Ancient parish in Allerdale above Derwent ward, Cumberland, containing townships of Muncaster (which included port village of Ravenglass) and Birkby, separated by River Esk.
6,496 acres [2,629 ha], divided between townships thus: Muncaster: 3,259 acres [1,319 ha]; Birkby: 3,237 acres [1,310 ha]. CP gained Stainton, detached portion of Chapel Sucken township (see Millom Rural), 1886. Birkby Fell, covering 1,383 acres [560 ha], remains unenclosed common land.
estimated at 620 in 1688; in range 570-630 across 19th century, with peak of 657 in 1831; declined from 522 in 1901 to 272 in 1981, rising to 335 in 2001.
manor of Muncaster held by Pennington family since 13th century, remaining with their descendants to present, their seat at Muncaster Castle originating as medieval tower house, enlarged 17th century and substantially redesigned 1860s-1880s. Manor of Birkby held by Stanley family of Dalegarth.
farming; woollen textiles (fulling recorded in name ‘Walk Mill’ on northern boundary of parish); salmon fishery and mussel beds in Esk estuary; iron bloomery forge at Muncaster Head in 17th century; bobbin turning at Broad Oak, Birkby, in 19th century.
Places of worship:
medieval parish church of St Michael; restored 1873. Ruins at Chapel Garth, Birkby, excavated 1822, thought to be remains of religious building. Wesleyan Methodist chapel built 1833; reopened 1851. Independent chapel at Grove, near Ravenglass, recorded 1860 but not 1897. Baptist chapel, Ravenglass, built c.1845; closed before 1897.
Schools and other institutions:
endowed school established by Richard Brockbank 1696; school room built 1706; new school built 1876; closed 1980s; now hotel. Public hall at Ravenglass, built 1878, used (1901) as infant school on weekdays and for religious purposes on Sundays; part became school (closed and converted to dwelling); remainder now Muncaster Parish Hall. Reading room at Ravenglass established 1862.
harbour and market by Roman times; fort of GLANNOVENTA (name meaning ‘makret on shore’) guarding harbour. Right to hold market and fair granted by charter 1208. By 17th century Ravenglass was small port with important cattle fair: by 1670s weekly market on Saturdays and cattle fair on 28 May had been added to ancient fair held in July. Attempts to revive market and fairs by Lord Muncaster in 1796 appear to have been short-lived. In 1870s became rail junction between Furness Railway and Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway (opened 1876); latter (and gardens at Muncaster Castle) became focus for tourism in 20th century.