Ponsonby Parish

  > Is bounded on the north and west by the river Calder, and on the south by Gosforth, being about 3 miles in length from east to west, and 1 mile in breadth from north to south. It is crossed by the high road from Whitehaven to Ravenglass, and contains the small hamlet of Calder, 4 miles S.S.E. of Egremont, and one mile S. of Calder Bridge, which connects this parish with that of St. Bridget Beckermet, and has a good inn at each side of the river. It comprises about 2260 acres of land, viz. 1278 acres of arable, 700 of meadow and pasture, 97 woodland, and about 180 acres of unenclosed common. The principal proprietors are Edw. Stanley, Esq. M.P., Messrs. John Gunson, Thomas Robinson, John Nicholson, and John Dixon. The most prevalent soil is a rich hasel1 mould, except near the sea, where a strong clay prevails, which produces wheat and other grain, inferior to few in the county. Freestone abounds in the parish, but neither coal nor limestone is found here, though plentiful in some of the neighbouring parishes. Mr. Housman says that about the latter end of the last century the lands here were let for about 15s. per acre, on an average, but they have been so much improved within the last thirty years by Mr. Stanley, that they now let for about 24s. an acre, and he has the satisfaction of seeing his farmers in a happy and flourishing condition. On Infell, a hill in this parish, are vestiges of an encampment supposed to be Roman, but no inscriptions have been found to determine its origin.

Ponsonby, originally called Ponson, derived its name from its ancient possessors, who in 1388, the 11th of Richard II, sold it to "Nicholas Stanleigh, lord of Austhwaite," since which it has belonged to this family, of whom there is a pedigree on parchment preserved at Ponsonby Hall, which is now occupied by Edward Stanley, Esq. M.P., who is lord of the manor, and owner of most of the parish. The present mansion stands in a large park on the summit of an eminence, which commands extensive prospects both of sea and land. It was built about the year 1780, by Edw. Stanley, Esq., father of the present proprietor and occupant, and is remarkable for the elegance and convenience of its apartments. Among many other pieces of antiquity here brought from Dalegarth Hall, is a very curious carved oak bedstead, bearing the date 1345, and having on the cornice, shields charged with the arms of Stanley quartered with Austhwaite. In the apartments are many valuable paintings, including six on copper, by Holbein. The gardens are laid out with great taste, and the sylvan scenery on the banks of the Calder is beautifully romantic, upwards of one hundred thousand forest trees being planted in the vicinity about seventy years ago, by Geo. Edwd. Stanley Esq. The manor is well stocked with hares and partridges, and an abundance of salmon and trout is caught in the Calder, at the mouth of which Mr. Stanley has a fishery. The earl of Derby, and the Stanleys of Ponsonby, Horton, and Alderney, are branches of one family, sprung from William de Stanleigh, lord of Stanleigh, in Staffordshire; and the present Mr. Stanley, of Ponsonby Hall, is the 24th in lineal desent from Henry Stanley de Stonely, who lived forty years before the Conquest2. The Church, which stands in the park, is an ancient structure, consisting of a nave and chancel, with a handsome tower and spire at the west end, erected by Mr. Stanley, in 1840. The benefice is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of E. Stanley, Esq., and in the incumbency of the Rev. John Fleming, for whom the Rev. Mr. Downing officiates. It was given to Conishead priory by John Fitz Ponson, and was certified to the governors of queen Anne's bounty at 9 2s., of which 6 was paid by the impropriator. In 1717, William Cleator gave the interest of 100 to the minister for preaching twelve sermons every year, till the appropriation should be restored to the church, and then to go to a school in the parish, but part of this sum was lost, together with another sum given by the Stanleys. In 1789, "the income was 22, besides the surplice fees, viz. 6, paid by the impropriator." It has been augmented with 1000 from queen Anne's bounty, given in sums of 200 each, in the years 1744, 1780, 1790, 1791, and 1792, besides two benefactions of 200 each, given in 1790 and 1792, making altogether, 1400, with which the Nun-house estate, in Dent, Yorkshire, and the Green-moor-side estate, in Saint Bridget's, Beckermet, were purchased; 200 being given for the former, in 1744, and 1200 for the latter, in 1793. The living was returned, in 1835, at 113.

Nearly two hundred acres of the parish are tithe free, and the tithes of the remainder were commuted in 1846, for a yearly rent charge of 19 0s. 1d. In 1841, its population was 187 souls, and it contains only twenty-four houses and sixteen rate payers.



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




1. "hasel" - mis-spelling for hazel, i.e. soil the colour of a hazelnut.
2. "forty years before the Conquest" - i.e. in 1026 A.D.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman