A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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Ulvrestun, Dom. Bk.; Olveston, 1155; Ulvereston, 1180; Ulveston, 1202; Ulvestun, 1208; Ulreston, 1246; Ulverestone, 1302. A final e was commonly used a century ago. The local pronunciation is Ooston.
The township of Ulverston occupies the southern end of the parish, and consists in the main of a slightly undulating country with a general rise from the Leven estuary westwards, 200 ft. above sea level being attained on the south-east border of Pennington. North of the town the surface rises more rapidly, and Hoad Hill to the north-east, crowned by the Barrow monument, is 435 ft. above sea level; another, named Flan Hill, on the border of Mansriggs, is 476 ft., and at the head of Hasty Gill, on the north-west, the 700 ft. level is reached. South-east of the town are the hamlet of Dragley Beck, Gascow, and the site and park of Conishead Priory, with Chapel Island off the coast; while south-west are Swarth Moor and Trinkeld. Roshead, formerly Rosset, lies on the western border, extending north up the valley called Hasty Gill. A fine view of the whole district may be obtained from the Barrow monument. The area is 3,120 acres, (fn. 1) and in 1901 the population was 10,064.
The market town of Ulverston, which became the chief place in Furness on the destruction of the abbey, stands at the northern end of the township, just where the hills begin to rise from the plain country. The market-stead, (fn. 2) formerly the centre of the trade of the district, lies on the western side of the present town, which is expanding to the east or shore side. From the square the road south, at first called Queen Street, leads to the railway station, and beyond that to Urswick and Aldingham; to the west go roads to Dalton and to Kirkby Ireleth; to the east Market Street (fn. 3) leads to County Square, and by the Ellers and Ratton Row (fn. 4) (Quebec Street) to Greenodd; to the north the short King Street leads to a point called Little Cross, from which various roads diverge—Mill Street west to a large open space called the Gill, where the fairs are held; Soutergate, north to Town Bank, where was the grammar school, Flan Hill, and Broughton; Church Walk, north-east to the parish church; and Fountain Street, east to the head of the canal, and then to Newland and Greenodd. The canal, a mile and a half in length, which connects the town with the sea, was constructed in 1794, and led to a considerable increase in the shipping trade; it was a remarkable work in its time, but the opening of the railway and the docks of Barrow have long rendered it practically useless. Recently at the sea end, Canal Foot, and at Sand Side villages have sprung up, iron furnaces having been constructed there in 1876, and a paper factory and a chemical works also. There are tanneries and corn mills in the town, and minor industries, including the making of patent shutters. (fn. 5) Agriculture occupies the outlying parts of the township. The weekly market is well frequented, and in the summer tourists find Ulverston a convenient centre from which to make excursions through an interesting district.
The growth of the town has obscured some of the natural features. Levy Beck is still unaffected; it flows down Hasty Gill and then turns east through a wooded defile, changing its name to Dragley Beck at the hamlet so named; thence it winds its way through the level country till it reaches the Leven estuary at Saltcotes. It is joined by Lund Beck, which flows under the centre of the town from the Gill, (fn. 6) having its source in Osmotherley, 2 miles to the north. Lightburn, another brook, used to run along the south side of the town to join Lund Beck; it was once famous for its purity, and soda water and other drinks were made from it. (fn. 7) At Plumpton was a small medicinal spring.
From the town, as already indicated, roads lead away in all directions, and there are numerous crossroads. Along the southern border is one now called Red Lane, from the red dust of the ore that used to be carted down to Conishead for shipment; it was formerly called Streetgate, and has sometimes been asserted to be on the line of a Roman road from White Thorn on the shore of Morecambe Bay westward to Lindal and Dalton. The Furness railway passes through the township to the south of the town, where there is a station, and it has a branch line along the eastern shore to Conishead Priory. There is also a mineral line connected with the furnaces.
There are clubs and institutions of various kinds in the town. Among these are the North Lonsdale Agricultural Society, founded in 1838, holding its show every August, and the Rose Society (1884), which has an important exhibition each summer. A cottage hospital was opened in 1873 and was enlarged in 1904. There are four banks, two of which are opened daily; also a Savings Bank, first opened in 1816, and established in its present building in Union Street in 1838.
A volunteer corps was raised in 1804, but disbanded in 1806; the colours used to be preserved in the parish church. In 1860 a corps of Rifle Volunteers was raised; it became the 1st V.B. The King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment). Under the Territorial system it is the 4th Battalion King's Own Regiment.
The old distinction, of unknown origin, between the 'town' and the 'hamlet' of Ulverston is still recognized in the election of churchwardens.
A printing press was at work in the town in 1798, (fn. 8) when the Rev. W. Atkinson's Principal Part of the Old Testament, &c., was issued as 'printed and sold' by George Ashburner, bookseller of Ulverston. (fn. 9) A library was instituted in 1797. (fn. 10)
In 1066 Turulf held ULVERSTON as six plough-lands, together with Bolton and Dendron to the south, which descended separately after the Conquest. Ulverston was in the king's hands in 1086, (fn. 11) and as part of the honour of Lancaster was held by Stephen Count of Boulogne in 1127, when he specially named it as included in his grant of a moiety of Furness to found the abbey. (fn. 12) It was probably at that time held immediately by the Lancaster family, for about 1162 Henry II confirmed an agreement made between the monks and William de Lancaster I as to the division of Furness Fells. (fn. 13) William chose the moiety to the west of Coniston Water; thus he would obtain the lordship of an unbroken territory, that of the parish of Ulverston, extending north to the boundary of the county. In 1196 a further agreement was made, by which Ulverston and the western moiety of the Fells were by the monks confirmed to Gilbert Fitz Reinfred and his wife Helewise, the heiress of William de Lancaster, at rents of 10s. and 20s. respectively. Gilbert and Helewise renounced all claim to Newby in Yorkshire and to hunting rights in the eastern moiety of the Fells; they also promised the monks a free passage through Ulverston and Crakeslith to the Crake fishery and the land beyond. (fn. 14)
On the division of the Lancaster estates after 1246 (fn. 15) Ulverston was held in moieties like Nether Wyresdale. (fn. 16) The Lindsay moiety passed to Coucy, (fn. 17) and on escheat to the Furness monks as superior lords (fn. 18); the other moiety was granted to Roger de Lancaster, from whose descendants it was acquired, as related below, by the Harringtons of Aldingham. These moieties came to the Crown in the 16th century by the surrender of Furness Abbey in 1537 (fn. 19) and the forfeiture of the Duke of Suffolk in 1554. (fn. 20) The former moiety was sold by James I in 1609 (fn. 21) and became the property of Kirkby of Kirkby Ireleth, (fn. 22) and the other in 1613, (fn. 23) soon afterwards coming into the hands of Thomas Fell (fn. 24) of Swarthmoor. This descended to his son-in-law Daniel Abraham, who also purchased the Kirkby moiety in 1718. (fn. 25) The whole manor was in 1736 sold to the Duke of Montagu, (fn. 26) from whom it has descended in the same way as the lordship of Furness to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry and his son the Earl of Dalkeith. Courts are held annually at Ulverston.
The profits of the manor were thus described in 1774: 'Free rents, customary rents, encroachment rents, hen rents, greenhew rents, shearing rents, moss rents and saltcote rents; the town term, which is held every seventh year; the fines and amercements, two court leets and a court baron; the fines of customary tenants upon every alienation by death or purchase of the tenant: (these are by custom certain, though different in many of the estates; and in some of the estates the tenants pay a certain fine upon the death of the lord:) and all other liberties and advantages usually belonging to such courts; the profits of a fair at Ulverston, and the free fishing upon Thurston Water, within the several parishes of Ulverston, Dalton, Hawkshead, Colton, Otterstock, Napingtree and Watergarth.' (fn. 27) These customs remain almost the same to the present time. (fn. 28)
The above-named Roger de Lancaster, illegitimate half-brother of William de Lancaster III, (fn. 29) obtained a grant in fee of the moiety of Ulverston from the Brus heirs and a life-grant from the Lindsays, as appears from an agreement between Roger and the Abbot of Furness made in 1282, by which Roger was recognized as holding immediately of the abbot, and did homage in Cartmel Church. (fn. 30) Roger had in 1266–7 obtained a charter of free warren, (fn. 31) and in 1280 he further procured a charter for a Thursday market at Ulverston and a yearly fair on 7–9 September, (fn. 32) but the abbot objected to the market, as it was to the injury of his own market at Dalton, (fn. 33) and the market is stated to have remained in abeyance till the overthrow of the abbey, when it was revived as more conveniently placed at Ulverston than at Dalton. (fn. 34) Roger was living in 1291, (fn. 35) but was in that year succeeded by his son John, who was involved in various suits. (fn. 36) Ingram de Gynes and Christiana his wife claimed against him the moiety of thirty-seven messuages, a mill, saltpit, bakehouse, two forges and various land, (fn. 37) and the king summoned him to prove his right to free warren in Ulverston. (fn. 38) He made John de Hudleston his forester for the barony of Ulverston, (fn. 39) but at a later time the validity of the grant was denied and puture was accordingly refused. (fn. 40) John de Lancaster took part in the wars of the time in Scotland, and was made a knight. (fn. 41) In or before 1334 he granted his part of Ulverston to John de Harrington, (fn. 42) and from that time till 1554, as stated above, it descended with Muchland. (fn. 43)
NEVILL HALL manor originated in a grant by William de Lancaster to his knight Lawrence de Cornwall of the mills and various lands. (fn. 44) John son of Lawrence de Cornwall (fn. 45) was engaged in various disputes in 1292, (fn. 46) and left sons named Lawrence and Mauger, (fn. 47) whose inheritance by 1332–47 came to Sir Edmund de Nevill and to his son William and Aline his wife. (fn. 48) It descended in this family, which was seated at Liversedge in Yorkshire, till the 16th century, (fn. 49) when Sir John Nevill having taken part in the northern rising of 1569, it became forfeited to the Crown (fn. 50) and was afterwards sold in parcels. (fn. 51) The customs of the manor were thus described in 1774: The admittance fine was two years' rent in addition to the ordinary rent; the fine on change of lords, half a year's rent; the running gressom or 'town's term,' half a year's rent every seventh year; the widow, if a first wife, had half the tenement as dower, but if a later wife then one-third. Formerly a tenant paying 20s. rent had been bound to keep a horse harnessed for the king's service. (fn. 52) The hall was sold to the town authorities for a workhouse in 1753, and so used till 1838, when the new workhouse in the Gill was built. It was sold in 1844. (fn. 53) The present police station (1872) stands on the site, the last remaining portion of the old hall having been pulled down in 1881 to make way for the superintendent's residence. The manor is supposed to have been dissipated by various changes and to be extinct. (fn. 54)
CONISHEAD (fn. 55) became the seat of a priory of canons and its earlier history has been related elsewhere. It had lands in Ulverston, Plumpton, Gascow and Swarthmoor in addition to the site. (fn. 56) There is little to record of the priory's tenure, but a fishery dispute in 1351 has some points of interest. The prior complained that Thomas de Leek, Thomas del Bate and many others had fished in his several fishery at Ulverston and had taken salmon, bream, flukes, eels, flounders, &c. The defendants asserted that in right of their tenements in Ulverston they could fish there. The jury found that the Leven fishery was the several fishery of the prior, except that the free tenants of the town had always been accustomed to fish in the Leven with nets called 'hanes,' and also in the sands and streams during the ebb for all fish except salmon. The defendants having taken salmon were convicted, and were fined 5s. each. (fn. 57) Some court rolls are preserved. (fn. 58)
After the Dissolution the site was purchased from the Crown by William Sandys son of William Sandys of Hawkshead. (fn. 59) He came to a violent end in 1559, (fn. 60) holding the capital messuage called Conishead, with land, of the queen in chief by knight's service. (fn. 61) His son Francis, only nine years old, died at Esthwaite without issue in 1583 and his halfsisters, Margaret and Barbara, became heirs. The former was living in London, the wife of Miles Dodding, and the latter at Crook, the wife of Miles Philipson. (fn. 62) Miles son of Miles Dodding was seated at Conishead in 1613, when he recorded a pedigree. (fn. 63) He died in 1629. (fn. 64) His son George in 1632 purchased the Philipson moiety. (fn. 65) When the Civil War broke out he took the Parliament's side with great zeal, raising troops and acting as colonel. (fn. 66) He fought at Marston Moor, where many of his men were killed. (fn. 67) He died about 1650, administration to his estate being granted in 1651. His son Miles, born about 1642, entered St. John's College, Cambridge, as a fellow commoner in 1659. (fn. 68) He recorded a pedigree in 1664 (fn. 69) and died in 1683, leaving one child surviving, Sarah wife of John Braddyll of Portfield near Whalley. (fn. 70)
John Braddyll settled at Conishead, and showed himself a benefactor to the church of Ulverston. He died in 1728 and his wife Sarah in 1744. (fn. 71) Their son Dodding succeeded. He represented Lancaster in the Parliament of 1715–22 as a Whig. (fn. 72) He was succeeded in 1749 by his only surviving son Thomas, (fn. 73) who died unmarried in 1776, leaving all his estates to his kinsman Wilson Gale, who took the name and arms of Braddyll. (fn. 74) Wilson Braddyll was member of Parliament for Lancaster 1780–4 and for Carlisle 1791–6 as a Whig. (fn. 75) By inheritance and marriage he had large estates; he had an office at court and entertained royalty at Conishead. (fn. 76) He died in 1818 and his son Col. Thomas Richmond Gale Braddyll built the present Conishead Priory. The mansion stands in the centre of a lofty plateau sloping gently to the shores of the bay, about 2 miles to the south-east of Ulverston, on or close to the site of the ancient religious house. The situation is one of much natural beauty, commanding extensive views, and Conishead has been termed 'the Paradise of Furness.' (fn. 77) The present house was begun in 1821 (fn. 78) by Colonel Braddyll from the designs of Philip Wyatt, and is a large building in the Gothic style of the day, generally two stories in height, the chief external features being the two octagonal turrets flanking the entrance on the north side, which rise to a height of about 100 ft. The hall, which is 60 ft. by 25 ft. and 41 ft. high, is said to occupy the site of the north transept of the conventual church, (fn. 79) and the walls of one of the rooms are entirely lined with 17th-century carved oak panelling of elaborate character brought here by Col. Braddyll. (fn. 80) The building takes the place of an earlier residence said to have been erected at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries out of the ruins of the priory, but it had apparently been either rebuilt or considerably altered before 1821, the south front being then in the ' modern taste.' (fn. 81) Col. Braddyll acted as high sheriff in 1821. He was a liberal and kindly man, but by extravagance and reverses of fortune was about 1850 compelled to sell Conishead. (fn. 82)
The priory of Conishead was bound to find a guide across Leven sands towards Cartmel. He was called the carter. John Hartley held the office at the Dissolution at a wage of £3 6s. 8d (fn. 83) The duty is still provided for, as will be gathered from the report on the parish charities. The chapel on the island on the way across, which is now in Holker in Cartmel, was probably an oratory where travellers might pray before or after crossing the sands.
ROSHEAD was divided among a number of persons by William de Lancaster III. (fn. 84) These portions appear in various inquisitions and records of later times. (fn. 85) More recently the Fells of Dalton Gate had a considerable estate there, which was sold to Myles Kennedy of Stone Cross about 1870. (fn. 86)
SWARTHMOOR (fn. 87) was acquired by the Fells of Hawkswell in Lowick, (fn. 88) and about 1635 the house there became the residence of Thomas Fell, a barrister. (fn. 89) He acquired a moiety of the manor of Ulverston. He was a zealous Parliamentarian, and in 1645 was member of Parliament for Lancaster. (fn. 90) In 1651 he was appointed a judge for Cheshire and North Wales, whence his name 'Judge Fell,' and was ViceChancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He died in 1658, leaving money for a grammar school at Ulverston. (fn. 91) His wife Margaret daughter of John Askew of Marsh Grange in Dalton was a woman of heroic type and one of the early disciples of George Fox. Swarthmoor became a centre for Fox's missionary travels. Judge Fell himself was friendly, and his widow in 1669 married Fox. (fn. 92) In 1689 two Quaker meetings were registered, one at Swarthmoor Hall and the other at a new building upon Swarthmoor. (fn. 93) The latter is the meeting-house still used by the Society of Friends. It has over the porch the inscription 'ex dono g. f. 1688,' and Fox's Bible is there preserved. Others of the early Quaker teachers were connected with the place, as William Caton (fn. 94) and Thomas Salthouse. (fn. 95)
Judge Fell left a son George and seven daughters, and on the Restoration a general pardon was granted to George Fell of Swarthmoor, lately of age, whose father had been 'a grand malignant.' (fn. 96) In 1665 the son obtained a grant of the estates of his mother Margaret Fell, forfeited on her conviction at Lancaster assizes; 'she had run herself into a premunire for embracing the fanatic opinions of the Quakers during the late usurpation and obstinately adhering thereto.' George Fell had done his best to induce her to conform. (fn. 97) George died in 1670, and Rachel his youngest sister, wife of Daniel Abraham, or her husband, appears to have acquired a large part of the estates. (fn. 98) Daniel Abraham was son of John Abraham of Manchester. He was a Quaker, and suffered for his religion (fn. 99); he died in 1731, and his son John sold the manor of Ulverston as above stated; and Swarthmoor also was disposed of in 1759. John Abraham died at Skerton in 1771. (fn. 100)
SWARTHMOOR HALL, a plain rough-cast, threestory building of Elizabethan or early Jacobean date, stands on high ground on the edge of Swarthmoor about three-quarters of a mile to the south-west of Ulverston. (fn. 101) The building, which is L-shaped on plan, has a principal frontage of 48 ft. to the east, with a large bay window going up the full height and terminating in a broken-roofed gable on the south end. (fn. 102) The building has long been used as a farm-house, and was in a ruinous and neglected condition up to about 1890, (fn. 103) when it was repaired and the interior a good deal modernized. The house, however, retains its low stone mullioned windows, those to the bay alone having transoms, but many of them at the sides and back are built up; the roofs are covered with modern blue slates. The hall is in the south-east corner with the bay window facing east, but it has been reduced in size at the west end by the erection of a wall in the position of the screen, making a passage or lobby between it and the kitchen. In front of the south doorway now at the end of the passage a later porch has been built which bears the date 1726, and other work seems to have been done to the house or outbuildings earlier in the 18th century, one of the latter bearing a stone with the initials of Thomas Fell, 1651, and of John Abraham his grandson, 1715. (fn. 104) The hall and kitchen have flagged floors, but are without architectural interest. The staircase is a good specimen of Jacobean oak work built round four continuous square newels, forming a well 2 ft. square the full height of the house and filled in with turned balusters. On the first floor are two oak-panelled rooms, in one of which is a good fireplace with Ionic pillars. In the hall are preserved George Fox's desk and other relics, and a doorway on its north side leads to a small room once his study. On the first floor is another small room with an external doorway on the east front, in front of which there was formerly a balcony from which Fox used to address the people. The doorway, which may have been an insertion in Fox's time, has a stone head with carved ornament. The outbuildings are situated on the west side of the house, the principal approach to which was from the high road to Urswick on the edge of the moor. (fn. 105)
TRINKELD is mentioned in various ways. (fn. 106) At one time, from 1595 onwards, another Fell family lived there, an offshoot of the Fells of Pennington. (fn. 107) In 1642 Richard Pettie, Bryan Asliffe and James Fell, on behalf of themselves and the other customary tenants in Trinkeld, complained of the heavy fines exacted by William Pennington of Muncaster on changes of tenancy, and after the death of his father Joseph. (fn. 108) Trinkeld is here styled a manor.
A few other names of owners can be gleaned from the records, (fn. 109) but they are of little interest. Thomas Urswick of Urswick in 1519 held a close called the Moot How. (fn. 110) The 'Hee' was in dispute in 1563. (fn. 111) As the name Ulverston is used for the parish and the barony it is not always possible to ascertain the exact places referred to. The freeholders named in 1600 were Christopher and George Fell and Francis Corker. (fn. 112) No sequestrations or forfeitures occur in the Commonwealth period.
An inclosure of common lands was made in 1813. (fn. 113)
The foundation of the borough of Ulverston is unknown, but about 1200 Gilbert son of Roger son of Reinfred granted certain liberties to his 'free burgesses' there; he limited the forfeiture of the tongue to 4d., other forfeits to be according to the customs of the boroughs in the neighbourhood; and while allowing to sell ale 1d. the gallon (sextarius) dearer than at Appleby, he required them to sell to him at 1d. less than to their neighbours. (fn. 114) Roger de Lancaster in 1285 released the burgesses from the duty of being chamberlain and from doing anything but what the burgesses of Kendal did; and Ingram de Gynes and Christiana his wife also allowed exemption from the chamberlainship. (fn. 115) Further grants were made, (fn. 116) and the name of burgages was kept up in the 16th century, (fn. 117) but the borough did not acquire any independence. The township and parish were ruled to a large extent by 'the Twenty-four' and the manor courts. (fn. 118) In modern times a local board was formed in 1871 (fn. 119); this became an urban district council in 1894. There are fifteen members, chosen by four wards—Central, North, East and South. A school board was formed in 1875. (fn. 120) Ulverston is also the head of a rural district council for the whole of Furness and Cartmel except Barrow. Gas was supplied to the town in 1834 (fn. 121); the water supply comes from a reservoir at Pennington. (fn. 122) The district council offices in Queen Street were built in 1903; the market hall owned by the council dates from 1875–8, and there is a cattle market (1877) in Victoria Road belonging to a private company. The cemetery, to the south of the town, was opened in 1878, and is under the care of the council.
The parish church has been described above. It has two mission churches in the township—St. Jude's, Sandside, 1874, and a mission-room in Ratton Row, 1867. Holy Trinity Church, consecrated in 1832, is in the gift of trustees. (fn. 123)
Whiterleld preached in the town in 1750 and Wesley in 1752, but with little result. The old Wesleyan Methodist chapel in the Ellers was built in 1814; the present church on an adjoining site in 1901. A. mission chapel was opened in 1875. There is also a Primitive Methodist chapel. The Bible Christians hold services.
The Congregational church in Soutergate was first erected in 1778, and was enlarged in 1847. It does not appear that this had any connexion with the old Nonconformity of 1662, though William Lampett, the incumbent then ejected from the parish church, had a licence for his house in 1672 as an Independent. (fn. 124) The next Independent minister occurs in 1777, but he had probably been stationed there a year or two already. Though strong enough to pass through a time of persecution the cause does not seem to have made much progress till about 1835, when the Rev. Francis Evans took charge. (fn. 125) It has been self-supporting since 1848. (fn. 126) There is a mission hall.
The house of a Baptist was licensed for meetings
as early as 1745, but the present chapel in Fountain
Street dates from 1871 only. The Salvation Army
and the Church of Christ are represented. There is
a Spiritual church, also, and various other organizations have been represented at times.
The Society of Friends still maintains the Swarthmoor meeting-house of 1688 already mentioned; it has also another in New Church Lanc, Ulverston.
The history of the Roman Catholic mission in Furness has been told in the account of Dalton. (fn. 127) In 1779 its seat was removed to Ulverston. It was served sometimes by Jesuits and sometimes by secular priests. The first place of worship built was a school in Tarnside; then a church, now the Oddfellows' Hall, in Fountain Street, 1823; and this was succeeded by the present church of St. Mary of Furness in Victoria Road in 1895. The Jesuits finally resigned charge of the mission in 1863. (fn. 128) The stones for the foundation of the tower of the older church were taken from Furness Abbey.