Cockermouth

Chapelry, borough and market town in Brigham parish, Allerdale above Derwent ward, Cumberland. Became UD 1894 (until 1974). For The Gote area, transferred from Papcastle CP 1934, see Papcastle.

Acreage: 2,425 acres [981 ha] before boundary changes, including 1,500 acres [607 ha] of common moorland, enclosed 1832. After gaining The Gote area (133 acres [54 ha]) from Papcastle CP, and losing 518 acres [210 ha] to Setmurthy CP in 1935, Cockermouth UD comprised 2,040 acres [826 ha]. CP gained further land to west of town from Brigham CP in early 1990s.

Landownership: from 12th century Cockermouth Castle was caput of barony of Allerdale and honour of Cockermouth (comprising the Five Towns south-west of town and forest of Derwentfells, the land between rivers Cocker and Derwent). Honour of Cockermouth descended through heirs of Waldeof, lord of Allerdale in early 12th century, to William Fitz Duncan (d. c.1153). After death of his widow Alice de Rumilly (d. 1186-7), it was partioned between daughters Cecily, wife of William le Gros, earl of Aumale, and Mabel wife of Reginald de Lucy. Aumale share descended to William de Fortibus III (d. 1259), earl of Aumale, and then to his widow Isabella (d. 1293), when it reverted to Crown. Lucy share descended via Alice de Lucy, wife of Alan de Moulton, whose heirs took surname Lucy, to Anthony de Lucy (d. 1343), who was granted Aumale share 1323, thus reuniting estate. His granddaughter, Maud (d. 1398), settled her estates on her second husband Henry Percy, 1st earl of Northumberland, thereby bringing Cockermouth to Percy family, in which it descended (with some breaks when confiscated to Crown) to Joceline, 11th earl of Northumberland (d. 1670), whose daughter Elizabeth married Charles Seymour (1662-1748), 6th duke of Somerset. Their son Algernon, 7th duke of Somerset, became 1st earl of Egremont (1749) but died childless 1750, the estate passing through his sister Katherine, wife of Sir William Wyndham, to Charles Wyndham (d. 1763), 2nd earl of Egremont, since when it has descended in Wyndham family.

Origins and growth of the town. Cockermouth was a seigniorial borough, established, probably in later 12th century, at foot of castle. Core of town appears to have been Market Place to east of River Cocker; a planned extension, the wide, bowed Main Street to west of Cocker, had been laid out by early 13th century. It was market centre for a wide agricultural hinterland (market charter granted 1221), acting as central cog in economy through which rural produce was distributed and in which industrial processes were concentrated. Rental of c.1270 records a thriving borough, its wealth based on woollen cloth and leather trades, and lordly income also deriving from salmon fishery in River Derwent. By 1670s, Sir Daniel Fleming could call Cockermouth ‘the best Market Towne in this part of the county’, with many fine buildings and ‘no small reputation’. Its weekly market, fortnightly cattle fairs and Whitsuntide and Martinmas hiring fairs drew custom from a wide area. Water power provided by rivers Cocker and Derwent and two becks, drove corn and fulling mills from 12th century. Population may have been around 1000 in later 13th century and was estimated at 965 in 1688. Water power led Cockermouth’s transformation into industrial centre in 18th and 19th centuries, adding mills and factories to its market function. Paper mill at Simonscales by 1760s (a flax mill in mid-19th century); corn mill at Rubby Banks became textile mill by mid-19th century. By later 19th century, mainstays of town were flax and woollen mills and agricultural service industries (implement making; auction mart). Prosperity and industrial growth were reflected in increase in population to 2,652 in 1785 and 2,865 in 1801, with doubling to 5,775 in 1851. In first half of 19th century there were over 40 industrial sites: 5 corn millers, 7 tanners, 14 textile manufacturers, 2 dyers, 4 hat manufacturers, 5 nail makers, 3 brick makers, 4 brewers and maltsters, as well as spectrum of smaller businesses typical of a market town, from clog makers to clockmakers and tinsmiths to tailors. Arrival of railways (from Workington 1847; from Penrith and Keswick 1864) saw town expand to south of its medieval confines, with new housing on The Moor. Two larger businesses founded in 19th century survive: Mitchell’s Auction Co (established 1849) and Jennings Castle Brewery (moved from Lorton (q.v.) 1887). For industrial history of The Gote, see Papcastle. Population levelled at around 5,300 from 1861 to 1951 (dipping under 5,000 in 1921 and 1931). Cockermouth again flourished in later 20th century, initially as dormitory town, but increasingly as tourist centre, growing steadily from 5,235 in 1951 to 7,877 in 2001.

Places of worship. Medieval chapel of ease on site of All Saints Church (confirmed by names Kirkgate, Kirkwent, Kirkcroft, recorded in late medieval period). Dedication changed from St Mary to All Saints by 1385. Rebuilt 1711 (retaining 14th-century tower); destroyed by fire 1850 and rebuilt again 1852-4; remained parochial chapel under Brigham until 1865. Other medieval religious sites included chapel of St Helen, at head of St Helen’s Street, recorded 1270 and surviving into late 15th century, and St Leonard’s chapel at west end of town, also recorded 1270. In 1865 a second Anglican church, Christ Church, opened to serve western end of town. Independent (Congregational) church established 1651, meeting first in members’ houses, then, from 1687, in converted house on The Sands; chapel built 1719; rebuilt 1735; present church (now United Reformed Church) adjacent to older chapel, built 1850. Quaker meeting house at head of Kirkgate built 1688; rebuilt 1781 and again 1884. Earliest Methodist chapel in High Sand Lane (now Victoria Hall); new Wesleyan chapel built 1841 (now Town Hall); replaced in turn by Lorton Street Methodist Church, built 1932. Primitive Methodists rented High Sand Lane chapel 1841, buying it 1851; moved to vacant National school in New Street 1885. High Sand Lane chapel used by Salvation Army in 1901. Roman Catholic services held in barn behind Sun Inn at foot of Kirkgate until St Joseph’s RC Church, Crown Street, built 1856. Cemetery on Lorton Road, with two mortuary chapels, laid out 1856.

Schools. Grammar school prior to 1546; first recorded building alongside All Saints Church, erected 1676. School of Industry ‘for the gratuitous education of 30 poor girls’ established 1809. National school, New Street, built 1845; became a Board school 1870. National school moved to new premises in Kirkgate 1869, becoming All Saints National School; moved again to new premises on Slatefell Drive 1973; now All Saints CE Primary School. British school, Market Street, built 1847. Fairfield Girls’ Board School built 1876, and Fairfield Boys’ Board School opened 1884, replacing New Street school. New building on adjacent site opened 1971; now Fairfield Primary School. School adjacent to St Joseph’s RC Church from 1877; moved to new premises on The Level 1967; now St Joseph’s RC Primary School. Cumberland County Industrial School (where boys sent by courts for vagrancy /crime were taught trades in addition to basic education) built near Lorton Road 1881; closed 1921. Cockermouth Secondary School opened in former Industrial School premises 1929, becoming Grammar School 1958 to 1984. Derwent Secondary Modern School, Castlegate Drive, opened 1958; amalgamated with grammar school to become comprehensive Cockermouth School 1984. Former grammar school site closed 1991.

Other institutions. Widows’ Hospital in Kirkgate endowed by Thomas Leathes 1760. Dispensary established 1785. Nursing home or small hospital had been established at Harford House by 1905; Cottage Hospital, Isel Road, built 1915; replaced by new community hospital on adjacent site, opened 2014. Cockermouth Poor Law Union Workhouse, Gallowbarrow, opened 1843, serving some 50 townships; closed 1929. (Union School educated workhouse children until 1887 when it was moved to Flimby). Mechanics’ Institute with library and reading room established 1845. Wordsworth Institute, Main Street, providing lectures and adult classes, founded 1882; moved to Christ Church rooms c.1921. Book club, founded 1785, had become Cockermouth Library by 1847, its collection forming nucleus of Carnegie Public Library, Main Street, opened 1904. Public meeting places included Public Hall (built 1874), Royal Assembly Rooms and Drill Hall (built 1886). Public park, Harris Park, laid out 1894. Cinema, the Grand Theatre, built 1913-14; closed 1978. Kirkgate Centre (cinema and arts centre) established in former All Saints National School building 1995.

How were these summaries compiled for Cumberland?

 

Other Websites

 

Cockermouth on Vision of Britain

 

Specific to this township:

 

Cockermouth Heritage Group

 

Cockermouth Civic Trust  [publications cover much history]

 

Cockermouth Tourist Information Centre  [history section of website has much historical information

 

Cockermouth Telephone system

 

Countywide Web Sites

 

this link gives a schedule of many Cumbria-specific sites, which cover several Cumbrian townships; each would need to be opened and searched using the FIND facility to see if any reference is made to this township..

Outcounty Web Sites

 

this link gives a schedule of many national sites, which contain information about Cumbrian history; each would need to be opened and searched using the FIND facility to see if any reference is made to this township.

Other Resources

 

Map of Cockermouth (1900)

 

Historical buildings in this township

 

Historic Aerial photographs of Cockermouth

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