Irton Parish

  > Is only about two miles in length and 1 in breadth, being bounded on the south by the river Mite, which separates it from Muncaster, on the west by Drigg, on the north by Gosforth, on the east by Miterdale and Wasdale, and is divided by the river Irt into the two townships of Irton and Santon with Melthwaite, which, in 1841, contained 509 inhabitants. The surface of this parish is hilly, and in the northern parts rather mountainous; the soil varying in quality from gravel to a mossy earth. Granite is plentiful at Irton Hall, but neither coal, limestone nor freestone is found in this parish. The Irt, from which the parish has its name, flows through it in a south-westerly direction; and Camden says this river has been famous for its mussel pearls, but none have been found here for many years. Nicholson and Burn observe "that Mr. Thos. Patrickson, of How Hall, in this county, having employed divers poor inhabitants to gather these pearls, obtained such a quantity of them as he sold to the jewellers in London for above 800." It is frequented by salmon, and abounds with trout, as well as small fry. The parish contains 5043 acres, rated at 2850, and the principal landowners are Samuel Irton, Esq., Thos. Brocklebank, Esq., major Lutwidge, Joseph Watson, Esq., Mr. John Gaitskell, Mr. Edward Burrough, and Mr. Peter Sherwen.

Irton township contains several scattered houses lying between the Irt and Mite, from two to four miles N.E. of Ravenglass. It has been since about the period of the Conquest, the property and residence of a family of its own name. In the 35th of Henry VIII it was found by inquisition that Richard Irton, Esq., held the manor and town of Irton of the king, as of his castle of Egremont, by homage and fealty, 1d. rent, and suit at the court of Egremont. He also possessed Cleator and a moiety of the manor of Bassenthwaite. Samuel Irton, Esq. M.P., is now lord of the manors of Irton and Melthwaite, and resides at Irton Hall, the ancient seat and manorial house of his ancestors. It is delightfully seated amid noble trees, on the summit of an acclivity, commanding extensive prospects, about a quarter of a mile from the church. The ancient quadrangular tower is still preserved, but the other parts of the mansion are of various and more modern dates. In front of the hall stands the trunk of an old gigantic oak, whose circumference three men can scarcely encompass with their arms extended: this sylvan patriarch has most probably weathered the storms of a thousand years. Only three estates now pay heriots, &c.

The parish church, which is dedicated to St. Paul, is a handsome structure, rebuilt in 1795, consisting of chancel, nave. and quadrangular tower in three stories. It is situated on elevated ground, and forms a conspicuous object from the summit of any eminence for several miles round. Tanner says it was appropriated in 1227, to Seaton Nunnery, and speaks of it as ecelesia S. Michael de Yirrton1, but according to Nicholson and Burn, its dedication is to St. Paul. On the dissolution of the religious houses it was granted to the Penningtons, ancestors to lord Muncaster, with the advowson and tithes, and remained in that family until purchased by Samuel Irton, Esq., the present patron. It was formerly rectorial, but the benefice is now only a perpetual curacy in the incumbency of the Rev. Hen. W. Hodgson, M.A., who is also incumbent of Drigg. Amongst the monuments in the church is a remarkably chaste and elegant one to admiral Skeffington Lutwidge; and in the church yard is an ancient cross, nearly ten feet high, having its four sides very richly carved, and sculptured with elegant scrolls, knots, and frets.

In 1718, Henry Caddy gave 100 for the endowment of a school here. The endowment afterwards accumulated to 180 which sum is now invested in the hands of Samuel Irton, Esq. and together with the rental of an allotment of land awarded at the inclosure of Irton Moor, produces about 11 per annum, which with 5 lately left by Mr. Brocklebank, and the interest of 40 left by Mr. Moore, makes about 17 a year.

Santon and Melthwaite form a township containing the village of Holm Rook2 and several scattered houses on the north side of the Irt, about three miles N. by E. of Ravenglass. The manor of Santon in the time of Henry III was possessed by Alan de Copeland. It was subsequently held by the families of Irton and Winder, &c., but the present lord of the manor is Skeffington Lutwidge, Esq. Holm Rook Hall is a neat mansion, picturesquely seated on an eminence, and commanding a very extensive prospect. It is at present the residence of admiral Brian Hodgson, and of his son, the Rev. H. W. Hodgson. The village of Holm Rook is pleasantly situated on the banks of the Irt, and the road from Ravenglass to Egremont. Opposite to Irton Hall, but in this township, are the extensive nursery grounds of Messrs. John and Jacob Gaitskell. They are laid out in a very neat and elegant manor, and his conservatory of rare and valuable exotics are very attractive. Lower down stands the beautiful villa called Greenlands belonging to Thomas Brocklebank, Esq., an opulent merchant and ship owner of Liverpool.

Santon Bridge, where there are a few dispersed houses, and a small, Methodist chapel, is four miles from Ravenglass.


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




1. "ecelesia S. Michael de Yirrton" - the church of St. Michael at Irton.
2. Holm Rook is now Holmrook.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman