Parishes: Introduction

Pages 1-3

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

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A history of this county and of Westmorland, was published in 1777, in two volumes quarto, by Joseph Nicolson, Esq. of Hawksdale, and Richard Burn, LL. D. chancellor of the diocese, and author of those well known and useful works, "The Justice of Peace," and "Ecclesiastical Laws." The chief sources from which these writers compiled their work, were the collections of Mr. Nicolson's uncle, Dr. William Nicolson, Bishop of Carlisle, the learned author of "The Historical Library," a MS. sketch of a history of Cumberland, by Mr. John Denton of Cardew; a MS. history of Cumberland, by Mr. Sandford; Bishop Gastrell's Notitia Cestriensis; and the collections of the Rev. Thomas Machell, which had been digested by Bishop Nicolson, and are now in the dean and chapter's library at Carlisle. Dr. Burn, from his situation, was peculiarly well qualified to give an accurate account of the ecclesiastical history of the county.

In the year 1794 Mr. William Hutchinson, F. S. A. in conjunction with his printer, Mr. Fr. Jollie, published a new history of the county of Cumberland, in two volumes in quarto. The additions bring it down to the month of July 1797. In this work the parishes of Bromfield, Sebergham, and Caldbeck, were written by the late Rev. Jonathan Boucher, a native of Blencogo, in the first mentioned parish, who communicated also the biographical notices.

The accounts of the several manors, drawn up by Denton, with the additions of William Gilpin, Esq. of Scaleby, and William Milbourne, Esq. of Armathwaite, are given as quotations, instead of being incorporated as in Nicolson and Burn's history, in their text. One of the chief features of Hutchinson's history, is the insertion of statistical notes to each parish, from Houseman's collections, and the communications of the clergy.

The account of the descent of property in Nicolson and Burn's history, which appears to be in general very satisfactory, is not given solely from the MS. of Mr. John Denton, which seems to be a mere sketch, containing the descent of about 130 manors, not methodized into any order, or arranged under parishes. Mr. Machell, from whose MSS. they derived a great part of their materials, had made large collections from the records in the tower, the rolls-chapel, and other public depositories.

In our own brief accounts of the descent of property, we have chiefly relied on Nicolson and Burn; some additional information, as occasionally quoted, has been derived from the tower records, and from a MS. history of the county, by Thomas Denton, Esq. obligingly lent us by the Earl of Lonsdale, to whose assistance, in various particulars, we have been much indebted during our inquiries relating to this county. In all instances the descent of property has been brought down to the present time. Neither Nicolson and Burn, nor Hutchinson, seem to have been aware of the existence of a MS. history of Cumberland by Mr. T. Denton; the former probably had seen some extracts from this MS., a few passages being occasionally quoted from it, but it cannot be supposed that they had seen the whole, as several manors are described by him, which they have left unnoticed, and there are many other particulars which no writer of a history of Cumberland having seen, could be supposed to have purposely omitted. Hutchinson speaking of John Denton's MS. says, "the original we are informed is in the possession of the Earl of Lonsdale." This information no doubt alluded to Mr. T. Denton's MS. The other MS. is attributed by Nicolson and Burn, to John Denton, Esq. of Cardew, who lived in the reign of James the First, and we suppose they had good authority for so doing; but we have in our possession two copies of this MS. (of which it is said there are several) one lent us by the Earl of Lonsdale, the other by William Browne, Esq. of Tallentire Hall, in neither of which is there any thing to denote the author. It appears to have been written while Henry Robinson was Bishop of Carlisle, and the writer has afterwards added the name of Robert Snowden, who became his successor in 1616. The MS. consists of a very brief description of the county, and the descent of the baronies and nearly 130 manors, not arranged in any order (fn. n1). The other MS. was written in the years 1687 and 1688, by Thomas Denton, Esq. barrister at law, recorder of Carlisle, and lord of the manor of Warnell Hall in Sebergham (fn. n2). It is drawn up methodically as for publication, with a dedication to Sir John Lowther, Bart. but it is expressed in the dedication, that it was intended only for his patron's "private satisfaction." It contains a description of the county; its division and jurisdiction; a list of the parishes and townships; the franchises; forests; principal hills; rivers; bridges; markets; fairs; boroughs; religious houses; castles; noblemen's seats; houses of baronets; free-schools; hospitals; and beacons; an account of the bishop's see and the diocese. All this is introductory to a parochial history of the county, arranged by wards; with the history and extent of the several baronies; the boundaries of each parish, the number of inhabitants, the descent of manors and other principal estates; the tenures and value of each; notes relating to families; an account of the benefices, &c. &c. It is evident that the writer had seen the MS. attributed to John Denton, from which he has copied much of the ancient account of such manors as are there treated of, but he makes no mention of it, or, of his relation John Denton of Cardew, having been a collector. The account of all the estates is brought down to 1688, and the description of the then state of Cumberland, appears to have been the result chiefly of personal observation, and shows a thorough acquaintance with almost every part of the county.

The Rev. Hugh Todd, one of the prebendaries of Carlisle, who had collected materials also towards a county history, drew up an historical account of the city of Carlisle, a copy of which in MS. has been lent us by Mr. Browne of Tallentire. It is considerably more enlarged than the copy spoken of by Mr. Gough, in his British topography. The historical events (though by no means a full detail) are brought down to the time of the civil wars, and a copy of the articles of surrender in 1645, are given; there is also an account, though a very imperfect one, of the charters and of the religious foundations, and a brief description of the then existing state of the city.

The sources from which we have derived the descent of property in the ensuing parochial history, have been already mentioned. The church notes and other materials were obtained during a personal visit to each parish, in the year 1808. For an account of the present state of the schools and other public endowments; the present possessors of manors, and other modern local information, we have been indebted to the clergy of the several parishes, who have very obligingly attended to and answered our queries upon those subjects.


  • n1. The account of John Denton's MS. in Mr. Gough's British Topography, would better apply to Mr. T. Denton's MS. History of Cumberland; we are assured by the chapter clerk, that there is no copy of either of them now in the dean and chapter's library at Carlisle.
  • n2. In the account of that manor he states himself to be the owner.