Parish historical notes.
ccording to the authors of ‘The place-names of Cumberland’ the original name of Mungrisdale can be traced back to 1285. They believe it is derived from Grisadalr, valley of the pigs, from Old Norse, griss and dalr, Mung and Moung being a late addition”. They considered the meaning of the addition to be uncertain. However the small Mungrisdale Parish Church is named after St Kentigern whose nickname was Mungo (from Celtic Mynghu). He was Bishop of Glasgow in about 550 AD and journeyed through north Cumbria
It is not known when people first settled in the Parish. Until fairly recently the earliest settlement was thought to have been an Iron Age fortress of the Brigantes, arch enemies of the Romans, on the top of Carrock Fell. However following numerous archaeological surveys over the past three decades the workings are now considered to be the remains of an ancient stone axe factory. There is no evidence that people actually lived on the site. Where those who worked the factory came from is also not known but it is unlikely to be very far away.
Most of the land now forming the civil Parish of Mungrisdale belonged as far as records exist to the baronial family of Dacre. Subsequently it passed through female heirs to the families of Fiennes and Lennard. It was then sold by the co-heiress of Thomas, Earl of Sussex, to Sir Christopher Musgrave of Eden Hall. He in turn sold it to Edward Hassell of Dalemain – descendants of whom remain the dominant Lords of the Manor today. In old documents it was stated that the manors of Mosedale and Swineside was the place where the Dacres, barons of Greystoke, kept their deer and wild swine before the land was divided up into tenancies.
In 1421 it was reported that the area of Cumberland within twenty miles of the region now regarded as the Borders was ‘depopulated because of war, pestilence, and emigration’. Mungrisdale Parish falls within this area so the probability was that it was sparsely populated then.
In ‘The Registers of the Parish of Greystoke 1559-1757’ there are numerous entries appertaining to places in what is now the civil Parish of Mungrisdale. – the earliest being 1559. The spellings of the places in the entries vary enormously until around 1700 when the modern names of Mungrisdale, Bowscale, Mosedale, Murrah and Berrier became consistent. It appears the hamlets of Mungrisdale, Bowscale, Mosedale, Berrier Murrah, and Hutton Roof were well established by the mid 14th century and later became regarded as ‘vils or ‘townships - ’ the basic local government units.
Angus Winchester, in his book ‘Landscape and Society in Medieval Cumbria’ refers to a document dated 1568. This document records an exchange of common rights whereby “the tenants of Heggle and Hutton Roof in Greystoke barony had turbary rights in Mosedale, part of Dacre manor, while the Lord of Dacre’s tenants in Mosedale had pasture for their cows and gelded horses on Berrier Moss in Greystoke barony.’
In the archives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) there is a record that in 1653 George Fox, the founder of the Society, came with others and held a meeting in the house of John Slee in Mungrisdale. It is recorded that ‘soon after a Meeting was set up in Mosedale attended by ‘Tho. Mark, Jno. Sowerby, Jno. Greenhow, Hugh Peacock and several others…. and the children come’. The Mosedale Friends Burial ground records give 1653 as the first known internment.
John Slee was born in Mungrisdale and was regarded in his day as a ‘profound mathematician’. He set up an international school of mathematics in Tirril and after his death there in May 1828 his son Thomas continued the work.
In May 1662 the Hearth Tax, sometimes referred to as ‘Chimney Money’, was introduced in England and Wales to provide a regular source of income for the newly restored monarch, King Charles II. Except for a few exemptions a ‘sum of twoe shillings by the year’ had to be paid ‘in two equal instalments at Michaelmas (29th September) and Lady Day (25th March) for ‘every hearth and stove’ in their dwelling’. The Cumberland Hearth Tax Returns are incomplete but give us an idea of the number of houses in the area by then. Those available for 1664 list the townships of Mungrisdale, Berrier and Murrah, and Hutton Roof. In total the townships were assessed as having - 26 houses with 1 hearth and one with 2 hearths.
The Institute of Historical Research estimates that the population of the ecclesiastical Parish of Greystoke (which included some 13 townships) in 1698 was 2510.
In 1700 the German miners were extracting and smelting lead and copper from nearby Roughten Gill so by this time they may well have already explored sites around Bannerdale Crags and Carrock Fell. These activities brought an influx of people into the Parish. Ian Tyler, in his book “Carrock and the Mines of Skiddaw and Blencathra”, offers 1704 as the first written reference that mining took place in the Parish. This cited Carrock Mine that was to have a sporadic working life over the next two centuries, opening and closing many times.
Queen Elizabeth I needed to raise funds to pay for the expansion of her Army and Navy. She had insufficient silver to make the necessary coinage but learnt that by adding copper with the silver she could make much more. She had invited German miners, who had established a reputation as being the best in Europe, to prospect in the ‘realm’ for copper. The Skiddaw Massif was a prime target and there was an influx of people coming to work and live in the Parish.
St. Kentigern’s Church was rebuilt in 1756 but there had been an earlier building on the same site, marked as a ‘Chapel’ on early maps. It is a typical barn-like Dale church built of thick rubble stone walls covered with a slate roof carried on king-post trusses. The Church’s silver chalice, to be seen in the Treasury at Carlisle Cathedral, is inscribed ‘Mounge Grieesdell 1600’. The bellcote contains a single bell dated 1481 but this is thought to have come from Greystoke Church, at one time the mother church.
It is not until 1801 that detailed figures were available for each township. By then the population of the Parish of Greystoke had dropped to 2151. The township of Mungrisdale then had 34 houses with 160 residents, Berrier and Murrah 22 houses with 136 residents, Hutton Roof 38 houses with 163 residents. The Townships of Bowscale or Mosedale did not feature in these returns.
The townships of Mungrisdale, Mosedale, Bowscale, Hutton Roof, Berrier and Murrah were registered as part of the Penrith Registration District in 1837 and the in 1934 became amalgamated into one – Mungrisdale.
Quite a number of houses in the Parish have inscriptions carved on the lintels over doors, and some over windows. It is not always the date when the house was built. Sometimes it was when a family set up home in the house. Some of the lintels have been transferred from other properties. Thwaite Hall, a listed grade II* building has an inscription over the entrance ‘Rebuilt 1555 Modernised 1876’. It also has an interesting stone carving above the lintel. The earliest dated lintel on a house in the Parish reads 1610 and is situated on the original front door of Middle Farm Cottage in Mosedale but now hidden by a vestibule added later. The initials are that of Thomas Mark and Mary Mark.
One of the earliest maps of the area appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1747 and clearly shows groups of houses at Mungrisdale, Bowscale, and Mosedale. It was included in an article entitled ‘A journey to Caudebec Fells’ which the writer considered to be the ‘lateral detachment of the British Alps’. He goes on to record that ‘in the neighbourhood of Mose-dale I found villages in the narrow bottoms, that feel no more benefit from the solar rays for two months, about the winter solstice, than the old Cimmerians, or the Laplanders who inhabit about the North Cape of Norway’. He lists some of the plants and shrubs he found including Black Maiden Hair, Mountain Sorrel, Dwarf Birch and Dwarf Mountain Oak.
The first detailed map of the Parish is that shown in Thomas Donald’s ‘Historic Map of Cumberland 1774’ with most of the houses named still standing and occupied today.
Wealthy people from the south of England, attracted through the writings of the literary circles expressing their exuberance about the Lake District, were visiting the area in increasing numbers. To do this necessitated roads on which carriages could be used. What roads did exist were no more than unsurfaced tracks. As far back as 1555 Parliament passed an Act which laid a duty upon every Parish Council to elect an unpaid ‘Overseer of the Highways’ to ‘survey its roads, report on their condition, and to see that the necessary repairs were done under supervision of the parishioners’. But Parish Councils, particularly in rural areas, were ineffectual. The arrival of increasing numbers of ‘tourists’ in carriages drawn by numerous horses played havoc with the unmade roads and the Government become under increasing pressure to do something about it. However the Government had no money to improve matters. The answer was seen as Turnpike Roads – toll roads as we now know them.
Local gentry were encouraged to put forward plans and money to build and manage surfaced roads where they had a vested interest. This had to be done by sponsoring an Act of Parliament to set up a Trust for each road. Between 1743 and 1828 some 26 trusts were set up in Cumbria. One was to impact on the Parish of Mungrisdale.
In 1762, during the reign George III, an Act of Parliament was passed for the ‘Widening, repairing, and Amending the Road from Hesket, by Yewes Bridge, to Cockermouth; and from thence, by Lorton over Whinlatter, to Keswick, in the County of Cumberland; and from Keswick, by Dunmail Rays and Ambleside, to Kirby in Kendall, in the County of Westmorland; aforesaid, to the Lake called Windermere, in the County of Westmorland; and from Keswick aforesaid, to the town of Penrith, in the County of Cumberland’. This Act set out details for a turnpike road between Keswick and Penrith which was to cut through the south of the Parish. This route of this road remained virtually unchanged until the 1970’s when the A66 was built.
More visitors came to the Parish including some well known celebrities. There is an account of how in 1803 Wordsworth and Coleridge overturned their Irish Jaunting Car close to the bridge near The Mill Inn.
With the Turnpike Road and the developing markets in Penrith and Keswick farming in the Parish dramatically changed. Farming was no longer an activity of ‘self sufficiency’ with a little bartering with one’s neighbours but business enterprises producing food to sell in local markets.
But an even bigger development was to supersede the new road: the coming of the railway. In 1864 the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway (CKPR) was opened and a year later the station at Troutbeck was to put the Parish firmly ‘on the map’.
The railway premises at Troutbeck, albeit just outside the Parish, became an important focal point for those living in the area. There was a Hotel, Post Office, Coal Depot and Brick & Tile (mostly agricultural drain pipes) Works as well as all the facilities for handling livestock and passengers. Minerals and stone were brought to the station from Greenside, Glenridding, and Carrock mines for onward dispatch, initially by horse and cart and then steam wagons. Timber from Ullswater estates was also distributed via the station. Much employment was created.
What was considered to be a ‘user friendly’ rule book was approved by the Directors of the CKPR to take into consideration the rudimentary reading skills of many of those who worked on the railway. New rules were added as required, by way of circulars. Whilst most dealt with operational matters some were about privileges accorded to individuals. One issued by Henry Cattle, the first Secretary and Manger of the railway, states ‘I have agreed with Mr Mark Cockbain of Souterfell to convey a newspaper for him from Penrith to Troutbeck once a week for a year commencing February 1st 1868 and ending January 31st 1869. Our Stationmaster at Troutbeck will collect the amount, 2s. 6d.and debit himself through parcels. Always enter the newspaper free of charge’.
The Directors of the CKPR did consider the Mid-Cumberland Light Railway’s (MCLR) proposals in 1897 to build a branch line between Caldbeck and Troutbeck. The surveyed route for the line went to the west of the Naddles Crags, past Redmire, across White Moss to Murrah Crossroads, then it followed along the road to Linewath, and on to Hesket Newmarket and to Upton west of Caldbeck. However after initially agreeing to fund feasibility studies they changed their minds and decided it was not financially viable.
Tourist traffic was seen as important in providing revenue for the CKPR from an early time and in 1905, following an initiative of Canon Rawnsley, founder of the National Trust, the station was given new name boards announcing ‘Troutbeck for Ullswater, Patterdale, Gowbarrow, and Aira Force’. In 1915 the boards were simplified to read ‘ Troutbeck for Ullswater’. In the 1960s the station name reverted to its original name ‘Troutbeck’.
The Troutbeck Auction Livestock Mart adjacent to the station was built in the 1880s. It was the venue for ewe and lamb sales in late May and early June and autumn sheep sales of lambs and breeding sheep. In 1920 Penrith Farmers & Kidd (PFK) bought the Mart from Jack Thompson. On the 5th December 1991 the Mart saw its final sale when 2,500 store lambs and ewes passed through the ring. PFK had opened their new Mart at Skirsgill, on the outskirts of Penrith a few months earlier and transferred all sales there precipitating the closure of the Troutbeck site. In 1992 PFK planned to turn the Mart into a garden centre specializing in Alpine and Erica plants but their proposals were rejected by the Lake District Planning Board. The site has remained derelict to this day. More recently it was considered by Hutton and Motherby Parish Council as a possible site for affordable housing.
Harold Bowtell in his book ‘Rails through Lakeland (Volume 1)’ gives quite a detailed account of the station. He writes about the lever equipment in the Signal Box being rather special. It was built by James Tweedy Limited of Carlisle and removed in 1985 by the Derwent Railway Society, The frame is still in the possession of the National Railway Museum, York but not on display.
For a period around the Second World War the General Waiting Room on the ‘Down Platform’ of the Station also provided the facilities for a Sunday School Class and Holy Communion Services organized by Mungrisdale Parish Church. Furniture included a harmonium.
The station building remains but has been greatly added to and one of the houses remaining on the site of the tiling works is called Tilery Cottage.
With the increasing demand for farm produce both locally and further afield there was increasing competition for farm land. Hill farming also became more intensive. It became necessary to clearly define who had the right to farm what had been up until regarded as common land. This resulted in the Enclosure Acts – a process which took place across the country.
Mungrisdale was one of the last areas to be covered by the Enclosure Acts. The Mungrisdale Low Commons Provisional Order was enacted on the 9th October, 1893. Under the Order Thomas Bennett, Joseph Bennett, John Black, William Cockbain, Timothy Ellwood, Thomas Green, Henry Howard, John Jennings, Edward Mandale, Isaac Mandale, John Mandale, Joseph Mandale, Robert Mandale, Joseph Martindale, Sarah Bellas, Mary Ossallinsky, John Sanderson, William Stalker, Joseph Thompson, Joseph Watson, John Watson, John Waugh and Ann Williamson were all given allocations. The Order also allotted property rights. Public Watering Holes and Recreational Spaces were also determined.
Responsibilities regarding boundary fences were set out in the Order. Some of the beneficiaries were determined to be ‘persons who have less than their fair proportion of boundary fences assigned to them’ had to contribute to the fencing costs of their neighbours – to be paid ‘on the first day of December next at the hour of eleven o’clock in the forenoon at the Grisdale Mill, Mungrisdale’.
Other provisions in the Order set out in detail where Private Carriage and Occupation roads should be constructed and maintained. The Occupation roads were access cart tracks to enable those who were awarded Turbary Allotments at Redmire (and elsewhere) to collect turf and peat. However Henry Charles Howard, the then Lord of the Manor of Mungrisdale, retained the right to ‘all manner of game upon the allotments together with the right of hunting hawking and fowling’ and ‘to watch and preserve the game and to prevent unauthorized persons from the destruction or pursuit thereof’. The Lord of the Manor also retained mineral rights. All the Turbary Allotments were numbered and precisely measured and recorded in diagrammatical form in the original Act document.
Mungrisdale became a hot bed for wrestling in the 19th century. Joe Wilson was one of three brothers living at Low Mill who were outstanding wrestlers. Joe won four Lord Bective Belts and won many lightweight competitions at Grasmere Sports. There were several other relatives who followed in this tradition. “J.B.” Wilson, latter to become the landlord at The Mill Inn, Frank Wilson and I Ronnie Wilson were three more local lads who became notable wrestlers.
For many years after the First World War Mungrisdale became the focus for a very popular annual, “Picnic and Sports”, drawing competitors and spectators from far afield.
It started in 1919 as a simple village picnic but apart from two years, during the Second World War when petrol rationing decided the promoters against holding an event, went on to celebrate its Golden Jubilee in August 1969. On that occasion Bill Teasdale from Caldbeck (many consider him to be the finest fell runner of all time) was a guest spectator.
At this time J.B. Wilson was the President of Mungrisdale Sports, George Fleming was the Treasurer, and Thomas Bennett the Secretary.
In 1912 an agreement was made between Henry Charles Howard and the Rural District Council of Penrith which brought the first main water supply, to the Parish. Under the agreement water was to be extracted from Bullfell Beck through a control valve station and then distributed through a network of 4” cast Iron pipes to Mungrisdale, Scales, Hutton Roof, Newsham, Lamonby, Ellonby, Skelton, Motherby, Little Blencow, Newton Reigny, Newbiggin and Penruddick. Prior to this houses and farms relied on their own sources.
Originally the local farming show was at Haltcliff, where Cumbria’s native Herdwick sheep reigned supreme. In 1929 farmers in the Parish decided to branch out on their own to try to improve flocks of Swaledale ewes on the fells and inaugurated their own Mungrisdale Swaledale Ram Show which is still held today - usually in May.
Farming in the Parish had come a long way by this time. The production of cereals had all but ended but animal rearing had substantially increased. This is clearly demonstrated by comparing the Parish Annual Returns. In 1866 the number of cattle shown was given as 537, sheep, 4683, and pigs 87. In 1983 the numbers were 4406 cattle, 26,802 sheep, and 12 pigs.
In 1951 most of the Parish was included within the boundaries of the newly set up Lake District National Park. This made planning matters more complicated as they then became a dual responsibility between LDNP and the local authority. It has however helped to bring more resources to the Parish in terms of maintaining and enhancing its landscape. On the downside it is said it has brought restrictions which have had the effect of making it harder to provide sufficient houses for local need and militating against entrepreneurial developments.
In March 1954 the North Western Electricity Consultative Council announced that a rural electrification scheme was to be started to bring power to the Parish. This entailed the extension of the sub-station at Landsfoot, Hutton End, which then provided the current for the B.B.C. station at Skelton. The route for an overhead feeder line was to be via Wood End, Oakergill, Millhouse, Haltcliff Bridge, High Row, Hutton Roof, Mosedale, Bowscale, and Mungrisdale. This feeder line was completed in stages and within the following three years most of the farms and houses in the Parish were connected. However there are still a few houses in the Parish which are without mains electricity, relying on their own generators.
Roads in the Parish again took prominence when a long and heated debate took place about the need to improve communications with west Cumbria. Most people agreed there was a need for an improved road; the argument was which route should be adopted. One route was to turn the Penrith to Cockermouth road, the A594 (the old Turnpike road), into a trunk road by building a number of by-passes. Others argued that the B5305 and A595 – ‘The Sebergham Route’ as it became known as – should be ungraded to provide the new link.
After a protracted and bitter Public Enquiry the Government announced on the 22nd December 1972 that the Penrith to Cockermouth route was their preferred option. But the protesters were still not finished. In October 1973 nearly 1000 people marched up Latrigg Fell to listen to speeches by numerous people including representatives of the Lake District Special Planning Board, The Friends of the Lake District, and the Ramblers Association. They agreed a resolution to be sent to the Prime Minister asking that the decision should be rescinded – all to no avail. The south of the Parish had part of the new road built through it. It was re-designated the A66.
Large tracts of the Parish are considered to be Common Land. The concept of Common Land is centuries old. Contrary to popular belief Common Land does not give everyone the right to use it.. However under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 most of the Common Land in the Parish the public have the right of access to it. Common Land is invariably owned by someone but others, ‘the Commoners’, have certain rights entitling them to use it for specific purposes. These rights are usually restricted to the grazing of animals or the collection of peat and bracken. Precisely which land is Common Land and ‘who’ had rights to ‘what’ has often been unclear as they were often rights accrued through historical land usage over many years rather than clear written agreements.
The aim of the Commons Registration Act of 1965 is to record all Common Lands, owners, and rights. This work is still ongoing. On the 12th February, 1990 the Commoners in the Parish met at The Mill Inn to decide to formally register their rights and to set up a Mungrisdale Commons Committee. The necessary legal instrument was duly granted by the Department of Environment (DofE).
Mungrisdale Common was defined as comprising of ‘Carrock Fell, Mungrisdale Fell, Mungrisdale, Saddleback, and Great Calva’. However it was agreed the newly formed committee should meet jointly with the Bassenthwaite Commons Committee as a joint Committee under the name of Mungrisdale and Bassenthwaite Joint Commons Committee. The DofE schedule specified that ‘no person shall cause of suffer any entire horse, pony, ass, goat or pig if over one year old or any entire bull if over nine months old to be upon the Common at any time or any entire ram to be upon the Common between 1st January and 30th November (both dates inclusive)’. George Fleming was the first Chairman of the new Committee. The Committee still meets, although the word Association is now use instead of Committee, and no Commoners from the Bassenthwaite Committee have attended meetings for several years. The Association is a member of the recently formed Federation of Cumbria Commoners.
Much of Common Land is designated as a Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI). Under the Commons Act 2006 Statutory Commons Councils are being created to enable Landowners, Commoners, and stake holders such as Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and English Nature, to manage the Commons more sustainably. This has resulted in the reduction of the number of sheep the Mungrisdale Commoners put out on the fells within the Parish.
The outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in 2001 was a catastrophic blow to the whole Parish community. Thousands of sheep and cattle were slaughtered. Thankfully burning and burial of stock on Parish farm land did not take place due to it being unsuitable – convoys of lorries took corpses elsewhere for disposal. The epidemic tested the community’s cohesiveness. Some farms received compensation, others did not. Businesses such as tourism were badly hit as signs were placed at all the entrances to the Parish asking people to stay away. All the footpaths were closed, including those on the Northern Fells, for almost a year. Several dairy farmers decided not to restock with milking cows.
Recovery has taken place and farming remains an important industry in the Parish. However the number of small, family run Fell farms is steadily declining. Livestock rearing is increasingly carried out using indoor facilities. Farmers have had to diversify and become involved in conservation schemes. Currently it seems a commonly held opinion that the industry faces an uncertain future.
Today the population of the Parish remains about 200. Apart from two council houses and a few bungalows on farms few new houses have been built in the past two centuries. However there is an increasing trend to convert redundant farm buildings into housing, but not usually for local need. Instead the conversions are for tourist letting or ‘second homes’.
Most of the local community resources such as a school, shop, post office have disappeared. Mungrisdale retains one pub – The Mill Inn.
In 2000 as a response to the trauma of the FMD epidemic the Mungrisdale Recreation Room Charitable Trust took the bold decision to seek funds to rebuild the old corrugated iron village hall which had served the community for many years.
The old Village Hall was bought, by Mungrisdale Women’s Institute, in 1924 for £82 from the Carrock Mining Company. It was dismantled and transported by horse and cart to the site opposite The Mill Inn.
After two years of planning and fundraising the building of the new hall began in March 2004. The new hall was completed early in 2005 at a cost of £368,000.00p. It is the only community meeting venue in the Parish and as such provides an important focal point for Parish activities.
Mungrisdale Village Hall is well used. Regular uses include hosting village social events; touring rural arts groups; Parish Council Meetings and Surgeries: Women’s Institute; Creative Writing, Circle Dancing, and Art groups; Film Club and Book Exchange, It is also a popular venue for local private celebrations and from outside groups such as the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Teams, Spinners Guild, and GPS Training Courses.
The above is extracted from Colin Smith’s book “Mungrisdale Heritage Trails” which is available at local bookshops or direct from the author www.browbottomenterprises.co.uk Price £12.75p