A parish in the hundred of LONSDALE, north of the sands, county palatine of LANCASTER, comprising the market town of Dalton, the chapelry of Ireleth, and the townships of Hawcoat-above-town and Yarleside, and containing 2,446 inhabitants, of which number, 714 are in the town of Dalton, 25 miles (N.W.by W.) from Lancaster, and 265 (N.W.by N.) from London.
This place derives its name from being situated in a dale in the lower part of the district of Furness, of which it was formerly the chief town. According to Tacitus, Agricola, when he had conquered that district, erected a fort here for its protection, and the remains of a Roman road, discovered in 1803 by some workmen, at a considerable depth from the surface, confirm the probability of its having been a Roman station, though there are no other vestiges except some slight traces of the fosse by which it was surrounded.
The mount on which the fort was built, upon due examination, was found to be of artificial construction; it was defended on the south and west sides by steep precipices, and on the east by a rampart and ditch; and a brook which flowed at the base supplied the garrison with water.
The town derived its principal importance from the erection of the magnificent abbey of Furness, founded in 1127, by Stephen, afterwards king of England, for monks of the Cistercian order, whom he removed from Tulket, in Amounderness, to this valley, where, obtaining valuable grants, they continued to flourish for more than four centuries. The abbots were invested with extensive privileges, and enjoyed large possessions; they held in their own right the woods, pastures, fisheries, and mills of the district, and had considerable shares in the salt-works and mines: the abbey and monastic edifices formed a vast pile of buildings, the character of which was more that of simple magnificence arising from their extent, than of richness and beauty resulting from their style.
The chapter-house, which was by far the most elegant of the conventional buildings, was of the early style of English architecture; the church, and most of the other parts, were in the Norman style, partly intermixed with the early English: the revenue of this establishment, at the dissolution, was £966.7.10. The remains, an extended mass of ponderous ruins, occupy a considerable part of an area of sixty-five acres, called the Deer park, enclosed with a stone wall, in the sequestered vale of Bekang’s Gill, about half a mile west of the town; the approaches are strewed with memorials of its abbots, and mutilated tombs.
In the reign of Edward III., a castle, in which during peaceable times the abbots of Furness held their secular courts, was erected here, probably as a place of retreat for the inhabitants, and for the protection of their property from the frequent predatory incursions of the Scots, of whose approach numerous beacons in this part of the country were kept in constant readiness to give notice.
In the reign of Henry VIII., Lambert Simnel, the pretended earl of Warwick, landed here, whence he proceeded to assert his claims to the throne; and during the parliamentary war in the reign of Charles I., the town and neighbourhood were the scene of frequent engagements between the hostile parties.
The town is situated on the acclivity of a gradual eminence, and consists principally of one street, at the western extremity of which is the market-place: the houses, in general old, have in some instances given place to others of modern erection: some improvement has been made, but the inhabitants are indifferently supplied with water.
The environs are pleasant, and favourable for the sports of the chase; the Dalton Hunt, established in 1703, and noticed in the London Gazette, under the title of the Dalton Rout, and in a contribution to the Tatler, in which the balls and amusements attending its celebration are described, has been discontinued since 1789: a book society, anciently established here, is still continued under judicious regulations.
The trade is principally in malt, which is carried on to a great extent; and the iron mines in the vicinity, which have been worked for more than four centuries, produce many thousand tons of excellent ore. A canal, one mile and a half in length, has been constructed, by which vessels may sail up to the town from the sea; and at South End Haws, at the extremity of the Isle of Walney, a light-house, sixty-eight feet in height, was created in the year 1790.
The market is on Saturday: the fairs are, April 28th, June 6th, and October 23d; the first is a statute fair.
The parochial affairs are under the direction of twenty-four sidesmen appointed by the parishioners. A court for the recovery of debts under 40s. is held every third week for the barony of Furness; and the lord of the manor holds a court leet twice in the year: the land-holders in the parish are customary tenants of the manor; the estates are of the same extent, and pay the same rent, and can neither be partitioned by the tenant, nor devised by will.
The castle, erected in the reign of Edward III., and supposed to occupy a portion of the site of the fort built by Agricola, is at present appropriated to the holding of the courts for the liberty, and for the recovery of debts; it is a massive quadrilateral building of three stages, having the principal entrance on the south side, over which is a central window of three lights, surmounted by another of four lights, with flowing tracery in the decorated style.
The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Richmond, and dioceses of Chester, rated in the king’s books at £17/6/8d, endowed with £600 private benefaction, £400 royal bounty, and £1500 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the King, as Duke of Lancaster.
The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a neat plain structure of considerable antiquity, built on the declivity of a hill within the precincts of the ancient castellum.
The free grammar school was founded in 1622, by Thomas Boulton, Esq., who bequeathed in trust to the twenty-four sidesmen £220, of which sum £20 was to be paid out in the erection of the school-room, and the remainder to be invested in the purchase of land for its endowment; with this sum, a farm at Beggar, in the Isle of Walney, has been purchased, producing at present £137 per annum, of which, £100 is paid to the master, who instructs so many of the scholars as require it, in Latin, arithmetic, and the mathematics, and £35 per annum to the assistant, who teaches the rest on Dr. Bell’s system. The school is free to all the boys and girls of the parish, and there are, upon the average, eighty scholars attending it.
At Ireleth, a chapelry in this parish, there is a similar school. There are various charitable bequests for distribution among the poor.
On High Haume, an eminence near the town, is a circular intrenchment which appears to have been a fortified beacon; and on the Pile of Fouldrey, a rocky island separated from the Isle of Walney, are the ruins of a castle, thought by Camden to have been erected in the reign of Edward III., by the abbots of Furness, to defend the approach to the harbour.
George Romney, an historical and portrait painter of considerable eminence, was born in this parish, in 1734.
From: A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, Vol. II, London, 1831, Page 4.
Entered here 5 September 2004 by Lynn Ransom Burton.