Urswick - South Lakeland - Cumbria

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Urswick, South Lakeland District, Cumbria


This article is a desk study based on information from books, maps and the internet. The photographs are by Paul Allison, Carl Bendelow, Phil Catterall (11), Lee Coward, Ken Crosby, Michael Graham (8), David Long (7), John Longbottom, Ally McGurk. Further information and many more photographs would be very welcome.

For a map showing the civil parish boundary, see: LinkExternal link


In prehistoric times there is evidence from pollen analysis from a borehole, at the southern edge of Urswick Tarn, that there were Neolithic farmers in the area. The burial chamber at SD263743 might be from this era or from the Bronze Age. Other Bronze Age Age monuments include the stone circle at Birkrigg, SD292740. Iron Age sites include Appleby Slack and Holme Bank (SD276734), on Birkrigg Common, and the Stone Walls settlement at Little Urswick.

The Romans have left no trace in this area, and nothing is known of Celtic settlements in the 'Dark Ages'. Pollen analysis suggests that there was a regeneration of woodland in this period. From place-name evidence the area was settled by Anglians from Yorkshire c.800. The Scandinavians came c.1000 but mainly settled on the higher ground, in the Lake District.

The name Urswick was recorded as 'Ursewica' c.1150, and from the name it could have been an Anglian settlement, meaning 'dairy farm by the lake of the wild cattle'. Bardsea (Berretseige), Bolton (Bodeltun) and Stainton (Steintun) were vills in Domesday Book, held by the King. Adgarley was first recorded as Eadgarlith in the Coucher Book of Furness Abbey, 1180-90. 'Lith' means slope (hillside).

Great Urswick was in the Manor of Muchland, held by the de Fleming family from 1107. The manor of Little Urswick was added in 1153, as part of an exchange of land with Furness Abbey. The manor of Bardsea had been added to the estate by the 13C. The manor passed to the Cantsfield family and then the de Harrington family. John de Harrington was knighted in 1306 and was created First Baron Harrington of Aldingham in 1326. At its height the manor also included the remainder of the township of Urswick, ie Bolton, Adgarley and Stainton.

Urswick is an ancient (Anglian?) parish, however it was for a while part of Dalton parish. On the 1786 map three townships are shown, Much Urswick (the parish name), Little Urswick and Bolton & Adgarley. The 1850 map shows just one township, Urswick, with divisions of Bardsea, Great Urswick and Little Urswick, the latter subdivided into Little Urswick, Bolton with Adgarley and Stainton. So, with Birkrigg Common, which was shared with Aldingham but later became part of Urswick, the township was divided into the six parts listed in 'Exploring Urswick' below. It was in the Lunesdale Hundred of Lancashire, in in Ulverston Poor Law Union and Rural District. Bardsea Ecclesiastical Parish was created in 1854.


Urswick is in Landscape Character Area 20 - Morecambe Bay Limestones. The parish is centred on a valley, running parallel with the coast, with Urswick Tarn on a bed of impervious marl in a basin at the head. The valley is drained only by a small stream, due presumably to the low rate of runoff from the pervious limestone catchment. The high-point of the parish is Birkrigg Common, at 136m AOD.


Exploring Urswick

A Birkrigg Common
B Bardsea
C Great Urswick
D Little Urswick
E Bolton with Adgarley
F Stainton

A Birkrigg Common

Birkrigg Common is a Registered Common with an area of limestone pavement, which is protected by a Limestone Pavement Order. It was formerly shared with Aldingham township, but is now wholly in Urswick. The common is on a hill, and has a large collection of prehistoric remains.
The most famous one is the so-called Druids' Temple at SD292739.

SD2973 : Birkrigg Common by Paul Allison

This has two approximately concentric stone circles, the inner one 8.5m dia. with twelve stones, the outer one about 24m dia., with nineteen stones but with a big gap to the north-west. When excavated, five pits containing cremation burials were found at the centre.

The other photographs on the site are of a limestone cliff at SD280745 and a lane at SD285747.

SD2874 : Birkrigg Common by Michael Graham SD2874 : One of the roads that criss-cross Birkrigg Common by Phil Catterall SE1778 : "The Druids Temple" by Ken Crosby

At SD288745 there is a pear-shaped enclosure with a rubble wall 3m thick. The entrance is on the E side. There are also several tumuli, shown on the 1:25000 map.

B Bardsea

Starting on the A5087 at SD296737, the lane to the west leads onto Birkrigg Common (see Section A). There is an old quarry deep in Wellhouse Wood, just as it was in 1889.

The road goes along the coast, unfenced on the seaward side. Out on the sands, Mill Scar is waiting to be photographed (at close range) as the first geograph for SD3073. Inland, Wellwood, a large pre-1889 house, is at the foot of the wooded hillside. Bardsea Corn Mill is at SD299740.

SD2974 : Old Mill at Bardsea by Lee Coward

It still has its millpond behind. A footpath leads to Wellhouse Farm at SD297741, and meets a lane from the village that goes up onto the common. The main road used to go up into the village, the present bypass ('Coast Road') was built sometime between 1889 and 1927. This is the view of the beach from near the junction (SD301742):

SD3074 : View across Morecambe Sands to Heysham power station by ally McGurk

Soon the road crosses a ditch that runs parallel to the coast; it is the overflow outlet from the millpond. It picks up a small stream en-route, and is perhaps the result of a sandbar blocking the natural drainage. At SD300743 a lane goes back to the coast past a group of houses called The Brook.

Then we are into the village. On the eastern side the 1889 map shows a pair of large semi-detached houses, then a row of small cottages facing a triangular road junction with the Braddyll Arms on the south side.

SD3074 : Bardsea village by Phil Catterall

The 1889 map shows a (water) pump on the forecourt. Colonel Braddyll of Conishead Priory also owned Bardsea Hall. The lane to the west passes what was a malthouse; malting was an important industry here at one time. It then splits at SD298744, each branch leading up onto the common:

SD2974 : Road to Bardsea Green by Phil Catterall

Bardsea Green seems to have been a small village green; There was a small wayside pump at its eastern end.

Back to the village street, we soon pass the entrance to Holy Trinity Church. The lychgate commemorates the centenary of the church, which was built in 1843-53 by George Webster of Kendal. It is of white dressed stone with ashlar dressings, on a rock-faced stone base. The style is Gothic, with pointed windows. The west tower has a spire with broaches below the level of the bell-openings; the clock is a First World War memorial. The nave is quite big, with five bays, and the sanctuary is a polygonal apse, with an arched corbel table under the edge of the roof. The apse windows have good 20C stained glass by Wilhelmina Geddes (1955). Other windows have 19C stained glass. LinkExternal link

On the same side of the road, opposite the Ship Inn and the post-office (if still open) in the village shop, the former school was endowed by T.R.G. Braddyll, Esq. It was probably later taken over by the County Council. Then Cooper Lane goes eastwards to Wadhead Hill (where the modern map shows a factory).

SD3074 : The coastal path at Wadhead Scar, Bardsea by Phil Catterall

Mannex's Directory of 1882 states that a steam packet sails from Bardsea to Fleetwood, five times every week, and to Liverpool weekly, but on the 1889 map no quay is shown. Wadhead Hill is the only place with a sea-wall so could be a landing place, although Wadhead Scar would be a hazard and the ship was presumably anchored offshore and passengers ferried out in rowing boats. Wadhead Scar sticks out into the Ulverston Channel, and could be the subject of a first geograph for SD3174; likewise Coup Scar Mussell Bed for SD3175.

The coast path continues northwards, and this is the view from near the boundary at SD309758:

SD3075 : The beach near Conishead Priory by Phil Catterall

Back to the village street, White Gill Lane goes off westwards, with the rocky outcrops in Bardsea Park to the north. The parkland of Bardsea Hall is now a golf course. On the summit of the hill, at SD 297571, the Bardsea Monument is a mausoleum for members of the Wilson family. It is a triangular domed building. There is a limekiln at SD297753. Behind the village street, off White Gill Lane, there is a small housing development, Orchard Road and Close

SD2975 : Ulverston Golf Club by Michael Graham SD2975 : The monument above Bardsea Park by Phil Catterall

The street then passes houses built on the site of Bardsea Hall, which was for many centuries the home of the Bardsea family; who died out during the reign of Charles I. It was said in 1882 to be an ancient building, which was purchased by Lord Molineaux, c.1720, for a hunting seat. It subsequently became the property of the Wilson family, and later the Braddyll family, who used it as residence for (presumably) senior servants. It was demolished early in the 20C. It was in a sheltered position, and it is said that grapes were grown in crevices in the shelving rocks.

Then Town End is the last house in the village, and we come to a cross-roads with Red Lane, which to the north-west skirts the northern side of Bardsea Park, passing a tower on the east side, and to the east twists and turns down to the sea after passing Conishead Grange. At SD306750 the lane passes the end of the Bardsea Branch of the Furness Railway. This operated as far as the Priory station, but never reached Bardsea.

Just past the cross-roads, there is a lodge on the west side. This was for a large House called Priory Park, up a long driveway. On the modern map this has been replaced by a 'Works'. The road then joins the present main road at the parish boundary. There was a boundary stone but it has probably been removed due to road widening.

Somewhere in SD3074 is this view of Morecambe Bay:

SD3074 : Morecambe Bay by Carl Bendelow

C Great Urswick

The northern boundary of Great Urswick is formed by a road, called Green lane at the western end (SD264758) and Red Lane at the eastern end (SD286758), where there is a boundary stone. There are also boundary stones at SD280759 and SD282758. Either this was a very old road, or it was set out by an enclosure award and the old boundary changed so as to follow it.

The first of the three photographs below is of Green Lane at SD264758. The second is the view northwards from the lane, SD276758. The third is a view of Edge Hill, at SD282757.

SD2675 : Waiting for the bus by David Long SD2775 : Looking back towards Ulverston by Michael Graham SD2875 : Ploughed Field  Urswick by Michael Graham

Then there are a number of north-south routes. The one through the crossroads near Edge Hill (SD282758) is heading from Ulverston to Scales, but there is a link to Great Urswick from Birkrigg Common. The next route to the west is direct from Ulverston to Great Urswick, but is only a footpath within the parish (The Cistercian Way). This passes the Skelmore Heads Hillfort at SD274751. This is on the top of a hill, and has a rampart enclosing an area about 100m across. The rampart is made of rubble, 2.5m thick, and is surrounded by a ditch. It is best preserved on the north side, and the entrance is on the NW side. As it approaches the village, the path is walled, and is called Hen Parrock Lane. It runs between narrow fields enclosed from furlongs of one of the open fields of the medieval village.

There is another long footpath further west, called Weint Lane and starting at SD274758. It passes Woodside Farm and becomes a walled lane, presumably the access drive for the farm. It too runs between long narrow fields as it approaches the village. The next road westwards is Horse Close Lane, from Pennington to Great Urswick. Two lanes branch off this to the west, Halier How Lane and Stone Dike Lane. They meet to become Middle Barrow Lane. Footpaths lead to an area of old mines and quarries at SD258747, and a path continues down to the village, passing a cromlech at SD262745. This is an elevated stone raised upon two large blocks of stone, sited on a natural terrace of rock.

At the far northwestern corner of the parish, at SD242742 Standing Tarn fills a hollow in the ground. A footpath passes to the south, from which this photograph of a scrap pylon was probably taken:

SD2474 : Scrap pylon dumped near pylon line by Phil Catterall

At the other extreme in the south-east, at SD275734, there is a settlement site, probably Iron-Age or Romano-British. It is polygonal in plan and surrounded by a massive rubble bank, faced by large stone slabs. Inside are the foundations of two circular huts. A footpath passes the site. This photograph was taken at SD276736, not far away:

SD2773 : Muddy Field by Michael Graham

From the settlement site, the footpath descends to the hamlet of Holme Bank. Here there is another small tarn, at SD271739; however this is modern and man-made it is not shown on the 1890 map..

Great Urswick village

Urswick Tarn is a lake on a bed of marl. It has a fringing reedswamp of Typha latifolia and Schoenoplectus lacustris. It is likely to have been the focus of settlement in prehistoric times, due to the resources of food and materials that it can provide.

The village of Great Urswick is on the north and west sides of the tarn. Here are photographs of the Tarn, the lane leading into the village from the east, at SD272742, and a cottage at SD272744.

SD2774 : Urswick Tarn by Phil Catterall SD2774 : Downhill to Great Urswick by Phil Catterall SD2774 : Cottage porch in Great Urswick with unusual postbox by Phil Catterall

The site of Urswick Hall is in the field at SD271746. Further west at SD276785 there is a small corrugated-iron Church of Christ, founded after 1920. The Churches of Christ, or Disciples of Christ, is a religious body which originated in the USA in 1811, through the work of Alexander Campbell. Initially it was a group within Presbyterianism, but became a separate religious body in 1827. The churches are congregationally organised, the Bible is the only basis of faith, and all creedal formulas are rejected. [Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church via the Genuki site] For photograph see LinkExternal link

Mid Town House is at SD269747 It has a lintel dated 1638. It is built of roughcast stone with a slate roof. There is a rainwater head inscribed "W & AA/1761". There is also Well Head House (location unknown). This has a lintel dated 1658, and is also built of roughcast stone with a slate roof.

The village has two pubs, The Derby Arms at SD268747 and The General Burgoyne Inn at SD268744. Here is a photograph of the latter:

SD2674 : Treats in store... by David Long

The southern end of the village, including the church, is actually within the bounds of Little Urswick.

D Little Urswick

From the village of Great Urswick, Little Urswick is entered just north of the church. First there is a Sunday School on the left (east) side, and then, at SD268741, a footpath goes past the southern end of Urswick Tarn. Then we come to the Church of St Mary and St Michael.

Fragments of a cross have been found which stylistically belong to the later Anglo-Saxon period, ie with Viking influence. One piece is part of the shaft, with a runic inscription translated by W.G. Collingwood as: "This cross Tunwinni erected in memory of Torhtred a monument to his Lord. Pray for his soul."

SD2674 : Urswick St. Mary by Alan Longbottom

A building was certainly on the site in 1148, for at that time patronage of the church was claimed by the monks of Furness Abbey.

The present church seems to have been built in the 13C, with later additions and alterations. The west tower is as broad as the nave, and has an upper stage in Perpendicular style. The windows of the nave are in the Decorated style (14C). The chancel was lengthened and the vestry added in the 14C. The roof is dated 1598. Georgian work includes the west gallery (of 1828), on two pairs of Tuscan columns, and the three-decker pulpit. The altar has a painting of the Last Supper by the local painter James Cranke the Elder (1709-1781). The church was restored in 1908, and woodwork by C.R. Ashbee's Chipping Camden Guild added in 1909-12, much of it is by Alec Miller (1879-1961). This includes the screen, choir stalls, organ case, south door and a tester, in the form of a thin shell supported by two putti, over the pulpit. A richly decorated font cover is dated 1921. To the left of the chancel arch is a statue of St James of Compostela, and John the Baptist is on the right. There is 19C and 20C stained glass, and in the chancel some medieval armorial stained glass and fragments. In the tower is a bell inscribed in memory of William de Harrington, who died on 3rd March 1458, and was a standard bearer at the Battle of Agincourt. There is a rush-bearing ceremony every September. For photographs of the church see LinkExternal link , LinkExternal link and (including more text) LinkExternal link

In the churchyard, south of the church, there is a sundial dated 1729. It is on a square ashlar pier, on a stepped base. The pier has initials. "SJ/WP" to the east, "EA/RW" to the north, "17/29" to the west, and a flower to the south. For a photograph see
LinkExternal link

Further south, the Gale Monument is in a square enclosure formed by a low wall and railings. It is early 19C, of ashlar. Oval panels record members of the Gale family, with dates of death from 1816 to 1903. For a photograph see LinkExternal link

Opposite the church there is a modern housing estate, then in the next field Kirk Flatt Tarn. Then, on the east side, a modern school.

At SD266739 Braithwaite Lane, a bridleway, goes off to the south, and also a footpath east to Cringles. Next to these is the Recreation Hall. At SD265738 Hooks Lane goes off to the NW.

SD2673 : Between Great and Little Urswick by David Long

Little Urswick Tarn is in the field to the north.

Hooks Lane

Following Hooks Lane, houses have been built in an old quarry on the left (SW) side; there was a limekiln in the quarry. Then there is a wood called Long Rigg on the same side, followed by Bower Well at SD262742. Then Bower Wood is on the SW side, and there was a limekiln in the next field. At the crossroads with Middle Barrow Lane there is a group of modern houses, also caravan site at SD255747:

SD2574 : Caravans by Michael Graham

Turning left at the crossroads, there is a bridleway (Dimples Hole Lane) at SD253745, and, on the south side of the junction, the site of Sheeprakes Pit, which was part of the Parkside Iron Mines. This view, at SD249739 is of the lane further to the south-west:

SD2473 : Lane in grid square SD2473 by Phil Catterall

Little Urswick village

Back to the foot of Hooks Lane, we come to the village street. The old Vicarage is on the east side, and on west side the row of houses and the school are all at the edge of the village green. The pub is the Swan Inn, and contains the post office, assuming that it is still open. Next to it at SD268732 is the old school. Urswick Grammar School was granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1585. It was endowed by William Marshall, a native of the parish, with 15 a year. The fourth centenary of this was celebrated in 1985, when the school had become a CofE controlled primary school. The original schoolroom, with schoolhouse beneath, was still in use, although of course there had been various additions to the buildings in the 19C and 20C. The village was honoured by a visit by Queen Elizabeth II, who was in the area to open the new Furness General Hospital.

Redmayne Hall is just south of the road junction at SD262735. It is a farmhouse, probably built in the 17C with later alterations. It is built of stone rubble covered by roughcast. One of the entrances is a round-headed doorway in a gabled porch. The road to the SE passes the site of a pond at SD263734, next to which there was a pumphouse in 1889. Opposite this, on the NE side of the road, a winding footpath runs north behind the property facing the village street. The long narrow fields to the east, with their slightly curved boundaries, appears to be enclosed furlongs of the former open field of Little Urswick.

Continuing along this road, a left turn at SD264731 soon goes alongside Gleaston Beck, which forms the eastern boundary of the old open field. In 1889 the first building on the left (NW) side was the Travellers' Rest PH.

Back at Redmayne Hall, the road to the SW enters Bolton at Hawkfield, SD259731 (See Section E).


There is a walk from the village street that passes near to an Iron-age settlement and goes through an area of disused iron-ore mines. The footpath starts SD264738 at and is signposted 'Dimples Hole Lane'. After passing to the right of Stone Walls Wood (a County Wildlife Site) and ignoring a path to the right, the path enters open moorland. If it is possible, turn left alongside the wood up to Stone Walls Iron Age Settlement at SD260741. This has two enclosures, the western one oval in plan and the eastern one rectangular, with an entrance to the SE, and containing five Iron-Age hut circles. This is a form of enclosed hamlet common in certain valleys in eastern Cumbria, and they were grouped into estates. There are other examples in Low Furness, but this is the only one that has survived almost complete (quarrying has occurred in the eastern enclosure). The yards and buildings are defined by grass-grown banks and stones. Small-scale excavations here in April 1906 produced pottery fragments, metalworking slag, animal bones and teeth, and a fragment of decorated bronze. The following is a 19C description of 'Stone Walls': The stone walls are singular remnants of antiquity, and open a page in the early history of Furness, which cannot fail to awaken in the mind lively associations of a remote age. They are situated upon an eminence about a quarter of a mile westward of the church, and consist of two enclosures, about twenty yards asunder, an angular and circular one, the latter being divided into several compartments, by curved walls. The walls of the former enclosure, which appear to have been formed of loose stones, have been nine feet eight inches in thickness, and about 253 yards in circumference, three sides measuring 67 yards each, and the other 52. These appear to have had two openings on the side opposite the village. The circular plot has been surrounded by a wall, of 320 yards in circumference, and of the same thickness as that of the preceding enclosure. But it is extremely difficult to trace out either the outline of this structure, or the exact position of its internal walls, on account of the site being planted. At the present entrance of the enclosure is a large stone, raised a little from the ground, and resting on two or three small ones.

It should then be possible to head westwards across the limestone pavement of Little Urswick Crags to find the footpath running SE from the corner of Dimples Hole Lane at SD256741. Turn left on this and the path leads back down to the village, passing an area of old mining on the left. The 1889 map shows various shafts and the ruins of an engine house; also some magazines, where the explosives were stored. There might be nothing to see now, and of course there is no right of access. There is a ruined limekiln at SD255740.

On reaching the village, another footpath continues on the other side of the street and goes along the edge of one of the long narrow fields enclosed from the medieval open field. There were mineshafts in the fields on each side.

E Bolton with Adgarley

From Hawkfield a footpath goes westwards past Bolton Heads, an area of limestone outcrops. This photograph is at SD255731:

SD2573 : Bolton Heads by Michael Graham

The road continues past 'Bolton Manor' (formerly Bolton Farm) at SD259729 One of the farm buildings includes the remains of a former chapel, in which a chantry was granted by Robert, one of the abbots of Furness, to Sir Richard, son of Sir Allan de Coupland, and his heirs. The remains of the chapel are identified by Gothic doors and windows. The manor later belonged to the abbey of Furness, from which it passed to the family of Broughton, and subsequently to the Earls of Derby.

Turning right on Long Lane, the road from Scales to Stainton, the hamlet of Adgarley is reached at Netherwood Farm, SD252726, on the site of the Stainton with Adgarley Iron Mines. The iron ore obtained from it was said to be the richest in Furness.

Here is a photograph of a smart white-painted house near here:

SD2572 : White House by Michael Graham

There is then a disused church mission room on the north side, then a pond and then Adgarley Farm on the south side. Somewhere in Adgarley there is a disused school, possibly behind the Miners' Arms. Stainton is entered at the road junction at SD249724. The land on the north side of the road is in Stainton (see below).

F Stainton

Stainton is a quarry village. Quarrying started here in 1866. From the road junction next to the Miner's Arms, SD249724, first westwards, across the village green. The southern part of the green has many huge limestone boulders, one said to be 16m in circumference. To the north is the Farmers' Arms, presumably now the Stagger Inn:

SD2472 : Honest, I was sober by David Long

Past the green, Stainton Old Hall is on the south side of the road. It has lintels dated 1657 and 1658; the house has later alterations and additions, eg the large 19C windows in the east elevation. It is built of roughcast stone with slate roofs. Then at SD245724 Slop Lane, a bridleway, goes off to the north, and crosses over the disused Stainton Branch of the Furness Railway. This was a short branch from Dalton to Stainton Quarry. The bridleway is interrupted by an enormous pothole, Stainton limestone quarries. It appears that the right-of-way has been extinguished across the quarry; it should of course have been diverted around the edge. Continuing along the road, there is a house called Stainton Head on the south side. The parish boundary is reached at SD251725. In the field on the left, according to the 1890 map, sepulchral urns were found in 1871.

Returning to the Miners' Arms and going east on Long Lane, it might be possible to go up a track to the north to see the former railway station. Beyond it was Devonshire Quarry, and then the present Stainton Quarries. In the 19C the lime produced from the rock here was said to the best in the area for building and agricultural purposes. Further along the road, the former Congregational Chapel of 1902, which replaced a short-lived building of 1873, stands on its own. It closed before 1966. The Congregation was founded in 1698. For a photograph see LinkExternal link

Forking left at SD250725 into Stone Barrow Lane, there was an engine house on the left, and the road curves round old spoil heaps, passing an old shaft to the east. The quarries are on the west side. Turning left at the road junction at SD251741, there is soon a footpath going west. A little way along it there was a limekiln. The road continues to Skells Lodge, the northern end of Slop Lane, and Highfield Cottages before leaving the parish at the bridge over the disused railway.
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