History Index

Westmorland Villages

Events of the Latter part of the 18th Century

In Penrith and District

Railway extension in 1861-65, brought Penrith into more immediate intercourse both with the eastern and the western districts of the northern counties. This was accomplished by the construction of the Eden Valley Railway, which was opened in June, 1862, and the Cockermouth, Keswick, and Penrith Railway, opened in January, 1865. Thus Penrith became an important junction station on the great trunk line of the London and North-Western Railway, The Eden Valley Railway made it easier for the dwellers in Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire to see the unparalleled beauties of the English Lake District, the gateway to which, from that time, most assuredly was the Penrtih junction, and Penrith, in turn, was brought into closer contact with the coal-fields of the counties named.

The Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway further facilitated the opening of the Lake District to the public, Bringing Keswick, with its charming lake and mountains, within seven hours of London.

Later still (1878) another railway was mooted, but met with so little support that it was dropped. This line was advocated by Mr. A. McDougal, to start from Penrith by Blencowe, Skelton, etc., to Mealsgate, opening out a district rich in untapped mineral wealth.

Still another scheme was put before the public, on the completion of the Midland extension from Settle to Carlisle, when it was considered necessary, if the town of Penrith was to maintain its position as the best market town in the north, that a connecting line between the town and some point of the Midland system, at Langwathby, or Lazonby, was necessary to bring farmers and villagers from Eden Valley and east fell-sides to the market, but this has not yet been accomplished, although it had tacked on to it another little scheme of tapping the Lake District at Pooley.

Penrith was favoured, in June 1855, with the issue of a weekly local news sheet, published on Tuesdays, at the modest price of one penny, called the "Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser." This paper was issued by Mr. B. T. Sweeten, and became very popular and largely circulated prior to 1868, when its politics were changed, and a great decline in its circulation resulted. It is still issued by the Exors. Of Mr. Sweeten, and circulates in the two counties.

The year 1858 was noted as the year of "the great comet" (Donati’s), when Penrith, as well as the country generally, was placarded with large posters, bearing the following: "Will the great Comet, now approaching strike the Earth?" The people seemed terror-stricken at such a prospect, but when the day and the hour came the earth passed through the tail of the comet without inconveniencing any inhabitants of this earth.

A notable and prominent character in Penrith passed away in April, 1862, in the person of Mr. Martindale Scott, who had served the town in the several capacities of parish Workhouse Master, Town Constable, and Postmaster.

The New Year of 1861- or rather the last day of the year 1860, as Penrith market was held on Monday for Tuesday-witnessed the birth of a weekly newspaper destined to wield considerable influence in the north in literature and politics. This was the "Penrith Observer." Mr. William Atkinson was the enterprising citizen who launched the new venture, and Mr. R. J. Reed the able editor of this rival of the "Advertiser." The way had previously been somewhat prepared by the issue of a monthly sheet gratis, for some time, from the same office, entitled " The Penrith Beacon Advertiser. "The "Observer" steadily made headway from the first, and soon gained a name for its able articles and "newsy" get up, being always "up to date" in the latter important department. In 1867, through the failure of Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Robert Scott- who had a few months previously completed his apprenticeship in the office became the proprietor. Mr. Scott immediately made great changes on the staff, etc., placing Mr. J. Douglas in the editorial chair, and Mr. Thomas Miller in chief command in the works. Mr. Douglas remained editor till his death in 1889, when Mr. Daniel Scott, the present editor, took over the duties.

The "Observer" has by far the largest circulation of any of the Penrith newspapers, distributing some 7,000 weekly over Cumberland, Westmorland, Durham, and Lancashire. It has been thrice enlarged, and is now as large as any paper in the two counties. We have been greatly indebted to its columns in the compilation of this history. The "Observer" is a household paper of Conservative politics.

Liberalism has its local representative of the press, in Penrith, in the "Mid Cumberland and North Westmorland herald." The "Penrith Herald" was the original title, and was first edited and published by Mr Thomas Hodgson, of King Street (now of the Exchange), in 1860. But, after a short reign it was temporarily closed through an order from the Post Office authorities, that the mail carts should not carry its parcels; and, being a week-end paper, there was no other opportunity of getting it into the country. Some time subsequent to this the order was withdrawn, and the "Herald" commenced a new career, under two heads, "The Penrith Herald" and "The Appleby and Kirkby Stephen Herald." In this form it continued until 1891, when it was transferred to a company, who enlarged and issued it under the title of " The Mid Cumberland and North Westmorland Herald."

It was again enlarged, in 1893, to sixty-four columns, eight columns more than the two other local sheets, but the columns are slightly narrower. It now advocates a vigorous propaganda of advanced Liberalism, representing the divisions of Mid Cumberland and North Westmorland, it has a wide field of enterprise, with a large circulation, and is the recognised organ of the Liberal Party in these divisions.

 The established Church has its local organ which at first was called the "Penrith Rurudecanal magazine," but which has been changed to "Penrith District Magazine." It was started January, 1893, and represents fourteen parishes. It is the adaptation of the "Church Monthly" for the local purposes, twenty four of the pages with the illustrations being from that magazine, and the local information and advertisements added, together with a neat cover, at the "Observer" Works. The magazine has been ably edited by the Rev. W. Cree, rector of Newton, but having exchanged livings and thereby removed from the district, his place as editor has been filled by the Rev. W.M. Keys-Wells, Rector of Clifton. The motto of the magazine is:

"One Body one One Spirit.

Even as ye were called in one Hope of your calling;

One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God

And Father of all, Who is over all,

And through all, and in all."

 The local information mainly consists of parish accounts, church offertories, births, marriages, deaths, and reports of special services, lectures, sales of work, bazaars, choral festivals, and general church news, sent in from the various parishes represented. It is vigorously "boomed," as the Yankees put it, by the parsons in every parish in the district.

An unpretending little monthly sheet of religious information and advertisements, of eight octavo pages, came into existence in February, 1882. The main reason of its coming into existence was the way in which many items of the religious news, especially Nonconformist, were boycotted by the weekly newspapers. This sheet was at first named "The Revival Recorder, " a religious revival being in progress at Penrith at the time. That title was dropped the following year and "Penrith Recorder" was substituted but its religious character was maintained. Over two thousand copies were distributed monthly over Cumberland and Westmorland. Its distinctive religious character was dropped in June, 1892, when it was enlarged to twenty-four pages demy quarto, for which one penny was charged, it having previously been given away, and the contents henceforth were of a general character. About a thousand are circulated monthly, by W. Furness, the proprietor and publisher.

The Volunteer movement, which originated in 1859, touched Penrith at an early stage, and the response was at once hearty and commensurate with the population of the town. The force was not enrolled for foreign service, but for the protection of "hearths and homes;" nor for aggressive action, but as one of their own mottoes so tersely puts it, they were organised for "Defence, not that two companies were formed under the command of Captains Harrisons and Nicholson. These were drilled in the winter months, in the Market Hall aud in the summer in a field west of the White Ox Inn.

 Reviews of the Volunteers of two counties have been held periodically, mainly at Carlisle, but Penrith was selected in 1867, as the scene of operations. The old town at once determined to do honour to occasion in its most hearty and elaborate fashion, and September 6th, day of this grand military carnival, transcended all former efforts, and all subsequent ones too in scenic display, illuminations, and number of visitors in the town, The military alone numbered 1,629, and mustered as follows:


1st Cumberland (Carlisle), 3 companies-Capt. Commandant R.S.

Ferguson, Capt. Dixon, Capt. Mounsey, Lieuth. Palmer, Lieut. Binning,

Lieut. Donald, Ensign W.H.Davidson, Ensign W. Carrick, Ensign J. Ostell.

2nd Cumberland (Whitehaven): Capt. Joseph Fletcher, Ensign Braithwaite.

3rd Cumberland (Keswick): Capt. F. Crosthwaite, Ensign Broatch

4th Cumberland (Brampton) : Capt. T.C. Thompson, Lieut W. Carrick, Lieut. J.B Lee (Quarter-master of the Battalion). Assistant-Surgeon Johnstone, Chaplain, the Rev. W. Dacre

5th Cumberland (Penrith): Capt.-Commandant Harrison (staff), capt. Nicholson,

Lieut. Arnison, Lieut. Varty, Ensign Machell, Surgeon M. Taylor, Quarter-master


6th Cumberland (Alston: Capt. Dickinson, Lieut. Friend, Ensign Crawhall.

7th Cumberland (Workington): Capt.S. Browne, Lieut. Peat.

8th Cumberland (Cokermouth); Capt. Drane.

10th Cumberland (Ergremont); Lieut. Hodgetts, Ensign Banks, Dr. Syne.

11th Cumberland (Wigton); Captain Tiffin, Lieut. Dalton, Ensign Banks.

1st Westmorland (Kirkby Lonsdale): Lieut. Pearson, Ensign Gibson.

3rd Westmorland (Kendal); Major Whitwell (staff), Battalion-Surgeon Longmire,

Assistant Surgeon Noble, Capt. Arnold, Capt. Harrison, Lieut. Gawith, Adjutant,

Col. Murray, adjutant of the whole battalion.

4th Westmorland (Windermere): Capt. Ridehalgh, Lieut. Taylor

5th Westmoraland (Ambleside); Capt. Jefferson, Lieut. Bolton. Assistant-Surgeon

Laidlaw, Chaplain the Rev. H. Marten.

6th Westmorland (Grasmere); Capt Bousfield.


1st Cumberland (Whitehaven) ;Captain Fisher

2nd " (Carlisle): Captain Sau, Lieuts. Dixon and Armstrong, Capt. and

Adjuntant Wryford

3rd Cumberland(Maryport): Captain Wilton W. Wood


Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry Calvalry in command of Col. Hasell, Lieut.

-Col. Salmond, Major Franklin, &c.

The scenic decorations of the town will live in the memories of those who beheld them. The line of the procession was a mass of decoration, tastefully, appropriately, and harmoniously blended in every detail. Commencing with the grand reception arch at the old castle ruins, the arches in the route were some twenty, distributed as follows: Castlegate, 4; Great Dockray, 3; Princess Street, 1; Victoria Road, 1; King Street, 2; Market Square, 4, including lines of bunting from the Monument to Clark’s corner and the bank corner;

Devonshire Street, 2; Middlegate,1; Townhead, 1; and Sandgate,1. Some of the arches and hotels were illuminated at night.

Of this grand carnival, which, on the field, assumed the form of a sham fight, a local poet, George Bell, wrote the following lines whilst on the field, the Racecourse:

Need Britain fear the threats of any foe,

Or foreign, or domestic, through their schemes

And plots long planned in ambush may be laid,

When scenese like this, in our own Fatherland,

Delight the eye and captivate the heart?

No, no!-See there the noble of the State,

The valiant, learned and good- the yeoman farmer,

And their stout sons, artizans, mechanics,

Of ev’ry degree all blent together-all

Actuated by one universal thought

And aim, proved by their acts to-day, that is

Their pride unfeigned of "England, home and beauty!"

Need Carel folk hold up their heads aloft*

And snuff the pure sweet air that sweeps around

Old Perith’s Beacon, as if they found

Rank poison in’t? No, no! The storm of prejudice

Is lulled, subdued by the warm cheerin breeze

Of friendship true, and "tack for tack" the good

Old ship "The City," and our smaller frigate tight,

"The canny Town, " will sail in sight together,

For each other’s weal, intent to brave the fiercest storm.

*Some jealousy and friction was manifested on the part of the former when it was announced that the review was to be held at Penrith, and the idea was ridiculed that the "roadside station" could accommodate the mass of people and the railway officials, for in fact the mass was dealt with as tho’ it was a matter of every-day occurrence. The train arrivals and departures were efficiently dealt with, and no train was more than a few minutes late.

The need of a substitute place for drilling was for long a felt want with the Volunteers, but before the end of 1892 their Drill Hall, in Portland Place, was opened and the first in October of that year for their "Rainbow" Bazaar. Of all the movements that have taken a hold of the "canny" Penrithians, this seems to have taken the firmest grip, for ever since the inauguration of the corps, the ranks have been kept filled, and now the limit is exceeded by 14, the total strength being 214. The corps is now in command of Captains D.G. Pearce Thompson and G. Varty Smith.

The old town manifested its loyalty on the occasion of the marriage of the Prince of Wales with Princess Alexandra of Denmark, on March 10th, 1863. The town was extensively decorated in honour of the event, a number of arches being thrown across the streets at the various points, whilst the shops, inns and private houses were gaily decorated with flowers and bunting. The Cavalry and Volunteers, the Friendly Societies and Freemasons,

The Board of health, and clergy formed a long procession which wended its way through the principal streets of the town to the Parish Church, where a service was held at the times appointed for the wedding. The day wound up with illuminations at the principal Hotels, the Monument, and several of the arches, whilst the master of the Grammar School, Mr. Howson, discharged a series of fireworks on the high ground of the Fair Hill. In May following the town was honoured with a visit by a member of the royal family, in the person of Prince Arthur now Duke of Connaught. The Crown Hotel was his quarters whilst in the town, and from there he visited Lowther Castle and Ullswater. The Primitive Methodist Temperance Society was performing the drama of "John Barleycorn" on the evening of his visit, in the George Hotel Assembly Room, and where the large audience "got wind" of the Prince’s whereabouts, they deserted the disappointed performers to have a look at Prince Arthur.

The town of Penrith, and the district for miles round, was startled, about eleven o’clock on the night of Tuesday, February 27th, 1867, by what was presumed to be an earthquake shock. Several window panes were broken, doors thrown open or closed in the town, and the vibration affected the whole town. It turned out to be not an earthquake but the explosion of a waggon-load of gunpowder, on the railway, near Yanwath Bridge. The waggon had left the rails and was running in the "six foot," when the engine of a train on the other rails caught it and the explosion was the result. We hardly need say there were not many whole panes of glass in Yanwath, part of the bridge was lifted, the railway walls were levelled, the top of the waggon was blown to the water trough on the east of the village, the engine of the colliding train was shattered to pieces; but most unfortunate of all the engine driver and the fireman lost their lives, and were disfigured almost past recognition. The trains took fire and great destruction of property ensued, for, though the Penrith Fire Brigade were early on the scene, the fire burned, more or less, for three days. The damage must have amounted to several thousands of pounds, taking into account the rolling stock, goods, and damages to house property.

Not frequently does it happen that any of the old and valued halls and castles, residences of the aristocratic families in the neighbourhood, come to grief. Unfortunately such occurrences happened to Greystoke Castle, the residence of Henry Howard, Esq., on Monday, May 4th, 1868, when an extensive conflagration destroyed a great part of the building, along with the very valuable contents. All the ancient and modern family portraits, the emblazoned shields and magnificent horns, trophies of the chase won by Norfolks and Howards, the painting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheeba, in which several portraits were introduced, by Lonsdale, the picture gallery containing some of the chef d’aeuvres of the old masters, including Erasmus and Archbishop Waring, by Holbein; John, Duke of Norfolk, who was killed on Bosworth Field, the subject of the lines:

"Jockey of Norfolk, be not so bold,

For Dickson thy master is bought and sold,"

And numerous other paintings fell a prey to the flames. Extensive alterations and repairs had just been completed, from the designs of A. Salvin, Esq., F.S.A. The damages were estimated at about £25,000. The Penrith Fire Brigade, with two engines, worked hard to subdue the fire, and though a great portion of the castle was destroyed, they succeeded in saving the central tower, where the muniment room is situated, and so preserved the valuable family documents and papers. The origin of the fire is somewhat a matter of conjecture, but no doubt it originated from an overheated flue. The castle in a short period assumed its former noble appearance, so far as the outward aspect goes, but the interior can never again know its former worth and beauty.

It is not often that eminent men are able to read their own memoirs while still in the flesh. This unique privilege was accorded the late Lord Henry Brougham,* and it is said to have been brought about by his own action, that he might get to know what the newspapers would say about him; and, therefore, when his decease did occur, in May, 1868, the papers were very chary about publishing notices of his career and death, remembering their former experience and chagrin. The great ex-Lord Chancellor had become a well-known figure in the every-day life of Penrith, in his later days, from his almost daily drive through the streets of the town. It is also said of him that he was so astute that the revenue was not at all benefited by his death, he having made over all his property to his relatives during his lifetime. St. Bees College and the Lowther Endowed Grammar School had, indirectly, good reason to be thankful that Lord Brougham lived and tried to make land-grabbing more difficult.

* His lordship’s name was a very tender point. "Bro-Ham" and "Broo-am" he could not endure, and when Lord Eldon called him "Bruffam" his indignation knew no bounds. He sent the offending Chancellor a message that couched in somewhat angry terms stating that his name was pronounced "B.oom," not "Bruffam." This remonstrance the Chancellor took in good part, and at the conclusion of the argument observed: "Every authority upon the question has been brought before us-new ‘Brooms’ sweep clean."

An event unprecedented, so far as we can trace, occurred to Penrith, and the north of England, on the night of March 18th, 1871, between 11 and 12 o’clock, when the tremor of an earthquake shock was distinctly felt, passing from south-west to the north-east. The writer was sitting by the fire with a book on his knee, when the rumbling sound attracted his attention but it was so like the sound of Mr. Pattison Young’s (of The Skaws) conveyance dashing past that he concluded it was so, until one of the household came trembling downstairs, in his night dress, declaring that it had been an earthquake, and that "we might not be here in the morning." Immediately we went into the streets, and began to compare notes with others who had been disturbed. Finding a considerable party in Market Square, some of them suggested seeking further information at the railway station, which was immediately acted upon. It was there ascertained that a shock had been felt at Tebay, where some glass had been broken. Carlisle was then asked for information, and the clerk replied: "Severe earthquake shock: thrown off my stool: half the station swallowed up." The wag of a clerk who played this hoax afterwards paid the penalty of his indiscretion by being dismissed the service. No serious damage resulted from this seismic disturbance.

The death-roll of 1872, of Penrith and neighbourhood, included quite a number of persons eminently useful in their generation, and greatly beloved by the people generally. First among these was the "good" William, Earl of Lonsdale, and Major-General Franklin (the first interred in Penrith Cemetery.) who died in March; then Colonel E.W.Hasell (the greatly esteemed "Squire Hasell,") in April; William Marshall, Esq., M.P., in May; Thomas Scott, Esq., Brent House, in June; and lastly Sir George Musgrave, Bart., the urbane owner of Eden Hall, in December of that year, which make up a list of losses unparalleled in any year of the history of the town.

James Dalgleish was executed at Carlisle on December 19th, 1879, for the murder of Sarah Wright at Penrith, on Sunday night, September 24th. It was the first private execution that took place in Carlisle, and the representatives of the Press were neither admitted to view the hanging nor to see the body at the inquest. The crime for which he suffered the extreme penalty of the law was of a very brutal, but by no means uncommon type. The culprit was at one time in the county police force, at Penrith: then he obtained a situation at a spirit store; afterwards he held another situation for a short time; but after Christmas, 1875, he had no regular employment, and he had given way to intemperate habits. His victim was Sarah Wright, boarding-house keeper, a single woman, 49 years of age, with whom Dalgleish had lodged for a long time, and when whom he was on intimate terms. On Sunday, September 24th, he had been sitting in the kitchen all the evening, soberly and quietly reading a semi-religious book, until about half past nine, at which hour all the inmates of the house had retired to bed but himself. The woman slept in the parlour with her niece, a girl of 16, and soon after the hour named the girl heard her aunt get up and go out of the room, followed by a man. The aunt returned to bed and the girl went to sleep again, but was awakened by a noise of blows. On looking up she found that blood was flowing from her aunt’s head, and she raised all the people in the house. Sarah Wright died in the course of the week from wounds, which had been inflicted by a sledge slasher. The prisoner admitted his guilt from the first, and although no attempt was made to prove any motive during the trial, which tool place at Manchester Assizes, it transpired afterwards that is was a result of jealousy. Sarah Wright knew he was engaged to a girl living away, but wishing to secure his affections herself she resorted to strategy. The girl’s letters were intercepted until the girl tired of the one-sided correspondence, and she formed another attachment and got married. This came to Dalgleish’s ears, who speedily unravelled the whole plot, and in his frenzy took his revenge in the terrible tragedy. Whilst in Carlisle gaol, awaiting the day of execution, he expressed his deep sorrow and contrition for the crime, and appeared truly penitent. The plea of insanity was urged before the Home Secretary, but without avail.

Mr.Jacob Thompson, whose painting have brought him world-wide fame, was a native of Penrith, and of Quaker extraction. Though the greater part of his life was spent amid the wilds of Westmorland, at Hackthorpe, he was a Cumbrian by birth, and first saw the light in Langton Street. Penrith, April 28th, 1806, and was the son of Merrick Thompson, a Quaker, a manufacturer of checks, but who unfortunately failed in business, and was never again able to regain his former position. Jacob was educated at the Grammar School, and early shoed a disposition for drawing. It was during his school days that Hannah Hewitson, an old nurse, out of her scanty savings purchased a box of colours for the young artist.

After school days were over he narrowly escaped being bound apprentice to the art preservative-printing-with the firm Thurnam, Carlisle, but eventually he was sent to learn house-painting with Joseph Parker, with whom he had to do all the drudgery of the paint-shop. This lasted two years, when a misunderstanding arose, the indenture was cancelled, and Jacob was thrown upon his own resources. He engaged himself to a second master at fifteen shillings a week, which was faithfully handed over to his mother, less eighteen pence per week for pocket money, which he spent in providing materials for his private sketching. His second master failed in business and the youth commenced business as a sign painter and furniture grainer in a room in his father’s factory, but all the while he kept the purpose of his ambition steadily before his eyes-to become an artist.

Race-day, at Penrith, was generally a holiday, and on one of these he went out to sketch the old bridge over the River Lowther, near Brougham Hall. Planting himself in a favourable position he became so engrossed in his object that he did not notice an individual approach him and watch his efforts at producing the picture of the bridge, until the stranger addressed him: "Young man, are you not making your picture too red." He replied: "The bridge is of old red sandstone." "Yes," returned the stranger, "but age turns even red sandstone grey." Further enquiries followed as to why he was not at the races, and the replies so impressed the stranger that he gave the young artist an invitation to visit him at Lowther Castle. Jacob naturally asked: "but whom sall I ask for at the Castle?" when he received the startling but genial reply: "Oh, come and ask for Lord Lonsdale," and Lord Lonsdale, from that moment, became his firmest friend and most generous patron.

This event proved the turning-point in the young artist’s career. Lowther Castle with all its art treasures was now open to him and became the school for his earlier efforts. Ultimately he was placed, bu his patron, under Mr. Laas, as a student, at the Royal Academy, and his success became a certainty. Portrait painting occupied his first years, but, in 1837, his "Harvest Home in the 14th Century" was hung on the line, and thenceforth he struck out a more independent career.

His first wife was Ann Fricker-Bidder, who died at the Hermitage, Hackthorpe, in 1844, leaving a son, Jacob. This residence of the artist was owned* by his friend and patron, William , Earl of Lonsdale, and here most of his famous pictures were painted. "The Highland Ferry Boat" contains a group of Hackthorpe characters, neighbours of the artist, including John Atkinson, schoolmaster, and William, his son; Esther Rooke, and John, her son; and Miss Donald, the artist’s maid. The several published memories of Mr. Thompson state that his patron gave him The Hermitage, which is an error. The writer and many of his schoolfellows also may be found in several of his minor pictures. Amongst the famous pictures are:

The Highland Ferry Boat. (sold 1999 for $250,000 US)

Acis and Galateae.

The Highland Bride’s Departure.

Going to Church.

The Mountain Ramblers.

The Signal.

The Height of Ambition.

The Downfall of Pride.

The Close of the Vintage.

Rush Bearing.

Netting in Haweswater.

Crossing the Highland Loch.

Of The Hermitage, he wrote to a friend: "I prefer The Hermitage, with a modest competence, to all the honours and notoriety that might be gained by living in the metropolis. I find myself better off, and better known all over the world, although I have been buried in a small village amongst the wilds of Westmorland for thirty-six years than those who started life with me at Royal Academy." He died and was buried amid the scenery he loved so well on December 27th, 1878. His second wife was Miss Varty, of Stagstones, to whom he was married in 1850, and who survives him. The last though not greatest of Mr. Thompson’s works, we call attention to are the altar pictures in Penrith Parish Church.

Jubilee and centenary celebrations have been quite numerous in the last half of the century. The Victoria jubilee, the Shakespeare tercentenary, the jubilee of the Penny Postage, the Raikes’ centenary of Sunday Schools, &c., make a fairly long list. The centenary of Sunday Schools was fixed for and held on July 25th, 1880. At Penrith the whole of the scholars at the various Sunday Schools of the town processioned the principal streets, and afterwards were addressed in the Market Hall, whilst each scholar and teacher, at their several schools, received as a memento of the event a small Bible, from the British and Foreign Bible Society’s central depot, with the following inscription on the cover in gilt:




"Feed My lambs," was an injunction of the Saviour, but until Roberts Raikes gathered the children to his house on Sundays, this injunction seems to have been considerably in abeyance, but to-day we may well exclaim, in viewing the world-wide organisation: "What hath God wrought!"

It will undoubtedly be of interest to know the amount of money charities distributed by the churchwardens of Penrith Parish Church, amongst the poor during the twelve months of the year 1880. Appended are the sources of revenue and amounts distributed:

£. s. d.

Peter Foster-among Townhead poor 36 0 0

Dorothy Pattinson-among 8 widows 26 5 0

J. De Whelpdale-interest of £1,000 30 0 0

Robinson 20 0 0

R.Carmalt-5s.each to 18 widows 4 10 0

Wordsworth-similar 3 0 0

Ann Langton- to poor not receiving parish relief 32 0 10

Tom Dowson-interest of £2,000 55 4 7

Barbara Bland; G. Idle; G.Sewell 37 0 0

Bramwell-5s. each to 20 poor families 5 0 0

T.Dowson-int. of 100gs. To poor who never asked alms 3 19 0

Total distributed £ 259 19 5

 In February. 1881, a notable was removed form his wonton work, by the hand of death, in the person of J. Jameson, Esq., J.P., commonly known as "Turney" Jameson. He was a true friend of the poor, and whilst a magistrate he dealt out justice with an even hand. The children of the poor who have no playground but the streets found him a sympathetic friend, for when some of them were brought before the banch (bench) for playing on the streets, he dismissed the cases, saying: "What are they to do? If you (the police) drive them from one street they will only have to go into another, unless you provide them with a playground." In August of the same year, Mr. Jameson’s step-son, Mr. T.G. Cant, the head of the firm of Cant & Fairer, solicitors, met with a sad fatality, having been drowned whilst bathing in the Lowther, near Brougham Hall.

Father Gavazzi, the Italian patriot visited Penrith in July, 1882, and delivered an oration on the great topic which laid so near his heart,-the liberty and unification of Italy.

No storm of modern days, in these parts, has equalled that which swept over these northern counties and also Scotland, an the night of Tuesday, December 11th, 1881, indeed the proverbial "oldest inhabitant" talked as though even the storm of 1839 was not so violent. When the morning of the 12th dawned the extent of the damage done was somewhat startling. The beacon Wood was seriously thinned, the trees lying crossed in all directions like the slain on a field of battle, nearly a thousand having been blown down, and that was only a sample of what happened to all the exposed plantations in the district.

The Post Office has become an indispensible part of the economy of every-day life, but when Mr. Walker wrote his history, in 1857, it would seem to have been a very significant factor in the life of the people, since he makes no mention of it. Nevertheless such an institution had been in existence in the town for a great number of years. True, the first Post Office we can trace was an hotel, the chief inn or hostelry of the town at that time, and though the house yet stands it has many long years ago ceased to be licensed. That house is situated in Rowcliffe Lane (Old Pos Office Lane), near Mr. Dean’s shop, and occupied by Mr. Guest; but the block of buildings between the lane and King Street has been partly or entirely reared since that state of things existed. At that time letters were few and far between, and were written mostly on foolscap, which was then folded and sealed, and the address written on the outside, envelopes not having been invented. The office was removed thence to the premises now occupied by Mr. Joseph Bowerbank, ironmonger, Market Square, whence it was again removed to near the Crown Hotel (Messrs. Bleaymire & Shepherd’s Offices). The next move was to Crown Square (Dickinson’s Hotel), and here Adjt. Garnet was postmaster. Another move placed it opposite the present Conservative Club premises, then temporarily into Old London Road, until premises in Princess Street adjoining the present office, were obtained, an here Mr. Martindale Scott undertook the duties of postmaster, and was succeeded by his son, though Miss Scott did the business of the office. In 1865 the lower portion of the present premises were entered upon, whilst Mr. Thomas Nanson was postmaster, and it continued to be used until 1889, when, having become too small for the needs of the town, the adjoining shop was incorporated and the present commodious offices formed. Mr. J Smithson became postmaster at the death of Mr. Nanson, in 1879, and efficiently fills that responsible position to-day, whilst the staff under him comprises a chief clerk, 11 assistant clerks, 12 town postmen, 7 rural postmen, and 4 telegraph messengers.

On Monday, February 8th, 1886, Rudge, Martin, and Baker were hanged in Carlisle Gaol, for the murder of Police-constable Byrnes, at Plumpton, on the night of Wednesday, October 28th, 1885. The men had attended Longtown Coursing Meeting and on the second day of the meeting they entered Netherby Hall and stole a pair of diamond ear-drops, a jewelled ring, and other valuables. The burglary was effected whilst Sir Frederick Graham and his family were at dinner, between eight and nine o’clock. Entrance had been made by Lady Graham’s bedroom window, and the men escaped before the burglary was discovered. On their was to Carlisle they encountered Sergeant Roche of the County police, and Police-constable Johnston, at whom they fired revolvers, wounding both the officers, making good their escape to Carlisle, by crossing the Eden by one of the railway bridges. While passing along the railway, not far from Rome Street bridge, they were stopped by Police-constable Fortune, of the City police, whome they attacked with a jemmy and left lying insensible on the ground. Pursuing their way southwards, the three concealed themselves in Wreay woods during Thursday, and in the evening called at the Pack Horse Inn, at Plumpton, to obtain refreshments. Police-constable Byrnes got on their track, and encountered them near Plumpton Vicarage, when one of them men shot him dead and the threw him over the wall, where the monument is placed, into the field. Hurrying away they encountered Penrith by Thacka Lane, where they were observed by a Penrith constable making their way towards Castletown. They made the circuit of Newlands, and crossed the railway south of the station to where a goods train for the south was shunted in a siding awaiting the passing of an express. They hid themselves under the tarpaulin on one of the waggons, but not without being observed by the guard, Christopher Gaddes, who threw a note to the pointsman at Shap Summit signal box asking him to wire Tebay. This he did, and the railway servants were summoned to the fray and were waiting when the train steamed into the station. The three fugitives were surprised in the waggon by the porters, who, after a severe struggle succeeded in capturing Rudge and Baker, the former being so violent that the porters lashed him to one of the iron pillars o the platform, whilst Baker made good his escape, but was captured on Lancaster station platform, by Henry Cooper, guard of the express. The missing diamonds were afterwards found in Lune, near to Tebay station. The crime created a great sensation throughout the north, where a report was current that a "fourth" man was implicated in the Burglary, but that was never cleared up. They were all notorious habitual criminals, and many were the congratulations on their capture by authorities. At their execution Berry was assisted by a stranger in disguise, who professed to undertake this duty that he might qualify himself for the duties of high sheriff for his county. He was a south country baronet, belonging to one of the best families in the country. The only one of them who made any statement on the scaffold was Baker, who said: "Nelly, keep straight; I die an innocent man, but I forgive everybody." That implied that he did not fire the fatal shot, which the prosecution endeavoured to fix upon him, Byrnes was interred in Penrith Cemetery, on the subsequent Sunday, and an immense multitude followed his remains to the grave.

The last Parliamentary election under the old system of the open voting was fought in 1868, when the Yellow flag was unfurled by Mr. N. Hodgson, of Carlisle, and the old member, Mr. Marshall, was defeated. The return was under:

Hodgson W.N. (C) 2621

Howard, Hon.C.W.G.(L) 2545

Marshall, William (L) 2398


The next contest in East Cumberland was in February 1874, when the Tories thought they could sweep the constituency, and therefore ran two men, with the following result:


Howard, Hon.C.W.G.(L) 2943

Howard, W.N.( C ) 2629

Musgrave, Sir R. C. Bart., ( C) 2622

At the death of Mr. Hodgson, in 1876, another contest was fought, and resulted in the return of the constituency to its allegiance to the old True Blue Flag:

Howard, E.S. (L) 2939

Musgrave, Sir R.C.Bart., ( C ) 2783


In April, 1880, East Cumberland had to choose between two Liberals and one Conservative, and the latter was returned at the top of the poll, though, on all sides it was declared that it had been done more as a tribute to Sir Richard’s personal worth than his politics. The result was as follows:

Musgrave, Sir R. C. Bart., ( C) 3161

Howard, E.S. (L) 3083

Howard, G.J. (L) 3039

The death of Sir Richard, in 1881, Entailed another contest, which resulted:

Howard, G.J. (L) 3071

Lowther, James ( C) 3041

Ere another general election came round the second Reform Act had come into operation, and Mid Cumberland, with Penrith as centre, had become an electoral division and a single-member constitency. The contest lay between Mr. H. Howard, Greystoke Caastle, and Mr. J. W. Lowther, in December, 1885, with the subjoined result:

Howard, Henry 3921

Lowther, James W. 3448

 This short-lived Parliament was dissolved the following year on the question of Irish Home Rue, and defection in the Liberal ranks along with the late member, brought victory to the Tory party as below:

Lowther, James W. 3676

Lawson, Wilfrid 3032

 Five years of Tory rule ensued, and when dissolution came Dr. Douglas championed the Liberal cause, but the strengthened position of Mr. J.W.Lowther, who had acted as Under Secretary for the Foreign Office, and in that position displayed considerable ability, and the continued defection on the Home Rule question, made the assault a difficult matter for a stranger. The Result was a defeat for the "Laal Blue Doctor." The figures of the 1891 election were:

Lowther, James.W. 3549

Douglas, Dr. 3424

After the election of 1881 it was thought desirable by the Liberal party in the town to arrange for the future political work, and organised workers need a home, therefore premises were rented in Castlegate Buildings and a Liberal Club opened on May 9th of that year. These premises were retained until 1887, when the present more commodious premises were entered upon. There are news and billiard rooms and a library on the premises, but intoxicants, betting and gambling are prohibited. Mr. John Marshall is president, and Mr. W. Beattie is secretary of the club.

The Conservative Club, situated in Crown Square, and adjoining the Post Office was of later origin, having opened in 1883. The premises are spacious, and comprise reading, dining, smoke, and billiard rooms, and a fine tennis ground behind. A branch club for working men was opened in 1892, in Stricklandgate.

In Later years there are a few events which have not previously been dealt with, which deserve a passing word here. In December, 1885, the Tichborne Claimant paid a visit to Penrith, to enlist the sympathy and the "sinews of war." Bralaugh, the notorious infidel lecturer, also put in an apprearance the following November, and was the guest of Mr. John Bowron. And in November, 1887, the present Leader of the House of Commons, Sir W.V. Harcourt, addressed a large representative county meeting in the Market Hall.

The Jubilee of Queen Victoria was celebrated with great pomp and pageant at Penrith, on June 10th, 1887, and though no expense was spared in carrying out the function, the decorations did not equal the display on the occasion of the Great Military Carnival. Scot Lane was widened from Corney Square to Blue Bell Lane end previous to this, and was publicly opened on Jubilee Day, with the altered name of Brunswick Road.

Edenhall Pond-Qinnyfell or Whinfell Tarn-has long been a favourite resort of Penrithians for Skating, when the weather and ice permitted, and ice-accidents have been comparatively few. One of these occurred on Christmas Day 1887, when two youths got under the ice, and with very great difficulty and bravery were rescued by the brothers Fred and Jos. Whiteside, of Graham Street, who were afterwards presented, at a public meeting, with the Royal Humane Society’s gold medal for their heroism.

The County Council Act took effect in 1888, and the first election was held in November of that year, when Penrith returned two members, Messrs. W. Parker and W. Seatree. The town was divided into two wards for the purposes of these elections-East and West-but the division did not take effect till the second election, three years later, when Mr.Seatree, who stood for West Ward, was defeated by Mr. Grisenthwaite, whilst Mr. Parker was returned unopposed. Mr. Seatree, during the three years, gained and maintained the character of being one of the best and most efficient members of the Cumberland Council. On the death of Mr. Parker he was succeeded by Mr. James Scott.

 A new building Society was inaugurated in Penrith in January, 1889 under the style of Penrith peers’ Economic Building Society, for advancing money, by ballot, to members, for the purchase of house property, and so arranged that re-payments is effected in sixteen years and eight months. The number of members is limited, and the list has been filled up.

 The record of the deaths of centenarians in the United Kingdom for the last quarter of a century has not been a sparse one, and Penrith added one to that record, in the person of Mrs. Elizabeth Denkin, of Robinson Yard, Great Dockray, widow of the late Thomas Denkin, yeoman, Bennethead. She died in September, 1891, having loved 101 years and 9 months. She was connected with a long-lived family, for a sister-in-law attained 94 years, whose husband reached 94, and another pair 90 and 92 years respectively, the last four being active to within a few days of their death. We refer to Mr. and Mrs. C. Abbott, of Mungrisdale, and Mr. and Mrs. J Abbott, of Dacre.

The George Hotel, for so many generations the property of the Dukes of Devonshire, passed into the hands of Mr. Fred Armstrong in December, 1892.

Dr. M.W.Taylor, the eminent physician and archaeologist, whose great archaeological work "The Old Manorial Halls of Westmorland and Cumberland" remains as a monument of his industry in the moments not employed in his professional duties, died in November, 1892, just as the last sheets of his book were passing through the press.

The wedding of Prince George, Duke of York, with Princess May, in July, 1893, was another occasion for the festivities and decorations, and the good old town was not one whit behind any town in the realm in manifesting its loyalty. The streets everywhere were ablaze with floral decorations and bunting, to celebrate so auspicious an even, whilst all the public bodies vied with each other in turning out their full strength to do honour to the occasion, making up a procession about a half-mile long.

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Taken from "A History of Penrith" by Ewanian

History Index

Westmorland Villages


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