Lonsdale hundred: Introduction and map

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

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'Lonsdale hundred: Introduction and map', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8, ed. William Farrer, J Brownbill( London, 1914), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/lancs/vol8/pp1-3 [accessed 21 July 2024].

'Lonsdale hundred: Introduction and map', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Edited by William Farrer, J Brownbill( London, 1914), British History Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/lancs/vol8/pp1-3.

"Lonsdale hundred: Introduction and map". A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Ed. William Farrer, J Brownbill(London, 1914), , British History Online. Web. 21 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/lancs/vol8/pp1-3.



Lancaster (part); Cockerham (part); Heysham; Halton; Bolton-Le-Sands; Warton; Burton (part); Melling; Claughton; Tatham; Tunstall; Whittington; Thornton (part)


Cartmel Furness, viz.:; Dalton; Aldingham; Urswick; Pennington; Ulverston; Hawkshead; Colton; Kirkby Ireleth

Lonsdale does not occur as a hundred or wapentake in Domesday Book, though the name may be found there as if it were that of a manor adjoining Cockerham. (fn. 1) Probably the words 'Two manors. In Lanesdale and Cocreham Ulf and Machel had two ploughlands' should read, 'In Lanesdale. Two manors: In Cocreham Ulf, &c.' From the 11th century to the present day the description 'in Lonsdale' has been applied as a distinguishing term to places lying within the watershed of the River Lune. Sedbergh, Ingleton, and Newby near Clapham were usually so described in mediaeval documents, while the phrase is still added in the cases of Burton and Thornton in Yorkshire and of Kirkby and Middleton in Westmorland. Domesday Book shows that there were then no hundreds on the west coast to the north of the Ribble, so that there is every probability that the divisions which natural features suggested as convenient, such as Amounderness, Lonsdale, and Kendal, were in general use before the Conquest. In the time of Rufus or Henry I Lonsdale broke up as a territorial unit. Part was annexed to Yorkshire as the wapentake of Ewcross, another part to Kendal and later to Westmorland, while the remainder with Furness, Cartmel, and the southern part of Kendal after forming part of the honour of Count Roger of Poitou became known, a few years after his banishment, as the honour of Lancaster. The main influence in this partition appears to have been the parochial one. But that was not entirely so, seeing that Ireby and Dalton have belonged for eight centuries to parishes centred outside this county. In addition to the parochial influence we may safely add the feudal, particularly in regard to a sufficiency of suitors or doomsmen at the wapentake and court baron. The population of free men was very limited until a century after the Conquest, and it was therefore desirable to arrange the boundaries so that the same free man might be a suitor to more than one wapentake court.

Lonsdale Hundred had been defined before 1168, (fn. 2) and the bailiwick was granted in 1199 to Adam son of Orm de Kellet. (fn. 3) The descent of this office is the same as that of the manor of Nether Kellet; it was held by the Holland (fn. 4) and Lovel families and then by the Earls of Derby.

The hundred contains two parts, separated by the sandy estuary of the Kent, and therefore known as Lonsdale South of the Sands and Lonsdale North of the Sands. The former is Lonsdale proper, the greater part of it being in the valley of the Lune; the latter consists of the districts of Cartmel and Furness, which are defined by conspicuous physical features. The two parts of Lonsdale were sometimes regarded as distinct hundreds, and, as the Abbot of Furness and his successors in title had large exemptions from the interference of the sheriff of the county and the bailiff of the wapentake, (fn. 5) the southern portion with Cartmel was practically the whole hundred. The two divisions were connected by a notable passage over the Sands, from Hest Bank in Bolton to Cartmel. The office of guide had an endowment still existent. (fn. 6)


Court Rolls for 1324–6 have been printed; they show that sixteen or seventeen courts were held each year—i.e. one about every three weeks— and that the doomsmen from different townships attended. (fn. 7) Appointments of keepers of the peace are recorded in the Patent Rolls. (fn. 8) The forest of the hundred was extensive, comprising Quernmore and Over Wyresdale. (fn. 9) A peculiar 'tenant right' and 'customary freehold' occur.

The hundred contains the North Lonsdale division of the county and a large part of the Lancaster division, each returning one member to Parliament.

Ecclesiastically Lonsdale did not form a single district, the deaneries of Amounderness, Lonsdale, Kendal and Furness all having certain parishes in it. The last-named was the only one which did not extend beyond the limits of the hundred; Lonsdale and Kendal deaneries were largely outside the county. There was anciently a Dean of Lancaster, (fn. 10) but his jurisdiction, which extended over Furness, was perhaps divided among the four deaneries just named. The archdeacon's court, for the probate of wills, &c., was held in Lancaster Church for about a century, the east end being screened off for the purpose until 1828, when a new room was built. (fn. 11) The Richmond wills from 1740 are preserved at Lancaster.

A peculiarity of Lonsdale proper is the prevalence of parishes consisting of a single township. The number of them would have been greater but for the artificial inclusion of Gressingham and Caton in the parish of Lancaster.

Archbishop Wickwane visited this part of his diocese in April and May 1281, entering and leaving by way of Clapham. His itinerary shows that he visited Hornby, Lancaster, Cockersand, Weeton, Preston, Ribchester, Beaumont in Skerton, Burton in Kendal, Over Kellet, Cartmel, Furness, Conishead, St. Bees, Burton in Kendal, Warton, Gressingham, Hornby and Warton. (fn. 12) On 22 May 1281 he gave notice that his men had taken venison in Earl Edmund's forest of Wernelmor—perhaps Quernmore. (fn. 13)


  • 1. V.C.H. Lancs. i, 290.
  • 2. Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 12. In some charters of a little earlier date Lonsdale is not expressly called a wapentake; ibid. 389, 393.
  • 3. Cal. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), xl, 7. Orm de Kellet, bailiff of Lonsdale, and his two under-bailiffs were in 1291–2 fined for contempt and non-appearance; Assize R. 407, m. 1; 408, m. 5 d. In 1292 Orm was summoned to prove his title to the office; Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 384.
  • 4. Thomas Earl of Lancaster granted the serjeantcy of Lonsdale, the keepership of the forests of Lancaster and the manors of Torrisholme and Kellet to Robert de Holland. This was confirmed in 1320; Cal. Pat. 1317–21, p. 431. An agreement as to the bailiwick was in 1356 made between Sir Robert de Holland and Robert son of Robert de Holland, who had married Joan; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 4, m. 6 d.
  • 5. In 1228 it was placed on record that Orm de Kellet, serjeant in fee of Lonsdale, must answer to the Abbot of Furness for Furness; Cal. Pat. 1225–32, p. 184. In 1347 the abbot complained that Robert son of Sir Robert de Holland, the bailiff, had violated his liberties; De Banco R. 350, m. 319.
  • 6. See the accounts of the parishes named, and the Charity Rep. for Ulverston, 1901.
  • 7. Lancs. Ct. R. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 108–41. Nine county courts and seventeen wapentake courts were held in Lonsdale in the year ending at Michaelmas 1441; Duchy of Lanc. Mins. Accts. bdle. 100, no. 1790.
  • 8. e.g. Cal. Pat. 1321–4, p. 382; 1343–5, p. 510. Thomas de Ashton was appointed coroner of the wapentake in 1399; ibid. 1396–9, p. 478.
  • 9. In 1344–5 inquiry was made as to the farm of £12 formerly paid by Roger Gernet, forester; Q.R. Memo. R. 22, m. 2.
  • 10. The names of some of the deans have been preserved:— Adam occurs 1184–98; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 98; Lanc. Ch. (Chet. Soc.), i, 57, 153 R. de Kirkby, c. 1200; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxvi, App. 171 Nicholas, 1214; ibid. 162 Walter, 1230; Lanc. Ch. i, 164 W. de Tatham; ibid. i, 154; ii, 306 Thomas, rector of Halton; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxvi, App. 164 Nicholas, c. 1257; ibid. xxxv, App. 36 Hugh, vicar of Cockerham; Lanc. Ch. ii, 380
  • 11. Ibid. iv, 685, 722.
  • 12. Wickwane's Reg. (Surtees Soc.), 345.
  • 13. Ibid. 272.