The township of Dunnerdale and the chapelry of Seathwaite constitute one township for parochial purposes. It extends along the east side of the Duddon, from about two miles north of Broughton to the Wrynose Mountain, through a district highly picturesque and romantic. The scenery in some parts of the sequestered vale, through which flows the Duddon, is exceedingly beautiful, and the stupendous hills, covered with debris from the impending green stone crags, are a striking feature in the landscape. The dark crag of Wallabarrow is a conspicuous object on the Cumbrian side ; opposite which is a rock called the Pen ; but the highest of the Dunnerdale fells are Caw and Stickle Pike. The hills in Seathwaite partake of a much wilder character, sending forth innumerable peaks, while huge masses of rock protrude from their sides. There is little either of heath or coppice to be seen. Numerous rills run down the declivities, forming cascades, which are, however, generally devoid of beauty. At Cockley Beck Bridge, in Seathwaite, there are huge boulders in the bed of the river, which interrupt the current but add to its beauty ; and a little further down, near Dale Head, are the stepping stones by which pedestrians cross from one side to the other. The beauties of this river have been sung by Wordsworth in a series of sonnets.
Seathwaite Tarn is the largest and, perhaps, the most interesting of the mountain tarns. It lies in a valley, and is surrounded by hills of considerable elevation. Its length is a little over half a mile, and its surplus waters are carried by the Tarn Beck into the Duddon. In wet weather the body of water thus discharged is very considerable. It rushes with impetuosity down the sides of the hills, breaking into white foam, and hooking like a stream of molten silver. The greater part of the township is of an Alpine character, the land less fertile than some of the adjoining townships, and almost entirely devoted to grazing. At Knott End occurs a bed of iron ore which was formerly worked by the Carnforth Mining Company; but the quantity of ore now produced is so small, the mine became unremunerative, and was closed. At Walna Scar and Common Wood considerable quantities of slate are obtained, and at Cockley Beck there are veins of copper which were worked a few years ago, but are not now sufficiently productive.
The Manor belonged at one time to the family of Kirkby, and afterwards passed from the Stanleys to Robert Hesketh. In 1774 it was held by William Penny, whose trustees sold it to Richard Towers, of Duddon Grove, and it passed from the Rev. George Millers to the late Major W. S. Rawlinson, and is now the property of his heirs, A court baron is held at the will of the lord of the manor.
Dunnerdale is a contraction of Duddon dir dale, signifying Duddon-landvale.
The old Chapel of Seathwaite, whose original foundation is unknown, but which tradition ascribes to an Earl of Derby, was replaced in 1875 by a small but neat edifice, raised at a cost of £850. It is in the Gothic style, built of the slate stone of the neighbourhood, with stone facings, and will seat 100, The presentation is vested in the heirs of the late Major Rawlinson, and the living, which is a perpetual curacy worth £150 a year, is now held by the Rev. S. R. M. Walker, B.A. The chapel is endowed with £30, the interest of which has to be applied to the purchase of pious books for the use of the chapel and poor of Seathwaite. Near the church is a small school, in which sixteen children are taught. It is endowed with an income of £16 a year. At New Close is an ancient burial ground of the Society of Friends, but it has been disused since 1765.
The principal landowners of the township are Mr. J. P. Tyson, of Eskdale, Mr. Dawson, of Havelock, Miss Caddy, J. Tyson, of Cockley Beck, M. J. A. Dickinson, John Stilling, H. Dixon, John Pritt, and a few resident yeomen.
The gross rental of the township is £2,735, and the rateable value £2,551.
The following Charities belong to this township :-
- John Middleton's Charity, 1685 - A share in the bequest of the above, amounting to £12 3s. 3d.
- Pritt's Charity. - Under this head 12s. 6d. is yearly distributed among the poor.
- Donor Unknown. - Two shillings and sixpenee is annually paid out of the Greenbank estate in Dunnerdale. It is expended in the purchase of a Bible or Testament for a poor person.
- Charity arising from the Sale of Coppice Wood, 1731. - A dispute having arisen between the lord of the manor and the tenants respecting the right of the latter to the coppice wood, it was agreed that the tenants should purchase it, but that a portion of the purchase money should be applied to the benefit of the tenants, or to charitable or pious uses. A considerable sum of money derived from this source was put out to interest for many years, and the interest applied to charitable purposes; but the person in whose hands the money was deposited having become insolvent, £140 only of the money was recovered, and this sum the tenants agreed to divide amongst them.
- Thomas Tyson and Others. - £30 for the purchase of religions books.
The appended biographical sketch of the "wonderful Walker," who for 67 years officiated in Seathwaite Chapel, will be read with interest :-
BIOGRAPHY.- The Rev. Robert Walker, who was born at Undercragg, in Seathwaite, in 1709, having made considerable proficiency in learning at the chapel school here, became a schoolmaster at Loweswater, in Cumberland, where, through the assistance of a friend, he made some proficiency in the classics. In 1736 he was presented to the living of Seathwaite, the value of which was then only five pounds a year. He then got married, and with his £40 marriage portion furnished the parsonage house attached to the chapel. Thus established, it behoved him to improve his limited income, and to effect this, his industry, frugality, and temperance have scarcely a parallel. For five days and a half in each week he kept a school in the chapel, his seat being within the rails surrounding the communion table - the table itself supplying the place of desk. He was constantly employed at a spinning wheel, whilst the children were repeating their lessons by his side. His evenings were also employed either in spinning on a wheel, writing out petitions, deeds of conveyance, wills, covenants, &c., for his rustic neighbours; or in attending to his garden, to the two or three acres of land which he rented, in addition to less than an acre of glebe, and to the couple of cows and a few sheep which he was enabled to keep by right of pasturage on the mountains. He also assisted the neighbouring farmers in hay making, shearing their flocks, and other offices, so that no time was wasted, nor was the most menial drudgery rejected.
The diet of his family was free from every species of luxury, and their apparel was made of home-spun materials by their own hands. Peat, procured by their own labour, was the fuel burned, and the lights on winter evenings consisted of the pith of rushes, dipped into fat; tallow candles being only procured to honour the Christmas festivities. He was so far from being tainted with the vice of parsimony, that he refused another benefice in addition to his own, though his income at the time was only £17 a year. Nor did he make any charge for teaching school ; such as could afford it gave him what they pleased. He was exceedingly hospitable; and on every Sunday served up messes of broth for such of the congregation as came from a considerable distance. By these means Mr. Walker not only brought up and educated a numerous family, but also gave every member of them something to begin the world with ; and at his death he left behind him the sum of £2,000, besides a number of webs of linen and woollen yarn of his own spinning. He died 25th of June, 1802, in the 93rd year of his age, and the 67th of his ministry in Seathwaite.