|Or, Englewood Forest, comprises the south-eastern half of
Cumberland Ward, a large portion of Leath Ward, with a part of the ward of
Allerdale-below-Derwent. It formed part of the demesne of the English crown; and Mr.
Thomas Denton says it was an ancient forest before the conquest, and was divided into the
High-ward, from Penrith to Hesket, and the Low-ward, from thence to Carlisle. When Ranulph
de Meschines had received the grant of Cumberland from William the Conqueror, he made
a survey of the whole county, and gave to his followers all the frontiers bordering on
Scotland and Northumberland, retaining to himself the central part between the east and
west mountains1, "a goodly great forest, full of woods,
red deer and fallow, wild swine, and all manner of wild beasts." In a perambulation
of the boundaries of the forest, made in 1301, by the commissioners of Edward I they were
declared to be as follows :-
"Beginning at the bridge of Caldew, without the city of Carlisle, and so by the highway unto Thursby towards the south; and from Thursby by the same way through the middle of the town of Thursby to Waspatrick wath, ascending by the water of Wampole to the place where Shawk falls into Wampole. And from thence going up straight to the head of Rowland beck; and from that place descending to the waters of Caldbeck; and so down by that water to the place where Caldbeck falls into Caldew. And so up to Gyrgwath; and so by the highway of Sourby unto Stanewath under the castle of Sourby; and so by the highway up to Mabil cross; and so to the hill of Kenwathen, going down by the said highway through the middle of the town of Alleynby; and so by the same way through the middle of the town of Blencowe; and so by the same way unto Pelat; and so going down by the same way unto the bridge of Amote; and so from that bridge going down by the bank Amote unto Eden; and so descending by the water of Eden unto the place where Caldew falls into Eden; and from that place to the bridge of Caldew aforesaid without the gate of the city of Carlisle."
Thus it appears that it comprehended all that large and now fertile tract of country, extending westward from Carlisle, by Thursby, to Westward, and thence to Caldbeck, Castle Sowerby, Mabil Cross, Blencow, and Penrith, from whence its boundary extends along the Eamont to the Eden, which constitutes its eastern limit, all the way northward to Carlisle, where it terminates in a point, as at Westward, and the confluence of the Eamont and the Eden, forming a sort of triangle, each side of which is more than twenty miles in length.
Although the Scots were now dispossessed of this great forest by Ranulph de Meschines, they did not relinquish their claim; and in the reign of king John, the king of Scots claimed the three counties of Cumberland, Westmorland, and Northumberland. At a conference held in York, respecting these disputed counties, in the year 1237, at which the Pope's nuncio was present, Alexander II of Scotland gave up the forest, with all the forfeited estates possessed by the Scots in the three northern counties, in consideration of which Henry III gave him and his heirs the choice of 200 librates* of land in any part of Cumberland, or the neighbouring counties, "where no castle was situated." This grant amounted to the value of about £200 per annum, to be holden of the king of England, by the yearly payment of a falcon to the constable of the castle of Carlisle, on the festival of the assumption. Both Inglewood forest and Penrith subsequently fell to the crown, on the accession of Richard III, and were demised by James I, in 1616, as the "Honour of Penrith, with its rights, members, and appurtenances," in trust for Charles, then prince of Wales. The honour of Penrith was afterwards granted by William III to William Bentinck, the first earl of Portland, in whose family it remained till 1787, when it was purchased by William Cavendish, fifth duke of Devonshire, and father of the present duke, who is now lord of the Honour of Penrith, and consequently has paramount authority over the manors of Inglewood Forest. George Gill Mounsey, Esq. of Carlisle is the chief steward.
The Forest, or Swainmote, court, for the seignority, is held yearly, on the feast of St. Barnabus the apostle, (June 11), in the parish of Hesket-in-the-Forest, in the open air, on the great north road to Carlisle; and the place is marked by a stone placed before an ancient thorn, called Court-Thorn. The tenants of more than twenty mesne manors attend here, from whom a jury for the whole district is empannelled and sworn; and Dr. Todd says that the chamberlain of Carlisle was anciently foreman. Here are paid the annual dues to the lord of the forest, compositions for improvements, purprestures, agistments, and puture of the foresters. This forest includes either the whole or part of the following parishes :- Penrith, Edenhall, Great Salkeld, Lazonby, Hesket, Wetheral, Warwick, St. Mary's (Carlisle), St. Cuthbert's (Carlisle), Dalston, Thursby, West-ward, Caldbeck, Sebergham, Castle Sowerby, Hutton, Skelton, and Newton Reigny. Until the year 1823, there was an old "time-honoured" oak on Wragmire Moss, known as the last tree of Inglewood Forest, having weathered the blasts of upwards of 800 stormy winters. It was noticed as being a boundary mark for upwards of 600 years, between the manors of the duke of Devonshire and the dean and chapter of Carlisle. It was an object of great interest, as being the veritable last tree of Inglewood Forest. Xerxes, who cared not for the sacrifice of human life, would not suffer his army to destroy trees, and halted his mighty host for three days that he might repose beneath the Phrygian plane; and yet, probably, that tree had not numbered half the years of this relic of Inglewood , under whose spreading branches may have reposed the victorious Edward I, who is said to have killed 200 bucks in this ancient forest; and at a later period, "John de Corbig, the poor hermit of Wragmire has counted his beads beneath its shade." This "gnarled and knotted oak," fell not, however, by the tempest or the axe, but from sheer old age, on the 13th of June, 1823.
* A Librate of land is four Oxgangs. An Oxgang is as much land as one yoke of Oxen can cultivate in a year; and a Carucate is as much land as can be tilled in a year by one plough.
Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847
1. The east and west mountains are the Pennines and Lake District respectively.
14 April 2008
© Steve Bulman