Townships: Torver

Pages 363-365

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.

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Thorwerghe, 1202; Thorfergh, 1246.

Torver lies between the great range of the Coniston Fells, 2,000 to 2,500 ft. above the sea, striking northeast and south-west and a minor parallel range called Torver Back. Across this double ridge and depression the deep valley of the Black Beck or Torver Beck cuts diagonally from Gaits Water on the north to Sunny Bank, near the foot of Coniston Water, on the south. The church, inn and railway station lie near the beck where it crosses the valley between the two ranges at a point about 350 ft. above sea level, amid surroundings of great natural beauty. Coniston Water forms the eastern boundary of the township. There is no village or hamlet, the houses being scattered over the lower ground. Woods extend along the hill-sides and border the lake. The area of the township is 3,816 acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 there was a population of 207.

There are ancient remains on the hill-sides.

A New Prophecy contained the account of what a little Torver girl saw in her two days' trance. (fn. 2)

The principal roads go along the valleys; one north-east from Broughton through Torver towards Coniston, joined by another from Blawith northwards to meet it near Torver Church. The Broughton and Coniston single-line branch of the Furness railway runs through the township near the former road, and has a station as mentioned above.

Much of the land is waste; what is in use is chiefly employed for pasture. The soil is gravel, overlying stone and slate. There are important slate quarries. The bobbin mills at Torver and Coniston have ceased working.


At first TORVER, being in the Lancaster moiety of Furness Fells, was a member of the lordship or barony of Ulverston, (fn. 3) but a portion came into the possession of the Flemings of Aldingham, (fn. 4) and, descending to the Harringtons, (fn. 5) appears to have attracted to itself the rest of Torver, whether belonging to the moiety of Ulverston which the Harringtons also acquired, or coming to the Crown after the suppression of Conishead. Thus in recent times the manor of Torver has been regarded as a member of Muchland lordship, (fn. 6) and still remains in the possession of the Crown. The tenure is described as copyhold.

William de Lancaster II granted land in Torver to Augustine de Heaton, and this charter was before 1199 confirmed by Gilbert Fitz Reinfred to Roger, Augustine's son. (fn. 7) William son of Waldeve de Ulverston in 1202 released his claim in half a plough-land in Torver to Roger de Heaton. (fn. 8) In virtue of his grants Roger erected a mill, but in 1246 had to complain that the superior lord, William de Lancaster III, had thrown it down, and was compelling his tenants to grind at the Ulverston mills. (fn. 9) Roger de Heaton afterwards gave it to Conishead Priory, (fn. 10) which retained it to the Suppression. (fn. 11)

Furness Abbey also had land in Torver, for Henry Kirkby died in 1524 holding therein of the monks. (fn. 12) The Flemings of Coniston owned land there, but the tenure is not recorded in the inquisitions. The place-name occurs seldom in the ancient records. (fn. 13)


As Conishead Priory had an estate in Torver it is probable that a chapel existed there long before the Reformation, but nothing is known of its history. In 1538 Archbishop Cranmer granted a licence for the consecration of the chapel in which the inhabitants were then accustomed to hear mass and partake of the sacraments, and also for the consecration of the graveyard annexed, on account of the distance from the parish church and the difficulty of the way over mountains and streams liable to floods. (fn. 14) Nothing further is known of it for a century, but in 1650 it was found that there was no endowment, Sir Roger Atkinson, the 'reader,' having no maintenance except what the inhabitants 'raised of themselves.' (fn. 15) As the registers begin in 1661 regular ministrations may have been continued after the Restoration. In 1717 the certified income was £7 1s., of which £5 1s. was the sum raised by the people; there was no endowed school, but there, as in other places in the district, the curate taught in the chapel. (fn. 16) The building seems to have been decently furnished and was 'well served with a careful and diligent minister,' John Stoup. About 1726 the Lord's Supper was administered twice a year. There were Presbyterians and Anabaptists in the chapelry. (fn. 17) The church was rebuilt in 1849 (fn. 18) and again in 1884 and is called St. Luke's. The benefice was formerly in the patronage of the Braddylls of Conishead and now of the Peach trustees; it was declared a rectory in 1866. (fn. 19) The present net value is £184 a year. (fn. 20)

The following have been curates and rectors (fn. 21) :—

1688 Edward Walker
1707 Andrew Naughley
1709 John Stoup
1716 Thomas Poole
1718 John Hall
1734 Robert Walker (fn. 22)
1736 John Hartwell
1740 Robert Bell
1807 Matthew Inman Carter, M.A. (Christ's Coll., Camb.)
1864 Thomas Ellwood, M.A. (T.C.D.)

