Township in St Bees parish, Allerdale above Derwent ward, Cumberland. CP enlarged by inclusion of Low Keekle CP 1881 but abolished 1934, when divided between Whitehaven, St Bees and Weddicar CPs.
2,184 acres [884 ha] before boundary changes; enlarged CP of Hensingham and Low Keekle contained 2,249 acres [910 ha]. Common land on Hensingham Moor (562 acres [227 ha]) enclosed 1768.
steady rise from 590 in 1801 to 1,538 in 1861; then rapid increase across 1860s to 2,060 by 1871; continued to rise to 2,312 in 1911; stood at 2,116 in 1931 (last census year for which figure available).
moiety of manor of Hensingham held by Robert de Branthwaite 1276 descended by marriage c.1320 to Whitrigg family (lords of Little Bampton), and from them by marriage in mid-14th century to Skelton family. Sold by Thomas Skelton of Branthwaite 1608 to Thomas Salkeld of Brayton, who sold it (except manor house and demesne lands) to Anthony Benn 1650. Mining royalties conveyed to Sir John Lowther 1683. By mid-19th century there were several villas in township.
coal mining by 1688. Linen thread and check factory recorded 1829, closed by 1901. Limestone quarry and lime works at Overend by mid-19th century; closed early 20th century. By 19th century much employment was in mines and other industries of Whitehaven. Economic development in 20th century included Seker’s Silk Mill, opened 1938, becoming a major employer; closed 2006. Smith Brothers printing and packaging works, Ivy Mill, opened early 1950s; site later used as workwear factory. Other small factory units opened from 1960s at Sneckyeat.
Places of worship:
St John’s Church built 1791; endowed, restored and consecrated 1808; extended 1843 and 1859; rebuilt on new site (old church demolished) 1911. Keekle Mission opened 1875; closed 2013. Wesleyan Methodist chapel at West View built 1856; replaced by new chapel on new site 1901; still in use.
Schools and other institutions:
two schools recorded 1818. National school enlarged 1873 with attached infant school (opened 1889); closed 2003, when Junior School, opened 1959, became Hensingham Primary School. School at Goosebutts in 1868; closed 1932 and became reading room. Keekle Terrace Voluntary School opened 1875 in same building as Keekle Mission (enlarged 1885, 1899 and 1903); closed 1958. Overend Secondary Modern School opened 1960 and Whitehaven Grammar School relocated on adjacent site 1968, thus moving all Whitehaven secondary education to Hensingham. In 1990s they merged to form Whitehaven School. St Benedict’s RC High School opened 1971. Galemire Infectious Diseases Hospital opened 1879; closed 1966. Homewood (former private villa) served as chest unit from 1955 until opening of West Cumberland Hospital, built 1959-64 to replace Whitehaven Infirmary. Public halls in Hensingham for Conservative Association (opened 1885) and Liberals (erected 1886); both closed. Cinema, Hensingham Square; closed. Former Keekle Mission, Keekle Terrace, reopened as village hall 2015.