Staveley a Brief History

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Staveley in Cartmel – a brief history by Richard Rhodes

For much of its history, the Cartmel peninsula has remained rather detached from much of the comings and goings of national life – largely due to its relative geographical isolation. Whilst there is plentiful evidence of the Roman occupation of Cumbria, there is little evidence in this immediate area, although Canon C.G.Townley in his 1933 pamphlet, "The Parish of Staveley in Cartmel" opines that there was a Roman Officer's house, or ‘Palatium' on the lake shore close to the ford over the lake.

The influence of the Nordic invaders in the 10th Century is clear from the names they left behind: –
 
Cartmel (Kart-Meir- sandy bank, by stony ground),
 
Allithwaite (‘the thwaite of Eilifr' – a Norse personal name),
 
Lindale (‘lime tree valley' or ‘white valley'),
 
Holker (‘Hollow marsh; Kerr - ‘Kjerr – a bog')
 
As listed in Eilert Ekwall's Concise Dictionary of English Place Names. It is fair to say that the names have stayed longer than they did.

After the compilation of the Domesday Book in 1086 the land in Cartmel was given by the King to Roger de Poitou who set up his administrative centre in Lancaster. This together with the route over the sands explains why Furness and Cartmel were encompassed within the borders of Lancashire despite their geographical link with Westmorland and Cumberland.
 
The Priory was founded by the Augustinians in Cartmel in the 12th Century. The earliest mention of Staveley comes from the thirteenth century when in 1228 Elyes son of Goditha of Staveley gave the Prior and Canons of St. Mary in Cartmel all the land of Medonstales in the tun of "Brotherne in Cartmel" This clearly refers to Broughton just along the Cartmel road. There is a thought that Medonstales refers to Seatle in the same district.
 
Life in the 13th and 14th centuries was dominated by the successive invasions by the Scots on England using the coastal route in west Cumbria and passing through Furness and Cartmel and across Morecambe Bay. Life in the Lake District as a whole at this time has been described as one in which poverty and starvation were never far away. These incursions made life even more difficult and there was particular devastation in Cartmel resulting from the invasion by Robert the Bruce in 1322.
 
Towers at Sizergh and Levens are testimony to the need to build defences against such intrusions. The local population was not always compliant. Lambert Simnel used Furness as the springboard for his invasion from Ireland for his abortive challenge to the throne of Henry VII in 1487. In the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, four canons and ten villagers in Cartmel were found guilty of rebellion and hanged. Some interesting local names are contained in the list of those who were involved included the Bigland's, Newbys, and Birketts.

The Cartmel Priory list of tenants in Staveley in 1508-9 gives the names of the people who lived in the village at that time. There are some interesting names, including ‘James Newby', Barrow, Sands, Canny and Finsthwaite. In 1650 Thomas Preston of Holker was instructed by the Presbyterian Committee (Classis) to pay 40 per year to the clergyman at Staveley Chapel. In passing we might reflect that some things in life do get cheaper – the present Priest in Charge is a non-stipendiary minister responsible for three parishes!
In the Topography and Directory of Westmorland of 1851 Staveley in Cartmel, is described as the " township and chapelry" of Staveley. The village is situated six miles to the north of Cartmel in the County of Cumbria as created in the reorganisation of local government in 1974. Hitherto as a part of Lancashire it had been one of the five chapelries of Cartmel.
 
Its administrative authority also included the settlements of Ayside, Barber Green, Seatle, and part of Newby Bridge. In the Topography quotes the rateable value of Staveley Township as being 2571. 2s.

photo of St Mary's StaveleyThe Parish Church of St. Mary was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in1793, when its single tower was added to the original chapel building. In 1844, it had a burial ground consecrated. During the 19th Century the living received several grants of Queen Anne's Bounty to boost the ministers' stipend, all of which were laid out in property. In 1976 the parish was incorporated into the Leven Valley Benefice which also included the Parishes of St Anne at Haverthwaite and St Peter in Finsthwaite. The last incumbent; 'a non-stipendiary Minister' was the Rev Derek Goddard who lived in the Vicarage at Haverthwaite. Derek has now moved on to another parish on the Island of Sicily. The Leven Valley Benefice now awaits the arrival of Revd Canon Peter Calvert who takes up the post around June of 2007.
 
There was also a lively farming community based at Sandfold Farm and Barrowfold. Sandfold continues as a working farm, though on a reduced scale, having been worked by members of the same family since 1928. Barrowfold is now a private residence. In fact a number of the present buildings in the village continue to reflect their past use and historical function.
 
One such example is The Old School House which used to accommodate what was known as "The School of Piety and Learning for Girls" when it opened in 1801, by Mrs. Mary Dixon, wife of Jeremiah Dixon of Fell Foot. Later she endowed it with the interest of 460, for the education and part clothing of twelve poor girls. William Townley of Town Head later agreed to pay for four more girls and left a charge on his estate an annual sum for the teaching in the Sunday school. A report of the educational Charity Commissioners during the 1890's refers to a further endowment in 1820 "for the support and carrying on of the united schools of piety and industry by her established". A copy the rules of the School still hang in the vestry of the church.
photo of St Mary's Church Hall Staveley in CartmelThe first Boys School had been built in Staveley in 1678; alongside the restoration of the Church by Thomas Barwick. The School was rebuilt in 1847, at a cost of about 80, of which 32 was given by the Committee of Council on Education, and the rest was raised by subscription - a most significant benefactor being Col. G M Ridehalgh. It had been endowed also with land, left in 1779, by Thomas Barwick, as well as an allotment of the enclosed common. William Townley, of Town Head, deposited 10 in the hands of certain trustees, for the benefit of this school.
 
These two institutions became surplus to requirements with the foundation of the village school in 1875. A government inspector in June 1875 reported, "On the whole the instruction is decidedly good and good discipline is also maintained. A certificate under Article 59 will be issued". Rev John Asworth, Staveley Vicarage, Rev E Townley, Town Head, G.J M Ridehalgh J.P., Fell Foot, J Harrison, Newby House, H Hibbert Esq., Oak Head and H.F.Rigge, J.P., Broughton were appointed Managers of Staveley School.
 
By 1878 numbers at the 'National' School of Staveley had risen to an average attendance of 37 and the Diocesan Inspector reported, "A little more attention must be given to the Lower Division of the School before its religious knowledge can be considered satisfactory"! Whether it was in response to this situation is not clear but on 26th February 1880, the Master reported in the School Log, "Today I have had occasion to use corporal punishment for the first time".
When the school was opened, Wood How was built to accommodate the Headmaster, however, this was apparently too grand for the purpose and he was soon moved up the hill to what is now High Ground. After all, the Master's salary in 1880 was 60 a year ; compared with the Caretaker who received 2. 12s!!

Reading the School Log it soon becomes apparent that the major issues throughout those early years were the difficulty in ensuring attendance of pupils, the occasional complaint from local residents about behaviour and the regularity with which the School Managers, Diocesan inspectors and others visited the school. In April 1882 an Inspector found that, "The singing is not very pleasant", but that " Needlework is praiseworthy"!
 
National issues did not compromise the daily routine very much but there are some notable exceptions. On 2nd June 1902 the log entry reads, "On hearing of the Declaration of Peace (Great Boer War) the master addressed the children laying great emphasis on the glories and responsibilities of the Empire. Then all sang, ‘O God Our help in ages past'". This was followed by three cheers (all led by the Master) for the King, the British Army, Lord Kitchener and finally the Boers – which either suggests great feelings of forgiveness or that political correctness was alive and well in 1902!
 
In the entries of Managers' Meetings of May and September 1940 we read; "An estimate of Mr. T Wren to provide fix frames for blackout at a cost of 3 17s 6d was accepted", and that "A confidential letter as to the use of the school buildings in the event of invasion was handed in to be read by the Managers".
 
Numbers in the school began to decline, falling to 21 in 1959 (from a peak of 70 in 1880) and, along with other schools in the locality at Finsthwaite and High Newton, the threat of closure became evident. The Diocesan Board of Education appears to have decided on closure unilaterally by 1966, much to the chagrin of the School Managers, and the school finally closed on 25th March 1970. The remaining children were transferred elsewhere – in the main to Leven Valley School in Backbarrow, which also became the recipient of the Barwick, Dixon and Townley charities. The building still stands next to the church and is currently used as a Village Hall.

