Diocesan Histories : Carlisle



So many chartularies and manuscripts relating to the history of the Diocese of Carlisle are still unprinted and unindexed, that the work of its historian must be largely attentative, and he must expect in course of time to be set right on many points.

I have to express my thanks to my friends, the Rev. T. Lees, F.S.A., the Rev W.S. Calverley, F.S.A., the Rev. H. Whitehead, and the Rev. J. Wilson for much valuable assistance. I have availed myself to the fullest of Archdeacon Prescott's valuable contributions to local history, and I wish there were more of them. I have pillaged without mercy the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archæological Society. I have borrowed much from the works of Stubbs, Freeman, Green, and Froude.

The wood-blocks [used for the illustrations at the end of chapters 10 to 13] are lent by the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archæological Society.

AUGUST, 1889.


Chapter I, Introductory.

dioceseferguson.jpg (141648 bytes)The present [i.e. in the year 1889] diocese of Carlisle consists (1) of the county of Cumberland, with the exception of the parish of Alston; (2) the county of Westmorland; and (3) that portion of the Hundred of Lonsdale, in the county of Lancashire, which is known as Lancashire North of the Sands, and which is separated from the main body of that county by the intervention of the county of Westmorland and the estuary of Morecambe Bay.

Prior to the year 1856, the diocese of Carlisle was the smallest in England, the whole of it being comprised in one archdeaconry, that of Carlisle. Its limits defined the land of Carlisle, which the Red King [ William II aka William Rufus], in 1092, for the first time made part of the English kingdom, and formed into the earldom of Carlisle: it included great part of the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, but not the whole of either county. Henry I completed the work of the Red King by adding the land of Carlisle to the list of English episcopal sees, as the bishopric of Carlisle. The boundaries of the see so created remained unaltered until the death, in 1856, of Dr. Percy, bishop of Carlisle. In that year, under the provisions of the 6 and 7 William IV. c. 77, and of an Order in Council made in August, 1847, the deaneries of Copeland, in Cumberland, of Furness and Cartmell [now usually Cartmel], in Lancashire, and so much of the deaneries of Kendal and Kirkby Lonsdale as were in Westmorland, were severed from the diocese of Chester, and from the great and famous archdeaconry of Richmond, formed into a new archdeaconry, that of Westmorland, and added to the diocese of Carlisle, the severed portions of Kirkby Lonsdale and Kendal being united into a new deanery of Kendal. The diocese thus consisted of two archdeaconries, Carlisle and Westmorland, and the boundary line between them was an historical one, the southern boundary of the land or earldom of Carlisle.

In 1884, a third archdeaconry, that of Furness, was formed, and the alterations then effected in the boundaries of the archdeaconries deprive them of all historical interest; and they can only for the future be defined by the lists of the parishes they contain and by reference to the map given herewith. The number and boundaries of the rural deaneries have in like manner been increased and altered. The unextended diocese of Carlisle contained four, which appear in the register of Wetheral as Gillesland , Cumberland, Allerdale, and Westmorland, a very curious division, which must relate back to the period when, as we shall see hereafter, Gillesland was in the diocese of Hexham. A more convenient division was found in Carlisle, Cumberland, Allerdale, and Westmorland, names which appear in the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas; in the last century these names were discarded for Carlisle, Penrith, Appleby, and Wigton. The portion added to the old diocese of Carlisle in 1856 contained also four, which have been already named, viz., Copeland, Furness, Cartmell, and Kendal. There are now in the modern diocese nineteen deaneries. The unextended diocese of Carlisle contained 137 benefices; the present diocese contains 292, namely, 142 in the archdeaconry of Carlisle, 90 in the archdeaconry of Westmorland, and 60 in the archdeaconry of Furness. The patronage of fifty of these benefices is in the Bishop of Carlisle in right of his see; he has also the alternate patronage of two others; twenty-nine are in the patronage of the dean and chapter of Carlisle; and thirty-six in the patronage of the trustees of the Earl of Lonsdale, who are also alternate patrons of two others. The patronage belonging to the Lowther family was acquired at various times by purchase, in pursuance of a fixed political policy. The rectory of Great Salkeld was from very early times annexed to the archdeaconry of Carlisle, but the connexion was severed in 1855, and a stall in Carlisle Cathedral was annexed to it in lieu. The vicarage of St. George's, Barrow, is annexed to the archdeaconry of Furness.

The exclusion of the Cumberland parish of Alston from the diocese of Carlisle may at first sight seem an anomaly, but it is not so. By all the laws of geography that parish belongs to the county of Northumberland, and to the diocese of Durham, or since 1882, of Newcastle; the anomaly is that it belongs to the county of Cumberland, to which it has access only over a col, whose summit is 1900 feet above the level of the sea. This arises from the fact that Alston contained jura regalia, silver mines, whose profits the Crown of England found it convenient to collect through the Sheriff of Cumberland, and Alston thus became fiscally severed from the district to which, ecclesiastically and geographically, it belongs.1

Some little dispute there once was as to whether the small parish of Over Denton was in the diocese of Carlisle or of Durham, arising partly out of a disputed county boundary line, unless, indeed, as is more probable, the ecclesiastical dispute gave birth to the civil one.2 It has long been settled that the parish of Over Denton belongs to the see of Carlisle, but the chartulary of Lanercost clearly shows that in the twelfth century it was reckoned in the diocese of Durham, and other records show that it was so reckoned until the end of the fifteenth century.

From the preceding summary it will be seen that the history of a portion of the diocese of Carlisle is the history of part of the diocese of Chester, or rather of the archdeaconry of Richmond. This must be sought for in the volumes for York and Chester in this series, and from it the present writer proposes, as a general rule, to abstain; but in treating of the religious and social aspects of the old diocese of Carlisle it will be impossible to avoid occasionally overstepping its limits, particularly in regard to the Lake Country.

It has already been stated that the bishopric of Carlisle was founded by Henry I. Before taking up the history of the diocese from that time, it will be necessary to consider with some care the previous history and condition of the district which Henry the Scholar formed into the see of Carlisle.

1. See "Why Alston is in the Diocese of Durham, and in the County of Cumberland." - Transactions Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archæological Society, Vol. viii. p. 21.
2. See Transactions Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archæological Society, vol. iii. pp. 158, 159, 160; and Bishop Nicolson's "Miscellany Account of the Diocese of Carlisle in 1703," p. 40.

Diocesan Histories : Carlisle,
by Richard S. Ferguson, Chancellor of Carlisle
Published by SPCK, London, 1889


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19 June 2015

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