The origins of Matterdale Church

Posted: July 9, 2014 in Family History
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Until the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 the people of Matterdale didn’t have their own place of worship. If they wanted to or were obliged to go to church they had to trek all the way to the parish church in Greystoke, which, as we shall see, was not always easy.

‘The church of Matterdale is situated almost 1,000 feet above sea level, amid an amphitheatre of glorious hills, between the hamlets of Dockray and Matterdale End, in the ancient parish of Greystoke.’ Rev J. Whitelock, 1900.

In Matterdale church’s safe there was once a document written in 1699 which tells us of the first chapelry in Matterdale. It is a deed for the priest’s wages and includes the names of various citizens who pledge to contribute to these wages. This list includes numerous Grisdales; I will return to them on another occasion.  The deed starts as follows:

Whereas about ye eight year of Queen Elizabeth (1566) the Inhabitants of Matterdale did petition for having a church att ye said Matterdale which was granted in Bishop Best his time (1561-1570) with a pviso that they should maintain a Currate att it which ye said Inhabitants did pmise and Ingage to doe. And in order thereto did make up about fforty pounds Church stock amongst them that ye use thereof might goe to ye Currate which was then Lent forth att two shillings the pound or more…

Matterdale Church

Matterdale Church

So the people of Matterdale were allowed to build their first chapel in 1566 or shortly thereafter. Nothing of the original structure remains. The problem was that whereas they were granted the right to hold holy services they did not have the full parochial rights to perform baptisms, marriages and burials. For those the people still had to trek to Greystoke.

By 1580 the people had made various other suits to the Bishop of Carlisle, by now Bishop John Meye, asking for these parochial rights. Bishop Meye eventually answered their appeal on 30 October 1580, I have added paragraph breaks for ease of reading:

To all Christian people to whom these presents shall come, John by the providence of God Bishop of Carlisle sendeth greeting in our Lord everlasting.

Know ye that at the reasonable suit of the whole inhabitants of the Chapelry of Matterdale, complaining that by reason that their parish Church of Graystock is so far distant from them, and from the annoyances of snow or other foul weather in the winter season in that fellish part, they be often very sore troubled with carrying the dead corpses dying within the said Chapelry and the infants there born unto burial and christening to their said parish church of Graystock, sometimes the weather being so foul and stormy that they be driven to let their dead bodies remain unburied longer time than is convenient, or else to abide that annoyance and danger in carrying them to burial as is not reasonable, and therefore have divers times made humble suit for remedy of their sad inconvenience and griefs;

matt winter

Matterdale

We the said Bishop, with the consent of Mr. Edward Hansbie bachelor of divinity and parson of the said church of Graystock, have given and granted unto all the inhabitants wch now be, or wch from henceforth shall be of the Chapelry aforesaid, full authority to cause to be baptised and christened in the chapel of Matterdale all and singular the infants which shall at any time hereafter be born within the said Chapelry, and all women who within the same shall bring forth any child, to go to the said chapel, and to have prayers said for her deliverance set forth by public authority, which commonly hath been called the purification of women; and that it may also be lawful unto the said inhabitants from time to time hereafter to cause their marriages to be celebrated within the same chapel; both the said persons which shall be married or the one of them being an inhabitant and dweller within the same chapelry; and such persons as shall from time to time happen to die or depart this world within the said Chapelry, to bury them within the same Chapel or Churchyard of the same: giving and granting unto the said Chapel the right to receive infants to baptism, women to be purified, persons to be married in the said Chapel, and all manner of persons dying within the said Chapelry, to whom the laws of this realm do not deny Christian burial, to be buried in the said Chapel or Churchyard;

Beseeching the Almighty, that as we do not doubt but that he hath already sanctified and hallowed the said Chapel and Churchyard through the prayers of the faithful made therein and the preaching of his most blessed word; so it may please him to grant unto all those which shall be baptised within the said Chapel, that they may receive remission of sins, perfect regeneration, and be made heirs of the kingdom of heaven; and to sanctify the marriage of all such as shall be married in the same Chapel; and to such as shall be buried in the said Chapel or Churchyard to grant resurrection unto life everlasting.

Greystoke Church

Greystoke Church

These in no wise to prejudice or hinder the right of the parish church of Graystock aforesaid, nor the estate of the said Mr. Hansbie now parson of the same, or his successors parsons there, in any the tithes, rights, obligations, duties, commodities, or emoluments, due unto the said parish Church or to the said Edward Hansbie his successors parsons of the same out of the said Chapelry, or the inhabitants of the same, or any of them from time to time there dwelling; the right interest and estate of which Church and the said Edward Hansbie and his successors parsons there, we do reserve and save by these presents.

Provided always that the inhabitants of the said Chapelry shall at their own proper costs and charges (as hath been before used) find and maintain a good and able priest to be resident within the said Chapelry, to minister divine service, and holy sacraments, as shall be allowed by the said Bishop and our successors; and shall provide unto him such convenient dwelling and habitation within the same Chapelry, and give him such wages for his relief and maintenance, to the worthyness of his estate and calling, as shall be thought meet and convenient unto us the said Bishop and our successors bishops of Carlisle; and shall also elect, with the consent of the minister there from time to time, an honest person to be the parish clerk of the same Chapel, and shall give to him convenient wages for keeping the said Church and things belonging to the same in good order, and doing other duties which pertain to the office of a clerk; and shall yearly elect and chuse by the consent of the said minister, the churchwardens and some sidesmen, to do the duties which unto their office doth belong; and shall repair, maintain and uphold the said Chapel and walls of the yard thereof, with all needful and convenient reparations whatsoever and shall from time to time see and provide that the said Chapel and Churchyard be used with that seemly and reverend manner as becometh the house and place dedicated to the service of God; and finally, shall from time to time, and at all times hereafter receive and obey all such injunctions, general and particular, which shall from thenceforth be given by us the said Bishop and our successors, for the service of God and good order to be maintained within the said Chapel and Chapelry.

Under which conditions we do dedicate the said Chapel and Churchyard to the use aforesaid and none otherwise.

In witness whereof we have to these presents put the seal of our bishoprick.

Given the 30th day of October in the year of our Lord God a thousand five hundred and eighty, and in the 23nd year of the reign of our most gracious sovereign Lady Elizabeth by the grace of God Queen of England France and Ireland, defender of the faith &c. and of our consecration the fourth.

matt snow 2

Snow in Matterdale

I particularly like the part which explains why the people of Matterdale wanted their own parish church and not just a simple chapel. It was because Greystoke was ‘so far distant from them, and from the annoyances of snow or other foul weather in the winter season in that fellish part, they be often very sore troubled with carrying the dead corpses dying within the said Chapelry and the infants there born unto burial and christening to their said parish church of Graystock, sometimes the weather being so foul and stormy that they be driven to let their dead bodies remain unburied longer time than is convenient, or else to abide that annoyance and danger in carrying them to burial as is not reasonable… ’

We don’t know the names of the very first Matterdale parish clerks who the people of the valley had promised to pay. One of the incumbents in the first half of the seventeenth century was an ‘old John Griesdall of Hollas, clerk’ who died in 1682. Two of this John’s nephews also became curates: John in Troutbeck in Westmorland (see here) and Thomas in Matterdale itself.

As the Rev J. Whiteside wrote in ‘Matterdale Church and School’ in 1900, which is the main source for this article: ‘One of the incumbents in the year 1703 had to make his humble apology to the rector of Greystoke.’ In the Greystoke register we find this entry:

1703 Memorand:— May 22nd Anno Dicto, came Mr. Thomas Grisedall Curate of Matterdale upon the account of publishing ye Bands of Marriage between Isaac Brownrigge and Bridgett Sutton both of Matterdale in the Chappell of Matterdale aforesayd and thereupon marrying them ye sayd Isaac and Bridget at ye sayd Chappell for which irregularity the sayd Mr. Grisedall both made his submission and gave his promise under his hand never to doe ye like againe.

Teste Thomas Grisedal. Matt: Soulby, John Hodgson.

Whiteside rightly asks: ‘Wherein did the irregularity consist?’ To which he answers:

Bishop Best about 1570… had granted a petition of the inhabitants  to cause their marriages from time to time hereafter to be celebrated within the same Chapel ” of Matterdale. It may be that, though the bishop gave permission, it had not been acted on, and the legality of Mr. Grisedal’s action had escaped notice. The registers show that Matt : Soulby was the curate, and John Hodgson the parish clerk of Greystoke.

This seems a very strange answer to me as the curates of Matterdale had been performing marriages in Matterdale church for over a hundred years.

In any case Thomas Grisdale, who had first been made a priest in 1666, remained curate of Matterdale until 1718 when he died. He had married widow Elizabeth Grisdale (nee Noble) in Greystoke Church in 1675; this Elizabeth is my own 6th great grandmother.

Rose Castle, the residence of the Bishops of Carlisle

Rose Castle, the residence of the Bishops’s of Carlisle

 

 

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