Wigton Parish

  > This parish is bounded on the east by the river Wampool, on the south by the parish of Westward, on the west by Bromfield parish, and on the north by Kirkbride parish. It is about five miles in length, from north to south, and three in breadth; contains near 11,000 acres of land, generally low, but dry and fertile, the soil varying from loam, clay, and gravel. The rateable value of the parish, as assessed to the poor rate, in 1847, amounted to 20,843; and its population , in 1841, was 6423 souls. Plenty of red free stone is found here, but no coal, or limestone. "A spring, called Hallywell, comes off iron ore;" and near Kirkland is another, "which supplies a brook with 40 gallons pre minute." It is intersected by the Wiza rivulet and several small brooks, and contains a small lake, called Martin Tarn1, in which pike, perch, and eels are taken. The parish is divided into four townships, viz. Wigton, Oulton, Waverton, and Woodside. The common lands of Wigton, Waverton, and Woodside, were enclosed in 1810, and of Oulton, in 1818.

Wigton is a neat, clean, and well-built market town, pleasantly seated in a beautiful and healthy situation, 11 miles S.W. by W. from Carlisle, 21 miles N.W. by W. from Penrith, 15 miles N.N.E. from Cockermouth, 16 miles E.N.E. of Maryport, and 306 miles N.N.W. of London. Great improvements have been affected in this town since the commencement of the present century, and the roads leading to it are in excellent repair. Wigton township contains 2791 acres of land (rated at 11,052), generally fertile, and in a high state of cultivation, belonging to John Taylor, Esq. , Miss Matthews, of Wigton Hall, a delightfully situated mansion, at the west end of the town, W. Brisco, Bart., and a number of other freeholders and resident yeomen. Its population in 1801 was 2450; in 1811, 2977; in 1821, 4056; in 1831, 4885; and in 1841, 5609 souls. Here are three check and gingham manufactories, four breweries, two tanneries, three nail manufacturers, besides several other trades, professions, &c. It is to be hoped that the Maryport and Carlisle Railway, which passes close to the town, and which has a station here, will afford an increased facility to its trade and commerce.

The goods, formerly manufactured here, consisted of Osnaburghs2, tow-cloth, coarse linens, striped checks, &c.; the latter of which, and also ginghams, originated with Messes. John and Jacob Hodge, of this town; but natives of the Heights, in Westward parish. About the year 1755, the former of these improved his mechanical knowledge by travelling into Lancashire, where this branch was exclusively carried on. In 1748, W. Crookdake commenced a check manufactory here; in 1780, Isaac Pattinson and Co. began another; in 1790, Daniel Hewson, another; in 1791, Thomas Bushby, another; in 1793, another was begun by the late Joseph Hodge; in 1790, an establishment for printing calicoes was commenced by Messrs. Brumell and Irwin; and in 1795, Hebson and Co. began to make fustians. the failure of the late company, who conducted the extensive calico print establishment here, has caused a great depression in the trade of the town; but we earnestly hope, for the sake of the poor inhabitants, that some spirited individual will, ere long, resume these works. The market, which is held every Tuesday,* is well supplied with corn and all kinds of provisions; and on St. Thomas's day is also a very large one for butchers meats, apples, and honey. Fairs are held on the 20th of February and 5th April, the former for horses, one of the largest in the north of England, and the latter for cattle and merchandize, &c. Wigton is one of the polling places for the eastern division of the county.

Wigton barony, which included Wigton, and the townships and manors of Waverton, Blencogo, Dundraw, and Kirkbride, with their appurtenances, was an ancient demesne of Allerdale, until Waldieve, son of earl Gospatrick, gave it to Odard de Logis, with whose descendants it continued for five generations, till Margaret, the only issue of Sir John de Wigton, carried it in marriage to Sir John Gernoun; but shortly after her death it passed to Thomas Lucy, lord of Allerdale, about the reign of Edward III; and in his right the seignority of Wigton was extinguished, and has since been united to the ancient barony of Allerdale, of which general Wyndham is lord.

The Church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a neat edifice, which was erected in 1788, on the site of the ancient structure, said to have been built by Odard, the first baron of Wigton, with materials brought from the Roman station of Old Carlisle, about 1 mile distant. The lady Margaret de Wigton gave this church, with the advowson, to the abbey of Holme Cultram, for the better support of that religious house, after the devastations made by the Scotch in the 14th century;† a vicarial stipend of 26 marks of silver, to be paid yearly by the abbot and convent, with one messuage and ten acres of arable land, in the village of Kirkland, and one acre in Wigton, near the mansion house; and that they might find four chaplains, monks of their own house, to perform divine service in the church of the abbey, and two secular chaplains to officiate in a chauntry of the church of Wigton, for the soul of the said Margaret and of her husband John Gernoun, and of her ancestors, the right of collation to the vicarage being reserved to the bishop. After the dissolution, queen Elizabeth, in the 30th year of her reign, granted out the corn tithes of Wigton, Waverton, and Oulton; the rest of the rectorial rights, except tithes of eggs, geese, and apples, were granted out in the reign of James I, to the Fletchers of Hutton. The tithes of pigs and geese, the former belonging to the vicar of Wigton, and the latter to Sir Wastel Brisco, are now in course of commutation. The rectorial tithes belonged to Sir Frederick Fletcher Vane, Bart., as improprietor; but he obtained an Act of Parliament to convert them into other property, and sold them to the proprietors of the land. The benefice is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at 17 19s. 9d., in the patronage of the bishop of Carlisle, and incumbency of the Rev. Jonathan Irving; the Rev. William M. Schnibben is curate. It has been augmented with 450, obtained from queen Anne's bounty, and a yearly rent charge of 13, left by the Rev. John Thompson; and was certified to the commissioners, respecting ecclesiastical revenues, as of the net value of 120. "There was a free chapel at Wigton, called the Hospital of St. Leonard; but the founder is unknown. King Edward VI granted out, in fee, the lands and tenements belonging thereto to Thomas Dalston and William Denton."

The Catholic church, dedicated to St. Cuthbert, is a neat Gothic edifice, designed by Bonomi. Its front is exceedingly handsome, and the interior is well finished, especially the ceiling and organ gallery. The altar and screen, also designed by Bonomi, have been admirably executed, and the tabernacle, which is taken from an oriental design, is a rare specimen of beauty. The altar piece, which is a copy of Raphael's representation of Christ's fall under the cross, by Ramsey, is considered an excellent devotional piece; and as a work of art, its tone, harmony, and style of execution, render it a picture of great worth. This church was commenced in 1835, by the Rev. John Dowdal, and finished by its present pastor, the Rev. E. J. Kelly, who has also erected a commodious dwelling adjoining; and here too are other Italian paintings of no ordinary merit. To the rear of these buildings are free schools for the education of poor children, of every denomination; also a burial ground and a public walk. The church occupies a pleasant situation at the N.W. end of the town, and will seat about 500 hearers. There are in Wigton five dissenting places of worship, viz., the Friends' Meeting House, in Allonby road; the Independent Chapel, a large building in Water-street, erected in 1834, and now under the ministry of the Rev. George Young; the Presbyterian, or Scotch Chapel, in Meeting House Lane; the Wesleyan Chapel, in George-street; and the Primitive Methodist Chapel, in Market-hill. Well attended Sunday schools are attached to nearly all the places of worship in the town.

The hospital here was founded in 1724, for six indigent widows of Protestant beneficed clergymen, by the Rev. John Thomlinson, A.M. rector of Rothbury, in the county of Northumberland, who endowed it with a yearly rent charge of 45 12s., to be paid out of lands at Haughton, in that county; 6 a year out of lands near Gateshead, in the county of Durham; and 6 per annum out of lands at Blencogo; besides a yearly rent charge of 3 10s. was purchased in the latter estate, with 100 left by Mrs. Read, of Carlisle, sister to Dr. Thomlinson, one of the executors of the will of the founder. The hospital is incorporated by the name of the Governors and Sisters of the College of Matrons, or Hospital of Christ, in Wigton. Widows of clergymen, in the diocese of Carlisle, and in that part of Cumberland in the diocese of Chester, also those of the parishes of Rothbury, in Northumberland, and Whickham, in the county of Durham, are eligible to this charity. Widows of clergymen, who had served as curates in either of the above places for two years, are, according to the tenor of the institute, also eligible; but those of beneficed clergymen to have the preference. No widow to be admitted under 46 years of age. 9 a year is paid to each of the six inmates, and 10s. extra is paid to the oldest, who is appointed governess. They have each three apartments in the hospital, which is a neat edifice at the north side of the church. The chancellor of the diocese, the rector of Aikton and Caldbeck, the vicars of Bromfield and Wigton, are the governors, - the latter is also treasurer, with a salary of 20s., and the bishop of Carlisle is the visitor. Sanderson's Charity - Rd. Sanderson, Esq., of Norbury House, Croydon, in the county of Surrey, merchant, and citizen of London, but a native of this neighbourhood, by will, dated Sep. 1836, bequeathed 5000 bank stock, three per cent consolidated annuities, upon trust, to the vicar, churchwardens, and overseers, for the time being, after the death of Honor Thompson; the interest thereof to be distributed by them on the 26th of December, in each year, amongst 20 poor persons, of either sex, born and resident in the parish of Wigton, who shall have attained the age of 50 years: each person to receive not less than 5, nor more than 10. The poor receive 10s. a year from Francis Barwise's charity.

Wigton Poor Law union, for which a convenient workhouse was erected in 1840, about half-a-mile from the town, comprises the following 31 parishes and townships, viz, Aikton, Allhallows, Allonby and Westnewton, Aspatria, Blencogo, Blennerhasset and Kirkland, Bolton High, Bolton Low, Bowness, Bromfield, Caldbeck, Dundraw, Hayton and Melay, Holme Abbey, Holme East Waver, Holme Low, Holme St. Cuthbert, Ireby High, Ireby Low, Kirkbampton, Kirkbride, Langrigg and Mealrigg, Oulton, Sebergham, Torpenhow and Whitrigg, Uldale, Waverton, Westward, Wigton, and Woodside, occupying an area of 138,240 acres, and containing a population, according to the census taken in 1841, of 23,366 souls. Allonby and Westnewton, Bolton Low, Bowness, Caldbeck, Holme Abbey, Holme Low, Sebergham and Westward, elect two guardians; Wigton four; and all the rest one each; besides whom there are four ex-officio guardians. The board meet on the first Tuesday of every month; Samuel Rigg, Esq., is chairman; Mr. R. Yarker, auditor; John Hendrie, M.D., surgeon; Wm. Buttery, registrar of marriages for the whole union, and of births and deaths for Wigton district; George and Mary Sinclair, master and matron; and the relieving officers are James Graham, Wigton; Daniel Pape, Abbey Holme; and Jacob Woof, Hesket Newmarket. The average number of paupers in the workhouse, for the year ending Lady-day, 1847, was about 140; and the expenditure for the relief of the poor in the house, during the same period, exclusive of registration and vaccination fees, &c., was 638 15s. 8d., and the out-relief was 2473 16s. 11d. ; but the total expenditure by the Union was 4100, and by overseers and Union, 5633. The weekly average cost per head, for in-door paupers, including clothing, was 2s. 7d. The number of marriages registered in the district, during the year 1846, was 127; births, 723; and deaths, 565.

Wigton Free Grammar School, situated in Market-hill, is now endowed with upwards of 70 a year, arising from various bequests, about 28 of which is paid to the usher3, and the remainder to the head master. The Rev. John Thomlinson, of Rothbury, having received 200, collected by the inhabitants towards the endowment of a free school, at Wigton, granted them a rent charge of about 20 a year, out of his lands at Haughton, in Northumberland, and, in 1730, the school room and master's house were built by the Rev. Robert Thomlinson, the parishioners being at the expense of leading the materials and providing the ground, which was given by Mr. John Plaskett. The following bequests have been subsequently made to the original endowment, viz., 1000 in 3 per cent reduced, bequeathed by Mr. John Allison, in 1787; 355 left by Thomas Thomlinson, Esq., in 1798, and about 16s. a year from 2R. 30P. of land allotted to it at the enclosure. The head master "shall teach, in Latin and Greek, gratis, the poor children of all such as, by contributing to raise the salary of the school, have made their houses free. And, that the school may not be burthened with a number of foreigners, he shall not teach any but those who are free for a less sum than 5s. a quarter." The commissioners' report also states that the usher "shall teach all the children of such as are free to read, write, and cypher; and those that intend to advance to the head master, he shall teach them the accidence; and all these gratis: nor shall he take any foreigners under his care for less premium that 2s. 6. per quarter, or any whatever until they can read the testament;" and that "he shall be paid out of the income of the school, the fourth part of the school income; and all the rest of that income, together with the dwelling house, to belong to the head master." Mr. Robert Summers is the head master, and Mr. Joseph Scott the second master.

Hodge's Bequest - Mr. Joseph Hodge, manufacturer, of Wigton, who died 27th March, 1846, bequeathed to Messrs. Banks, Henderson, and Banks, 1500, bearing interest at 3 per cent, for the education of poor children of the parishes of Wigton and Westward, viz. 900 to the former, and 600 to the latter, and directed the residue, if any, to be given, in clothing, to poor women. Upon the death of the last survivor, the money is to be placed in the public stocks, funds, or other government security; and on the death of a trustee, the remainder are to elect one to fill up the number. "The trustees are not to be ministers, curates, or parish clerks, either of the established church, or of dissenters; schoolmasters, or teachers." The following are the names and residences of the present trustees :- William Banks, High Moor House; John Henderson, John Banks, and John Pattison, Wigton; Jph. Rook, Rosley; Wm. Rook, Tracentree; and Jane and Jane Pattinson (cousins), Wigton. The benevolent donor also left several small sums, varying from 2s. to 8s. a week, to sundry of his old workmen.

The British Schools, established a few years ago, are a great benefit to the children of the poor inhabitants. They occupy a large room under the Independent Chapel, in Water-street, and are attended on an average by about 90 boys and 90 girls, who pay only 2d. a week each, the remainder being made up by liberal contributions. A subscriber of one guinea per annum has the privilege of sending two children to these schools.

There are in the town three circulating libraries, a subscription library, a news room, and several benefit societies, belonging to the Odd Fellows, Forresters, &c. In 1783, Dr. Bray presented a library for the use of the clergy of the established church. A Mechanics' Institute was established here in 1846, and has already between 60 and 70 members; Mr. Charles Bernard is secretary and treasurer. The Gas works, in the Tenter's Field (erected in 1831, by a company of shareholders of 10 each), contain eight retorts, and a gasometer capable of holding 8000 cubic feet of gas, which is sold to the inhabitants at 8s. per 1000 cubic feet; Mr. Samuel Rigg is the treasurer and clerk. Petty Sessions are held, every alternate Tuesday, at the Police Station, which was erected in 1844, on the Market-hill; the acting magistrates are Joseph Gillbanks, Esq., Joseph Railton, Esq., and the Rev. Edward Salkeld.

Biography - Several persons of celebrity were either connected with or born in this town and neighbourhood; amongst whom may be mentioned the Rev. John Brown4, D.D., who was born in 1715, at Rothbury in Northumberland, but received the rudiments of his education at the Grammar School, in Wigton. He was a man of extensive genius, and, besides being an elegant prose writer, was also a good poet, and no ordinary proficient in music and painting. His works are well known to the literati, especially his tragedy of 'Barbarossa,' to which a humorous prologue was written and spoken by Garrick5, in the character of a Cumberland lad, supposed to be the author's servant. He was invited by the empress of Russia to visit St. Peterburgh, in order to confer with him respecting the regulating of several public schools; but was seized with violent bodily pains, which brought on a confirmed melancholy madness, and, under this fatal alienation of mind, put a period to his life with a razor, on the 23rd of September, 1766, in the 51st year of his life. Mr. Ewan Clark, the celebrated Cumberland poet; R. Smirke, Esq., R.A., the eminent historical painter; Mr. Geo. Barnes, an excellent mathematician - were also natives of Wigton; and the late astonishing Joseph Rooke, who, from the rank of a poor weaver, became, self-taught, a mathematician and philosopher, excelling also in music, optics, and botany, was a native of Aikbank, near this town.

Aikhead, or Akehead, is a small hamlet in Wigton township, about 1 mile W. by N. of that town. It contains about 550 acres of land, and here is situate the neat rural residence of Mr. John Rooke.

Dockray is another hamlet, 1 mile N. by E. of Wigton, near the confluence of the Wiza and Wampool. It contains the old farm house called Dockray Hall, the property of John Taylor, Esq., and is skirted by a wood, called Woodhouse Alders.

Moorhouse hamlet is two miles N. of Wigton, and here is a large farm house, called Moorhouse Hall, with fine views, the property of Mr. Taylor. Standing Stones is another small hamlet, occupying an elevated situation above the railway station, half-a-mile north of Wigton.

Oulton township has a pleasant village, two miles N. by W. of Wigton, and comprises the small hamlets of Eskrigg, Lawrence-Holme, Tarnrigg, and Wedholme-hill6, from one to two miles N. and N.W. of the village; 2750A. of land, rated at 1825 5s. belonging to a number of proprietors, of whom John Taylor, Esq. is the largest, but Mr. John Barnes, John Swan, Esq., Edw. Knubley, Esq., the Stockdale, Robinson, Dalston, Todd, and Watson families, have small estates here. A great portion of the land consists of a kind of moss, producing nothing but peat; and in this township is situated a small lake, called Martin Tarn, near a mile in circumference. In the village is a small Baptist chapel, rebuilt in 1832, in which service is performed monthly. It is endowed with 24 a year. Customary courts for this township are held occasionally by Mr. Taylor and Mr. Barnes, who are lords of the manor.

Waverton township contains a pleasantly situated village of its own name, 2 miles S.W. of Wigton, besides the following places, Lessonhall, a neat village 2 miles W. by N. of Wigton, where Chas. Wray, Esq. has a commodious residence; Aikbank, Barugh, Blaithwaite (High and Low), Parkgate, Woodrow, and Hawkrigg House, from 2 to 3 miles S.W. of Wigton. The principal landowners are Miss Hewson, Chas. Ray, general Wyndham, John Taylor, Messrs. Jefferson, Stamper, Simpson, Swan, Rigg, and Tiffin, Mrs. Wilson, and Mrs. Donald.

Woodside township lies on the south and east side of Wigton, and contains 1762 acres, rated at 3417 12s. 6d. belonging to Wm. Barnes, John Robinson, Miss Matthews, Sir W. Brisco, W. B. Hodge, C. Henderson, and a few others. The hamlets of Kirkland, 1 mile E.; Lownthwaite7 (High and Low), 1 mile S. by W.; and Moorthwaite, 2 miles E. of Wigton, are in this township; and High Moor House, the seat of W. Banks, Esq., stands on a gentle eminence, commanding extensive prospects, about half-a-mile S. of the parish church. This estate was purchased of Mrs. Campbell, of London, by Mr. John Hodge, in 1817, who commenced the present mansion, which was completed by his son, the late Mr. Joseph Hodge, who died in 1846.

About a mile W. from Wigton is a seminary called Brookfield Academy, belonging to the Society of Friends, removed hither from High Moor, in 1826. The number of pupils is limited to 30 boys and 30 girls, from the age of 8 to 15 years. Children attending this school, from any part of Cumberland, are taught partly at the expense of the society.


* It is stated in Hutchinson that Warkup, an incumbent of Wigton during the civil wars, was obliged to fly on account of his loyalty to the sovereign. After the restoration of Charles II he returned; and tradition says "that the butcher market was then held upon the Sunday, and the butchers hung up their carcasses even at the church door, to attract the notice of their customers as they went in and came out of church; and it was not unfrequent to see people, who had made their bargains before prayers began, to hang their joints of meat over the backs of the seats until the pious clergyman had finished the service. The zealous priest, after having long, but ineffectually, endeavoured to make his congregation sensible of the indecency of such practises, undertook a journey to London, on foot, for the purpose of petitioning the king to have the market day established on the Tuesday, and which it is said he had interest enough to obtain.

"The old and lofty wooden pillar, which had long served as the market cross, was made the centre stake of a large bonfire, and destroyed amidst the rejoicings after the battle of Trafalgar." The shambles have also been long since removed from the market place, which is now rather spacious, and is ornamented with a cast iron pump.

† Wigton was reduced to ashes at the same time.


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




1. Martin Tarn lies between Oulton and Gamelsby.
2. Osnaburghs were a type of coarse cotton fabric; tow-cloth was made from hemp or flax; fustian was another coarse cotton cloth.
3. Usher is an old term for an assistant teacher; accidence deals with grammar.
4. The fame of John Brown, D.D. seems to have faded over the years - he is not listed in the "Oxford Companion To English Literature".
5. David Garrick, 1717-1779 was one of the foremost actors of his age. He also wrote for the stage.
6. Lawrence-Holme is now Lawrenceholme, and Wedholme-hill is now Wedholme Hill.
7. Lownthwaite is now rendered Longthwaite.

Photos Steve Bulman.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman