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Cockermouth in 1837

COCKERMOUTH, a parliamentary borough and market town in the west division of the county of Cumberland. The township is in the parish of Brigham, in the ward of Allerdale above Derwent. Before the alterations effected by the Reform Act, it was co-extensive with the borough ; but the borough, since the enlargement of its boundary, includes, besides the township of Cockermouth, those of Brigham, Bridekirk, Papcastle, Eaglesfield, and a portion of the township of Dovenby. The town is 25 miles S.W. from Carlisle, and 299 N.N.W. from London.

Its name is derived from its position on the river Cocker, at the point of its confluence with the Derwent. The Cocker flows from Buttermere-water, and after passing through Crummock-water, divides the town of Cockermouth into two equal parts which communicate by a stone bridge. The Derwent, after it has received the Cocker, is also crossed by a handsome bridge, erected in 1822, at a cost of £3,000.

The township occupies the site of the ancient barony of Allerdale. The ruins of the castle which formerly was the baronial seat of the lords of Allerdale, and now the property of the earl of Egremont, stand on the brow of a bold eminence near the confluence of the rivers. It is supposed to have been erected shortly after the Conquest, though the Norman architecture of the remaining walls, which are of prodigious thickness, appears to be of the fourteenth century. The area enclosed by the outer walls consists of two courts. Beneath the gateway between them are two deep and vaulted dungeons capable of containing 100 prisoners : and under a building in the larger court is a spacious chamber with a vaulted roof supported in the centre by a single octagonal pillar. Lysons, in their ‘Magna Britannia,’ give a detailed description and a drawing of this castle (vol. Cumberland, p. 44. See also Brayley and Britton’s Beauties of England). It was occupied by the parliament army during the civil war in 1648, and sustained a month’s siege by the royalists. Since that time it has gradually been decaying, and is now habitable only in a small part.

Among the antiquities which have been found, is a font of green-coloured stone, inscribed with Runic and Saxon characters. It is also worthy of remark that to north of the town is a tumulus called Foot Hill, and to the west the rampart and ditch of a Roman camp.

Cockermouth is pleasantly situated in an agricultural and has a promenade a mile in length on the banks of the Derwent, but the streets in some parts are narrow and confined. It is recorded that the plague in 1677 was fatal to nearly 200 of its inhabitants. The number of houses in 1834 was 1,002. They are chiefly of stone, with roofs of slate, but only a few are of the better class. The town is well supplied with water, but the streets are deficient in lights and foot-pavements, and the general appearance of the place exhibits no disposition for improvement. The town-house, called Moot Hall, is the only building worthy of particular notice.

The population in 1831 was 4,536, of whom 2,111 were males, and 2,425 females. There were then 128 families employed in agriculture, and 623 families employed in trade, manufactures, and manual labour. The population of the borough, enlarged as stated above, is 6,022. Cotton, linen, and woollen fabrics are manufactured ; also hats, hosiery, and paper with the tanning and dressing of leather.

The elective franchise was first granted to the borough in the reign of Edward I ; but it appears not to have been exercised until it was renewed under Charles II. It continues to send, as formerly, two representatives to parliament, and it is the place where the court of election is held for the western division of the county of Cumberland. The quarter sessions are alternately held here and at Carlisle. There is a free school which was founded in the time of Charles II, and over the school-house a parochial public library consisting of 500 volumes. There is also a subscription library, a dispensary, a Sunday-school, and four friendly societies. The living is a chapelry, in the diocese of Chester, and places of worship are established by several sects of dissenters.

The Rev. John Fell, who wrote on the ‘Demoniacs,’ ‘Rowley's Poems,’ &c., was a native of Cockermouth. On the first Monday in May, and on the 10th of October, there are fairs, chiefly for horned cattle and horses.