Diocesan Histories : Carlisle




THE new Bishop of Carlisle was chosen from the canons of that place. John de Halucton, de Haloghton (his name is variously spelt, but he is best known as John Halton), was elected on St. George's Day (April 23rd), 1292. In the following month, on the Sunday within the octave of the Ascension, a dire misfortune befell his cathedral and cathedral city; a tremendous hurricane, evidently from the west, blew for twenty-four hours, parching up the vegetation, forcing men and horses off their roads, and driving the sea up higher, no doubt over Burgh and Rockcliff marshes, than ever had been known before, to the destruction of large numbers of cattle and sheep. In the midst of this terrible storm, an incendiary set fire to his father's house, which was just outside the city walls, near the west end of the cathedral: the flames spread, and the whole city and suburbs were destroyed with the exception of a few houses and the church of the Black Friars. The Chronicle of Lanercost preserves the following:


"Pro dolor immensis, Maii sub tempore mensis,
Ignibus accensis, urbs arsit Karliolensis;
Urbs desolata, cujus sunt aspera fata,
Flammis vastata, misere jactet incinerata.
Ecce, repentinis datur inclyta villa ruinis,
Fitque cremata cinis, salvis tantum Jacobinis.1
Organa, campanæ, vox musica canonicorum,
jam menti sanæ sunt instrumenta dolorum.
Post desolamen urbs sentiat hæc relevamen,
Fiat, fiat Amen; hoc audi, Christe, precamen."

From the special mention of them, we may conclude the organs and bells in the cathedral had been such as the canons might be proud of. In this fire the muniments of the city and the see perished. Charters granted at a later date to the city of Carlisle recite the destruction in this fire of all earlier ones: the earliest existing register of the bishops of Carlisle commences in 1292, shortly after this fire. This register and its successors record the acts of Bishops Halton, Ross, Kirkby, Welton, and Appleby, from 1292 to 1396, a period nearly coinciding with the Scottish wars of Edward I, II, and III, in which Carlisle as a fortress was of the highest importance, while its bishops filled high military and political offices, often being captains and governors of Carlisle, and always lords marchers. All the transactions of the diocese which were conducted in writing are recorded in the registers of the five bishops we have mentioned. Other entries of wider interest relating to diocesan, national, and even international politics occur at intervals. More than one hundred most interesting wills, mainly of persons of the upper-middle class are transcribed in these volumes, which also contain very full lists of ordinations. These volumes have recently been transcribed at the expense of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archæological Society, and are in slow course of being edited for the press.

In the year of Halton's accession to the episcopate, 1292, the new and stringent valuation of church property known as the Taxation of Pope Nicholas was made, in order to facilitate the collection of a tenth of all ecclesiastical property which Edward I had obtained from that pope on taking a new vow of crusade. This Taxatio was known as the Verus or Novus Valor, by way of distinction from one made in 1253, the Vetus Valor, under a grant by Innocent III to Henry III of first fruits and tenths. The Taxatio of Pope Nicholas remained in general force until the Valor Ecclesiasticus of Henry VIII, but it was, for a portion of the province of York, superseded by the Nova Taxatio of 1318, to which we shall presently come. We give a condensed summary of the valuation for the diocese of Carlisle:


Deanery of Carlisle



Deanery of Allerdale £503 14   0
Deanery of Westmorland £788 10   8
Deanery of Cumberland £544   2 10
The Archdeacon's synodals, &c.           £10   0    0
£2,557   9 10
Temporalities £613 15
£3,171 5

Three parishes in the deanery of Carlisle, and one in the deanery of Westmorland, are exempt as not exceeding ten marks in annual value.

Bishop Halton was appointed to collect from the Scottish bishops and clergy their tenths under the Taxation of Pope Nicholas; he had as coadjutor the Bishop of Caithness, and he employed a large staff of the Scottish regular clergy as sub-collectors; but frequent entries in his register prove that the collection was a work of time and difficulty, and the terrors of excommunication had often to be had resource to. Lists of the sums collected are preserved in the register; this business frequently took Bishop Halton into Scotland, and many of his writs and orders for regulation of his own diocese are dated from Jedburgh.

Bishop Halton succeeded his predecessor Bishop Irton as one of the commissioners appointed for trial of the merits of the many claims made to the Crown of Scotland. He was present at Berwick in October and November, 1292, when judgement was given in favour of John Balliol, to whom the Scottish castles were at once given up. Difficulties soon arose, and in 1294 Bishop Halton went to Scotland as ambassador from Edward I under letters of safe-conduct from John Balliol; but Balliol and the Scottish barons could not endure their position as vassals, and entered into an alliance with France. In 1296 war between England and Scotland was precipitated by the refusal of Balliol to attend a parliament at Newcastle, the massacre of a small body of English troops, and the investment of Carlisle by the Scots, under the Earl of Buchan, who, finding Carlisle too strong for him, and the citizens too determined, - the very women taking part in the fighting, - raided through the district and committed horrible atrocities, sparing neither man, woman, nor child, and falling upon the religious houses at Lambley, Lanercost, and Hexham. The first, a small nunnery on the borders of Cumberland and Northumberland, they utterly destroyed; at Lanercost they burned the conventual buildings, but the church escaped, owing probably to a report that the English king, with an army, was approaching; on this the Earl of Buchan retired into Scotland. Edward I destroyed Berwick. Balliol, by a formal instrument, copy whereof in Halton's register, renounced the homage he had paid to the English king, who took possession of Scotland, and filled all the important posts with Englishmen. Scotland rose in 1297 under Wallace, who, in that year, after his victory at Stirling, again harried Lanercost, and summoned Carlisle to surrender, but withdrew on finding the garrison prepared for defence. During this year Robert Bruce swore fealty to Edward I on the sword of St. Thomas before Bishop Halton, one of a series of historical pageants that about this time were held in Carlisle cathedral, and which might well supply scenes for the painter's brush. In the following year, 1298, Edward I, after the battle of Falkirk, was compelled to retire with his victorious army upon Carlisle, where entries in the bishop's register show that large stores were being accumulated in the castle of which Bishop Halton was now the custos. The register contains very interesting accounts, both originals and copies from the Exchequer Rolls, of expenses incurred by the bishop as such custos. It also contains petitions that allowances may be made to him for damage caused by the passage of troops to Scotland. The king shortly went south, but in 1299 he wrote to Bishop Halton that he would be at Carlisle by midsummer; he did not, however, come until the next year, 1300, when he was followed by his new Queen, Margaret.

At Carlisle he assembled one of the finest and most brilliant armies England had ever put in the field, and proceeded to Caerlaverock Castle, which he besieged and took, as also other fortresses in the south of Scotland; but the country was too impoverished to sustain his army, and he made a truce and withdrew. On this occasion he and his queen were the guests of the church at the abbeys of Holm Cultram and Lanercost and at the episcopal palace of Rose. At Holm Cultram the Bishop of Glasgow, then prisoner, swore allegiance under circumstances of great solemnity. Edward I returned south, but the Scottish nobles and Wallace kept the war up until Wallace was captured and hanged in 1305. In 1306 Robert Bruce stabbed John Comyn of Badenoch, of the rival house of Balliol, in the church of the Greyfriars at Dumfries, and was shortly afterwards crowned King of Scotland at Scone. This roused the old king's ire; he sent his son on in advance, who ruthlessly wasted the Scottish country; the king followed in easy stages, and he and the queen arrived at Lanercost in September, 1306, and stayed there for six months, with the exception of a short visit to Carlisle and to Bishop Halton at Linstock. From Lanercost Edward I summoned a Parliament to meet at Carlisle on January 20, 1406-7. The Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of York, nineteen bishops, thrice that number of mitred abbots, a large number of the most powerful barons of the realm, and the great officers of state, came to Carlisle to attend this Parliament, which passed the statute of Carlisle, forbidding the payment of talliages [perhaps a mis-print for tallages, a tax] on monastic property, and other imposts by which money was raised to be sent out of the country. To Carlisle also came Cardinal Petrus Hispanus (Cardinal Peter d'Espagnol), the papal legate. He preached in the cathedral at Carlisle, and,

"revested himselfe and the other bishops which were present, and then, with candels light and causing the bels to be roong, they accursed, in terrible wise, Robert Bruce, the usurper of the crowne of Scotland, with all his partakers, aiders, and mainteiners." - Holinshed, ii. 523.

About midsummer another stately ceremony took place in Carlisle cathedral; the king made there solemn offering of the horse litter in which he had travelled to the north and of the horses belonging to it. On July 3 he mounted his charger and set off towards Scotland, but died on Burgh Marsh on July 7, 1307.

Faint traditions of his funeral pageant passing over Staynmoor still linger there, and the splendours of the Parliament of Carlisle were not forgotten by the citizens three centuries later.

The heir to the throne arrived at Carlisle from Wales on July 18, and on the 20th was proclaimed king, and received homage at the castle from the English nobles, who were assembled for the Scottish expedition. He accompanied his father's funeral for a few days' march, and then returned to Carlisle and proceeded thence to Dumfries, where he received homage from some of the Scotch nobility, but he soon went to the South for his father's funeral. With the proclamation of Edward II the most brilliant period of the history of Carlisle comes to a close. Its importance as a fortress was in no way diminished, but no great armies were again assembled under its walls for the conquest of Scotland; Berwick rather than Carlisle became their rendezvous; Bishop Halton continued to act on the royal behalf in Scottish matters, but the character of the war changed; the English were worsted, and his diocese was overrun and wasted. Large sums were wrung out of it for ransom, or hostages given in default of payment. In 1311 Robert Bruce was at Lanercost for three days; in 1314 Edward Bruce visited Rose for a like period, and laid the country waste throughout the forest of Inglewood, while the bishop was blockaded in Carlisle, which was too strong for Bruce. After Bannockburn, Gillesland was compelled to pay tribute and the inhabitants to swear allegiance to Bruce. In 1315 occurred the famous siege of Carlisle by Robert Bruce, and its gallant and successful defence by Andrew de Hercla [now usually given as de Harcla]; in 1322 Robert Bruce burnt Rose Castle, ravaged Holm Cultram Abbey, and twice in that year wasted the country far and wide. No wonder that the bishop was fugitive from his diocese; in 1318 he addressed a piteous letter to the pope, in which he states that he is reduced to indigence, and asks for the appropriation to his see of the living of Horncastle, in Lincolnshire, as a means of support. This he obtained, and Horncastle and other Lincolnshire livings belonged to the Bishop of Carlisle until the time of Bishop Percy. The bishop writes from Melburn, in Derbyshire, a church which was also appropriated to his see. He died in November, 1324, at Rose Castle, says the Chronicle of Lanercost. He held an ordination in that year at Horncastle, under licence from his brother of Lincoln. His last public duty, other than the duties of his see, was as commissioner for peace with Scotland in 1320.

His residence in the beginning of his episcopate was at Linstock, where, in 1292, he entertained John Romanus, archbishop of York, who, with a large suite, was en route to his archiepiscopal peculiar of Hexham. In 1300 Edward I and Queen Margaret stayed for a short time at Rose; in 1307 they were Bishop Halton's guests at Linstock. The bishop in that year was evidently anxious to obtain a new residence for his see, for he petitioned for ground within the city of Carlisle on which to build one. He probably planned, though he may not have carried out, Rose Castle, on the plan partly remaining until now, - namely, a concentric Edwardian castle: in this would be incorporated, as at Naworth, an older peel tower, which, with a lot of wooden buildings, probably accommodated Edward I and his queen. There would be no better accommodation at Linstock.

So great was the devastation wrought by the Scots during the later part of this prelate's time, that in 1318 a royal mandate was issued to Bishop Halton to make a Nova Taxatio over part of the province of York, as the clergy were unable to pay the tax according to the Valor of Pope Nicholas. To give an instance of the difference: in the valuation of Pope Nicholas the temporalities of the Priory of Lanercost are set down as £74 12s. 6½d. per annum; in the Nova Taxatio they are returned as nothing. The same return is made as to most of the churches on the borders of Cumberland. This was not a new condition of things in 1318. So early as 1302 Bishop Halton had to direct the collectors of the disme, or tenth, to collect nothing from certain churches, those along the border, and two-thirds only from a long list of other churches.

Strange and marked must have been the contrast between the splendour and plenty in Carlisle during the visits of Edward I and the poverty in the country around; the citizens of Carlisle waxing fat on the wages of the soldiery, while the wretched peasants around them starved.

The canons of Carlisle, on January 7, 1325, elected William de Armyne, who, as rector of Levington, had been, in 1314, proctor in Parliament for Bishop Halton, and who now, as canon of York, was custos sede vacante of the spiritualities and temporalities of the see, but John Ross, a man from the south (homo australis, the chronicler of Lanercost contemptuously calls him) was consecrated bishop by the pope. The Chronicle makes no further mention of him except that he died at Rose in 1334, an error for 1332, et ad sepeliendum delatus est ad partes australes Angliæ. That he officiated in 1327 at Westminster on the occasion of the consecration of a Bishop of Candida Casa; that he found his diocese in dire poverty, without even a manor house, he says, capable of covering him and his familia, that he was anxious about the appropriation of Horncastle; that he got into debt and into a tremendous litigation with the prior of Carlisle, whom he excommunicated, is about all we know of the "man from the south."

The following document is copied from the register of Bishop Ross, and is dated shortly after his consecration. The bishop appears to be obtaining from the treasury of his cathedral church a sufficient supply of vestments, plate, and service-books for his own private use; they had probably been returned to the treasury by the executors of his predecessor:-

"Indentura inter episcopum et capitulum Karl. de vestimentis et rebus infra scriptis.

"Hæc indentura testatur quod venerabilis Pater J. miseratione divina et apostolice sedis gratia Karl. Episcopus ex accommodato recipit de subpriore et conventu ecclesie Karl. mortuo priore ejusdem per manus Walteri de Ebor, ejusdem ecclesie sacriste vestimenta et alia subscripta.

"Unam casulam rubeam de Samito cum tunica et dalmatica de sindone rubea ejusdem secte cumque alba cum parura de armis Regis et comitis Lincoln.

"Item j tunicam et dalmaticam de sindone rubea pro Diacono et Subdiacono.

"Item j casulam cum tunica et dalmatica de baudekyn unius secte cum alba stola manipulo et pertinenciis de serico consutis.

"Item alias duas albas cum pertinenciis pro diacono et subdiacono.

"Item unam casulam cotidianam.

"Item unam cappam de samito rubeo cum morsura.

"Item duas cappas crocei coloris.

"Item duo pallia altaris cum parura brodata el tercium sine parura.

"Item j Baudekyn integrum pro frontello.

"Item j missale sine EvangelIis et Epistolis.

"Item j Alium librum EvangelioruM et Epistolarum.

"Item j Pontificale.

"Item duo Gradualia.

"Item unum calicem argenteum deauratum.

"Item duo Fiala argentea.

"Item unum Baculum pestoralem cum capite de argento et deaurato.

"Item unam Mitram gemmatam et unam aliam simplicem.

"Item unam par cirothecarum cum uno annulo pontificali.

"Item unum Thuribulum argenteum et deauratum.

"Item unum superaltare.

"Item unum crismatorium argenteum.

"Item unum parvum librum pro confirmatione puerorum cum una Stola et ij. cofris.

"Data Karl. die Dominica proxima post festum Translacionis Sancti Thome Martiris Anno gracie ut supra."

Bishop Ross was succeeded by John de Kirkby, a canon of Carlisle, a new type of bishop, for he was churchman, diplomatist and soldier. As a soldier he was no mere custos of Carlisle, acting on the defensive, organising troops and collecting provisions and stores: he himself headed the troops, and fought in person. He does not appear to have accompanied, in 1334, the forces which assembled at Carlisle under Edward Balliol and invaded Scotland, or those which Edward III collected there in the following year. But, in 1337, he and some of the local barons invaded Scotland with a force raised in Cumberland and Westmorland, and effected a junction with an English army under the Earl of Warwick, which had entered Scotland by Berwick. The united forces did much mischief in Scotland, and Bishop Kirkby became especially obnoxious to the Scots, who in his absence raided into Cumberland, burnt the [leprosy] hospital of St. Nicholas, in the suburbs of Carlisle [well outside the city walls], and visited Rose, which they burnt and wasted. In the following year Bishop Kirkby and Ralph Dacre, lord of Gilsland, invaded Scotland and raised the siege of Edinburgh, then held by the English, and invested by a Scottish army. In 1345, the Scots under Sir William Douglas raided through Cumberland, and wasted Penrith and Gilsland. They were harassed by a small force under Bishop Kirkby and Sir Thomas Ogle, who fell in with a detached party of Scots under Sir Alexander Strachan. In the skirmish that ensued, Strachan was killed by Ogle, who was dangerously wounded. Bishop Kirkby was unhorsed, but recovered his saddle, rallied his men, and gained the victory.

These wars much impoverished the already poor see. In 1337 the bishop says he cannot collect the tenths, because the clergy had all fled; his register shows by various entries that much pressure was put upon him by the king to make him raise money and men-at-arms. To these demands the bishop declined to accede; indeed, he stood up manfully for his clergy, who declared that, so far from paying procurations, tenths, and other imposts, they could hardly live. The bishop positively refused to collect or even to acknowledge a grant of wool from the clergy, made by the Parliament of Nottingham. Poverty and misery were everywhere throughout the diocese. The priory of Lanercost, in 1346, was reduced for the future to utter insignificance by a savage and barbarous raid of the Scots, under David Bruce. Bishop Kirkby, spite of his pluck and fighting powers, was unable to maintain his position in his diocese: he was frequently absent on compulsion, and his ordinations were necessarily held at many places outside of his own diocese. Within it he does not seem to have been popular. At Penrith, in 1333, and at Caldewstanes, in the suburbs of Carlisle, in 1337, he and his suite were hooted, mobbed, stoned, and wounded by rioters. He was also engaged in a long and expensive litigation with his chapter and with his archdeacon. He died in 1352. During his episcopate, in 1349, the Black Death ravaged the province of York, but we have found no special mention of its ravages in the diocese of Carlisle. There is, however, a gap of about seven years in the episcopal registers at this time, from 1346 or thereabouts. This would seem to indicate that the administration of the diocese was in much confusion in the last years of Kirkby's episcopate; and it hinders any inquiry as to whether any unusual number of benefices were vacated about the time of the Black Death.

On this vacancy of the see, as on those occasioned by the deaths of Bishops Chauncey and Halton, disputes arose as to the succession, the Papal Court steadily continuing its policy of arrogating to itself the nomination to English archbishoprics and bishoprics and to the choicest pieces of ecclesiastical preferment. These it generally conferred on foreigners, and the unpopularity of such appointments had much to do with bringing about the Reformation. The impoverished diocese of Carlisle, however, offered slight attraction to Italian priests, who would require strong inducements to overcome their natural dislike to its climate. On the first of these vacancies just mentioned the Papal Court had, as we have seen, secured a diplomatic victory, and set a valuable precedent by declaring the election by the chapter void, and by itself appointing auctoritate sua the nominee of the chapter. In the second case the Papal Court improved upon the precedent, and put in its nominee, the homo australis, though the king had confirmed Wm. de Armyne, the nominee of the chapter. On the present occasion the Papal Court still further vindicated its authority; the chapter of Carlisle, under congé d'élire, elected their prior, John de Horncastle, as bishop of Carlisle, and he was confirmed therein by the king. In the Carlisle episcopal registers a page is headed, Registrum Dui Johannis de Horncastro Electi et Confirmati, &c., and he had restitution of the temporalities. A writ addressed to him by the king, and two nominations by him to benefices, are recorded in the registers. John de Horncastle was de facto bishop of Carlisle from February, 1352, to February, 1353, when he had to make place for the papal nominee, Gilbert de Welton, by his name possibly a local man. Bishop Welton died in 1362, and the canons of Carlisle, under congé d'élire, elected one of their own body, Thomas de Appleby. The pope declared the election void, but auctoritate sua appointed de Appleby to the see. He held the see until 1395.

There is no necessity to linger over Bishops Welton and Appleby; they were both associated with the local magnates in many commissions, of which we need not give a list, for regulating Scottish matters; and to that extent they were political personages, important political personages, but their registers contain no documents equal in historical interest to those in the registers of Halton, Ross, and Kirkby. The Scottish wars were dying down, though Carlisle was unsuccessfully attacked by the Scots in 1385 and 1387: Richard II was too feeble a monarch to make himself much felt in the far North: thus the history of the diocese of Carlisle ceases to mingle so much as before with the general history of England. These registers contain a great mass of matter of local interest, both to the genealogist and to the topographer, and it is to be hoped that they will be shortly made accessible in print. They throw much light on the architectural history of the cathedral and other churches, while the wills, already mentioned, which belong wholly to the second half of the fourteenth century, are of the deepest interest from the glimpses they give into social life at that time. An unusual proportion of these wills are of clergy beneficed in the diocese; a perusal of them shows that the reverend testators were by no means badly off, their wills dealing with both real and personal property. Several of them farmed to a considerable extent, to judge from the horses and cattle they had to dispose of, while bequests of clothes, beds, hangings, brass pots, brewing utensils, and the like indicate that some of the beneficed clergy, poor as the diocese was, were well clad and dwelt in well-furnished residences. Bequests of books occur, mainly of service books, but occasionally of others. Thomas de Byx leaves books to the library of the prior and convent of Carlisle, unum par Clementinarum et unum Decretalium. From the wills of both clerics and laics we gather that the quatuor ordines of friars in the diocese were popular; bequests to them of money are frequent, and their churches were favourite places of interment. Provision is made for much feasting at funerals, and all poor and all clerks who attended generally received a meal and a fee. The fabric fund of the cathedral frequently receives bequests, and so do the bridges at Carlisle, Appleby, Salkeld, and Kirkby-thore: for these bridges and for the cathedral money was frequently raised by indulgences. William de Routhbury, archdeacon of Carlisle, leaves 40s. for the repairs of the chancel roof and window of Great Salkeld church, but if his successor, the new archdeacon, makes any claim for dilapidations he revokes the bequest. The ordination lists preserved in the registers show that the number of clergy in the diocese must have been very large in proportion to the number of the laity, and far beyond the number for which benefices could be found; judging from their names the persons ordained came, as a rule, from the lower orders of society, and were mainly natives of the diocese.

Either Bishop Welton or Appleby provided the diocese with a new set of "Constitutions": a copy is in the volume containing Weltons and Appleby's registers, bound up between the two. They occupy a considerable space, and are too long for reproduction here, containing some sixty chapters. Internal evidence shows that they were laid before a diocesan synod, by whom they were ratified, thus making them diocesan law. Each chapter is taken almost verbatim from one or another of the many similar compilations printed in the Concilia of Spelman and Wilkins, but the Bishop of Carlisle has not adopted any one code en bloc, though he greatly favours one drawn up by Peter Quivil, bishop of Exeter, 1287. The two last chapters, De habitu clericorum et Indumentis and Nota de Perjuris et per quos absolvi, have a strong local smack. By the first the Clergy were prohibited from wearing cloaks with long sleeves (capæ manicatæ) or other garments of levity, but they were to wear capæ clausæ, or super-pellicia, up to the feast of St. Peter ad Vincula, after which date they were to provide themselves with capæ clausæ, otherwise the offending garments were to be forfeited fabrice Pontis de Eden juxta Karl [something like "for the maintenence of the Eden bridge near Carlisle"]. In the second the bishop laments the prevalence of perjury in the diocese of Carlisle, and directs that perjurers confessing their perjury are not to be absolved except in periculo mortis.

During the period covered by this and the preceding chapter we have little information about the prior and convent of Carlisle except that they were generally at loggerheads or litigation with their bishop, who was generally imposed upon them by Papal provision to the prejudice of the prior and convent's selection under a congé d'élire. This culminated in a grand riot when William de Dalston, elected prior about 1385, refused to profess canonical obedience to Bishop Appleby. The bishop directed the parish priest of St. Mary's in the cathedral to denounce the prior inter sollempnia missarum as excommunicate.

A riot ensued, and the priest was hustled out of the church. The archbishop intervened, and in the end the prior, who was also accused of immorality, had to resign his office. Contests at this time between bishops and their chapters were by no means peculiar to this diocese, the monastic bodies generally struggling for freedom from episcopal control.

The episcopal registers, 1292 to 1396, contain many instances of indulgences to raise money for the repair of the cathedral of Carlisle, which had suffered much by fire and at the hands of the Scots. Several indulgences for the same purpose were granted by the archbishops of York, and will be found in their registers: some of them are printed in the Surtees Society's publications, vol. xliv., Priory of Hexham.

1. The French name for the Black Friars.


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


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19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman