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Extracts from Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847

Wythop is a township and chapelry, within the parochial chapelry of Lorton, extending from 4 to 6 miles S. E. by E. of Cockermouth, and containing the small hamlets of Old Scales and Routon Beck17, 4½ miles from the same town. Its rateable value is £670 11s. 6d., and its population, in 1841.was 436. Wythop, or Wythorp, Salium convallis, said to have derived its name “from the Wyths, or Willows, growing there,” was anciently a demesne of the honour of Cockermouth, but the manor. which descended from the Lucys to the Lowthers, was sold, in 1606, by Sir Richard Lowther to Richard Fletcher, of Cockermouth, who entertained Mary, Queen of Scots, with great hospitality, on her way from Workington to Carlisle, for which. he was afterwards knighted, on the accession of her son James, to the crown of England. Sir Henry Fletcher, Bart., one of his descendants, became a convert to the catholic faith, and died in a monastery at Flanders, in the early part of the last century, having settled the estate upon Thomas Fletcher, with remainder to Henry Vane, son of Mr. Vane, of Long Newton, Durham, so that it now belongs Sir H. R. Vane, Bart.

The Chapel of Ease, which is a small edifice, stands near the farm called Kelswick, over the steep woody bank that rises from the west side of Bassenthwaite lake. The living is a curacy, certified to the ecclesiastical commissioners, as of the average annual value of £51, in the patronage of the inhabitants, and incumbency of the Rev. James Matthias Woodmason. The tithes were commuted, in 1844, for £18. 9s.

Setmurthy, or as it is called in ancient records, Secmurthow, and sometimes Seatmurthow. is a township and chapelry extending along the south side of the Derwent, nearly to the foot of Bassenthwaite Lake, and containing a small Chapel of Ease, under the parochial chapel of Cockermouth, from which it is distant 4½ miles N. by E. The chapel was built in 1794; the living is a curacy, certified to the ecclesiastical commissioners as of the average value of £54 per annum, in the patronage of the inhabitants and incumbency of the Rev. C. C. Southey, of Plumbland. It was certified to the governors of queen Anne’s bounty, at £2, being the interest of £40 raised by the inhabitants for a reader, but when Hutchinson wrote, it had received three augmentations, so that the living was then worth £24 per ann. The tithe is worth about £16 a year. “Before its augmentation,” says the same writer, “the reader of divine service had a precarious income; but an actual custom subsisted for several years, of allowing the poor minister a whittlegate. He was privileged to go from house to house in the chapelry, and stay a certain number of days at each place, where he was permitted to enter his whittle, or knife, with the rest of the people of the household, and to share the provisions prepared for the use of the family. This custom has been abolished in such modern times, that it is in the memory of many now (1794) living.” The chapelry is part of the honour of Cockermouth, so that general Wyndharn is lord of the manor. At the enclosure of the common, 60 acres were purchased by the inhabitants, for the use of a schoolmaster to teach the children of Setmurthy. This land is now worth £21, but it is expected shortly to let for upwards of £30 a year. Besides which, the master has what is called a “school store,” amounting to £2 16s. a year, contributed by a few of the landowners. Here is also an infant school, to which lady Vane contributes £17 a year, viz., £12 to a mistress, and to a master for teaching writing, £5. Sir Henry R. Vane, Bart. is the principal landowner of this township, which, in 1841, contained 181 souls. Its rateable value is £1800.

Embleton township and parochial chapelry, contains 3764 acres, rated at £3168, and the small hamlets of Beckhouse, High-side, Shatton, Stanger, and Stanley Hall13, situate in a fertile valley, stretching east and west between Bassenthwaite lake and Cockermouth, and girt on the north and south by hills, which afford excellent pasturage for sheep. The Church, which was rebuilt in 1806, is a plain, but neat and substantial edifice, with a bell turret carrying two bells. It is dedicated to St. Cuthbert, and stands in a cemetery near to Beckhouse hamlet, three miles S.S.W. of Cockermouth. The benefice is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the earl of Lonsdale, and incumbency of the Rev. Henry Kitchen. Hutchinson says it is “endowed with lands of the yearly value of £2 4s., a stipend of £5 paid by the impropriator, and £1 1s. yearly produce of a money stock.” It was certified to the ecclesiastical commissioners as of the annual value of £54. The tithes were commuted in 1841, for £190. Embleton, “villa Amabiliœ,” was a parcel of the demesne of Allerdale-above-Derwent, in the time of Richard I, when it was given by Robert Courtney and Alice Romley, his wife, to Orme de Ireby, of High Ireby, in which family it continued till the reign of Edward III, but is now possessed by a number of proprietors, and general Wyndham is lord of the manor. Highside, consists of four farms and a few cottages, 3½ miles S.E. of Cockermouth; Shatton is two miles S.S.E.; and Stanger, two miles S. by E. of the same town. At the latter hamlet is a strong aperient salt spring, called Stanger Spa, said to be very efficacious in all acute diseases of the skin, but it is not much resorted to at present. Stanley Hall hamlet is distant about three miles from Cockermouth. Pop. in 1841, 408.

Quarrying took place in the area yielding gypsum, dolomite and green and grey granite.

There is a stone circle, Elva Plain, just north of the village on the common land.


Higham, the residence of the Rev. Canon G.R. Hoskins, M.A., is a handsome mansion rebuilt by the late T.A. Hoskins, Esq., in 1828. It commands a pretty peep of the foot of Bassenthwaite Lake, and a magnificent view of the extensive range of hills from Sale Fell, in Wythop, to Torpenhow, embracing the Dod, Ullock, Skiddaw proper, Orthwaite Fell, and Binsa. On the estate is an object of antiquarian interest – a circle of large stones, supposed to indicate a Druids’ temple, or more probably the burial place of some noteworthy personage among the Pagan Britons.

John Walker, M.D., “the great apostle and martyr in the cause of vaccination,” was born at Cockermouth, in 1759, and received the principal part of his education at the Grammar School in this town. He was the son of a smith, who resided in the house now occupied by Mr. J. Miller, and for five years followed his father’s business, after which his restless spirit directed itself to the art of engraving, and, in 1798, he removed to Dublin, and his performance in Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, for 1780, 1781, 1782, and 1783, shew to what an excellence he attained in that art. He afterwards kept a school in Dublin, and published a Geography and Universal Gazetteer. In 1797, he visited the continent, and, in 1799, obtained the degree of doctor of medicine, at the celebrated university of Leyden. He, in company with Dr. Marshall, introduced the cow pock at several places in the Levant; and on his return, settled in London, where he obtained an extensive practise, and was most indefatigable in his exertions at the vaccine stations. He was a member of the Society of Friends, and having dispensed the blessings of the discovery to almost every part of the habitable globe, died June 23rd, 1830.

Old customs, like old ideas, often die a very lingering death; and in the rural districts of Cumberland many old-world manners and customs still survive the shock given to these antiquated forms by this twentieth century enlightenment. In the country districts around Cockermouth, the advent of a “little stranger” is an event generally celebrated by feasting, eating, and drinking; the principal feature of the feast being “rum butter,” of which every visitor is expected to partake. This substance is composed of brown sugar, melted butter, and rum, and is set before every person, whether male or female, who pays a visit of welcome to the little stranger. At the christening feast whatever remains of the rum butter is then consumed.