Market town and township in Sedbergh parish, Ewecross wapentake, West Riding of Yorkshire.
Acreage: 19,603 acres [7,933 ha], divided between four subdivisions thus: Howgill & Bland: 5,443 acres [2,203 ha]; Frostrow & Soolbank: 3,292 acres [1,332 ha]; Marthwaite: 2,570 acres [1,040 ha]; and Cautley & Dowbiggin: 8,297 acres [3,358 ha]. Over 15,000 acres [6,100 ha] survives as registered common land, largest commons being Brant Fell (6,758 acres [2,735 ha]) and Bluecaster Fell (7,556 acres [3,060 ha], partly in Garsdale).
Population: rising from 1,639 in 1801 to around 2,200-2,300 by mid-19th century, remaining fairly stable across 20th century. Stood at 2,705 (including Sedbergh School) in 2001.
Landownership: manor of Sedbergh held by de Staveley family until mid-13th century, passing by marriage of Alice, daughter of Adam de Staveley, to Henry Fitz-Randulph; their descendants, who took name Fitz-Hugh, held it until 15th century. Divided into moieties through 16th century: one moiety granted by Henry VII to Edward Stanley, Lord Mounteagle; other moiety passing through Scrope and Dacre families. Both parts bought 1601 by Sir Thomas Strickland, in whose family manor remained until sold to John Upton of Ingmire Hall in late 19th century. Ingmire estate was finally broken up 1928.
Economy. Tuesday market and annual fair on 8 September granted 1254; market may have failed as re-established 1526. Remained small in 19th century, though livestock fairs still held in 1880s. Quarrying for limestone, Silurian ‘Blue Rag’ stone and sandstone; lime-burning in 19th century. Textile industry: hand knitting and some hand loom weaving in 17th and 18th centuries. Water-powered textile mills from late 18th century. Birks Mill (cotton, woollen) established 1790; had become bobbin mill with dyeing and cleaning works by 1880s; site used for egg packing later 20th century; now food depot. Hebblethwaite Mill built 1793, initially as carding mill; later spinning; sold 1812. Millthrop Mill established 1796, initially as cotton mill, later making horse blankets; burnt down 1967; now private housing. Farfield Mill built 1837 as woollen mill by Joseph Dover; specialised in horse blankets, tweeds; water wheel replaced by turbine 1896 and by steam 1911; rebuilt after fire 1909; closed c.1995; reopened as arts and heritage centre. At Howgill, fulling mill had become wool spinning mill by 1816; disused by 1890s. Tourism grew in 20th century, with specialism in book-selling as a ‘Book Town’. Sedbergh School remained major employer.
Places of worship. Medieval parish church of St Andrew; restored 1886. Chapel of ease at Howgill built and endowed by John Robinson 1685; replaced by Holy Trinity Church, built 1838. St Mark’s Church, Cautley, built 1845-7. St Gregory Vale of Lune built as private chapel (‘Weathercock chapel’) by Uptons of Ingmire Hall 1861; remodelled c.1907 and consecrated 1918; closed 1984. Mission room at Millthrop built 1888. Sedbergh School chapel 1890, rebuilt 1895-7. Quaker meeting house at Brigflatts built 1675; still in use. Wesleyan Methodist chapels in Sedbergh (built 1805; rebuilt on new site 1864 and 1914; still in use); Cautley (built 1845; still in use) and Frostrow (built 1886; still in use). Primitive Methodist chapel, Millthrop, built 1889; closed 1993. Independent chapel, Sedbergh, built 1821; rebuilt on new site 1828 and enlarged 1871; now United Reformed Church. Roman Catholic chapel in Millthrop from 1956 to 1975, sharing parish church since then.
Schools. Sedbergh School founded 1525 as grammar school combined with chantry; became Free Grammar School of King Edward VI 1551; re-organised under new scheme of governance 1874, becoming independent boarding school. Rebuilt 1716 (building now school library); most school buildings date from period 1878-1907. Parish school adjoining church replaced by National school, built 1842. British school to north of town near Castlehaw built 1843; rebuilt 1901. These combined and replaced by Sedbergh Primary School 1967. Secondary modern school built 1949; became comprehensive 1980; now Settlebeck High School. Several dame schools in 19th century, including one run by Julia Green converted to preparatory school 1897-1938. Baliol School established as girls’ school 1900; closed 1932; used as military training school during Second World War; converted to local authority special school 1970s; closed c.2011. Schools outside town included that attached to Howgill chapel (built late 17th century; rebuilt on new site 1850; closed c.1964) and Cautley and Dowbiggin School (opened 1877; closed 1955).
Other institutions. Parish workhouse opened 1732; Sedbergh Poor Law Union (covering whole ancient parish, including Garsdale and Dent) formed 1840; new Union Workhouse built on southern edge of town 1853-4; closed 1930; converted to housing 1976. Almshouses (Widows’ Hospital) founded by Thomas Palmer, built 1849; renovated 1960; still open. Market hall and reading room given by Rev. J. H. Evans, headmaster of Sedbergh School, 1858; now library. Public hall built 1865; later became a cinema; now bookshop. Peoples Hall built 1956 as village/community hall. Village hall at Howgill in former school building. Cemetery opened 1890 (given to town by Florence Upton Cottrell-Dormer of Ingmire Hall); Queens Gardens opened 1902.
Images and maps (from Portsmouth University) on Old Cumbria Gazetteer
Sedbergh on Vision of Britain
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