Muncaster, Cumberland


Description from Mannix & Whellan's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847

Transcription by Carol Bennett © 1999


This parish is bounded on the west by the Irish sea, on the north by Irton and Drigg, on the east by Ulpha and Eskdale, and on the west by Waberthwaite. It consist of two townships, Muncaster and Birkby. A vein of iron ore is supposed to exist at a place called Brankenwalls gill, the property of the Rev. Samuel Dupre of Bridgenorth, but neither coal, limestone nor freestone is found in this parish. Lord Muncaster is the principal landowner, and the population of the parish in 1841 was 602 souls. MUNCASTER township contains the ancient, but now insignificant town and sea port of Ravenglass. There is scarcely any trade in the place, the only vessel belonging to the port being a sloop, the property of Mr Richard Taylor. Richard Lucy, as lord paramount, first received a charter for a market and fair at Ravenglass, from King John, and in the same year he confirmed to Allan Pennington, as mense lord, and his tenants, "all the land and fee of Ravenglass, to hold of him and his heirs, with estovers to make fish garths in the river Esk." A cattle fair is now held in May, and fairs for horses and cattle are held in June and August. The Whitehaven and Furness Junction Railway, now in operation, passes close to the town. The Church of Muncaster, dedicated to St.Michael, is an ancient structure, standing nearly in the centre of the parish, about one mile east of Ravenglass, in the park closely adjoining the castle, and being entirely surrounded by trees and partly covered with ivy, has a peculiarly interesting appearance. It consists of a nave and chancel, with a bell turret carrying two bells. The church was appropriated to Conishead Priory, by Gamel de Pennington, in the reign of Henry II. On the dissolution of the religious houses, it again reverted to that family who have since retained the advowson. Lord Muncaster is patron, and the Rev. Thomas Robinson is the incumbent. The walls of the chancel are nearly covered with monuments of the Pennington family. Muncaster Castle is a handsome modern structure, having been nearly rebuilt by John, first baron Muncaster. It is now in the possession of Gamel Augustus Pennington, Lord Muncaster, lineal descendant of the family of Pennington, who have enjoyed this estate ever since the Conquest, the first of whose ancestors after that period bore the name of Gamel. They took their name from Pennington in Lancashire, and the Muncasters are descended from one David de Mulcaster, the son of Benedict Pennington who lived in King John's time. In ancient evidences, Muncaster is called Meolcastre, Mealcastre and Mulcaster. A glass vessel has been preserved at the castle for several centuries, called "The luck of Mulcaster", said to have been presented to Sir John Pennington by Henry VI in 1461. Lowther Augustus John, the late baron, died in 1838 aged 35 years. He was succeeded by his son Gamel Augustus, who was born 3rd December 1831, and is consequently a minor. He is the fourth baron Muncaster, and eighth baronet. Low Esk Holm is a small hamlet in Muncaster township consisting of three farm houses and a few cottages, near the farm called High Esk Holm. BIRKBY is a small township containing a few scattered houses, east of Ravenglass. At a place called Chapel garth, some ruins were dug up in 1822, supposed to have been those of the chapel or church which formerly stood here. Mr William Russell of Eskdale has a bobbin turning mill at Broad Oak in this township. History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, Mannix & Whellan, 1847.

[Transcribed by Carol Bennett in 1999]

More extracts from Mannix & Whelan's Directory can be found on Steve Bulman's excellent Images of Cumbria website.