Parish History

Langdale (Great and Little)

The nearest settlements to Kettle Crag on a modern map of the region are the Langdales. The parish included Elterwater. I could find little mention before the c16th when there were lands listed that included blue slate quarries. The earliest ownership in Gt Langdale seems to have been with John De Coupland and some of the land was owned by the Parr family (cf Katherine Parr, 16th wife of HVIII). Little Langdale is mentioned as having belonged to the Pennington family (Muncaster) until they sold it in the c17th. However, the manor of Baisbrow (Bays Browne on the 19thc map) was definitely granted by the 2nd William De Lancastre, Baron of Kendal to the Priory of Conyngshed (Coningshea) nr Ulverston in Lancashire which held it until the Dissolution during the 1500s. William De Lancastre II is noted as having made grants of land in 1170 so we should assuime that this is contemporary with the covenant's founding. He was the son of William De Talebois who first assumed the De Lancastre title by grant from Henry II.

A few years ago, I took my family across the Langdale Pikes from near Grasmere where we ascended, seeking the potential setting for our original covenant. Two years later, we climbed to Tarn Crag (in early Spring) and looked down on the Tarn, speculating on how our mages and their visitors would have made that ascent and if they would have resorted to a basket. I can attest that it is rugged, even now and I can only imagine how bleak it would have been in the grip of a medieval winter - GM.


Rydal offers a much more definitive position, at least by 1280 when the manor was granted "by Margaret de Brus, to Roger de Lancastre, who held Rydal, with part of Loughrigg and Ambleside, of the king in capite, by the service of the fourth part of a knight's fee"  During the troubled reign of Henry VI, Sir Thomas Le Fleming of Coniston acquired the manor by marriage and it stayed in that family. Sir Thomas was a descendant of the same Michael Le Fleming who came with William I to England. We know that his family already held land in the area having received "a grant of Arlecdon, Beckermet, and several other manors in Cumberland, in Furness, and in Lancashire" We also know that the Le Flemings were patrons of Furness Abbey and that a Michael Le Fleming who died 1154 was buried in that place. Richard Le Fleming was ancestor to the "Flemings of Rydal", living in this period at Caernarvon Castle (nr Beckermet) and dying "within the reign of King John" whereupon he, also, was buried at Furness Abbey. He had one son, Sir John Fleming who died in the reign of Henry III and was buried at Calder Abbey to which he had given patronage. His son, another Sir Richard was the one who acquired Coniston Manor. Thus Rydal, we can assume to be dominated by Fleming lands at the start of our saga. Since Caernarvon Castle was supposedly pulled down and abandoned in 1250, we can assume that there was a transfer of the family seat at that date.


Called Gresmere in the time of the covenant, it belonged to the Baron of Kendal. On the death of William De Lancastre, the third of that name who had no heirs (he took his mother's name as the male line had failed at William II), the land was divided between the daughters of William De Lancastre II's daughter, Helwise. They were Alice and Helwise, carrying the lands as dowry when they married William de Lindesay and Peter De Brus, accordingly. There appears to have been a half brother to William, Roger De Lancastre who retained some lands, having additional estate gifted to him by Margaret De Brus, daughter of Peter and Helwise. The land was described as pasture for cattle. This holding was confirmed by King Edward I and so became inheritable. We will assume it to be Baron's land but held from afar, at the outset of the saga.

Ambleside (Hamelside)

There appears to be some controversy about Ambleside. What we do know is that there have been enough roman remains and evidence to confirm that it was a significant centre during the occupation and that it had a Roman fortification "The Romans had a Fort here of an oblong Figure, fortified with a Ditch and Rampire" The name could well have been derived from a corruption of the two Latin words, Amabilis Situs although there is also evidence that it was known as Hamelside which is less likely to have been the Roman settlement of Amboglona as was supposed by Camden. That settlement seems to have been at Burdoswald in Cumberland. Whatever the truth of this, it explains the roads and the choice of the location as routes naturally meet at Ambleside. There is evidence that there were two military built Roman roads in use. One running past Ulswater, through Greystoke land to Papcastle and the other going down to Kendal or nearby (Water Crook or Roman Concagium) by a way known as The Cassa. For the purposes of the saga, I am going to assume these are still kept up and that the Roman evidence is more noticeable than it was when the various speculative observations were made from which I have drawn this thumbnail sketch.  We know that a good deal of coins, urns, glassware, bricks and pavement and other remains have been found, here. There is a good indication that it was a feeder barracks for a front line unit. If it was the Dictis of the Notitia, then it was garrisoned by a cohort of Nerian soldiers. Certainly, it appears to have been part of the infrastructure supporting the Cohors Prima Aelia Dacorum. A walkers guide notes that the road from Ambleside to Penrith was certainly in use in the c13th "In 13th century it was called the Brethstrett, in respect of the Britons of Cumbria.The Summit of High Street on a ridge over 2000 feet above sea level) has even been used as a racecourse. It dips into the dramatic Straights of Riggindale and then up onto High Raise heading north, eventually gently descending Loadpot Hill towards Tirril for Penrith." Ambleside fort was probably built in the 1st century. Galava was built around 90 AD while Brocavum (Brougham) was built 80-81AD by Agricola. The regulation Roman army rate was 20 miles in five hours which is a useful indication on the potential speed of travel on these prepared surfaces. A bronze age circular mound beside the road  is known as King Arthur's Round Table, one of many references in the Cumbrian region to Arthur. The guide goes on.  "South of High Street the roman road could have taken the distinct terrace path down towards Troutbeck, a route known as Scots Rake, no doubt in respect of its use as route by the Scots at some stage in history. An alternative route for the roman road could have been tracing the ridge south skirting Froswick and Ill Bell before descending to the Garburn Pass."

Again, I can say that the Hardknott Pass, at the site of the Roman Fort is spectacular and worth a stop to climb up and look out from. We traversed the Hardknott and Wrynose passes which would be the same way our mages and their party would travel to reach the coastal lands to the west. - GM

Note that in our saga time, the lake is known as Winandemere.  The associated manor Ridal-Hall appears to have belonged to the De Lancastre family and come back to Roger (see Gresmere), going to the Plaiz family in 1334 and then to the De Flemings during the Wars of the Roses. The Ridal Head watchpoint can be used to look out to Lancaster on a clear day.


Nestled amongst the fells of Furness, Hawkshead is an archetypal norther market town. In 1200, it was already a settlement of enough note that it became the centre for a court where the Bailiff of Hawkshead dispensed justice in the abbots name. The land around belonged to Furness Abbey so it will be considered to be dominion territory. "The Coucher Book of Furness Abbey, mentions Hawkshead Chapel in the year 1200, but the internal evidence derived from several documents in that valuable and beautiful ecclesiastical record, indicate its much earlier origin."  St Michael's church which stands at the southern end of the market place on elevated land, was founded around 1066. With its square tower and view over Esthwaite Water (at the head of which, Hawkshead lies), the church seems to have been rich and well architected long before any of the modernisation during the Tudor period. There used to be four annual fairs in Hawkshead on Easter Monday, the Monday before Ascension Day, Whit Monday, and the 2nd of October. These would include a cattle market and the usual associated entertainments. In the c18th, it was noted that the previously busy markets here declined. As with Ambleside and in other similar towns, with factory based spinning machines, the woolen and clothing market changed, completely from the localised market of the c13th.


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