Lowther Parish


Comprises a fertile district, three miles in length and two in breadth, bounded on the west by the river Lowther, on the north by the parish of Clifton, on the east by the parish of Morland, and on the south by those of Bampton and Shap. It comprehends the manors of Lowther, Hackthorp, Melkinthorp, and Whale, all belonging to the Earl of Lonsdale, and in 1841 contained a population of 470 souls. The annual value of the property of the parish has been estimated at nearly 4500.

LOWTHER CASTLE1, the princely mansion of the Earl of Lonsdale, stands upon the site of the ancient hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1720, nearly in the centre of a beautiful park, of 600 acres, about four miles and a half S. of Penrith, seven miles N.N.W. of Shap, four miles E. of Pooley Bridge, on the E. side of the delightful vale of Lowther, and half a mile W. of the high road leading from Kendal to Carlisle. The foundation of the present magnificent and elegant mansion, which combines in itself the majestic effect of a fortification with the splendour of a palace, was laid in 1802, by the late Lord Lonsdale, from a design, by Sir Robert Smirke. Its numerous towers, of different shapes and elevations, are crested with battlements, and pierced with slit windows, and the vivid freshness of the pale freestone with which it is built, gives great richness to all these harmonious masses of architecture. In the approach to the castle from the north, the eye, sweeping over an extensive and well wooded park, finally rests on the castellated building, the grand entrance to which is by a rich Gothic portico, surmounted by an embattled parapet, looped curtains, and flying turrets, rising gradually one above another in great variety. The length of this front is 420 feet, and it is in the style of architecture which prevailed in the 14th century, having before it a strong rampart, forming a semi-polygon, flanked at the angles by circular bastions, below which a large area is enclosed by a parapet wall, with a covert wall, and turreted bastions at the corners. The centre is guarded by two strong octagonal loop-holed towers, and at the entrance is a porter's lodge, with a double gate and postern. In the front of this northern facade is a terrace, 500 feet long, and ninety wide, from which a grand view is obtained of Penrith beacon, and the noble mountains2 at a still greater distance. The southern front forms a remarkable contrast with the northern, being built in the decorated Gothic cathedral style, with pointed mullioned windows, delicate pinnacles, niches, and cloisters, and the scene of this front accords well with the solemn character of the edifice. A lawn of emerald green and velvet softness is enclosed by evergreens and ornamental shrubs, and by timber of the loftiest growth. The interior of the castle is fitted up with corresponding taste and splendour. There is a plentiful use of British oak carved with Gothic ornaments in the furniture and wainscotting of the rooms. "The staircase, which ascends in the central tower, is extremely fine - from the architecture, the stained glass, the figures, the rich wood of the balustrades, and the solid brass with which the rail is covered. There are a few good pictures in the house, and an ostentatious display of massive plate." A beautiful flower garden is separated from the park by a sunk fence, and from the south front, winding alleys, arched by lofty and stately trees, lead to Lowther Terrace, below which the river Lowther pursues its devious course, 'twixt flowery meads, stately trees, sometimes hiding its pellucid waters beneath the umbrageous foliage which skirts its banks, and anon peeping through the matted branches, in the full glow of picturesque beauty. From the great tower there is an extensive and panoramic view of the surrounding country, with the lofty Skiddaw, Helvellyn, and many other distant mountains, rearing their towering heads to the skies, and a promenade on the terrace on a still summer's evening, under a clear blue sky, is a rich treat to an admirer of the works of the Almighty.

LOWTHER FAMILY. - Burn says that the name of this family, as well as that of the parish, is derived from the river Lauder, a British word, signifying clear water, while another writer asserts that it is a corruption, of Gled-dwr, a limpid stream. But whether they gave name to the river, or took the name of the river, would now be difficult to determine, and the only argument in favour of their Saxon origin is the analogy of names. Other writers again say that there is reason to believe that the parties bearing this British appellation were located here even before the Norman conquest. The first, however, of this family on record, occurs in a deed to which William and Thomas de Lowther were witnesses, in the early part of the reign of Henry II, when lands were granted at Kirkby-Thore, by Lyulph, lord of that manor, to the abbey of Holme Cultram, in Cumberland. In the reign of Henry III, we find the names of Sir Thomas de Lowther and Sir Gervase de Lowther, but the regular pedigree commences in the reign of Edward I with Sir Hugh de Lowther, who was attorney-general to that monarch, and afterwards itinerant and escheator on the north side of the Trent, and who, in 1299 and 1304, was knight of the shire for Westmorland, and in the 5th of Edward III was made a justice of the King's Bench. From this reign till that of William III, the Lowthers filled various offices of trust and honor in the law, and were several times knights of the shire for Westmorland and Cumberland, and sheriffs of the former county. They appear to have intermarried with many respectable families, and also with some few of note and antiquity, as the Cliffords, the Curwens, and the Wyberghs. In the reign of Elizabeth, Richard Lowther, Knight, was lord warden of the west marches, and several times sheriff of Cumberland. He conveyed the persecuted Mary Queen of Scots from Cockermouth to Carlisle castle, and on her way to Bolton entertained her at Lowther hall. While that hapless Queen was in his custody at Carlisle, he incurred the displeasure of Elizabeth by allowing the Duke of Norfolk to pay her a visit, and that implacable queen did not fail to remind him in her usual course and imperious style of his duty to his mistress. In the reign of Charles I, Sir John Lowther and his son of the same name, sat as knights of the shire for Westmorland, and the latter was created baronet of Nova Scotia, in 1640. He also sat for Westmorland in the parliament which restored Charles II. Sir John Lowther, second baronet, his grandson, was actively engaged in the revolution, commonly called the glorious, of 1688, and for his services in this crisis to the Prince of Orange, afterwards William III, was constituted vice-chamberlain to his majesty's household, made one of his privy counsellors, and lord-lieutenant of Westmorland, and in 1696, was created Baron Lowther and Viscount Lonsdale. In 1699 he was made Lord Privy Seal, and was twice one of the Lords Justices of the Kingdom during the absence of the king. He died in 1700, aged forty-five years, and was succeeded by his second son Henry, third Viscount Lonsdale, who died unmarried, in 1750, having passed through several offices of state with honour and dignity. In this learned and affable nobleman the peerage became extinct, but the baronetcy descended to Sir James Lowther, who, in 1755, succeeded to the immense property of his kinsman Sir James Lowther, which was estimated at 2,000,000. In 1814, he was created Baron Lowther, of Lowther, Baron Kendal, of Kendal, Baron Burgh, of Burgh, Viscount Lonsdale, of Lonsdale, in Westmorland and Lancashire, Viscount Lowther, of Lowther, and Earl of Lonsdale, and, in 1797, Baron and Viscount Lowther, of Whitehaven, with remainder to the heirs male of his third cousin, the Rev. Sir William Lowther, Bart., of Swillington. He died without issue, in 1802, when the titles of 1797 descended to Sir William Lowther, Bart., the late earl, who succeeded as Viscount Lowther, in 1802, and was created Earl of Lonsdale in 1807. In 1808, be printed a journal, written by John Viscount Lonsdale, entitled "Memoirs of the reign of James II," and circulated it amongst his friends, He died at York House, Twickenham, on March 19th, 1844, in the eighty-seventh year of his age, having enjoyed his extensive possessions for upwards of forty years. In 1847, a monument to his memory, with a marble statue, executed by Mark L. Watson, a native artist, was placed in the open space between the two court houses, in the city of Carlisle. The statue is grand and imposing, and instead of the Roman toga, the purely national costume of a knight of the garter has been adopted. He was succeeded in his estates and titles by William, the present Earl of Lonsdale, who was born July 30th, 1787, so that he is now in the sixty-second year of his age, and is lord lieutenant and custos rotulorum of Westmorland and Cumberland. Henry Cecil Lowther, better known as the Colonel, is his heir apparent.

In the reign of Henry II, the manor of Lowther was held by three distinct families, and we find that in 1309, John de Coupland, Henry de Harrington, Simon de Alve, and the Prior of Watton held it under the Cliffords, the Lords of Westmorland barony, from whom is descended [to] the Earl of Thanet. In 1315, the Lowthers obtained by purchase one fourth part of the manor of Lowther, and in 1422, Sir Robert Lowther held the whole of it under the Cliffords, by the cornage of 20s. 4d. The numerous manors and estates which they now possess have been acquired at different periods, "by little and little, partly by purchase and partly by other means," and being "always lucky," they have raised themselves to what they are, - first rate in political patronage, and third rate in the scale of nobility, and they have drawn within the vortex of their house, a great number of the halls and manors of the ancient families of both Westmorland and Cumberland, but they did not gain a footing in the latter county, till the middle of the 17th century, when they purchased the lands round Whitehaven. When the late earl succeeded to his family estates and honors, several of the manors refused to pay their arbitrary fines, from which after a suit in chancery they were released, but it was adjudged that they should pay 10d. fines certain, and that the tenants should have the privilege of disfranchising their estates on payment of twenty-five years' purchase; but the mines, minerals, and game, are to be always retained by the lord. The family of Yarker came to England with the Conqueror, and have been park keepers at Lowther above 300 years.

LOWTHER VILLAGE and Lowther New Town are situated within a mile of the castle, and four and a half miles S. by E. of Penrith. The ancient village of Lowther "was" says Mr. Machell, "heretofore considerable, consisting of the hall, the church, the parsonage house, and seventeen tenements, messuages, and cottages, all which were purchased by Sir John Lowther, in the year 1682, and pulled down to enlarge his demesne, and open the prospect of his house, for they stood just in the front of it. The village, called New Town, was soon afterwards built, with a design of establishing a linen manufactory, which, like the carpet manufactory in the building called the College, did not succeed, though, it is said, "the carpets made at the latter place equalled those of Persia, and sold for sixty or one hundred guineas each."

The church, dedicated to St. Michael, is a handsome edifice, standing in the outskirts of the castle park, on the eastern bank of the river Lowther. It was nearly all rebuilt, on a larger and more elegant plan, in 1696, by Sir John Lowther, and the tower was altered to its present form in 1824. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at 25 7s. 3d. The tithes were commuted in 1838, for a yearly rent charge of 93 10s. 2d. It is in the patronage of the Earl of Lonsdale, and incumbency of the Rev. William Jackson, D.D., and now Chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle. He was instituted in 1828, and resides at Askham Hall, which in that year was converted into the rectory house for this parish.

Lowther Grammar School was founded in 1638, by Sir John Lowther and his uncle Richard, who endowed it with 100. It has since received various benefactions, with which an estate at High Barton was purchased, now let for 10 a year, and a rent charge of 10, arising from land at Lambley, in Northumberland. John Atkinson is the present teacher of this school, which has been removed to Hackthorp, where there is also a Girls' School, and another at Whale, endowed, in 1738, by the Rev. Richard Holmes, with 100 which was expended in land, for which the Earl of Lonsdale now pays ten guineas yearly to each school. The Wood house, left by one of the Lowther family to the poor of the parish, is now let for about 90 a year. Lowther manor contains 1600A. 3R. 0P. rated at 1589 19s. 8d.

HACKTHORP3 village and manor form a joint constablewick with Whale, and is distant one mile and a quarter S.E. of Lowther castle, and five miles S.S.E. of Penrith. This manor anciently belonged to the Barony of Kendal, and in 1361 was possessed by the family of Strickland, one of whom had a license from the crown in that year, to impark his woods at Hackthorp and other places, as a special favor, in compensation of his brave military services in France. On the division of the barony, this manor became part of what was afterwards called the Marquis' Fee, and continued to be held by the Stricklands, under the lord paramount, till about the year 1535, when it was purchased by the Lowthers. The old hall, now a farm house, was the birth place of John, first Viscount Lonsdale. Hackthorp contains 810A. 0R. 32P., rated at 1363 11s. 3d.

MELKINTHORP4 is a village and constablewick, one mile and three quarters east of Lowther castle, and three miles and a half S.S.E. of Penrith. This manor is also part of the Marquis fee, and was formerly held by a family of its own name. It subsequently passed to the Musgraves, Fallowfields, and Dalstons, the latter of whom sold it to Sir John Lowther. There is another girls' school here, possessing an endowment of 3 a year. Melkinthorp contains 314A. 3R. 22P. Rateable value 365 3s. 1d.

Whale is a hamlet and manor near the south end of Lowther Park, five miles and a half S. of Penrith. It was once held by a family named De Whale, but was finally purchased by the Lowthers, who have been from "age to age purchasing, but never selling." Acres 795 3R. 8P. Rateable value, 481 4s. 6d.


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



1. Only the facade now remains, the rest having been long demolished.
2. The Pennines.
3. Now Hackthorpe.
4. This too has now acquired a terminal "e".

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman