Caldbeck and District Local History Society

Meetings (except Business Meetings)

  • Held on Wednesdays in the Caldbeck Parish Hall at 7.30pm.
  • See Diary of Events for Meeting Dates and Topics
  • Scroll down for reports of previous meetings.
  • Members £2. Visitors £3. Everyone welcome.

Officers of the Society:

  • President: John Price (016974 78537)
  • Vice-President: Tony Vaux (016974 78626)
  • Hon. Sec. Elizabeth Boydell (016974 78315)
  • Hon.Treasurer: Matthew Cosgriff (016974 78293)
  • Hon. Programme Secretary: David Pollitt (016974 77075)
  • Hon. Archives Officer: Kathleen Davie (016974 77055)


Link to Potted Histories Caldbeck and District organisations 2012

Link to Monumental Inscriptions in the Church and Churchyard of St Kentigern’s, Caldbeck



See Diary of Events for dates and topics.

Meeting Reports


March Meeting

About 25 people attended the talk by local historian Max Loth-Hill on the history of Lanercost Priory on Wednesday March 21st at the Parish Hall.
Founded by Hubert de Vaux, the Priory was built by his son Robert and consecrated in 1169. During the Border Wars the Priory fell into decline because of serious raids by the Scots. King Edward 1 on his way to fight the Scots stayed at Lanercost while he was ill but this involved huge costs which threatened to bankrupt the Priory.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII it was fortunate that Leonard Dacre, successor to the Vauxes, made his home in the Great Hall and preserved other buildings which would otherwise have been ruined. This may explain why Lanercost is very much worth a visit today.
The meeting ended with questions and the usual excellent refreshments provided by Liz Boydell and her team.
The next meeting of the Society will be on Wednesday 18th April when Moris Barker will talk about “My life in Caldbeck since 1925”. All welcome.


November Meeting

Courtesy of the Stobart family the Society’s meeting on 16 November was held in Hesket Newmarket Free Church. Back by popular request, speaker Max-Loth Hill brought ‘The History of Carlisle Castle’ vividly to life. Built originally in timber in 1092 to defend the border against Scottish invasion the castle was reconstructed in stone in the 1120s by Henry I and assumed much of its present-day appearance when extended in the 1150s by Henry II. It was significantly updated by the warrior-king Edward I, for whom it played a pivotal role throughout his long and fruitless struggle to strip Scotland of its independence. Resident in the castle from March to June 1307 with a retinue some 200 strong, he simultaneously masterminded a session of parliament, hosted a papal delegation and mustered the full-scale army with which he intended to defeat Robert Bruce. Effectively, if briefly, Carlisle Castle became the seat of English government, a role terminated by Edward’s death at Burgh by Sands on 7 July 1307.

A monarch equally hostile to all things Scottish, Henry VIII further reinforced Carlisle Castle with state-of-the-art half-moon and massive buttresses on its outer walls. At the battle of Solway Moss near Longtown in 1542 his army inflicted such a crushing defeat upon James V that out of shame the Scottish monarch took to his bed and died. Cumbria was no kinder to his daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. Forced by her nobles to abdicate in 1568 she fled by sea to Whitehaven in the expectation of being given refuge in England but was instead placed under house arrest in Carlisle Castle on the orders of Elizabeth I. It was the prelude to a life-long captivity and eventual execution.

As a royal stronghold Carlisle automatically declared for Charles I when civil war broke out in 1642. Besieged by a parliamentary army in 1644 the garrison held firm through nine months of diminishing resources. Reduced eventually to eating dogs, cats and rats, it surrendered in 1645. A century later Carlisle was under siege again, this time by the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Somewhat dilapidated by 1745 the Castle surrendered without much of a fight. The tables were turned when William, Duke of Cumberland, destroyed the Jacobite army at Culloden in 1746, ordering those captured on the field to be imprisoned in Carlisle Castle. Legend has it that they survived by licking moisture from the dungeon walls.

Throughout both world wars the regimental depot and training centre for the Border Regiment was located within the Castle. While it ceased to accommodate regular soldiers in 1959 it remains home to a regimental HQ, the local Territorial Army and Army Cadet Force units and a thriving Military Museum. No other fortress in Britain can claim such a long-lasting period of military service.

Chairman of the meeting Ron Davie thanked Max for another inspirational and entertaining presentation. The next meeting of the Society will be on 15 March 2017 when David Ramshaw will speak on ‘Chanel and the Tweedmakers of Carlisle’. This meeting will also be held in Hesket Newmarket Free Church at 7.30 pm.


On 19th October, at Denton House, Hesket Newmarket, members of Caldbeck & District Local History Society enjoyed a supper together, followed by the Society’s 31st AGM.

After welcoming everyone, President Ron Davie began by thanking all the elected officers for their hard work over the previous year, and also all those members who had regularly helped with the running of the Society. He singled out the outstanding contributions of Vice-President John Price and Archives Officer Kathleen Davie.

Amongst other topics covered in his introductory remarks, Ron drew attention to the Society’s programme for the past year which had been very successful, resulting in increased admissions and income. The policy of drawing on local speakers and topics would be continued in the coming year.

Concluding “on a particularly positive note”, Ron returned to the contribution of Kathleen Davie, on whom the responsibility had fallen for arranging the Society’s first display at the historic Caldbeck Parish Boundary Walk, held every twenty one years. Greatly helped by John Price’s photographic and computing skills, she had produced an outstanding display of which the Society could be proud, and which had been much appreciated and admired by the local community. At this point, Ron presented her with a ‘Gold Award’ certificate on behalf of the Boundary Walk Committee.

The formal business of the AGM then followed: all the present officers were willing to stand again and were re-elected en bloc; Treasurer Matthew Cosgriff presented his report on the very healthy state of the Society’s finances; Programme Secretary David Pollitt outlined the attractive programme arranged for the coming year; and Secretary and Catering Officer Liz Boydell paid tribute to her “catering team”.

The AGM ended with a reminder that the next meeting would be on 16th November at Hesket Newmarket Free Church (N.B. change of venue) at 7.30pm, when Max Loth-Hill would speak about ‘The History of Carlisle Castle’.

July meeting

About 50 people attended a fascinating talk to the Caldbeck & District Local History Society on Wednesday July 20th at Caldbeck Parish Hall by Malcolm Riches, recently retired Associate Minister of St Kentigern’s Church, on “Caldbeck Church – Burial Records and Inscriptions – a new approach for the 21st Century”.

Malcolm explained that the first written record of graves in the churchyard was produced by the Vicar of Dalston, James Wilson in 1897, entitled “Monumental Inscriptions of the late 19th Century”. In 1989/90, the Local History Society elaborated on this by transcribing ancient hand-written burial records dating back 300 years and made them available in the booklet “Monumental Inscriptions”. This was revised in 2000 with 506 headstones and monuments mapped systematically, covering 1,702 names.

In January 2015, a Company called Atlantic Geomatics proposed to produce a national database of burial records, starting in Cumbria. The “Burial Ground Management System” is intended to make enquiries about graves and burial records instantly available and enable planning for the future management of burial grounds easier. Funded by the Local History Society, The Joyce Wilkinson Trust and St.Kentigern’s Church, Caldbeck became the second Parish (after Dalston) to sign up. Atlantic Geomatics have combined all the legible burial records dating back to 1813 (around 3,800) with a digitalised map of the churchyard and photos of all the surviving headstones to create one easily accessible system. The system will eventually include information from 1657 when these records are scanned. The audience were then invited to test the system with enquiries about deceased family and community members. Malcolm was able to instantly provide this information.

Future enquiries can be made to John Price (

Chairman Ron Davie warmly thanked Malcolm for his presentation and said how much everyone was delighted to see him and Barbara back in the village again. The evening concluded with the usual excellent refreshments provided by Liz Boydell and her team.

The Society’s next event will be on September 21st at 7.30pm in Caldbeck Parish Hall, when John Mather will speak about ‘Sir Thomas Bouch – a Victorian railway engineer’. Everyone welcome.

May meeting

The large attendance in Caldbeck Parish Hall reflected the significant local interest in the topic chosen for the May meeting of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society: The Family Histories of William Cowx and Matt Ridley. 

The two speakers were William Cowx and Christine Pearson (the daughter of Matt Ridley), both men being successful local farmers. William and Christine were cousins and their grandfather was the well-known T. W. Ridley (‘T.W.’) of Woodhall Farm, near Hesket Newmarket, who had died in 1961.

William spoke first: the surname ‘Cowx’ had probably originated in France, subsequently arriving in England after 1066. He then gave details of his family tree, which dated back to a William Cowx of Uldale in 1608. Afterwards, he showed a large variety of family photos, from 1919 onwards – of great interest to his local audience, as was his outline of his own life, starting with his birth in Uldale.

William summed up his thoughts, after looking at his family’s history: surprise at the large number of young deaths in his family; confirmation that most of his forebears had been farmers; and amazement at how the Cowx name had spread from its Uldale origins to all over the world.

Christine then followed William: she had traced the Ridley name back to 1086; it was thought that one famous ancestor was Bishop Nicholas Ridley, a Protestant burnt at the stake in 1555 for treason; and there were Ridleys who had been Border Reivers in the 16th century, living in the Brampton area.

It was ‘T.W.’ who had moved his family and stock from Hill House, Talkin to Woodhall Farm in 1919, first, as a tenant farmer, until finally buying the farm in 1924.  His first wife had two daughters, one of whom was William Cowx’s mother. His second wife was the mother of a further six children, one being Christine’s father, Matt.

Christine’s selection of photos concentrated on ‘T.W.’, his considerable achievements, and Woodhall Farm. She said he would be proud of the fact that 22 grandchildren were connected with agriculture, and that “the family still did many social things together”, such as 60/70 family members having a reunion every Boxing Day.

President Ron Davie, who chaired the meeting, warmly thanked William and Christine for a fascinating insight into their family histories.

The next meeting of the Society will be in Caldbeck Parish Hall at 7.30pm on 15th June, when Kathleen and Margaret Ashbridge will give an illustrated talk on The Ashbridge Family History.

April Meeting 

Christine Craghill spoke to the Caldbeck & District Local History Society (CDLHS) on ‘Uldale – A 17th Century Time-Capsule’ in Caldbeck Parish Hall on Wednesday, 20th April, 2016. The title of her very interesting presentation related to a map of Uldale, commissioned in 1699 by the then Lord of the Manor, John Dalston. Chris had been given privileged access to the map and had used it for her research, so that she was able to compare the Uldale of the late 17th century with the village today.

John Dalston had decided to have this map made at this time because Uldale had by then reached a point of relative calm and stability after centuries of change and instability.  Thus, as early as the 11th century this feudal village was beset by frequent attacks by border raiders and had become “quite a dangerous place to live in”. The response to this threat over succeeding centuries had included the building of fortified farmhouses, and the use of other defensive strategies. One of the buildings on the map looked very much like a pele tower.

However, change in the village over the centuries was not only measured in external threats. For example, at one time it became the centre of a local “brewing complex”, with hops and barley being grown locally. Other activities had included the breeding of doves.

Chris detailed – and illustrated – other changes, too, both those leading up to the late 17th century and some beyond. These latter included the establishment of a grammar school in the village, some details of which were helpfully added by a member of the audience who had carried out some research on this topic.

The chairman for the evening was John Price and in closing the proceedings he thanked Chris for her well-researched and well-illustrated presentation and also for her response to questions from the audience.

March Meeting

Lakeland Architecture Through the Centuries

At their March meeting in Millhouse Village Hall, Caldbeck & District Local History Society extended another warm welcome to Andy Lowe, former Lake District Building Conservation Officer for several decades. He spoke about ‘Lakeland Architecture Through the Centuries’.

In his illustrated presentation, Andy was to cover five hundred years of architectural history at a quick-fire pace, a feat that was both fascinating and informative. He began by showing medieval fortified houses and pele towers, some later to be greatly extended (e.g. Muncaster Castle and Dalemain).

Houses were often built to demonstrate their owner’s status, resulting in striking chimneys, lovely ornate plastering, impressive doorways, etc. In his ‘journey’ through the centuries, Andy pointed out changes in interior and exterior architectural features, which gave clues as to their historical period.

Of particular interest in the field of architecture was the coming of the railways in the 19th century, which led to impressive Victorian houses being built by rich northern businessmen on the shores of Lake Windermere: “Manchester-by-the –Lake”. This was a different style of architecture for the Lake District and it was to filter down to the more humble buildings of the time.

Andy concluded with some of the noteworthy new building projects with which he had been involved. His final message to everyone was that only the best building should be allowed: it should be fit for purpose and built to last.

Chairman Ron Davie thanked Andy for an excellent evening, commenting on his continued enthusiasm for, and expert knowledge of, his subject.

The Society’s next meeting will be in Caldbeck Parish Hall at 7.30 pm on 20th April, when Christine Craghill’s topic will be ‘Uldale – A 17th Century Time-Capsule’. Everyone welcome.


Caldbeck and District Local History Society’s 30th AGM and Supper

On 21st October, the Caldbeck and District Local History Society held its 30th AGM at Denton House, Hesket Newmarket, where, after the usual excellent supper, President Ron Davie chaired the meeting.

In his introductory remarks, Ron warmly thanked the officers, Liz Boydell, Matthew Cosgriff, David Pollitt and Kathleen Davie, for their work over the year, and drew   attention to the major contributions of the two vice-presidents, John Price and Malcolm Riches. Malcolm was having to withdraw from the position, because he and his wife Barbara were leaving the village early in 2016. The Society wished them every happiness in their new home. Ron also thanked Kathleen Ashbridge, Lesley Kingham and Evelyn Tickle, whose attendance at business meetings was greatly valued.

The year’s programme had again been very successful. The highlight in terms of attendance and positive feedback had been  ‘The War Years’ . Sales of the Society’s publications had continued steadily; Sally Vaux was thanked for her hard work on these.

Matthew Cosgriff next presented the year’s accounts, which revealed a healthy balance, notwithstanding the generous financial contributions to three community projects during the year: the Christmas Tree Festival, the Flower Festival and the ‘mapping’ of the Caldbeck churchyard.

All the present officers – apart from Malcolm Riches – were happy to stand again and were re-elected en bloc. David Bowen was elected as vice-president.

David Pollitt reviewed next year’s programme, which looked full of interest and again included ‘local’ speakers, with Willian Cowx, Christine Pearson and Kathleen Ashbridge all presenting material about their family histories.

Liz Boydell paid particular tribute to the team which continued to provide excellent refreshments at the Society’s meetings.

Finally, Malcolm Riches gave a fascinating insight into the  Caldbeck Churchyard project, which involved employing the very latest technology, including the use of a ‘drone’, to produce a ‘map’ of the churchyard graves. This map, when combined with pictures of the individual headstones and burial records from the Cumbrian Archives Service, will produce a rich source of information for families tracing their ancestors .

September meeting: ‘The War Years’

The well-attended meeting in the Parish Hall on 16th September was on ‘The War Years’, featuring four local speakers, who shared their memories of the WW2 years with members and visitors.

The first speaker, Doug Newham, described in vivid detail one day in his life as a bomber navigator in a raid over Germany in 1944 at the age of 23 – from the time he got up in the morning until he returned, exhausted, to bed in the early hours of the following day. He described his extensive routine over the day, and the immediate procedure prior to take off. A green flare signalled that the raid was “definitely on” and the squadron took off to join the over 400 other planes on the raid. The following eight hours took them towards their target, often in temperatures of – 36C in the plane, Doug checking their position in flight every 6 minutes. Nearing their target, violent ‘corkscrew’ turns were increasingly necessary in order to avoid searchlights or enemy fighters. Finally, “Bombs gone” signalled the end of their mission and the plane turned for the long journey home, still pursued by a fighter. Back at base, in the mess anteroom after breakfast Doug sprawled out, listening to Ann Sheridan on a gramophone, before cycling back to his hut. But sleep didn’t come easily!

Speaking second, Betty Cox explained that after studying music in Manchester in the early years of the war, she had returned home to Halifax, determined to train as a nurse as her contribution to the war effort. Her worried parents saw her leave for St Thomas’s Hospital in London. There, she faced the German bombs and ‘doodlebugs’ as well as working with colleagues on civilian casualties, and later on with the wounded from the D-Day landings and beyond. Finally, Betty revealed that, whilst attending a difficult birth together with medical students at St Thomas’s, she had accepted a six-penny bet from a student on the sex of the child. She won the bet, and later married the student, which was how she came to be living in Caldbeck!

Isabel Coulthard followed. She had been a young girl in a farming family in West Cumbria during the war and described the details of her life on their small, mixed, farm with its Clydesdale horses and small, handmilked, dairy herd. As she spoke, she had in front of her a half pint milk bottle from the farm, which in the those days would be sealed with a cardboard top. The family was allowed to ‘butch’ one pig in the year, for domestic consumption only. And when electricity first arrived, it was the farm buildings which had the priority – the farmhouse had to wait!

Kathleen Ashbridge completed the quartet. She lived with her sisters and parents in Sharpe House – only half a mile or so away from where she was speaking. Like Isabel, Kathleen was approaching secondary school age as the war began. She spoke about life for her family in the village, with food and clothes rationing, the latter perhaps impacting most upon the girls. (She brought along with her a clothes rationing book.) One of the things which stood out particularly for her was collecting and bagging herbs and nettles for medical use in the war. Sharpe House became a centre for some of this.

The speakers brought along many artefacts – including photos of themselves in this period (Betty and Doug in their uniforms) – and after the talks, these attracted much interest and attention.

The next meeting of the Society will be the on Wednesday, 18th November at 7.30 pm in Millhouse Village Hall. Professor Angus Winchester of Lancaster University will be speaking on ‘The History of Drystone Walling’.

August Outing: to Yanwath Hall

For its summer outing, Caldbeck & District Local History Society visited Yanwath Hall, an impressive fortified medieval tower and house near Penrith. Splendidly preserved, 15th century Yanwath Hall is built on to a 14th century pele tower. The lovely enclosed courtyard, at the rear of the property is entered through a 14th century gatehouse where the visitors were greeted by David Altham, the present occupant of the property. He said that the tower had been built in 1322 by John de Sutton as a refuge from marauders. Subsequent owners were the Threlkelds, the Dudleys and, in the 17th century, the Lowthers. David Altham’s family had lived there since 1942, the farm being part of the Lowther estate. In the courtyard the surrounding scene ‘oozed’ history but this was nothing compared to that on entering the dank medieval interior.

First, the visitors were taken into the hall with its enormous sandstone fireplace, mullioned windows and 16th century wall-mounted painted clock face. They were then led up the stone staircase into the amazing 3-storey tower. The more adventurous members of the party cautiously ascended the narrow, dark spiral staircase right up to the upper storeys and roof of the tower with its battlements at each corner.

Finally 21st century refreshments were enjoyed in the hall’s historic surroundings, where Ron Davie, President of the Society, thanked David Altham for kindly allowing visitors to come into his family’s home and enjoy the privilege of seeing such a unique place.

July Meeting: ‘The Romans in Cumbria and the History of Hadrian’s Wall’ by Max Loth-Hill

Caldbeck & District Local History Society welcomed Max Loth-Hill to its meeting on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015 in Caldbeck Parish Hall. Max had spoken to the Society last year on the Dacre family; and the impact he made was reflected in the Society’s invitation to him to return. On this occasion, his topic was ‘The Romans in Cumbria and the History of Hadrian’s Wall’, a subject which, he confided, had captured his interest and imagination from a very young age. In his talk, Max showed, as last year, not only his ability to retain a multitude of facts with minimal notes but also his gift of being able to paint pictures with words.

Julius Caesar (he of ‘Veni, vidi, vici’ fame) was the first emperor to impinge on the British scene, around 55 BC, but it was to be another century before succesful attempts were made to ‘conquer’ this ‘island of mystery’ and produce lasting settlements, initially in the south.  In the north, it was Hadrian (‘a pragmatic man’) who from 122 AD built a wall to demarcate the Roman territory in Britannia. However, contrary to popular perception, the Wall was not too successful, being rather vulnerable, and not well manned, albeit ‘an imposing reflection of Roman power’. It was at this stage of his talk that Max’s painting pictures with words was at its most compelling: the armour and clothing of the soldiers, and their varied ethnicity; and the settlements and household life, etc. of the Romans living near or  at the Wall; even some personal ‘letters’ home.

This picture was built up as the centuries – and emperors – rolled on,  including the often surprising sophistication and ‘modern’ facilities of their public and domestic buildings. But during these centuries, too, signs of the decline of the Roman empire began to emerge, until the fourth century saw the beginning of the end, not only in Britannia but throughout the empire’s reaches. In conclusion, Max reminded us of the legacy of the Roman occupation of Britain, including the impact on the English language with terms such as  ‘vandalism’ and ‘barbarians’.

The chairman, Rev. Malcolm Riches thanked Max very much for another absorbing talk.

June Meeting: ‘The Cartmell Family History’ by Tim Cartmell

The guest speaker at the June meeting of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society in Caldbeck Parish Hall was local resident Tim Cartmell, who had been invited to speak about the history of his family.

In introducing him, chairman Ron Davie said that Tim really needed no introduction to a Caldbeck audience, but nevertheless briefly gave some facts about this son of a third generation Carlisle family solicitor, including most recently his appointment as Under-Sheriff of Cumbria.

Tim began his talk saying that, thanks to the Society’s invitation, he had found out a great deal more about his family’s history. He then took his audience back to the Middle Ages, detailing the whereabouts and activities of various ancestors through succeeding centuries right up to the present day.

A significant number of the sons were educated at such schools as Eton and Rugby, before going on to Christ College, Cambridge, some then joining the family business. Tim concluded that the family must have had money in order to pay for the excellent education of their children. It was from the 19th century onwards, in particular, that the family’s fortunes “looked up”. By the end of the 19th century, one ancestor, Isaac Cartmell, was a Carlisle city councillor, a pillar of the community and had obtained a family coat-of-arms. Tim finished by telling his audience that none of his own four children had gone to Christ College or into the legal profession.

Tim’s talk was accompanied by an impressive screen presentation; and in addition he had put on display a number of interesting family artefacts, including their coat-of-arms.

Ron Davie warmly thanked Tim for all the hard work that had gone in to his presentation. This well-attended, informative and entertaining evening concluded with refreshments organised by Liz Boydell and her team.

April Meeting: ‘Tales from History, Legend and Folklore in the Lake District’ by David Ramshaw

The chairman for the evening and president of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society, Dr Ron Davie, welcomed local historian and author David Ramshaw to Calbeck Parish Hall on Wednesday, 15th April for his presentation on ‘Tales from History, Legend and Folklore in the Lake District’.

The speaker characterised his talk as a journey “from fact to fiction” and started, on the factual front, with a description of the colourful life of “the hermit and adventurer” Millican Dalton, who was “an early refugee from the rat race of the city” (London). He eventually came to settle in Borrowdale and became a close associate of Mabel Barker, a well known teacher in Caldbeck. He turned his hand to many things, for example, rock-climbing instruction and also to guiding groups, locally, and even overseas. He also made most of his own clothing! Living in a cave on the slopes of Castle Crag in his later years, he scratched a memorial to himself on the cave wall, which can be seen to this day. He seems to have been something of a legend in his own lifetime?

David’s second factual topic centred on mining in North Cumbria, of which the Caldbeck area was very much a part, and focussed on the arrival of German miners in the mid-16th century, bringing their particular expertise to the extraction of valuable ores, including silver, copper and lead in the Derwent Fells. Furthermore, mining continued as part of Caldbeck’s industrial history until the mid20th century, which saw the closure of nearby barytes and tungsten mines.

David’s seamless move into ‘fiction’ centred on legendary characters and folklore. He described skirmishes between local fighters who were located in the fells. From there, they were said to ambush the more conventional occupying forces of the Normans. These locals then disappeared like spectres back to the higher ground where the Normans were reluctant to follow. “They didn’t like going up Castle Crag!”, David commented.

With legendary kings, battles, a ghost army and a giant added for good measure, David concluded his interesting talk and exemplary visual presentation.  Ron Davie warmly thanked the speaker.

March Meeting: ‘One hundred year of Hill Farming’ by Geoff Cole

At their first meeting of 2015, which was held in Millhouse Village Hall, Caldbeck & District Local History Society welcomed local historian and farmer Geoff Cole, whose illustrated presentation was entitled ‘100 years of Hill Farming’, based on his recent book of the same title, which he had written from a family perspective.
Because of his strong links with the Caldbeck area, the speaker needed no introduction to many in the packed hall. In 1919 his father, Sidney, had come from Northumberland to work at Midtown Farm, Caldbeck and had eventually bought local Brownrigg Farm, where Geoff was later born and brought up, and where he gained first-hand experience of hill farming. Sidney was to write profusely on farming matters and on his death left a vast archive of material.
Geoff showed an extensive range of photographs, which also feature in his book. Many came from his family’s experiences as hill farmers and, altogether, his presentation  gave a rich picture of a period of farming during which immense social and agricultural changes were taking place. In addition, it offered Geoff a platform on which to express his own views on many of the topics covered. Geoff had earlier also put on display an extensive range of photographs and artefacts, which he spoke about after his talk.
On behalf of the Society, John Price, who chaired the meeting, thanked the speaker for a very interesting evening.


November meeting: ‘Cross Fell and the Mines of the Pennines’ by Ian Tyler 

The Caldbeck & District Local History Society were informed and entertained in equal measure by  Ian Tyler at their meeting on 19th November at the Parish Hall, Caldbeck. A well-known local speaker and author, and former owner of the Mining Museum in Keswick, Ian spoke on: ‘Cross Fell and the Mines of the Pennines’, drawing on material in his recent book – of 635 pages, and six years in the writing!

At the start Ian made clear that the parish of Caldbeck and mining, historically, had to be uttered in the same breath. The parish population went from a handful of people to a thousand or so in the 16th/17th centuries. Most of this increase comprised miners, following the discovery of valuable ores in the surrounding fells, including baryte and lead, samples of which Ian passed around. Silver and copper were also to be found in many of the ores, which because of their use in coinage, prompted Elizabeth I to say – allegedly – that Caldbeck fells were “worth all England else”.

However, Ian’s central story started in the Brampton area in the 12th and 13th centuries, where monks from Lannercost Priory are said to have mined for coal – on the surface, after water erosion had laid the coal bare. When much of the present Cumbria had been acquired by wealthy landowners (Lowther, Carlisle, etc.), its use was largely rural/agricultural, and its potential for wealth creation had to await, first, the discovery of minerals beneath the land – and then, in particular, the engineering & railway technology which made the extraction of coal, in particular, a viable commercial proposition.

For this commercial exploitation, Ian picked out two outstanding engineers – James Thompson and Robert Stephenson. The former was also an entrepreneur, who founded a “coal empire”; and the latter (of ‘Rocket’ fame) had built a locomotive which made possible the transport of heavy material like coal down from the fell mines to centres of population in the UK, and abroad. Together these men flourished, backed by Lord Carlisle’s money, in the mid-19th century.

If this was the kernel of Ian’s talk, it was against a rich backdrop of mining developments, historically, which he outlined – from Brampton in the north, down through the Eden Valley and on, for example, to lead mining in Kirkby Stephen in the south, Throughout, his presentation was enriched by pictures of mining and other sites, old buildings, etc. some still standing – all with their own stories. Thus, he told of, and showed, an ancient church whose vicar seemingly was so besotted with geology that his congregation hardly saw him! Throughout, Ian stressed the dangers involved, particularly in subterranean mining and the transport of coal, but also in lime production. Mining disasters were many but Ian told of one potential tragedy which became a miraculous escape. Thus, a coal mine, 600 ft or so down and over 2 miles in extent, ran below a tarn.  Some 300 miners were down the pit when water suddenly began pouring in from the tarn overhead. The panic and pandemonium which ensued can be imagined! However, all but three men survived.

The Rev. Malcolm Riches, Associate Vicar of Caldbeck, and a vice-president of the Society, chaired the meeting and warmly thanked Ian for his lively and knowledgeable presentation. Refreshments afterwards were served by Eleanor Benson, Barbara Riches, Olive Burroughs and Margaret Jones.

October 2014:  29th AGM and Supper

The Caldbeck and District Local History Society held its 29th AGM at Denton House, Hesket Newmarket, where, after the usual excellent supper, the Society’s President, John Price, gave his introductory remarks.

John reminded the AGM that because of Diana Greenwood’s retirement from ill health as the long-standing Hon. Secretary, Programme Secretary Liz Boydell had taken over as acting Secretary in February 2014. A working group, convened by David Pollitt, had been set up to plan the programme for 2014/15. John thanked all the Officers: Liz Boydell, Matthew Cosgriff, Kathleen and Ron Davie, David Porritt and Malcolm Riches. He also thanked Evelyn Tickle and Kathleen Ashbridge for their long-standing and loyal support of the Society, and Liz Boydell and Eleanor Benson and their team for organising refreshments at the meetings.

John said the highlights of the year’s activities had been an outing to the Devil’s Porridge Museum and a performance of Harry Lamb’s ‘Shepherds’ Feast’ organised by the Caldbeck community and supported by the Society. Plans for joint projects with the village Primary School are currently on hold, and the Society is sponsoring the local Scouts in their purchase and decoration of  a tree for the forthcoming Xmas Tree Festival in Caldbeck at the end of November. Sales of the Society’s books have continued steadily, largely due to Sally Vaux’s efforts, with very few copies of “Memories of Lakeland” remaining. The other publications – “A Walk Around Caldbeck 1901” and the accompanying “Trail Map” continue to be available through local shops, and other publications are available on the Caldbeck parish website:  

On behalf of the Society Liz Boydell thanked John for his 3 years’ service as President.

The more formal business of the AGM followed, including the Hon. Treasurer Matthew Cosgriff’s Report. Ron Davie was elected as President to replace John Price, who was elected as Vice President. The rest of the Committee was re-elected en bloc with Liz Boydell confirmed as Hon.Secretary and David Pollitt as Hon.Programme Secretary. It was also reported that the Public Address system in the Parish Hall, which was replaced this year, was working well.

David Pollitt then spoke about the Society’s Programme for ‘14/15. This will include a talk by Ian Tyler on his new book on the mines of Cross Fell and the Pennines on Wednesday 19th November at 7.30 in Caldbeck Village Hall. Other highlights in a very strong programme include a talk on a local family history and an evening on “Harry Lamb-The Man”.

In Ron Davie’s concluding remarks, he reinforced David Pollitt’s comments on the outstanding programme for the coming year, which had been set out on a flyer and which members were encouraged to distribute to friends and neighbours. It was also a matter for congratulation that the Society’s finances continued in a very healthy state.

September meeting: ‘Beatrix Potter: Writer, Artist and Philanthropist’ 

Dr David Cross, art historian, lecturer and author, was the speaker at the September meeting of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society, and his illustrated presentation was entitled ‘Beatrix Potter: Writer, Artist and Philanthropist’.

Beatrix was born in South Kensington in 1866 to “very comfortably-off’ parents (who were both artistically talented) and was educated by three able governesses. She and her brother kept numerous small pets at home, and in their holidays in Perthshire and the Lake District were allowed great freedom to follow their enthusiasm for the natural world.

Dr Cross described Beatrix’s maturing artistic and intellectual abilities, and the people who influenced her development. Her later well-known children’s books were to show not only her outstanding drawing ability, but her great wit, imagination and attention to architectural detail.

She also became interested in almost every branch of natural science and in the 1890s her illustrations and research on fungi generated considerable interest from the scientific establishment.

Having developed an enthusiasm for conservation of the landscape and for vernacular architecture, in 1905 she bought Hill Top farm, Near Sawrey, in the Lake District. Over the following decades, she acquired additional farms and land, with the aim of helping to preserve the unique landscape of the area.

In addition, she was to become interested in Herdwick sheep; and later, as one of the major sheep farmers of the area, reared a prize-winning flock. In 1942, she was the first female president-elect of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association but sadly died in 1943 before taking office (leaving almost all her property to the National Trust).

With regard to her private life, Dr Cross told how in 1905 Beatrix became unofficially engaged to Norman Warne, the son of her publisher, but the engagement lasted only a month, before he died of leukaemia at the age of 37. However, in her late 40s she married local solicitor William Heelis, to whom she was happily married for thirty years.

Dr Cross said that, unfortunately, there was not sufficient time that evening to do justice to many important aspects of her later life, including her charitable and philanthropic work.

The meeting was chaired by the Society’s president John Price, who also thanked the speaker for his informative and enjoyable talk.

Summer Outing in August 2014

The Society’s summer outing was a visit on 16th August to the The Devil’s Porridge Museum near Gretna. The building itself is on two floors, separating WW1 and WW2; and it had only been open for two weeks. The well-placed exhibits and talks plus the helpful volunteers on hand to respond to queries made the occasion a most enjoyable and interesting one.

The museum commemorates a remarkable development in the early months of WW1 when the War Cabinet was advised that the shortage of munitions on the front line was putting the war effort at serious risk of failure. Within twelve months, ‘HM Factory Gretna’ had been built to manufacture explosives. Dubbed ‘the greatest munitions factory on earth’, it was 9 miles long (from Gretna to Longtown), had 30,000 workers (many of them women) and by the end of the war was producing 1,100 tons of explosives per week – more than all the other munitions factories in Britain combined. The logistical problems were immense: facilitating transport for workers from as far south as Lancashire, and from as far north as Glasgow; providing new rail networks to move the munitions; and building the houses, schools, shops and entertainment facilities, etc. for much of the workforce locally. Two completely new townships, Eastriggs and Gretna, were created in the process.

The workers – especially the women, who could earn three times their normal wages on the farm or in service – were drawn to this development partly by a wish to help in the war effort and partly by the allure of more money in their purses!

A little known fact to emerge for the History Society group was that the drunken, often violent, behaviour of the site navvies in local towns led to the pubs in these areas being nationalised, often rebuilt, and more tightly regulated. Thereafter, state beer or spirits were the order of the day, and it was not until the early 1970’s that these pubs were returned to the private sector!

Although the museum focuses on the original munitions factory, many other topics are covered, for example: life in the WW1 trenches; aspects of WW2, including the evacuation of children from areas at risk of bombing; and ‘the worst rail disaster in British history’ at Quintinshill in 1915.  Many artefacts – such as uniforms of the period and gasmasks of WW2 – are on show and also numerous photographs. Further, wherever possible. topics are presented in a ‘hands-on’ way with interactive touch-screen displays and videos, etc.

In a newspaper article by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, following a visit to the factory in 1917, he coined the phrase ‘devil’s porridge’, as he witnessed young women mixing by hand the highly dangerous nitroglycerine and gun cotton in large stone basins to produce the explosive cordite. The original basins are on show in the museum, as are photographs of the ‘porridge’ being stirred. Other evocative pictures of the young women show them welcoming the King and Queen on a Royal Visit and also posing proudly in their new khaki uniform outfits – with trousers!

July meeting: Women’s History in Cumbria

Women’s History just grew and grew!  These were the opening words of Mrs Susan Dench, formerly Senior Archivist at the Cumbria Record Office, when she gave a most interesting presentation to the Caldbeck & District Local History Society at their meeting in the Caldbeck Parish Hall on Wednesday 16th July.
Mrs Dench began by explaining that women were rarely mentioned in archival documents, largely due to their lack of representation in public life and their lack of property.
Until the 19th century most women were uneducated, lacked property and had no careers.  They could not vote, had no say in church matters and their names were frequently omitted from parish registers.  If they were employed it was usually as domestic servants, agricultural labourers or, occasionally, worked with their husbands.  Their situation meant that they were excluded from holding public office and were generally invisible in the records.  There were, of course, notable exceptions such as where a widow might have inherited from her late husband, or daughters of wealthy families who sometimes had property or money of their own.
The situation gradually changed and, in the 19th century it accelerated as the Education Acts and the 1874 Married Women’s Property Act opened doors of opportunity for many more women.   The First World War was a tipping point – their major contribution to the national effort led to greater recognition, representation and further moves towards emancipation in the 20th century.
Mrs Dench traced these changes with reference to some fascinating examples from documents in the County Archives, which she made available for members to peruse and discuss over refreshments.
After her presentation the Chairman, Dr. Ron Davie, thanked Mrs Dench for returning once more to give a most informative and interesting talk.  He expressed the pleasure her visits always give to the Local History Society.

June meeting: Cumbria’s Landscape in Late Medieval Times 

David Wilcock, formerly an American Professor of the Environment, was the speaker at the 18th June meeting of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society in Caldbeck Parish Hall. His topic was ‘Cumbria’s Landscape in Late Medieval Times’.

His presentation spanned the arrival in Cumberland in 1092 of William Rufus (3rd son of William the Conqueror) together with his warrior barons, through to the 13th century. The focus of the talk was the effects of this influx on the local population, on vernacular building, on the law, and on farming methods – in particular, the impact of  large flocks of sheep on the landscape.

Cumberland was split into eleven baronies and each of these was again split into ‘ridge and furrow’ farms. The village of Maulds Meaburn still demonstrates examples of  these strip farming methods.

In social terms the arrival of countless peasants with their barons led to many of the local population fleeing across the border to Scotland. Furthermore, the designation of land outside the allotted farms as ‘common land’ with consequential disputes over grazing led to the barons establishing manor courts, which were charged with – amongst other things – the responsibility for resolving these disputes. Over time, the operational functioning of these courts led to the establishment of a body of ‘common law’.

The 11th century influx also eventually brought with it the establishment of large monasteries and nunneries. These were usually built in remote areas, allegedly to remove the monks and nuns from worldly temptations! Cistercian abbeys were amongst the first to build up very large flocks of sheep on the fells, and their extensive grazing  ultimately affected the look and shape of the landscape.

The talk was followed by a lively question-and-answer session; and the chairman, Rev. Malcolm Riches thanked the speaker for a most interesting evening.

May meeting: The Viking Influence in Cumbria

At the May meeting of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society in the Parish Hall, local historian James Relph, who is also President of the Lakeland Dialect Society, spoke about ‘The Viking Influence in Cumbria’.

Lightheartedly claiming that most of us were descended from the Vikings, he described how they originated in North Russia. From there, over the 9th to the 11th centuries they sailed to: Scandinavia, Scotland, England, Ireland, Normandy, Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and were to settle in Normandy, Ireland, eastern England and Scotland.

In his accompanying slide presentation, Mr Relph showed typical Viking landscapes, farm buildings, weapons, boats, etc. and spoke of the Viking influence on Cumbrian place names and the English language. Evidence of their presence in Cumbria included the brooches found at Orton Scar in 1847, the Gosforth Cross and the Penrith hogsback tombstones.

Finishing his talk as he began, Mr Relph reiterated that a lot of us must be descended from the Vikings and so must be related!

The meeting was chaired by President John Price, who thanked the speaker for his interesting talk.

 16th April: The Dacre Family: From ‘Rags’ to Riches

Max Loth-Hill, Historic Properties Steward at Carlisle Castle, spoke to the Caldbeck & District Local History Society in the Parish Hall on 16th April, 2014. By way of introduction, Chairman Rev. Malcolm Riches explained that “as a seven-year-old boy, Max went to his very first fancy dress party in a home-made Charles I costume. Snatching third place from the rather more obvious Batman and Spiderman entrants, history had given him his first taste of victory and he never looked back!”

The topic for his talk in Caldbeck was the history of the Dacre family, mostly in the Middle Ages, and its association, largely through marriage, with other well-known aristocratic Border families, including the Multons, the Greystokes, the Fiennes and the De Vaux, and others further afield such as the Norfolks.

The family history further back is rather sketchy but the Dacres apparently came from relatively humble roots, although even then they were notable in the Border region, and were not averse to a spot of rustling and pillaging! By the mid-13th Century, the family was rising through the aristocratic hierarchy and in 1321 Ralph Dacre was summoned to Parliament as Lord Dacre. He married Margaret Multon (having first abducted her) and thereby substantially increased the family’s wealth and property in Cumberland and North Yorkshire.

By the mid-15th century the family was involved in the Wars of the Roses, unfortunately on the wrong side, when at the Battle of St Albans the Lancastrians were defeated and Ralph Dacre was killed with an arrow to the eye. Nevetheless, the Dacres survived this setback and by then were the most powerful family in the Borders. Indeed, by the beginning of the 16th century, Thomas, Lord Dacre (now marred to Elizabeth Greystoke), was said to be the eighth richest man in England; and after Flodden in 1513 he was made a Knight of the Garter by Henry VIII for his valour and leadership in this victorious battle against the Scots.

After Thomas’s death in 1521, he was succeeded by his son William, who as a staunch Catholic opposed Henry’s rift with Rome and his establishment of the Church of England. Although William was tried for treason in 1534, he was found not guilty. Nevertheless, a fine of £10.000 (swingeing by any standard at this time) was imposed for a lesser offence and he was dismissed from his office as the Warden of the West Marches. He died in 1563, spending the rest of his life in relative disgrace.

Following the accidental death of the 5th Baron Dacre (a child) in 1569, a specially convened court decided that the title of the Barons Dacre of the North “had ceased to exist” and that the lands should be divided between the boy’s three sisters, then under the guardianship of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk.

In thanking Max Loth-Hill for a fascinating talk (without notes!), the chairman complimented him as “a brilliant communicator’.

The next meeting of the Society will be on 21st May at 7.30 pm in Caldbeck Parish Hall, when James Relph will give an illustrated talk on ‘Viking Influence in Cumbria’.


About 30 people attended this fascinating illustrated talk by David Ramshaw, whose books to date include Walking in the Caldbeck Fells, the Floods of Carlisle and Cockermouth and Walking in Greece. His latest is an updated and revised book entitled ”The Carlisle Ship Canal 1821-1853”(P3 Publications £13). Using archive newspaper reports, old paintings, aerial photographs and his own fieldwork, David charted the rise and fall of the Canal, a marvel of engineering in its time.
It was built to reduce the cost of transporting coal for the textile mills of Carlisle and ran for 11 ½ miles from Port Carlisle to the basin on Port Road. Rising 60ft over 8 locks, it opened the way for shipbuilding in Carlisle and allowed the development of independent shipping companies and the growth of new industries, including Carrs. Ships were seen in Carlisle for the first time.
Railways eventually took over from canals nationally as the cheaper form of transport and the Newcastle – Carlisle Railway built in 1836 led to the demise of the Carlisle Canal which was replaced by a railway to Silloth. Although few obvious sign of the Canal remain, David has painstakingly unearthed evidence of its existence along its route e.g an old steam engine house, old reservoirs which fed the canal and the stone pillars on the old Cumberland Infirmary building which were transported by sea and canal from Leeds.
Refreshments were provided as usual by Liz Boydell and her team.
David’s next book will be on the history of Tullie House.


AGM October 2013

The Caldbeck & District Local History held its 28th AGM & Supper this year at Denton House, Hesket Newmarket, on Wednesday, 23rd October, 2013. After a tasty meal in congenial company, the business of the evening started with introductory remarks from the Society’s President, John Price.
First, John thanked all the Officers – Elizabeth Boydell, Matthew Cosgriff, Kathleen & Ron Davie, Diana Greenwood and Malcolm Riches – for their work, and their support to him over the year. He and the Society had also greatly valued Kathleen Ashbridge’s local knowledge in several contexts, and Sally Vaux’s continuing work on book sales.
John then reminded members of Diana Greenwood’s “truly remarkable” record as long-serving (surely, not long-suffering!) Honorary Secretary, who was fast approaching her Jubilee of sterling service to the Society. It was also worth pointing out that two of the Officers “wore two hats”: Elizabeth Boydell was the Programme Secretary, and also Catering Officer, in which she was assisted by Eleanor Benson, whilst Kathleen Davie kept the archives in impeccable order, and handled ongoing publicity as well.
On the Projects and Activities front, John said that the year had been relatively quiet after the exertions in recent years: publishing two books; staging a Heritage Exhibition; playing an important part in last year’s Jubilee activities with a much-praised historical display; and helping with making and archiving a photographic record of the Jubilee events, which can also be viewed on the village website. A likely future project was in prospect, namely, researching the history of the village school (Fellview), which could then be archived and possibly published in some form.
In closing his remarks, John reminded member of the last meeting of the year – on 27th November in the Parish Hall at 7.30pm – the topic of which was an intriguing one: Percy Toplis (‘the Monocled Mutineer’) and his links to Caldbeck! The speaker, Dr Jim Cox, would be chaired by Tim Cartmell.
After the conclusion of the President’s remarks, Malcolm Riches expressed the appreciation of members for John’s excellent leadership and work over the year.
The more formal business of the AGM followed, including Matthew Cosgriff’s (Hon.Treasurer’s) presentation of the accounts (in rude health) and Elizabeth Boydell’s report on next year’s interesting programme of speakers. The officers were all re-elected en bloc.
A final topic (under AOB), introduced by the President, was the public address system in the Parish Hall. This produced the most animated discussion at an AGM – perhaps in living memory! There was universal accord that the present system was unreliable and often produced poor quality output. A motion was carried, authorising the President to look into the possibility of the Society’s purchasing a portable P.A. system for its own use in the Hall, if the difficulties with the Hall’s system could not be ironed out.

September meeting: ‘How we farmed and lived in the past’

At the September meeting of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society in Caldbeck Parish Hall,  Gordon Braithwaite spoke on ‘How we farmed and lived in the past’. The audience was treated to a wonderful selection of photographs showing farm life over the last century. This invaluable archive had been assembled by the speaker, whose family had lived on a hill farm near Ousby for five generations.

He began his presentation with photographs showing the use of oxen on some farms at the beginning of the 20th century. Initially, an enormous number of farming tasks was undertaken by hand and/or  horse power until tractors and a multitude of machines were gradually introduced over the past 100 years.

The audience was given a non-stop show of pictures, accompanied by detailed commentary, illustrating all aspects of farm life over the period, including ploughing, sowing, threshing, haymaking (the haystacks were a work of art!), the different types of horses, tools and machinery used, sheep-clipping, milking, potato-planting and picking, local agricultural shows and markets, etc. Of particular interest were the pictures of the people themselves – workers, local families, and friends and relatives of the speaker – all illustrating how, not only the farms, but the appearance of the people, too,had changed over the last century.

In conclusion, Gordon expressed his thanks to those who had loaned or given photographs to his archive – on which he had been working for the last seven years. On behalf of the Society, the Chairman, Rev. Malcolm Riches, thanked him for giving everyone the opportunity to see such a unique collection of historical photographs.

The Society’s next open meeting will be on 27th November at 7.30 pm in Caldbeck Parish Hall, when Dr Jim Cox will speak about Percy Toplis, ‘the Monocled Mutineer’.

August Outing with Caldbeck Thursday Club to Bishop Auckland Castle.

On Saturday 24th August members of the Local History Society and Caldbeck Thursday Club joined together for a visit to Auckland Castle at Bishop Auckland in County Durham.

Although the weather forecast for the day was very gloomy, apart from a few showers early on, we enjoyed a most interesting, scenic journey to reach our destination in time for lunch in the castle tea rooms.

After lunch we gathered in the Gentlemen’s Hall for an introduction to the history of the building and some of the bishops. Our guide explained that the title of Prince-Bishop was established in 1075 and that with the title came many privileges and much wealth so that the holder was very powerful.  His role was to guard the northern territories, which acted as a buffer state against the Scots.  He could raise his own army, command his own law courts, raise taxes and mint coins in return for his loyalty to the English crown.

The power and wealth of the Prince-Bishops remained virtually unchanged right up until 1836 when the ‘royal’ title eventually lapsed.  The castle then continued to function as a Palace for the Bishop of Durham until Bishop Tom Wright left in 2010.

The property was originally a hunting lodge and country residence for the Prince-Bishop but over the centuries it has been modified, extended and fortified to become the present day castle.

We were then taken on a tour through some very interesting public rooms including the Throne Room, the long Dining Room, with its collection of 17th century paintings of Jacob and his 12 sons (by Fracisco de Zurbaran) and a reconstructed Bedroom containing a fine Tudor bed.  Our tour ended in the magnificent Chapel, which had been converted from the Great hall in 1660 by Bishop John Cosin.

On our journey home we came through Alston and enjoyed a beautiful view of the Eden Valley and the Lake District in the setting sun.

At the end of our journey home Tony Ryan, on behalf of everybody on the trip, warmly thanked Liz Boydell for making all the arrangements and Bim Tyson for such an interesting and enjoyable ride.

July meeting

The Caldbeck & District Local History’s July 17th meeting in Caldbeck Parish Hall featured a fascinating, illustrated talk on ‘The Roman Fort at Alston’ by amateur archaeologist Alastair Robertson.
The talk was fascinating in part because there are as yet as many unanswered questions as answered ones. For example, the series of seven ramparts at this site is not matched by any other fort in the whole of the Roman Empire, and yet why the Romans established the settlement there remains something of a mystery. Certainly, the answer may lie in the history of lead mining in this area – and the local lead has a high percentage of silver.  But is this the whole answer? Probably not, but no one knows, as yet. What is known is that the fort lies on the Maiden Way, the Roman road over the high Pennines, which was used to transport goods and materials.
It is this tantalising uncertainty about the Why? What? How, etc, which, one suspects, helps to drive Alastair’s obvious enthusiasm. When? is easier to pinpoint in that the settlement clearly pre-dates Hadrian’s Wall, because pottery found by a nearby altar indicates a date of 100AD, whereas the Wall was built some twenty years later. However, despite the find of the altar – and the fort bathhouse as long ago as 1810 – the usual archaeological artefacts of ancient sites – coins, jewellery, buckles, fragments of clothing, etc. – have not as yet been found in any abundance. Whether further excavation of the site will emerge is another open question.
This fort, known as Whitley Castle, is well featured on the Web, both in its own right and on the English Heritage site. It is situated to the north of Alston, near Castle Nook Farm. Anyone wishing to have further details will find these on these sites; and anyone  wishing to visit would be well advised to follow through on one of the telephone numbers given.
The Society’s President John Price thanked the speaker for a most interesting presentation, illustrated by aerial as well as land-based photographs. Refreshments were served by Eleanor Benson, Margaret Jones and Sally Vaux.
The next meeting of the Society will be on Wednesday, 18th September at the Parish Hall, Caldbeck at 7.30 pm. The speaker will be Gordon Braithwaite on ‘How We Farmed and Lived in the Past’.

June meeting: David Moorat on Lady Rosalind Howard of Naworth

At the June meeting of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society in Caldheck Parish Hall, the speaker, David Moorat, immediately posed a question to his audience. “Was Lady Rosalind Howard of Naworth a passionate philanthropist or a bossy bitch?  He proposed to discuss this and take a vote at the end of the talk!
In his ensuing, entertaining illustrated presentation, he first described the political situation into which she was born in the mid-19th century, when political power was vested in the hands of landowners, and from which women were excluded. By the time of her death in 1921, there was “full blown democracy” and Lady Rosalind had played a significant part in this change, although she had been a controversial figure, “insufficiently appreciated by some and grossly maligned by others”.  To seek an explanation for the latter, it was necessary to look at her life. David Moorat therefore discussed her privileged background, influential parents, brilliant classical education and intellectual precocity. Much of this information was obtained from researching her diaries and those of her family (now in Carlisle Record Office).
Born in London, Lady Rosalind was launched into Loudon society at the age of 17. However. she soon came to find the London scene very superficial, and her concern for more serious issues began to emerge – women’s rights, alcoholism, social conditions of the poor, etc.
When she was 18, she met George Howard, a painter and only son of Charles Howard, Whig MP for E. Cumberland. They married in 1864 and arrived at Naworth Castle for their honeymoon. Her ‘bossy’ nature was soon to emerge, when on their second day there, she expected him to be at his easel by 9 a.m.!
In the following 19 years, they had 10 children, and family diaries portray a happy domestic life. ln addition, she lived a very active political and social life. However. throughout all this, Lady Rosalind’s egocentric tendencies constantly emerged, and she insisted on getting what she wanted in whatever she undertook.
And what of the philanthropic side of Lady Rosalind? David Moorat gave numerous examples of her thoughtful generosity in helping the poor, e.g. improving their living conditions; and funding holidays and children’s events. In addition, from 1868 she became an early pioneer for women’s suffrage, and also began to voice concern about the terrible effects of alcoholism on the lives of the poor; and with her children and  husband, she took the pledge of total abstinence. She also closed the pubs on her estate and some in Brampton.
Finally, David Moorat said that the time had come for the audience to give their verdict on Lady Rosalind. Opinion was divided but ‘passionate philanthropist’ won the day, though it was agreed that ‘benevolent autocrat’ might be a better description of this colourful personality. After a lively discussion, chairman Ron Davie, warmly thanked the speaker. and a very enjoyable meeting concluded with refreshments.

17th April: Jean Scott-Smith on ‘Cumbrian Place Names’

On Wednesday 17th April, chairman (Rev.) Malcolm Riches welcomed and introduced the guest speaker Mrs Jean Scott-Smith to members and visitors at the monthly meeting of Caldbeck & District Local History Society. The meeting was very well attended and Mrs Scott-Smith, who is Secretary of the Lakeland Dialect Society and Vice-Chairman of Shap Local History Society, gave a most interesting illustrated talk on the subject of ‘Cumbrian Place Names’.
The speaker started by explaining the origins of the old counties of Cumberland and Westmorland and, more recently, Cumbria. Using well known local examples she then showed how place names can usually be derived from words that describe the features of the location of a settlement: frequently part of the name can relate to the owner of the property itself. However, as the region has experienced migrations of people with different cultures and languages over the centuries, the place names often give clues to the original settlers. She showed that by plotting the names of settlements, villages and towns on to a map we can identify the areas where particular migrant groups chose to settle. The earliest inhabitants left only dramatic stone circles and monuments but as later groups arrived, namely the Celtic-Welsh, Romans, Angles, Danes, Norse, Normans and even the Elizabethan miners, they contributed in some way to the place names we know today. She also explained how to derive the meaning of a particular name by breaking it up into smaller parts that can be recognised as coming from the language of one or more of the migrant groups mentioned above.
After taking questions from the audience the chairman thanked Mrs Scott-Smith for her most interesting and enlightening talk and for giving us access to her papers, reference material and maps.
Refreshments were served by Kathleen Davie and Eleanor Benson.
The next meeting of the Society will take place in Caldbeck Parish Hall on Wednesday 15th May at 7.30 pm when Graham Brooks will give a talk on ‘Lord Carlisle’s Railway and its associated Railways’.

20th March 2013: Sheena Gemmill on ‘The Picts’

On 20th March, in Millhouse Village Hall, Sheena Gemmill gave an illustrated presentation to the Caldbeck & District Local History Society on ‘The Picts’. Sheena is a familiar speaker to the Society and the chairman Dr R Davie extended a warm welcome to her.

Broadly, Pictland extended from north of the Forth up to the Orkneys and Shetlands and comprised largely a collection of tribes along the eastern side of what is now Scotland. These tribes over time gelled into larger groupings and ultimately all were known as ‘Picts’ from about the 3rd century; later, as the Scots in the west were pushed east by the Viking invaders, one kingdom was eventually formed around the 9th century, which then came to be known as Scotland.

‘The Picts’ proved to be a fascinating, often elusive, topic largely because of the paucity of information about these people. For example, as far as is known, they had no written language; and burial and settlement sites are rare. Their principal legacy is more than two hundred standing stones, some of which are several metres high. The earlier stones have incised carvings, including some very accurate depictions of animals and hunting scenes, whilst others were symbolic – e.g. showing harps, and a mirror and comb – and others were abstract. These stones probably relate to a pagan period, say, up to the third century AD.

The later standing stones largely marked the Picts’ conversion to Christianity (through St Ninian and later St Columba). These were carved in relief, often on dressed stone, and frequently contained Christian symbols or took the form of a cross.

In addition to the stones, a few fine silver artefacts and other beautiful items have been found, which confirm that the Picts were an artistic people and very fine craftsmen. As indicated earlier (showing harps), they also seem to have had an important musical heritage.

The speaker concluded her talk by emphasising that to date there are many more questions than answers about the Picts and that we may never know the answers to some of those questions.  After a very interesting concluding discussion, Dr Davie thanked Sheena Gemmill for her excellent presentation.


21 November 2012: English Rural Life in the Middle Ages

John Price, President of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society, welcomed a well-known visitor, June Hall, to a packed Millhouse Village Hall for her illustrated talk on ‘English Rural Life in the Middle Ages’. Describing her timescale as 1100 to 1500 AD, she characterised ordinary people’s lives over this period as “short and primitive”. Growing mostly oats and barley, and with only a few animals, they were heavily dependant for their family’s livelihood on what the weather brought. Moreover, living as they did under a feudal system, their lives were also constrained by what their lord allowed and the level of his taxation, and also by the tithes paid to the Church.

June Hall’s presentation included material and slides drawn from the richly decorated Luttrell Psalter, commissioned in the early 14th century by a prosperous Lincolnshire landowner and named after him. Her talk ranged widely over arable farming methods, animal husbandry, clothing and domestic life. She passed around a drinking vessel of the kind used in this period, which had been pieced together from fragments.

However, over the Middle Ages, changes in rural life could be seen. Thus, there was a substantial switch to sheep farming, and the export of wool brought increased prosperity – largely to the feudal lords, of course. This was also accompanied by, for example, changes in clothing and headgear ‘fashion’, which were not confined to the rich. Following the Black Death, with the resulting decimation of the population and the consequent shortage of labour, the ‘common man’ began to have his day, with power to negotiate higher wages, and achieve greater mobility.

Another interesting feature of the Middle Ages, which June Hall highlighted, was how close England was to Europe in that period, not only in its royalty and aristocracy but also in its trade links. (No euro-scepticism in the Middle Ages, then!) Thus, English fleeces were greatly prized on the Continent and, as she pointed out, the so-called ‘wool churches’ in East Anglia referred to the source of their wealth and not to their construction!
John Price drew this interesting meeting to a conclusion with warm thanks to the speaker.

24th October 2012 Supper and AGM

We sat down to an excellent supper, followed by our 27th Annual General Meeting, at Denton House, Hesket Newmarket.

After the Supper and before the AGM President John Price congratulated one of the members present, Eleanor Benson, who had won the Solway Rotary Club Cup for the funniest story in a recent Cumberland Dialect competition. Eleanor then reprised her winning performance for the meeting to everyone’s amusement with the (true) story of ‘The Vanishing Coat’.

John Price then welcomed everyone to the AGM and presented his annual report. It had been another interesting year with particularly enjoyable ‘outside’ visits to the new Carlisle Record Office and the Roman Museum and Archaeological Site at Maryport. John thanked all the officers and other regular helpers for their major contributions during the year and gave “a very special thank you” to Kathleen Davie, the Publicity and Archives Officer, who had “almost single-handedly” staged the Society’s Diamond Jubilee Display of photos, newspaper cuttings and memorabilia in Caldbeck Parish Hall in June.

Two of the Society’s past publications, Caldbeck Characters and Monumental Inscriptions (locating headstones in Caldbeck Churchyard) had now been placed on the Parish website (, where they could be viewed and downloaded. Of more recent publications, ‘Memories of Lakeland’ had now nearly sold out, and sales of ‘A Walk Round Our Village of Caldbeck’ (by Richard Greenup on 1st January, 1901) had covered the printing and publication costs.

The Treasurer, Matthew Cosgriff reported a healthy bank balance, and attributed this largely to the sales of these latter publications. Annual subscriptions would remain the same.

Elizabeth Boydell described the very interesting programme of meetings which she and Diana Greenwood had arranged for the year 2012-13 and this was welcomed with enthusiasm.

All the current officers of the Society were willing to stand again and were re-elected.

The President was warmly thanked at the end of the meeting by Rev. Malcolm Riches, a vice president.

Finally, a draw was made and the winner was Olive Burrough, who received a year’s free membership of the Society.

September Meeting

The Caldbeck & District Local History Society welcomed to its meeting in Caldbeck Parish Hall on Wednesday 19th September at 7.30 pm., Diana Stewart, a local historian and Cumbria Blue Badge Guide. Her topic, Ladies of the Lake from St Bega to Beatrix, was in fact not confined to one lake, nor even to ladies, although there was a galaxy of the latter!. Starting with St Bega (having rather “itchy feet”, it seems), Diana managed in a whirlwind tour also to include, on the distaff side: Lady Anne Clifford; Emma, Lady Hamilton; Dorothy and Mary Wordsworth; Flora (the alleged illegitimate daughter of Bonnie Prince Charlie); Mary Harrison (nee Robinson) of Caldbeck – the ‘Beauty of Buttermere’; Kathleen Ferrier; and, of course, Beatrix Potter. The men she touched on, in addition to Wordsworth and the Bonnie Prince, included King Arthur, Thomas de Quincey, the Earl of Derwentwater and Sir Hugh Walpole. To name but a few! Dr Ron Davie, who chaired the meeting, thanked Diana Stewart for her most interesting presentation. Refreshments were prepared and served by Olive Burrough and Maureen Thompson.

August Outing

Outing to Senhouse Roman Museum and Excavation, Maryport

The Caldbeck & District Local History Society arranged an outing on 4th August to the Senhouse Museum in Maryport, which contains a unique collection of Romano-British sculpture and inscriptions, including the country’s finest set of Jupiter altars, unearthed in a nearby field in 1870. The Museum Trust and Newcastle University, in collaboration with Hadrian’s Wall Ltd., have this summer continued the 2011 excavation of the site where these altars had been found. The Museum had arranged an Excavation Open Day on 4th August, when visitors would have a guided tour of the excavation site and be able to see the archaeologists at work.

The Caldbeck group duly arrived in the afternoon, only to be told that, owing to a torrential downpour that morning, no excavation was now possible. However, the site could still be visited and the Project Director, Professor Ian Haynes of Newcastle University would be the guide. He provided the background information to the present excavation and explained why fresh efforts had been needed to understand fully the circumstances of the site. Already, he said, their knowledge of the altars’ context had been greatly increased, and the conclusions of the Victorian archaeologists “revolutionised”.

At the end of the fascinating tour of the site (“a sea of mud with a lot of holes in it”), he summed up by saying that a number of exciting new theories had emerged, and these were still under discussion. The site still presented them with a challenge, and although this year’s dig would finish on 14th August, work would continue in the laboratory, and the excavation would resume next year. On returning to the Museum, the visitors were able to admire its fine collection, including the very impressive series of altars, unearthed in the field just visited with Professor Haynes.

June Meeting

Susan Dench, former Senior Archivist at the Carlisle Record Office, came to Caldbeck Parish Hall on Wednesday, 20th June, 2012 to give a presentation to the Caldbeck & District Local History Society on ‘Black Settlers in Cumbria’. She also brought along a variety of material to further enrich her talk. However, she explained that this topic had proved extremely difficult to research because of the paucity of parish or other records (e.g. baptisms) on slaves, who were largely seen as akin to chattels and therefore not worthy of appearing in formal records. Following the abolition of slavery in 1807, slaves working in the UK were given their freedom by their ‘masters’. As might be expected, most slaves, coming in to the county largely from the Caribbean, were landed in the west (e.g. Whitehaven or Maryport) but some are found in records as far east as the Carlisle area. Apart from the general picture, Susan Dench was able to add some human interest by speaking about two black men on whom some detailed information was known. One of these had apparently had a very close link with a well-to-do family and was eventually buried in the Cathedral graveyard. The other, John Kent, the son of a former slave, achieved a measure of fame after he joined the Carlisle Police Force in 1837, and was in fact the first black policeman in Britain. Susan said that her research was still ongoing.

The meeting was chaired by Ron Davie, who thanked Susan, “an old friend of the Society”, very warmly for her most interesting talk.

May Meeting

The Caldbeck & District Local History Society at its well attended meeting on 16th May in Caldbeck Parish Hall welcomed Edwin Rutherford, Curator of Social History at Tullie House Museum. His topic, The Border Reivers, was not unfamiliar to most of the audience but the historical context and the detailed descriptions of the armour, weapons and tactics of these violent, ruthless outlaws added new dimensions.

From the 13th to the 16th century the people of our border region lived effectively in a war zone, with invading armies regularly wreaking havoc. However, in addition, the Reivers emerged across the south of Scotland, Cumberland and Northumberland: they were expert horsemen, raiders and cattle thieves, and their sorties not infrequently featured torching buildings, looting and murder. Their allegiance was essentially familial, and inter-familial, rather than national; and their surnames live on locally to this day (e.g. Armstrong, Graham, Little, Ridley). The fortification of houses (e.g. pele towers and bastles) developed as a defensive response to these raids.

Edwin Rutherford’s well structured talk, accompanied by excellent visual material, was not only fascinating in its own right but was also a valuable introduction to the permanent exhibition on this topic at Tullie House in Carlisle.

The meeting was chaired by the Society’s president John Price, who thanked the speaker warmly for a very interesting and informative presentation. Refreshments were served by Eleanor Benson, Liz Boydell, Jennifer and Peter Krebs and Sally Vaux.

April Meeting

On Wednesday, 11th April a party from the History Society enjoyed an afternoon visit to the new Archives and Resource Centre in Carlisle. Members were welcomed by the Assistant County Archivist, David Bowcock, who gave them a most interesting and informative tour of the Centre.

The visit started in the recently restored Lady Gillford’s House and continued through to the new Archive Centre building, with its Education facility, Archive Strong Room and Conservation Workshops. Finally members were treated to a selection of historic documents and maps relating to the Caldbeck area that had been specially put on display in the Elphinstone Room for members to examine at their leisure.

March Meeting

On Wednesday 21 March Dr Angus Winchester from the University of Lancaster gave an illustrated talk to the Society entitled ‘The History of Common Land’ with particular regard to the upland communities of Cumbria and the neighbouring Yorkshire Dales. He traced the development of how such communities managed their common resources, from the manor courts of the Middle Ages , through the loss of common land under the Parliamentary Enclosure Acts, to the Commons Regulation Act of 1965 and the foundation of the present day Commoners’ Associations. In conclusion he confirmed that the grassroots nature of common land management, whereby rural communities regulated themselves on the basis of commonsense and good neighbourliness, was still in evidence today.

On behalf of a large and appreciative gathering of members and visitors, the chairman Dr Ron Davie thanked Dr Winchester for such an entertaining and informative talk.


November Meeting

RALPH LEWTHWAITE will give an illustrated talk on


  • on Wednesday, 16th November, 2011 at 7.30pm, Caldbeck Parish Hall
  • Tickets: Members £2; Visitors £3
  • Tea/coffee & biscuits included



  • 21st September – we had a change of Programme! Members Night was brought forward, with three local Speakers.
  • 1st October – was the Heritage Event in the Parish Hall at 1.30pm.
  • 19th October – was the SUPPER followed by the ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING at Denton House,


Those people whose interviews were featured in ‘Memories of Lakeland’ will no doubt be pleased to know that the book is now part of the nation’s archives! A phone call to Julie Robertshaw of the Department of Printed Books at theImperial War Museum in London, revealed that she would be very pleased to consider including a copy of the book for the Museum’s collection. A copy was duly sent and Ms Robertshaw wrote to say : ‘We are delighted to add this excellent local history book to our collection’. Lord Bragg, who praised the book when it was published, emailed to congratulate the Society on the Museum’s decision.

As those who have read the book will recall, five of the entries in the book are in a section headed ‘Rural Life in the Second World War’. In addition several of the other entries deal with the 1940s. Topics covered include, for example, the war efforts of Caldbeck W. I., and the experiences of a young teenage refugee housed with her family and other families in Caldbeck during the war. This German lady still claims that she feels half-English as a result of her stay in Caldbeck, which included a spell in the Girl Guides and also the W. I.! Incidentally, a few remaining copies of the book are still available in local shops and bookshops at £8.99.    [Dr Ron Davie. the Society’s President]

MEETING 15th JUNE 2011

The Men Who Built Carlisle Cathedral 

At the Caldbeck & District Local History Society’s meeting on 15 June, 2011, President, Ron Davie, introduced Thirlie Grundy, who was to speak about ‘The Men Who Built Carlisle Cathedral’, illustrating her talk with slides.

Carlisle Cathedral has a mix of architectural styles: Norman, Early English and Decorated. After the Norman Conquest, churches were to be rebuilt in stone. Anglo-Saxon builders had used wood, so Norman masons were brought in; and Italian masons came over later. Unfortunately, there are no surviving records of the cathedral workmen except for the carved heads, including those of themselves and of the trade-related tree god (Green Man) in the cathedral. The speaker’s talk and her illustrations focused on these carvings.

Schooling, apprenticeship and then seven years as a ‘journeyman’, meant that a mason’s son would be 28 yrs. old before he was fully free to ply his trade (although the title of Master was hereditary). Married masters would carve their wife’s head opposite their own. A bachelor would sometimes carve his own head twice, using dog-toothed zig-zags as decoration.  The oak tree was considered masculine in the cult of Sylvanus, the Green Man. Mistletoe on an oak made it sacred. The white five-­petalled rose represented the wife, acorns the sons, and rose hips for daughters. Italian masons brought with them their allegiance to the King of the Wood and the heads they carved wore crowns unlike the Normans’.

With the mixture of nationalities, and their respective languages, it is surprising that so much was accomplished. The clergy were often at odds with the masons but all secular carving was done on downward-slanting or facing surfaces and so hidden from the heavenly view (and possible displeasure!).

After a lively discussion, the President warmly thanked the speaker for a most enjoyable and informative evening. The Society’s next meeting will be on 20th July in the Parish Hall at 7.30 pm, when Jean Scott-Smith will speak on The Life of George Moore of Whitehall: a Cumbrian Philanthropist.


September 2010

Forty years ago, when he gave his first talk on the Romans in this area, Mr. David Shotter, Professor Emeritus ofManchesterUniversity, told us the problem was to fill an hour.  Today the difficulty was to decide what to leave out.   His title was New Perspectives on the Roman Conquest and Occupation of the North-West.

Just after  WW11 the received ideas about the Roman invasion was that the serried ranks of Britons massed along the White Cliffs to resist.    This is no longer considered the case.

Recent excavations have dated roman artefacts and coins to a century before the ‘invasion’.   Trading with theMediterraneanwas the way to develop social and economic prosperity in the Wirral for example.   The warriors like Caractacus were a minority, indulging in guerrilla warfare.    Hill forts, rather than being points of resistance againstRome, were gathering places for all sorts of religious, social and mercantile purposes.   From about 800BC woodland was being cleared and the land settled.   In an agricultural society the Roman brought law and order.   Many Roman Forts were built on ploughed land.

Here in the North, Cartemandua ruled in the east and she married Menutius, lord of the west.

They co-existed with the forces ofRomefurther south.   When Roman troops came into the area from AD 50 they would be on a search and destroy mission to root out gangs of trouble-makers.   No forts date from this time, only ‘campaign maps’, a rectangular bank where the soldiers dug a ditch and a barricade within which they pitched their tents.   Examples are on Shap fell and at Malham.   Each legionary carried three pilums and these would be tied together  to form a spiked fence outside the camp.   In the 50s and 60sRomehad a financial crisis and Claudius allowed the provinces to copy coinage.   These ‘local’ coins have been found with roman ones, on the coast and along river banks, most transport was by water.   Tacitus, Agrippa’s son-in-law, tells of combined land-sea operations.

Vespasian won the civil war following Nero’s death and formedBritaininto twoRomanProvinces, one based on Cirencester and the other onChester.   Some forts were erected with turf ramparts and timber walls and buildings.   Brougham was in a commanding position  for east-west and north-south routes.   The excavations over the last 30 years inCarlislehave added a great deal of information, showing a mending of the road and one plank dating from a tree felled in AD72.

The buildings at Corbridge, Vindolandia andCarlislewere supply bases not frontier posts.  After Vespasian’s death unrest in mainland Europe caused troops to be withdrawn fromBritain, probably between a half and two-thirds of them.    The line of the Forth -Tayrivers protected the coastal ports for the trade of food, it seems that much was locally produced.   Westward the wall was extended fromCarlisle, at Burgh by Sands the fort was built on the site of a circular watch tower.   The fort at Ambleside has large granaries, possibly to supply Hardknott.   The Roman camp at theportofRavenglasshas been eroded by the sea, bisected by the railway line and the rest afforested.   OldCarlislehad a civil settlement on its southern slope and aqueducts have been found on an ‘industrial estate’ of many trades bringing prosperity to the area.

Hadrian decided to consolidate the northern boundary.   After the war was won the army was told to build a Wall.   The western third was a turf wall with stone forts.   Four years later Hadrian ordered the rest to be built of stone.

Kathleen Ashbridge expressed the thanks of the large meeting to Professor Shotter.

The next meeting will be the Annual General meeting on October 21st, preceded by supper at Denton House, please book your ticket.

July 2010 Outing to Lowther Church and Shap Abbey

The second of the summer outings for members organised by the Caldbeck & District Local History Society was toLowtherChurchand Shap Abbey.

The weather forecast had been gloomy but this only made the constant sunshine on the day itself all the more appreciated, and was an important factor in the enjoyment of a very successful outing.

En route to Shap Abbey, members visited Lowther Church and churchyard, where there was much of interest to be seen: the 10th century hogback gravestones in the porch; the interior of the church itself, with memorials and burial places of the Lowther family dating back to 1607; and the huge mausoleum in the churchyard where generations of Lowthers rested, alongside the more recent, humbler graves of those Lowthers simply buried in the churchyard grounds.

After passing throughLowtherParkand taking in the view of the ruinedLowtherCastle, the party made its way to Shap Abbey, armed with valuable background information from a talk by Harry Hawkins at a recent Society meeting in Caldbeck.

Nestled in a sheltered valley, the ruins of the 13th century Abbey made a fine picture, with the Mardale hills in the distance and the river running by. The huge tower, built between 1460 and 1520, dominated the current site, where it was possible to explore and discuss the extensive ruins, and imagine the former glory of this ancient monument, which fell into disrepair after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the reign of Henry Vlll.

After leaving the peace and tranquillity of Shap Abbey, members returned to their cars, soon to enjoy an ice-cream stop, where president Ron Davie thanked Lesley Kingham for arranging such an informative and enjoyable outing.

The next meeting of the Society will be on 15th September in Caldbeck Parish Hall at 7.30pm. This will be followed on 20th October by the AGM and Supper at Denton House, Hesket Newmarket.

June 16 2010

On a very pleasant June evening, a group from the Caldbeck & District Local History Society was given a guided tour of Shap, led by Jean Scott-Smith, vice chairman of Shap Local History Society and Parish Clerk. Born in Shap, she welcomed her visitors at theMarket SquareonMain Street, the latter being part of the A6 toScotland, now thankfully superseded by the nearby M6.

Provided with a brief history of Shap, written by Jean, and an 1860 map of this village, the group set off up the main road northwards, soon turning off right to see St Michael’s Church, where they entered the church grounds by the former ‘corpse road’ from Mardale, etc.

Jean explained that there had been a church there before 750, thus pre-dating the nearby abbey by several hundred years. The first stone church was constructed on the site around 1120, and until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, the church had been served by monks from the abbey.

The present building is greatly restored and the much renovated Norman arches are still there.  The church boasts three fonts, one a fine example of Shap granite.

After pointing out a number of interesting features in the church (including the lovely Millenium window) Jean led the party into the ‘railway corner’ of the churchyard, which demonstrated Shap’s historical links with the momentous coming of the railway in the mid 19th century, and which provided a fitting memorial to the navvies who died in its construction.

It was at this point that Jean showed some examples of Shap granite. The foundation of the Shap Granite Works dated back to 1865 and it had become the village’s main employer, necessitating the building of much housing for the workforce.

After leaving the churchyard, the tour continued to Town End, the village’s northern extremity, before turning back southwards onMain Street.

Along the way, Jean showed old photos and postcards, which allowed comparisons to be made between then and now. She also drew attention to significant buildings and described the continual change of their use as the decades passed by. An example of the latter was the former market hall, dating from a few years after the village was granted a market charter in 1687. The History Society had able to purchase this, assisted by a Lottery Grant, and which now houses a new Heritage Centre.

Continuing in the same direction, the group was taken to ‘a real success story’ in Shap – a recent example of a beautiful restoration, that of a formerly derelict dwelling of 1691.

It was clear from Jean’s commentary that Shap, ‘a settlement from time immemorial’, had been very much smaller before the 19th century. Much building activity had followed the construction of the railway in 1846 and the Granite Works in 1865, which in turn had been followed by spells of council housing in the 20th century and the new building of the present time. With the decline of the Granite Works, the closure of the railway station and the effects of the M6 motorway, Shap now has a much quieter appearance.

The tour finished on a prehistoric note, in which times there had once been a ‘stupendous monument’ to the south of the village, consisting of stone circles and an avenue of enormous stones. There is now little of the stone circles left to see, but after crossing a nearby field, the group was delighted to arrive at one of the surviving granite stones, the gigantic Barn Keld, more than two metres in height. It was a fitting end to the walkabout, and it was here that Ron Davie, president of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society, thanked Jean for leading such an enjoyable and informative tour. He also looked forward to welcoming her and her members on their reciprocal visit to Caldbeck in August. Thanks were also due to her Society for the refreshments which awaited everyone in the former market hall inMain Street.

May 19th 2010

On Wednesday 19 April, about 30 people were treated to an illustrated talk on the history of Shap Abbey at Caldbeck Parish Hall by Harry Hawkins. Harry, who has had a lifelong interest in castles, told us that his research into Shap had been a longstanding “personal quest” which became a reality on retirement. The previous written account of any substance of the Abbey was in 1965 and Harry’s sources were primarily extracts from deeds which eventually came to light in the Lonsdale papers held inCarlisle.

Shap Abbey, also known as the Abbey of St. Mary Magdalen (the patron Saint of lepers), was established in 1200-1201, on the banks of the River Lowther. The Religious Order had been relocated from Preston Patrick, near Kendal. The founding Order was the Premontrensians, a silent order, started by St.Norbert c1121 at Premontre inFrance. The first house inEnglandwas established at Newstead Abbey, from where sister and daughter houses were established elsewhere, Shap being an example. The monks at Shap were known as “The White Canons” who were local men and ordained as priests. Their purpose was to serve God through prayer and meditation.

The monks were supported by the proceeds of the adjoining land (c.600 acres) through the collection of tithes and by saying individual masses, which was particularly popular in the 13th and 14th centuries. The land attached to the Abbey, which extended as far as Wet Sleddale, was used for sheep and there is aerial photographic evidence of contour farming and the growing of oats up to a height of 300 metres. There is also evidence of a fish pond, a medieval grange and a millstream upstream from the Abbey. A survey in 1769 of Shap Abbey Farm, adjoining the ruins, suggests the same block of land had existed since 1200 and its past usage is reflected in current field names.

The huge tower built between 1460 and 1520, a statement of glory to Abbot Richard Redman (who later went on to become Bishop of Ely Cathedral) continues to dominate the current site but the Abbey is a ruin, having fallen into disrepair after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Abbey surrendered to the crown on Jan 14 1540.

Since then the site was granted to the Warton family and in 1730 to the surrent owners, the Lowther estate. A major reconstruction and consolidation of the site was undertaken by The Ministry of Works in 1951. Unfortunately much of the building material had disappeared in the intervening years. However, as well as the imposing tower, flagstones known as the processing circles within the layout of the Abbey, two stone graves (one thought to be that of a child) and the remains of the precinct wall also survive as impressive relics of the past.

Harry gave us food for thought when he suggested the site has potential as a prospective community archaeological project. A visit to the site, either by car or on foot (the Coast to Coast path passes through), reminds us that Shap Abbey continues to be a place of “tranquillity and peace” as noted in the early deeds.

The meeting concluded with excellent refreshments, as usual, provided by Eleanor Benson and Evelyn Tickle.

Sally Vaux

April 21st: June Hall ‘English Rural Life in the Middle Ages ‘

Ron Davie, the Chairman, reminded members of the talk on May 19th about Shap Abbey by Harry Hawkins and the visit to Shap the following month.   He introduced a well-known visitor, June Hall who spoke about English Rural life in the Middle Ages.June said that for the purpose of this talk she was considering the Middle Ages as between 1100 and 1500, up to the Tudors.   There was considerable change over these 400 years and much of her material was drawn from the Luttrell Psalter of the fourtheenth century.   The nine Carthusian monastries in the country were a silent order, working the land for their living, studying and copying manuscripts, the universities of their time.  When gold leaf is applied to an illustration it becomes illuminated.   Another source is the Boke of Margery Kempe who walked toYork, toBristoland across Europe toParis.    Demesne land belonged to the manor, the rest was open, strip ploughed with large headlands to turn a team of eight oxen.   Crop rotation was practiced with the land lying fallow every third year.  Men wore a basic tunic, hem lines denoting status, each leg was clad in one of a pair of hose tied to an inner belt the tunic was belted and carried an all-purpose knife.  Some wore a hood and lirripipe or a hat for travel with a spoon tucked in the band, they walked or rode horses.   Women wore long tunics.  They cut the corn sheaves and bound them with a twist of straw,  using flails to thresh the grain.  Hose were woven, cut on the cross and seamed up the back.  Knitted stockings came in with the Tudors.   Goods were carried by packhorse or mule.   The mills belonged to the manor and could be watermills or windmills.   The peasant had to pay his tithe to the church, his duty days to the manor and miltcher to the miller for milling the flour.   The Reeve was in control of the everyday running of the property, he wore a hat.  He is shown in one picture with a wooden spade with an iron edge, another spade is shown with one footrest.  Ploughing was hard work and tended to follow the contours like the Catterick strips and the Gervais Abbey lynchet terraces.  Traces can be seen on the Kirkby Stephen to Nateby road and on the way to Swaledale.   The 1200’s brought huge expansion, growth of population, innovations, new land taken into cultivation, forest clearings in Inglewood despite its status as a Royal Forest.   Moats became status symbols for manor houses.   The Church and the aristocracy were continental-minded and trade increased.   By the 1400’s clothing became more ornamental with scalloped houpelands and shoes whose points were so long they had to be tied up to a garter.Sheep were long-legged and horned taking four years to mature, more like the Soay breed. The  bell-wether, a castrated male, led his flock on the common land.   Winter feed was holly, ivy, hay and winter greens.   Sheep were milked and cheese was made but it was the wool that brought prosperity. The Chancellor sits on the Woolsack, there were granges on Malham moor and in the South woolmerchants built huge churches and installed monumental brasses.   Spinsters used a drop spindle to twist the wool from their distaff.  Kendal Green made its name at this time.Milkmaids used pails made with wooden staves or carved from a log, cows were usually tethered individually as were some sheep.  Pigs were domesticated as well as wild in the forests.   November was the time for pig-killing.   Food stored for the winter was dried, salted or smoked.Tools included scythes, sickles, hayforks, hoes and spades.   Beeholes were built in stone walls facing east with their backs to the prevailing rain-bearing wind.  Honey was the only sweetener and was also used for food, medicine and cleansing.   Geese, chickens, pigeons all provided food and their feathers were used for fletching arrows or stuffing beds and cushions.   Rats and mice were a menace, as were foxes, cats were persecuted.  RoyalForestsor the Lord’s Chase were resources for villagers who had the right to gather timber and firewood by hook or by crook.   The hunting rights were carefully guarded, deer being protected.  Rabbits were farmed in coney warrens and hunted out for food using ferrets. Goats were sometimes run with sheep and hares were hunted for sport as well as food. Birds for the pot, of kiln-fired clay, were taken by falconers  and fish were netted from well-stocked ponds. Markets were granted by royal charter, raising revenue by fees for stalls and itinerant folk.  Each market was about fifteen miles from the next, within a day’s walking distance, to go and return.   Music and dancing featured among the entertainments.

June brought her talk to a close by hoping she had given us a flavour of a hard-working society with many contrasts and constant danger of illness and starvation, which celebrated life.  Ron Davie thanked her for sharing her knowledge with us.

17th March 2010:Tudor Carlisle 

Caldbeck and District Local History group and visitors were welcomed by their chairman Ron Davie.   The Archives Officer Kathleen Davie drew attention to a list of material available and asked anyone who had past records if they would make them available for copying.

Dr. Davie then introduced Susan Dench, former Senior Archivist in the Carlisle Record Office.   She had always been interested in the Tudor period and when she retired had to start research rather hastily as the Tudors and Stuarts were to feature in Educational Key Stage 2 and the Archives needed to produce a pack for the schools.

Because of the troubled times theCarlislerecords are fairly thin until the seventeenth century.  Occasional documents before the time of Queen Elizabeth usually dealt with the defence of Carlisle, the City Fathers asked Henry V111 for money to rebuild one of theEdenbridges.

One of the documents produced for the schools was a map of the City ofCarlisleabout 1550.   The original plan is in the British Library.  The site of the Blackfriars and the Greyfriars is shown, the latter was pulled down by HenryV111 to strengthen the city walls.   In 1561 paper not parchment was used for the Dormant Book, a tome to lie on a reading desk, with the rules for governing the City.   There is a picture of the demolition of Queen Mary’s Tower at the Castle, no charters are available before one of 1563 from Elizabeth1, some were destroyed by fire in 1293.   Fires were a great hazard in the period of wooden houses and one of the rules states that anyone not helping to fight a conflagration would be punished, another forbids the speaking of contemptuous words in the presence of the Mayor.   Fines were usually levied for transgressions and were recorded in the Court Leet.   Some documents from 1400 of the Mayor’s Court, where debtors were sued, survive but are very difficult to read.   Some records exist in London of correspondence about the rule of law and order along the Wall (trouble with the Scots).   There are some early Guild records but no Parish Registers before 1650.   From1564 some wills can be read, and the one of Thomas Monk, of Stanwix, detailing a house in Fisher St., and shops and an inn under the Guildhall, together with furnishings, clothing, etc., was included in the schools pack.

The Rules of the Dormant Book are in no particular order, but give an insight into the life of the times.   Gates were to close at 9 p.m., watchmen were appointed by rota and no substitutes were allowed except with the Mayor’s permission.  The Common Chest had three locks and three different people held keys.   If a man was fined for scolding or railing he had to pay a third of a pound, a woman was fined half that.   Swine were not allowed to roam the streets.   No dead animals in wells.   No unlawful games.   Street in front of the house to be cleaned weekly, or at least monthly.   No young man allowed on the streets after 10 p.m. except by his father’s or master’s instruction.   A cart left in the street for three days would incur a fine.

The Plague came in the winter of 1597/8 and what is known in Carlisle is recorded in the Mounsey/Higsham papers.   Penrith Registers give more detail.   It probably came from Newcastle to Darlington and across the Pennines.   Between October 1597 and September 1598 600 of the 1,300 population of Penrith died.   Cases were recorded in Appleby and Kendal and Carlisle got it in November 1597.  Documents came from London that November detailing ‘Necessary Precautions’, like fumigating with locally accessible materials, marking the doors and boarding up plague houses, the vennel ends were closed off too.   The disease was infectious before the symptoms appeared and many of those stricken were evacuated to shelters outside the City, in Bitts Park, Stanwix Bank and StLawrence’s Well on the Dalston Road.   Food was provided and money payments were given for all the work that had to be done. .  Some folk from Morpeth came over to do the ‘cleansing and scouring’, as did some of the Scots.   There were regular payments to ‘Hatters and Glovers’ presumably for protective clothing.   The population of Carlisle was between 1700 and 1800, it seems probable that about a third of them died.

Current investigations into records of that time suggest that the ‘Black Death’ was not bubonic plague spread by rats and fleas as in warmer Asian countries but a viral haemoragic plague spread by human contact, causing the disintegration of internal organs.  The Plague could recur.  The 1590’s had some bad harvests with resulting undernourishment and typhoid (the famine disease) hit the country in 1597.   The Plague of 1665/6 in London was the last, it died out as suddenly as it had started.

February 17th 2010: Dated Structures

Caldbeck and District Local History Society hosted a speaker for the first time this year.

The President, Ron Davie, welcomed members and requested silence in memory of a former President, Mary James, who died recently.   He reported that the General Meeting last month had decided to continue the Society, scaling down meetings, closing for three winter months, and asking members to take a more active part in some of the work entailed.   With this assistance, a Treasurer would stand for election at the next A.G.M.; Liz Boydell had agreed to work with a group to prepare a Programme for next year.   Various projects are available and members are encouraged to involve themselves.

Peter Messenger, a geographer, an archaeologist and Conservation Officer for Cumbria, was welcomed to tell us about the County Archaeological Society’s Project on Dated Structures.   He produced his first item, a brick inscribed with a date, initials and village name, which had been retrieved from a Carlisle wall when it was demolished.  He was hoping for local groups to explore their own neighbourhood and make lists to add to the county archives.   Barrow, Kendal, Ulverston, Shap, Maryport and Carlisle are all active in this field.   The project is a long-term one, no pressure.

We then saw slides of Brackenhill, a Tower house built for protection, with a date stone of 1584, possibly the date it was bought.   Then Low Levens showed a change of style with no defences dated 1594.

English Heritage has picked up the care of clay buildings, usually cruck framed, and encouraged craftsmen to pass on their skills.   Where such buildings can be dated this helps to place, historically, others.   Monkhill has stone lintel, dated 1750 for a brick extension, where the rest was a cruck clay building of an earlier age.   Lamonby Farm, Burgh by Sands was estimated to be 200 years old in 1953, now it is thought to be about 300.   At Durdar, an interesting stone gave two family initials, possibly two brothers, in 1689;  the clay building has been dated to 1505, extended in 1586 and then part stone faced with the new door surround in 1689.

Interior features can also provide dates, fireplaces, salt cupboards or larger, in built, cupboards or presses.  Often a restructuring will give the original date with the new, of a chapel, perhaps.   The site of the stone is important.   1902 was when the top floor was added, the original was much older.   A date stone in the wrong place becomes a feature but does not help in dating the building.   Interior graffiti can also be important.   A wall with a farming diary from the early forties had to be cleaned off after foot and mouth.   It was photographed.

The project had extended from dated buildings to dated structures with reports of bridges and lampposts.   Tullie House has ornate lead piping dated 1689.   Peter ended with a series of love letters cast in brick from Newton Arlosh in 1755, culminating in “Your consent is my content”.

Dr. Davie thanked Peter and members enjoyed conversation over the refreshments provided by Evelyn Tickle and Eleanor Benson.

The next meeting on March 17th will hear Susan Dench speak on “Tudor Carlisle”

November 2009: Celtic Saints

The Chairman, Ron Davie, welcomed members and guests, reminding us of the January Members’ Night and that an Extraordinary General Meeting would be held in the February to decide the future of the Society.

Dr. Davie then welcomed back our speaker, Sheena Gemmell, to talk on ‘Celtic Saints’.  She began by reminding us that when the administrative area became ‘Cumbria’ there was considerable discontent in the region, even in our area.   Actually Cumbria was an old name.  The Britons, who called themselves the Cymri, lived in Wales, Cumbria and the Scottish lowlands.   After the Romans left there were several British kingdoms.  Rheged included Cumbria and possibly Galloway;  Strathclyde covered Glasgow and the upper Clyde valley, with Beatock perhaps a border town; Goddodden (Northumbria) lay to the east of us.   Not for nothing is this time known as the Dark Ages, the boundaries were fluid and most of what we think we know has to be qualified.

Christianity came to Britain when the Romans were here, spread by soldiers and traders.   British Bishops attended a Synod in Gaul in the early fourth century.   The dioceses were patterned as was the Roman army.   Christian inscriptions have been found at Halsteads, Vindolanda, Maryport and other Roman settlements.   In Carlisle, the church of St. Cuthbert in the Blackfriars area is aligned to the Roman road, while the Cathedral lies East/West.   Even the area between Hadrians Wall and the Antonine Wall was Romanised to a certain extent and place names like Ecclefechan were derived from the Greek ‘ecclesia’, those who have been called out, i.e. Church.

The Angles landed mainly on the East coast, They wanted good land to settle and farm and tended to spread North /South, so pagan incursions over the Pennines were only occasional.

Patrick was a Briton and his are the earliest documents we have.   He lived, about 415 – 495.   His family was Romano/British, his grandfather a priest and his father a deacon and a minor government official.   They may have lived at Birdoswald and his father may have worked in Carlisle.  He was captured as a youth by slave traders, who may well have found the Solway a good route.   He was sold as a slave in Ireland and served six years as a shepherd before he escaped.   During this time he was converted and his escape may have led him to Gaul where he was able to study.   He came home but kept links with Gaul and was sent back to Ireland as a missionary Bishop.   His relationship with the British Church was a stormy one.   He told King Alclywd off for slave trading and was attacked in his turn by local Bishops, resulting in his writing his ‘Confessions’.   Patrick had a heart for the ordinary people and the under-dogs and managed to bring the Irish Church under Papal control, rather than British.

Ninian founded a Christian community at Whithorn which was within Rheged.   He may have been born in the Matterdale/Patterdale area and have belonged to a Christian cumbrian family.   In this local area Brampton Old Church, Ninewells, Brougham, a well at Brisco and the church of Ninekirks, on a monastic site, are all linked to St. Ninian.  He went to Rome as a youth and is said to have been consecrated Bishop by the Pope.   It is probable that he spent some time in the monestry at Tours as his church at Whithorn is dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, who travelled as an evangelist.   Whithorn was a focal point on the sea routes from Gaul and Ninian travelled throughout the Lowlands and evangelised the South Picts.  Around Stirling some churches are dedicated to St. Ninian.

Kentigern was from a princely family, he may have been Urian’s grandson, his mother was a Goddodden princess and  probably lived near Trappain Law, North Berwick.   She bore her son in Culross on the north side of the Firth of Forth having been cast adrift by her father due to her pregnancy.   The child was educated by St. Serf, a local hermit who gave him the pet name of Mungo.   When he left with St. Serf’s blessing, Kentigern went to Strathclyde and was given a burial ground originally consecrated by St. Ninian, where he founded a monastery. He was consecrated Bishop for Strathclyde by an Irish Bishop.   Later, Morcar, a pagan ruler, expelled him and tradition has it that he went south to Wales, turning aside to Cumbria on the way.   When he was recalled by the new king, about the year 600, they met at Hodden, north of Ruthwell.  The king may have been trying to guard his southern boundary following the death of his ally Urian.   We don’t know the boundaries of this time.   We have a cluster of dedications,  early settlements which may date from this era.  Welcoming his Bishop the king brought in the tradition that the king should serve the Bishop as his Father.   Kentigern died in 612.   The kingdom lasted until 1018.   The early history of Strathclyde is recorded in the Welsh valley of the Clwyd.   Cymri were fellow-countrymen, Cumbrae are islands in the Forth of Clyde.

Questioned as to the fourth Saint she had intended to talk about, Sheena gave us a brief resume of St. Cuthbert, who was Bishop of Lindisfarne for two years and did a lot on this side of the Pennines.  Among things found in graves were liturgical combs.

Following the Synod of Whitby which decided to follow the Roman tradition, hair was important as the tonsures were different, the Celtic tonsure being a shaved centre line from front to back and the Roman the circle on the top of the head.

Ron Davie expressed our gratitude to Sheena for an enlightening talk, if studded with caveats as to how little we do know of that period.

September 2009: The Romans

Forty years ago, when he gave his first talk on the Romans in this area, Mr. David Shotter, Professor Emeritus of Manchester University, told us the problem was to fill an hour.  Today the difficulty was to decide what to leave out.   His title was New Perspectives on the Roman Conquest and Occupation of the North-West.

Just after  WW11 the received ideas about the Roman invasion was that the serried ranks of Britons massed along the White Cliffs to resist.    This is no longer considered the case.

Recent excavations have dated roman artefacts and coins to a century before the ‘invasion’.   Trading with the Mediterranean was the way to develop social and economic prosperity in the Wirral for example.   The warriors like Caractacus were a minority, indulging in guerrilla warfare.    Hill forts, rather than being points of resistance against Rome, were gathering places for all sorts of religious, social and mercantile purposes.   From about 800BC woodland was being cleared and the land settled.   In an agricultural society the Roman brought law and order.   Many Roman Forts were built on ploughed land.

Here in the North, Cartemandua ruled in the east and she married Menutius, lord of the west.  They co-existed with the forces of Rome further south.   When Roman troops came into the area from AD 50 they would be on a search and destroy mission to root out gangs of trouble-makers.   No forts date from this time, only ‘campaign maps’, a rectangular bank where the soldiers dug a ditch and a barricade within which they pitched their tents.   Examples are on Shap fell and at Malham.   Each legionary carried three pilums and these would be tied together  to form a spiked fence outside the camp.   In the 50s and 60s Rome had a financial crisis and Claudius allowed the provinces to copy coinage.   These ‘local’ coins have been found with roman ones, on the coast and along river banks, most transport was by water.   Tacitus, Agrippa’s son-in-law, tells of combined land-sea operations.

Vespasian won the civil war following Nero’s death and formed Britain into two Roman Provinces, one based on Cirencester and the other on Chester.   Some forts were erected with turf ramparts and timber walls and buildings.   Brougham was in a commanding position  for east-west and north-south routes.   The excavations over the last 30 years in Carlisle have added a great deal of information, showing a mending of the road and one plank dating from a tree felled in AD72.

The buildings at Corbridge, Vindolandia and Carlisle were supply bases not frontier posts.  After Vespasian’s death unrest in mainland Europe caused troops to be withdrawn from Britain, probably between a half and two-thirds of them.    The line of the Forth – Tay rivers protected the coastal ports for the trade of food, it seems that much was locally produced.   Westward the wall was extended from Carlisle, at Burgh by Sands the fort was built on the site of a circular watch tower.   The fort at Ambleside has large granaries, possibly to supply Hardknott.   The Roman camp at the port of Ravenglass has been eroded by the sea, bisected by the railway line and the rest afforested.   Old Carlisle had a civil settlement on its southern slope and aqueducts have been found on an ‘industrial estate’ of many trades bringing prosperity to the area.

Hadrian decided to consolidate the northern boundary.   After the war was won the army was told to build a Wall.   The western third was a turf wall with stone forts.   Four years later Hadrian ordered the rest to be built of stone.

Kathleen Ashbridge expressed the thanks of the large meeting to Professor Shotter.

The next meeting will be the Annual General meeting on October 21st, preceded by supper at Denton House, please book your ticket.

July 2009: Wreay

Our outing in July was on a lovely evening with the sunlight catching the distant fells.   We found our way without difficulty to Wreay and had time to absorb the atmosphere of the Church of Saint Mary before our guide from the Parish Council met with us to tell us about it.      The Church was the brainchild and creation of a very special lady, Sarah Losh.   She had an interesting upbringing, in a family who were friends with the movers and shakers of the time and her intellect was stimulated from an early age.   She found it easy to learn and had wide interests.   Her imagination was aroused by her Grand Tour of Europe and when she found the local church in a poor state of repair she offered to give the land and rebuild it, if she was given a free hand in the design.

She employed local craftsmen and materials and was keen on recycling, reusing the stones from the original building and the wood of the old pews to line the roof of the nave.   Local tradition has it that she sent stonemasons over to Italy to learn the skills they needed and that her brother William brought back broken stained glass from the iconoclasts of the French Revolution which are incorporated in the main windows.   She herself carved the Font with its symbols of new life.   The whole church is full of symbolism and the current congregation are still learning more of the reasoning behind some of the decoration.

The journey of faith can be traced.   As we enter the porch and doorway are decorated with signs of the Creator and symbols of death.   The font shows new life and as we proceed towards the apse, drawn by the seven lights representing the gifts of the Spirit and admire the links with Old and New Testament stories we come to the lectern and reading desk which, like the pulpit are made from ancient wood dug from the bog.   The lectern is an eagle for St John, the reading desk a stork, or possibly a pelican, and the pulpit is an old stump with a new shoot springing from its root symbolising Christ.  Within the apse is an altar, carved with ears of wheat and bunches of grapes, set centrally with designs of the Apostles set into the outer wall and the Creed lettered below them.

Numerology has its place also, three for the Trinity, four for the earth or humanity, seven for the gifts of the Spirit, twelve for the tribes of Israel and the Apostles.   There are four main windows along each side of the nave, each with three smaller ones above and there are three times four times seven windows altogether.

When Ron Davie had thanked Raymond Whittaker and the other members of the PCC who welcomed us, we walked across to the Losh  family burial ground and admired the mausoleum Sarah had built for her sister showing a sculpture of her as a maiden.    We then went on to The Plough Inn where we enjoyed a good meal.

June 2009: Hutton in the Forest visit

On one of the wettest days of the summer we visited Hutton-in-the-Forest, to a very warm welcome.   Edward Thomson led us into the base of the pele tower, dating from the 1350’s.   Here the best of the stock would be enclosed when the raiders came, the rest taking their chance in the courtyard.   The thick walls and the barrel vaulting of the ceiling were all designed to extinguish any torches thrown into the space by a lucky shot from outside.

On display were some man traps and spring guns from the period when the Lord of Hutton kept the southern section of the Forest of Inglewood for the King.   There was also one of Lady Anne Clifford’s locks which she supplied to her friends and neighbours as well as her tenants, being justly proud of her locksmith.

Sir Henry Fletcher was killed in 1645 fighting for King Charles, leaving his family to languish in Carlisle Castle for two years until they raised the ransom of  700.   His son Sir George, was a friend of Daniel Fleming and the families intermarried.

The long gallery gazebo gives a good view over the walled garden on the north, with NW and NE walls sheltering what is now the main flower garden with interesting masses of colour.   The other two sides are yew hedges, many planted in the nineteenth century to pick up on the interest in the Arts and Crafts movement shown by Lady Margaret, Sir Henry Vane’s wife.   The Victorian wing is a progression of styles of the period under the guidance of Salvin, one of the major architects of the time.   The main staircase is his, as is the Cupid Room with a plasterwork ceiling and an early William Morris wallpaper, trellis with birds, much of the furniture is from Gillows.  Lady Margaret supported the Keswick School of Industrial Arts and herself embroidered the bed curtains and quilt to reflect the William Morris wallpaper.   She also painted the mirror frame in the dining room, which again has William Morris wallpaper and curtains of the period.

This upper floor gives a view over the road and the pond with its reed beds.  The Hall, below the Library is the main entrance and can seat 70 for events.  William, the first Lord Inglewood took up carriage driving and usually hosted a reception for the Lowther Horse Driving Trials, up in the anteroom to the Victorian Tower.

Ron Davie thanked our guide for an interesting glimpse into the past of an historic house which is still a family home.

20th May 2009: Hutton in the Forest talk

Ron Davie welcomed members and friends to Caldbeck Village Hall, reminding them of the outing next month to Hutton-in-the-Forest and introduced Edward Thomson, who had spent many years working there, to give us some background information.

His intention was to tell us of what is known of the owners of this stately home  and how the building developed.   He started, however, with legend.   If Carlisle was Camelot, then Hutton was the Castle of the Green Knight.

In the Middle Ages  de Hutton (or Hotton) was Warden   of the southern section of the Royal hunting forest of Inglewood and lived here, High End guarded the middle and Dalston Hall the northern section.   A man trap and a trip gun survive from those times.

The central portion of the building was the Peel Tower dating from the 1350’s and this was surrounded by a moat which had disappeared by 1604 when Sir Richard Fletcher from Cockermouth Hall took possession of the property, possibly by foreclosure.   He started to build the long gallery over the cloisters and his son Sir Henry completed this before he was killed in 1645 fighting for King Charles.   His son, Sir George was educated at Oxford and added a classical frontage across the peel tower and the new Hall he added beside it.   He became Carlisle’s Member of Parliament and instigated a good road to Carlisle and enclosures.   The villages were deep in the Forest, trying to pretend they weren’t there, since they were illegal.   The last of the Fletchers, Sir Henry entered a monastery in 1700.    In 1712 his sister married a Vane and Henry Vane Fletcher built the Walled Garden in the 1730’s.   He also planted many hardwood trees and designed the Cupid room, overlooking the garden.   Like most of the local landowners (perhaps not the Lowthers) he went along with Prince Charles.

In 1761 his brother Sir Walter, who had been a merchant in Holland, inherited.   His son, Sir Lyonel, dropped the Fletcher, his wife brought a Welsh dower chest to Hutton with her.   His  son, Sir Frederick Fletcher Vane, lived at Armathwaite Hall, where he invited John Peel to hunt and to dine.   He inherited in 1786 but was an absentee landlord, letting the building decay.   In 1832 his son, Sir Francis Fletcher Vane inherited and employed the architect Salvin to refurbish.   Salvin had restored Greystoke after its fire and he also worked on other castles including Windsor.

Sir Henry  Vane was only 10 when he inherited in 1842.   His marriage brought his wife’s collection of the Arts and Crafts period to Hutton.   He planted the specimen conifers and the topiary features.   The yew hedges still provide clippings to pharmaceutical firms to make Taxol, a cancer-inhibiting drug.   He died childless in 1908 and the estate was run by Trustees for a cousin who came of age in1931.   It was 1945 before Sir William Vane could come to live here.   He became a Member of Parliament for Westmorland, Minister of Agriculture, and moved to the Lords as Lord Inglewood.   His son, Richard inherited in 1989.   He was Minister of Culture and Tourism under John Major, a Member of the European Parliament for Cumbria and then for the North-West.   He is in the Lords as an elected hereditary peer and chairs the Art Exporting committee.

After some questions, Ron Davy thanked Mr. Thomson, marvelling that so much information could be supplied from a simple crib sheet of dates.   Everyone then enjoyed the refreshments provided by Evelyn Tickle and her helpers.

Tim Padley: Roman Carlisle: April 2009

Caldbeck and District Local History Society were given an overview of the history of the discoveries about the Roman period in Carlisle when Tim Padley brought a series of slides  to the meeting this month.    The Roman  fort was occupied from 72AD to the fifth century.

Interest started in the sixteenth century when individual collectors like Head, in banking, and Dixon, in textiles, financed local investigations.  Two altars were found in Grapes Lane in 1787.  The next century saw the foundation of learned societies.   A Museum was called for from 1829 and with the efforts of the Ferguson family, Tullie House opened in1893.

Salvage work took place while building was in progress and artefacts were excavated, examined and displayed. This gave some indication of the usage of the area but without any definite idea of the boundaries of fort or township.

Forty years back, the work planned to build Castle Way was welcomed by Dorothy Charlesworth as a series of opportunities.   During work in Blackfriars Street a writing tablet was found for the first time, a tray filled with wax was then inscribed, and then overwritten again and again.   An amber finger ring, the only one in Britain, was found with other jewellery and a slave manacle, as excavations progressed in Castle Street and Annettwell Street.

On the Millennium site, at last, structures were found.    The outline of the Fort could be traced lying under the Castle.   The Carlisle Floods reminded the citizens that the Castle, and the Fort before it, was built on a promontory, defended by water on three sides.   The situation is important as commands North/South and East/West routes.

One of the regiments leaving a record of their residence was of cavalry from France, part of the guard of the Governor Agricola, one letter was addressed to one of two forts, so troops were seconded in those days.   Domitian consolidated his forces along the A69, Stanegate, the Tyne/Solway line chosen as a northern limit.   Hadrian visited Britain and instigated the defences from Bowness on Solway to Wallsend on Tyne, with forts incorporated, Stanwix for Carlisle, which, like Corbridge, became a support area.  Various types of armour were discovered showing developments, scale armour, segmental armour and an armoured sleeve to guard against the Dacian falch.

The third rebuilding in stone took place around 200AD, they put in a hypocaust.  Blackfriars Street between Marks and Spencer and its Food Hall provided evidence for a rural area.  In the third century Carlisle became an official town with a civil government and milestones.  The town was part of a single monetary system, suffering taxation, showing evidence of souvenirs of sporting activities like chariot racing, and importing luxury goods.   There was also the dark side, a murdered body was found dumped down a well in the Lanes area.

The medieval castle, started by William Rufus, was inside a corner of the Roman Fort, possibly incorporating the old walls. The North Relief Road work found Hadrian’s Wall, naturally, and Neolithic and Mesolithic traces.   Bothchergate was the main cemetery area for the city, outside the walls, like the manufacturing.    There is some report of Viking bodies under the Cathedral.   No ampitheatre has been found, which need not deter local fans of chariot racing.

Liz Boydell, chairing the meeting, asked Ron Davie to express our thanks which he did with enthusiasm.  The next meeting, on May 30th, will be a talk on the history of Hutton in the Forest, which we hope to visit in June.

Coryn Clarke Memorial Lecture February 19th 2009

Dorothy Chalk welcomed members and guests to Caldbeck Parish Hall for the Coryn Clarke memorial lecture and introduced the speaker Mr Colin Smith from Bowscale.

His theme was the Turnpike Roads of North Cumbria and he started by describing his first meeting with Coryn and his appreciation of her energy.  He said how honoured he felt to be invited to give his talk this evening.

We were reminded that there was little call for roads in Cumbria, after the Romans, up to the sixteenth century; few folk travelled and those who did usually were in small parties and the local tracks served them well, if they did not travel by sea.   Heavy goods were usually shipped, but pack ponies managed to carry considerable amounts.

Large landowners were the people who needed to travel the length of the country and the turnpike, or toll, roads made carriage travel more convenient.   Each Parish had to maintain its own stretch of road and some were more conscientious than others.   Maintenance usually meant hauling a load of stones to fill up ruts and potholes.

One of the first turnpikes in Cumbria ran from Penrith to the coal mines north of Caldbeck, ending at Chalk Beck.   Each turnpike needed an Act of Parliament to set it up and toll bars and fees were decreed., those who were active in promoting it provided a cottage for the Toll collector and encouraged upkeep.  Fairly soon milestones were also required and an interest in preserving these led to the modern foundation of the Milestone Society.

Colin showed us slides of the differing styles of milestones and reminded us of the many ways they could be lost or destroyed.   His book, The Hutton Moor Road, was available, as were postcards showing Cumbrian Milestones.

Information and questions came from the audience and  finally Miss Chalk thanked Mr Smith and invited everyone to enjoy the refreshments provided by Evelyn Tickle  and her friends.

The speaker was besieged by individuals and continued to share his knowledge and his passion about the topic.

Guests Night January 21st 2009

Ron Davie, President, welcomed a large gathering of members and friends to the Parish Hall.   He told us of the start of the Historical Society and how it has developed and that we were hoping to expand in new directions in the future.   He named the three speakers for the evening who all had slides to show us.

Margaret Brough started with family wedding photographs, drawing our attention to the bouquets and the hats over the years.   “Spring Cleaning” reminded us of the hard work, lugging everything outside so the floors could be scrubbed, rugs on the walls to dry, and the whole family taking a breather before having to move it all back in again.   Grandad always wore a Trilby and had sweets in his pocket for the children.

We were then invited to note Margaret’s changing hairstyles, first the ‘pudding-basin’ cut, next slightly longer with side parting, then held back by a hair-band, and flowing locks with a ribbon bow tied on the back of the head.   Pictures of her childhood activities followed, Caldbeck Sports, Hesket Newmarket Show, fancy dress, picking wild flowers.   She knew where to gather wild strawberries, hips, elder flowers and berries, and longed to find a new flower.   It took her teacher a week to identify a spray of ‘Herb Paris’ she took in for the nature table.   Holidays in a caravan at Skinburness, one to Blackpool, with father sitting on the sand beside the sandcastle  in his suit and hat,  days out to Allonby.

Her final slide was of the milking parlour, which she remembered when the cows were milked with clusters, but mainly because the plucking of the fowls took place in the adjacent hay barn and she said she probably first became interested in catering when it meant she could avoid the barn and provide the meals the workers needed.

After prolonged applause Dr. Jim reminded us that in the 1950’s our area relied mainly on agriculture and mining and the farms were supplied by mobile grocery vans. His parents first lodged at Midtown House and then moved into Elm Cottage, where the Surgery was also where the baby slept.   The water tap was across the road outside Midtown House.   In 1952 they moved to The Barn.   We saw slides of Hesket Newmarket Show, Mabel Barker, on a rock face, the Hunt gathered on John Peel Day in 1954.   More pictures of fox, badger, even a seal seen on holiday, Margaret , Andrew and Catherine Jones at the Rectory field gate, then a bunch of children pushing a heavily laden cart along to go camping for one night at Watersmeet.

These were some of the memories that made Jim and his wife come back to Caldbeck to raise their own family.

Again, the audience showed their appreciation and then David Ward told us that he first visited Caldbeck in 1950.   He was a son of the manse, his father a Methodist minister who married a chapel organist whose home was in Appleby.   He had an itinerant childhood in the north-east with holidays in Appleby.   He reminded us of the heavy snowfall of 1947.

In autumn 1950 he walked from Penrith to Caldbeck and then got Hartness’ bus back to Penrith.   They moved to Carlisle and when he got his first car in 1962 he began regular visits.   In 1972 he moved into the village and was drawn into the Caldbeck Players.   We saw shots of various performances, the Hunt out on the Green on the  anniversary of John Peel’s death, and the wedding party, the final one being an action shot of the bride, Antoinette, on the lawn.

Ron Davie expressed our pleasure in the pictures and memories the three speakers had shared with us, and much chat ensued over the refreshments provided by Evelyn Tickle and her helpers.   An evening which will be long remembered.

Dennis Perriam: WW1 and its effect on Cumbria.  November 2008

We are looking back 90 years to the Armistice.   The first things we saw were Government posters saying Remember Belgium, and then the Belgian refugees started to arrive.   Rickerby House was turned in to a hostel for them and became the HQ for their reception and distribution to the many parishes which offered hospitality.

There were many restrictions: no photography, especially near military depots; all aliens had to register with the police even the Italian ice cream vendors, although Italy was our ally;  German sounding names were changed by deed poll, as was reported in the local papers; censorship of the papers was introduced, as well as of letters home from the Front.   There was an expectation of sabotage and Boy Scouts manned check points and guarded bridges when the Army was overstretched, against Germans and the IRA.   There was one casualty when a passer by did not stop at Wetheral Bridge.

Because many of the police had joined up, Special Constables were recruited for Sunday duty, most of whom were beyond military age.

There was a rush to join up and the Labour Exchange replaced the Castle as the recruitment centre, by 1916 new huts were in place outside the castle walls.    New recruits trained in Bitts Park and on the old Racecourse which were flood vulnerable.   Eventually the camp was established in Durdar the current racecourse site.  The Territorials formed a new battalion of the Border Regiment and went out to Burma, freeing the 1st Battalion to go to France.   Turkish prisoners were used to build railways in Burma, some were sent to Irak.

The idea of the Chums regiment, local lads joining up, training and fighting together became prevalent and the Earl of Lonsdale founded the 11th Battalion of the Border Regiment, they and the 12th trained on the racecourse site and a pamphlet with photographs was published after the war.   They paraded through Carlisle as a recruitment drive before they went to France in 1916.

Women did their bit, first as nurses.   The Volunteer Aid Detachment of the Red Cross worked in hospitals which were set up to cope with the wounded.   During the holidays the County High School was commandeered as a hospital but when the Governors discovered this at the beginning of term, the authorities had to make other arrangements. Scotby House, Eaglethwaite Hall near Armathwaite and Dalston Hall all became temporary Hospitals.   Their first test was the railway disaster in May 1915 at Gretna when a regiment en route for Galipoli lost over 200 men as well as the wounded.



Industry was put on a war footing as was needed by the Army.   In 1916 conscription was announced and all men between the ages of 18 and 41 had to join up unless they could prove their work was essential.   A military tribunal judged all cases and these were reported in the papers.   Those on essential war work were issued with medals each year so that they could display them and not suffer the indignity of being presented with a white feather every time they went out.

In December 1915 two captured German guns were paraded through Carlisle to the Castle where they remained on display as propaganda and encouragement.

Because so many men were in the Army women joined the industrial work force for the first time. Pictures of the Drill Hall show it converted to the East Cumberland Shell Factory, the Drill Hall Volunteers had all been drafted into Defence.   Ninety-eight per cent of the work force was female.   They published a booklet with photographs after the war.

Women had to wear trousers for safety among the machines, they formed football teams, staffed the munitions works at Gretna, were employed as police constables.   By 1919 there was one female PC in Carlisle, when she retired there were none until 1939.   Many new things were tried, some women became train drivers – not in Carlisle.

The Cumberland Volunteer Regiment consisted of men in essential war work and those over the age limit.    Some of them manned anti-aircraft guns along the Solway.

What was it like in France?   Newspaper reports and photographs were sanitized and censored as were the letters from the Front, after the first few months.   We saw a photo of British prisoners in Germany,1915.

The papers carried lists of prisoners as well as casualties.   As these mounted a Carlisle photographer of 40 was able to persuade the Tribunal that he was doing essential work, taking studio portraits of the men who joined up.   One artist used his skills to sketch life in the trenches and also designed camouflage coverage for ‘planes.   His work appears in the Imperial War Museum.   James Scott Douglas published his experiences as a ‘Conchie’.

Flag days were held for various charities, the Alexandra Rose Day among them.   Rest Rooms for soldiers were set up in Court Square, Church Halls,etc.   War Bonds were promoted.   With women working, nurseries and creches were provided.   Ration books were brought in, and posters warned against wasting scarce resources.  Allotments were made available and gardens were turned into vegetable plots.   Sunday school boys grew food, the Land Army was formed “wi’ lassies at the plough”.    Children picked berries and wild fruit.  Horses had been sent to France so mechanization hit Britain and tractors were seen on farms.

In 1917 George V visited the north-west.   He came to Barrow and Carlisle and went on to Gretna. He presented medals to the Cumberland Volunteer Regiment in Carlisle and visited the Gretna Tavern one of the early pubs which had been taken over by the city to host the soldiers.

Eight breweries were amalgamated and taken over , the exterior advertisements for the former breweries were removed and the interiors became austere.   One local man complained that he could not recognize a pub any more.

Laings were working hard, building aerodromes etc. but in 1916 they also built the new Post Office and the City Picture House in Carlisle.   Canadian lumberjacks joined up to come and work our cumbrian forests.   In 1918 the Fusehill Workhouse was made into a military hospital, as were Brook Street School and Newtown School.   Wounded soldiers wore a blue jacket with wide lapels.

Woodrow Wilson came via Carlisle to London and Paris on his way to sign the peace treaty in 1919.   In September 1919 some of our troops began to return and a Peace Dinner was held in the Market Hall in Carlisle, more returned in 1920.

There is not a lot of pictorial evidence of the time, newspapers relied on amateur pictures, having carried none before the War and then none after it until 1924.  Brochures, like those of the East Cumberland Shell Factory, and of the training camp at Durdar were produced after the War as a record of the times we lived through.

We had seen a hundred slides which gave us a flavour of the period.

Liz Boydell expressed our sincere thanks to the speaker.


AGM 22 October 2008

The 23rd AGM of the Caldbeck and District Local History Society was held in Hesket Newmarket Chapel on 22nd October, following a most enjoyable supper across the road in Denton House. As in previous years, there was a good attendance.

President Liz Boydell opened the meeting by welcoming members and inviting a short silence in memory of the three members, Peggy Maynard, Ursula Banister and Ian Dunmor, who had died since the last AGM.  She said how honoured she had been to preside during her three year term of office and how well supported she had been by the hard working officers.

Diana Greenwood, the Secretary, then read the minutes of the previous AGM, which were approved.   There were no matters arising.

The year’s financial accounts had been audited by Audrey Noble and were presented by Lesley Kingham, who confirmed that the finances were in a healthy state.

Kathleen Davie, the Publicity Officer presented a detailed account of the last year’s activities.

The many members who had attended found the speakers interesting and informative, as well as enjoying the excellent refreshments provided by the catering team, led by Evelyn Tickle.

Beryl Hibbs, who had assisted with the organising of the programme for the next year, outlined the wide range of speakers who had agreed to come.   She was thanked for her long years of membership and good wishes were expressed for her future in Keswick.

Vice-President Ron Davie reported on the projects in progress.   The publication of Richard Greenup’s ‘A Walk Around Our Village of Caldbeck’ had been delayed due to the concentration of work on another publication(below).   However, there was extremely good news in that Greenup’s original manuscript had now been found, so that reliance on often badly degraded photocopies was no longer necessary.    The book, ‘Memories of Lakeland’, has been completed, transcribed and checked.   It is with the printers and will be launched in Caldbeck Parish Hall on November 29th.    The work on a DVD of local photographs with commentaries was continuing.   He paid tribute to the dedication and hard work of the many members who had been involved in all these efforts.

Changes to the constitution were accepted by the meeting.

Ron Davie assumed the position of President.   He had to confess failure to find anyone to fill the position of Vice-President.   Is a commitment to three years as ‘stand-in’ and then three years in office a deterrent?   All the existing committee members with the exception of Beryl Hibbs were willing to stand and were re-elected.   The meeting approved the Committee decision to split the Publicity Officer’s work into two sections, a) Reports and b) Posters.    Kathleen Davie retained the latter and Dorothy Chalk took on the media reports.  Kathleen Davie also agreed to be Archives Officer.

The new President asked members to consider the need for change.   Can we attract the younger generations?   How do we need to change?  Could we support other projects?

There was no AOB and the President closed the meeting, with heartfelt thanks to Liz Boydell and the Committee members, at 9.45 p.m.

The raffle prize, a years subscription to the Society, was won by Margaret Jones.

Look out for details of the  GUEST  NIGHT  in January.


The Mind of the Medieval Doodler 17 September 2008

At its September meeting in Caldbeck Parish Hall the Caldbeck & District Local History Society welcomed again as its speaker, Dr John Todd, whose topic was ‘The Mind of the Medieval Doodler’. The doodler in question was the person responsible for the drawings in the margin of the Lanercost Cartulary. Like many monasteries, the medieval canons of Lanercost priory had made copies of the original charters recording grants of land, etc. (the forerunners of modern title deeds) in a large book known as a cartulary. The Lanercost Cartulary had been started in the early 1250s and completed in 1364. Dr Todd has edited this charter book, which is now in the Cumbria Record Office.

About 30 to 40 years after the cartulary’s completion, some “crude but lively” drawings had been added in the margins of the book – an extremely rare phenomenon in cartularies. The Lanercost Cartulary was thought to have disappeared in 1826 but it eventually re-emerged in good condition in 1982, and was purchased by Cumbria County Council. However, although the text itself was already known  from 18th century copies of the cartulary, the “thrilling aspect” of the find was the unsuspected drawings in the margins. Dr Todd has since fully researched and written about these.

At the meeting he showed his audience an extensive sample of the 42 drawings, which included: coats-of-arms; churches and secular buildings; vegetation and landscapes; churchmen and workmen; farm animals; and farm implements.

Three main questions were posed for consideration: firstly, in the spectrum between fine art and graffiti, where did these drawings stand? Secondly, were they really taken from medieval life, or were they stylised or copied from other sources? Finally, why were the drawings added at all in the margins of such a precious book?

Whilst showing his slides, Dr Todd discussed many of the aspects pertaining to these questions. He concluded that the Lanercost Cartulary drawings were near the bottom of the vernacular level of drawing, although the “draughtsman” was at his best in his depiction of people. Though some of the drawings may have been fanciful (e.g. the one of the priory itself) or copied from elsewhere, they are of particular local interest for two reasons. First, they throw light on Cumbria in the later Middle Ages and, second, no other similar work is known in the north-west of England. In answer to the third question above, Dr Todd suggested that the Lanercost canon who did the drawings was perhaps just doing it for fun: a medieval doodler!

After Chairman Ron Davie had thanked Dr Todd for an extremely fascinating talk, the evening ended with refreshments provided and served by Evelyn Tickle, Mary Holliday and Eleanor Benson.


Outing to Dalemain  20 August 2008

At the July meeting of the Caldbeck & District Local History Society, Judith Doig, a guide at the historic house of Dalemain, near Penrith, had spoken about the house and its history from medieval times to the present day.

Her talk was followed on 20th August by a visit to Dalemain by a group from the Society. On this occasion, guided by Judith Earle, it was fascinating to see at first hand the unusual structure of two medieval pele towers and a Tudor mansion encased within an extensive Georgian country house – the home of the Hasell family since 1679.

From the Georgian entrance hall, the party was shown through the Chinese room with its original 18th century hand-painted wallpaper. This led into the dining room, rich with family portraits and photographs, followed by the servants’ passage (where the Georgian additions to the original Tudor buildings could more easily be seen) and the former pele tower. Here, there was an exhibition devoted to the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry. Once again, there were interesting family connections with what was on display.

After ascending the tower’s stone staircase, the group saw two Tudor rooms – with a Georgian room built between them! Of great interest in the first room were the artefacts which had belonged to Lady Anne Clifford, who had had many links with the Hasell family.

Having passed through a number of passages and rooms, most of them quite small and  of different historical periods, the tour ended in the room occupied by Dalemain’s former housekeepers. At the far end was a priest’s ‘hidey hole’, dating back to the Reformation but discovered only in the 1860s.

Not only did the group appreciate their guided tour of a portion of this intriguing house, they also had the lovely gardens to explore as well as the impressive 16th century barn, which included a display of agricultural implements and fell pony artefacts. Last but not least was the tea-room in the medieval Old Hall.


The History of Dalemain  16 July 2008

At its July meeting in Caldbeck Parish Hall, Judith Doig spoke to the Caldbeck & District Local History Society on ‘The History of Dalemain’. Mrs Doig, who was strikingly attired in a copy of a Georgian dress which she had seen in a portrait at Dalemain, has been a house guide there for some seven years.

The house, whose name means house in the valley is situated a few miles southwest of Penrith. From the outside it looks for all the world like a Georgian country house. However, behind its façade lies a Norman pele tower, an enclosed Tudor mansion and an inner courtyard. In addition, the medieval Old Hall now houses the tearoom.

In 1679, Sir Edward Hasell, a steward to Lady Anne Clifford, bought the Tudor mansion for £2710, and to the present day Dalemain continues to be the home of the Hasell family.

Much restoration and renovation followed his purchase and, together with his mother, he planned and built the Georgian part of Dalemain, which was completed in 1744. This was the last significant addition to the house.

Mrs Doig explained that a great deal is known about the history of the Hasell family since they still live there and the house contains numerous family portraits and much archival material. She was therefore able to recount many interesting (and often amusing) anecdotes about some of the more colourful characters and events in Dalemain’s history.

In addition to the evolution of the house through the centuries, today’s beautiful gardens also have a history of their own. Particular mention was made of the now famous show in early summer of the beautiful but difficult to grow Himalayan Blue Poppies.

As an afternoon outing to Dalemain on 20th August has been arranged for the Society’s next event, Mrs Doig’s talk had provided much valuable background information and had certainly whetted the appetite for the forthcoming visit.

President Liz Boydell, who chaired the meeting, thanked Mrs Doig for her interesting history of Dalemain, after which everyone enjoyed Evelyn Tickle’s customary excellent refreshments.


The Yellow Earl’s Arctic Journey  18 June 2008

Caldbeck & District Local History Society welcomed Dr Rob David, Honorary Research Fellow at Lancaster University, to their June meeting in Caldbeck Parish Hall. The title of his talk  was ‘The Yellow Earl’s Arctic Journey’, the remarkable adventure of the 5th Earl of Lonsdale, 1888-9.

In introducing his subject, Dr David said that many people perhaps know of the Earl as the founder of boxing’s Lonsdale Belt but not that the yellow colour of the Automobile Association’s badge was due to his choice when President.

In discussing the reasons for Lord Lonsdale’s Arctic journey, Dr David advanced a range of possibilities which might have sparked the Earl’s interest, including various Cumbrian links with a number of 19th century expeditions to that part of the world.

Describing Lord Lonsdale as “larger than life” and “a great story-teller”, whose stated reasons for his trip were forever changing, Dr David said that the real reason was an affair he had had with an actress, Violet Cameron. Her resultant pregnancy when both were already married had led to Queen Victoria telling him to ‘disappear’ abroad in order to clear the air and escape the publicity. Thus, at the age of 31 and in the depths of the Canadian winter, he had set off for the Arctic – with his butler!

His adventure and its considerable hardships were entertainingly detailed by the speaker, who also showed photographs of Lord Lonsdale in various Arctic costumes – all of which were posed studio portraits, with ‘suitable’ Arctic backgrounds added on afterwards.

In assessing the significance of these travels, Dr David said that although there had been some flattering articles both here and in the U.S., Lord Lonsdale’s journey had often been regarded as “a huge joke” by the scientific establishment in this country. On the other hand, the speaker argued, he should be given credit for undertaking a remarkable and dangerous journey. Furthermore, he had brought back important and rare artefacts, and photographs of the indigenous people of the area; and had given around 200 items to the British Museum, which now form the core of its Arctic collection. However, it was unfortunate that he had provided no details to accompany this material, thus limiting its value. All in all, Dr David felt, the Earl could not properly be viewed as a scientific explorer – rather perhaps as “the first in a line of travellers and tourists” to the Arctic region of the world.

The meeting was chaired by Kathleen Ashbridge, who thanked Dr David for his entertaining and informative talk. This successful evening ended with everyone enjoying Evelyn Tickle’s excellent refreshments.