Hawkshead Parish


This parish embraces a picturesque and delightful district, bounded on the west by the Lake of Coniston; on the north by Elter Water and the river Brathay; on the east by a small part of the river Rothay, and the expansive lake of Windermere; and on the south by the parish of Colton. It is about nine miles in length, and four in breadth, contains 24,320 statute acres, and the annual value of its rateable property in 1841, was estimated at 9,470. It is divided into the four townships of Claife, Hawkshead, Monk Coniston with Skelwith, and Satterthwaite, and its population in 1801, amounted to 1585; in 1811, to 1710; in 1821, to 2014; in 1831, to 2060; and in 1841, to 2323 souls' viz., 1198 males, and 1125 females. Of this number 280 males and 261 females were in Claife; 685 males and 677 females in Hawkshead and Monk Coniston with Skelwith; and 233 males and 187 females in Satterthwaite. The soil of the parish is in general dry, and more suitable for pasture, sheepwalks, and wood, than for tillage.

HAWKSHEAD is an ancient market town, situate in the centre of a warm and sheltered valley, at the head of Esthwaite Water, and surrounded by the lofty Fells of Furness. "The small round-topped verdant elevations," says Mr. Baines, "with which the country abounds, give a softness and beauty to this part of the lake scenery, which can scarcely be excelled." The construction of this town is very antique, but there are no authentic records to show either its origin or the etymology of its name. When Furness Abbey was in the zenith of its splendour, in the middle ages of British history, a court was held here, at which the bailiff of Hawkshead dispensed justice in the name of the abbots. The room in which this court was held is still pointed out over the gateway of the house called Hawkshead Hall, now occupied by a farmer, about a mile north from the town; and here the abbot kept residence by one or more monks, who performed divine service in the church and other places. Though several of the old-fashioned houses still remain, yet there are many good dwellings in the town, and some comfortable inns, especially the Red Lion, where conveyances are always in readiness for visitants and tourists; and it is a matter of surprise that this central and picturesque town is not more frequently resorted to by tourists to the lake district.

The Hawkshead Amicable Society, established the 14th April, 1792, now numbers 360 members, and has a fund amounting to 2571 16s., of which the sum of 2170 is deposited in the Bank of England. Mr. Thomas Bowman is president, and Mr. John Taylor is treasurer.

The Female Union Society, instituted the 6th of August, 1798, is also liberally patronized by the ladies of this neighbourhood, and has 204 members, and their fund amounts to 747 10s. 4d., of which 700 is on mortgage in Grasmere. Mrs. Beck, of Esthwaite Lodge, is the patroness of this institution, and Mr. J. Nicholson is clerk and treasurer. Both societies are partly on the same principle as other benefit societies in the country. The market is held on Monday, under a charter granted by James I to Adam Sandys, Esq. of Graithwaite, but the town having no manufacture or prevailing trade immediately within itself, the market is nearly obsolete; that animation which had characterized both it, and those of Ambleside and Broughton, previous to the invention of spinning machinery in the latter part of the eighteenth century, having long since disappeared. Four annual fairs for cattle, &c., are held on Easter Monday, the Monday before Ascension Day, Whit Monday, and the 2nd of October. The market-place is tolerably spacious, and here is a neat town house of modern erection, where public business is transacted. By the reform act, Hawkshead was made a polling place for the northern division of Lancashire.

The church, dedicated to St. Michael, is a large structure, with side aisles and a massive square tower, in which are six bells. It stands upon an elevation at the southern end of the market-place, and commands a good view of the vale and lake of Esthwaite. It was founded about the time of the Norman conquest, and although it was much modernised in the reign of Elizabeth, (1578) and again in the reign of Charles I, yet the columns and arches of the original fabric still remain. "The Coucher Book of Furness Abbey, mentions Hawkshead Chapel in the year 1200, but the internal evidence derived from several documents in that valuable and beautiful ecclesiastical record, indicate its much earlier origin." It was originally a chapel, under Dalton, but was sequestered from the mother church by Pope Honorius III, in the early part of the 13th century, from which period it continued a free chapel, till the reign of Elizabeth, when Archbishop Sandys, by an act of metropolitical power, constituted it a parish church. The arms of this great benefactor of Hawkshead are inscribed on a free stone, over the choir door, and in the church is an ancient altar tomb in commemoration of his parents William and Mary Sandys. The living is a stipendiary vicarage,* in the patronage of the Queen, as Duchess of Lancaster, and incumbency of the Rev. George Park. It was only worth 95 per annum, till 1841, when it was augmented to 160 by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The tithes were impropriated soon after the dissolution of the abbey. The church was greatly improved in 1846, by the erection of a new gallery and organ.

The Free Grammar School of Hawkshead was founded in 1585, by Edwyne Sandys, Archbishop of York. The constitution of this excellent foundation, says Mr. Baines, drawn up by his Grace of York, is dated on the 1st of April, 1588, and amongst other things it is ordained, that there shall be a perpetual free school, to be called "The Free Grammar School of Edwyne Sandys," for teaching grammar, and the principles of the Greek tongue, with other sciences necessary to be taught in a Grammar school; the same to be taught in the said school freely, without taking any stipend, wage, or other exactions from the scholars, or any of them resorting to the said school for learning.1 That there shall be a head master and an usher; that between the annunciation of the blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Michael the archangel, the school shall begin at six o'clock in the morning, or at latest at half-past six, and continue till eleven; and begin again at one, and continue till five; and that for the remainder of the year it shall begin at seven, continue till eleven, be resumed at one, and continue till four - during all which time the schoolmaster and usher shall be present. The master's yearly salary was originally fixed at 20, and the usher's at 3 6s. 8d. The pious founder endowed the school with a dwelling house and lands for the master, in the manor of Hawkshead, and with lands and houses near Wakefield and Doncaster, in the County of York, and some ground rents in Kendal. The principal estate now belonging to the school, is near Doncaster; the Wakefield estate having been sold some years ago, and the money laid out in the purchase of an estate in the parish of Hawkshead. The school is open to all boys indiscriminately, and the number has been frequently 100; at present there are about 30 scholars. Pupils coming out of the parish2 are expected to pay an entrance fee of two guineas, and the same sum every Shrovetide, called their cock-penny, which is all the charge that is made for their education, except they learn writing and arithmetic, for the former of which 7s. 6d. a quarter is paid, and if the latter be added, 10s. a quarter." The present master is the Rev. Daniel B. Hickie, L.L.D., and his salary is about 160 a year.

The school has a good library left to it in 1717, by the Rev. Thomas Sandys. Prizes for the greatest proficiency in classical learning, and to the best declaimers in English, have been distributed yearly out of the interest of 100, left in 1816, by the Rev. William Wilson. The general management of the affairs of the school, and the appointment of the master, &c., are intrusted to eight governors. The Rev. Dr. Walker, the Rev. Dr. Wordsworth, Mr. Wordsworth the poet, Sir James Scarlett, Sir Frederick Pollock, Josiah King, with many others, distinguished for classical learning, received the rudiments of their education in this school, which proves the truth of Mr. West's assertion, that "the school has been served by able masters, and in general has given great satisfaction." Here in also a well conducted National School, established some years ago. Mr. Baines says, that in the adjoining village of Gallow Barow3 there is another charitable institution for ten poor boys, endowed by the donor of the school library, which bears the following inscription, descriptive of its object:- "The Rev. Thomas Sandys, curate of St. Martin in the Fields, and lecturer of St. James', London, A.D. 1717, left by will the interest of 800 to endow this poor house, and to maintain and educate as many boys, born in Hawkshead, as the interest will admit of, and they are to be taught at the free school, 1749." But the hand of peculation has not only diminished the amount, as the same writer adds, but it has nearly annihilated the institution. The lands of this parish have been an appendage to the lordship of Furness since the foundation of Furness Abbey, and are all, except Claife township, of customary or copyhold tenure. A court baron, in which such rights as belong to the lord are exercised, is held at the Red Lion Inn, Hawkshead, on the last Tuesday in November, before the Duke of Buccleugh's steward, who is also bailiff of the liberty. The estate attached to Hawkshead Hall, continues exempt from the custom of tenant right.

The ancient name of the Segantii, "the dwellers in the country of the waters," given to the inhabitants of Lancashire, applies here with peculiar force, for the most striking feature of this part of England is the lakes. In the vicinity of Esthwaite Water is the pleasant mansion called Esthwaite Lodge, the seat of Mrs. Elizabeth Beck; and here is Esthwaite Hall, a very ancient dwelling, said to be the birth place of Archbishop Sandys, but now tenanted by a farmer. In a pond,4 near the head of the lake, is a small floating island, with several considerable trees and shrubs, and a pretty peninsula fringed with trees, juts out from the western shore of this lake, which is encircled by a good carriage road. The grassy banks that border the water, and the undulating hills by which it is environed, impart to it a lively beauty altogether unlike the stateliness of Coniston or Windermere. At Hawkshead Hill, one mile west of the town, is an extensive bobbin mill, now worked by Mr. Wm. Fred. Walker.

