Pages 40-45

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

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COCKERMOUTH, in the parish of Brigham, is a considerable borough and market town, about 13 miles from Whitehaven, 26½ from Carlisle, and 314 from London.

Cockermouth is the site of the barony of Allerdale, since called the barony and honor of Cockermouth. This barony was given by William de Meschines to Waldeof, son of Gospatric, Earl of Dunbar, whose grand-daughter brought it to William Fitz-Duncan, nephew of Malcolm, King of Scotland; one of the co-heiresses of Fitz-Duncan, who was twice married, died without issue; the two others, whose issue eventually shared this barony in moieties, married William Le Gros, Earl of Albemarle, and Reginald De Lucy; the heiress of Lucy married Multon, who took the name of Lucy. After the death of William de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle, and Isabel his countess, without issue, a moiety of the castle and honor of Cockermouth fell to the crown, and having been for a while in the possession of Piers Gaveston, by the grant of Edward II. was some years afterwards, (1323) (fn. n1), granted to Anthony Lord Lucy (fn. n2) already possessed by inheritance of the other moiety. Maud, sister and heiress of Anthony Lord Lucy, who died in 1366, settled the castle and honor of Cockermouth on Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, her second husband, and his heirs male, on condition that they should bear the arms of Lucy quarterly with their own. Elizabeth, sole heiress of Josceline, the last Earl of Northumberland, brought Cockermouth and other large estates to Charles Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Lady Catherine, second daughter and coheiress of the duke, married Sir William Wyndham, whose son Sir Charles, was in 1749 created Earl of Egremont, and was father of George Earl of Egremont, the present possessor of the honor or barony of Cockermouth. The park, which was long ago disparked, and sold to Sir Thomas Wharton, has been since reunited to the honor.

Figure 35:

Cockermouth Castle

Cockermouth Castle, the ancient baronial seat of the Lords of Allerdale, stands on a bold eminence near the confluence of the rivers Cocker and Derwent. It is supposed to have been built soon after the conquest, but there is no part of the present building, which exhibits the architecture of so early a period. Cockermouth Castle is said to have been yielded to King Henry IV. (fn. n3) It is erroneously stated in the history of this county by Nicolson and Burn, that it was made a garrison for the King in 1648, and that it was taken and burnt by the parliamentary forces. It appears by Whitelock and Rushworth, that the castle being held by Lieut. Bird, as governor for the parliament, was besieged for some weeks by a party of Cumberland royalists, and that it was relieved by Colonel Ashton, who was sent out of Lancashire by Cromwell for that purpose. An entry in the register of burials for the chapelry, informs us that "the siege was laid against Cockermouth Castle, August 1648, and the castle was relieved the 29th of September, in which time were slain of the besiegers George Bucke, &c. &c. (fn. n4)." Robert Murrell, shot in the castle September 21, is said to have been the only person slain in the garrison. It is probable that the castle, if not dismantled, was suffered to go to decay after the civil war; a small part of it only is now habitable. Mr. Denton says, that in 1688 the only habitable part was the gateway and the courthouse, where the Christmas sessions were held.

The ancestors of the Fletchers of Hutton, were opulent merchants at Cockermouth, and had a large mansion here, in which Mary Queen of Scots is said to have been lodged on her journey from Workington to Carlisle (fn. n5) : this house was pulled down and rebuilt by Sir Richard Fletcher, who was sheriff of the county in 1617; after a time this new structure acquired the name of "The Old Hall," and having lain in a neglected state for many years, was sold some years ago in lots by Sir Frederick Fletcher Vane, Baronet, and has been divided into tenements.

Both this borough and Egremont returned members to parliament in the 23d year of King Edward I. This privilege, after so long a disuse, was restored to Cockermouth in the year 1640. The right of election is in the burgage holders, who are about 280 in number (fn. n6). The bailiff is the returning officer. The late Earl of Liverpool, before his elevation to the peerage, was some time M. P. for this borough. The Epiphany sessions are held at Cockermouth.

The market on Monday, was granted to William de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle, in 1226 (fn. n7), it is a considerable market for corn, provisions, &c. A great market or fair is held every other Wednesday (fn. n8), from the beginning of May till Michaelmas, and there are annual fairs on Whit Monday and Martinmas Monday for hiring servants.

Browne Willis states the number of houses at Cockermouth only at 235 in 1714; in 1785 there were, according to Hutchinson, 663 families, and 2652 inhabitants; in 1801 there were 417 inhabited houses, 690 families, and 2865 inhabitants; in 1811, 602 houses, 709 families, and 2964 inhabitants, according to the returns made to parliament at those periods.

In the year 1647, 191 persons died of the plague, as appears by an entry in the parish register. The town seems to have escaped this dreadful malady in 1665.

At Cockermouth are considerable manufactories of cotton, linen, and woollen, and the tanning and currying trade is carried on to a great extent.

There was a chapel at this place before the year 1394; the present structure was built in 1711; the old tower remains. The Earl of Lonsdale is patron of the curacy.

There are meeting houses in this town, for the Presbyterians, Quakers, and Methodists. The Rev. John Fell, an eminent dissenting minister, born at Cockermouth in 1735, wrote on the Demoniacs, on Rowley's poems, on English grammar, and on the idolatry of Greece and Rome. He died in London, in the year 1797.

The free school was founded in the reign of Charles II. by Philip Lord Wharton, Sir Richard Graham, and others. The sum of 10l. per annum is paid to the master by Lord Lonsdale, as charged upon the great tithes, and a further sum of 10l. has for some years past been added as a gratuity. Over the school house is a library, founded by the associates of the late Dr. Bray, to which Dr. Keene, Bishop of Chester, was a considerable benefactor.

In the year 1760, the Rev. Thomas Leathes gave a house in Kirkgate for the residence of six poor widows or unmarried women, above 60 years of age, and left the interest of 100l. as an endowment, to which his daughter added 50l.

Within the parochial chapelry of Cockermouth, is the township of Seatmurthow or Setmurthy; here is a small chapel, which has been augmented by Queen Anne's bounty. This township is parcel of the manor of Five Towns.

The manor of Hewthwaite, or Huthwaite, in this township, gave name to its early possessors, and, having passed by marriage to the Swinburns, underwent the same alienations as a moiety of the manor of Brigham (fn. n9). After the death of Mr. Singleton, in 1767, the manor was allotted to Judith, the wife of Thomas Bolton, and was by her and her husband conveyed to the father of John Sanderson Fisher, Esq. of Wood-Hall, the present proprietor. The hall and demesne were divided among several of the persons entitled under Mr. Grisdale's will, and are now the property of Raisbeck Lucock Bragg, Esq., John Sanderson Fisher, Esq., Wilfred Lawson, Esq. (fn. n10), and Daniel Clift, Esq. The old mansion, built in 1581 by the Swinburns, is still standing and occupied as a farm-house. (fn. n11)

The township of Eaglesfield or Eglesfield, is said to have given name to an ancient family, of whom was Robert Eglesfield, confessor to Queen Philippa, consort of King Edward III. and founder of Queen's College in Oxford. This township is parcel of what is called the manor of Five Towns.

Embleton was given by Alice, one of the co-heiresses of William Fitz Duncan, and her husband Robert Courteney, to Orme Ireby, whose family held it for several generations. It was afterwards successively in the families of Kirkby, Tilliol, Kellom, and Brathwaite. From the latter it passed by purchase to Philip Lord Wharton, who possessed it in 1688 (fn. n12). This township, which is now deemed to be within the manor of Derwent-Fells, belongs to Lord Egremont. There is a chapel at Embleton, with a small endowment.

The township of Mosergh, Mosier, or Mosser, belonged to the Salkelds, who were lords of the manor; it has since been enfranchised. There is a chapel at Mosergh, and it appears that there was a chantry chapel there before the reformation.

The township and manor of Whinfell were, in the reign of Henry VIII. the joint property of Chr. Curwen, J. Eglesfield, and Ambrose Middleton (fn. n13). It was afterwards in the Wharton family, and, having been sold by them to the Duke of Somerset, descended with Cockermouth to the Earl of Egremont.

The parochial chapelry of Lorton contains the townships of Lorton, Brackenthwaite, and Wythorp.

Lorton is parcel of the manor of Derwent-Fells, belonging to the Earl of Egremont. The dean and chapter of Carlisle have a small manor here, given to the church in the reign of Richard I. by Ralph de Lyndesey. The chapel of Lorton is in the patronage of the Earl of Lonsdale. The school is endowed with the interest of 100l. given by several persons.

The manor of Brackenthwaite belonged anciently to the Moresbys, who sold it to Multon; from the latter it descended to Lucy and Percy. Henry, Earl of Northumberland, gave it to King Henry VIII. Brackenthwaite is now considered to be parcel of the manor of Derwent-Fells.

The manor of Wythorp belonged at an early period to the Lucy family. Hugh Lowther was possessed of it in the reign of Edward II. In 1606, Sir Richard Lowther sold it to Richard Fletcher. It is now the property of Sir Frederick Fletcher Vane, Bart. Wythorp-hall, formerly a seat of the Lowthers, has long been a farm-house. There is a chapel at Wythorp. This was the native place of Dr. Joseph Hudson, principal of St. Mary Hall, in Oxford, a learned critic, who published editions of Velleius Paterculus, Thucydides, Dionysius Halicarnasseus, Longinus, &c. He was born in 1662, and died in 1719.


  • n1. Cart, 16 Edward II. 6.
  • n2. It was granted to him for his gallantry and good services in taking Andrew de Hercla, Earl of Carlisle, prisoner, in 1322, in the castle of Carlisle, of which he was then governor. Chron, de Lancrcost.
  • n3. Hardyng's Chronicle.
  • n4. "1 George Buck, near the Goate Bridge. "2 Christopher Burne, on Cocker Bridge. "3 Anthony Johnson, of Workington, shot on Cocker Bridge. "4 John Cape, Milner, shot in the Street near the Moot Hall. "5 John Hartley. "6 Henry Dalston. "7 John Hixe. "8 —— Trumpeter in Mr. Tukell, lost. "9 Miles Fisher, of Cockermouth, shot about the quenching of Mr. Fearons back-houses. "10 Captain John Hobson, shot on Cocker Bridge."
  • n5. The narrative, printed in Anderson's Collections, which was corrected by Secretary Cecil, says, that Mary was conducted by the gentry of Cumberland to Cockermouth, a town of the Earl of Northumberland's. It should seem more probable, that she was lodged in the castle, but it is said that Henry Fletcher entertained her with great magnificence at his house, presenting her with robes of velvet, and that she wrote him a letter of thanks. See Nicolson and Burn's History of Cumberland, and the Baronetage, 1808.
  • n6. There were 130 burgage tenements in 1688. T. Denton's MS.
  • n7. Cart. 11 Henry III. part 2. m. 3.
  • n8. These great markets were held as long ago as the year 1688. The fairs were then WhitMonday and Michaelmas day. T. Denton's MS.
  • n9. See p. 39.
  • n10. Sir Wilfred Lawson purchased lands, parcel of the demesne of Hewthwaite, in 1783, of Joshua Lucock, Esq.
  • n11. Over the door is the following inscription: "John Swynburn, Esquire: and Elizabeth, his wyfe: "Did make cost of this work in the daies of ther lyfe." "Ano Dom. 1581: Ano Reg. 23."
  • n12. T. Denton's MS.
  • n13. Nicolson and Burn.