An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1936.
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Beneath the modern counties of north-western England there lies a more ancient division of the country into districts of geographical rather than administrative significance. Furness and Amounderness, Kentdale, and the original Lonsdale south of the Sands, are all, as their names imply, natural geographical regions. Copeland, the Cauplandia of the twelfth century, is a more artificial unit, and its name, which means 'bought land,' suggests that it was brought under English rule by purchase from the Scandinavian armies which occupied this country in the tenth century. But Copeland is a well defined region, bounded by the Derwent, the Duddon, and the fells which separate the upper courses of these rivers, and its essential unity was expressed after the Norman Conquest by its organisation as a barony, centred on the castle of Egremont. The modern county of Westmorland represents a combination of three of these natural divisions; Kentdale, of which the feudal centre was Kendal castle, the parallel valley of upper Lonsdale, which in the twelfth century belonged to the lord of Kendal, and the valley of the upper Eden with the fells on either side of it, which formed the separate Norman barony of Appleby.
The combination of the baronies of Kendal and Appleby into a single administrative unit was not completed before the thirteenth century. At the date of Domesday Book, most of the lands which became the barony of Kendal were in the king's hands, and all of them were regarded as forming part of Yorkshire. The lands which became the barony of Appleby are not described in Domesday Book, and it seems clear that they formed no part of the English kingdom at this date. Their earlier history is extremely obscure, but it is at least certain that it was to this district that the name Westmorland was first applied. Unlike all the other regional names of the North-west except Cumberland, Westmorland is recorded in an Old English spelling. Grammatically, the form 'Westmoringa land,' under which it appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, (fn. 1) may be translated either 'land of the people of the western moors' or 'land of the people west of the moors,' but the contrast felt by every traveller between the barren heights of Stainmore and the fertile valley of the upper Eden leaves no doubt that the second of these interpretations is correct. The original Westmoringas were undoubtedly the men settled along the upper Eden and its tributaries, and the restriction of the name Westmorland to this country was maintained in local usage far into the Middle Ages. Early in the thirteenth century, Gilbert fitz Roger fitz Reinfrey the lord of Kendal, when describing the boundaries of an estate at Lambrigg in his barony could refer to the great way which comes from 'Westmeriland.' (fn. 2)
For two hundred years after the end of Roman rule in Britain, the whole of what is now Westmorland seems to have formed part of the British kingdom, ruled from Dumbarton, which was generally known in later times as the kingdom of Cumbria or Strathclyde. It was probably during the reign of Ethelfrith king of Northumbria (592–616) that Westmorland, and the north-west of England generally, first passed into English hands. There is no written record of its conquest, but there are place-names in Cumberland and Lancashire of types which seem to have become obsolete soon after the end of the sixth century. (fn. 3) There are few, if any, placenames in Westmorland which give an impression of high antiquity, and the English settlement of the county was probably accomplished gradually in the course of the century following Ethelfrith's death. As to the course of this settlement it can only be said that the south of the county, and in particular southern Kentdale, seems from the evidence of its place-names to have been occupied at least a generation earlier than the Eden valley. (fn. 4)
In any case, it seems clear that Westmorland remained uninterruptedly in English hands for approximately three centuries after its first occupation. Little can be learned as to its history from the ancient historians of Northumbria. No incidents connected with this region are recorded by Bede, and the only religious house in its neighbourhood to which he refers is a monastery at Dacre, which is shown by the names of its abbots to have been an English, not a Celtic, foundation. (fn. 5) There is no reason to think that the English occupation of the North-west was affected by the decline of Northumbrian power in the eighth century, and the little evidence which exists suggests that the country west of the Pennine hills was still subject to English rulers when king Alfred died in 899. The first hint of a dislocation of settled life in this quarter comes from a tract known as the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto which was written in the eleventh century, but incorporates older matter. (fn. 6) It is clear from this work that at the beginning of the tenth century a native English aristocracy was still in power in the North-west. But it also records the significant facts that before 915 one important English nobleman of this region had been driven in flight across the mountains to the east by an invasion of 'pirates,' and that Tilred abbot of Heversham, the one early monastery known to have existed in Westmorland, had made provision for his reception as abbot of Norham on Tweed. (fn. 7) The piratical descent mentioned in this incidental way was an early episode in an invasion of north-western England by Irish-Norwegian armies which profoundly affected the whole political and social history of this country.
By this date, Scandinavian settlements had been established in Ireland for more than half a century. There had been much intermarriage between the native Irish and the Norwegian invaders, and Gaelic personal names were freely used in families of predominantly Norwegian stock. The language spoken in Scandinavian settlements along the Irish coast included many Irish words and was influenced by Irish syntax. In recent years, the study of the place-names of north-western England has proved an intensive settlement of this country by men speaking a language which was Scandinavian in basis, but affected by Gaelic habits of name-formation and marked by an extensive use of Gaelic personal names. Wherever the word ergh, a shieling, occurs in place-names, as in Ninezergh and Sizergh, it is always an indication that a settlement of Norwegians from Ireland has been made in the neighbourhood. Equally suggestive of such a settlement is a type of place-name, composed of two elements, of which, in contrast to the normal Germanic practice, the second defines the first. The name Sti Coleman, for example, which is found in a charter relating to Lambrigg in Westmorland, (fn. 8) and means 'Colman's path,' is a proof of Norse-Gaelic influence in that region, not only because it contains the Old Irish personal name Colman, but also because in this compound the word meaning a path precedes the name of the man with whom it was associated. Names of this type are almost confined to Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire, and the recognition of their significance has given a new precision to the history of this country in the tenth century. (fn. 9)
In Westmorland, these names are rarely found in the east of the county, the original 'Westmoringa land.' There was an extensive Scandinavian settlement in the valleys of the Eden and its tributaries, marked most obviously by the numerous names ending in by which are scattered over this country. But to judge from the place-names which are its chief record, the principal part in this settlement was played, not by Norwegians, but by Danes moving into Westmorland from Yorkshire across the pass between Wensleydale and Mallerstang, or along the Roman road through Brough to the Eden valley at Appleby. The Irish-Norwegian place-names of the county are distributed widely over its western half. Many of them have disappeared from the modern map, especially in the wild country along the Cumbrian border, but Seat Sandal—Sandulf's 'seat'—above Grisedale Tarn undoubtedly derived its name from some Norwegian immigrant, whatever the exact significance of that name may have been. The names of this type in northern Westmorland are presumably due to a migration of settlers from the important Norwegian colonies in southern Cumberland, but in Kentdale and upper Lonsdale there is a concentration of such names, pointing definitely to a separate invasion from Ireland, which in some parts of this country has almost obliterated its earlier English local nomenclature.
The Irish-Norwegian invasions, important as was their bearing upon the art and society of the North-west, were only one among several factors complicating the history of this part of England in the tenth century. Although its date cannot be fixed with any approach to certainty, a notable expansion of the British, or Cumbrian, kingdom of Strathclyde undoubtedly occurred in this century. In the reign of Edward the Confessor, the district roughly defined by the Derwent, the Eamont, the central hills of northern England, and the marshes at the head of the Solway seems to have been covered by the phrase 'the lands that were Cumbrian.' (fn. 10) This phrase shows that this district, which had certainly been English from the early seventh until the early tenth century, had been Cumbrian for a considerable part of the following hundred and fifty years. It is probable that the recovery of this region by the kings of Strathclyde after an English occupation which had lasted for three hundred years occurred in the early part of the tenth century, and was facilitated by the confusion into which the north-west of England was thrown by the Irish-Norwegian invasions of this period. There is no direct evidence bearing on the political condition of the North-west at this time, but it is suggestive that in 926 king Athelstan received the submission of a number of kings and princes, including Constantine king of Scots and Eugenius king of Strathclyde, by the river Eamont. (fn. 11) It was in accordance with the ideas of the age for a king to receive a formal submission of this kind on the border of his own country. It is easy to argue too closely from a fact recorded without its historical context, but Athelstan's choice of the river Eamont for a meeting place on this occasion at least suggests that in 926 the boundary between English and Cumbrian territory coincided at this point with the modern boundary between Westmorland and Cumberland.
For the next forty years nothing is known about conditions in any part of Westmorland. In 954, Eric Blood-axe, the last Norwegian king of York, was killed in battle on Stainmore, but it is quite uncertain whether the men of Westmorland were his friends or enemies. Then, under the year 966, there occurs an enigmatical entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which proves at least that a definite region called Westmoringa land existed at this date. The entry runs 'In this year, Thored, Gunner's son, harried Westmoringa land, and in this same year, Oslac succeeded to the office of ealdorman.' No satisfactory explanation of this entry has ever been given. It seems to be generally assumed that the Westmoringas were disaffected towards the English government, and that the harrying of their country was carried out by Thored in obedience to the orders of king Edgar. But in other entries recording the devastation of a region by the king's command the king is always made responsible for the act, (fn. 12) and the few facts that are known about Thored Gunner's son suggest that he was out of favour at court at this time. Gunner, his father, was an earl in Yorkshire, and can be traced as a witness to various royal charters from 931 until 963. In the latter year he received an estate at Newbald in the East Riding of York from king Edgar, (fn. 13) but he never attests another charter, and it may reasonably be concluded that he died soon afterwards. Thored Gunner's son, who would naturally have succeeded to his father's position, does not appear in the charters as an earl until 979. During the intervening period, there is no doubt that the earldom of all Yorkshire was held by the Oslac whose succession is recorded in the entry under discussion, until king Edgar's death in 975. It is therefore difficult to believe that Thored can have held any official position in 966, and it becomes probable that his devastation of Westmorland was an act of private violence. In any case, it is clear that no conclusions can be drawn from this isolated annal as to the relations existing between the men of Westmorland, that is in the valley of the upper Eden, and the English crown in 966.
What seems at first sight a clue to the nature of these relations is given by certain forms of the famous list of kings and princes who are alleged to have made submission to king Edgar at Chester in 974. The fact that some submission of the kind was made is proved by the almost contemporary evidence of Ælfric abbot of Eynsham, (fn. 14) and several later writers give the names of the men who took part in it. The list given in the early thirteenth century by Roger of Wendover, (fn. 15) and taken from him by Matthew Paris (fn. 16) a generation later, ends with the name of 'Jukil Westmariæ.' There is nothing intrinsically unlikely in this statement. Jukil is a Scandinavian name, such as might well have been borne by an earl of Westmorland. But the older versions of the list handed down by Florence of Worcester (fn. 17) and William of Malmesbury (fn. 18) give no indication of the districts to which the less important rulers in the series belonged, and it is probable that the names of these districts supplied by other writers are no more than conjectural additions to an ancient text giving merely the names of the persons who appeared at Chester in 974. The fact that William of Malmesbury represents the 'Jukil' of the other lists by 'Judethil' introduces a new complication into the problem, for Judethil seems to stand for a British and not a Scandinavian name. (fn. 19) It is clear that the appearance of 'Jukil Westmariæ' in the later versions of the list cannot safely be used to illustrate the history of Westmorland in the tenth century.
For the last century of Anglo-Saxon history, no ancient writer gives any direct information about Westmorland. The evidence of Domesday Book shows that in 1066 the southern part of the county, Kentdale and upper Lonsdale, belonged to the great earldom of Northumbria. (fn. 20) Until his fall from power in 1065, earl Tostig was the chief landowner in this country. He held the important manor of Beetham, to which seven other villages, including the ancient settlement of Heversham, belonged as members. Hutton Roof, Barbon, and Casterton were attached to his manor of Whittington, now included in Lancashire like most of its other dependent villages. A certain Gilemichel, whose name points to an Irish ancestry, held nine separate properties within the modern boundary of Westmorland. Kirkby Kendal itself was among them, though there is no reason to think that it formed the administrative centre of the group. Strickland, which belongs geographically to Westmorland in the original sense of the term rather than to Kentdale, formed part of Gilemichel's estate, and it was probably for this reason that it was mentioned in the Domesday Survey. Kirkby Lonsdale and six other manors in its neighbourhood were held by a thegn named Torfin, probably identical with the man of that name who held among other west Yorkshire properties Gargrave and Horton in Ribblesdale. The lands of Torfin and Gilemichel (fn. 21) in Westmorland consisted of a number of separate manors. The only holding in the county which consisted of a group of villages organised in relation to a manorial centre was earl Tostig's manor of Beetham, which resembles in structure his even larger estates of Preston in Amounderness and Halton in Lonsdale.
The east and north of the county, the original Westmoringa land, lay outside the scope of the Domesday inquiry, and the course of its history for the century before the Norman Conquest can only be a matter of conjecture and inference. It is most probable that throughout this period it formed part of a great stretch of debatable land extending from the districts under undisputed English lordship to the borders of the kingdom of Strathclyde. It has already been noted that at the middle of the eleventh century, a considerable part, if not the whole, of the country between the Solway and the Eamont was regarded as having formerly been Cumbrian. The phrase implies that at the time when it was used these lands were English, and although there is no record of the date of their re-conquest, it should probably be associated with the revival of English power which marks the reign of Cnut. The local dynasty of Strathclyde became extinct at the death of Eugenius the Bald in or shortly after 1015, (fn. 22) and although their country soon passed to the kings of Scots, the end of the ancient line must have given an opportunity for an English occupation of disputed territories. It is at least certain that before the death of earl Siward of Northumbria in 1055 even the north of Cumberland had been brought under English rule. (fn. 23) The fact that Westmorland retained its English name throughout this period goes far to prove that it fell outside the region which had been conquered by the Cumbrian kings of the early tenth century, and under Edgar and Ethelred II it should probably be regarded as a half-independent border district.
Before the year 1070, and not improbably before the death of Edward the Confessor, the lands between the Solway and the Eamont had been conquered by Malcolm III king of Scots. In the only ancient authority (fn. 24) which mentions this conquest, the territory acquired by the king of Scots is described as 'Cumbreland,' but there can be no serious doubt that it also included Westmorland from the Eamont to Stainmore. The exclusion of this country from the Domesday survey implies either that it formed no part of the English kingdom in 1086 or that it was exempted from national taxation. The former view, which on other grounds is much the more probable, is strongly supported by the measures taken by William the Conqueror for the defence of the vale of York against attack from the North-west. Early in his reign, he created for the most important of his Breton followers, Alan son of Count Eudo of Penthievre, the great compact estate commanding the upper valleys of the Swale and Ure which before 1086 had been organised as the castlery of Richmond. Fiefs of this kind were never formed by the Conqueror except for a military reason, and the only intelligible motive for the creation of this great lordship is the necessity of making provision against attack from a hostile power in possession of the Eden valley and the ancient highway which ran from Penrith to join the Great North Road above Catterick.
The only evidence as to the government of north-western England during this period of Scottish domination comes from the annal in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which records its end. Under the year 1092 it states that king William II went north to Carlisle with a large army, restored the town, built the castle, and drove out Dolfin who had formerly ruled in that country. It adds that after his return to the south, the king sent many English peasants with their wives and live-stock to cultivate the land in the newly acquired region. Dolfin is known from other authorities to have been the son of Gospatric son of Maldred, who after acting for a short time as earl of northern Northumbria under William I had fled to the court of Malcolm king of Scots in 1072. Gospatric is known to have received a large estate around Dunbar from king Malcolm, and it seems clear that he was established in Carlisle also as the man of the Scottish king. For reasons already given, it is almost certain that the lands of Gospatric and Dolfin in the North-west included the north and east of Westmorland, and the annexation of these regions to the Scottish kingdom for nearly a generation in the eleventh century probably formed the basis of the claim, put forward by a bishop of Glasgow two hundred years later, that his diocese ought to extend to the Rere Cross on Stainmore. (fn. 25) The remarkable statement that king William caused these lands to be colonised by English peasants from the South does not necessarily imply that they were more desolate than the adjacent parts of north-western England. Domesday Book does not assign a single inhabitant to any village in Kentdale and upper Lonsdale. The general condition of this country is probably represented with fair accuracy by the note appended to the Domesday description of the vast manor of Preston in Amounderness; 'Sixteen of these villages are inhabited by a few people, but it is not known how many inhabitants there are.'
The events of 1092 did not mean that the districts then annexed to the English kingdom ceased to be a debatable land. The successors of Malcolm king of Scots waited for an opportunity of extending their rule again over Cumberland and the Eden valley, and the civil war of Stephen's time enabled king David I to become for a few years the master of all north-western England. In or soon after 1141, he confirmed the possessions of the priory of Wetheral by a writ addressed to all his good men, French and English, of all Cumberland and Westmorland. (fn. 26) The occupation of Carlisle and its dependent lands by William II is a turning-point in the history of the North-west because it brought this country within the operation of the Norman system of government, and cast the immediate responsibility for its defence on great feudal magnates who possessed large reserves of strength in their estates in other parts of England. The feudal history of the district in the next generation is naturally obscure. There is reason to think that William II gave at least the upper Eden valley to his dapifer Ivo Taillebois, whom he certainly made lord of Kentdale, for the abbey of St. Mary's at York received from Ivo the church of Kirkby Stephen with lands and tithes there and at Winton. (fn. 27) But Ivo died before 1098, (fn. 28) and the lord of most importance in the early feudal history of the North-west was undoubtedly Rannulf de Briquessart, cousin and ultimately heir of Hugh first earl of Chester. For more than twenty years, from the beginning of the reign of Henry I, if not from the end of that of William II, he was in command both of Cumberland and of the country between Stainmore and the Eamont, to which the name of Westmorland was still restricted. He was the founder of the priory of Wetheral, and the castle of Appleby, of which he was probably the builder, is first mentioned in one of his charters to that house. (fn. 29) In its compactness and its military organisation, the great lordship which he described as the potestas of Carlisle (fn. 30) must have closely resembled the castlery of Richmond, which it superseded as the outpost of English power towards Scotland.
In 1120, when he became earl of Chester, Rannulf de Briquessart resigned his Cumbrian lordship to the king. Ten years later, the king's receipts from Cumberland and Westmorland are set out in the Pipe Roll of 1130, (fn. 31) with which the continuous history of this part of England may be considered to begin. With regard to Westmorland, which in this roll means the Eden valley, (fn. 32) the accounts show a district within which the normal course of Norman administration was firmly established. It yielded a yearly rent to the king, much smaller than that supplied by an average county, but by no means negligible. (fn. 33) A small sum is recorded as coming to the king de geldo animalium, a phrase which represents the Noutegeld of other records, and seems to have denoted a payment to the king in recognition of his lordship over the pastures of the district. The king's justices had recently visited the country, and the profits of the pleas which they held are entered on the roll. Individuals were offering the king money for local offices and for the royal help in the furtherance of their pleas. Richard de Rullos owed a mark of gold that he might be justly treated in his lord's court, and a man whose name has disappeared from the roll rendered account of forty shillings in order that he might be porter of Appleby castle. It would not be gathered from the roll that the district had recently formed part of what in effect had been a marcher lordship. An even clearer indication of the settled order prevailing in the North-west was given, three years after the date of this roll, by the creation of the bishopric of Carlisle, of which the three deaneries of Carlisle, Allerdale and Westmorland seem to correspond precisely to the districts annexed by William II in 1092. (fn. 34) The development of Cumberland and Westmorland into English counties of a normal type was interrupted by the civil wars of the next generation, but the reign of Henry I may fairly be regarded as marking the beginning of their history as an integral part of the kingdom of England.