Warcop Parish

  > Is a large irregularly formed district, lying partly on the west, but mostly on the east side of the river Eden, from which it extends to Warcop Fell. It is bounded by the parishes of Appleby St. Michael, Brough, Musgrave, Crosby-Garret, Kirkby-Stephen, Asby, Ormside, and part of the county of York. The western portion, being in the vale of the Eden, is very fertile, but the rest is chiefly a wild mountainous region, remarkable only for its sterility. The parish consists of four manors and townships, viz., Warcop, Bleatarn, Barton, and Sandford, and in 1841 contained 705 inhabitants.

WARCOP is a well built village on the east bank of the Eden, at the confluence of two rivulets, five miles S.E. of Appleby, and about the same distance N. by W. of Kirkby-Stephen. The manor of Warcop, from the reign of King John till that of Elizabeth, was held by the family of Warthecop, or Warcop, who sold it to John Braithwaite, Esq., (afterwards Sir Thomas) of Ambleside, of one of whose descendants it was purchased by Thomas Carleton, Esq., of Appleby, with one of whose daughters it passed in marriage to George Stephenson, Esq., one of whose daughters carried it in marriage to the Rev. Wm. Preston, M.A., rector of Brougham, whose descendant, W. S. Preston, Esq., it now belongs. "The cup in the arms of Warcop," says Burn, "seems to have been assumed from a misapprehension of the name of the place; for it was never anciently written Warcop,, but Warthecoppe, and sometimes Wardecop. Coppe signifies the top of a hill, which hill, no doubt, is the place where the tower or manor house stood, upon a rising ground, ascending from the river Eden. Whether the former part of the word might be from a wath or ford over the river there, before the bridge was erected, or rather from a ward being kept there, cannot now, with any precision, be determined."

The Church is dedicated to St. Columbe1, an apostle of the Picts, who settled in one of the Hebrides, in the sixth century, but is not in the calendar of Saints, as he was never canonized at Rome. This church is very ancient, and has two porches, with a tower, in which are two bells. In 1526, Edward Hilton, rector of Blechingdon, bequeathed a legacy for the performance of funeral obsequies, in St. John's aisle, in this church, which porch or aisle appears to have been the chapel belonging to Burton Hall. There was also another chapel, on the south side, belonging to Warcop Tower, the ancient manor house. The church was appropriated to Shap Abbey, in the reign of Edward I, as a reparation for the loss of property which that institution sustained from the incursions of the Scots into this county. The living is valued in the king's books at 9 5s. 3d,; but in 1772 it received forty-three and a half acres of land, at the enclosure of Sandford Commons, as a commutation of the tithes of that township; and in 1815, when the inhabitants of Warcop enclosed their common, there were eighty acres allotted, and 400 for the hay and corn tithes, and ninety acres for the vicarial tithes. The tithes of Bleatarn and Burton townships have also been commuted for an annual rent charge under the tithe commutation act. W. H. Preston, Esq., is patron, and the Rev. Joseph Bland is the incumbent.

The Vicarage house, which was rebuilt about thirty years ago, appears to have been anciently moated round. Warcop hall, the seat of W. H. Preston, Esq., is a handsome mansion, overlooking the village, embosomed in a rich grove of sycamores. Here is a Wesleyan Association Chapel, erected in 1844, at a cost of 103. 13s. 11d.

About 100 yards south east of the village is Castle Hill, where a large fortress once covered more than an acre of ground, but has long since disappeared, most of its ruins being, as affirmed by the tongue of tradition, removed for the erection of the church steeple of Kirkby-Stephen, which was built between the years 1598 and 1606. Mr. Machell, who was vicar of Kirkby-Thore, in the 17th century, says that he saw some parts of the walls of the said castle which were fifteen feet in thickness. Nearly 200 yards south of Castle hill is Kirksteads, where polished freestones have been found, and where it is supposed there was formerly a chapel. An ancient cross which stood upon the common, was removed after the enclosure, and placed in the village, where it still remains. In making the turnpike road over Brough hill, three Roman hatchets were turned up, in a direct line, and at equi-distances from each other. They were made not of iron or steel, but of a very heavy metal, resembling that of which bells are made. The parish feast, or rush bearing, is held on St. Peter's day, and is fraught with the same ceremony and amusements as that at Musgrave. The Wesleyans have a chapel in the village, erected in 1821.

Brough Hill, celebrated for the largest fair in the north of England, is in Warcop township.

BLEATARN township and manor is that part of the parish lying on the western side of the Eden. It contains a small village one mile and a half S.S.W. of Warcop, and the hamlet of Birks, one mile N.W.2 of Warcop, with several dispersed dwellings, and is separated from the parish of Asby by the Wolverside Beck.3  In the reign of Henry II, this manor was granted to the Abbey of Byland, in Yorkshire, but after the dissolution, Henry VIII granted, in consideration of 2100 11s. "the demesne and manor of Blaterne," to the family of Bellasis, who in 1682, sold the manor to Nicholas Salvin, from whom it was purchased in 1685, by George Fothergill, of Tarnhouse, who sold it to Sir Christopher Musgrave, of Hartley Castle, ancestor to its present possessor, Sir George Musgrave, of Eden hall. Byland Abbey had a cell here, at Sawbridge, in Wolverdale, where the monastic buildings "appear to have covered a pretty large parcel of ground," and near to them are the vestiges of two large fish ponds, or tarns. A little south east of these ponds is a marshy piece of ground, called the Abbey Park, which appears to have been encompassed with a high earthen fence. The "park" was enclosed with the rest of the common, in 1790, and enfranchised in consideration of an allotment given to the lord, who, however, still receives 7d. fines from the tenants of the old enclosures, and a yearly rent charge of 6d. per acre from the owners of the enclosed common. The Sawbridge and other estates in this manor, which belonged to the aforesaid monastery, are tithe free, if occupied by their owners; but if let to farm the tenants do not enjoy that exemption. At Birks is an old chapel and burial ground, formerly occupied by the Sandemanians, and afterwards by the Independents, but it has been for some time deserted, and now presents a ruinous appearance.

An abundance of excellent limestone is found in this township, which contains 1918A. 2R. 23P., rated at 642 15s. 11d., and the principal owners of the soil are John Hill, Esq., the Earl of Thanet, Mr. Matthew Thompson, and the successors of the late Miss Fearns.

BURTON is a small hamlet and township, with only six houses, two miles N. of Warcop, and four miles W. by S. of Appleby. This manor was anciently held by a family of its own name, but so early as the year 1291, it passed to the Heltons, or Hiltons, who held it for many generations, till their heiress carried it in marriage about the year 1720, to Thomas Wybergh, Esq., of Clifton, by whom she had twenty-two children. William Wybergh, Esq., his descendant, is the present lord of the manor, and owner of a great part of the soil. Archbishop Bainbridge was born here. The hall, now occupied by a farmer, is said to have been built on the site of an old friary, and has, over the staircase, a bust and coat of arms, supposed to be those of that notorious freebooter, John Armstrong. Burton contains 1035A. 0R. 23P., rated at 343. 6s. 11d.

SANDFORD is a good village and fertile township, on the east bank of the Eden, four miles S. E. of Appleby. The manor was held by the family of Sandford, from the reign of King John till that of Henry V, after which it passed to the Warcops, of Colby, whose two co-heiresses sold the estates in 1592, to the tenants, who about the year 1690, purchased the demesne and manorial rights of their respective estates, which are all tithe free, as has been already seen. Near the village, and not far from the Roman road, are three tumuli, the largest of which is ninety-one paces in circumference, the next eighty-six, and the next forty. The former was opened, at the request of Bishop Littleton, in 1766, by the Rev. William Preston, of Warcop Hall, when some remains of arms, bones, ashes, and an iron urn, were discovered, which were supposed to have belonged to some British chieftain. Near to these sepulchres are two small entrenchments; and there was formerly a circle of large stones, long since removed for building purposes. A small distance from Coupland Beck bridge, there was, in ancient times, a round tower, or castle, the diameter of which, within the walls, was forty paces, "and the thickness of the walls including rubbish, was ten yards." Opposite to this fortification was an hospital founded probably by one of the Veteriponts, the ancient lords of the great barony of Westmorland.

Coupland Beck is a hamlet, in the townships of Sandford and Hilton, two miles S.S.E. of Appleby. On the Hilton side of the beck, is a carding and spinning mill, wrought by Mr. John Pearson, who also manufactures woollen checks and plaids. Except the mill and dwelling-house belonging to it, the whole of the hamlet is in Sandford township, and in the village of Sandford is a Wesleyan Association Chapel, erected in 1848, at a cost of about 180. The township contains 1836A. 0R. 27P., and its rateable value is 1087. 5s. 5d.


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




1. Now St. Columba.
2. Birks is roughly W. of Warcop.
3. The stream separating these parishes is shown on the map as Helm Beck.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman