A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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In this section
Ulverston; Mansriggs; Osmotherley; Subberthwaite; Egton With Newland; Lowick; Blawith; Torver Church Coniston
The parish of Ulverston occupies the western side of Furness for a distance of nearly 17 miles, forming a strip between 1 and 4 miles wide along the Leven estuary, the Crake, Coniston Lake and Yewdale Beck, and being bounded on the north by the Brathay. In the northern end rise some of the highest peaks of the Fells, including Coniston Old Man, but the altitudes diminish going south, at Ulverston itself open and comparatively low-lying and level country being reached. The area of the whole is 27,341½ acres, including 4 acres of tidal water. The population in 1901 was 13,103. (fn. 1)
The history of the parish has little to distinguish it from that of Furness in general. After the destruction of Furness Abbey the town of Ulverston supplanted Dalton as the centre of the trade of the district, and in the 18th century it was a place of winter residence for the local gentry. (fn. 2) Dr. Pococke, who visited the place in 1754, wrote thus: 'Ulverston is a small neat market town, but no corporation, nor is there a justice of the peace in it. They have a handsome market-house, built of reddish freestone brought from near the abbey, or the Manor as they call it. There is a great trade here in corn, especially oats, chiefly for exportation, and they weave some camlets and serges.' (fn. 3) A theatre for a time existed there. The development of mines and forges, one of the most successful being the Newland forge, increased the local commerce; but in the last half-century the opening of the railway and the rise of Barrow have prevented further growth, though the town retains much of its importance as a market town for central and north Furness.
The following shows the manner in which the agricultural land of the parish is now utilized (fn. 4) :—
The county lay of 1624, founded on the ancient fifteenth, required Ulverston to raise £9 10s. 8d. when £100 was levied on the hundred. (fn. 5)
A discovery of gold and silver coins in 1534 led to an inquiry. (fn. 6)
Richard Ulverston, an Oxford divine of the 15th century, is said to have been a native of the parish. (fn. 7) John Christopherson, another native, was educated at Cambridge, becoming Fellow of St. John's College in 1542 and of Trinity College on its foundation in 1546. For religious reasons he went abroad in the time of Edward VI, and on his return was quickly promoted by Mary, receiving the bishopric of Chichester in 1557. Having denounced Protestant doctrine in a sermon at St. Paul's Cross just after Elizabeth's accession, he was put into prison and died there in 1558. He translated Eusebius and Philo into Latin. (fn. 8)
John Barrow, born in a cottage at Dragley Beck in 1764, and educated at Ulverston School, was appointed chief household officer in Lord Macartney's mission to China in 1792, and so approved himself that when Macartney was afterwards (1797) ordered to South Africa he made him private secretary. He then became secretary to the Admiralty, retaining this office for forty years (1804–45), and was made a baronet in 1835. He acquired a great reputation by his books on China and South Africa and his Life of Lord Macartney, and soon after his death in 1848 the people of Ulverston raised a monument on Hoad Hill to commemorate him. It has the form of a lighthouse. (fn. 9) Two other worthies may here be named: John Stanyan Bigg, poet, 1828–65, (fn. 10) and Jacob Youde William Lloyd, genealogist, 1816–87. (fn. 11)
The church of ST. MARY stands on the lower slope of a hill-side at the north-east end of the town, and consists of chancel with north vestry and organ chamber and south chapel, clearstoried nave with north and south aisles, south porch and west tower. The churchyard lies principally on the south and east sides, the ground falling rapidly from north to south, the principal approach from the town being by a gateway in the south-west corner.
The earliest part of the building is the south doorway, which is of 12th-century date and belongs to a church all other traces of which have vanished. The tower is of 16th-century date, but the rest of the building is modern, having been erected at different times during the 19th century. Of the building prior to about 1540 nothing can be said, but the south doorway gives evidence of a 12thcentury building of some importance, though whether or not it is in its original position is of course uncertain. It may have originally been at the west end. In 1540–1 it is recorded that the steeple was blown down and that it 'utterly destroyed' the church, 'leaving no part thereof standing.' (fn. 12) The result was a complete restoration or rebuilding which took place during the last years of the reign of Henry VIII, (fn. 13) of which the present tower is part, and in which some of the masonry of Conishead Priory and Furness Abbey, then dismantled, was used. (fn. 14)
The 16th-century church stood until the beginning of the last century and consisted of a chancel (fn. 15) and nave with north and south aisles and west tower, and was the same length as the present structure before the lengthening of the chancel. In 1804 the whole of the north wall was taken down, together with the roof, pillars and arches, and the aisle widened to 18 ft., much earth and rock having to be removed from the hill-side for the purpose; the nave roof was reconstructed and the whole of the interior plastered, the present arcades and clearstory dating from this period. In 1811 the west gallery was rebuilt, and in the year following the first organ was erected. A more thorough rebuilding followed in 1864–6. Between May 1864 and October 1866 (fn. 16) the church was almost entirely rebuilt and assumed more or less its present appearance. Begun as a partial restoration, the work ultimately included the taking down and rebuilding of the whole of the exterior walls, the tower and south doorway alone remaining. The north aisle was again widened, the north and west galleries removed, and the body of the church, with the exception of the columns, arches and clearstory, was entirely rebuilt, the nave ceiling removed and the roof opened out and restored, a new roof erected over the south aisle, and the old square pews and other early 19th-century fittings done away with. In 1904 the chancel was lengthened 14 ft. beyond the aisles, the whole of the east end of the building having previously been in one line. The exterior walls are constructed in limestone from Tarn Close, all the later windows, however, with the exception of those north and south of the chancel extension, which are of yellow stone, being in red St. Bees sandstone, in the style of the 15th century, with pointed heads and external labels. The inside of the porch is lined with white freestone selected from the remains of the old walls. The chancel and nave are under one continuous slated roof, finishing on top of the earlier rubble and sandstone clearstory walls with a modern iron gutter. The north aisle is under a separate gabled roof with overhanging eaves, and the south aisle has a lean-to roof with embattled parapet.
The total length of the church internally before the lengthening of the chancel was 115 ft., there being no structural division of chancel and nave, with a continuous arcade of seven four-centred arches north and south on octagonal piers, the two easternmost bays of which formed the chancel. The arches are of two orders, the inner chamfered and the outer square, and like the rest of the interior of the building are plastered. The chancel is now 48 ft. by 25 ft., the eastern extension, which forms the sanctuary, being lined with white freestone, the junction of which with the plaster is emphasized by a narrow semi-octagonal engaged shaft going up to the roof. The east window is of five lights with perpendicular tracery and the north and south windows each of two lights. The organ chamber and vestry on the north, and the Braddyll chapel on the south, which respectively occupy the east ends of the aisles, are separated from the chancel by oak screens erected in 1904.
The nave is 81 ft. by 25 ft. and consists of five bays, with a square-headed clearstory window of three lights to each bay, and a modern open timber roof. The clearstory is also carried through over the chancel. The north aisle is the same width as the nave and had originally two windows at its west end, but these have now been removed and a five-light pointed window inserted, in which some 18thcentury painted glass, formerly in the old east window, which for many years after the restoration long lay neglected, has been inserted. The south aisle is 16 ft. wide, its two easternmost bays being known as the Braddyll chapel, which has a three-light east window and two windows of two lights and a door on the south side. The 12thcentury doorway is at the west end of the south wall and is now inclosed by a modern porch 11 ft. wide by 9 ft. 6 in. deep with pointed outer opening and gabled roof. The doorway is 6 ft. wide with a semicircular arch of three orders and moulded jambs and plain imposts chamfered on the top and bo torn edges. The height to the underside of the impost is only 5 ft. and there are no bases to the jambs, but probably the ground level has been raised. The work is late in character and rather rough in workmanship, but it is very much worn and seems to have been rebuilt, the inner order being no longer semicircular but slightly broken-backed or pointed. The outer order is square with the cheveron ornament on both face and soffit, but the middle and inner orders are moulded like the jambs, the middle one having also the cable ornament. The masonry is of mixed yellow and red sandstone.
The west tower is 12 ft. square inside and built
of rubble limestone masonry with some sandstone
intermixed, and has diagonal angle buttresses on the
west side of seven stages going up to the embattled
parapet. There is an internal vice in the south-west
corner, and the west door is of red sandstone with
segmental arch and hollow moulded jambs. The
west window, of three lights, is new, and the belfry
windows are square-headed openings of three lights
with external labels and slate louvres. The north
and south sides of the tower are quite plain below
the belfry stage, except that on the south side there
is an inscribed stone and a small square opening to
the ringing chamber. The inscription is much
defaced, but has been read as
PRAY FOR. THE. SOWLE
OF. WELLM. DOBSON. GEN
VSHER. TO. QVEN. ElH WCH
GAV. INTO. THIS. WORKE—
the rest being indecipherable. This would appear to place the tower later than the date already given, but the Queen Elizabeth referred to has been shown to be Elizabeth, wife of Henry VII, who died in 1503. (fn. 17) The tower arch is pointed, of two chamfered orders dying into the wall at the springing, and of red sandstone. There is a piece of blank wall 7 ft. in length at the west end of each arcade, that on the south side, to the height of about 6 ft. 6 in., being probably of equal date with the tower, and therefore part of the original 16th-century nave. On the north side the arcade having been built further out has thrown the centre line of the nave to the north of that of the tower arch.
There are three good brass chandeliers given in 1815 now fitted for gas, but the font and pulpit belong to the later restorations and all the other fittings are modern.
There is a good 17th-century marble mural monument in the Braddyll chapel with figure brasses to Miles Dodding and his wife, (fn. 18) with the inscription 'Here before lyeth buried the bodies of Myles Dodding esq & Margaret his wife who died in the yeare of Or Lord 1606 after they had lived maried 43 yeares & had issue tenne children of whom there only survived them Myles Doddinge & Henry.' There is also a canopied mural monument with small recumbent figure at the west end of the south aisle to this second Miles Dodding, who died in 1629, with a long Latin inscription, and a tablet in the Braddyll chapel to his grandson, also Miles Dodding, who died in 1683. (fn. 19) The Braddyll chapel also contains a modern stone table tomb with recumbent figure to the memory of William Sandys of Conishead Priory, who died in 1588. (fn. 20) There are also tablets to the Rev. John Ambrose, B.D. (d. 1684), John Braddyll (d. March 1727–8), John Park (d. 1829), 'whose best monument is this record of charity,' given at great length, and to Sir John Barrow, bart. (d. 1848).
There is a ring of six bells by Mears of London, 1836. The third was recast from a bell of 1782, and bears that date. (fn. 21) The first organ was introduced in 1812.
The silver plate consists of a paten of 1711, inscribed 'This is the gift of William Sawrey of Plumpton Hall, in the county of Lancaster, esq.,' and with the maker's mark G.H.; a flagon of 1737, the lid engraved with the arms of Braddyll, with Dodding in an escutcheon of pretence, and the bottom inscribed 'Parish of Ulverstone,' and bearing the mark of Gabriel Sleath; a chalice of 1804, with maker's mark R.G.; a chalice and paten of 1866, Sheffield make, the latter inscribed 'This paten and cup were given to the parish Church of Ulverston upon its restoration by the Rev. Canon Gwillym, 1866'; two chalices by Elkington of Birmingham, 1883; two chalices of 1880; and a modern paten of Sheffield make.
The registers begin in 1545, but one volume (1614 to 1653) is missing. There are also gaps in the baptisms from 1586 to 1594 and from 1656 to 1662; in the marriages from 1586 to 1598 and from 1672 to 1676; and in the burials from 1584 to 1594. The earliest volumes down to 1812 have been printed. (fn. 22) The churchwardens' accounts (fn. 23) begin in 1724.
The churchyard was enlarged in 1851. It is crossed by public footpaths between railings, and has a large yew tree near to the church on the south side.
The advowson of the church was held or claimed by William de Lancaster in right of his barony of Ulverston, and the church was given by him to Conishead Priory. (fn. 24) The monks of Furness, however, alleged that it was not a parish church, but only a chapel to their church of Urswick, and the dispute with Conishead was settled about 1208 by a compromise, the monks securing an acknowledgement of their right to Hawkshead, while the canons retained Ulverston and Pennington as parish churches, allowing a pension of 50s. a year to the abbey. (fn. 25) They served Ulverston by stipendiary secular priests, removable at their pleasure, retaining the whole of the endowments in their own hands. (fn. 26) In 1291 the church was taxed at £29 6s. 8d. a year, independently of the Furness pension of £6; but after the devastation wrought by the Scots in 1322 the nominal value was reduced to £5. (fn. 27) The ninth of sheaves, wool, &c., in 1341 was given as £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 28) In 1527 the value of the church was given as £40 a year, (fn. 29) but in 1535 at no more than £21 10s. (fn. 30)
After the suppression of the priory the rectory was in 1609 sold by the Crown, (fn. 31) a quit-rent of £42 being payable, and the grantees finding a curate. In 1650 Mr. Fleming of Rydal and Mr. Ambrose of Lowick, the impropriators, gave the minister £8 a year, and in lieu of a further £2 allowed him to take the fees for weddings, burials and christenings and profits of the churchyard. (fn. 32) John Ambrose of Lowick, who died in 1684, left £200 for the church, and this stimulating others an endowment was secured for the incumbency, which was called a vicarage, and in 1717 the certified income was £28 18s. (fn. 33) The first institution of a vicar took place in 1714. (fn. 34) About the same time the right of nomination was with the rectory purchased by John Braddyll of Conishead; it descended in his family till the sale of Conishead, when it was purchased by Messrs. Petty and Postlethwaite, and then by the Rev. Alfred Peache, in whose trustees it is now vested. (fn. 35) By the transfer of tithes about 1893 the vicarage became a rectory. The net value is said to be £255. (fn. 36)
The following have been incumbents (fn. 37) :—
|bef. 1542||Leonard Fell (fn. 38)|
|oc. 1548||John Henshaw (fn. 39)|
|oc. 1554||Oliver Whitwell (fn. 40)|
|oc. 1562||John Egglesfield (fn. 41)|
|—||John Towson (fn. 42)|
|1603||William Curwen (fn. 43)|
|—||John Walker (fn. 44)|
|—||— Benson (fn. 45)|
|oc. 1646–8||Philip Bennet, M.A. (fn. 46)|
|oc. 1650–2||Hugh Gunn (fn. 47)|
|oc. 1652||William Lampett (fn. 48)|
|oc. 1663||Thomas Hunter (fn. 49)|
|oc. 1674||James Muncaster (fn. 50)|
|1683||John Crewdson (fn. 51)|
|1696||Thomas Wildman (fn. 52)|
|1714||Edmund Atkinson (fn. 53)|
|1765||Richard Scales, B.D. (fn. 54) (St. John's Coll., Camb.)|
|1786||Edward Jackson (fn. 55)|
|1789||Thomas Smith (fn. 56)|
|1807||John Sunderland, M.A. (fn. 57) (Trin. Coll., Camb.)|
|1834||Richard Gwillym, M.A. (fn. 58) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1868||George Gustavus Morton, M.A. (fn. 59) (T.C.D.)|
|1878||Charles Wareing Bardsley, M.A. (fn. 60) (Worc. Coll., Oxf.)|
|1893||John Charles Wright, M.A. (fn. 61) (Merton Coll., Oxf.)|
|1896||Joseph Udell Norman Bardsley, M.A. (fn. 62) (Gonville and Caius Coll., Camb.)|
|1909||John Henry Heywood, M.A. (fn. 63) (Univ. Coll., Oxf.)|
In addition to the incumbent appointed by the canons of Conishead there was before the Reformation an endowment for a stipendiary priest, who was 'to celebrate mass and serve in the choir there, for ever.' Thomas Dobson, aged forty-four, was so serving in 1548; his income from lands was £3 5s. 10d., and he had no living beside. (fn. 64) Normally, therefore, there would be two priests at the parish church and one each at the three or four chapels; the visitation lists of 1548 and 1554 show eight names, while that of 1562 gives five, three of the clergy appearing and subscribing. (fn. 65) What happened during the next eighty years remains uncertain; beyond the £10 allowed for the curate of Ulverston there was no settled maintenance for any other minister. In the survey of 1650 no incumbent is named at the parish church, which may have been vacant at the time; but Lowick had a 'preaching minister,' the other three chapels having 'readers' only. (fn. 66) The visitation list of 1674 names incumbents for Ulverston and Torver (fn. 67); that of 1691 names all but Torver, but three of the curates were in deacon's orders. (fn. 68) In 1699 it was reported that the church and churchyard were in poor condition, and there was apparently no communion table, though the minister celebrated the Lord's Supper twice a year in the parish church and twice in two of the chapels. (fn. 69) Additional endowments allowed improvements to be made; but it was not till 1832 that another church was built.
At one time there seems to have been a hospital for lepers at or near Ulverston (fn. 70); nothing is now known of its site or history, but it may explain the title of Spital in Urswick.
The grammar school was founded in 1658 through a legacy by Judge Fell. (fn. 71) At Lowick in 1717 there was a school; in the other chapelries the curate taught in the chapel. (fn. 72)
Inquiries into the charities of the parish (fn. 73) were made in 1820 and 1900; the report of the latter, including a reprint of the earlier one, was issued in 1901. The following details are taken from it. In addition to the educational and religious benefactions, now producing £150 a year, there is over £200 for the poor, and allotments of town lands in Ulverston and Egton provide further sums of £564 19s. and £176 3s. 6d. respectively in relief of the poor rate. (fn. 74) The guide over Kent Sands has £34 17s. a year and the guide over Leven Sands £42. (fn. 75)
For the whole parish there is a gift of Bibles distributed to the townships in turn; it was made by Roger Sawrey, Chamberlain of the city of York, in 1718, land called Skinner Close in Ulverston being assigned, for which a rent of £10 is obtained.
For the township of Ulverston the principal benefaction is the gift of £5,000 by John Park in 1819 for 'clothing in decent and frugal manner twelve poor indigent old men of good character and behaviour belonging to the town and hamlet of Ulverston, who had led sober and industrious lives, and were members of the Church of England, and regularly attended divine worship at the parish church of Ulverston,' and for giving each of them a pension up to £12 a year; any balance was to be distributed in sums of from 10s. to 30s. to poor families, of good character, not receiving poor relief. The net amount received was invested in government stock, and now yields £146 19s. 8d.; out of this £12 a year each is given to twelve aged men attending the parish church or Holy Trinity Church, and on appointment a pensioner receives a suit of clothes, &c. The general charities for the use of the poor are the Mill Dam charity, from the rent of a field purchased by an ancient gift of £24 added to £50 from Jane Kirby (1767) and £40 from Jane Braddyll (1776), for a Sunday distribution of bread; the Bainbridge charity, arising from £50 given by Mrs. Eleanor Bainbridge (1810), sister of Jane Kirby; the Nevill Hall charity, arising from the sale of the old poor-house; and Miss Ann Kilner's charity, from £200 bequeathed by her in 1849 for the benefit of twelve poor women. The total income is £28 15s., and is administered by the rector, churchwardens and overseers, but each fund is regarded separately, the objects of the donors being considered; it is given mostly in small doles at Christmas time. (fn. 76) Thomas Fell of Swarthmoor charged his estate with 30s. a year (fn. 77) for clothing a boy on his going out apprentice; the charge is still paid, and the churchwardens pay the 30s. to a suitable applicant. Elizabeth Kirkman of Saddleworth in 1864 bequeathed money for the Wesleyan chapel at Ulverston and for gifts of 5s. each to twenty poor women on Christmas Eve; this is administered by the chapel trustees. Mary Watson, widow, in 1882 gave £40 to keep her vault and tomb in Trinity churchyard in repair; the surplus (about 15s.) is given to the poor. Adam Woodburn in 1897 gave £200 for various purposes, including the poor of St. Mary's and Holy Trinity, 20s. a year to each parish.
Lowick has a poor's fund of £24 and a house for the poor at Knapperthaw, bought in 1801; the income of 15s. 5d. is given on New Year's Day in small sums.
Blawith has 22s. 9d. a year, derived from a sum of £40 bequeathed by William Lancaster of Wateryeat in 1812; it is given to a poor woman.
Torver has £8 for the poor, derived from a number of ancient benefactions, including £40 for prayer books and hymn books from Samuel Towers (c. 1730) and £100 for six poor women from Ann Kilner (1849). John Middleton in 1685 made provision for charities in Ulpha, Broughton and Torver, and to the last-named place £37 was allotted. This is now represented by £2 a year from land at Rose Hill; it is distributed by the parish meeting, together with the unappropriated portion, about £3, of the general charitable fund, ten or fifteen poor persons sharing. John Woodale's charity (1729) has been lost.
The same is the case with the benefactions of Roger Fleming and others for Church Coniston (fn. 78); it is supposed that the capital, amounting at one time to £62, was expended as income. Susanna Beever in 1889 bequeathed £600 for the benefit of the poor; the income is applied by the trustees in medical relief and gifts of coal, groceries, &c.