Orton Parish

  > This is an extensive parish, being about ten miles in length, and eight in breadth. It is bounded by the parishes of Kendal, Shap, Crosby-Ravensworth, Asby, Crosby-Garret, and Ravenstonedale, and by a part of the county of York. It comprises many fells and valleys, and forms a tolerably fertile grazing district, with an abundance of limestone and freestone. Besides a small portion of Fawcett Forest and Birkbeck Fells, it contains the five townships of Orton, Bretherdale, Longdale, Raisbeck, and Tebay, and its population in 1841 amounted to 1449 souls. The river Lune, and many of its tributary streams, have their source in this parish, the moors of which are well stocked with grouse, and the Orton Scar is famed for dotterels1.

ORTON, the capital of this parish, is a small market town, consisting of about 100 houses, pleasantly situate on the road between Appleby and Kendal, from the former of which it is distant nine and a half miles S.S.W., and from the latter fifteen miles N.N.E. In the town are three inns, and in its immediate vicinity are some neat and pleasant dwellings. Edward I granted it a charter for a market on Wednesday; and Oliver Cromwell, at the request of the Countess of Pembroke, granted to the inhabitants of
Orton, or Overton, in 1658, a license to hold annually a Fair, on the Friday in Whitsun week, and a fortnight fair, "to begin on Wednesday next after Whitsun week, and continue till the day of St. Simon and Jude following, with a court of pie-powder2, and power to take tolls. The seal on this document is about six inches in diameter. On one side are the arms of the commonwealth, with this motto underneath - "Pax quoeritur bello;" and circumscribed "Magnum Sigillum, Reipublicoe Anglioe, Scotioe, et Hibernioe." On the reverse is Oliver, in armour, on horseback, and circumscribed thus - "Olivarius, Dei gratia, Reipublicoe Anglioe, Scotioe, et Hibernioe, Protector." The market is now held on the Friday, but is of little moment. The fairs now held are on the 3rd of May, Friday before Whitsuntide, and second Friday after old Michaelmas day, for sheep, black cattle, &c., and a cattle fair an the 20th August. This latter was established about seven years ago.

The CHURCH, dedicated to All Saints, is a large Gothic edifice, standing on a gentle elevation, with a large tower, in which are four bells, originally cast at Nottingham, in 1529. "All the seats, except the vicar's, are repaired at the public expence, and no one of the parishioners hath a right to any particular seat." The benefice is a vicarage, in the gift of the land owners of the parish, who purchased "the rectory and advowson," in 1618, for the sum of 570, of Francis Morice, and Francis Phillips, Esqs., to
whom they were sold by the crown as a parcel of the Priory of Conishead, in Lancashire, to which establishment the church had been appropriated, by Gamel de Pennington, in the reign of Henry II. The patronage is therefore in about two hundred and forty individuals, but in order to avoid confusion, they keep the advowson in the hands of twelve trustees, who are bound to present according to a majority of votes on an election day. In the valuation made tem. Henry VIII., the vicarage is entered at 16 17s. 3d., but at the enclosure, made about seventy years ago, it was augmented with two allotments, called the Knot and Vicar's Moss, consisting of about 200 acres given in lieu of the tithes of lamb and wool, and the living is now worth about 300 a year.

The list of vicars with which we have been furnished, commences in 1294, since which time nineteen have been instituted to this living. The Rev. Robert Milner, who was forty-seven years minister of this pariah, died March 15th, 1849, in the eighty-second year of his age.

Richard Burn, L.L.D., was instituted in 1736. A beautiful marble monument within the church covers his remains. There are also monuments to John Bum, Esq., who died in 1802; Joseph Bum, Esq., who died at Barcelona, in Spain, in 1818;  and one to Margaret Holme, who died in 1839. About one mile south of the church is a spring called Lady's Well, and contiguous to it is a place denominated the Chapel, where it is supposed a place of worship formerly stood, but no traces of it are now visible. Near to the "chapel" in a farm, called Friarsbiggins, probably on account of the friars of Conishead having built a house there for their tenant. In a field called Gamelands, adjacent to the town, are the remains of what is supposed to have been a Druidical temple3.

Here is a Wesleyan chapel, erected in 1833, and shortly about to be improved and enlarged. This sect was first established here by the late Mr. Stephen Brunskill, a polemical writer of considerable tact, since which time several proselytes have been made in the town and neighbourhood, to the opinions of John Wesley.

ORTON GRAMMAR SCHOOL was erected in 1809, at the cost 200, towards which Miss Margaret Holme gave 150, Joseph Burn, Esq., 50, and William Holme, Esq., 25. The old school house, which was built in 1730, was transferred to the churchwardens, on condition that they pay 3 a year to the church singing-master. In 1781, Mrs. Frances Wardale left 400 to this school, which, with 5 given by Mr. R. Wilson, 5 by T. Addison, and 10 by H. Bland, was laid out in the purchase of land, now let for 20 per annum; besides which the master has a rent charge of 10s., left by Agnes Holme. Mr. Robert Wharton is the present master.

Margaret Holme, who died in 1839, made the following bequests to this parish, viz., 21 a year to the boys' school, the interest of 100 to a schoolmistress at Orton, the interest of 20 to poor householders not receiving parochial relief, to be distributed annually in bread, on the 22nd February, and the interest of 100 to be laid out monthly in the purchase of bread for the poor parishioners.

In 1828, the principal inhabitants of Orton formed themselves into Book Club, which, after lying dormant for some time, has been again revived, and is now in a healthy condition. Mr. R. Wilson, jun., is treasurer, and Mr. Robt. Robertson, librarian.

THE MANOR OF ORTON, which includes both Orton and Raisbeck townships, belonged, in the reign of Henry II, to Gamel de Pennington, but was soon afterwards divided into moieties. In 1277, (6th of Edward I,) it was possessed by the Dacres and Musgraves, who held it under the Cliffords. The Dacre moiety was sold to the landowners, in 1614, for 1840 5s. 10d., and the Musgrave moiety after having been sub-divided and successively held by the families of Henecastre, Helbeck, Blenkinsop, Warcop, Dalston, and Bowes, was also sold to the land owners, for the sum of 965. The whole is now consigned in trust to four nominal lords for the purpose of keeping courts leet and baron, for the convenience of the tenants.

Orton Hall, the seat and property of Richard Burn, Esq., is a fine old mansion, occupying a pleasant situation, contiguous to the town. Antiquities - Behind Orton Scar, nearly two miles N.E. of the town, is a place called Castle Folds, formerly circumscribed by a strong wall, with a small fort for the defence of the cattle, &c., during the incursions of the Scots; and on the highest part there was formerly a beacon, which communicated with those of Penrith, Stainmore, and Whinfell. At Gamelands, about a mile E. of Orton, is a tumulus, or British sepulchre, in a regular circle, nearly one hundred yards in circumference, rising gradually from the extremity to the height of about three yards in the middle, and composed of loose stones, promiscuously thrown together, beneath which a human skeleton has been found. In 1847, there were found on a hill, not far from Orton, some ancient jewels, which are supposed by a writer in the Kendal newspapers, to have been deposited there in the time of Petilius Cerealis, the Roman general, who subdued the aborigines of these northern counties. At Tebay and Greenholme, about two and a half miles south of Orton, are two places called Castle How, both of which are supposed to have been used as batteries, to oppose the inroads of the Scots. In the Galloper-field, at Tebay, is the Brandery-stone, on which there was formerly an inscription; and near Low Borrow Bridge, are the remains of castle, which seems to have been a strong fortress. It was very advantageously situated, and commanded the whole passage through the mountains there.

Bousfield is a small hamlet in this township, one mile W. of Orton. Park and Low Scales are two other small hamlets in Orton township, the former three quarters of a mile N.W., and the latter about two miles S.W. of that town.

BIRKBECK FELLS is an extensive lordship, partly in the parishes of Orton, Shap, and Crosby-Ravensworth, in the latter of which this manor is included. At Greenholme, a small hamlet in this division, two miles S.S.W. of Orton, is a Free School, endowed in 1733, by Mr. George Gibson, with 400 for the education of the poor children of Birkbeck fells, Bretherdale, Rounthwaite, and Low Scales. The estate purchased with this bequest is situate at Dillicar, and now lets for about 50 a year. Mr. Isaac Hodgson, master. High Scales is another small hamlet in this division, two miles S.W. of Orton.

BRETHERDALE township contains several dispersed dwellings, and a small hamlet, three miles S.S.W. of Orton. The manor belonged, at an early period, to the Abbey of Byland, in Yorkshire, to which institution it was probably granted by Thomas, son of Gospatrick, but after the dissolution of the religious houses, was purchased by the Whartons, and now belongs to the Earl of Lonsdale.

LANGDALE, or Longdale, is a large mountainous township, lying between Ravenstonedale and  Yorkshire, Tebay, and Raisbeck, and containing a number of scattered dwellings, and a small hamlet of its own name, three miles S.E. of Orton. This manor never belonged to the Cliffords, having been granted by Henry II, to the Priory of Watton, in Yorkshire. After the dissolution it was sold to the Whartons, and now belongs to the Earl of Lonsdale. Dr. Thomas Barlow, a learned divine of the 17th century, was born at Langdale, in 1607, and and was sent from Appleby school to Queen's College, Oxford, of which he was afterwards provost. After the restoration of Charles II, he was appointed a commissioner for restoring the members who had been expelled during Cromwell's usurpation. He was subsequently made Margaret professor of Divinity, and promoted to the Bishopric of Lincoln, but like many more in his day, he appears to have been only a time serving man all his life. He died in 1691.

There is a Wesleyan chapel here, erected in 1841, at a cost of 120, on land given by Mrs. Eliz. Harrison. Coatgill is a hamlet in this township, four miles S.E. of Orton.

RAISBECK township has a pleasant village of its own name, one mile and three quarters E. of Orton, and another called Sunbiggin, at the foot of a lofty scar, two miles and three quarters E. by N. of the same town. The hamlets of Coat Flatt, one mile and a half S.; Kelleth, three miles S.E.; and Rayne, three miles S.S.E. of Orton, are also in this township, which is tolerably fertile, and contains plenty of good limestone. On the south side of the township is Raisgill hall, where the manor courts were formerly held. Coatflat hall, the residence of Mr. Thomas Blackett, is a commodious dwelling one mile and a quarter from Orton, and one mile and a half from the Tebay station, rebuilt in 1797, by the late Mr. John Milner, on the site of the old hall, which was a castellated looking building, where it is said the judges on the northern circuit often regaled themselves on their way between Appleby and Lancaster. The farm attached to it, containing about 180 acres of rich meadow and pasture land, had been in the possession of the Milner family themselves, for nearly three quarters of a century, but was let to farm in 1846, to Mr. Blackett. Sunbiggin Tarn is a small lake, a little west of Sunbiggin, containing eels and red trout. Human bones have been found in several places in this township. Rateable value of Raisbeck, 1763 15s.

TEBAY is an ancient village on the Kendal road, two miles S. of Orton, near the junction of the Lune and Birbeck rivulets. Its township, which is large, consists of two divisions, called High End and Low End, both of which are fertile. The manor also includes the hamlets of Ellergill, two miles and half S. by E., Gaisgill, two miles S. by E., Redgill, two miles and a half S. by E., Rounthwaite, three miles S., and and the vale of Borrowdale, six miles S.S.W. of Orton, and was anciently held in small portions by the families of Tibbay, Hastings, English, and Threlkeld, but the whole was afterwards vested in the Wharton family, and consequently now belongs to the Earl of Lonsdale. The school at Tebay was founded in 1672, by Robert Adamson, who endowed it with the estates called Ormandie-biggin, and Blackett-bottom, now worth about 60 a year, out of which the master receives 45, and the school is free to all indiscriminately. Rateable value of Tebay, 2775 6s. and its principal land owners are Messrs. Rd. Braithwaite, of Kendal, Robt. Scaife, of Lynn, Norfolk, and Mr. Wm. Atkinson.

Ellergill hamlet is two miles and a half S. by E, Gaisgill hamlet, two miles S. by E., and Redgill hamlet two miles and a half S. by E. of Orton. The latter was the residence of William Farrer, an eminent surgeon and astrologer, who died in 1756. Rounthwaite hamlet is three miles S. of Orton. "A little to the south west on a circular eminence call Jeffery's Mount is the Gondike Spring, which continually casts up small silver-like pieces of spangles."

BORROWDALE, six miles S.S.W. of Orton, is a deep romantic dale, forming part of Fawcett Forest, which is mostly in Kendal parish. At Low Borrow-Bridge, in Grayrigg township, is a good inn, and at the other, or west end of this dale, is another good inn, the former on the Orton road, and the latter on the Shap road, distant about nine miles N. by E., and N.E. by N. of Kendal. About one mile and a half N.E. by N. from the former, and one mile S. from the village of Tebay is a station on the Lancaster and Carlisle railway, which runs through a part of the parish of Orton.


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




1. Dotterel - an attractive small plover, which breeds on high mountains.
2. A court, with jurisdiction for the duration of the fair only, and applicable to all-comers, to administer rough-and-ready justice.
3. Gamelands Circle, about 40 metres across, and containing 33 stones, some damaged.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman