Moresby Parish

  > This parish is bounded on the W. by the sea, on the N. by the parishes of Harrington and Distington, on the E. by Arlecdon, and on the S. by the township of Whitehaven, contains about three square miles, being about a mile and a half in length and breadth, and is divided into the two townships of Moresby and Parton. The land towards the sea is rich and fertile, being partly loam and gravel; but on the E. side of the parish it is cold and sterile. The commons were enclosed about the year 1774, since which time the land of this parish has been much improved by assiduous cultivation. The parish abounds with coal, and here is also a quarry of excellent freestone. In 1841, it contained 1175 inhabitants.

Moresby township comprises several handsome villas, bearing different names, and the village of Moresby pleasantly situate about 2 miles N. by E. of Whitehaven, on the road to Workington. This village, which was described about 60 years ago, as consisting of "a few indifferent cottages," has now some very good dwellings, mostly occupied by gentry. Moresby House is a modern mansion in the village, the residence of Mrs. Hartley. Rose Hill1, the seat of W. G. Hartley, Esq., the present high sheriff of Cumberland, is another delightfully situated mansion in this township. Moresby Hall, now the residence of the Misses Tate and Mr. John Turner, is an ancient building on the west side of the road leading from Whitehaven to Workington. Over the principal front is a shield charged with the arms of Fletcher, formerly lords of the manor. The Church, dedicated to St. Bridget, stands detached from the village, within the area of the Roman station, Arbeia2. It is a handsome modern edifice, with a square tower, erected in 1822, when the old fabric was taken down. Many Roman coins were found in digging for the foundation. The earl of Lonsdale, being lord of the manor, has the advowson of the Rectory, which is now possessed by the Rev. Fletcher Woodhouse. The benefice is valued in the King's books at 6 2s. 3d., and was certified to the governors of queen Anne's bounty at 23; and in 1835 was returned at 105 per annum. The tithes have been commuted for a yearly rent charge of 69 5s. "The Roman Station, Arbeia," says Horsley, "appears to have been the most northerly of the stations, which were next to those per lineum Valli3," and in Hutchinson's time it enclosed a square of 120 paces, with the usual obtuse angles. Camden found many traces of antiquity here, in the vaults and foundations. Upon one of them was inscribed LVCIVS SEVERINVS ORDINATVS; on another, COH. VII.; and upon a third a small horned statue of Silvanus, with DEO SILVAN. COH. II. LING. CVI PRS.. G. POMPEIVS M... SATVRNIN..; but no inscription has been found to prove that this was Morbium4, as the present name of the place would seem to imply. The interior part of it has long been cultivated and forms a fruitful field, close to the sea banks, "commanding a large tract of shore and many creeks."

Moresby is supposed to have taken its name from one Maurice, or Moris4, who settled here in the reign of William Rufus, and "in process of time, this place gave name to its owners, the Moresbys, or Moricebys, of which family was Ucknard, who gave common here to the abbot of St. Mary's, of Holme Cultram." The manor was held by this family till the male line ended in Sir Christopher Moriceby, whose daughter Anne carried it in marriage to Sir James Pickering, from whose daughter it passed to her second husband, Sir Henry Knevett, who in the 35th of Henry VIII, it was found, held the manor of the king, as of his castle of Egremont, by knight's service, and rendering for the same yearly 52s. 7d. cornage. In the 19th of Elizabeth, this manor was sold by Thomas Knevett, Esq., to William Fletcher, of Cockermouth, and after the death of his grandson, William, the last of his family, Moresby was sold, under a decree in Chancery, in 1720, to John Brougham, Esq., of Scales, by whom it was conveyed, in 1737, to Sir James Lowther, of Whitehaven, Bart., ancestor of the earl of Lonsdale, the present proprietor.

Parton is a considerable fishing village on the sea shore, below the precipitous heights occupied by the Roman station, l mile N. by E. of Whitehaven. It is more ancient than Whitehaven, and the military have had their route directed "to Parton," when Whitehaven was intended as their quarters. Several vessels were employed in the coal trade here till 1795, when the pier was washed away by an unusually high tide, since which the harbour has been deserted, the coal trade being engrossed by the neighbouring ports. The Whitehaven Junction Railway skirts the village; and a little to the north is Lowca Foundry, in the adjoining parish of Harrington, where Messrs. Tulk and Ley employ several hands in the manufactory of cast iron articles and steam engines, &c. There is a free school in the village, built in 1818, by Joseph Williamson, Esq., who endowed it with a freehold estate, in Arlecdon parish, which now produces 45 per annum. The founder's nephew, Chilwell Williamson, Esq., of Luton, in Bedfordshire, has since bequeathed a house in Parton for the residence of the master, who, by a deed of settlement, is to teach sixty free scholars, under the superintendance of three resident trustees, and five other respectable gentlemen. The benefit of this charity is restricted to the children of Parton; the bishops of Carlisle and Chester are appointed governors and visitors. The trustees, &c., are to hold an anniversary meeting on the first Tuesday in July, to scrutinize the master's conduct, and the proficiency of his pupils. The school seems to be well conducted by the present master, Mr. John Railton, who, besides the sixty free scholars, is allowed to take twenty more for his own benefit. There is also in the village an Infant School, and a girl's School of Industry, erected in 1837. This useful institution was established by Miss Mary Robinson, and is supported by voluntary subscription, with a small weekly payment by the children. About one hundred children on an average attend the Infant, and about forty, the School of Industry. In Miss Robinson's drawing room is a beautiful piece of antique carving, executed by Mr. King, of Whitehaven. The rateable value of Parton is about 1000; its number of acres only about thirty; and its population in 1841, was 663 souls.


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




1. Rose Hill is now Rosehill.
2. Modern scholarship ascribes the name Arbeia to South Shields, on the north-east coast of England. Moresby may have been Gabrosentum.
3. "The Roman Station, Arbeia," says Horsley, "appears to have been the most northerly of the stations, which were next to those per lineum Valli," - I take this to mean that Moresby was thought to be the most northerly fort not connected with what we today call Hadrian's Wall. If this reading is correct, then the author's were wrong; there were several forts between Moresby and Bowness-on-Solway, the westernmost wall fort.
4. The author's also seem to be getting confused about the origin of the name Moresby. In one place they derive Moresby from a hypothetical Roman Latin "Morbium". They then immediately go on to ascribe the name as a derivation of one Maurice.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman