COCKERMOUTH, in the parish of Brigham, is a considerable borough and
market town, about 13 miles from Whitehaven, 26½ from Carlisle, and 314
Cockermouth is the site of the barony of Allerdale, since called the barony
and honor of Cockermouth. This barony was given by William de Meschines to Waldeof, son of Gospatric, Earl of Dunbar, whose grand-daughter
brought it to William Fitz-Duncan, nephew of Malcolm, King of Scotland;
one of the co-heiresses of Fitz-Duncan, who was twice married, died
without issue; the two others, whose issue eventually shared this barony in
moieties, married William Le Gros, Earl of Albemarle, and Reginald De
Lucy; the heiress of Lucy married Multon, who took the name of Lucy.
After the death of William de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle, and Isabel his
countess, without issue, a moiety of the castle and honor of Cockermouth
fell to the crown, and having been for a while in the possession of Piers
Gaveston, by the grant of Edward II. was some years afterwards, (1323) (fn. 1) ,
granted to Anthony Lord Lucy (fn. 2) already possessed by inheritance of the
other moiety. Maud, sister and heiress of Anthony Lord Lucy, who died
in 1366, settled the castle and honor of Cockermouth on Henry Percy,
Earl of Northumberland, her second husband, and his heirs male, on
condition that they should bear the arms of Lucy quarterly with their
own. Elizabeth, sole heiress of Josceline, the last Earl of Northumberland,
brought Cockermouth and other large estates to Charles Seymour, Duke of
Somerset. Lady Catherine, second daughter and coheiress of the duke,
married Sir William Wyndham, whose son Sir Charles, was in 1749 created
Earl of Egremont, and was father of George Earl of Egremont, the present
possessor of the honor or barony of Cockermouth. The park, which was
long ago disparked, and sold to Sir Thomas Wharton, has been since
reunited to the honor.
Cockermouth Castle, the ancient baronial seat of the Lords of Allerdale,
stands on a bold eminence near the confluence of the rivers Cocker and
Derwent. It is supposed to have been built soon after the conquest, but
there is no part of the present building, which exhibits the architecture
of so early a period. Cockermouth Castle is said to have been yielded to
King Henry IV. (fn. 3) It is erroneously stated in the history of this county
by Nicolson and Burn, that it was made a garrison for the King in
1648, and that it was taken and burnt by the parliamentary forces. It
appears by Whitelock and Rushworth, that the castle being held by Lieut.
Bird, as governor for the parliament, was besieged for some weeks by a party
of Cumberland royalists, and that it was relieved by Colonel Ashton, who
was sent out of Lancashire by Cromwell for that purpose. An entry in the
register of burials for the chapelry, informs us that "the siege was laid against
Cockermouth Castle, August 1648, and the castle was relieved the 29th of
September, in which time were slain of the besiegers George Bucke, &c. &c. (fn. 4) ."
Robert Murrell, shot in the castle September 21, is said to have been the
only person slain in the garrison. It is probable that the castle, if not dismantled, was suffered to go to decay after the civil war; a small part of
it only is now habitable. Mr. Denton says, that in 1688 the only habitable
part was the gateway and the courthouse, where the Christmas sessions were
The ancestors of the Fletchers of Hutton, were opulent merchants at
Cockermouth, and had a large mansion here, in which Mary Queen of Scots
is said to have been lodged on her journey from Workington to Carlisle (fn. 5) : this
house was pulled down and rebuilt by Sir Richard Fletcher, who was sheriff
of the county in 1617; after a time this new structure acquired the name
of "The Old Hall," and having lain in a neglected state for many years,
was sold some years ago in lots by Sir Frederick Fletcher Vane, Baronet,
and has been divided into tenements.
Both this borough and Egremont returned members to parliament in the
23d year of King Edward I. This privilege, after so long a disuse, was restored
to Cockermouth in the year 1640. The right of election is in the burgage
holders, who are about 280 in number (fn. 6) . The bailiff is the returning officer.
The late Earl of Liverpool, before his elevation to the peerage, was some time
M. P. for this borough. The Epiphany sessions are held at Cockermouth.
The market on Monday, was granted to William de Fortibus, Earl of
Albemarle, in 1226 (fn. 7) , it is a considerable market for corn, provisions, &c.
A great market or fair is held every other Wednesday (fn. 8) , from the beginning
of May till Michaelmas, and there are annual fairs on Whit Monday and
Martinmas Monday for hiring servants.
Browne Willis states the number of houses at Cockermouth only at 235
in 1714; in 1785 there were, according to Hutchinson, 663 families, and
2652 inhabitants; in 1801 there were 417 inhabited houses, 690 families,
and 2865 inhabitants; in 1811, 602 houses, 709 families, and 2964 inhabitants, according to the returns made to parliament at those periods.
In the year 1647, 191 persons died of the plague, as appears by an entry
in the parish register. The town seems to have escaped this dreadful
malady in 1665.
At Cockermouth are considerable manufactories of cotton, linen, and
woollen, and the tanning and currying trade is carried on to a great
There was a chapel at this place before the year 1394; the present
structure was built in 1711; the old tower remains. The Earl of Lonsdale
is patron of the curacy.
There are meeting houses in this town, for the Presbyterians, Quakers, and
Methodists. The Rev. John Fell, an eminent dissenting minister, born at
Cockermouth in 1735, wrote on the Demoniacs, on Rowley's poems, on
English grammar, and on the idolatry of Greece and Rome. He died in
London, in the year 1797.
The free school was founded in the reign of Charles II. by Philip Lord
Wharton, Sir Richard Graham, and others. The sum of 10l. per annum
is paid to the master by Lord Lonsdale, as charged upon the great tithes,
and a further sum of 10l. has for some years past been added as a gratuity.
Over the school house is a library, founded by the associates of the late
Dr. Bray, to which Dr. Keene, Bishop of Chester, was a considerable
In the year 1760, the Rev. Thomas Leathes gave a house in Kirkgate for
the residence of six poor widows or unmarried women, above 60 years of
age, and left the interest of 100l. as an endowment, to which his daughter
Within the parochial chapelry of Cockermouth, is the township of Seatmurthow or Setmurthy; here is a small chapel, which has been augmented
by Queen Anne's bounty. This township is parcel of the manor of Five
The manor of Hewthwaite, or Huthwaite, in this township, gave name to
its early possessors, and, having passed by marriage to the Swinburns, underwent the same alienations as a moiety of the manor of Brigham (fn. 9) . After the
death of Mr. Singleton, in 1767, the manor was allotted to Judith, the wife of
Thomas Bolton, and was by her and her husband conveyed to the father of
John Sanderson Fisher, Esq. of Wood-Hall, the present proprietor. The
hall and demesne were divided among several of the persons entitled under
Mr. Grisdale's will, and are now the property of Raisbeck Lucock Bragg,
Esq., John Sanderson Fisher, Esq., Wilfred Lawson, Esq. (fn. 10) , and Daniel Clift,
Esq. The old mansion, built in 1581 by the Swinburns, is still standing
and occupied as a farm-house. (fn. 11)
The township of Eaglesfield or Eglesfield, is said to have given name to
an ancient family, of whom was Robert Eglesfield, confessor to Queen
Philippa, consort of King Edward III. and founder of Queen's College in
Oxford. This township is parcel of what is called the manor of Five
Embleton was given by Alice, one of the co-heiresses of William Fitz
Duncan, and her husband Robert Courteney, to Orme Ireby, whose family
held it for several generations. It was afterwards successively in the families
of Kirkby, Tilliol, Kellom, and Brathwaite. From the latter it passed by
purchase to Philip Lord Wharton, who possessed it in 1688 (fn. 12) . This township, which is now deemed to be within the manor of Derwent-Fells,
belongs to Lord Egremont. There is a chapel at Embleton, with a small
The township of Mosergh, Mosier, or Mosser, belonged to the Salkelds,
who were lords of the manor; it has since been enfranchised. There is a
chapel at Mosergh, and it appears that there was a chantry chapel there
before the reformation.
The township and manor of Whinfell were, in the reign of Henry VIII.
the joint property of Chr. Curwen, J. Eglesfield, and Ambrose Middleton (fn. 13) .
It was afterwards in the Wharton family, and, having been sold by them
to the Duke of Somerset, descended with Cockermouth to the Earl of
The parochial chapelry of Lorton contains the townships of Lorton,
Brackenthwaite, and Wythorp.
Lorton is parcel of the manor of Derwent-Fells, belonging to the Earl of
Egremont. The dean and chapter of Carlisle have a small manor here,
given to the church in the reign of Richard I. by Ralph de Lyndesey.
The chapel of Lorton is in the patronage of the Earl of Lonsdale. The
school is endowed with the interest of 100l. given by several persons.
The manor of Brackenthwaite belonged anciently to the Moresbys, who
sold it to Multon; from the latter it descended to Lucy and Percy. Henry,
Earl of Northumberland, gave it to King Henry VIII. Brackenthwaite is
now considered to be parcel of the manor of Derwent-Fells.
The manor of Wythorp belonged at an early period to the Lucy family.
Hugh Lowther was possessed of it in the reign of Edward II. In 1606, Sir
Richard Lowther sold it to Richard Fletcher. It is now the property of
Sir Frederick Fletcher Vane, Bart. Wythorp-hall, formerly a seat of the
Lowthers, has long been a farm-house. There is a chapel at Wythorp.
This was the native place of Dr. Joseph Hudson, principal of St. Mary
Hall, in Oxford, a learned critic, who published editions of Velleius Paterculus, Thucydides, Dionysius Halicarnasseus, Longinus, &c. He was born
in 1662, and died in 1719.