Bassenthwaite

BASSENTHWAITE: ancient parish in Allerdale Above ward, Cumberland.

Acreage of administrative unit: 

6915 acres [2798 ha], including 3630 acres [1469 ha] of commons and stinted pasture, enclosed in 1771. Bassenthwaite and Skiddaw Common (1018 acres [412 ha]) remains as registered common fell land.

Population: 

1801 450; 1851 557; 2001 412. Population rise in mid-19th century, probably due to construction in 1862-1864 of railway from Penrith to Cockermouth.

Land ownership: 

Granted by Waldeof, first lord of Allerdale barony, to his son Gospatric, later divided between Irton & Martiindale families. In 16th century their shares were granted to Leighs of Isel (succeeded by Lawsons) and Earl of Derby respectively. The latter share descended to Lord Ashburham in 1714, who enfranchised his tenants in 1715.  The lake was declared in 1772 to be in the freehold of the Earl of Egremont. Other major estate owners were the Highmores of Armathwaite (sold in 18th century to the Fletcher Vanes) & the Speddings of Mirehouse.

Economic activity: 

Primarily farming and fishing. Woollen cloth manufacture (‘Skiddaw grey’) and  blue slate quarries in 17th century.   An antimony mine opened in the 1820s at Robin Hood, but, being uneconomic, it had closed by the late 1840s. 

Places of worship: 

medieval parish church of St Bega (restored 1874) in open fields by the lake, said to be on an ancient track from Crosthwaite to Bowness on Solway.  A Victorian church, St John’s, was built nearer the village in 1878. Wesleyan chapel opened in 1890s.

Institutions: 

A board school for 120 children was built in 1874; still in use as an LEA primary school. Reading room and library, built 1874.   Mirehouse, a 17th century house, the home of the Spedding family, is noted for its library, with a collection of works by Francis Bacon.

Additional sources used: 

John Spedding: St Bega & her church at Bassenthwaite(privately printed)

Compiled by: Mary Wane