Mary L Armitt.

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Edited by

.am F..Rawoslc









v Author of the " Church of Grasmere."




"Early Days at Uppingham." "Introductions to

the Poets," and " Highways and Byways

in Lincolnshire."


Titus Wilson

Printer and Publisher


edited by Charlotte M. Mason. She loved to go on archaeo-
logical excursions, and all the way she would be ready
to point out the habitat of some rare plant or the geo-
logical conditions which favoured certain flora.

On one occasion, in July, 1907, when we went with
the Cumberland and Westmorland Society to Crosby
Ravensworth, she seized the opportunity to take us to
the place where she had always hoped to find a rather
rare plant, the Alpine Bistort (Polygonum Viviparum),
and where we indeed quickly found it. At another time
she pointed to the outcrop of the Coniston limestone
by the road side, with its own peculiar flora. Or she
would gather samples of the foreign plants which had
taken root on the sea bank near the little port of Silloth
on the Cumberland side of the Solway Firth. At home
she once showed me the specially interesting arrangement
for the fertilization of the Grass of Parnassus, of which
she was watching the daily development, or she would
be painting with admirable fidelity the smaller funguses
or lichens ; and her garden, tended entirely by herself,
was a treasury of interesting plants. Her sister, M. L.
Armitt, known to her intimates as " Louie," was for
years more or less of an invalid ; but she managed to
do a surprising lot of reading and research in matters
archaeological, and especially in all that pertained to the
life of the early dwellers in the Rydal Valley and neigh-
bourhood. But I think her keenest enjoyment was in
the little expeditions, some of which we had together, in
search of some rare or notable bird. Every bird was
known to her, his habitat, his dates of migration, his
note, his method of nesting, and all that a bird would be
at most pains to conceal, was to her an open book. The
Pied Flycatcher, the migratory Wagtails, the Dipper, his
song, his singular habits and the discovery of his nest
were an annual delight to her. The circling Buzzards
were, I might almost say, her familiar friends. Together


we went to call on the black and white " Tufted Duck,"
and found him at home without fail on " Priests Pot "
near Hawkshead ; and the crested Grebe, though not so
easy to see, was not far off on Esthwaite, near which
Miss Armitt noted with satisfaction the increasing number
of Redshanks, reported by that very " rara avis " a
Naturalist gamekeeper to be nesting thereabout. Her
face lit up with pleasure when I described to her the
Woodcock who alighted close to me on the lawn at Lough-
rigg Holme in order to get. a firmer hold of the young
one she was carrying in her claws, and who tried to
wriggle away from her grasp. But the greatest delight
of all was the sight, early in the spring, of a Mother Snipe
and her three young ones on the Little Langdale road.
We pulled up close to them, and when the mother flew
into the grass on one side of the road the little ones ran
back to the other side and in a moment, squatting close,
were so hidden that we could not find a trace of them,
though all the time they were within a few feet of us,

A full report of the birds of the Lake District, from
her pen, forms the opening chapter in Part II. [Natural
History and Sport] of Prof. Collingwood's delightful
Lake Counties, one of the series of Dent's County
Guides ; and her special list of the birds of Rydal, pub-
lished in The Naturalist in August, 1902, is given in the
Appendix at the end of the volume, by kind permission
of the Editor.

But though the Natural History of Birds was Miss
Armitt 's chief delight, and the subject in which she most
excelled, her hard close work extending over several years
was given to the History of Rydal and Grasmere. Her
Grasmere book was published in 1912, a year after her
death, and the Rydal Book, about which I had had a
good deal of conversation with her at various times, and
had gone through the MS. of several chapters, was left
practically finished at her death, on July 3ist, 1911, and


I could not help feeling that it was a duty I owed to her
valued friendship that, according to her wish, I should
do what was necessary to prepare it for the press. The
task for many reasons has not been a very easy one ; but
the result will, I think, be found to be a very full and in
many directions an extremely interesting account of the
History, not only of Rydal, but of all the neighbourhood,
and also of the whole county, and in some respects of
the whole realm. The chapters on trade and husbandry
and on domestic life and fashions in the seventeenth
century will be found most interesting : and the life and
times of Sir Daniel Fleming are described with great
fullness and much humour.

The work all through seems to me to exhibit an amazing
deal of research, often of a most laborious kind, and to
be a monument of what the old writers called " painful "
industry, resulting in an accuracy which was the Author's
constant aim. The interest mostly centres in Rydal Hall
and its owners, and the uniquely interesting Rydal Hall
MSS. have of course been the main source of information
for several of the chapters : and it is chiefly owing to the
free access to them which the owner, Mr. Stanley le
Fleming, has permitted, that Miss Armitt was enabled
to begin and encouraged to continue this main work of
her later years. Help, too, she undoubtedly received,
and that of a very valuable kind, from Dr. Magrath,
Provost of Queen's Coll., Oxford, whose two vols. The
Flemings in Oxford, contain so much information, mostly
derived from the same fountain-head.

By her will Miss M. L. Armitt left her own and her
sister Sophia's books to form a students' library in Amble-
side. This was opened in November, 1912, under the
name of the Armitt Library, the excellent Ruskin Library,
which had been in existence for 30 years in Ambleside,
being joined to it and the balance of the funds of the old
" Ambleside Book Society," founded in 1828, of which


W. Wordsworth was a member, handed over to it. Por-
traits of the founders and of their Rydal home are on
the walls, and among other things a copy of a sonnet,
by one who knew them well. This, which was written
at the time of the opening of the Library, may I think
fitly find a place at the end of this Preface.



As in some inland solitude a shell

Still gently murmurs of its home, the deep,

So in the world of being beyond all sleep

Where those two happy sister spirits dwell,

This book-lined room, this simple Students' cell

Shall, in the silence, pure memorial keep

Of those who sowed that other minds might reap

Their wisdom won from lake and wood and fell :

And as we gather up their gentle lore,

Made rich by jewels from their treasury,

The whispers grow " Behold ! These souls had power

Because with patient heart and loving eye

They learned that man and bird and beast and flower

Were in God's purpose friends for evermore."




The editor had hoped to complete long ago the task
left him to do. But the war, which has everywhere
borne heavily on printer and publisher, has caused one
delay after another. Still, if such Antiquarian studies
as Miss Armitt had spent the latter years of her life over
are worth anything, I must agree with Professor Haver-
field that, " even in war-time, it does not seem necessary
or desirable to drop all intellectual work on them save
in the direst need." Hence he argues that we do well
to keep up, within due limits, both the holding of regular
meetings and the issuing of publications, and thus con-
tinuing our more serious intellectual activity. With this
strong opinion to uphold me I have thought it best to
bring this book out at once, hoping that it will be found
of permanent interest far beyond the immediate neigh-
bourhood of Rydal, rather than wait for the end of the
war, an event whose date lies yet upon the knees of the

It was not until a good deal of the book was already
in type that I first saw the sketch of George Banks, the
Rydal clerk. The Banks family is described on pages
363 to 368. John Banks, having come to Rydal in 1669,
was for twenty years the agent and factotum at the Hall.
Two centuries went by before George took up the duties
of parish clerk in Rydal chapel. He was the last of his
kind, and used to give out the hymns and tunes, start
the orchestra with his pitch-pipe, and then play his part
on the flute. There are still some living who remember
how some boys stopped his pipe with cobbler's-wax.
A Lincolnshire clerk in similar difficulties gave it up,
saying aloud, " pick-pipe weant speak, she's full o' muck."
but George would not be beaten, and when the clergyman
(Mr. Fleming) said " I think, George, we'll have a prayer,"
the old fellow declined this fictitious aid and said, " nea
prayer ! nea prayer ! We'll hev t' hymn"


From a sketch in possession of Mary Tyson, Bydal.




Chapter i. Introductory.

2. The days of the Celt and Roman.

Appendix The Roman Camp and Borrans Field.

3. The Angles, Danes and Norsemen.

4. Norman Administration. The making of West-

5. The Barony of Kendal.

6. The Land and the People.

7. The Institution of the Manor.

,, 8. The Lord's Demands. Fines, etc.

9. The Heriot.

10. Yearly Dues.

Appendix Rights of Common.

ii. The Law of Greenhew.
12. The Courts.

Appendix Witheburne Court-Baron.

13. Military Service and Border Warfare.

Appendix Calls on the County for Service and

14. The Lord's Deer Parks.

Appendix Summons for Forest trespass.


Chapter i. Roger the Hunter.

Two Appendices Deeds and Agreements.
2. The Flemings in Rydal.

Appendix Military Service.
3. Trade in the Valleys.

Appendix Kendal Cloth.
4. The Lords of Rydal.

Three Appendices Letters and Agreements.
5. The Lord's Seat.

Appendix Sir Daniel's Alterations.



Chapter I. Husbandry in Rydal.

2. Cattle Grazing and Marketing.

3. Corn-growing.

4. Sheep.

,, 5. The Fisheries.


Chapter i. The Typical House.
,, 2. Husbandry.

3. The Farmholds.

4. The Smithy.
5. The Cornmills.

6. The Inns.

7. The School.



Chapter I. Sir John Fleming.

2. The Rydal Household.

3. The Troubles.

4. The Struggle for Rydal.


Chapter I. Rydal House.

2. Dress and Fashion.

3. Sir Daniel's Public Life.

4. Later Days.


Home of De Quincey and Hartley Coleridge-
Unpublished Letters of De Quincey.




Miss Armitt's garden, Rydal Cottage . . . . Frontispiece.

G. Banks .. .. xi.

Rydal .. .. 9

The Author .. .. 45

Sophia Armitt 157

Site of the Old Hall 237

" Hartshead " in Rydal 331

Nab Cottage 356

View of a Rydal Homestead about 1822 . . . . 362

Pelter Bridge, Rydal 387

The Smithy and White Lion Inn, Ambleside .. .. 394

Old Inn called " Davids," Rydal . ^. ... . . 435

Cottage in Rydal, " Hare and Hounds " . . . . 441

Coniston Old Hall 475

Daniel Fleming . . . . . . . . . . . . 561

Pedigree Fleming of Rydal J 7 6



On page 43, line 2, for Marsh, read March-

52, 14, for Penwardyn, read Pedwardyn,
119, .. 7, for part vL, read part viL

171, ii. for one of his descendants, read Sir John

de Lancaster.

181. 25, for Ed. VL, read Ed. IV.
214, 9, /or i6&6, reoJ 1486.

215, 4, /or Huddlesden, reo^ Hudleston,
475. . J 3 X * 1 Greys, read Grays.
Pedigree for A. F. Hudleston d. 1883, ra^ 1861.




The Parish of Rydal ; the Dawn; the Manor, Township
and Vill.

THE parish of Rydal is modern, its boundaries having
been laid down in 1826, when a district appor-
tioned to the chapel, built by Lady le Fleming in
1825, was made independent of the mother parish of
Grasmere. But Rydal, as manor and as township, has a
history reaching back into ancient times. Manor and
township were never, however, identical, their boundaries
being different, and each being different again from the
parish. All possess a common boundary from the summit
of Nab Scar round the amphitheatre of heights that close
in Rydal Head and drop thence by the Scandale Beck to
the Rothay ; but there they part company. The ancient
manor boundary (according to a deed of 1274) turns up
stream with the Rothay, and from the southern shore of
Rydal water crosses the lake to ascend the face of Nab Scar.
The parish boundary on the other hand turns for a short
distance down the Rothay, ascends the face of Loughrigg
by a tiny rill near Gilbert Scar, continues along the tops
to Huntingstile, drops by a rill to Grasmere Lake, girdles
the lower end of the lake to the grounds of the Prince of
Wales Hotel and runs up the field by the foot-path to the
higher White Moss road ; then, when Dunna Beck is
reached, climbs by that stream to the summit of Nab Scar.
The township is still larger ; it follows the Rothay down
to the union of this river with the Brathay, and goes up



by the Brathay to Elterwater, whence it strikes by means
of a runnel up to Huntingstile, to join the parish bound-
ary again. It thus embraces the whole of the low moun-
tain mass of Loughrigg that lies between the converging
rivers, while the parish takes only that half of Loughrigg
that slopes down to the Rothay and Rydal Water.

The township, however, parts company again with the
parish on the road over White Moss, and skirts round and
below the ancient common. It descends to the Rothay at
the foot-bridge, embracing a field at the swampy lake-head ;
and at the promontory of Swan Stone turns to run directly
up the face of Nab Scar ; thus coinciding with the ancient
manor in its final outlines.

Another small divergence is where the parish follows the
old road (since altered, about 1830) and embraces Miller
Field which the township handed over to Ambleside about
1880. We will now deal with the parish more fully.

The parish of Rydal (as distinct from the manor and
township) contains 3,020 acres. Its mountainous char-
acter is evident from the one fact alone, that within this
small area lie the summit of a mountain nearly 3,000 feet
high and a lake only 180 feet above sea-level. It is drained
by the river Rothay, flowing through its main valley, and
by the Rydal Beck, a considerable stream rising within its
boundaries, which joins the Rothay below Smithy Bridge.
Its boundaries follow in general the sky-line of the heights
which hem in its lake and its streams. A line ruled along
the rugged and much deflected summits of Loughrigg,
rising to a general altitude of 1,000 feet, represents its
boundary to the south. Where the mass of Loughrigg falls
to the dip of Red Bank (which alone separates it from the
neighbour-height of Silver How), the boundary cuts down
in an arbitrary and almost straight line to the shore of
Grasmere Lake ; it follows the shore downwards passing
the exit of the river Rothay from the lake-foot and com-
pletely round the lower end of the lake, till it reaches the


grounds of the Prince of Wales Hotel. Thence it turns,
after crossing the high-road, along a wall within the grounds
of How Foot that borders the drive, and so reaches the
older, higher road between Rydal and Grasmere. This it
follows upward, mounting with a still higher and older
road till the summit is reached at White Moss Tarn,
believed by some to be the scene of Wordsworth's Leech-
gatherer,* and now a tame, domestic duck-pond. Thence,
leaving all tracks, it strikes up the rough fell-side to Dunna
Beck, a small stream draining the back of Nab Scar.
With the beck it rises and curves round the Scar, till, leav-
ing the source behind, it reaches the bold height of Lord
Crag, 1,500 feet high. Thence it follows the summits
of those heights that form so remarkable an amphi-
theatre round the upland valley of Rydal Head (or
Fairfield basin), touching as it runs northward Heron
Crag (2,000 feet), Great Rigg (2,500 feet), and stopping a
little short of the actual summit of Fairfield (2,862 feet).
At this point it meets the boundary of Barton parish,
and turning with it follows the sky-line still, but now
southward and downward (though with little drop at
first) to Hart Crag (2,598 feet), and still on, after the
Barton boundary strikes away to skirt Scandale, along
the gradually lessening heights to High Pike (2,155 feet),
to Low Pike (1,656 feet), until, with the shoulder of the
fell, it drops abruptly to the main stream of the Scandale
Beck ; with this it crosses the highway at Scandale
Bridge, and the flat meadows of the bottom, till it reaches
the Rothay itself. The boundary should now keep with
the river, but in actual fact does not. A wide deflecting
curve is made by it about the meadows towards the new
church of Ambleside and Cross Syke. And this curve
represents the old course of the river, for which a shorter
and artificial channel was cut some time back ; so that

* A reedy pool lower down also claims this honour, and more fitly.


it may be said that the river has left the boundary,
rather than the boundary the river. It regains the river
just past the grounds of Miller Bridge, follows it to the
house called Gilbert Scar Foot, and thence strikes
straight up Gilbert Scar, to reach the heights of Loughrigg :
and so completes its circuit in some fourteen miles.

The area thus circumscribed falls into three natural
divisions :

(1) A mountain basin which holds Rydal Water, the
smallest mere of the country, scarcely over a mile long
and a quarter broad. It was described by Hawthorne as
a flood in a field, and yet it possesses in miniature every
property of a true glacial lake, in sloping rocky shores,
wooded islands, and rocky islets. And small as it is, the
mountain basin that holds it is no larger. The water brims
to the slopes, and Loughrigg and Nab Scar rise at either
hand without a perch of flat meadow between ; while the
scant pasture and meadow land of this division has al-
together an Alpine character, on steep, thin-soiled inclines.
The Rothay, flowing into the lake from Grasmere, rounds
the projecting arm of White Moss by a rough little pass at
full speed ; then, slackening speed as it enters the lake,
forms a very small marsh at the head. On leaving the
lake it again finds but a narrow passage, and rounds the
outstanding spur of Loughrigg in rapids, leaving the mere
shut in completely.

(2) The second natural division embraces the rise and
course of the Rydal Beck up to its union with the Rothay.
The stream is enclosed by the amphitheatre of heights
enumerated above, and their wild and desolate slopes
rising sheer above it forms as typical an Alpine valley as
Lakeland possesses. Springs supply its source, and inter-
mittent rills that flow down the northern face of Fairfield,
often crowned with snow ; it starts fairly at a height of
1,500 feet, and pursues a tolerably level course on a valley
bottom that drops imperceptibly till it reaches a point


almost parallel with Lord Crag on one hand and Low Pike
on the other. Here it meets with a wall of rock that lies
right across its path a massive, pyramidal wall, not
high, but even and smooth and regular as a breakwater
made of concrete. No better instance of the action of ice
in a former age can be offered than this wall of rock,
ground and polished to an even height by the glacier that
no doubt once filled the valley and poured its volume
downward and over the obstacle with irresistible force.
Now the little stream turns sharp against the wall and runs
behind it, till it finds the crack itself has worn at flood-
times or when perhaps at a higher level than now. And
by this it flings itself over the wall in a long fall, to settle
at the base in a deep pool known to natives by the strange
name of Buckstones Jum. Once beyond this natural lock,
that has kept its level high, the beck knows no quietude,
but leaps down the sloping screen that shuts off Rydal
Head from the Rothay valley in a series of waterfalls
that "are among the shows of the county.

(3) When Rydal Beck has entered the Rothay, the last
natural division of our parish is reached. This division
consists of a flat and fertile valley bottom, enclosed on
three sides by moderate heights. Cut off completely from
Rydal Water, it seems to form a basin, filled in with alluvial
matter, to itself. But it is in fact only the head of the
Windermere basin ; and the great lake, shut off by rocky
knolls, is at present only half a mile beyond our boundary
limit, while once, no doubt, it reached further up the flat.
This valley bottom, formerly a marsh, has been carefully
drained by the farmer, and its water-channels walled and
guarded ; and it forms the only deep arable land of the
parish. Its smooth, green surface is diversified by hum-
mocks of rock that stud it like islands ; and once maybe
they were islands in the wide stream of ice that has ground
their up-valley sides into pyramidal and smooth con-
tours, and left their down- valley sides sharp and broken.


All of them are crowned with trees, remnants of a forest
that was older than the age of man's settlement and his
careful tillage of the soil.

It is not known certainly when Loughrigg was united to
the old manor of Rydal as a township. It would be
hardly safe to place the date further back than the reign
of Elizabeth, when the Poor Law of 1601 was passed, and
provision for its administration was made through the
townships, whether by existing ancient ones, or new ones
created for the purpose. Rydal and Loughrigg stood in
different manors and were owned by different lords from
the time of William de Lancaster III., who died without
heirs in the early part of the thirteenth century.

Nicolson and Burn (Hist, of Westmorland] describe these
adjacent lands as being two manors, making one village,
united by a bridge. But this is hardly correct. Three
or four of the homesteads that nestle under Loughrigg are
indeed fairly contiguous to Rydal village, but they make no
part of it ; and Loughrigg besides possesses a true hamlet
of its own, at Clappersgate, where the once important
wharf for freight-boats on Windermere was situated.
Neither Rydal nor Loughrigg can in fact be termed manors
in the strictest sense of the word, which signifies a complete
territorial unit dating from Saxon times, ruled by a resi-
dent lord exercising jurisdiction through courts of his own,
and which is identical often with parish and township.
For both Rydal and Loughrigg in ancient times were
merely parts of much larger holdings, that were settled
late ; and for ages they were but loosely associated with
the more firmly established manorial lands about Kendal.
Loughrigg especially, being but a rocky mass hemmed in
by waters, must have had little territorial importance at
first. We know it to have been part of the lands carried
by Alice de Lancaster to her husband, when, on the death
of her brother William de Lancaster III., the Barony of
Kendal was divided between herself and her sister Helwise.


Yet in an inquisition of n Edward I., describing the pro-
perties left by her grandson William de Lindsay, it is not
even mentioned by name. We can only suppose that the
settlers on the Rothay side of Loughrigg were so few as
barely to count, while those on the Brathay side were
classed as in Langdale ; for this inquisition of 1273, after
enumerating tenants of Langdale, its forest and its mill,
mentions a fishery belonging to it called Routhamere, worth
i8d. yearly ; thus bringing the district of Langdale right
over Loughrigg down to the shores of Routhamere, as

Rydal Water was then called. Nor does the name of
Loughrigg appear in a rental of the year 1375, nor in
several succeeding ones preserved at Levens. It first
appears in a rent-roll of uncertain date, though apparently
of the next century, wherein are enumerated by name

Online LibraryMary L ArmittRydal → online text (page 1 of 59)