The large house called Fell Foot is probably a very old tenement which stood over the spot where the more northerly of the two fords across the River Leven was situated. It appears to have been held by the Robinsons shortly after the Dissolution and in addition, William Robinson had been granted by purchase from Charles I a portion of the Priory lands in Cartmel well before 1640 when the rest of the Priory lands was transferred by the king to free tenants. Perhaps this is why in 1677 the new vestry was built at Cartmel Priory as the gift of William Robinson! The family's occupancy lasted until the early nineteenth century when the last two family members were known as Black Jack and Terrible Dick. It was from them that Jeremy Dixon purchased the estate after which a new house was built.
 
In 1854 Col. G J M Ridehalgh purchased Fell Foot from Dixon. It had formerly been the seat of Francis Palmer Duckinfield Astley and was situated near the shore of Windermere and while the buildings have now largely disappeared, the grounds are now owned by the National Trust and afford excellent facilities for families and those wishing to gain access to the lake. The Astley Plantation is still in existence on the side of Gummers How.

A few hundred yards from Fell Foot lies another house, Town Head, which was built in the early 19th Century by William Townley, High Sheriff of Lancashire. He was succeeded by his nephew, Edmund, who was curate in charge of Staveley from 1828 – 1864.The house still stands and is the centre of an antique business run by his descendants.
The facility of the ford across the River Leven close to Fell Foot came to an end in 1845 when the first Lake Windermere Steam Boat was built at Newby Bridge. In order for 'The Lady of the Lake' to reach the lake a navigable passage about five feet deep was dredged through the narrows thus rendering them impractical as fords. In the same year five large stones that lay opposite Fell Foot were dragged to Landing How on the opposite side, by horses and chains where they still lie.

Life in the 19th Century

photo of a House in Staveley by Mike MortonLife in the 19th Century for the village inhabitants of Staveley was probably typical of most other similar settlements of the Lake District. They enjoyed freedom from many of the examples of violent strife and freedom from many social upheavals that affected other parts of the country but at the same time had to endure a lowly standard of living. It was not without reason that in the will of Thomas Preston of Holker in 1697, after giving generously to his native parish of Cartmel, he also left large sums of money to the poor of Holker, Broughton and Staveley. Life was almost certainly not very exciting but rather hard, very insecure and somewhat short. Despite this, the people of the fell districts were remarkably honest with an innate ability to extend hospitality to their guests – even before the entertainment of guests became a regular source of income.
 

In Staveley itself, a number of other significant properties are mentioned in the map of Staveley dated 1851 notably, Croft House, Staveley House, Dobson Hill, Sandfold Farm and Chapel House.
 
For a large part of its history, Staveley was known for the crafts and skills involved in charcoal burning and wood crafts located in its woods such as Chapel House Woods to the east of the village. These remain the venue for country crafts courses in the woods in the summer months today. They form a part of the Sir John Fisher Trust.
 
An example of this was the manufacture of besoms using silver birch trees from the woods. Once the smaller branches had been used the remaining – thicker - branches went to Stott Park for use in bobbin making. The original besom store has now been converted to form April Cottage in the centre of the village. There are still remains of the old charcoal pits in the woods.
 
It took the advent of the railways to penetrate the relative isolation of the Cartmel peninsula. By 1857 it was possible to travel by train from Carlisle, down the west coast through Furness and on to Cark in Cartmel. As a consequence, by the end of the nineteenth century the area around Staveley had lost much of its earlier secluded character. The railway line had been extended from Ulverston to Lakeside by the Furness Railway Company – linking up with the steamers on the Lake which gave easy access up the Lake to Bowness and Ambleside.
 
In 1974, along with the whole of Furness, Staveley became a part of the new County of Cumbria, administered from Carlisle rather than Preston. In recent years the contraction in agriculture has meant that the village of Staveley is now almost solely a residential community. Whilst there remains a vibrant community in the village, a good number of the houses – as in so many cases in Cumbria – are now used as holiday homes. The Millerbeck Light Railway – originally the creation of Arthur Bailey of Barrowfold - provides an interest for their enthusiastic volunteers and visitors alike on their occasional Open-Days.
 
The proximity of Lake Windermere, Fell Foot Park and the various hostelries at Newby Bridge ensure that the village continues to make its contribution to tourism, which is now the major industry of the area.
 
 




Millerbeck Open Days

 

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