Antiquities: Miscellaneous

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Magna Britannia: Volume 4, Cumberland. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1816.

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Miscellaneous Antiquities.

Miscellaneous Antiquities.]—There are several antiquities in Cumberland, which could not be referred to any of the foregoing heads, of which the following are the most remarkable. Wetheral Safeguard, or Constantine's Cells, consisting of three chambers cut out of a rock, at the height of forty feet above the summer level of the river Eden, with a gallery in front communicating with each. The most probable conjecture which has been formed on the subject of these cells, is, that they served for the retreat of the monks of the adjacent monastery of Wetheral, during the incursions of the Scots: a particular account of them, with a plan, was communicated to the Society of Antiquaries in the year 1755, and published in the Archæologia.

Figure 29:

Vaulted chamber in walls of Carlisle

Plan and sections

There is a singular vaulted chamber, attached to and within the wall of the city of Carlisle, between the citadel and the deanery; the only access to which is by an opening broken through the wall: and it does not appear that it had originally any entrance: at each end is a recess. A circular funnel of neatly wrought stone-work rises on one side to the level of the ground, where it is covered by a large flat stone; another funnel of a form nearly square, extends from the middle of the arch horizontally to a considerable length inwards (fn. n1). It is difficult to conceive for what purpose this building was designed, unless it was intended for holding water; which the position and construction of the funnels seem to indicate. If the arch of the vault, which is slightly pointed, had been circular, we should have supposed that this was the "fontem miro quondam Romanorum opere exstruc"tum;" which the citizens of Carlisle shewed St. Cuthbert in the year 685, as recorded by Bede.

At the back of the stalls in the choir of Carlisle cathedral is the Belief in Latin, in the text hand of the fourteenth century, and very rude paintings of the apostles; with a great number of paintings in compartments, representing seventeen different subjects from the legend of St. Anthony, the same number from that of St. Austin; and twenty-two from that of St. Cuthbert: with two explanatory English verses under each in text-hand.

At the four corners of Dacre church-yard are rude figures of animals, five feet high, sitting on their haunches, and clasping a rude pillar or ragged staff; they seem to have been designed for bears, though they do not much resemble them, or indeed any other animals. It has been supposed that they refer to some armorial device of the Dacre family, as the ragged staff appears connected with the escallop shell, in several of the ornaments of Naworth castle; though we do not find it any where recorded among the arms or cognizances of that family.

A Saxon ornament of silver, enriched with red paste, a representation of which is exhibited in the annexed plate, was found a few years since at Kirk-Oswald (fn. n2), with more than 700 of the small Saxon copper coins called sticas; among which were one of Archbishop Eanbald, fifty-eight of Archbishop Vigmund, and five of Archbishop Vulfhere (fn. n3) : ninety-nine of King Eanred, three hundred and fifty of King Ethelred, fourteen of King Redulf, and fifteen of King Osbercht.

A very remarkable silver broach of extraordinary size, the ring being about seven inches in diameter, and the tongue twenty-two inches in length; weighing twenty-five ounces, was found in the year 1785 in a field near Fluskew-pike, in the parish of Dacre. The most probable conjecture respecting it, is, that it was used for fastening a tent (fn. n4). A fibula of silver was found in the mud of a fish-pond in Brayton park, and a silver hook weighing two ounces. (fn. n5)

A small brass kettle, with two handles, standing on three legs, in form exactly resembling the iron ones still in use, was found, a few years since, at the Roman station on Eskmeals, in the parish of Ravenglass, and is now in the possession of E. L. Irton, Esq. It has these devices raised on it.

Devices on kettle found at Eskmeals.

This vessel does not exhibit any thing the least like Roman workmanship, but it has the appearance of great antiquity; having undergone frequent repairs, apparently long after it was manufactured. Several small holes have been stopped, by bits of copper cut out and rivetted on: and one of the legs which has been broken is spliced in a very clumsy manner by a piece of metal soldered on. Another of the same form, but without any device on it, has been found at the same place, and is also in the possession of Mr. Irton.

The curious ancient glass vessel called the Luck of Edenhall, on the preservation of which, according to popular superstition, the prosperity of that house depends, is well known from the Duke of Wharton's ballad, which begins,

"God prosper long from being broke,
The Luck of Edenhall."

It is of a green coloured glass ornamented with foliage, and of different colours in enamel (fn. n6) : the case of leather, in which it is kept, is ornamented with scrolls of vine leaves, and on the top are the letters Ihc: from which it seems probable that this vessel was originally designed for sacred uses. From the style of the ornaments, it seems to be of as early an age as the beginning of the fifteenth century, probably earlier.

At Muncaster Castle is also preserved an ancient glass vessel of the basin kind, about seven inches in diameter, ornamented with some white enamelled mouldings; which, according to family tradition, was presented to Sir John Pennington by King Henry VI.


Several remarkable customs formerly prevailed in this county, some of which still continue. In the parish of Muncaster it is said that the children go from house to house on New Year's Eve, singing a ditty, which craves the bounty "they were wont to have in old King Edward's days (fn. n7)." And on New Year's Day, in many places of this and the adjoining county of Westmorland, the common people assemble together, carrying stangs (polls) and baskets, and hoist up any man who refuses to join them, on the poll; or woman on the basket; carrying them to the next public house, where the payment of a small fine liberates the prisoner (fn. n8). On Easter Eve, in some parts of the county, the boys and beggars ask for eggs (fn. n9). In Cumwhitton they hold the wake on St. John's Eve, with lighting fires (the bel-tien) dancing &c. (fn. n10) Mr. Pennant says, that the bel-tien superstition was kept up till of late years, in the neighbourhood of Keswick, and that in this rural sacrifice, it was customary for the performers to bring with them boughs of the mountain ash (fn. n11). In the parish of Whitbeck, newly married peasants beg corn to sow for their first crop, and are called Cornlaiters, and here as well as in several other places in the county, people keep Wake with the dead (fn. n12). The Bride-ale here called a Bride-wain, prevails in several parts of the county. (fn. n13)


  • n1. See the plan and sections in the annexed plate.
  • n2. Now preserved in the British Museum.
  • n3. Those of Eanbald and Vulfhere are very rare.
  • n4. There is a pretty accurate figure of it, in Clarke's Survey of the Lakes.
  • n5. Figured in Pennant's Tour in Scotland, Vol. II. Pl 1. fig. 3.
  • n6. It is represented in the annexed plate.
  • n7. Hutchinson's Cumb. Vol. I. p. 570.
  • n8. Gents. Mag. for 1791, p. 1169.
  • n9. Brand's Popular Antiquities, Vol. I. p. 466.
  • n10. Hutchinson, Vol. I. p. 177.
  • n11. Tour in Scotland, Vol. II. p. 49. 5th edit.
  • n12. Hutchinson, Vol. I. p. 553.
  • n13. This custom, Mr Brand observes, will be best explained by the following extract from the Glossary to Douglas's Virgil: "There was a custom in the Highlands and north of Scotland, "where new married persons who had no peat stock, or others low in their fortune, brought carts and horses with them, to the houses of their relations and friends; and received from them corn, meal, or whatever else they could get." Popular Antiq. Vol. II. p. 73.