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Bees, St. (St. Bega)

BEES, ST. (St. Bega), a parish, in the union of Whitehaven, Allerdale ward above Derwent, W. division of Cumberland; comprising the town of Whitehaven, and the townships of St. Bees, Ennerdale, Eskdale, Wasdale-Head, Hensingham, Kinneyside, Lowside Quarter, Nether Wasdale, Preston Quarter, Rottington, Sandwith, and Weddiker; and containing 19,687 inhabitants, of whom 557 are in the township of St. Bees, 2¾ miles (W. by N.) from Egremont. The parish extends for about ten miles along the coast, which in some parts is rocky and precipitous; and contains coal, limestone, and freestone: lead-ore is obtained at Kinneyside, where there are smelting-furnaces; and iron-ore was formerly got in Eskdale. A lighthouse erected in 1717, and subsequently destroyed by fire, was rebuilt in 1822, on a promontory called St. Bees' Head; it is furnished with nine reflectors, affording a strong light, which, from its elevated position, is seen at a great distance. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £103; patron and impropriator, the Earl of Lonsdale, whose tithes in the township of St. Bees have been commuted for £166. There are four separate incumbencies at Whitehaven, and one each at Ennerdale, Eskdale, Hensingham, Lowswater, Wasdale-Head, and Nether Wasdale; nearly the whole of them in the gift of the Earl. The parish church was formerly the conventual church of a monastery founded about 650, by Bega, or Begogh, an Irish female, who subsequently received the honour of canonization. The monastery was destroyed by the Danes, but was restored in the reign of Henry I., by William de Meschines, lord of Copeland, as a cell to the abbey of St. Mary at York; and in 1219 was pillaged by the Scots. Its revenue, at the Dissolution, was estimated at £149. 19. 6. The church is cruciform, and has a strong tower of early Norman architecture, but the rest of the edifice is in the decorated English style: the nave is used for the celebration of divine service. The chancel, which had long lain in a ruinous state, was repaired in 1819, and fitted up as a school of divinity, in connexion with a clerical institution founded by Dr. Law, Bishop of Chester, for the benefit of young men intended for holy orders, who do not complete their studies at Oxford or Cambridge, but receive ordination after having studied for a certain period at this place; they can, however, only enter upon their ministry within the province of York.

In addition to this, there is a celebrated Free Grammar school, founded by letters-patent dated April 24th, 1583, obtained by Edmund Grindall, Archbishop of Canterbury, whereby its management is intrusted to a corporation of seven governors, of whom the provost of Queen's College, Oxford, and the rector of Egremont, are always two, the former enjoying the privilege of nominating the master, who chooses an usher. The annual income, arising from land, is £125; and the school enjoys the advantage of a fellowship and two scholarships at Queen's College, Oxford, with the privilege of sending a candidate to be examined for one of five exhibitions, founded at the same college by Lady Elizabeth Hastings; a fellowship and three scholarships at Pembroke College, Cambridge; a scholarship of £4 a year at Magdalen College, Cambridge; and, in failure of scholars from the school at Carlisle, eligibility to two exhibitions founded by Bishop Thomas, at Queen's College, Oxford.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.