Townships: Dunnerton with Seathwaite

Pages 406-408

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

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Dunerdale, 1293; Donerdale, 1300.

There is no established boundary between the two parts of this township, Dunnerdale being the southern and Seathwaite the northern end of it. (fn. 1) It contains 10,257½ acres of bare mountainous country (fn. 2) on the eastern side of the Duddon, there being only one or two woody patches in the valley, and the various peaks rising from 1,200 ft. in the south to over 2,500 ft. in the north. Seathwaite Tarn is 1,210 ft. above the sea; it discharges by Tarn Beck into the Duddon. There are cairns and other ancient remains. The modern inhabitants are accommodated in a few small hamlets and lonely farm-houses along the valley. The chapel of Seathwaite, about the centre of the western edge, stands almost by itself, with Newfield to the south. The population in 1901 was 263.

The principal road enters the township at the south near Duddon Bridge, and proceeds up the river valley. It crosses over into Cumberland at Ulpha but returns to the Lancashire side near Hall Dunnerdale and goes on to the chapel. From this point minor roads go over the mountains to Coniston on the east and Broughton on the south, the latter by Stainton Ground, Hesketh Hall and Broughton Mills on the Lickle.

Seathwaite is noteworthy as the home of 'Wonderful Walker,' once the curate of the chapel and master of the school. Robert Walker was born at Undercragg, about a mile north of the chapel, in 1709, the youngest of twelve children. Being of a delicate constitution it was decided 'to breed him a scholar,' and he became a teacher and then a clergyman. He took the curacy of his native place, the stipend being then £5 a year, (fn. 3) married and brought up his family. He taught school in the chapel, occupying himself at the same time with the spinning wheel, acted as legal adviser and scrivener for the district around, tilled his garden and attended to his sheep and his few acres of land. He died 25 June 1802, having been curate of Seathwaite for sixty-six years.

There was formerly a plumbago mine near Seathwaite. The land is mostly used for pasture.


DUNNERDALE was included in that part of the Fells chosen by William de Lancaster I on the partition made about 1160, (fn. 4) and was by him given to Roger de Kirkby, a gift confirmed by his son William II to Roger's son William; a rent of 4s. a year was to be paid. (fn. 5) The manor is mentioned in connexion with Kirkby Ireleth in family deeds (fn. 6) and seems usually to have been regarded as a hamlet of Kirkby, (fn. 7) but it was sold in 1497 by Henry Kirkby. (fn. 8) Soon afterwards it was held by the Earl of Derby, (fn. 9) but was in 1610 sold to the Heskeths. (fn. 10) In more recent times the manor has been held with Duddon Hall in Cumberland, (fn. 11) the present lord, by purchase about 1903, being Mr. George Herbert Cheetham of Manchester.

A court baron may be held for the manor, (fn. 12) but the land is mostly held by resident freeholders. The place is rarely mentioned in the records. (fn. 13) An award concerning the sheepgates in Seathwaite was made in 1681. (fn. 14)

A 'manor of Cockley Beck' in Kirkby Ireleth is named in a fine of 1791, John Bracken being in possession. (fn. 15)


The chapel at SEATHWAITE was said by tradition to have been built by an Earl of Derby, (fn. 16) and the lord of the manor has always nominated the curate or vicar, though the chapel was supposed to be subordinate to Broughton. In 1650 there was no endowment, but the inhabitants contributed to employ a reader. (fn. 17) About 1717 this contribution amounted to £3 18s. 9d., to which the lord of the manor (Mr. Penny) added £2 by custom; the curate there read prayers and a homily every Sunday and the curate of Broughton administered the sacrament thrice a year. The curate also taught a school, but there was no endowment. (fn. 18)

It was reported to Bishop Gastrell in 1724 that Seathwaite had thrown off the jurisdiction of Richmond about 1675. The vicar of Kirkby Ireleth had always insisted that it was within his peculiar jurisdiction and commonly proved wills and granted licences there, 'but the inhabitants being poor, the jurisdiction is not thought worth disputing.' (fn. 19) The chapelwardens of Broughton in 1729 gave a somewhat different account, stating that the inhabitants of Seathwaite had separated themselves when it tended for their advantage, but when Mr. Muncaster (lately vicar of Kirkby) had demanded, as they thought, too high fees from them, they returned to the Broughton jurisdiction. The vicar afterwards made peace with them and then they once more denied all rights there to the curate and officers of Broughton.

The net value is now stated to be £140 a year. The present church of the Holy Trinity was built in 1874 on the old site (fn. 20); a separate parish was formed for it in 1886. The following have been incumbents (fn. 21) :—

1735 Robert Walker (fn. 22)
1802 Edward Tyson
1854 Robert Rolleston, B.A. (fn. 23) (Univ. Coll., Oxf.)
1857 Thomas Anderson, B.A.
1860 Richard Walker, M.A. (New Coll., Oxf.)
1875 Sydney Richard Maynard Walker, B.A. (Christ Church, Oxf.)
1904 Reginald Jeffcott Dickson, B.A. (Queens' Coll., Camb.)
1905 James Beardwood Ditchfield, M.A. (Dur.)

Holy Innocents', a chapel of ease to Broughton, is in Dunnerdale, near Broughton Mills. It was built in 1887.

The Society of Friends has a burial-ground at Low Kiln Bank near Ulpha Bridge, but it has long been disused. (fn. 24)


  • 1. The name Seathwaite refers strictly only to the valley from the tarn to the chapel.
  • 2. The Census Rep. of 1901 gives 10,273 acres, including 74 of inland water.
  • 3. Other endowments were obtained from time to time.
  • 4. Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 311.
  • 5. Ibid. 442. The names of Dunnerdale and Seathwaite are not mentioned, but the land was that between Lickle and Duddon; from Lickle the bounds went to Deirsgard, Calfhead, Glanscalan and Wrynose; thence down by Duddon. The compiler of the Furness Couch. (Chet. Soc. ii, 351), writing in 1409, thought the grantor was William de Lancaster III, but was not sure.
  • 6. In the mortgage or settlement of Kirkby Ireleth and Dunnerdale in 1300 Robert de Lathom was the agent; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 188. He may have acquired some estate in Dunnerdale which afterwards descended to the Earls of Derby, for in 1336 Katherine wife of John de Denum claimed dower in the free tenement of Robert de Lathom (formerly her husband) in Kirkby Ireleth and Dunnerdale; De Banco R. 306, m. 16. The manors of Kirkby and Dunnerdale are named together in the settlement made in 1476 by Dame Ogle; Kuerden MSS. ii, fol. 212b.
  • 7. It was so styled in 1407; ibid, iii, K8.
  • 8. Final Conc, iii, 145–6, fine and recovery. The plaintiffs, James Molyneux and others, were probably acting for the Earl of Derby, the next possessor.
  • 9. In 1521; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. v, no. 68. The manors of Osmotherley and Dunnerdale were incorrectly stated to be held of the Abbot of Furness by services unknown. A similar statement was made after the death of Ferdinando, the fifth earl, in 1594; Add. MS. 32104, fol. 426. This manor had been included in a feoffment by Henry Earl of Derby in 1583; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 45, m. 94.
  • 10. Ibid. 74, no. 2.; the plaintiffs were Robert Hesketh and Richard (Robert) Hesketh, esq. It was sold by the widow and heirs of the fifth earl. The estate was described as the manor of Dunnerdale alias Dunnerdale-Seathwaite alias Seathwaite, &c. In 1620 it was owned by Robert Hesketh of Rufford, who gave it to trustees for the use of his male issue, with remainder to his bastard son Robert, who was in possession in 1623; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 354, 358. The tenure was unknown. Robert Hesketh, under age, in 1629 claimed various fines due on admission of tenants in Dunnerdale and Seathwaite; Pleas of Crown Lanc. bdle. 318, East. 5 Chas. I. Robert Hesketh of Dunnerdale in 1631 paid, £10 as composition for refusing knighthood; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 214. On the Civil War breaking out Robert Hesketh took the king's side and as 'a Papist delinquent' his estate in Dunnerdale was sequestered by the Parliament about 1644. His wife and infant daughter Mary had difficulty in obtaining any allowance, and obtained the advocacy of Robert's brother Cuthbert Hesketh of Kenwick, Salop, 'who had borne arms for the Parliament and was conformable'; Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 200–4. It afterwards (perhaps about 1696) came into the possession of James Penny of Penny Bridge and descended to his son William, who died in 1788; Bardsley, Chron. of Ulverston, 116–17; Gastrell, Notitia Cestr. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 529–30. Hesketh Hall is a house on the Broughton side of Dunnerdale, near the Lickle.
  • 11. The trustees of William Penny sold the manor to Richard Towers of Duddon Hall, whose niece and heiress, Miss Frances Esther Millers, the Lady Bountiful of the district, held it in 1842; Evans, Furness, 93. After litigation the Duddon Hall estates were in 1860 allowed to Major William Sawrey Rawlinson, in right of his maternal ancestor, the Rev. George Millers (St. John's Coll., Camb.; M.A. 1801), and on his death in 1875 they descended to his son William Millers Rawlinson; Burke, Landed Gentry.
  • 12. West, Furness (ed. 1774), 143.
  • 13. The name occurs as a surname in 1293, John de Dunnerdale being declared guilty of the death of Walter del Burn; Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 278. Thomas Troughton died in 1611 holding a messuage in Seathwaite; his daughter and heir Elizabeth wife of Hugh Askew was aged fifty-two in 1612; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), dxv, 160. The tenure is not recorded.
  • 14. Printed in Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. Soc. (new ser.), viii, 352.
  • 15. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 358, m. 85.
  • 16. Gastrell, Notitia Cestr. ii, 530. The story was that the people were carrying a body for burial at Kirkby in the winter time, and were prevented by the weather from going further than Newfield, the body being left exposed for several days; whereupon they asked Lord Derby to build a chapel; Richardson, Furness Past and Present, i, 173.
  • 17. Commonw, Ck. Surv. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 136. In 1658 it was proposed to divide the chapelries of Broughton and Seathwaite and the hamlet of Dunnerdale from Kirkby Ireleth and make them into an independent parish; Plund. Mins. Accts. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 236.
  • 18. Gastrell, op. cit. ii, 529–31. There was a chapelwarden elected by the sidesmen according to ancient custom, by which the hamlet wag divided into three parts. The hamlet of Dunnerdale was attached to the chapelry of Broughton; ibid. 528.
  • 19. Ibid. 530.
  • 20. Parkinson, Old Ch. Clock (ed. Evans), 235. A view of the old chapel is given ibid. 99. For the church bells see Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. Soc. (new ser.), ii, 304.
  • 21. Parkinson, op. cit. 198.
  • 22. 'Wonderful Walker.' The registers begin with him.
  • 23. Afterwards rector of Stanford Rivers.
  • 24. Evans, Furness, 180, 'a parallelogram of about 120 yards by 80, seated all round in the inside with flag-stones stuck into the wall, and in which the last interment spoken of was that of a Friend from Birker about the year 1755.'