John Fleming of Coniston in 1777 left money towards founding 'an English grammar school,' and soon afterwards a building was erected. (fn. 23)

The Baptist church at Sunny Bank was founded in 1678 in the presence of John Ward and Robert Blenkinsop, 'messengers and elders from the church of Christ in Derwentwaterside.' It was afterwards joined with that at Hawkshead Hill at the other side of Coniston Water. (fn. 24)


  • 1. 3,817 acres, including 279 of inland water; Census Rep. 1901.
  • 2. Manch. Guard. N. and Q. no. 352.
  • 3. This is clear from the disputes as to the mill cited below.
  • 4. In 1260 William de Furness claimed a messuage and 11 acres in Torver against William de Gresdale; Cur. Reg. R. 165, m. 33 d.; 169, m. 24 d.
  • 5. In addition to the moiety of Ulverston John de Harrington of Aldingham in 1347 held 'a close called Torver' worth yearly 6s. 8d.; Inq. p.m. 21 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 53.
  • 6. The same thing happened at Lowick. The manor of 'Muchland with Torver' is mentioned by West in 1774; Furness, 143. Nicholas Girlington (see Thurland) died in 1628 holding three messuages, &c., in Torver of the king as of his manor of Muchland by the two-hundredth part of a knight's fee; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxv, no. 5. See also Cal. Com. for Comp. ii, 1097.
  • 7. Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 402.
  • 8. Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 17. William de Ulverston was probably the uncle of Roger de Heaton; see Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 98.
  • 9. Assize R. 404, m. 10 d., 11. By the original charter Torver was to be held by the forty-eighth part of a knight's fee; buck and doe, goats and hawks were reserved to the lord of Ulverston, the grantor. An agreement was afterwards made by which William de Lancaster III released his claim to suit of mill and allowed Roger to erect and maintain his own mill at Torver; Final Conc. i, 97.
  • 10. This appears from an inquiry made in 1315 by which it was found it would not be to the king's prejudice to allow certain land in Torver to be given to the priory, of which it was held by 12d. rent; Lancs. Inq. and Extents, ii, 33; Cal. Pat. 1317–21, p. 51. Roger de Heaton may be the Roger de Brackenbarrow who is recorded to have granted the canons lands in Torver, including all Hoathwaite (Holthwaite); Dugdale, Mon. v, 557.
  • 11. The rents in 1536 amounted to 23s. 4d. The tenants were named Atkinson and Park. Outhwaite and Geldridding appear as place-names; Duchy of Lanc. Rentals and Surv. bdle. 5, no. 11.
  • 12. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. v, no. 58.
  • 13. John son of Richard de Swinbier claimed land in Torver in 1337 against Richard son of Adam de Stabilhervy; Assize R. 1424, m. 11 d. Richard Park of Torver was a defendant in 1445; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 8, m. 13.
  • 14. Raines in Notitia Cestr. (Chet. Soc), ii, 542. The deed is kept in the parish chest.
  • 15. Commonw. Ch. Surv. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 141.
  • 16. Gastrell, Notitia Cestr. loc. cit.
  • 17. Chapelwarden's replies to visitation questions. In 1737 it was stated: 'We have a young man at present to supply our chapel, who designs to offer himself for deacon's orders at the first opportunity. . . . He reads the prayers of the church, provides that the sacrament be administered as usual . . . being not ordained wears not the surplice, visits the sick, instructs our youth in the Church catechism, bids holy days.' His name was John Hartwell.
  • 18. For the old building see Trans. Hist. Soc. xix, 115 and North Lonsdale Mag. ii, 49, 50. Some church plate is recorded in Ferguson, Old Ch. Plate of Dioc. of Carlisle, 275. There are an ancient octagonal font and an old parish chest with three locks. The bell was cast at Dublin in 1730; Proc. Barrow Nat. Field Club, xvii, 130.
  • 19. Lond. Gaz. 20 Nov. 1866.
  • 20. Carlisle Dioc. Cal.
  • 21. The list is due to the Rev. R. D. Ellwood, son of the rector. Henry Mattinson, curate of Torver, occurs in 1694; Collingwood, Book of Coniston, 51.
  • 22. 'Wonderful Walker,' afterwards of Seathwaite.
  • 23. End. Char. Rep.
  • 24. Hist. of Northern Baptist Churches, 100.