Local History and Places of Interest Around the Parish


The Court Thorn

An interesting feature in the Parish is the Court Thorn standing just over the brow of the hill between High and Low Hesket it originally dated from medieval times when tenants were subject to the Lord of the Manor. Minor offences were tried, disputes settled and rents paid on the 11th June (St Barnabus Day) each year. The stone dais can still be seen on the grass verge although it was moved when the original turnpike road (now the A6) was widened in the early 1930's. At this time two ladies - the Misses Jane and Elsie Strong living in Hawthorn House, Low Hesket planted a hawthorn tree between the stones. Their grandfather, John Lewis had once been Bailiff of the Forest of Inglewood hence the connection. Since then at least two new trees have been planted.

The Hesket Hoard

In 1822 artefacts were found in a Viking tumulus on the A6 just south of the Court Thorn on the East side of the road. These can now been seen in Tullie House, Carlisle but a photograph can also be seen in St. Mary's Church, High Hesket. It was though to be the best example of a Viking Cremation Burial in the British Isles.

Tarn Wadling

Tarn Wadling famed for its association with King Arthur and Castle Hewen once occupied a large depression to the north of the Hesket to Armathwaite road. Once it supplied fish such as carp, eel and pike to the local Nunnery. It was first drained in the 1800's by Lord Lonsdale and has needed regular draining ever since. Nowadays the tarn can be relied to make a partial comeback in inclement weather. Remnants of the original boathouse can still be seen.

Castle Hewen

Castle Hewen near Aiketgate is clearly visible from Tarn Wadling has a Norse connection with the Viking graves recently discovered at Cumwhinton and also with the Hesket Hoard. Archaeological excavations in the 1970's found nothing to prove the existence of a romantic dark age Castle, only a hutted hilltop enclosure dating from the 1st and 2nd centuries. According to legend it was inhabited by the Bad Baron (the Giant of Castle Hewen) who was encountered by King Arthur and who also may be buried in Penrith Churchyard but that may be just a good story!


Byrnes Memorial - Joseph Byrnes 1851 - 1885

By the side of the road running through the village of Plumpton, four miles to the north of Penrith in Cumbria lies a memorial stone bearing the words "Here Constable Joseph Byrnes fell on the night of October 29 1885 shot by three Netherby burglars whom he single handed endeavoured to arrest" But what does it all mean, where or what is Netherby who were these people and what caused a policeman to be shot".

Joseph Byrnes was born in 1851 at Banbridge, County Down. At the age of 19 he came to Cumberland with his two elder brothers in search of work and found a labouring job in the Millom area. On 17th November 1874, he joined the Cumberland and Westmoreland Constabulary and became third class Constable 154 stationed at Whitehaven. In early 1875 he rose to second class constable and was moved to Harrington, then to Egremont in late 1876 where he rose to first class constable and married Eleanor, daughter of Mr Superintendent Bertram, head of Whitehaven Division. Three years later he was posted to Alston and in 182to the man detached station at Plumpton where he was promoted to Merit Class Constable, a prestigious status only granted to those of worth, with weekly pay up to 29/2d (£1.46p).

At 8pm on Wednesday 28th October 1885, Anthony Benjamin Rudge, John Martin and James Baker three hardened London criminals, broke into Netherby Hall near Longtown, ancestral home of the Graham family and stole £250 worth of jewellery (1885 values) from Lady Hermone Graham's bedroom which was directly above where the family were taking dinner. They made good their escape after being disturbed by a chambermaid in the early stages and Sir Fredrick Graham sent a horseman to inform the police at Longtown.

Road blocks were set up by the County Police, one being at Kingstown manned by Sergeant Roaches and Constable Johnstone who was the officer stationed there. Men approaching from the north at 11pm were challenged by the Sergeant. "Where have you come from and where are you going to". What business is that of yours" came the surly reply. "There has been a serious robbery at Netherby and you will come into this police station to be search. The blank refusal was met by the Sergeant moving to make arrests whereupon he was shot in the arm and beaten to the ground. Johnstone pursued them as they made off towards Carlisle and was shot in the chest as he closed in.

Down the road at Moorville, Sergeant Handley, who had heard the shots in the still night air roused two local men and confronted the villains when the arrived, but was obliged to let them pass when threatened with guns. Carlisle City Police were manning the Eden Bridge in strength and they entered the City by using one of the railway bridges then kept to the tracks to avoid detection, but were spotted creeping along in the shadows by the crossing keeper at Denton Holme who told Constable Christopher Fortune of the Carlisle City Police when he called at the box shortly afterwards. He followed and caught up with them at Rome Street Junction where he was badly beaten with crowbars and left for dead. No further sighting was made that night despite the fervid activities of both County and City Police, together with the Railway staff who were on full alert for anything the moved.

At 5pm the following day, Thursday 29 October, Rudge, Martin and Baker called at Calthwaite Railway Stations about trains to London, continuing to walk south along the railway line when told there were none until the following day. But the station master was suspicious, he was fully aware of all that had happened and was convinced these were the wanted men, so he telegraphed a message to his opposite number at Plumpton for the attention of Constable Joseph Byrnes.

When the message arrived, Byrnes quickly walked across the fields to the station (the police house at that time was at the rear of Roman Way Farm) only to be told that the men had been and gone, but there were some local boys on the road near the bridge. Have you seen anything of three men?", "Yes Mr Byrnes. They asked us if there was an inn so we sent then to the Pack Horse (a house at the main cross roads that was a public house until 1968). Joseph walked up through the village and near the Vicarage met them walking back to the railway line. Words were spoken, ending in Byrnes saying "I will take at least one of you" There was a scuffle, Rudge and Baker then pinned him by the arms while Martin calmly shot him through the head. They dumped him over the wall then went back to the railway to continue south along the track, keeping to the shadows at Penrith Station before jumping aboard a south bound goods train at it pulled away at 10 o'clock.

At about the same time, Thomas Gordon Lowthian heard strange moaning noises from behind the wall as he walked home passed Plumpton Vicarage. Being somewhat alarmed but unable to see in the dark he went to the Pack Horse fro help and returned with the landlord, William Griffiths, James Nicholson and John Tinkler, who with the aid of lanterns quickly found Joseph in a serious condition and carried him to the inn on an old door found lying nearby. A Doctor was called and attended, but he died just before 1 am without regaining consciousness.

The Pack House was closed and used as a chapel of rest which many visited on Saturday 31 October. At midday on Sunday, uniformed police from Penrith carried the coffin to the waiting hearse then formed two lines in front behind Mr Superintendent Fowler on his horse. The cortege then moved slowly towards Penrith, "... followed by numerous conveyances carrying almost all the local people." And when arriving at Beacon Edge Cemetery at 2pm,"Well in excess of 2000 people were already assembled there"*, which gives some idea of the respect in which Joseph was held. (*reports in C & W Herald).

Rudge, Martin and Baker were seen to jump aboard the goods train at Penrith by the guard, Christopher Gaddes, who managed to get a message through to Tebay, Rudge and Martin being captured by waiting railwaymen when they arrived there at about midnight. Baker escaped as far as Lancaster where he was seized at 2.42 am by Henry Cooper, guard of the Carlisle to London night express when he tried to board the train without a ticket. All were taken to Carlisle, found guilty of murder by the Assize Court in January and executed in the precincts of Carlisle Prison at 8 am on Monday 8 February, 1886.

And so the saga ended. All the jewellery was recovered, Roache and Johnstone eventually held high rank: Fortune was never fit for duty again, but lived happily on pension into the 1930's letter to John Dunne, Chief Constable of the Cumberland & Westmoreland Constabulary, expressing her deep concern and requesting that all those who brought it to a satisfactory conclusion be congratulated in her name: donations poured in from all corners of the land to form a large fund that was at lease some comfort for Joseph's widow and four children: newspapers covered the case in great detail, questions were raised in Parliament, Madam Tussaud's mounted a display depicting the shooting that remained until the late 1930's and numerous articles, poems and one stage play have been written over the years.

But it was the people of Plumpton who excelled in showing true respect; they lovingly erected a memorial near to where Joseph was shot, restored in 1911 and again in 2001. His closest friend in the village was the Reverend Kennedy who, when lamenting his death in a press article the following weekend wrote, "Oh why, oh why could not this good friend of mine be buried in my church?" No doubt that was the feelings of many others, but in those days Joseph could not be buried in an Anglican churchyard because he was a Roman Catholic.

He was a good man, a good husband, father and police officer who was ahead of his time and destined to high rank had three common criminals not taken his life. We must not forget


katharine well

Katharine Well

Sarah Losh was so inconsolable after the death of her sister Katharine, who died in 1835 she built a watering place for horses in her memory in 1866. The Well head/drinking troughs. Dated 1866 and inscribed KATHARINE WELL are made of dressed red sandstone. Central round arch over spring, with 2 flanking lower round arches, all opening into troughs set into the ground. Upper arcade of tall round-headed arches, with central inscription on greenslate THIS WELL WAS BUILT IN MEMORY OF KATHARINE LOSH OF WOODSIDE, WREAY, FOR THE WATERING OF HORSES WHICH USED THE ROAD, RESTORED BY MEMBERS OF THE PARISH IN 1970



THE Old Sundial

The Old Sundial on St Mary's Church, High Hesket. The Old Sundial is thought to be over 250 years old. It was made up from five separate stones. The corbel stones at the bottom right and left hand corners are let into the church wall to carry the weight of the other three stones. This eroded, cracked down the middle and was taken off the wall in 1995. The Old sundial, minus its missing gnomon, is temporarily stored in the church entrance porch until a suitable permanent site is allocated. Sundial time was used by Glasgow to London stagecoaches which called at the White Ox Inn, now Hesket House, to change horses. When the village school adjoined the churchyard in the 18th century the sundial was a useful timepiece for pupils. The Local History Group offered to restore the sundial. The original corbel stones were left in place and new stones of Derbyshire Buff sandstone were cut and inscribed.

Ah what is Human Life?
How like the Dial's tardy-moving Shade!
Day after Day slides from us unperceived!
Yet soon the Hour is up – and we are gone.

The semi circle resting above the dial read:-
Time is on the wing and moments of life are too precious to be squandered away in trifles.