Rockcliff Parish

  > Is about five miles in length, (exclusive of a large tract of common) and two in breadth, occupying all that portion of Cumberland Ward which lies north of the river Eden, and extending from Stanwix parish to the Solway Frith1, between the estuaries of the Esk, Line, and Eden, where it is enclosed on three sides by water, which abounds with a great variety of fish. It contains 2441 acres of the rateable value of 2121, besides nearly 2000A. of fine marsh, on its N.W. side, where grouse, hares, partridges, curlews, wild ducks, and sea fowl resort, and in the winter a great number of wild geese. The soil near the Eden is rich and loamy, but the rest of the arable land is chiefly a cold clay. The parish is divided into the two townships of Rockcliff Church and Rockcliff Castle, which together contained, in 1841, 824 inhabitants. The principal owners of the soil, which is nearly all freehold, are Sir James R. Grant, George Gill Mounsey, Esq., and Richard Ferguson, Esq.

rockcliffe.jpg (27245 bytes)rockcliffe2.jpg (14555 bytes)Rockcliff2 village occupies a pleasant situation on a long cliff above the Eden, five miles N.N.W. of Carlisle, in the township of Rockcliff Church, commanding a beautiful view of Carlisle, and the surrounding country. There is, a little below the village, within reach of the tide, a remarkable mineral spring, bearing a thick scum, which turns paper a most beautiful gold colour. The church is a small edifice partly overgrown with ivy. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage and appropriation of the dean and chapter of Carlisle, who appoint a curate with a stipend of 30 a year, besides which he has the benefit of 200 obtained from Queen Anne's bounty, in 1753, but there is neither glebe nor house for the incumbent. The dean and chapter let the tithes every seventh year for about 100 per annum. The tithes have been commuted for a rent charge of 294, viz. Rockcliff Church township, 121 19s. 3d. and Rockcliff Castle, 172 0s. 9d. The Revd. George Topping is the present curate, and his two immediate predecessors, the Revd. William Robinson, and the Revd. Jeremiah Reed, enjoyed the living upward of 100 years.

Though the Eden is navigable for vessels of 60 tons burthen up to Rockcliff, yet very few now navigate the river further than Port Carlisle. A medicinal plant, called the Mother of Thyme, grows here, on the banks of the Eden. Near to the hamlet of Harker, in this township, stands a beautiful mansion called The Hills, three miles N. of Carlisle, the seat of Sir James Robert Grant, Knt. K.H.K.St.A., and inspector general of the army hospitals. Here is also another handsome mansion, called Harker Lodge, the country residence of Richard Ferguson, Esq.

Rockcliff Castle comprises the greater part of the parish, and contains the small hamlets of Castletown, Redhill, Floristown, Garistown, Cross, Croft End, Todd Hills, and Wetheral2, scattered over this township at various distances from Rockcliff Church Town. Camden3 says there was here "a little castle built not long since by the Dacres, for their private defence." Nothing, however, now remains of this structure, the river Eden having washed away a great part of its foundations several years ago. At Garistown, six miles N.N.W. of Carlisle, a splendid iron bridge of three arches, called Pot Metal Bridge, crosses the Esk, and forms a continuation of the road to Gretna, which is distant only about three miles; and a few hundred yards below, the river is crossed by the Caledonian Railway. The manor, which comprises the whole parish, was anciently the inheritance of Ranulph de Bray, who, in the 6th of king John, gave it to William de Rockcliffe. It afterwards passed to the families of Francis, Gernon, and Daniel. The heiress of Thomas Daniel carried it in marriage to the Radcliffes, who sold it to the Dacres, by whom it was united to the Barony of Burgh, so that the earl of Lonsdale is now lord of the manor, but most of the lands were enfranchised in 1760, on payment of three years' rent, by William Strong, Esq. of Peterborough, of whose descendants a small portion of land is still held on customary tenure, as is also an estate of twelve acres belonging to the dean and chapter. The castle and demesnes were sold in 1682, by the duke of Norfolk, for 15,000 to the Rev. Charles Usher, whose granddaughter devised them to the father of the before named William Strong, Esq. Here, on the banks of the Eden, is Castletown House, the splendid mansion of George Gill Mounsey, Esq., beautifully ornamented with woods, shrubberies, &c., and commanding delightful panoramic views.


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




1. The Solway Frith is now the Solway Firth.
2. Rockcliff is now rendered Rockcliffe, Floristown is Floriston, Garistown is Garriestown, Todd Hills is Todhills, and Wetheral must be Wether Hill.
3. Camden first published his Brittania in 1586.

Photos Steve Bulman.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman