Records : The Sixteen Men

Pages 222-238

Register and Records of Holm Cultram. Originally published by T Wilson & Son, Kendal, 1929.

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Mention has already been made of the Sixteen Men as the local parliament, acting under the steward of the manor, who was responsible to the Lord Warden of the West Marches, and when the Wardenship was abolished, to the Governor of Carlisle, representing the Crown. Such a body was not peculiar to Holm Cultram; the Sixteen Men of the Honor of Penrith, which was also in the hand of the Crown in the time of Elizabeth, offer an analogy in Cumberland; and of the manor of Aston and Cote, co. Oxon., it was recorded in 1657 that—"there hath been a custom time out of mind that a certain number of persons called the Sixteen, or the greater part of them, have used to make orders, set penalties, choose officers and let the meadows and do all such things as are usually performed in the Court Baron of other manors." (N. J. Horne, Manors and Manorial Records, p. 13).

The number was determined by the four Quarters (p. 172) into which the parish, like others, was divided—four from each quarter. Whether there was such a body under the abbey is unknown. At the commissioners' inquiries under Elizabeth, already noticed, juries of twenty-four were summoned; but these were not the parish Council. The first direct mention of the XVI is in the tithe suit of 1586 (p. 195), but their existence earlier, with an outline of their duties, was indicated when in 1640 John Chamber gave evidence in a case of assessment and distress as follows:—"There was a Sixteen Men chosen by the parish for to sett down a taxe in the 10th year of Queen Elizabeth [1568] of ffamous memory for getting the Custom confirmed under the Great Seal of England and paid of the same Taxe into the Court of the Exchequer 300l. and chardges besides with fees 200l. or thereabouts, the which sum was collected by the collectors appoynted by the said XVI Men and about ye 41st year of Queen Elizabeth there was a XVI Men appoynted for setting down taxes for defending their custom of payeing of their ancient custom in the same Lordshipp against Sir Arthur Atye and others wch lasted sixteen years. And in the seventh yeare of King James of ffamous memory a Tax was set downe to have this custom decreed undr the Exchequer Seale and established by Act of Parliament w[hi]ch came to 500l. or thereabouts. He deposeth that he knoweth that the XVI men are chosen of the best and ablest men of understanding and of qualities, fower in every Q[uarte]r. The Tenants doe repair the Sea Bankes and three Bridges, wch several Bridges within twenty yeares have cost in building and repairs 200l. and the said Tenants have spent great somes of money in preservinge of the Woodes in Wedholme and the Tenants were in suit with Mr. William Brisco for cutting down trees and converting them to his own use wch cost the Parish 40l. for they had him in the Exchequer and they had a suite with the Clerk of the Peace about the Bridges wch cost 40l. and more … also the Lorpp had Suits with Mr. Richard Tickell about the Encroachments and at last the XVI Men did agree with Mr. Tickell for 60l. and sent three men to London about the same Custom and four Bondsmen entered into a Bond for 120l. for the payment of the 60l. When the day of payment came their Bond was forfeited and the four put to great charges thereby."

Among a few isolated extracts from the sixteenth century is one in the Wardrobe Accounts of 1553 (P.R.O. Ex. 2 R. Bundle 465, 18), suggesting that the XVI Men already existed:—"Holm Coltrain. Este Wavr Repars maide upon Wathole wood dyke and the Gayte of the same the xxij day of June Ano Regni Marye regine primo. ffyrst for the makinge of a yeat … iijs. xd. Itm the Croke and Bande to ye sayme ijs. iiijd. Item to a wright for making the same gayte xxijd. Item paid to vj Labo'ers for the makinge of the hedge at South of the same woode the space of ij dayes at vjd. by the day vjs. Here allowed same at xivs.— Winchester." Wedholme wood was the business of the XVI, and this looks like their account. They seem to be mentioned in 1561 (p. 158], though the reading is not quite clear.

The XVI were chosen at the September court. The formula used was:—"To the Homage Jurors. Gentlemen Jurors, We the Sixteen Men of the Parish and Lordship for the time being do herein present you with the names of the persons who are elected and accordingly summoned to appear at this Court Leet this day to take upon them the office of Sixteen Men for three years next ensuing in all matters and properties as have formerly been accustomed. If therefore you approve of the persons hereafter mentioned we desire you to give verdict and make return thereof in due time to the Lord Steward of this Manor at this Leet, according to ancient Custom and Usage." To which the jurors replied:—"The Homage Jurors aforesaid did approve of and accordingly Returned by Verdict to the Steward of the Manor at this Leet held the day aforesaid the men whose names are underwritten who have now taken oath before the said Steward to execute the Office of Sixteen Men of the said Parish and Lordship for the three years next ensuing."

The election, however it was arranged, appears usually to have given satisfaction. There was an instance to the contrary in 1586 (p. 195), but the system worked smoothly until 1880, when an agitation for a public audit arose. The affair was thrown into Chancery and the Sea-dyke, still in charge of the XVI, was transferred by the Charity Commissioners to representatives of the District Council and two from each Quarter chosen by the copyholders in the Manor Court.

The earliest records of the XVI Men are lost, but from 1630 to 1721 the minutes exist in a book measuring 6 ins. by 7½ ins.; a second book deals with the period, Oct. 25, 1721, to 1839, and a third brings the records up to 1884.

At the beginning of the first book, after its heading and list of members for 1630, follows the entry:—"Alsoe we the said XVI doe appoint for wood wardes for the wood of Wedham those whose names doe follow viz. Mr. Thomas Senhouse, Mr. John Chamber, Thomas Austin, Harbart Huddert. They must come twice evrie yeare viz. at Michaelmas and May day and to the best of their knowledge certifye the said XVI what wood shalbe sold or carried out of the said wood of Wedham." The time of meeting was fixed "betwene the houres of nyne and eleaven of the clock in the fore noone." Then follows an agreement entered into in 1607 for the payment of a schoolmaster and parish clerk, the assessment made on the tenants being 4d. for each tenant paying 18s. rent and 2d. for 'cottingers.' The tax amounted to £7 3s. a year, due at Easter, in lieu of the original payment in food.

These entries give a hint of the various duties of the XVI. They included the maintenance of the sea-dykes and the care of Wedholme wood, the three bridges, the levying of local rates, the appointment of schoolmaster and clerk, the confirmation of byelaws, the custody of 'parish stock' (money), the supervision of the churchwardens' and collectors' accounts; and they were often chosen as a court of appeal or as arbitrators. It will be convenient to give sample extracts from their accounts, arranged under various headings; the history of the Abbey church has perhaps been sufficiently illustrated, and indeed some mention has been made of most of the subjects following, which precludes the necessity of further explanation.

The Sea Dyke and Wedholme.

1630. Sir Richard Graham obtained an order from the king to have ninety of the best oak-trees in Wedholme. The XVI were indignant and petitioned the king in the name of Heugh Askew of Seville Cote, their foreman. The petition came before the king at Theobalds, Sept. 14, 1630, and the matter was referred to the Lord Keeper and Lord Treasurer. The answer, countermanding the order, signed R. Coventrye and R. Weston, bears date Oct. 13, 1630.

1649. In the Survey of the Manor the Commissioners reported:—"There is a wood within the said Lorpp called Wedholme Wood wherein are divers oak trees which we esteem to be worth 3000l. but the tenants alledge and have shewed us a decree in the Exchequer signifying that they ought to enjoy the said woode towards the repairing the Seadykes. We have viewed and conceive the said woode is not fitting to continue for that purpose for that the same is old woode and by reason of age is much decayed and therefore more fit to be presently felled, and the springers preserved (wood being extreme scarce in those parts) and the dykes to be maintained with stone which the Tenants may leade from the sea, being near the said dikes, and that the Lorde allow the said Tenants xxl. per ann. or thereabout for that purpose and so dispose of the said wood and preserve the springers, which may be done by buying out the herbage which is putten out in fee farme to Sir Thomas Lamplugh. The said Tenants alleage likewise that the said wood (in maintaining the said Dykes) is for the preservac'on of their estates in Low holme Quarter (the rest is free from inundac'on) and that thereby the Commonwealth might be answered the profits thereof which Quarter is not worth to the Commonwealth halfe the profit that might be made by the said wood and moreover when the said wood shall decaye (as long it cannot continue by reason of age) the said Tenants will expect to have materials provided for the purpose aforesaid from the Lord of the Manor. But this wee incert as our opinion and leave the same to better judgement for determinac'on." In this the Commissioners gave good advice, and it is a pity the XVI men did not accept it.

1663, May 18. "We the XVI men … being very sensible of the decay … and taking into considerac'on what inconvenience and dammage may fall on posteritie by reason of want of wood for the reparac'on aforesaid … thinke fitt and order that a parte of ye saide woode (That is to say) the Rigge next to the Northe shall be felled and cut downe and that forthwith the same be hedged and stronglie fenced round about to th'extent the same may wth all care and diligence be sprung againe. And that henceforth from tyme to tyme the Woodwards do take care that the fences soe to be made be stronglie kept in repaire that new wood may come on and grow."

1668, July. It was ordered that twenty trees be felled and carried to the Seadyke. On Dec. 27 sums amounting to £1 19s. were paid for leading the timber.

1674, July 18. "We … order that ye 4 Woodwards doe sell to ye best advantage for ye use aforesd all the blowne Boughes such as are fallen downe and also those that are hanging on ye trees and that none that buys the same shall fell or cutt any other boughes or wood upon payne of £3 6s. 8d. and that the boughes hanging shall be cut off at the place where they broke or crack."

It would seem that in ignorance of the 'payne' forbidding any person outside the manor to purchase wood there, Sir John Ballantine of Crookdake sent his servants to purchase a tree there, as the following letter shows:—

"Sir, I should be sorry that you should suffer either Losse or p'judice by me if my servants whom I sent to the wood had not informed me that you had bought one Tree for my use. I should not have given you this Trouble but seeing the Tree is bought I entreat you to let me have it and I doe by these p'sents bynd and oblige my selfe to keep and save you harmless from yor XVI Men and all other for the price of it and if you question my word and p'mise I have here written to James Jackson [the bailiff mentioned already] to passe his word to keep y° harmlesse but I hope my owne worde will serve for a greater matter. Yor kindness in this p'ticular shall oblige me hereafter to continue Sr yr faithfull friend to serve you

J. Ballentine.

"Crookdake ye 4th of September (75).

"My service to yor sonne. I entreate you to send upp Cuthbt Pennington to me upon Munday or Tuesday wth his dogg and netts and with his larking netts.

"ffor Mr. Willm Chambers at Raby Coate. These."

1692, April. The XVI Men "order yt ye Middle Rigg of Wedholme shall forth wth be cut down finding ye same to be in a decaying condition and almost rotting and ye money thereof to be put into ye hands of four Trustees … and yt all due care is and shall be taken by us ye said XVI Men and ye sd Trustees as setting of accrons springing of ye Booles or what other methods may be urged for ye preserving of ye said wood for ye uses aforesaid as we are in duty bound."

1697. Nov. 5. Wood from Wedholme was sold for repairing the church, and the money put to the account of the Seadyke.

1700. The sale of the Middle Rigg, ordered in 1692, realised £168, and "The Steward did ord Anthony Hayton foreman of the Head Jury p' Western Waver and the rest of his fellows and Robt Hewson the foreman of the Jury p'Eastern Waver … to meet at the Seadyke upon Thursday the 27th March 1700 to view the delapidations and to ord a speedy repair … We did order ytth sd Seadyke should forthwith be put into good and sufficient repaire by the Copyhold Tenants who have formerly been accustomed to work at the same who are requested by order of p'clamation to come or send each Tenant a sufficient worker to appear at the Seadyke at eight of the clock in the morning and goe to work at the discretion of the overseer there p'sent and for their wages every one soe working to receive everyone 1s. per day Low holme Quarter to begin on Wednesday the ninth of Aprill Abbey Quarter on Thursday St. Cuthbert Quartr on Friday and East Waver Quartr on Saturday and soe continue as need shall require."

1712. A similar order was made.

1715. Further decay was met by a sale of wood from Wedholme. On Feb. 10, 1715, the accounts give, "to the parish two turnes at the Seadike each tenement two days—£39 9s."

1717. "Whereas information was made to ye XVI Men by the Tenants of Skinbernees that the Great Gutters in the Seadyke were through the violence of the Sea in decay to their great prejudice and ensuing loss to them and severall others proclamation was made that ye XVI Men view the same which on the first day of June last past accordingly did assemble ourselves and found the west part of the wood work on the back side of the Seadike and the door of ye water sluice with severall other parts as also the earthwork about the fraime in great ruine." Whereupon notice was given on the long stone [in the churchyard, sometimes called "the blew marble stone," supposed to be Abbot Chamber's tomb] that a meeting should be held at Wedholm of the woodwardens and persons interested and of any "carpenters who had a mind to be employed in the work," at six o'clock in the morning of June 5; and "According to the above written proclamation the woodwards and XVI Men did meet at ye wood and severall Carpenters and none would undertake ye working of ye wood under 30 pounds so that it was ordered that men should be imployed by [the] day the wood being cutt down which was thought necessary." Wood was sold to the value of £13 19s. 6d. and the Seadyke was made efficient again.

1748, Oct. 7. An order was made regarding the duties of the Woodwardens from which the following is an extract. "That whenever any Storms or High Wind arise … Breaking and blowing down any Trees that some of the Woodwardens go and view ye wood blown down and take an account of ye Trees and their marks and place in their book … and to proclaim a sale day wch never ought to be before ye 10th of May or after Lukemas [Oct. 18]. We order ye Woodwardens to have nothing but att ye descretion of ye XVI Men either for attendance before or after ye Sale. According to a former order by ye late XVI Men they allowed 6d. per diem; we not being willing to abolish the same agree to 6d. but not above Butt are not free to allow any money for treating ye Carpenters when they have 1s. per d. wch is wage sufficient."

1756, Oct. 8. "Then happened a great hurricane which in Wedholme Wood blew down upwards of eighty Trees and soon covered the ground with Boughs. The Woodwardens seeing this dismal prospect refused to act any longer in their office. Upon such refusal the XVI Men sold the Wood so blown down and did every other Act or thing for the benefit of the Parish." The wood, sold on Nov. 10 to 16, 1756, and on June 10 and 15, 1757, with birchwood and boughs and balance due to the parish for sales in 1754–56, amounted to £397 13s. 11½d. The bill for refreshments at these sales came to £6 10s. 1d. Proclaiming the sales on St. Luke's day cost 4d. and crying the sales three days, 3s. Carpenters now charged 1s. 2d. a day.

1767, Jan, 28. Isaac Jefferson wrote that William Glaister sent for him "to go and view the Seadike which they had cut two days before to let out the fresh [i.e. flood] that came down at the Breaking of the frost and Great Snow which voluntary act with the force of the water did wash and scour away three times as much as was cut for the passage. The Tides running extremely high at the same time it being New Moon we were obliged to set men to work ye next day to repair ye same."

"1768, Saturday, Feb. 13. Was the greatest Innundation of fresh water that ever was known at Skinbernees in the Memory of Man as they say they were obliged to cut the Seadike at three different places so that it run with great violence for four days. Upon Wednesday the 17th we set men to work."

1778. The last payment of £100 was made to the XVI Men for Wedholme Wood; its final fortunes have been already told (p. 221).

Bridges and Roads.

1624. A letter of June 28, to the Bishop of Carlisle and other justices, signed by Edward Bromley, recites that 'about March last' a petition was sent to Sir Julius Cæsar, chancellor of the Exchequer, by Hugh Askew on behalf of the tenants at Holm Cultram, "shewinge that there are divers auncient Bridges wthin the Mannor wch are laitely ruinated, the Reparacion whereof belonged to the Lo. Abbott … and therefore desired that they might be Repayred at his Ma'ties Charge or els that they the petitioners would undertake the repaireing thereof at their own chardges soe that they might be freed from any contributions wth in the said Countie, otherwise that they might have contribution of the Countie towardes the building up and repairinge of the said Bridges wch petition was thought reasonable and thereupon about August last the said Mr. Chancellor did signifye soe much upon the said petition and gave direction wch should have come to me the last Assizes at Carliell to take some course for the Petitioners reliefe herein wch came not unto mee untill of late since the said Assizes …." On which the Bishop noted, "If thother Justices to whom this is directed held it good I thinke it fittinge that the Tennants in ye Lorp of Holme Coltrā, be chargeable wth reparacion of ye Bridges among them and be discharged of fforaine Charges and Taxes for other Bridges. Hen. Carliolen." This is signed also by (Sir) William Hutton, (Sir) John Dalston, (Sir) Wilfrid Lawson and Christopher Curwen; in spite of which the tenants had some difficulty in getting free of contributions to 'foreign' bridges for some years afterwards, but established their case in the end. Meanwhile they continued to repair their own bridges.

1628. "A note of the Taske for the three briggs in holme Cultram vizt. Crombocke brigge, Newbrigge and Hartlaw brigge, being xxd. a pound of Coppyhold, xviij of a Pound of Lease and 4d. a piece of Cottagers. Md That the … totall Sum is £25 16s. 7d. … Payed to the Wrights £10 2s. … to John Miller £6 6s. 4d. … for lyme £1 4s. … for hiring men to lift and other things 4s. … for paveing the New brigge, 10s.—£18 4s. 4d."

1632, July 18. "Four Bridges of Wood in Decay viz.: the Lay Bridge wch will cost in repairing £8, Crummock Bridge will cost £3, Hartlaw Bridge will cost £2 6s. 8d. and one bridge called Silloth Bridge will cost £3." And in April (1633?)—"Let Mr. John Chamber and the other XVI Men meet at Silloth Bridge to view it and assign wood now at Skinburness to repair it upon Saturday the 11th day of April. Peter Senhouse, Steward of Holm Cultram."

1647. The XVI Men agreed that the woodwards "doe sett forth wood to the value of 26 fudder [fother, cart-load] and every Graveshippe to leade a fudder upon Lawfull warning and also sett forth some decayed wood to be sold for the payeing of Workmen for ye repaireing of ye New brigge."

1651. Mr. Chamber to "disburse ye sume of xls. … for and towardes repaireing of the said (i.e. the New) Bridge."

1671, April 12. "Whereas the calsey betwixt Barhouse and y… churchyarde Style is in great decaye We … have agreed with ffrancis Stamper for to repaire the decayes therein … xii Roode all anew where it is in greatest decay and to make the same seaven quarters broad and to repaire all the rest where needfull, for which worke we ye saide XVI° have promised to give him for his worke the sum of eighteene shillings."

1678, Sept. 1. Robert Farish acknowledged receipt of £6 "concerneing the workemanship att Crumick bridg."

1683, April 28. "Ordered … that ye Penthouse Cawsey betwixt Barhouse and ye Churchyard and ye Loning leading from ye Churchyard to ye Speelgate be repaired." [The Penthouse causey seems to have been the street leading from the present schoolhouse to the church. Speelgate lane is now an occupation road of the Wheatsheaf Inn, crossed by the railway a few yards east of the station.]

1684. Forty trees and blown wood were allotted to the repair of Hartlaw bridge.

1685, July 11. "Ordered … that ten purveys be forthwith collected … for the rebuilding of Crombock Bridge and repaire of the New bridge."

1718, June 7. The New bridge being again in decay, the XVI Men were to meet on Thursday the 12th at six o'clock in the morning. They agreed on its repair and made proclamation for workmen "to take the work by great." On the 26th the work was "fest by great" [let by contract at inclusive rates]. The woodwardens were ordered to supply timber, which was valued by "four substantial men who hath no interest in the same wood" at £19 2s., "a sheddale whereof is had more at large"; and "the carpenters began with the work on ye 1st and finished on August the 16th, 1718." The cost was £13 to carpenters, £6 for stone work, £1 10s. 'for covering ye Bridge,' £4 for leading wood from Wedholme, 1s. 10d. for two loads of lime, 3s. for stones, 6s. for leading stones, and 2s. "to Thomas Miller for going below sleepers. Item to Thomas Bigland for binding ye sleepers about ye easternmost pillar, being not known to be defective when the work was fest, 3s." ['Sleepers,' i.e. main horizontal beams.]

1767. The New Bridge was thrown down. Next year in January and April the inhabitants were indicted at the Quarter Sessions at Cockermouth for not repairing the New bridge as a Cart Bridge. It appears that the inhabitants of Silloth had refused to pay their taxes to the New bridge and Hartlaw bridge and the officer of the XVI had to make journeys to Cockermouth and elsewhere to seek means to compel them. The first of these journeys cost 2s., the second 1s. In 1771 "It was thought advisable to take the Tenants part of the expenses of building that Bridge out of the money arising from Wedholme Wood. Accordingly £300 was taken from the [parish] Stock and 150 purveys paid by the Freeholders as their proportionable share of the expenses thereof, the Freeholders having no rights in Wedholme Wood."

1772. "Expences at Bays Lane and building Seville Bridge and severall other expences—£21 4s. 8d."

1796. Crummock bridge was rebuilt at a cost of £55 10s., the amount being raised by loan and repaid by a levy of one fourth on each Quarter on the Surveyors of Highways.

In the early part of the nineteenth century Quarter Sessions levied a Bridge rate over the whole of the county, the money so raised in Holm Cultram being repaid, first to the surveyors of highways and, since the establishment of the Local Board, to that body.

Local rates and parish stock.

Under this heading we collect a few entries relating to the financial dealings of the XVI Men. In the evidence of John Chamber (p. 223) some of these dealings are mentioned, but the costs of their suits are by no means overstated, as we gather from the following accounts as examples:

[1637] March 25th. The taxe sett down by ye XVI Men.

£ s. d.
The Halfe Yeares Rent is 150 7 8
The Impt. [Improvement] Taxe is 80 10 0
The Tax for ye Colt Parke (fn. 1) is 29 12 6
The Tax for ye Burning Meadow is 8 0 0
The Tax for Marrow Nooke is 6 0 0
Layd forth when Mr. Tho. Senhouse and Mr. Jo.
Osmotherley went to London the 3d day of April 64 9 3
and they borrowed of John ffisher at London 36 0 0
wch £36 is unpayed but it hath cost the parish 60 0 0
The next journey to London by Henry Askew
June ye 13th 1637 10 0 0
Nov. 4, 1637, when Hen. Askew & Antho. Barnes
went to London 20 0 0
More borrowed by them of Jo. Glaister 10 0 0
To wch was payd again 18 0 0
Feb. 6, 1637[8] when Hen. Askew went upp himselfe 10 0 0
at wch tyme he borrowed of Mr. Tickell 10 0 0
and also of Mr. John Glaister 2 0 0
Nov. 7, 1638, when Robt. Osmotherley went to
London 5 0 0
he borrowed of John ffisher 10 0 0
April 1641, Mr. Cuthbert Orfeur had of ye parish
suite 20 0 0
Jan. 1637, when Jo. Askew went to Newcastle to speake with Mr. Tickell 1 5 6
1637, more to Hen. Askew and other charges in the County 9 6 11
The Graveshippe of Lees caused ye parish to spend in proving ye justice of ye Taske 120 0 0
More payd to Mr. Briscoe & Mr. Tickell 60 0 0

1651, April 16. "Wheras a warr[an]ti was directed from ye High Constable for ye speedie finding of 2 able dragonne horses w[i]th bridles and sadles readie to rendezvous at Carlile or elswhere as ye Governr of Carlile shall thinke fitt . … ye sume of xvil. be assessed and levied wth in ye Lorpp vizt. vijl. a piece for ye horses xxs. for bridles and sadles for each of them. And whereas Robt. Weise now Constable hath a horse being worth ye saide sume of viiil. with Sadle and Bridle and Rich. Winder hath an other worth ye rate aforesaide we desire that they may be in readiness …" And on Dec. 23, "We doe further order that ye saide Anthony [Barnes] shall towardes ye use aforesaide [he had lent money to the parish] enjoy two horses being of late employed in ye dragonne service …"

1653, May 18. The Parliament summoned the tenants for arrears of rent, horse service and boon days, and "the Bill of Charges given in by Mr. Hen. Pierson about p'curing the Commission for examination of witnesses" amounted to £6 7s. 4d. plus "2 Commissioners each of ym xxs. and for ye clarkes labour 10s." It is also explained that there was left in Mr. Chamber's hand £1 2s. "wch was clept money in some part and other some was not money but brasse." Such loss was not uncommon at the time.

1657. In the minutes is a copy of an acquittance for £32 13s. 4d., being money borrowed from Mr. John Osmotherley by the parish and paid to his executors, John Salkeld of Threpland, Esquire, and Roger Gregge, elder, Gent.

1667. Money became more plentiful after the Restoration and the parish began to accumulate a 'Stock' from which it lent out sums. The accounts of Francis Grainger, presented on Dec. 14, include "Behind of severall persons for wch securitie is to be given £18 1s. 3d." In 1676 the money lent out and owing to the parish amounted to £656 7s. 1d. and the interest or "use money" was at the rate of 1s. 2d. in the £ per annum. The greater part of this was held by bond, the smaller sums were chiefly for wood bought in Wedholme and unsecured. These small debts caused endless trouble, so that various persons were appointed to distrain and recover them, with indifferent success. Lawyer [Ewan] Christian was consulted on the recovery of small debts, at the expense of 10s. for his fee and 2s. 8d. for one day's riding to see him on Jan. 7, 1716–7.

1748, Dec. 12. "We ye XVI Men or Sidesmen for ye Parish of Abby Holm for ye year 1748, 49 and 50, do covenant and agree That ye Parish Stock after ye day of ye date hereof Be equally Divided, each person to pay eight pence by ye pound consideration annually for value received and at ye full end and term of 3 years … then ye old XVI Men are to return in their respective sumes Together with three years interest at eight pence per pound … the foreman shall have liberty or power to appoint and chuse one person out of ye four belonging to each of ye Quarters to give a Bond or note for ye Security of ye Sum received by each Quarter … and upon refusal ye foreman take into his own hand giving a note or Bond to ye Satisfaction of ye XVI Men."

In 1760–65 the parish stock had risen to £1024 11s. 3d., and the first real estate, West House, was purchased for £930. About the same time it was agreed to open a house as a workhouse for the poor, and Robert Wise, from whom West House had been purchased, agreed to open part of it for that purpose.


The earliest measures for the poor have been described (p. 194) but the first record of a poor-rate is the following:—

1640, Dec. 12. "We the XVI Men … doe 'assess the Taske for the weeklie rates of viijd. a weeke for ye relief of ye prisoners in goale, King's Bench and Marshallsie, for the reliefe of Soldiers maimed in his Ma'ties Service, wch Taske being in toto xxxiiijs. and viijd. assessed by the Justices of peace upon the Lorpp for the yeare bye past … ."

1662, Oct. 7. At a Quarter Sessions held at Penrith, "Whereas the Inhabitants of Holme Cultrā have for sev'all yeares last past maynteyned amongst them a poore Boy one Ralph Roberts of w[hi]ch charge one Robt. Parker uncle to ye said child did engage to ease them, the which he hath yet neglected to doe. Ordered thereupon on ye Petition of the sd Inhabitants That yd two next Justices call the parties before them and order the p'misses as they shall think fitt." "Ordered upon hearing and examination of ye reference abovesaid That Robert Parker uncle to ye Boy Ralph Roberts shall pay ye sum of ffive pounds for to putt him to an Apprentice by ye churchwardens and overseers of ye Parish. Given under our handes the xiijth of January 1663. Ri. Tolson, Robt. Highmoor."

1664, Dec. 12. "We the said XVI Men . . . order that there shall be Tenne Shillings assessed levyed and Collected wth in ye Lorpp for and towards the buying of Cloathes for William Austin a poore blind man…"

1666, June 5. "That there shall be payed to Elizabeth Langcake and Jane Dand being two feeble and impotent women for and towards their maintenance the sume of ffortie shillings and that the same be payed after ye rate of 5s. in the Quarter to each of them … Elizabeth Langcake disclaiming her p'portion, the whole redounds to Jane Dand.—ffrancis Grainger and others."

1670, Sept. 17. "Whereas Willm. Ritson of Mawbray being an ancient man decrepitt and infirme and not able to travel abroade to seek his liveinge [i.e. to beg] for his reliefe in this his great povertie and neede, We the XVI Men … order that there shall be payed to him … out of the Parish the Sume of xiid. per weeke for the space of one quarter next ensuinge."

1672, April 27. "That Wm. Biglands being a poor indigent ffeeble old man and chargeable upon ye parish for his reliefe shall goe from house to house and at every horse place 2 days, at every Demy footplace and Lesser one day according to a former neighbourlie Rule there to accept of such reliefe as shall be afforded him." And in the following spring it was ordered, "That upon everie neglect of harbouring ye poore as aforesaid … every person shall pay vjd. per diem, And upon their refusall … That the Overseers doe levy ye same rate upon their Goodes and Chattells … whereby ye saide penalties may be truly imployed for some cloathes or other subsistance for ye poor charged upon that mannor.—Edward Lamplugh, Senecall."

1678, Sept. 28. "Ordered … that the following shall goe about and seek almes of every able and well disposed person wth in or p'sh with convenient lodgeing as neede requires, they and everie of them behaveing and demeaning themselves fairely and honestlie not to goe abegging without ye p'sh nor in the hie wayes as the Law therein requires."

1700, Oct. 9. " … The Petty Constables … to cause good and careful ward to be kept constantly in the day time from sunrise to sunset by two able men in all and every the most noted places and wayes within their respective Constablewicks to charge them to arrest all rogues, vagabonds and such as begg out of their respective parishes in the high way and cause them to be whipped or bring them before some Justice of the Peace to be committed to the House of Correction. Also to cause and see that every person in their respective parishes who receive Alms of the Parish hang upon the shoulder of their right sleeve of their uppermost garment in an open and visible manner a Badge and mark, viz. a large Roman P. together with the first letter of their Parish and that no person not having a badge shall receive alms."

In 1689 the poor rate in Holm Cultram was £13 17s. 4d. There is little information as to its administration until the later half of the 18th century, but in 1765, as we have seen, it was agreed to open a Workhouse for the poor, "as they are become so numerous." The tenant of the parish farm was to be paid £2 2s. for opening part of his house for this purpose. Prior to this time an agreement had been entered into with the town of Whitehaven and parish of St. Bees, which had built a "large and commodious Workhouse or Poorhouse," where the poor of Holm St. Cuthberts were to be taken for 30s. a year as house rent, "and also such other sumes of money for the maintenance and employment and for the physick for such of the poor monthly as shall be sent thither and for the master's wages and to be allowed what the earnings of the poor amounts unto." After the purchase of Swinsty (p. 222) the poor of Holm Abbey were moved there, and the windows, and chimney of the building so used are still in evidence. The Rev. W. Barker was tenant of Swinsty and towards the end of 1794 there is a payment to him which suggests that this was the time when the move was made. The overseers' accounts for 1828–38 give voluminous but trivial details for St. Cuthbert's parish.

Foremen of the XVI Men.

1588, 1601, 1612.—Thomas Chambers, Raby Cote.

1618.—Heugh Askew, Seaville Cote.

1630–39.—John Osmotherley, Dubmill.

1649.—John Jackson, Swinsty.

1650–51.—Thomas Chamber, Hartlaw.

1655.—John Jackson, Swinsty.

1661–64.—William Chambers, Raby Cote.

1664–67.—Francis Grainger, Southerfield.

1667–70.—Robert Sibson, Old Mawbray.

1670–73.—John Hodgson, High Laws.

1673–76.—William Chambers, Raby Cote

1676–79.—John Jackson, Swinsty.

1679–82.—John Waite, High Laws.

1683–86.—William Osmotherley, Dubmill.

1686–88.—John Penrise, Causeway Head.

1688–91.—John Wise, Sevil.

1691–94.—Thomas Jefferson, Southerfield.

1694–97.—Joseph Barne, Fermary Couper.

1697–1700.—Robert Hewson, Slightholme.

1700–15.—John Wilson, Blackdyke.

1715–18.—John Penrise, Causeway Head.

1718–21.—John Barwis, Lowsey.

1721–24.—Richard Barwis, Edderside.

1724–27.—James Farish, Calvo.

1727–30.—Thomas Barwis, New Cowper.

1730–33.—Francis Hall, Angerton.

1733–36.—John Barwis, Lowsey.

1736–39.—John Barn, Lees.

1739.—John Liddle, Moorhouse.

1742.—Thomas Barwis, Dubmill.

1745.—John Barnes, Dockray.

1748.—Thomas Barwis, New Cowper.

1751.—Thomas Watman, Newton Arlosh.

1754.—Robert Chamber, Newton Arlosh.

1759—William Martindale, Seville.

1765.—Isaac Jefferson, The Hill.

1768.—John Winder, Brownrigg.

1771.—Robert Sibson, Mawbray.

1775.—Richard Barnes, Wolsty Close.

1778. (fn. 1) —John Winder, Brownrigg.

1782.—Robert Sibson, Mawbray.

1786.—Joseph Taylor, Raby.

1789.—Robert Peat, Seaville.

1792.—William Glaister, Red Flatt.

1795.—Ostle Barwise, Nook.

1798.—Richard Jackson, Mosside.

1801.—Joseph Barnes, Wolsty Close.

1807.—John Jefferson, The Hill.

1810.—Richard Barwise, Edderside.

Joseph Saul, New House.

1821.—John Biglands, Saltcoats.

1823.—John Wilson Wise, Sevil.

1826.—Mungo Glaister, Red Flatt.

1829.—Jonathan Holliday, West House.

1832.—William Donald, Newton Arlosh.

1835.—Robert Peat, Seaville.

1838.—Jonathan Farlam, Border.

1841.—Thomas Chambers, Pelutho.

1844.—Ismay Stubbs, Raby Coat.

1847.—Robert Glaister, Blackdyke.

1851.—John Younghusband, Abbey Cowper.

1853.—John Holliday, Mawbray Hayrigg.

1856.—William Huddart, Newton Arlosh.

1859.—John Holliday, Causeway Head.

1862.—John Grainger, Southerfield.

1865.—Thomas Chambers, Pelutho.

1868.—Robert Glaister, Saltcoats.

1871.—Joseph Barnes, Wolsty Close.

1874.—John Steel, Southerfield.

1877.—Joseph Holliday, Tarns.

1880.—Joseph Martindale, High House.

1883.—John Holliday, Causeway Head.


  • 1. That is, when the Lord tried to exact a rent of so much per acre, although many portions were held free with existing tenements. The next two entries refer to opposition to the demand that the tenants of Blitterlees should pay a yearly rent, though the enclosures had been thrown down and they were part of the common.
  • 2. This year "the Tenants of East Waver Quarter being dissatisfied that the Foreman of the XVI was not appointed in their Quarter it was concluded that for the future he should be appointed in turn in each division."