Joseph Grisdale of Wythburn

Posted: July 20, 2014 in Family History, Lake District
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‘Wythburn’s modest house of prayer, / as lowly as the lowliest dwelling.’ – William Wordsworth in The Waggoner

Most of the farm and buildings in Wythburn were flooded in the late nineteenth century when Thirlmere reservoir was created to supply water for Manchester, only the chapel and one farm remain, the rest is under water or has been demolished.  In 1768 a young Joseph Grisdale was already a ‘husbandsman’ there. This Joseph farmed at Wythburn for at least the next twenty years and had six children there with his first wife Sarah Graves, who he married in Crosthwaite (Keswick) church in 1773. The second of these children was the Joseph Grisdale (born 1778) who would go on to farm at Orrest Head near Windermere (see here).

Wythburn Valley by Joe Hush

Wythburn Valley by Joe Hush

In 1894 when the work on the reservoir was just finished, the famous Canon Rawnsley wrote about Wythburn church’s bell:

Thirlmere

Thirlmere

We have come “over t’ Raaise Gap” now (Dunmail Raise). We are in Manchester at the Lakes. … That brand-new bell and its brand-new belfry of the little Wythburn Church is a bit of Manchester work … For how many years the little bell had hung in its simple cobble-stone rough-cast belfry at Wythburn Chapel one cannot say.

In a moment, at the bidding of new lords of the soil, the rough old things are demolished; replaced by something spick, span, and new. One almost wishes the good fairies would take away in the night the well-dressed stones and build up again that queer old cobble belfry; one would forgive the parish clerk, if next Sunday he should be found as his fore-elder in the office at Wythburn was once found, “astride of the roof-ridge waiting to give the ‘third ring’ to call the worshippers to prayer.” On asking that clerk of olden time why he was perched roof-high, his answer to the Wythburn priest was, “O Sir, Jemmy Hawkrigg brak yan o’ his car reapps tudder day i’ t’ hayfield, and they gat t’ bell reapp an’s forgitten to bring ‘t back ageaan, seah I’ve been fworst to git up on t’ riggin and ring wi’ my hands, and I thowt it was neah use comin’ doun ageaan between time and I’se stoppan to give t’ third round and than I’se be wi’ ye.”

Also threatened by the dam was ‘The Rock of Names’, on which Wordsworth had written:

O thought of pain / That would impair it or profane! / And fail not thou loved Rock! to keep / Thy charge when we are laid asleep.

The rock was on the right hand side of the old road, now submerged, and on it were carved the initials:

W.W. (William Wordsworth).

M.H. (Mary Hutchinson).

D.W. (Dorothy Wordsworth).

S.T.C. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

J.W. (John Wordsworth).

S.H. (Sarah Hutchinson).

‘As the rock could not be saved from submergence, various applications were made to the Corporation of Manchester for leave to remove it, and ultimately it was agreed to allow it to be taken to the Wordsworth Institute, Cockermouth. In attempting to do this, however, it went to pieces – it was blown up by the workmen making the dam. The fragments containing the initials were preserved, and have been built into a cairn on the solid base of the mountain, at a point above the new road diversion, in a line with the rock from which they were taken. This was done by persons in the neighbourhood.’ So wrote Philip Wilson in the 1890s. Later, in the 1980s, they were removed to the Wordsworth Museum at Dove cottage in Grasmere.

The Rock of Names

The Rock of Names

Wythburn church

Wythburn church

Joseph Grisdale the eighteenth-century Wythburn farmer was the son of a Matterdale-born ‘Waller’ also called Joseph who was born in Dowthwaite Head, Matterdale in 1704. As a Waller he moved around a lot. He married twice and lived in Martindale and then in Dacre. Our Wythburn Joseph was born around 1748 or slightly earlier, and was most likely the son of ‘Waller’ Joseph Grisdale and his second wife Mary Sisson, who were married in Barton church in Westmorland (on the east side of Ullswater) in 1738. When his father Joseph died in Bald End How in Matterdale (to where he had returned in old age) in 1768, his Letters of Administration mention his son Joseph a ‘husbandsman in Wythburn’.

When Joseph’s mother Mary (nee Sisson) died aged seventy-seven in 1781 in Matterdale, she refers to a number of children in her Will, namely, Joseph, John, Jane, Ann, Mary, Martha and Sally. She also refers to her ‘step-daughter’ Betty Otley, who was born to Joseph Grisdale, the Waller, and his first wife Agnes Lancaster in Martindale in 1737.

Dacre on Ullswater where many of Joseph the Waller's children were boirn

Dacre on Ullswater where many of Joseph the Waller’s children were boirn

Joseph and Sarah had six children, all baptized in Wythburn Chapel. When Sarah died in 1788 aged forty, Joseph married Betty Gately the next year in Crosthwaite parish church.

It’s most likely that Joseph then took his family to farm in Langdale because we find several mentions of a Joseph Grisdale farming there in 1798.

wyhtburn wiborn 1760

Wythburn (Wiborn) in 1760

wythburn 1800

‘Withburn’ in 1800

 

wythburn sheepfold

Wythburn sheepfold

 

one wythburn farm

One unsubmerged Wythburn farm

 

 

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