Holm Cultram, the outlying part of north-western Cumberland,
though beyond the area of the Lake District and consequently
little known to the general public, has a distinction of its own.
It was the site of a great Cistercian abbey with possessions and
influence both wealthy and wide-spreading; and of this abbey the
history is preserved in its Register or Cartulary. After the
Reformation the manor, in the hands of the Crown, went through
a series of phases which were not uneventful; and these are known
from local records more ample than the remains of manorial and
parish history in most cases. To these records the late Francis
Grainger of Southerfield had especial facility of access, and by his
thorough knowledge of his native district—for he took a leading
share in all its interests, practical and political—he was enabled
to collect the information given in this volume, though, unfortunately, he did not live to see it in print.
He was the representative of an ancient family of Cumberland
yeomen, whose home, to the end of Elizabeth's reign, was at
Stoneraise, near Wigton; early in the seventeenth century they
settled in the Holm. Cuthbert Grainger, in 1626, was deputy
steward of the manor, and in the early days of Charles II, Francis
Grainger of Southerfield was foreman of the council of Sixteen
Men. Another Francis was trustee for the rebuilding of the
church, under George I, and in the earlier Victorian age John
Grainger of Southerfield was one of the two leaders who piloted
the parish through the difficult business of long-standing tithesuits. It was natural that our author should follow in their steps,
and while personally farming his ancestral estate he began at an
early age to take part in public affairs.
He began with politics, as a speaker at Liberal meetings, and
later was chairman of the local branch of the Liberal Association.
But by 1885 he was a member of the old Local Board for the
township, and remained with the Urban District Council until his
death. When the County Council was formed he was elected to
represent Abbey Holme, and re-elected; in 1900, chairman of the
General Purposes Committee and later on other committees, such
as those for Printing and for the working of the Contagious
Diseases (Animals) Act, until he became County Alderman in 1912,
a position he retained to the end. In 1889, on the formation of
the Seadyke Charity—and what that meant to the Holm will be
seen in the sequel—he joined the committee, and from 1896 acted
as clerk. He was appointed a magistrate on July 3, 1894, and sat
on the Wigton bench; also at Silloth, where he took the chair.
During the later part of his life he was chairman of the Wigton
Board of Guardians, on which he had represented Holme Abbey
since 1898. He was also churchwarden and school manager and
a member of the Wigton Union Assessment Committee.
He was known as an effective and ready speaker, with a head
for figures, for practical commonsense and a strong turn towards
economy in administration. He was an advocate of progress in
agriculture, on which he wrote many articles in the Carlisle
Journal, under the name of 'Rusticus.' When the Holm Cultram
agricultural show was established at Silloth be became chairman
of the committee and served for thirty-two years until 1923, when
he retired. But besides the antiquities in which he was interested,
he was a student of natural history and a supporter of the movement in Cumberland for the protection of wild birds.
Mr. Grainger was twice married; first to the youngest daughter
of Thomas Chambers of Pelutho, by whom he left a large family;
and secondly to Miss Alice Barnes of Kelsick, who survives him.
During the Great War, in which one of his sons, a marine engineer,
was lost, he acted as drainage officer under the Defence of the
Realm Act, and later as clerk to the Wampool and Waver Drainage
Board. At the age of sixty-nine years a seizure carried him off
suddenly, on Tuesday, January 20th, 1925; and he was buried
at St. Mary's, the abbey church of Holm Cultram.
There must be others than myself, to whom the memory is very
distinct, who can recall his first appearance with our Antiquarian
Society. It was on a bright day in June, 1900, at our first meeting
after the loss of Chancellor Ferguson and under the presidency of
the late Bishop Ware. We had been viewing the Abbey church,
guided by the Rev. Arthur Sheppard and the Rev. G. E. Gilbanks
—names of note in this local history. We clambered off the
coaches at Raby Cote and, standing in the picturesque doorway,
Mr. Grainger talked to us, as one that had authority and not as
the scribes, lucid, audible and unembarrassed by his MS. He
told the story of the Chambers family as old friends of his, and
brought them to life again. The Bishop's thanks for that address
were warm, and all the party shared in the appreciation. Mr.
Grainger was elected a member of the Society and his paper was
printed in the first volume of the New Series of our Transactions.
It was followed by other articles:—'The Holm Cultram
chapels' (N.S. ii); 'The Sixteen Men of Holm Cultram' (n.s. iii);
'A note on the Hellywell at St. Cuthbert's Stone, Waverbridge'
(n.s. xii); 'The Cumberland Yeoman in past times' (n.s. xiv);
'Poor Relief in Cumberland in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries '(n.s. xv); and 'James Jackson's Diary, 1650 to 1683'
(n.s. xxi). He took the initiative in explorations at the Abbey in
1906, reported by Mrs. Hesketh Hodgson (n.s. vii) and by Mr.
J. H. Martindale (n.s. xiii), and in various attempts to dig at the
old chapel-sites, as well as giving great assistance at meetings
held in his district. In 1923 he was elected a member of the
Society's Council. His last paper was given at Bromfield church
on July 3rd, 1924, on one of his own family, the William Grainger,
vicar of Bromfield, who was ejected under the Act of Uniformity
of 1662. In his later life he collected and re-wrote the papers
which appear in this volume. On his death the Council of the
Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society agreed to
print them in the Society's Record Series, with the addition of the
Register of the Abbey, without which a book on Holm Cultram
would hardly be complete.
During many years there has been a demand for the Holm
Cultram Register or Cartulary in a readable form. The Latin
abstract in Dugdale's Monasticon (new edition, vol. v, pp. 594ff.)
can be seen by local students at the Fratry, Carlisle, but they need
a version which includes something of the history and topography,
not fully treated by Dugdale's editor. The original MS. in possession of the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle is a sealed book to the
general reader. Among the papers of the Cumberland and
Westmorland Antiquarian Society at Tullie House, Carlisle, are
transcripts not only of the Carlisle MS. but also of charters at the
British Museum, adding considerably to the matter; but these
are without notes or dates.
Both the late Canon James Wilson and Chancellor Prescott were
asked to consider a full edition of the Cartulary, to rank with the
Wetherhal and the St. Bees, which have been so useful to us all.
But neither of these eminent men were able to carry out the
proposals. When Mr. Francis Grainger had nearly completed his
collection of Holm Cultram records, I suggested to him, and he
accepted the suggestion, that his book would be all the more
welcome if it gave a summary of the charters. His lamented
death left this part of the task to me. Our volume therefore
contains an abstract in English of all accessible charters relating
to Holm Cultram, omitting common-form but including all the
names and essential information of the original, with notes and
dates as far as I have been able to supply them; and in the second
part, Mr. Grainger's papers on the history of the parish up to
With permission from the Dean and Chapter I have read the
original MS. of which our Society has a transcript. It was written
by the end of the thirteenth century and it contains no information
of a later date, as do the MSS. in the British Museum, except that
seventeenth century hands have added a few entries. It was
originally intended as a kind of scrap-book with the charters under
topographical headings; but the copyists were not able to keep up
their scheme when more charters had to be added and too little
space had been left. Further, the MS. has been re-bound at least
once, without setting the leaves in order. After the last binding the
pages have been numbered; these numbers are sometimes quoted
as of the leaves ('fol.' so-and-so) but they are of the pages. In
spite of this confusion it has seemed better to follow the Carlisle
MS. as it stands, quoting it as 'C.' with the page-number at the
head of each paragraph taken from it.
An entry on p. 1 shows that the volume belonged to Mr.
Blenerhasset, probably the sheriff of Cumberland in 1677–79; his
family was of Carlisle and of Flimby near Holm Cultram, which
perhaps may account for his possession of the book. Tanner
indeed (Notitia, quoted in Hutchinson's Cumberland, ii, 328)
mentioned a Register of the abbey 'formerly' in possession of
Lord William Howard of Naworth, and 'lately' in the Carlisle
Cathedral library; but as Bishop Nicolson noted (p. 1) 'This is not
the same Register book which was in Lord William Howard's
custody.' The Bishop had this book, he said, from Thomas
Denton, recorder of Carlisle (1679–95) and author of the MS.
account of Cumberland dated 1687–8; and Denton got the volume
from Blenerhasset. It remained in the Bishop's family until 1777,
when his nephew Joseph (of Nicolson and Burn) died and left it to
the Cathedral library. If Bishop Tanner was not mistaken, some
other copy was at Carlisle in his time. I am unable to explain
the circumstances mentioned on p. 98 below, when 'this booke'
was produced at a trial in 1695, the year in which Nicolson, not
yet bishop, probably received it.
Taking the Carlisle MS. as the basis, I have inserted further
entries from Canon Wilson's transcripts of the British Museum
MSS. Of these the Harley MS. 3911, dating about 1300, contains
notes which state that it belonged to Cuthbert Musgrave of
Crookdake in Bromfield (near the abbey), either the Cuthbert of
1544 or his son. He had a great-grandson of the same name, but
by that time the book was at Naworth, where in 1638-9 Roger
Dodsworth took extracts now in the Bodleian Library (Dodsworth MS. 45). Copies of these are in the British Museum (part
of Harl. MS. 294) and the matter supplied articles 24 to 84 of
Dugdale's Monasticon (new edition) in which the book is said to be
in possession of John Warburton. Articles 1 and 2 in that edition
also came from this Harl. MS. 3911, of which the history is clear.
But the Harl. MS. 3891, dating from about 1350, supplied articles
4 to 21 in the Monasticon (new edition), where they are attributed
to a book penes Lord William Howard. This has suggested to
Dr. H. H. E. Craster of the Bodleian Library, to whom I owe most
of the information in this paragraph, that Lord William possessed
two Holm Cultram registers, though Dugdale did not know it.
In the following pages Harl. MS. 3911 is quoted as H. 1, and
Harl. MS. 3891 as H.2; Dugdale as D.
Another MS., Harl. 1881, used for the Monasticon was a copy
made for Hugh Todd, D.D., vicar of Penrith 1699 to 1728.
Dugdale's editor said it tallied with all his entries except the last;
and his last is a repetition of his first. The Todd transcript is said
to be inaccurate; it adds nothing, and is not quoted here.
Bishop Nicolson, or a writer using a hand like his, copied into
C. a few charters 'penes Thomas Salkeld esq.,' probably of
Whitehall and the bishop's contemporary. They must have been
originals, not leaves from a volume of copies. The Monasticon
states that its article 3 is from the library of Corpus Christi College,
Cambridge; but it is also found in the collected registers. A
few original charters at Hesleyside, formerly in possession of John
Charlton esq., were printed by the late Rev. John Hodgson in
Archaeologia Aeliana, ii, 393ff. (1830) and are noticed here.
In our notes, 'F.F.' stands for Feet of Fines; 'P.R.' for Pipe
Rolls; 'Wetheral' for Chancellor Prescott's edition of that
Cartulary, and 'St. Bees' for Canon Wilson's volume. 'C. & W.
Trans.' refers to the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society.
In the notes I have been most kindly assisted by several
friends, whose contributions are acknowledged as they occur;
but I have especially to thank Mr. T. H. B. Graham for help in
the dates and in the pedigrees, Mr. R. G. Collingwood for checking
a number of references in chapters III, IX and XI, and Mr. R. C.
Reid for information on subjects that take us north of the
Solway. It will be understood that all words in square brackets
are to be regarded as editor's notes, and further particulars of
persons and places will be found in the index.
During the process of indexing a few errors have come to light
and are here corrected:—
P. 4, line 25; read the date 1204 and see the index under
P. 5, line 31; read the date 1220.
P. 6, line 25; as Adam was not 'of Wigton' until 1208, the date
given is a little too early.
P. 10, line 36; read the date 1248.
P. 19, line 8; as Cospatric is named in the 'foundation charter,'
p. 92, read his date 1150-79; and for further particulars
consult Mr. J. F. Curwen's recently published 'History of the
Ancient House of Curwen' (Wilson, Kendal, 1928).
P. 30, line 6; for 1267 read 1260.
P. 90, last line; add 'but not before Sir John III le Fleming f.
Rainer succeeded, i.e. a little before 1322; see The Memoirs
of Sir Daniel Fleming (Wilson, Kendal, 1928), p. 25.'
P. 101, 6 lines from foot of page; read 'St. Pudentiana.'
P. 229, line 22; read the date 1614.