History Of The Diocese Of Carlisle

  > THE diocese of Carlisle comprehends the whole of the county of Cumberland, and the east and west wards of Westmorland, excepting that part of the former county called Allerdale Ward above Derwent, and a few parishes and chapelries in the newly-formed Derwent Ward or Division, which are in the diocese of Chester, and Alston and Over Denton parishes, which are included in the bishopric of Durham; and there are within the see of Carlisle, four Deaneries, viz., Carlisle, Wigton, Penrith, and Appleby.

Carlisle Deanery comprises the whole of Eskdale and Cumberland Wards, except Wigton, Kirkbride, and Over Denton parishes.

Wigton Deanery includes the entire of Allerdale Ward below Derwent, with Wigton and Kirkbride parishes.

Penrith Deanery comprises the whole of Leath Ward, with the exception of Alston parish, which is in Corbridge deanery, and diocese of Durham; and Appleby Deanery includes the east and west wards of Westmorland. These deaneries form but one archdeaconry, to which the rectory of Great Salkeld is annexed. Burn says that the archdeacon of Carlisle had formerly archidiaconal jurisdiction, "but the smallness and poverty of the diocese rendering a concurrent jurisdiction both inconvenient and burthensome, he gave up the same for a pension of 3 19s. 6d. per annum, which is still paid him by the bishop, and only retained the more ancient rights of examining and presenting persons to be ordained, and of inducting persons instituted into their respective livings; and all the rest of the archidiaconal jurisdiction is now devolved upon the chancellor of the diocese."

The first northern bishop recorded in history is St. Ninian, who is said to have fixed his residence at Whitburn, in Galloway, and to have divided this part of the country into districts and parishes. About the year 628, Edwin, king of Northumbria, became a convert to Christianity; but after his death, idolatry again prevailed in Northumbria, till 634 when St Oswald despatched messengers to the Scots, intreating them to send a suitable missionary to preach the law of Christ in his dominions. Aidan, a monk of the house of Iona, exemplary for his piety, was acordingly consecrated a bishop, and sent to Oswald, and in the space of seven days baptized 15,000 Northumbrians; and in the same year fixed his episcopal see in a small island, near Berwick-upon-Tweed, called Lindisfarn. This bishopric comprehended the whole country between the Humber and the Friths of Forth and Clyde, and consequently included the district which now forms the diocese of Carlisle. The see remained at Lindisfarn till 882, when bishop Eardulph fled from it with his colony of monks and holy treasures, in order to escape being plundered and contaminated by the invading Danes, and in the same year fixed his see at Chester-le-street, from whence, in 990, it was transferred to Durham, where it still continues. The holy St. Cuthbert was bishop of Lindisfarn1, from 685 to 688, and amongst the many royal gifts which he received, was the city of Carlisle, with the land for fifteen miles round. He was considered the patron saint of the north, and his body, which was saved when the church at Lindisfarn was destroyed, was, after many migrations, magnificently enshrined and deposited in the cathedral of Durham. This shrine was destroyed by the reformation gentry, but tradition says the sacred relics were saved and secretly interred in the cathedral, where they remain to the present day, there having always been three Benedictine monks residing at Durham, to whom it is said the trust is confided. St. Cuthbert restored a decayed nunnery, and instituted a school at Carlisle, which city continued annexed to the see of Durham till the reign of William Rufus2, when Walter, a wealthy Norman, who was intrusted by the king with the rebuilding of the city, laid the foundation of a priory here, and who it is said assumed the religions habit.* The premature death of the king in the New Forest3 caused a temporary interruption to this pious undertaking, but the work was soon afterwards resumed by Henry I, who, in 1101, placed in it canons regular of the order of St. Augustine, endowed it with large possessions, and constituted Athelwald, (or Adeluph) his confessor, the first prior.

This monastery, which shortly afterwards became the cathedral of Carlisle, was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and, amongst the many gifts which it received from Henry I were the churches of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Newburn, Whittingham, Rothbury, and Warkworth, in Northumberland, all of which are now in the patronage of the bishop of Carlisle. The same royal donor also gave it a fishery in the Eden, and a corn mill. Henry II confirmed to the prior and canons the following grants, viz., a carucate of land, &c. in Hethetwisle, given by the king of Scotland; the churches of Espatrick and Great Crosseby, with two carucates of land there, and a mansion house, near St. Cuthbert's, in Carlisle, given by Waldieve, son of Gospatrick; the churches of Little Crosseby and Ireby, with a sixth part of the town of Ireby, given by Alan, son of Waldieve; Great Crosseby with its appurtenances, given by Waldieve, son of Alan; lands in Arthunet and Lorton, by Ranulph de Lindesey; the church and hospital of Caldbeck, with lands near Flemingby, given by Gospatrick, son of Orme; the mill and village of Henrickby, by Ranulph Engaine; four salt works, near Burgh, a moiety of land in Scadbothes, and a house in Carlisle, given by William Engaine; two bovates of land in Mebrune, by Hugh de Morvill; half a carucate of land at Crekstot, and four acres at Tympaurin, by John Morvil and his heirs; Tithvenni, that is the land which was in debate between Boolton and Colleby, given by Uchtred and Adam, his heir; a carucate of land and two houses at Stainton, by Ranulph, son of Walter; lands in Tympaurin, by Theobold de Dacre and Gilbert and Adam Aclugh; lands in Carlisle, by Gilbert Aclugh; lands in Crakenthorpe, by Halth le Malchael; one third of Lowther Church, by Humphrey Malchael; Hutton Church, with a carucate of land there, by Robert de Vaulx; three acres of land without the walls of Carlisle, and a house in the city, by William, dean of Carlisle; and two bovates of land in Tallentyre, given by Adam, son of Uchtred. About the year 1133, when Carlisle was erected into a Bishop's See, Henry I, the principal royal benefactor of Carlisle Priory, prevailed upon Athelwald, its first prior, to consent to be consecrated bishop, and gave him that jurisdiction which has ever since been held by the succeeding bishops of Carlisle, to the exclusion of those of Durham. Walter, another of the king's chaplains, was constituted the next prior of Carlisle.

The property of the prior and bishop became very soon so confounded and blended, as to cause several contentions, till Gallo, the pope's legate, at their mutual petition, made a separation of their lands. Linstock Castle in Stanwix parish, was the only palace of the succeeding bishops till 1229, when Rose Castle became their place of residence, and has continued so to this day. It was given to the see, with the manor and church of Dalston, by Henry III, who, by his grant, ordered that the said manor of Dalston should he disafforested, and held separate from the king's forest of Inglewood. In 1230, the same monarch also granted to the bishop, prior, and canons of Carlisle, and their successors, "that they shall have, throughout all their lands and tenements, thol and theam and infangthief and outfangthief, and that they and all their men, shall be free against the king and his officers, from passage, pontage, lestage, stallage, cariage, works of castles, &c., and from suits of shires, wapentakes, hundreds, trithings, aids of sheriffs, view of frankpledqe, amerciaments, juries, and assizes; and that they shall have the goods of felons and fugitives, amerciaments and forfeitures, within their fees." In 1294, Edward I granted them the tithes of all the assart lands in Inglewood forest; and in 1304, in consideration of the great injury which the bishop, prior, and convent had sustained, "by the burning of their houses and churches, and divers depredations by the Scots," he gave them the churches of Addingham and Sowerby.

* Some writers say that Walter restored, rather than founded, the Priory.


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




1. Lindisfarn is now rendered Lindisfarne.
2. William Rufus - William II.
3. New Forest - in Hampshire, on the south coast of England.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman