Kirkby Stephen


"KIRKBY-STEPHEN, a parish in EAST ward, county of WESTMORLAND, comprising the market-town of Kirkby-Stephen, the chapelries of Mallerstang and Soulby, and the townships of Hartley, Kaber, Nateby, Smardale, Waitby, Wharton, and Winton, and containing 2712 inhabitants, of which number, 1312 are in the town of Kirkby-Stephen, 11 miles (S. E. by S.) from Appleby, and 268 (N. N. W.) from London. This town, which derives the adjunct to its name from the saint to whom its church is dedicated, . . . The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Carlisle, rated in the king's books at £48. 19. 2., and in the patronage of the Rev. T. P. Williamson. The church, which is dedicated to St. Stephen, is an ancient and spacious building, surmounted by a lofty square tower; the interior is divided into three principal aisles, by two rows of plain round-shafted columns which support the roof: there are sepulchral chapels belonging to Smardale hall, Wharton hall, and Hartley castle; . . . Here are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyan Methodists. The free grammar school, which stands eastward from the church, was founded, in the 8th of Elizabeth, by Thomas, Lord Wharton."
[From Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of England (1831) - copyright Mel Lockie 2016]


Kirkby Stephen contained two chapelries whicj became parishes in theoir own right: Mallerstang (1721) and Soulby (1766)



M.I.s for Kirkby Stephen were transcribed in Westmorland Church Notes by E. Bellasis 1888-89
They are also available on the Kirkby Stephen website by Nancy McLaughlin



Returns survive only for the constablewick of Kaber for the 'census' of 1787 and are held at the Kendal Record Office of Cumbria Archives Service. The Record Office reference is WQ/SP/C. They are transcribed in Vital Statistics published by Curwen Archives Trust 1992. ISBN 1897590008.

Census returns are available from the usual sources for 1841-1911.

Transcript and index for 1851 has been published by the Cumbria Family History Society and also in 'North Westmorland - An Index to the 1851 Census' compiled by David Lowis and Barbara Slack.


Church History

Click for full-size image on Geograph: NY7708 : The Parish Church Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria by wfmillar
© wfmillar
Kirkby Stephen Church. The dedication is not known for sure .
Sometimes it is ascribed to St Stephen (as in the 1777 extract at the top of the page).
After renovations in the c19th it may have beenn referred to as St John's.
The church was rededicated in 1874. An account in the Penrith Herald is transcribed on Nancy McLaughlin's site.
There is a 'Loki' stone of Scandinavian origin near the S door. There are also Norman remains, but much of the church including the nave arcades is C13th. The W tower is Perp. The chancel and chapels are C19th as is also the distinctive classical colonnade at the entrance to the churchyard.
The history is described on Britain Express.This and other photographs on Geograph site
Historical and architectural notes on National Heritage List (English Heritage site).
Photograph(s) and description on VisitCumbria.
Access and contact details on Church of England site

Church Records

There are full searchable transcripts of baptisms, marriages and burials on the excellent site for Kirkby Stephen by Nancy McLaughlin



Description & Travel

Nicolson and Burn: The history and antiquities of the counties of Westmorland and Cumberland. 1777. Transcribed by Anne Nichols

"The parish of Kirkby Stephen is bounded on the East by the parishes of Brough and Bowes; on the South, by the parishes of Grinton, Aisgarth, and Sedbergh, all of which (as well as Bowes) are in the county of York; on the West, by the parishes of Sedbergh, Ravenstondale, and Crosby Garret; and on the North, by the parishes of Crosby Garret, Musgrave, and Brough: And contains about 600 families, whereof, dissenters 12 [in 1777]. The church was dedicated to St. Stephen; and from thence the town and parish received their denomination. It is a vicarage... The church is a large building, with a lofty tower steeple, and four bells. Hartley... It would be difficult to form any derivation of this word, as it stands corrupted in the present spelling, frames from the sound only. But the further we go back, the more the true derivation unfolds itself. The famous Sir Andrew, afterwards earl of Carlisle, was surnamed de Harcla; and in a few generations further back, the word was most commonly written Hardclay. And the soil of the place sufficiently indicates the reason of the name. This manor for a long time continued in the name of Hardclay. Winton probably had its name from some remarkable battle fought there: for win in the Saxon signifies battle; and to win is still in use to denote victory in battle or otherwise. So there is Winchester, Winwick, Winthorpe, and the like. Kaber... From what original this place derives its name, doth not sufficiently appear. It was always anciently written Kabergh. Bergh, it is well known, means town. Perhaps the other component of the word may have been the name of the owner: for Kay is a name not yet uncommon. Soulby... The name of this place in ancient time was most commonly written Sulleby: whether from the name of the owner, or how otherwise, we have not found. The chapel of Soulby was built... in the year 1663. Smardale... Smere is the ancient name of that sort of grass now called clover, and is a word not quite out of use in that respect. And in old times, this place was most commonly written Smeredale. There hath been anciently a chapel, at a little distance from the hall westward; where is a well yet called Chapel-well, which sprang up within the chapel. Waitby... This place was sometimes anciently written Wadeby, sometimes Waldeby; which seems to indicate its true derivation. Waldever was a name not uncommon; so that Waldeby may probably signify the same as Waldevi locus, or Waldeve's (Waltheof's) seat or habitation. Nateby... From whence Nateby had its name, we have not found. Perhaps it might be, from the Nativi or bondmen inhabiting there, attendent upon the castle of Pendragon; even as Bondgate was so called from its being the place of habitation of the servile tenants of the castle of Appleby. Wharton... Wharton was anciently written Wherton, and when transferred into the barbarous latin of those days, Querton; for in the place of the letter W they frequently substitute Q, sometimes G, as when for war they say guerra: But whether this place may have had its name from some battle fought there, can only be a matter of conjecture. The village of Wharton was demolished long ago, to make room for the park and demesne [of the manor]; and the tenants dispersed to Wharton Dikes, about half a mile off, to the south west."

You can see pictures of Kirkby Stephen which are provided by:



The details for the parish from the Parson & White's Directory for 1829 are transcribed on Edenlinks site.

Entries from the Post Office Directory 1858 are on Nancy McLaughlin's site.





The Later Records relating to North Westmorland by John F. Curwen (1932) are available on British History Online

Cumbria County History Trust has published a "Jubilee Digest" for the township of Kirkby Stephen, Kaber , Nateby, Smardale, Waitby, Wharton , Hartley and Winton

Magna Britannica et Hibernia.Volume 6: Westmorland by Thomas Cox (Vicar of Bromfield, Essex) 45 pages, printed in 1731.
Transcription by Sarah Reveley, Joan Fisher and Lisl Schoenwald. (Rootsweb Westmorland Listmembers) (c) 2003

"Kirkby Stephen, a noted Market-Town, situate upon the River Eden. The Market is weekly upon Friday, and the Fairs on St. Mark's Day, and the Morrow after, and another on St. Luke's Day and the Morrow after. Here is a Free-School founded and endowed by the Family of Wharton, of which we shall speak in its Place. Heartley-Castle, another Seat of the Musgraves, more antient than the former at Harcla-Castle. We find nothing material of the Family relating to their Seat here, but this, That Thomas Musgrave of Queens College, Oxford, who was created Doctor of Divinity in 1685, Octob. 10 was Son of Sir Philip Musgrave, Bart. Of this Place, who was a Person of signal Loyalty to King Charles I. in his Troubles. This Doctor became Archdeacon of Carlisle in 1669, was installed Prebendary of Durham, July 12, 1675. as also Prebendary of Chichester, Nov. 10 1681, and at length Dean of Carlisle upon the Promotion of Dr. Thomas Smith to the Episcopal See in 1684. He died in the Beginning of April 1686. The Manor of Hertley, 13 Rich. II was the Estate of Roger Lord Clifford 4th, who died then possessed of it, and left it to his Son and Heir Thomas. Pendragon-Castle, antiently the Possession and Seat of the Lords Clifford; for Robert Lord Clifford died possessed of it 7 Edward II. and leaving it to Roger his Son, then but fifteen Years old, the Custody of this Castle, and some others, was committed by the King, Edw. II. to Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, Henry Piercy and Barth. de Bedlesmere. Being of Age, he was drawn into that conspiracy which Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, formed against that King and his Favourites, and being taken Prisoner at Burrowbrigg, was beheaded at York. His Brother Robert, notwithstanding, inherited his Honour and Estate, and left this Castle to his Posterity; for Roger Lord Clifford 4th died seised of it 13 Rich. II. and left it to his son Thomas. It was, when in its Prime, a very strong Building, the Walls being four Yards in Thickness, with Battlements upon them; but Time, and the Neglect of the Owners had brought it to little better, than a great Heap of Stones; but it continued still in the same Family of Cliffords; and about the Year 1660, the most noble Lady Anne Clifford, Countess Dowager of Pembroke, Dorset, and Montgomery, repaired this ancient Habitation of her Ancestors, with three other Castles which she had in this County; and removing frequently from one to the other, kept Hospitality, and so diffused her Charity all over the Country. The river Eden runs close by his Castle on the East-Side, and on the other Sides are great Trenches, which look as if the Founder of it had intended to draw the Water into them, and so encompass it with a Moat; but the Attempt proved ineffectual, which gave an Occasion to an old rhyme used by the People near it. Let Pendragon do what he can, Eden will run, where Eden ran. Wateby, a Moiety of which was the Possession of Roger Lord Clifford 4th, of which he died possessed 13 Rich. II. and left it with many other Estates to Thomas his Heir.

Wharton, whose Manor-house, called Wharton-Hall, hath for many Ages, even before any Records yet discovered, been the Seat of the antient Family of Whartons, and is still their Property. The Family was of great Reputation before it was ennobled; for Richard de Wharton was Knight of the Shire for this County, 5 Hen. V. but otherwise it lay in Obscurity, till the Reign of King Henry VIII. when Sir Thomas Wharton, Knt. being the Governor of the Town and Castle of Carlisle, and Warden of the Marches, being assisted by Sir William Musgrave, put an Army of Scots of Fifteen thousand to flight, only with Three hundred Men; who appearing on a Sudden upon them, they supposed the Duke of Norfolk at hand with a great Army, and fled. This Victory was gained at a Place near Carlisle, called Solem-mosse. King Henry was so much pleased with his surprising Conduct, that he made him a Baron (says Cambden); but Dugdale tells us, that it was King Edw. VI. advanced him to that Honour, and for that, and some other signal Services, granted him an Augmentation to his paternal Coat of Arms, viz. a Border engrailed, Or, charged with Legs of Lions in Saltire, Gules, armed, Azure. He was succeeded in his Honour by Thomas his Son, who being forty-eight Years of Age at his Father's Death, did not survive him long, but left a Son for his Successor, viz. Philip, Lord Wharton, who by Frances, the Daughter of Henry, Earl of Cumberland, had two sons, George and Thomas, but both of them dying in his Lifetime, George without Heirs, and Thomas married to Philadelphia, the Daughter of Robert, Earl of Monmouth. He had by her two Sons, Philip and Thomas, of whom Philip succeeded his Grandfather, Anno 1625, but was not of Age, till Anno 1634. He had three Wives, but by the Second, Jane, Daughter of Arthur Gooding of Upper Winchenden in Buckinghamshire had Issue, Thomas Lord Wharton, who being one of the first of the Noblemen that went over to the Prince of Orange at the Revolution, was, as soon as the Prince was settled on the Throne, made Comptroller or his Majesty's Houshold, and sworn of his Privy Council, and after made Lord Lieutenant of this County. In the Reign of Queen ANNE, Anno 5. He was created Viscount Winchendon, and Earl of Wharton; and in 1715, Marquis, by King George I. In 1709, he was sent Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He had by his second Wife, the Daughter of Adam Loftus, named Lucy, then Baron Lisburn in Ireland, his Son and Successor in Honour and Estate, Philip, whom his Majesty K. George I. created Duke of Wharton. He hath married the Daughter of Lieutenant General Holmes, and is now living, but hath been for some Time in foreign Parts, and is said to have changed his Religion. Wynton, a Manor belonging to the Barony of Appleby, which was given by King John, Reg. 4. to Robert de Vipont, at first during Pleasure only, but afterwards to him and his Heirs by Idonea his Wife, Daughter and Heir of John de Buefli, Lord of Tickhill. In his Family it continued, till his Descendant, Robert de Vipont, joining with Montfort, Earl of Leicester, took up Arms against King Henry III. Reg. 49. and being slain in the Battle of Evesham, forfeited his Lands and Estates to the Crown; whereupon that King gave them to Roger Clifford and Roger de Leybourne, for their laudable Services at that Time performed, together with the Custody of his two Daughters and Coheirs, Isabel and Idonea; who being after married to the said Rogers, the King remitted to them their Father's Forfeiture, and so their Heirs inherited them. This Lordship, upon the Division, came to Roger Lord Clifford, and his Son Robert dying possessed of it 7 Edw. II. this Manor, with some other Estates, was assigned to Maud his Widow for her Dowry, and after her Decease passed to her Son Roger, whose Descendants enjoyed it divers Successions; for Roger Lord Clifford 4th died possessed of it 13 Rich. II. And left it to his Son Thomas, Ec."



You can see maps centred on OS grid reference NY809063 (Lat/Lon: 54.451982, -2.295971), Kirkby Stephen which are provided by:


Poor Houses, Poor Law

Details of the East Ward Poor Law Union are given on the websites of Ross Brett (internet archive) and Peter Higginbotham.





Hearth Tax records for 1674 are transctibed on Edenlinks for:

Kirkby Stephen | Kaber | Nateby | Smardale | Waitby | Wharton Dykes | Winton

Window Tax records for 1777 are transcribed on Edenlinks:

Kirkby Stephen | Kaber | Naitby | Smardale | Waitby | Wharton | Winton