretext, when the surrender,
purchase, or the like, were urged; though, notwithstanding the king's necessities, no
little occasion of scandal and obloquy was given; for, besides the houses and lands taken
away, there was much money made of the present stock of cattle and corn, of the timber,
lead, bells, &c.; and chiefly of the plate and church ornaments, which is not valued,
but may be conjectured by that one monastery of St. Edmondbury, whence was taken, as our
record testifies, five thousand marks of gold and silver, besides divers precious stones
of great value; all which, by some being openly called rapine and sacrilege, I will no
ways excuse." In the reign of Henry VIII there were extant the most honourable marks
of our forefathers' piety, monuments erected to the honour of God, to the propagation of
virtue, the encouragement of learning, and help of the poor. Since the highest period of
Christianity, religious houses, monasteries, abbeys, priories, existed. Forty of those
established in this country were suppressed with leave of pope Clement VII in favour of
Cardinal Wolsey. In 1536, all houses of £200 per annum, and under, were, with consent of
parliament, given to the king, and suppressed, in number, 376.@ The following
year, the remaining number were also suppressed, with 96 colleges, 110 hospitals, and 2374
chantries and free chapels. Thus, the stately edifices and immense wealth, which had been
the work of many ages to accumulate, were defaced, destroyed, dissipated, and squandered
away, in a moment; the annual revenues of which amounted to £160,000 being more then one
third of all the church revenues in the kingdom; besides the sums made of every article
that had a name, even to the hedge-row tree, which were valued and sold. No wonder then
that such sacrilegious rapine astonished the whole christian world; but the king's
passions admitted of no alternative. A parliament was summoned, which by its unlimited
power might legalise these acts of cruelty and oppression by a transcendent decree; the
act, however, was drawn up with such care and circumspection, as to remove all suspicion
of hard usage and forced surrenders; and the king was to be solicited by the parties to
accept of their surrender, as is seen in the surrender deed of the abbey of Furness. The
whole was varnished over with a vast prospect of advantage to the public; the nobility
were taught to believe that they should have large shares in the spoils, either by free
gifts, easy purchases, or advantageous exchanges; the gentry were flattered with the hopes
of a very considerable rise in honour and estate; nor were they disappointed, for a
considerable part of the abbey lands were granted out by lease, or otherwise, before the
meeting of parliament; and thus it was that the minister secured his scheme, by
interesting many of the nobility and commons in the support of it. On the king's behalf,
says Sir Edward Coke, Inst. fol. 4. "The members of both houses were informed in
parliament, that kings and kingdoms were not safe, but where the king had three abilities.
First, to live on his own, and able to defend his kingdoms; secondly, to aid his
confederates, otherwise they would never assist him; thirdly, to reward his well-deserving
servants. Now, the project was, if the parliament would give unto the king all the abbeys,
priories, friaries, nunneries, and other monasteries, that for ever, in times to come, he
would take order that the same should not be conveyed to private use; but first, that his
exchequer for the purpose aforesaid should be enriched; secondly, the kingdom be
strengthened by the maintenance of 40,000 well-trained soldiers, with skilful captains and
commanders; thirdly, for the benefit and ease of the subject, who never afterwards (as it
was pretended) in any time to come, should be charged with subsidies, fifteenths, loans,
or common aids;15 fourthly, lest the honour of the realm
should receive any diminution by the dissolution of the said monasteries, there being
twenty-nine lords of parliament, of abbots and priors, that the king would create a number
of nobles. The monasteries were given to the king by divers acts of parliament; but no
provision was there made for the said projects, or any part thereof, only ad faciendum
populum. The possessions were given to the king, his heirs, and successors, to do and use
therewith according to his and their own wills, to the pleasure of Almighty God, and
honour and profit of the realm. Now observe the catastrophe:- In the same parliament, 32
Henry VIII when the great and opulent priory of St. John's, of Jerusalem, was given to the
king, he demanded and had a subsidy, both of the laity and clergy; and the like he had in
his 34th year; and in his 37th year he had another subsidy; and since the dissolution of
the aforesaid monasteries he exacted great loans, and against the law received them."
It is also to be remembered, that as each religious house was a corporation aggregate, it
was not one of the least difficulties the minister had to encounter in the project of the
suppression of monasteries; for as such the succession was perpetual; the members, though
existing in different periods of time, were united in their aggregate capacity; and
therefore it could not elapse, or escheate, for want of succession, nor be liable to
Nothing more, I presume, is necessary to give a just idea of the spirit with which these affairs were conducted to answer certain purposes, since productive of many and much greater events than were thereby intended."
"What pensions" says Mr. West, "the monks of Furness received, I have not found, but it was not till the end of the succeeding year that Roger (the last abbot) was provided for, by the king settling on him for life, the profits of the rectory of Dalton, which were then valued at £33 6s. 8d. per annum, and world be equivalent to £141 13s. 4d. at present. A copy of the original grant is now remaining in the augmentation office at Westminster. The common seal of the abbey of Furness, of which an impression remains appendant to the deed of surrender, in the augmentation office, is Roundle, and exhibits within the circle the blessed Virgin Mary, as the Sublimis inter Sidera holding in her left arm the infant, who has a halo of glory round its head; and in her right hand a globe, as Regina Mundi. She stands between two shields of arms, which are suspended by bundles of nightshade, and charged with three lions of England, each supported at the bottom by a monk, in his full dress and coulet. On the foreground, before each monk, is a plant of nightshade, and over his head a sprig of the same, alluding to Stell's description of Becan-Gill.Ž In the compartments is the figure of a wivern, the device of Thomas Plantagenet, second Earl of Lancaster. The legend round the seal is Sigillum Commune Domus Beatę Marię De Furnesio. - The common seal of St. Mary's of Furness."
Great and disastrous were the changes which happened in Low Furness, in consequence of the dissolution of the abbey. The large demands for provisions of all kinds, occasioned by constant hospitality, and the frequent concourse of company resorting to the abbey, dropped at once. "Thus agriculture received a fatal blow; the means were first neglected, then forgot. The fertile fields and spacious lands which had given a name to plain Furness, waved no more with the rich harvest of silver wheat. The inhabitants turned their views to another but more remote market, and breeding of cattle took place of the plough. The land producing a rich, though not luxuriant grass, was fit for pasturage; their breed of cattle improved, and every market was open to receive them." Thus did the country remain till the advanced price of corn, and the increasing demand for provisions from the maritime towns of Lancaster, Liverpool, and Whitehaven, revived again the spirit of industry and agriculture. But it is to the mineral treasures of the district that Furness is chiefly indebted for her present prosperity. The Abbey of Furness in now the property of the Right Hon. William Earl of Burlington. At the dissolution the revenues of the abbey were valued, according to Dugdale, at £805 16s.; and according to Speed, at £966 7s. per annum, a sum equal to about £5000, according to the present value of British money.
The Hotel, at Furness Abbey, is a very large establishment, replete with every accommodation for visitors to this hoary fane,16 and is now kept by Mr. William Parker, late of the Sun Inn, Ulverston. This building was originally the abbot's dwelling; and, until a few years ago, was called the 'Manor House,' and occupied by a farmer. It still retains some inscriptions, &c., indicative of the faith and aspirations of its pristine inhabitants. On a stone in the staircase is inscribed, "Querite primum regnum Dei, et hęc omnia adjicientur vobis," (Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.) On a tablet of red freestone in the hall - now called the Refreshment Room - is a rudely-wrought presentation of Eve to Adam in Paradise with the following inscription, "Post orbem conditum sexto die creatur homo, " (On the sixth day after the world was built man is created.) Inserted in the walls of different apartments are four beautiful figures in bas relief, representing the woman with the issue of blood, touching the hem of our Saviour's garment, Mary wiping his feet with her hair, John the Baptist, and the Beloved Disciple, and bearing respectively the following Inscriptions:-
"Marcida . sanguineo . languebat .
foemina . fluxu
(A feeble woman with a bloody issue languished, having been tormented for two years, in addition to two lustres.© Nevertheless, so great was her confidence, that she said, Let it be granted me to touch the hem of Jesus' robe, I shall be whole. She touches. The flowing humour stood. Grant, O Redeemer, that, at I thus touch, what badly flows from my heart may well stand.)
"Quę . lacrimis. tibi . Christe .
lavat . quę . sedula . fuso
(She who washes for thee O Christ, thy feet with her tears; she who carefully wipes them with her unbound hair; she, who is bending to anoint thy head - washed, that thou mayest wash; wiped, that thou mayest wipe; anointed, that than mayest anoint; desiring peace, offered the first kisses. As a king, regard thy handmaid: as a judge, acquit her being a criminal: as a bridegroom, espouse her being in love. She repents, prays, and loves.)"
"Inter natos mulierum non surrexit major Johanne Baptista. Quantum ad annuntiationem quantum ad sanctificationem visitationem nativitatem conversationem prędicationem baptizationem revelationem commendationem ab ipso Christo quantum ad celebrationem nativitatis suę non surrexit major.
"Me peperit sterilis vox sum muto
(Among those born of woman there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist. As touching his annunciation, as touching his sanctification, visitation, nativity, conversation, preaching, baptizing, revelation, commendation, from Christ himself, as touching else the celebration of his nativity, there has not risen a greater.
A barren voice brought me forth. I am with one declared to be dumb. Going before and following, I wash a fountain in the eternal fountain.)
"Discipulus quem diligebat Jesus apostolus evangelista propheta pontifex heres virgo confessor, et martir et sępessime dixit Filioli diligite alterutrum quod si fiat sufficit.
"Me frater moriens genuit sine matre
(The disciple whom Jesus loved, being an apostle, an evangelist, a prophet, a priest, an heir, a virgin, a confessor, a martyr, very frequently said, My little children love one another, which, if it be done, in sufficient.
A brother dying begat me without a mother, a mother I have, but she was not made a mother by bringing me forth.)
Many relics of the abbey are exhibited at the hotel; and here is a figure, apparently of a crusader, and also a female figure, both found about four years ago. The Furness railway now passes by the ruins.
Dalton Manor, for which a court baron is held twice a year, comprises only this township, and belongs to the lord of the liberty of Furness. Copyhold tenants pay 3s. 4d. fine on death and alienation, for every whole burgage, and 1s. 8d. for every half burgage. The manor of Plain Furness comprehends the remainder of the parish, except certain portions now held in fee farm of the lord of the liberty of Furness, to whom it belongs, and also a portion of the adjoining parish of Urswick, called "Quernbarrow and Suet Fields." Freeholders pay nothing upon descent, but customary tenants, upon death or alienation, pay a fine of two years rent, and all admissions of tenants are to be done in open court of the manor. Should any tenant suffer his copyhold or tenement to fall into ruin or decay for two years, he shall forfeit his holdings; nor are the tenants to dispose of their tenements separately, otherwise the contract is void; but the lord has power, by a late act of parliament, to alienate the tenement in parcels. The tenants are to keep in repair the walls and banks of the island of Walney, and other parts and places of the manor, at their own expense; and should any part of the manor be wasted by the sea, they are bound to pay the same annual rent as if nothing of the kind had taken place. For the purpose of this reparation and maintenance, the tenants are to be supplied with as much timber and peat as they require out of the woods of the manor. The Duke of Buccleugh is lord of these manors.
ABOVE TOWN is an extensive township, containing the villages of Ireleth, Lindale, and Marton, distant about two and a half miles N. and N.N.E. of Dalton; and from two and a half to four and a half miles S.W. and W.S.W. of Ulverston.
Ireleth, which stands near Duddon sands, has long been celebrated for cockles. The Chapel at Ireleth was built in 1608, for a school house, by Giles Brownrigg, who endowed it with £12 a year, and was consecrated for divine worship about thirty years after its erection. It has received several lots of Queen Anne's Bounty, with which land has been purchased, now worth about £100 a year; and after the expiration of a lease, which will take place in 1879, the income of this living is likely to be greatly augmented. The vicar of Dalton is the patron, and the Rev. Henry Nelson Walton is the perpetual curate, and also teacher of the school.
Lindale17 village is built round a large tarn; and in its neighbourhood are very productive iron mines, at which several hands are constantly employed by Messrs. Harrison, Ainslie, & Co. and by the Ulverston Mining Company. The iron of Furness appears to have been considered valuable in the time of Edward II; for we find that during an excursion made by the Scots in that king's reign, they "met with no iron worth their notice until they came to Furness, in Lancashire, where they seized all the manufactured iron they could find, and carried it off with the greatest joy, though so heavy of carriage, and preferred it to all other plunder." - Hollinshed's Chron.
"Every stranger," says Mr. Jopling, "is struck with the appearance of the red roads in Low Furness, caused by carting the iron. Those employed in transporting the ore are facetiously said to receive their education in "Red Lane College," and if they possess a more than ordinary volubility, they are said to be "Fellows." The iron miner is a singularly looking being as he emerges from his gloomy subterraneous operations, his clothes red with the oxide of iron, and his lace as resplendent as the greasy visage of a copper-coloured Indian; when washed and dressed it would be difficult to recognize him."
At Marton is a small Wesleyan place of worship, opened about twelve months ago.
Tytup Hall, the residence of James Davis, Esq., and property of Myles Sandys, Esq., of Graythwaite hall, is a good mansion in this township, occupying a pleasant situation on a rising ground, four miles S.W. of Ulverston. It was formerly the residence of the Rev. Thomas West. The other principal land owners of the township, which contains 1137 acres, are the Earl of Burlington, Rev. John Baldwin, E.W. Wakefield, Esq., W.A. Makinnon, Esq., and Mr. G.B. Ashburner. Rateable value, £4366 5s.
HAWCOAT is a large, fertile, and interesting township, embracing a rich agricultural and highly picturesque tract of country, and extending from one mile S.W. of Dalton, to the Isle of Walney, which it includes, together with its neighbouring islets. The largest land owners are the Earl of Burlington, T.Y.P. Michaelson, Esq., C.D. Archibald, Esq., P. Woodhouse, Esq., and the Rev. John Baldwin; and its rateable value is £6078 18s. 2d. It contains a village of its own name, two miles S.W. of Dalton, and the hamlets of Barrow, Newbarns, Salthouse, and Cocken, with the villages of Bigger and North Scales,18 in the Isle of Walney. Hawcoat, which means a hill rising in a plain, is described by Mr. West as one of the principal points of view within Low Furness. On a fine day the offscape here is circular, and takes in the whole extent of the Isle of Man, the Isle of Anglesea, and a great many of the Welsh mountains. The landscape to the south, the east, and the north, extends from Asher's Beacon to Rivington Pike, and comprehends Longridge, Bolland, Ingleborough, and the hills which divide Lancashire from Yorkshire, and Westmorland from Cumberland, with many other lofty eminences in those counties. Perhaps the most extensive view may be obtained from a gate about half a mile from Millwood, the residence of Arthur Curry, Esq. Near the village of Newbarns is a neat Chapel of Ease, erected by subscription, in 1843, at which the Rev. John Baldwin, of Dalton, now officiates gratuitously every Sunday afternoon. A day school is kept in the chapel by Mr. Jas. Jackson.
Old Barrow Island, in this township, lies near the mainland opposite Barrow, which is a seaport, in Pile harbour, whence great quantities of iron ore, coal, &c. are shipped from a pier completed in June, 1846. Two new cranes have been fitted up here in this year (1849) by the railway company, who also erected a station house and a strong engine house, a short distance from the village, in 1846, in which year the line of railway from Broughton to Dalton was opened. Mr. J. Dix is the station master. A Building Society was established at Barrow in 1848, on much the some principles as the generality of such societies in other parts of the kingdom. The population of Barrow has greatly increased within the last twenty years. On old Barrow Island is a handsome mansion called Old Island Hall, the seat and property of Thos. Y.P. Michaelson, Esq. who is also owner of the whole of the island. This mansion occupies a pleasant situation near the shore, and is finely shaded with trees.
Fouldrey Castle, or, The Pile of Fouldrey, as it is generally called, which stands upon a small island, at the southern entrance of the harbour of Pile, was erected, according to Camden, by one of the abbots of Furness, in the first year of Edward III, A.D. 1327, for the purpose of guarding the harbour, and also as a place of retreat and refuge from hostile incursions during the border contests. The main tower has been encompassed by two walls, with ditches, and defended by several angle towers. Some ruins in the outer bayle or yard, are said to be those of the chapel, but it is more probable that this was within the keep. The ditches were supplied with water from a large reservoir, which had been formed on the north east side. The massive walls were constructed of boulder stones, collected from the neighbouring beach, and so firmly were they cemented together with grout work, that the many huge fragments which lie scattered on the shore, seem to bid defiance both to the corroding hand of time, and the raging waves of the ocean, to effect a separation of their parts. When the castle was demolished is unknown, but it most likely fell by the orders of that arch dismantler, Cromwell. Those remaining,19 which "Look great in ruin, noble in decay" - may be visited at low water, from the Isle of Walney, but the shorter passage is by a boat from Rampside. A public house and a cottage or two, are the only dwellings on this island.
THE ISLE OF WALNEY is about ten miles in length, and varies from a quarter of a mile to a mile in breadth. It is shaped somewhat like the top of the letter T., bending at each extremity towards the main land, from which it is separated by a narrow channel. It was called by the Saxons, Waghney, Woney, and Walney - "a walled island, or a wall in the water." Others derive the name from the British word, Gwaun, or Waun, which signifies a plain, a down, or mountain-meadow.
The Chapel at Walney, which stands between the hamlets of Bigger and North Scale, about six miles from Dalton, near the centre of the island, is of unknown origin. It is a neat edifice, dedicated to St. Mary, and was considerably repaired about twenty-five years ago. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the vicar of Dalton, and now in the incumbency of the Rev. John Park. Its yearly income is nearly £100, arising chiefly from an annual endowment of £10 by the inhabitants, £600 obtained from Queen Anne's Bounty, now vested in land, and a parliamentary grant of £800 obtained in 1825. The inhabitants of the island are also accommodated with a day and Sunday school. At the south end, on Haws Point, is a Lighthouse, erected in 1790, according to an act of Parliament obtained by a body of commissioners and trustees, that had been appointed to improve the navigation of the Lune. It is an octagonal column, sixty-eight feet high, and is ascended by a winding staircase of ninety-one steps. It acts upon the principle of the revolving axle, and has proved of essential service to mariners. In this island are several intermitting fresh water springs, having their flow and ebb regulated by the advance and recession of the tide - a circumstance which proves that they are supplied by the sea, and that the salt water loses its saline particles by percolation through the arenaceous stratum. But the most remarkable curiosity of Walney, and the most attractive ornithological feature in Furness, is the breeding place of the sea birds, at the north end of this island. A space about a mile in length, by fifty to one hundred yards in breadth, sheltered from the sea by a long sand bank, is literally covered by myriads of sea gulls; and it is scarcely possible to step without putting the foot into a nest. The breeding season begins about the last week in April, and from this period till the beginning of July the air seems alive with the constant flapping, the whirring, and the unceasing cries of the apprehensive parents. The botanist will be highly interested with the great variety of rare plants which abound in the island, amongst which we may mention the Artemisia Maritima, sea wormwood; Carduus Marianus, or Carduus Marię, milk thistle; the former, says Dr, Leigh, is a plant of extraordinary virtue, yielding an aromatic oil, a volatile and fixed salt, and is of great use in hysteric, hypochondriac, and hydropic cases; and the latter, in pleuritic cases, may be styled amongst the first. Aster Trypolium, sea starwort; Brassica Monensis, Isle of Man cabbage; Chelidonium Glaucium, sea celandine; Cocklearia Danica, Danish scurvy grass; Crambe Maritima, sea calewort; Fucus Filicinus, Ferns Fucus; Geranium Sanquineum, bloody cranes bill, with a variegated flower, Matricaria Maritima, sea feverfew, a noted antic-steric and diuretic; Ononis Arvensis, Creeping Rest-harrow, Pulmonaria Maritima, Sea Lung-wort, and other plants grow on this island. In 1631, no fewer than one hundred and twenty persons died of the plague in Walney. The southern part of the island is an immense ridge of pebbles, which the ocean has amassed, and which is daily increasing, every tide adding a large convex ridge of pebbles to those already accumulated.
ROE ISLAND,20 one of the group within the straits of Walney, has been purchased by a company of shareholders, with a view of making it a station for steam packets running between Fleetwood and the terminus of the Furness railway. In furtherance of this design, a new pier was commenced here in 1845, and completed in I847, at the expence of J.A. Smith, Esq., M.P. It stretches out to the length of 810 feet into the sea, and after descending 6½ feet, is continued 370 feet to a low water pier, which is 100 feet long by 20 broad. From the main pier, which is 40 feet above low water, another branches southward, to the length of 200 by 38 feet in width. A commodious Hotel and eight other dwellings, with a custom house, watering house, &c., have been erected here within the last two years.
YARLESDALE township includes the villages of Rampside and Newton, and the small hamlets of Little Mill, Peasholm, Roos, Roos Coat, and Stank.21 Rampside is delightfully situated on the shore of Pile harbour, at the most southern part of the peninsula of Furness, six miles S. of Dalton. It is much resorted to for sea bathing, and the accommodation for visitors at the New Inn is excellent. About a mile from the village, is a neat Chapel-of-Ease, dedicated to St. Michael. It was rebuilt in 1840, on the site of the original fabric, which was erected about the close of the 17th century, after which it had been for some time used as a school-house. It has a tower surmounted by four pinnacles. The living is a perpetual curacy in the gift of the vicar of the parish, and incumbency of the Rev. Wm. Dawson, who resides at a commodious parsonage, about seven hundred yards from the chapel. His income is about £100 per annum. Near the chapel is a neat building, erected in 1842, at the expence of the curate, for the purpose of a Sunday school, which is now attended by about fifty children.
Close to the village is a deep basin, called concle-hole, supposed to be a natural salt spring, said to possess sanative properties. The principal landowners of Yarleside, are the Earl of Burlington, Rev. Mr. Hutchinson, --- Clark, Esq., Rev. Thos. Tolming, Rev. John Baldwin, and C.D. Archibald, Esq.
BIOGRAPHY. - George Romney, an eminent artist, was born at Beckside, adjoining the town of Dalton, on the 15th of December, O.S. 1734. He went to school at Dendron, till his eleventh year, when he was taken from it to learn his father's trade, which was that of a joiner and builder. During the ten years that he continued with his father, his genius began to unfold itself in decorating some pieces of furniture with carving and gilding, and in imitating the prints of a monthly magazine. In 1755, he was bound to a Mr. Steele, an itinerant painter of some celebrity, then residing at Kendal. He afterwards began to practice portrait painting on his own account, in that town, until 1762, when he set off for London, where he remained nearly to the close of his life except while visiting Paris and Italy, in the latter of which places he spent two years studying the works of the great masters. Finding his health on the decline, he retired to Hampstead in 1797, and in 1799, he returned to Kendal, where he died, on the 15th of November, 1802, in the 68th year of his age. His remains are interred in Dalton church yard. In an interesting memoir of his life, written by his son, the late Rev. John Romney, B.D., it is stated that "subjects of the sublime, in which the powerful passions are represented, were the most congenial to his mind." "If," continues the Rev. Mr. Romney, "there was any part of his art in which he more especially excelled, it was in expression. He could impart to his female figures that indescribable something, that Je ne sais quoi, which captivates the spectator, without being able to account for it."
The Rev. Thomas West, who resided for several years at Tytup Hall, near Dalton, where he compiled his elaborate work, "The Antiquities of Furness," will ever have his name associated with the history of this district. He was a native of North Briton, born about the year 1716, and received the earliest part of his education at the public schools in Edinburgh, whence he removed to the English College at St. Omers. After having entered the holy order of priesthood, and resided some years on the continent, he came to England, and was a man revered as much for his sterling piety, and the benevolence of his disposition, as for his great intellectual attainments. Mr. West removed from Tytup Hall to Ulverston, where he wrote his well-known "Guide to the Lakes." During one of his occasional visits to Sizergh Hall, in Westmorland, he died there on the 10th of July, 1779, in the 63rd year of his age, much lamented by all who had the advantage of his acquaintance, and was interred, according to his own request, in the choir or chapel belonging to the Strickland family, in Kendal church. He belonged to that learned but greatly calumniated society called Jesuits.
William Close, who wrote the life
of Mr. West, was born in the year 1775, at Field Broughton, near Cartmel, but his parents
having removed during his infancy to the Isle of Walney, he received there the early part
of his education. In 1790, he was apprenticed to a surgeon, in Burton in Kendal, and in
1797, obtained his diploma, and commenced practice it Dalton, where he devoted his
attention to several branches of philosophy, and the various departments of general
literature, and was for many years a liberal contributor to Nicholson's Philosophical
Journal. He made considerable improvements in different musical instruments, especially in
the keyed bugle, for which he received a patent, and was instrumental in introducing
vaccination into Furness, in 1799. He died on the 27th of June, 1813, at the early age of
thirty-eight, beloved and regretted by his family and friends, and his remains lie
interred in the chapel yard of the Isle of Walney.
* Antiquities of Furness.
¶ Butler's lives of Saints, and Helyot's Histoire des0ordres Religieux, as quoted by West.
§ Two books belonging to the monks of Conishead, are still preserved at the priory: one is a volume in folio, written on superfine vellum, and contains the epistles of St Austin, with some sermons. The secondis a large quarto, less elegantly written; but the subject is more curious, being a system, or plan of education for kings and princes."
„ Saccum. The power of imposing fines upon tenants and
vassals within the lordship.
@ Dr. Burton, Eccl. Hist. of Yorkshire, p. 65, says, 380 houses were dissolved.
š Right, B. i. p. 386.
ž "Hęc vallis tenuit olim, sibi nomen ab herba Bekan, qua viruit dulcis nunc, tunc sed acerba; unde Domus nomen Bekangs-Gille claruit."
© That is, twelve years, for the lustre was a purification, or cleansing by sacrifice, every fifth year.
Mannix & Co., History, Topography and Directory of Westmorland, 1851
1. As ever, Mannix uses Saxon for what we
would call Norman.
2. The calefactory was a room where the monks would go to warm themselves.
3. Similar to a surplice.
4. More usually, villein, and not having any criminal connotation. A villein was originally a free villager, but later took on the meaning of serf, with all the feudal trappings, and effectively a slave to the local lord.
5. Falchion - a curved short sword, jack - a coat, typically of leather, byll (now usually bill) - a wooden handled axe.
6. Referred to elsewhere as Pile, now usually Piel.
7. Gildas was a sixth century monk, whose Ruin and Conquest of Britain records (unreliably) the progress of the Saxons in their settlement of Britain. He is important to scholars of King Arthur, as, although he isn't mentioned, he provides a window on the time of Arthur.
8. i.e. Rievaulx Abbey.
9. i.e. William the Conqueror, or William I.
11. Nones was the 7th of July, so presumably the 12th of July is meant.
12. The Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea.
13. Warren - the right to keep and hunt rabbits.
14. Henry VIII.
15. i.e. taxes.
16. fane - temple.
17. Now Lindal in Furness. There is another Lindale near Grange-Over-Sands.
18. Barrow, now Barrow-in-Furness, has expanded greatly, and has subsumed Newbarns. Presumably, Salthouse, and Cocken have me the same fate. North Scales is now North Scale; Bigger is now Biggar.
19. There are no indications on today's maps that anything remains.
20. Now Roa Island.
21. I can't find Little Mill on the map; it too may have been absorbed by the expansion of Barrow; , Peasholm is now Peaseholmes, Roos is now Roose, and Roos Coat is now Roosecote.
06 April 2008
© Steve Bulman