Kirkby-Ireleth Parish


This parish is bounded on the south by that of Dalton; on the west and north by the river Duddon; and on the east by the parish of Ulverston. It stretches from Duddon sands to the source of the Duddon, under Wrynose mountain, a distance of about sixteen miles, and averages about three and a half miles in breadth; and its area is computed at 35,200 statute acres. It is divided into six townships, viz., Broughton, Dunnerdale, Seathwaite, Low Quarter, Middle Quarter, and Woodland and Heathwaite, and contained collectively, in 1801, a population of 2344; in 1811, 2394; in 1821, 2947; in 1831, 3234; and in 1841, 3449 souls. The annual value of its rateable property was estimated in the latter year at 16,484. The parish is noted for the production of excellent dark blue slate, and several thousand tons of this article are raised annually from the extensive quarries on Kirkby-Moor, at which a great number of men and horses are constantly employed. At the "Burlington Slate Works," railways, and a series of inclined planes have been constructed to carry the slate down to the coast. The Kirkby quarries extend more than a mile in length, and their vast heaps of debris, or waste, which rise tier after tier for about seven hundred feet in height, are a sombre appendage to the hills in which they are situated, and form a very prominent object from the Broughton and Furness line of railway, which skirts the base of these wealth-producing hills. The romantic positions in which they occur will amply repay a visit, and here a rich field is laid open for the investigation of the geologist, by the immense excavations shewing the positions of the strata, joints, lamina of depositions, and the planes of cleavage, the latter of which is a very singular feature in the structure of the slate, as it maintains nearly one unvaried bearing and angle with the horizon, however much the stratification may be contorted. On the plane of deposition, in some of the strata, are rows of nodular concretions formed around the nucleus, the nature of which has not yet been determined, "but they bear, in the best specimens, a resemblance to the Cephalaspis Lewisii of Agassiz."1 The quarries are mostly open at the top, though some are subterraneous, with levels or tunnels to carry away the rock and rubbish, and to allow the water to drain off; and the slate is detached from the rock by means of blasting. The huge masses, thus brought down, being afterwards bored and blasted, the whole is reduced by means of sledge hammers and wedges to such pieces as may be conveniently carried away. The next process is that of riving the rock into thin plates, which are formed or dressed into slates, and classed according to their size and thickness. These quarries are the property of the Earl of Burlington, who lets them to various parties, and derives from them an immense sum of money, raised by a rate chargeable on the different qualities of slate. All the slate is now sent by railway to Barrow for shipment.

LOW QUARTER township contains the neighbouring villages of Beckside, Sandside,2 and Soutergate, all on Duddon sands, near the mouth of a rivulet, where vessels were laden with slate previous to 1847, when the Furness railway was opened, since which time the vessels belonging to this coast have been reduced to about a dozen. The Parish church, dedicated to St. Cuthbert, stands in the village of Beckside, five miles N.W. of Ulverston. It is an ancient edifice, supposed by some to have been founded by Alexander de Kirkby, who, in the 2nd of Henry III, conveyed it, with forty acres of land, to the abbey of Furness; but, from the Dano-Saxon termination of the name of the parish, it has been presumed that a church existed here before the Conquest. It was renovated, and its tower rebuilt, in 1827; but it exhibits, as alas! do many other of our country churches, the refined tastes of modern churchwardens, who have superimposed a nondescript set of additions upon the Norman and pointed styles of architecture. Its windows contain some good specimens of old stained glass; and in its interior are a few ancient monuments; and here is a silver patten, taken by Colonel Kirkby, from the French, after they had plundered Carthagena. It contains 492 sittings, of which 131 are free. In the tower are five good bells. The living is a peculiar in the patronage and appropriation of the Dean and Chapter of York, and in the incumbency of the Rev. Charles Robert Graham. It is now worth about 140 per annum.

The School at Beckside is endowed with 16 a year, arising from various bequests, for which twenty-three scholars are educated on payment of a small quarterage. It is now very efficiently conducted by Mr. John Wylde.

The following Charitable bequests are taken from boards in the church. In 1670, William Chamney, of Burney, left the interest of 4 to be distributed annually to the poor on Good Friday; and in 1680, John Kirkby, of Coniston, bequeathed the interest of 60 to the minister, and 40 to the poor of this parish. In the same year John Woodburn, of Dove Forde, left the interest of 5 and in 1681, Roger Kirkby left the interest of 10 to the poor. In 1684, the Hallsteads estate in this parish was purchased with 72 13s. 4d., ancient parish stock, 3 6s. 8d. bequeathed by Jno. Askew, and 25 given by Mrs. Agnes Kirkby. The proceeds of this estate are disposed of at the discretion of twenty-four trustees. In 1769, Samuel Wilson, of Cop, in this parish, bequeathed the interest of 30 for the education of poor children, and 20 to the poor of Middle and Lower quarters. In 1774, Thomas Holme, of Wellingborrow,3 Northamptonshire, clerk, bequeathed the interest of 50 to be distributed to poor persons, in bread, on the first Sunday after the 18th. of May. The above 100 together with 8 belonging to the parish, were in 1791 laid out in the purchase of land, called Toddas, in this parish. In 1832, John Dodgson, of Beanthwaite, bequeathed 300 to the divisions of Low and Middle quarters, Heathwaite and Worland, one half the interest of which to be applied to the education of children of poor parents residents in these townships, and the other half to be distributed annually on Christmas Day, to four poor inhabitants of the said townships, who have never received parochial relief.

Kirkby Hall, once called Cross-house, or Kirkby Cross, from a cross which formerly stood before it, and which was partly demolished by order of Archbishop Sandys, is situate a little more than a mile from the village of Beckside. This hall, now a farm house, was the residence of the Kirkby family for about ten generations. Here is a singular apartment called the chapel, now much dilapidated; upon the walls are inscribed in black letters, the Lord's prayer, creed, &c., with heraldic devices; and there were formerly some oak carvings, but they have been removed to Holker.

The manor of Kirkby-lreleth belonged to the Kirkby family from time immemorial until about the middle of the last century, when it fell to the duchess of Buckingham, who left it to Constantine Phipps, lord Mulgrave in Ireland, who in 1771 sold it to the Right hon. lord John Cavendish, in whose family it still continues, the present lord being the Earl of Burlington, who holds a court baron occasionally at the Punch Bowl, Beckside. The fines are twenty years quit rent. Formerly every entire tenement was obliged to keep a horse and harness for the king's service, on the borders or elsewhere, and to furnish a boon plough, and a boon harrow, or a day's ploughing and harrowing. These horses were called summer nags, thirty of which were kept at Kirkby. "No tenant is to let his land for any term exceeding seven years, without a licence. A tenant convicted of perjury forfeits to the lord twenty year's rent, and for petty larceny, ten year's rent. By treason and felony, tenements are forfeited to the lord. The widow is entitled during her widowhood, to the moiety of the estate of which her husband died seized; but forfeits her right to the same by marriage or breach of chastity".

At Beckside is a corn mill, and also a stone saw mill ; the former wrought by Mr. Robert Postlethwaite, and the latter by Mr. James Deason; and at Grisebeck is a good inn and corn mill.

BROUGHTON is a small market town and chapelry, occupying a pleasant situation on the southern declivity of a gentle eminence, and nearly opposite the natural harbour of Burrock Rails,4 in Cumberland, about half a mile from the river Duddon, ten miles N.W. of Ulverston, twelve miles north of Dalton, thirteen miles S.W. of Hawkshead, thirty-one miles N.W. of Lancaster, and 270 miles N.W. by north of London. It is in the form of a square, and the houses being mostly built of stone, and covered with blue slate, have a clean and respectable appearance, and the inns afford very comfortable accommodation. The population of the chapelry in 1801 was 1005; in 1811, 966; in 1821, 1253; in 1831, 1375; and in 1841, 1286. Formerly a number of the inhabitants were employed in the spinning of woollen yarn, upon the domestic system,5 but the introduction of machinery completely destroyed this branch of manufacture, and the principal trade of the place now consists in the making of hoops and baskets, considerable quantities of which as well as bark and blue slate, are sent from hence; no less than about 2000 tons of the latter article being shipped annually from the estuary of the Duddon, previous to the opening of the Broughton and Furness railway, in January, 1848.

The market-place forms a spacious square in the centre of the town. The market was formerly held on Friday, but was changed to Wednesday, above twenty years ago. Fairs are held here annually, on April 27th, August 1st, and October 6th, chiefly for cattle and sheep.

Broughton has been derived from the British words ber, short, rhiw, ascent, slope, and ton, a town, meaning a town on the short slope or ascent, and in the Saxon times gave name to a considerable family, which flourished here through the period of the Norman conquest, the struggles of the barons, and the contests of the houses of York and Lancaster, till Lambert Simnel, a youth about sixteen years of age, the son of a baker, landed at the Pile of Fouldrey, in May, 1487, to prosecute his fictitious claims to the crown of England, under the assumed name of Richard Plantagenet. "Before the arrival of the followers of Swartz, the Duchess of Burgundy, sister to the deposed tyrant, Richard III, had prevailed upon Sir Thomas Broughton to join the invaders, and the landing in Furness was probably a consequence of the arrangement between the Duchess and the Knight. After the defeat of the invaders, at the battle of Stoke, near Coventry, Sir Thomas, according to tradition, narrowly escaped with his life, and found an asylum amongst his tenantry, at Witherslack, in Westmoreland - where, dying in seclusion, in the spring of 1495, without issue, the family became extinct. The fall of the enemies of Henry VII, served to enlarge the already extensive possessions of the house of Stanley, into whose hands the estates of Lord Viscount Lovel and Sir Thomas Broughton, in the north of this county, and the still more valuable domains of the Pilkingtons, in the south, fell by the attainders of their several proprietors. Another civil war so far impaired the fortunes of the Knowsley family, that in 1657, Charles, the eighth Earl of Derby, conveyed the manor of Broughton, in fee, to Edward Leigh, Esq.; by him it was conveyed to Roger Sawrey, Esq.," who, in the year 1688, settled the manor upon his only son, who married a daughter of the Gilpins, of Scaleby Castle, in Cumberland. The only issue of this marriage was Richard Gilpin Sawrey, Esq., who dying without issue, devised the manor to his relative, John Gilpin, Esq., who took the name of Sawrey, and from whom the present proprietor, John Sawrey, Esq. is descended. He resides at the mansion called Broughton Tower, which stands a short distance from the town in an elevated situation. The tower has been greatly modernized with ogee-headed windows, and considerable additions were made to it some years since. According to the custom of this manor, the tenant, on his admission, pays a twenty penny fine to the lord, together with an ancient annual rent; renders suit and service to the court, and is free to alienate or mortgage his estate, on payment of ten shillings to the lord. A court baron is held for this manor, annually, on the 24th of April, at the King's Head, Broughton.

Broughton Church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, is a plain edifice, with side aisles and a square tower, in which are two bells, and is calculated to seat about 300 persons. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of John Sawrey, Esq., and incumbency of the Rev. John Robinson, M.A. Its yearly income is about 110.

The school is endowed with 26 per annum, for which the master teaches six free scholars. There is another school at Aulthurst side, erected by subscription, in 1828. It possesses an endowment of 10 a year, arising from a tenement in Broughton, and a small plot of land, on which the school-house is erected. These are the gifts of the late Mrs. Taylor and Miss Dixon, both of this township; and for which five poor children receive gratuitous education.

The principal land owners of Broughton township are John Sawrey and Robt. Postlethwaite, Esqrs., the Misses Pritt, Mrs. Jane Pritt, and Mr. Lawrence Sharp, and its rateable value is 4580.

The surrounding country is very mountainous, and abounds with the usual productions of Furness Fells - iron, copper, and slate. An act for the enclosure of Broughton common was obtained in 1828. The air of this district is very salubrious, and the inhabitants are famed for their longevity. In the churchyard is shewn a tombstone, under which repose the ashes of seven members of the same family, who attained respectively the patriarchal ages of 78, 80, 84, 92, 94, 101, and 104 years.

DUNNERDALE and SEATHWAITE are two united townships, extending from two to ten miles north of Broughton, along the east side of the river Duddon, and forming a romantic and picturesque district, terminated by Wrynose and other gigantic mountains. The scenery of the sequestered vale, through which flows the Duddon, is exceedingly beautiful, and the stupendous hills, covered with debris, from the impending green-stone crags, are fine features in the landscape. The dark crag of Wallabarow6 is a conspicuous object; opposite which is a rock called the Pen. At Walney Scar and Common Wood are slate quarries; and near Seathwaite Tarn, the largest and perhaps the most interesting of the mountain tarns; and at Cockly Beck, veins of copper are being worked. Dunnerdale is a contraction of Duddon dir-dale, meaning Duddon-landvale.

The manor belonged at one time to the family of Kirkby, and afterwards to that of Hesketh; but in 1774 it was possessed by William Penny, whose trustees sold it to Richard Towers, Esq., of Duddon Grove, and now belongs to the Rev. George Millers, M.A, who has succeeded to the whole of the freehold estates of the late benevolent Miss Millers, of Duddon Grove, Cumberland.

Seathwaite chapel, which stands about the centre of the dale, is a plain edifice of unknown origin. Its pulpit was erected in 1692, and its south side was enlarged in 1796. In the church yard is a venerable yew tree, twenty feet in circumference near the lower extremity of its trunk. This is supposed to be above two hundred years old; probably it is coeval with the chapel. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Rev. George Millers, and incumbency of the Rev. Edward Tyson. It has received several augmentations from Queen Anne's Bounty, the last of which was 200 obtained about twelve years ago, but the interest of this sum has not yet been claimed. It is worth 68 a year, exclusive of the last augmentation. Near the chapel is a school, erected in 1782, and endowed in 1841, by the late Mr. James Ashburner, with the interest of 27. At New Close is an ancient Friends' burial ground, but none have been interred here since 1765.

The following biographical sketch of the celebrated Walker, who for many years officiated at this chapel, will, doubtless, be perused with interest by many of our readers.

The Rev. Robert Walker was born at Undercragg, in Seathwaite, in 1709. He was the youngest of twelve children; and being of a delicate constitution, his parents considered it necessary "to breed him a scholar." After the completion of his education at the school in Seathwaite chapel, he became a schoolmaster at Loweswater, in Cumberland, where through the assistance of a friend, he made a tolerable proficiency in the classics, and qualified himself for taking holy orders. In 1736 he was presented to the living of Seathwaite, the value of which was then only five pounds a year! He then married, and with the 40 of a fortune which he had obtained with his wife, furnished the parsonage house, or cottage attached to the chapel. Thus established, it behoved him to improve his limited income, and to effect this, his industry, frugality, and temperance, have scarcely a parallel. For five days and a half in each week he kept a school in the chapel, his seat being within the rails surrounding the communion table - the table itself supplying the place of a desk. Here he was constantly occupied at a spinning wheel, whilst the children were repeating their lessons by his side. His evenings were also employed either in spinning on a wheel, writing out petitions, deeds of conveyance, wills, covenants, &c., for his rustic neighbours; in attending to his garden, to the two or three acres of land which he rented, in addition to less than one acre of glebe, and to the couple of cows and the few sheep which he was enabled to keep by right of pasturage upon the mountains. He also assisted the neighbouring farmers in haymaking, shearing their flocks and other offices, so that a single moment was not wasted, nor was the most servile drudgery rejected. The diet of his family was free from every species of luxury, and their apparel was made of homespun materials, by their own hands. Peat, procured by their own labour, was the fuel which they burned - and the lights which they used on winter evenings, consisted of the pith of rushes, dipped in fat, tallow candles being only procured to honor the Christmas festivities. He was so far from being tainted with the vice of cupidity, that he refused another benefice in addition to his own, though his income at the time was only seventeen pounds a year; nor did he make any charge for teaching school, such as could afford gave him what they pleased. He was exceedingly hospitable, and ever ready to relieve the poor, the sick, and the stranger; and on every Sunday served up messes of broth for the refreshment of such of his congregation as came from a considerable distance. By these means Mr. Walker not only brought up and educated a numerous family, but also gave every member of them something with which to begin the world; and at his death he left behind him the sum of 2000 in money, besides a number of webs of linen and woollen yarn of his own spinning. He was buried in Seathwaite chapel, where his tomb bears the following inscription:- "In memory of the Rev. Robert Walker, who died the 25th of June, 1802, in the 93rd year of his age, and the 67th of his curacy at Seathwaite."

MIDDLE QUARTER township contains the hamlets called Chapels, Dovebank, Doveford,7 and Grizebeck about three miles south of Broughton, but part of the latter is in Heathwaite. It also includes the hamlets of Beanthwaite, five miles south, and Bolton Ground, five miles S.E. of the same town.8

Near the hamlet of chapels is a Baptist place of worship, built in 1828, and a well called St. Mary's Well.

WOODLAND and HEATHWAITE form a woody and picturesque township, three miles east of Broughton. It is rated at 1797, and the largest owners of the soil are Mr. George Mason, the Earl of Burlington, and Messrs. Skelton.

The chapel at Woodland was built in 1689, and rebuilt in 1822, by the landowners, who are patrons of the curacy, which is possessed by the Rev. William Sandwith. The living has received several lots of Queen Anne's Bounty, which have been laid out in the purchase of land at Torver, Millom, and Lindale, now worth about 66 per annum; besides which the clergyman receives an ancient salary of 2 10s., making his whole yearly income worth 68 10s. At Woodland Grove is an extensive bobbin manufactory, worked by Mr. William G. Green; and at Grizebeck, is a sickle manufactory, carried on by Mr. Joseph Jackson. In that part of the hamlet of Grizebeck which is in Heathwaite, are two schools - one erected about twenty years ago, by five benevolent individuals of the neighbourhood; and the other is a well-conducted girls' school, taught by Mrs. Douglas.


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



1. Cephalaspis is one of a number of fossilised species of early armoured fish; Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was a Swiss scientist.
2. Now Beck Side and Sand Side.
3. Presumably the town now called Wellingborough.
4. Now Broughton in Furness; Burrock Rails is not apparent on modern maps.
5. i.e. at home.
6. The writer is probably referring to Low Crag, part of Wallowbarrow Heald.
7. Now Dove Bank and Dove Ford.
8. Beanthwaite is south-east of Broughton; I can't find Bolton Ground on a modern map.

Many thanks to Lex Ward for the following - Burrock Rails is now Borwick Rails Harbour, and is marked as such on O.S. maps. Bolton Ground was demolished (Lex thinks in the late 1950's), and stood just below Friars Ground, which is near Beck Side.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman