Parishes: Melmerby - Muncaster

Pages 135-141

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

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MELMERBY, in Leath ward, lies nine miles from Penrith. The manor was parcel of the barony of Adam-Fitz-Swein. In the reign of Henry III. it was in the Wigton family, whose heiress having been twice married, but having no issue, gave it to Sir Robert Parving, the King's serjeant-at-law, afterwards successively Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, Lord Chancellor, and Lord High Treasurer. Sir Robert Parving had a confirmation from King Edward III. in 1335, of a market at Melmerby on Wednesday, and a fair for three days at the festival of St. Peter ad vincula (fn. n1), (both long since discontinued) which had been originally granted by King Edward I. to John de Wigton. Sir Robert Parving was succeeded in this manor by his sister's son, who took the name of Parving, and died in 1380. Soon afterwards the Threlkelds became possessed of this manor, which they held for several generations. Lancelot Threlkeld (fn. n2), who died about the middle of the 17th century, left five daughters, coheirs; the eldest of which married the Rev. W. Threlkeld, a distant relation, who purchased the shares of the other coheirs. His only daughter and heir married Thomas Pattenson, Esq. of Breeks, in the county of Westmorland, ancestor of the Rev. Thomas Pattenson, the present possessor of this manor, who resides at Melmerby-hall. The advowson of the rectory has always been annexed to the manor of Melmerby.

Mr. John Slee, of Melmerby, (father of the Rev. John Slee, the present rector,) who died in 1806, at the age of 84, distinguished himself in the year 1745 by several acts of personal bravery against the rebels, three of whom he took prisoners, being himself armed only with a sword, and brought them to the Moot-hall at Penrith. The Duke of Cumberland, having heard of this brave action, sent for him, and gave him an appointment in the Duke of Montagu's troop.

The small manor of Gale, in this parish, belonged to the Hutton family, of Hutton-hall, in Penrith, and was purchased of the widow of the last of that family by the late Captain Lancelot Holme. It is now the property of Henry Holme, Esq.

There are two mineral springs in this parish; the one of a sulphureous nature, under the mountain, about three quarters of a mile from the village, much resorted to on Sunday afternoons in the summer, but more from curiosity than with a view to benefit: the other is a chalybeate water on the fells, about three miles from Melmerby, never visited but by the shepherds.

Milham, Millam, Millom, or Millum

MILHAM, MILLAM, MILLOM, or MILLUM, in the ward of Allerdale above Derwent, (generally spelt in the parish and neighbourhood Millom), is situated in the south-west angle of the county, on the river Duddon, and at the foot of Black Comb; about nine miles from Bootle, and about thirty-one from Whitehaven. The parish is divided into the townships of Birker and Awsthwaite, Millom, Thwaits, and Ulpha; containing collectively, in 1811, 307 houses and 1,625 inhabitants.

There was formerly a market at this place on Wednesday, and a fair for three days at the festival of the Holy Trinity, granted to John Huddleston in 1250. (fn. n3)

The manor or seigniory of Millom was given by William de Meschines to Godart Boyvill, whose descendants, bearing the name of Millom, possessed it till the reign of Henry III. when Joan, daughter and heir of Adam de Millom, brought it to Sir John Hudleston, or Huddleston, Lord of Anneys, in Millom, descended from a Yorkshire family. In the year 1335, Sir John Huddleston procured the King's licence to fortify and embattle his mansion at Millom (fn. n4) : his great grandson Sir Richard was made knight banneret at Agincourt: his descendant Ferdinando Huddleston, had nine sons, who were all officers in the service of King Charles I.; William, the eldest, was made knight banneret at Edghill, where he recovered the royal standard. William Huddleston, Esq. the last heir male of the elder branch of this ancient family, had two daughters; Elizabeth, the elder, married Sir Hedworth Williamson, Bart. of Monk-Weremouth, in the county of Durham; who, in 1774, sold the manor of Millom to Sir James Lowther, afterwards Earl of Lonsdale. It is now the property of the present Earl. The lords of this seigniory had in former times great privileges: they were exempt from the sheriff's jurisdiction, and had the power of life and death. Mr. Denton, writing in 1688, says that the gallows stood on a hill near the castle, on which criminals had been executed within memory. There are considerable remains of the castle (fn. n5), which was the ancient seat of the Huddlestons: they continued to reside there in 1688, although Mr. T. Denton speaks of it as being at that time much out of repair. He describes the park as having within twenty years abounded with oak, which, to the value of 4,000l. had been cut down, and used chiefly for the iron forges. The habitable part of the castle is now occupied as a farm-house.

There was formerly a manor of Brattaby in Millom, given by the De Milloms to the Corbets before the reign of Henry III. There is mention also of the manor of Kirksanton, given by Godart de Boyvill to his second son, William, whose posterity possessed it till the reign of Edward II.

In the parish church of Millom are several monuments of the family of Huddleston (fn. n6), and a brass tablet to the memory of John Latus, Esq. of Beck, who died in 1702. The church of Millom was given to Furness Abbey in 1228: one moiety was appropriated to that monastery, the other assigned by the Archbishop of York to the support of his chantry of St. Nicholas at York. The impropriation is now vested in the Earl of Lonsdale, as lessee under the Duchy of Lancaster.

The vicarage is in the gift of the duchy of Lancaster. It has been augmented by Queen Anne's bounty, aided by a benefaction of 200l. given by the Rev. Mr. Postlethwayte. This parish is in the diocese of Chester, the archdeaconry of Richmond, and the deanery of Copeland.

There is a school at Millom, to which Joseph Huddleston, Esq. gave the interest of 100l.; but this endowment has been irrecoverably lost, in consequence of the insolvency of a person in whose hands it was deposited.

The manor of Awsthwayte and Birker belongs to Edward Stanley, Esq. whose ancestor, Nicholas Stanley, married the heiress of Awsthwayte in the reign of Edward III. Awsthwayte had been granted to the ancestor of the family, who assumed that name, by Arthur Boyvill, or De Millom. Dalegarth, the ancient manor-house of Awsthwayte, was the residence of the Awsthwaytes, and afterwards of the Stanleys. Great part of it has been pulled down. The curious carved oak bedstead now at Ponsonby Hall was removed from this house.

The manor of Ulpha was granted to one Ulf, whose posterity enjoyed it till the reign of Henry III.; it was afterwards re-united to Millom, and one of the Huddleston family made a deer-park there. Sir Hedworth Williamson and his lady sold the Ulpha estate to Mr. Singleton of Drigg. The manor is now the property of Lord Muncaster, whose brother, the late Lord Muncaster, purchased it some years ago of Miss Singleton. The lands belong to Mr. Ormanby of Lancaster, as heir of the Singletons.

The manor of Thwaites was held under the lords of Millom as early as the reign of Edward I. by the family of Thwaites, who had their seat here before they removed to Unerigg. The manor was conveyed by the Huddlestons, in the seventeenth century, to Sir John Lowther, and is now the property of the Earl of Lonsdale.

There are chapels of ease at Ulpha and Thwaites. The latter has been augmented by Queen Anne's bounty, aided by 200l. given by the inhabitants. The chapel of Thwaites was rebuilt in 1715. The place where the chapel stands is called Hall-Thwaites; it is about three miles from the parish church.

Mr. W. Atkinson gave by will, in 1811, the sum of 800l. to this parish; the sum of 2l. 10s. out of the interest to be distributed in oatmeal or flour at Upper-beck-stones mill to such of the poor customers as the occupier of the mill should think proper; the residue to be given in equal shares to Millom-above, Millom-below, and Thwaites, for teaching poor children.


MORESBY, in the ward of Allerdale above Derwent, is two miles north of Whitehaven. It is divided into two townships, Moresby and Parton, containing together, in 1811, 187 houses and 881 inhabitants. The manor of Moresby belonged for several generations to the family of Moresby or Moriceby, whose heiress married Sir James Pickering. Ann, daughter and heir of Sir James was thrice married; Thomas Knevett, Esq. her son by her second husband, sold this manor in 1576 to William Fletcher of Cockermouth, of the same family as the Fletchers of Hutton. After the death of Thomas Fletcher of Moresby (the last of the family), it was sold (under a decree in Chancery), in 1720, to John Brougham, Esq. of Scales, by whom, in 1737, it was conveyed to Sir James Lowther, of Whitehaven, Bart., ancestor of the Earl of Lonsdale, who is the present proprietor. This manor is rich in coal-mines. In the parish church, which is situated within a (fn. n7) Roman station, is a monument of William Fletcher, Esq. lord of the manor, 1703. The advowson of the rectory, which is in the diocese of Chester, archdeaconry of Richmond, and deanery of Copeland, is annexed to the manor.

Ineffectual attempts at constructing a harbour at Parton were made by the Fletcher and Lamplugh family in 1680 and 1695: the proceedings being stopped by an injunction from the court of exchequer. In 1695 Mr. Lamplugh was allowed to repair the small old pier. An act of parliament for enlarging the pier and harbour of Parton passed in 1705; another act for rebuilding the pier and harbour passed in 1724; and a third act, for enlarging the term of that last-mentioned, in 1732. Several vessels were employed in the coal-trade here till the year 1795, when the pier was washed away by an unusually high tide, and has not since been rebuilt.


MUNCASTER, in the ward of Allerdale above Derwent, lies near the sea, about 16 miles south of Whitehaven, The original name of this place was Meolcastre, Mealcastre, or Mulcaster, from a castle which was the ancient residence of the lords of the manor at Esk-meal, near the mouth of the Esk, between the mountains and the sea. The manor is known to have belonged to the Pennington family as early as the reign of Henry II. Sir John Pennington, who lived in the reign of Henry VI. is said to have secreted that unhappy monarch at Muncaster in his flight from his enemies; and the tradition of the family is, that on quitting Muncaster he presented his host with a small glass vessel, still preserved in the family, and called the Luck of Muncaster, to the preservation of which a considerable degree of superstition has attached. This Sir John Pennington is said to have been a distinguished military character, and to have commanded the left wing of the English army in an expedition against Scotland. His grandson, Sir John Pennington was in the battle of Flodden-field. Another descendant of the same name, was admiral to King Charles I. and much trusted by that monarch in naval affairs. Sir William Pennington, grandson of the lastmentioned Sir John, was created a baronet in 1676. Sir John Pennington, the fifth baronet, was in 1783 created Lord Muncaster of the kingdom of Ireland; he died in 1813, leaving only one surviving daughter, married to Lord Lindsay, son of the Earl of Balcarras, when the title of Muncaster, and the Muncaster estate being settled on male heirs, devolved to General Lowther Pennington, now Lord Muncaster.

Muncaster Castle, which retains the principal tower of the ancient fortified mansion, though it has lost its original form, was nearly rebuilt by the late Lord Muncaster. It stands on an eminence, nearly surrounded by beautiful plantations, and commanding in front a fine view of the vale of the Esk, flanked on each side and terminated in front by the wildest mountain scenery. In the house are several family pictures, and a curious portrait of Thomas Skelton, the Fool of Muncaster (fn. n8), who is said to have lived in the family at the time of the civil wars, and of whose sayings there are many traditional stories.

The manor of Birkby, in this parish, has long been in the family of Stanley, and is now the property of Edward Stanley, Esq. of Ponsonby Hall.

In the parish church are a series of memorials of the Pennington family for several centuries, put up by the late Lord Muncaster, a monument for himself, and that of his Lady, who lost her life in consequence of an accidental fall, in the month of November 1806.

The church of Muncaster was given to the priory of Conishead by Gamel de Pennington, and appropriated to that monastery. Lord Muncaster has the impropriation, and appoints the perpetual curate. The curacy, which is in the diocese of Chester, archdeaconry of Richmond, and deanery of Copeland, has been augmented by Queen Anne's bounty.

A charity school at Muncaster, was founded by Richard Brookbank, who endowed it with 160l. The present stock of the school is 273l.


RAVENGLASS, in this parish, is a small market and post-office town by the sea side. King John granted a market at this place to be held on Saturday (fn. n9) to Richard de Lucy, with a fair on St. James's day. This Richard gave the manor of Ravenglass to the Penningtons. It is now held under the Earl of Egremont by Lord Muncaster, who in 1796 procured a charter for two weekly markets at Ravenglass, on Wednesday and Friday, and three fairs for one day each, March 11th, April 14th, and October 12th. These are at present unattended.

Figure 42:

View of Ravenglass and Black Comb mountain

There are two antient fairs, which are still held, chiefly for horned cattle, one on the 8th of June, belonging to E. Stanley, Esq. the other on the 5th of August, (the festival of St. James O. S.) to Lord Egremont. Nicolson and Burn relate some singular circumstances attending the holding of this fair, which continued for three days. On the first day the lord's steward was attended by the serjeant of the borough of Egremont with the insignia called the Bow of Egremont, the foresters with their bows and horns, and all the tenants of the forest of Copeland, whose special service was to attend the lord and his representatives at Ravenglass Fair, and abide there during its continuance. On the third day, at noon, the officers and tenants of the forest departed, after proclamation made; Lord Muncaster and his tenants took a formal repossession of the place, and the day was concluded with horse-races and rural diversions. This fair is now held (fn. n10) for only one day. Lord Egremont's tenants ride the fair attended by two or three fiddlers, and preceded by halberd-men, but without bows or horns.


  • n1. Pat. Rot. 9 E. III. p. 2.
  • n2. Of this family was Dr. Caleb Threlkeld, a dissenting minister and physician, born at Melmerby in 1676, who settled at Dublin, and published a Synopsis of the Plants of Ireland.
  • n3. Cart. Rot. 35 Hen. III.
  • n4. Pat. Rot. 9 E. III. p. 2.
  • n5. See the account of ancient castles.
  • n6. The more modern monuments are those of Jos. Huddleston, Esq. 1702, and Sir F. Huddleston, 1720.
  • n7. See the account of Roman stations.
  • n8. He is dressed in a check gown, blue, yellow, and white; under his arm is an earthen dish with ears; in his right hand a white wand; in his left, a white hat, bound with pink ribbands and with blue bows; in front, a paper, on which is written Mrs. Dorothy Copeland. The following lines are inscribed on the picture: "Ths Skelton late Fool of Muncaster's last Will and Testament. "Be it known to ye, oh grave and wise men all, That I Thorn Fool am Sheriff of ye Hall, I mean the Hall of Haigh, where I command What neither I nor you do understand. My Under Sheriff is Ralph Wayte you know, As wise as I am and as witty too. Of Egremond I have Burrow Serjeant beene, Of Wiggan Bailiff too, as may be seen By my white staff of office in my hand, Being carried streight as the badge of my command: A low high constable too was once my calling, Which I enjoyed under kind Henry Rawling; And when the Fates a new Sheriff send, I'm Under Sheriff prick'd World without end. He who doth question my authority May see the seal and patten here ly by. The dish with luggs which I do carry here Shews all my living is in good strong beer. If scurvy lads to me abuses do, I'll call 'em scurvy rogues and rascals too. Fair Dolly Copeland in my cap is placed; Monstrous fair is she, and as good as all the rest. Honest Nich. Pennington, honest Ths Turner, both Will bury me when I this world go forth. But let me not be carry'd o'er the brigg, Lest falling I in Duggas River ligg; Nor let my body by old Charnock lye, But by Will. Caddy, for he'll lye quietly. And when I'm bury'd then my friends may drink, But each man pay for himself, that's best I think. This is my Will, and this I know will be Perform'd by them as they have promised me. "Sign'd, Seal'd, Publish'd, and Declared in the presence of Henry Rawling, Henry Troughton, Ths Turner." Ths Skelton, [X] his Mark.
  • n9. Rot. Cart. 10 John. n. 27.
  • n10. It is about forty years since it was held for three days.