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Cockermouth, Cumberland

Historical Description

Cockermouth, a market-town, a parish, and two chapelries in Cumberland. The town stands at the confluence of the Cocker and the Derwent rivers, and at the termini of the Cockermouth and Workington and the Cockermouth, Kes-wick, and Penrith railways, 8¼ miles E of Workington. Many antiquities, Roman, Saxon, and Scandinavian, have been found in its neighbourhood, but they belong properly to Papcastle, about a mile to the west. A strong castle was built here soon after the Conquest by Waldeof, Lord of Allerdale, and passed to the Umphravilles, the Multons, the Lucys, the Percys, the Nevilles, and the Wyndhams. The castle was surprised by Douglas in 1387; it became the prison of Mary Queen of Scots in 1568; it stood a siege of about a month in 1648 for Charles I., but was captured and dismantled, and excepting a small portion fitted up as a private residence it never was restored. The ruin occupies a bold elevation between the Cocker and the Derwent, comprises two courts within the outer walls, and indicates great military strength of both structure and position. One part of it, including the great tower, stood on the brink of a precipice overhanging the rivers; other parts were defended by moat, drawbridge, and portcullis; the chief parts remaining are clad with ivy and look imposing, and a subterranean chamber 80 feet square has a groined roof, upheld in the centre by a single octagonal pillar. Wordsworth the poet was a native of the town, and spent much of his boyhood in it, and in one of his sonnets he represents the spirit of the castle as thus addressing him: —" Thou look'st on me! Dost fondly think, Poet, that, stricken as both are by years, We, differing once so much, are now compeers, Prepared, when each has stood his time, to sink Into the dust — Erewhile a sterner link United us —when thou, in boyish play, Entering my dungeon, didst become a prey To soul-appalling darkness. Not a blink Of light was there; and thus did I, thy tutor, Make thy young thoughts acquainted with the grave, "When thou wert chasing the wing'd butterfly Through my green courts, or climbing, a wild suitor, Up to the flowers whose golden progeny Still round my shatter'd brow in beauty wave."

The town is cut in two by the Cocker

The town is cut in two by the Cocker, contains two principal streets besides minor ones, and is irregularly built, but has undergone great improvement. A one-arched bridge, erected in 1828, crosses the Cocker; a two-arched one, 270 feet long, crosses the Derwent; and a high-level one was built in 1860. The market-house and the court-house are neat erections. A fine old church was destroyed by fire in 1850, and the new church built afterwards is a handsome edifice, with a memorial window to Wordsworth. Another church, on a site in the lower part of the town, was erected in 1865. There are three dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, a grammar school founded in 1676, a mechanics' institute, several libraries, a dispensary, an alms-house, a workhouse, a head post office, a railway station, four banks, and two chief inns. A new constabulary station was erected in 1894. The industrial school for the county, erected at a cost of £10,000, and opened in 1881, is situated near the town. It has accommodation for 150 boys, who are taught various trades. The manufacture of woollens, thread, tanned leather, agricultural implements, &c., is carried on, and there are also corn and spinning mills. Markets are held on Mondays and Saturdays, and there are two large auction marts for the sale of cattle, sheep, and horses. The town is a seat of petty sessions, and it sent two members to Parliament from the time of Charles I. till 1867, when it was reduced to one representative. A handsome tower and clock has been erected in Main Street at the foot of Station Street, by public subscription, to the memory of Mr Edward Waugh, formerly member of Parliament for the borough. The chapelries comprise 2425 acres; population of the civil parish, 5464; of the ecclesiastical, 5786. The livings of All Saints and Christ Church are vicarages in the diocese of Carlisle; gross value of the former, £207 with residence; of the latter, net value, £200 with residence. Patrons, the Earl of Lonsdale and three trustees.

Cockermouth Parliamentary Division of Cumberland was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885; and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 63,590. The division includes the following: —Derwent — Allerby and Oughterside, Bewaldeth and Snittlegarth, Blind-bothel, Blindcrake, Isell and Redmain, Bothel and Threap-land, Brackenthwaite, Bridekirk, Brigham, Broughton Great, Broughton Little, Buttermere, Cockermouth, Crosscannon-by, Dean, Dearham, Dovenby, Eaglesfield, Ellenborough and Unerigg, Embleton, Flimby, Gilcrux, Greysouthen, Isell Old Park, Lorton, Loweswater and Mockerkin, Mosser, Pap-castle, Plumbland, Ribton, Setmurthy, Sunderland, Tallan-tire, Whinfell, Wythop; Workington —Camerton, Clifton Great, Clifton Little, Cloffocks, Seaton, Stainburn, Winscales, Workington.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyCumberland 
Civil parishBrigham 
Ecclesiastical parishCockermouth All Saints 
Poor Law unionCockermouth 
WardAllerdale above Derwent 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Cockermouth from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Cumberland is available to browse.


Online maps of Cockermouth are available from a number of sites:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Cumberland, 1615 is available on the Heraldry page.

RegionNorth West
Postal districtCA13
Post TownCockermouth