CLAIFE township extends eastward from Hawkshead to the west side of Windermere, where there is a large Hotel called the Ferry Inn, for the accommodation of visitors and tourists, and where boats are constantly kept in readiness to convey horses and passengers across the lake, "whose immediate shore" says Mr. Young, "is traced in every variety of line that fancy can imagine: sometimes contracting the lake into the appearance of a noble winding river; at others retiring from it into large bays, as if for navies to anchor in; promontories spread with woods, or scattered with trees and enclosures, projecting into the water in the most picturesque style imaginable; rocky points breaking the shore, and rearing their bold beads above the water; in a word, a variety that amazes the beholder. But what finishes the scene, with an elegance too delicious to be imagined is, this beautiful sheet of water being dotted with no less than ten islands, distinctly comprehended by the eye, all of the most bewitching beauty. The large one presents a waving various line, which rises from the water in the most picturesque inequalities of surface: high land in one place, low in another, clumps of trees in this spot, scattered ones in that, adorned by a farm-house on the water's edge, and backed with a little wood, vieing in simple elegance with Baromian palaces: some of the small islets rising from the lake like little hills of wood; some only scattered with trees, and others of grass of the finest verdure; a more beautiful variety is no where to be seen."

The small hamlets of Colthouse, the two Sawreys, and Wray,5 are in this township. At Colthouse is a Friends' Meeting House, probably built soon after John Fox himself visited Furness; and at Extra Sawrey,6 as one of these hamlets is called, and which is about three and a half miles S.E. of Hawkshead, is a good inn for the accommodation of travellers. Many of the inhabitants of the township of Claife and its vicinity, are engaged during the summer months in preparing basket rods, and hoops, for the Whitehaven, Liverpool, and other markets; quantities are sent from hence even to Scotland and Ireland. Mr. John Hawkrigg, of Colthouse, and Mr. Joseph Swainson, of Cunsey, in Satterthwaite township, are extensively engaged in this business.

The principal landowners of Claife township are Henry Curwen, Esq., of Workington Hall, Mr. Joseph Garnet, of Kendal, and James Dawson, Esq. of Wray Castle; and its rateable value is 2446 2s. 6d.

A building called "The Station," belonging to Mr. Curwen, commands many delightful landscapes, and has its windows filled with stained glass, so as to represent those landscapes as they appear at different seasons of the year.

Wray Castle, the seat and property of James Dawson, Esq., is a superb mansion, near the head of Windermere, commanding extensive views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. It is in the perpendicular Gothic style of architecture, and is decidedly the most stately dwelling in the region of the lakes, and must at once attract the attention of every tourist visiting this part of the district. The building was commenced in 1840, by the present proprietor, and has been completed at a great expence. Near the castle is "The Wray Cottage," the neat rural residence of Miss Forster.

CONISTON MONK forms a joint township with Skelwith, and contains the hamlets of Hollingbank Park, Skelwith Fold, and Waterhead,7 the latter of which is at the head of Coniston Lake, three miles west of Hawkshead, and nearly the same distance east of the majestic mountain called Coniston Old Man. Skelwith is distant about three and a half miles north of Hawkshead, and here is a handsome church, with a large square tower containing six bells. It is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and was consecrated October 1st, 1846. This sacred edifice was erected by Giles Redmayne, Esq., of Brathay Hall, who also endowed it with the interest of 1000 and to whom the patronage has been granted by Her Majesty's Commissioners. The Rev. Wm. Hodgson, M.A. is the present incumbent. It stands on an eminence about one mile from Ambleside, and a short distance from Brathay Hall, the pleasant seat of Giles Redmayne, Esq.

Coniston Park, a modern Gothic mansion, on a fine elevation, commanding a beautiful and extensive prospect, is the seat of J.G. Marshall, Esq. M.P. for Leeds, who is also the principal landowner of this township, which is rated at 2282.

SATTERTHWAITE township and chapelry contains a village of its own name, four miles S. of Hawkshead, and the hamlets of Cunsey, Dale Park, Force Forge, Grisdale, and Low Graythwaite,8 distant from three to five miles S. and S.S.W. of the same town.

The Chapel of Ease at Satterthwaite, which is of unknown origin, was rebuilt and enlarged in 1835. It is in the early English style of architecture, with a square tower and one bell, and is capable of seating two hundred persons. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the incumbent of Hawkshead, and its yearly income is about 70. The Rev. H. Baines is the perpetual curate.

At Force Forge are two extensive bobbin mills, worked by Mr. Henry Walker, and also a corn mill, in the occupation of Mr. John Inman; and on the neighbouring common, a new school and house for the master are now being erected by subscription. The rateable value of this township is 2119 14s. 9d., and the largest owners of the soil are Myles Sandys, J.J. Rawlinson, and Montague Ainslie, Esqrs.

High Graythwaite Hall,9 the principal ornament of this township, is a very ancient mansion, above Windermere, the seat of Myles Sandys, Esq., the present representative of the Sandys family, some of whose members were returned knights of the shire for Cumberland, in the reign of Richard II, and a branch of which was introduced into Furness in the reign of Henry IV. His ancestor, the before-mentioned Dr. Sandys, Archbishop of York, resided here in the reign of Elizabeth. In the east front of the hall is a curious old stone, bearing the date 1178, the year in which that part of the house was built. The arms cut on this stone are as perfect as if recently done. In the hall is a curious and handsomely embossed Tankard, usually called a "Peg-Tankard," from its having a row of silver pegs down the inside, about an inch apart. It is about 300 years old, and it is supposed there is not another like it in the kingdom. Formerly every new guest had to drink out of the Peg Tankard, and if he did not happen to stop exactly at a peg, he had to drink again and again, until he hit upon one, before which he was generally intoxicated; and from this is taken the old saying of being "a peg too low,' which signifies having 'a drop too much.'

Grisdale New Hall, the seat of Montague Ainslie, Esq., is a neat mansion, situate in the hamlet of Grisdale, three miles S. of Hawkshead.

Low Graythwaite Hall, now occupied by a farmer, is the property of J.J. Rawlinson, Esq., who has a neat modern mansion contiguous.

B1OGRAPHY - Dr. Edwin Sandys was born near Hawkshead, In the year 1519, and having received his education at a school in that town, under the government of the monks of Furness abbey, entered St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1533, where he soon became a great proficient in theological literature, and was ordained priest in 1544. In 1549, he took out the degree of D.D., and was advanced to a prebends stall in the cathedral of Peterborough, and in 1552 he obtained the second stall at Carlisle. At the solicitation of the Duke of Northumberland, he joined the party of Lady Jane Grey, by which conduct he incurred the displeasure of Mary, who was just proclaimed and generally acknowledged an the lawful Queen. He was soon after deprived of all his preferments, and cast into prison, but was ultimately set at liberty through the influence of Sir Thomas Holcroft, then Knight Marshal. He afterwards escaped to the continent, but on the death of Mary, in 1559, he returned to England, and was soon after consecrated Bishop of Worcester. In 1564, he was named one of the Bishops who were appointed to produce a new translation of the Bible, and was also one of the commissioners for preparing the new Liturgy. In 1576, he succeeded Dr. Grindal in the See of London, and in 1576, was translated to the Archbishopric of York. After a life of much trouble and contention, he died at Southwell, on the 10th of July, 1588, in the 69th year of his age, and was interred in a richly-sculptured tomb, near the high altar of the Collegiate church of that place. He seems to have possessed a benevolent disposition, but was evidently wanting in meekness and forbearance.

Gen. Walker, - a divine of the 16th century, was born at Hawkshead in 1581. He was for nearly the space of forty years rector of St. John the Evangelist, Watling street; and in 1643 was chosen one of the 'Westminster assembly of divines.' He frequently preached before parliament during the commonwealth, but died in 1651. Fuller ranks him amongst 'the Worthies of England,' and says that he was well skilled in the oriental languages.

Mr. Michael Napier Taylor, author of a treatise on Sexagesimal Logarithms, was a native of this parish. He died in London, December 23rd, 1790.

The late Thomas Alcock Beck, Esq., of Esthwaite Lodge, was author of a most elaborate work called Annales Furnesienses; or, the History and Antiquities of St. Mary's Abbey, of Furness, a work which manifests deep research and learning, and certainly the most valuable ever published on these celebrated ruins. It is a royal quarto, dedicated by permission to the Queen, and has twenty-six steel engravings, several wood-cuts, coloured fac-similes of initial writings, arms, &c. from ancient documents. He was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, May 31st, 1795, and died at Esthwaite Lodge, April 24th, 1846.

* In the Episcopal Register, it is termed a perpetual curacy.


Mannix & Co., History, Topography and Directory of Westmorland, 1851




1. This is obscure, but correctly transcribed.
2. Perhaps meaning pupils not natives of Hawkshead parish.
3. Not apparent on modern maps.
4. Priest Pot.
5. Near Sawrey and Far Sawrey. There doesn't appear to be a hamlet of Wray, but there are hamlets called High Wray and Low Wray.
6. Is this what is now known as Far Sawrey?
7. Hollinbank Park is probably the hamlet today called High Hollin Bank; Waterhead is now High Water Head.
8. Cunsey, Dale Park, and Grisdale, are now High and Low Cunsey, High, Middle, and Low Dale Park, and Grizedale respectively.
9. Now just Graythwaite Hall.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman