Page last updated 29/01/04
A Tour In Westmorland by Sir Clement Jones, published 1948
THE BOTTOM OF WESTMORLAND
WARCOP - DUFTON - MILBURN - NEWBIGGIN
TEMPLE SOWERBY - BROUGHAM
Our plan was to spend the next three days seeing as much as we could of certain villages in the Bottom of Westmorland of which we had previously made a list. Westmorland was established as an administrative county by Henry I in 1131. It was divided into two baronies - the barony of Kendal and the barony of Appleby or Westmorland. In the "Beauties of England," a guide book, to which I have referred already, published in 1757, the author writes: "The Barony or Bottom (from the low situation) of Westmorland, which is the northern part, affords good store of corn." It was this district that we now proposed to explore. In a tour of this sort you cannot hope to see every village on one visit and we purposely left a number of places - such as Kirkby Thore - for another time. This method of progress, by omission and return, was pursued by Thomas Pennant on his "Tours," and it is, I think, a wise one especially for people with limited holidays. On your next journey north you stop at places that you passed by on the previous occasion. For the first of our three days we had chosen Warcop, Dufton, Milburn, Newbiggin, Temple Sowerby and Brougham. All these parishes touch the boundary of Westmorland.
There has been a good deal of argument and misapprehension about the meaning of the word Warcop. There have been two schools of thought. Some have held that since the arms of the Warcop family are "Sable three cups argent," therefore the place must have got something to do with cups. Other people, including Dr. Burn, have held that the word was never written Warcup, but Warthecop; and that cop signifies the top of a hill as is found in other Westmorland place-names, for example Horncop. Whether the first part of the word is from wath, or ford (over the Eden before there was a bridge), or whether from ward being kept there has never been precisely decided.
The family of Warcop were living here in the reign of King John, and continued as lords of the manor until the time of Queen Elizabeth. In 1589 John Warcop sold the property to Thomas Braithwaite of Ambleside and Burneside, from one of whose descendants it was purchased by Thomas Carleton of Appleby; it then passed by marriage through the families of Stephenson and Preston.
The fertile part of the parish lies in the vale of Eden. All the rest is a wild, mountainous region, remarkable only for its sterility. Without wishing to enter into the much debated question as to what places the War Office ought or ought not to requisition for long-range firing practice, it seems to an outsider that this relatively remote and wild bit of country above Warcop is as suitable for the purpose as other places that have been suggested, though we could not help sympathising with the local view which we heard expressed, that the invasion of the village by the army and the incessant banging away on the fell above was apt to become trying for the inhabitants.
Warcop Church is an old building much restored with a 13th century chancel arch rebuilt in 1855. After seeing it we drove on to
This is a delightful village, well situated among the hills and a better centre for walking it would be hard to find. It is on the way from the high fells of the Lake District to the counties of Durham and York. It is within easy walking distance of Cross Fell, Dufton Pike, Murton Pike and perhaps best of all, High Cup Nick - one of the grandest sights in the Pennine. Dufton is said to have been called after some owner in Saxon times whose name was Duff, "anciently a name in Scotland," says Dr. Burn, "and perhaps also in England." Its chief charm are the village green, the old hall, and on a hot day, as it was when we were there, the shade of the trees. On the green stands a fountain built some 90 years ago by a Mr. Wallace of the London Lead Company, which formerly worked the lead mines in this neighbourhood.
Those who like to find a village church beside the village
green, in the centre of the village, preferably old and certainly beautiful,
will be disappointed here, for Dufton Church fails in all these respects; it is
about a mile from the village; it is neither old nor beautiful; nor is it even
safe to enter it. At our own peril (according to a notice outside) we did
approach it and peer through the glass of one of the windows darkly, but could
see little except cobwebs. Dufton Hall, which stands inside the village is an
ancient and interesting building, in the form of the letter L, on the north-east
side of the village green, partly Georgian, rebuilt in 1779, partly earlier
dating from the 17th century. The parish of Dufton occupies a vast tract in the
north-east corner of Westmorland, stretching from the Durham border westward for
a distance of about eight miles, and from north to south about five miles. It is
bounded on the north by Milburn Forest; on the east by the river Tees; to the south is Appleby about three miles away.
I cannot think of any parish in Westmorland which combines such contrasts of scenery as exists between the two sides of the Pennine watershed. On its east side, near the Tees, it contains some of the wildest country still left in England - mountains and moorland swept by winds from Cross Fell; to the west, on the other hand, all is quiet and fertile; it is almost the difference between a tiger in the jungle and a cat in front of the fire. I shall have more to say about the tiger side of the parish when I come to explore that part of it from Teesdale. For the moment it is time to go on to
Probably called after a watermill on the beck here, Milburn is the most northerly village in the county and very charming it is. It has several features comparable to those which we noticed at Dufton, namely, the wide village green, the church at some distance from the centre of the village; the historic farmhouse - Howgill Castle, formerly the seat of the lords of the manor; and Milburn also has the hem of the skirts of the Pennines at her feet, with a fine prospect to the south-west.
Possession of the manor has passed through several families. King John granted Milburn Forest to William de Stuteville; later it was held by Vipont, Lancaster, Crackenthorpes and Sandfords and now it belongs to Veteripont Estates Ltd. The parish church of St. Cuthbert, formerly a chapel of Kirkby Thore, is a quarter of a mile or more from the village, but unlike Dufton Church it is an old building with bits of 12th century work to be seen; the re-set south doorway is Norman and re-used stones are of the same date.
We found a place for lunch in the shade of a tree near the little beck below the church and afterwards drove on to
There seems to be no controversy about the meaning of the name of this place. It is simply new building, "big" being a word signifying to build. Newbiggin is a small parish separated from Cumberland by the Crowdundale beck, which comes down from Cross Fell. This river, which is the boundary between the two counties, until it falls into the Eden, is called Blencarne Beck in the old map in Nicolson and Burn's "History," but in all the modern maps that I have seen, it is Crowdundale. The manor house stands at the north end of the village and was built by Christopher Crackenthorpe in the reign of Henry VIII. That family have lived here since the time of Edward III, when Emma de Newbiggin married Robert de Crackenthorpe, who is supposed to have been a younger son of the Machells of Crackenthorpe near Appleby.
Leaving Newbiggin we went on to
where we had intended to call at the manor house, but when we got there we found what I daresay most people who take picnic meals out-of-doors have sometimes experienced, namely, that in packing-up after lunch a bag was left behind. This meant that the car must return to Milburn for the missing bag. Nothing could have been more fortunate because it gave the two of us who remained an opportunity of seeing more of this lovely house and garden than we should otherwise have done. The very name of the place is interesting. Temple Sowerby is so-called, by way of distinction, from its having belonged to the knights Templars, for there are two Sowerbys in the Bottom of Westmorland, the other being Brough Sowerby.
The Knights Templars, a military religious order, were first established in 1119 for the protection of the Holy Sepulchre. Pennant writes about the Templars: "Their great wealth and power rendered them insolent and formidable. Under pretence of crimes of the most horrid nature, their persons were seized, their riches confiscated and their order totally suppressed in 1312." Eleven years later their possessions, including this manor, were by Act of Parliament given to the Knights Hospitallers. In the interval Temple Sowerby was held by Robert, Lord Clifford, by way of escheat. The manor was held by the Hospitallers until the dissolution of the religious houses by Henry VIII, who granted it to Thomas Dalston, eleventh in decent from the first of that name of Dalston in Cumberland. It remained in the Dalston family until the 18th century.
The name of the house is recorded as Acorn Bank in 1615, when "Sir Christopher Dalston of Acorn Bank was knighted by King James I," and by that name the old manor house was known until a few years ago when it was changed by the present owner to Temple Sowerby Manor. Formerly it was called Acorn Bank because the land in front of the house and all round it was at that time covered with oak trees, but to-day there is a belt of trees only on the north side of the house, which stands on the brink of the Crowdundale Beck. From the terrace on the south side of the house there is a magnificent open view. We were unlucky when we called in finding that the owner, Mrs. McGrigor Phillips (Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, the authoress), was away from home, but her staff very kindly showed us round and we came away thinking what a beautiful place it is and how grateful the public must be to Mrs. Philips for her generosity to the National Trust.
The car (and the missing bag) now arrived and we all went on to
On the way there and about half a mile from the castle, on the Penrith-Appleby road, we saw and stopped at the Countess's Pillar, to which I have referred in the chapter on Anne Clifford.
Brougham Castle has had a history very similar to that of Brough. So much so that the comparison between these two places, whose very names are so much alike, are worth writing down. Each of them was built on the site of a Roman camp; each was part of the great property that passed in the reign of King John to the de Veteripont (or Vipont) family and later by marriage from the Viponts to the Clifford; each keep was built in the 12th century; both were attacked and destroyed by the Scots; both were restored by Lady Anne Clifford between 1650-60; both were demolished by her grandson, Thomas Tufton, 6th Earl of Thanet, about 1690; the ruins of both castles are now under the guardianship of the Ministry of Works.
And very much the same may be said of Appleby Castle - the part about the Romans, the Viponts, the Scots and Lady Anne Clifford; there is, however, this important difference that Appleby Castle was not demolished by Lord Thanet in the sixteen nineties, but was rather improved and enlarged at the expense of Brougham and Brough and therefore to-day it is lived in by Lord Hothfield and not looked after by the Ministry of Works.
As you enter the main road and buy your ticket from a man at the lodge, you will be struck by the size of Brougham Castle and the beauty of its setting on the south bank of the river Eamont. You will probably agree with the Monuments Commission that "the remains of Brougham Castle form the most extensive and important survival of military architecture in the county. The 12th century keep is still largely complete, as are the two gatehouses, the three together forming a remarkable example of defensive planning."1 It is a much bigger and grander affair than Brough; it is far finer than Kendal Castle or Pendragon could ever have been; it is in fact a magnificent structure and one of the strongest of all the Border fortresses.
From the lodge you walk up the drive, alongside the river to the outer gatehouse. This is a great rectangular building, 90 by about 40 feet, with an arched doorway; over the arch is a sunk panel, removed to this place from the inner gateway, and bearing the inscription "Thys made Roger." The wording has always been regarded as ambiguous. Roger de Clifford, who had married the Vipont heiress, is supposed to have erected the gatehouse. Like all sons-in-law he was looked upon as an intruder in getting so good a property and there were those who were only too ready to say: "This made Roger; yes, it certainly did; he would be nothing without his wife's castle." But there were others, perhaps with kinder hearts, who admitted the fact: "Roger made this; he put up this building." Be that as it may, the authorities on the subject say that the panel replaces another one now at Appleby Castle. It contains one of those inscriptions of which Anne Clifford was so fond, of which she composed and left so many. The inscription reads:-
"Brougham Castle was repaired by the Lady Anne Clifford, Countess Dowager of Pembroke, Dorsett and Montgomery, Baroness Clifford, Westmorland and Vesie, Lady of the Honour of Skipton in Craven and High Sheriffesse by inheritance of the countie of Westmorland, in the yeares 1651 and 1652, when King James lay in it for a time in his journey out of Scotland and towards London, until this time. Isaiah, Chap. 58 verse 12. God's name be praised."
While the whole castle is in ruins there is enough left of each part of it - and a great deal of some parts, especially of the keep and the two massive gatehouses on the north side next to the river - to give one a very good idea of how the castle looked and "worked" in its great days. Nothing is missing of the essential bits and pieces that go to show the general layout; the approach; the entrance through the gate-houses; the courtyard beyond; the keep with its 13th century chapel or oratory covered with a ribbed vault and central boss; the curtain walls; the kitchen and great hall; the lodgings and the south-west tower in the corner of the courtyard furthest from the gatehouse.
We sat in the courtyard for a while to enjoy the beauty of this massive stronghold and of the river Eamont below us. We could not, however, wait long as we still had two more items on the day's programme before returning to Kirkby Stephen; the first was to get tea in Penrith just across the river, and the second to come back to Brougham in order to see the parish church of St. Ninian, locally called Nine Kirks. As Penrith is outside our self-made province and as anybody can find the way and tea there, we can omit mention of it and go straight to Nine Kirks.
Everyone who visits Brougham should make a point of going to see St. Ninian's Church even though it takes a little time and trouble, as you cannot drive up to the door. The church stands in a lovely dale within a curve of the river Eamont; to get to it you leave the main Penrith road at a gate where there is a notice about the way to the church; you walk over the fields along a grass track until you come to the river and there you look down, from the high cliff above to a hairpin bend of the Eamont below you; you carry on and then drop downhill to a field beside the river, where you find this very unusual parish church.
There are many other churches beside rivers; many other churches in the fields; but there can be few so completely tucked away out of the hurly-burly and bustle of village life or high roads. Here is peace, perfect peace.
From the diary of the Lady Anne Clifford it is clear that she pulled down and entirely rebuilt and enlarged the church in 1660. And, as always, she left her mark on the fabric of whatever she restored; in this case in the inside of the church on the eastern wall there is a wreath in plaster enclosing the initials and date, A.P., 1660 (for Anne, Countess of Pembroke).
On our walk back to the road we stopped to look down at the bend of the Eamont and watch some oyster-catchers on the riverbank.
1 "Historical Monuments Survey," p. 59.
Thanks to Diane Coppard in Leicestershire for transcribing this! Reproduced by permission of Tim Clement-Jones.