Week In Focus #45

This is #45 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week’s photo is of Carlisle Castle.

Carlisle Castle is situated in Carlisle, in the English county of Cumbria, near the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall. The castle is over 900 years old and has been the scene of many historical episodes in British history. Given the proximity of Carlisle to the border between England and Scotland, it has been the centre of many wars and invasions. Today the castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public. The castle until recently was the administrative headquarters of the former King’s Own Royal Border Regiment now county headquarters to the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and a museum to the regiment is within the castle walls.

  • I do apologise for the delay in providing this week’s photo. I’ve been incredibly busy with a project that I’ve been working on. I’ll update you on that later on next week. It’s worth the wait!
Carlisle Castle
Looking out, from within
Big guns protected the castle from marauding Scots
Barracks of The Kings Own Border Regiment
Quivers required
Leading to the Battlements
Inner Gatehouse
Fabulous Portcullis

St. Bridget’s Chancel Arch

The parish church of Moresby, St Bridget’s, occupies a unique location, sited on a former Roman camp, known as Gabrosentum – there isn’t much of the camp that remains. The church dates from 1822, but there is evidence of a much earlier place of worship, as far back as the 13th century. An ancient chancel arch still stands in the churchyard as testament.

Gabrosentum occupied a classic fort site formed by a low promontory overlooking the sea to the west. Regiments from Thrace (modern Bulgaria) and northern France were stationed there. The ramparts are still visible in the field to the west of the church. This former fort and adjoining settlement was built during Emperor Hadrian’s reign and was in use until the late 4th century AD. Excavations have revealed official buildings including the commanding officers house, as well as numerous civilian buildings, a fort and a small natural harbour.

St. Bridget’s Church is in West Cumbria between the the villages of Parton and Lowca, just north of Whitehaven, off the A595. It is a dramatic location, overlooking the Solway Firth with stunning views of the Scottish coast and Isle of Man.

The chancel arch of an earlier church is in the churchyard of St Bridget’s Church, to the south of the church. It is in stone, and consists of a slightly pointed arch. On the south side is a brass plate recording burials, and tombstones are attached to the arch.

The chancel arch is a Grade II listed building.

St. Bridget's 13th Century Chancel Arch
St. Bridget’s 13th Century Chancel Arch

The Candlestick Chimney, Whitehaven

The Candlestick

The Candlestick Chimney, at Whitehaven in West Cumbria is a remaining ventilation shaft for the former Wellington Pit. The chimney was built in 1850 by Sydney Smirke. It is ornate and Gothic in style.

When Harrington No. 10 Pit closed in 1968 a programme of shaft and adit filling was implemented to prevent gas migrating through the interconnected No. 10, William and Wellington Pits and reaching Haig.

After Wellington and Haig were isolated from each other, No. 3 shaft was left open to allow gas to vent. The decision was made not to erect pipe above the shaft but to utilise the old boiler flue and chimney of the Candlestick by laying a pipe from beneath the shaft cap to the base of the chimney to vent gas this way. Wellington Pit was the site of Whitehaven’s largest mining disaster when 136 miners lost their lives in 1910.

Wednesday 11th May 1910, still represents the blackest day in the history of the coal mining industry of Whitehaven. One hundred and Forty Two men and boys descended the mine for that evening shift at Wellington Pit and only six came out again to tell their story. Rescuers battled through the night and well into the following day to try to get through to the trapped miners but eventually the regional mines inspector ordered them to pull out.

He felt it was unlikely that anyone would have survived the explosion and fire and, despite strong opposition from some of the miners involved in the rescue operation, he ordered that the area should be sealed off to starve the fire of oxygen. Several months later the mine was re-opened to allow for the gruesome task of recovering and identifying the badly decomposed bodies.

The Edward Medal is awarded to people who have shown exceptional bravery in industrial rescues. 64 were awarded after the Wellington Pit disaster which is the most ever awarded in a single incident.

The Candlestick Chimney, Whitehaven
The Candlestick Chimney, Whitehaven
King Pit, Whitehaven

King Pit, Whitehaven

A short walk along the cliff top from Haig Colliery in Whitehaven, West Cumbria, a small stone cairn marks the site of King Pit. The mine was sunk in 1750 by Sir Carlisle Spedding, which by 1793 reached a depth of 296 metres – then the deepest coal mine in the world.

An interesting feature of Whitehaven and surrounding areas is that there is a large expanse of grass land along the top of the cliffs, with the houses being set well back. The main reason for this is that at one time all the mines, railways and inclines were along the cliff tops, these have now gone to leave the open space.

King Pit appears to have remained an important winding pit until around 1800. It is labelled as “Kingpit Yard” on the 1st-3rd Ordnance Survey editions; on the 1st edition it still had waggonway access, implying industrial use.

The site is marked by a beehive shaft capping and plaque; given the extensive landscaping of this area after the closure of Haig Colliery, the survival of below-ground deposits is uncertain. The opening of a rock-cut adit also survives, just above high-tide level in the base of the cliff to the west; this was probably a ‘pumpway’, for discharging water pumped up the King Pit shaft.

King Pit, Whitehaven
King Pit, Whitehaven
Interior Of St Bees Priory

St Bees Priory

The Benedictine Priory of St Bees occupies a favourable position on the western coast of Cumbria. The Priory took its name from a previous religious establishment, of which nothing seems to have survived till the twelfth century except the tradition of its former existence.

St Bees Priory
St Bees Priory

The Priory was founded by the first Norman Lord of Egremont William Meschin, and was dedicated by Archbishop Thurstan of York, sometime between 1120 and 1135.

Interior Of St Bees Priory
Interior Of St Bees Priory

The magnificent Norman west doorway of the Priory dates from 1150-1160, and is the most richly decorated in the county, with three orders of columns, zig-zag and beak-head decoration. Opposite in the west courtyard is a fine romanesque lintel, which may have served an earlier church, dating from 1120.

St Bees Priory Doorway
St Bees Priory Doorway

The six nave arcades are Early English arches sitting on the original Norman pillars and the base of the tower is Norman but the arches are Early English. The east wall of the north transept has plain Norman windows above the chapel altar, and there is a fine Norman window on the north side of the present chancel, though with Victorian plate tracery.

9th Century Norman Cross
9th Century Norman Cross

The St Bega chapel in the north transept has two fine Norman windows above the altar. Flanking the altar are the two sculptures of St Bega and the Virgin Mary by Josefina de Vasconcellos which make up the “Vision of St Bega” (1950). In the 19th Century two large cinquefoils were inserted by Butterfield into the medieval east walls of the transepts. The side aisles are a Victorian restoration down to the string course.

A Stunning, Commemorative Golden Lectern
A Stunning, Commemorative Golden Lectern

At the east end, beyond the present chancel wall by Butterfield, is the monastic chancel of about 1190, still almost complete, with a fine range of lancet windows on the north side, and on the south an arcade of arches (now infilled and with modern windows) which would have led to the 14th Century chapel in the chancel aisle. The monastic chancel is currently separated from the body of the church by the altar wall, though there is a modern connecting doorway. It is currently used as a parish room. Beneath the elevated wooden floor of the present building is the original stone floor of the medieval church.

Resting Place Of Maria Claudine
Resting Place Of Maria Claudine – Age 5

Outside to the south of the chancel are the remains of the chapel built 1270-1300, which may have fallen due to structural problems before the Dissolution. In the ruined fragment of the south wall can be seen the top steps of the monk’s night stairs and a squint window, while to the east the north jamb is all that remains of what must have been a very impressive window.


The Priory was dissolved on 16 October 1539. The roof of the was removed at the Dissolution of Monasteries under the direction of King Henry VIII.

  • The Dissolution of the Monasteries, sometimes referred to as the Suppression of the Monasteries, was a set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland.

The 19th century was the great era of restoration, helped greatly by the presence of the Theological College and the increasing prosperity of the village of St Bees. The West door came into use, a new vicarage was built to the west, and the last of the monastic cloister was demolished.

The nave and transepts were re-roofed, and to accommodate a new organ in 1867 the west Gallery was taken down. The altar was moved from under the tower east into a new chancel which occupied one bay of the monastic choir. The tower was re-built in the Romanesque style to the design of William Butterfield when the eight bells were installed in 1858.

Henry Willis Organ, Constructed 1899
Henry Willis Organ, Constructed 1899

The north and south aisles were partly rebuilt and completely furnished with new stained glass. In 1899 the present magnificent “Father” Henry Willis organ was installed. The organ has over 2000 pipes and sounds wonderful. Thanks to Mr Ian McAndrew for a tour around the inner workings of the organ.

Inner Workings Of The Henry Willis Organ
Inner Workings Of The Henry Willis Organ

St Bega

St Bega was the daughter of an Irish king, who reigned as a Christian monarch. The princess fled across the sea to avoid an enforced marriage, and landed after a prosperous voyage ‘in a certain province of England called Coupland’.

Bega found the place covered with a thick forest, and admirably adapted for a solitary life. Wishing to dedicate her life to God, she built for herself a virgin cell in a grove near the seashore, where she remained for many years in strict seclusion and devout contemplation.

In the course of time the district began to be frequented by pirates. The good saint however dreaded not death, nor mutilation, nor the loss of temporal goods, of which she was destitute except her bracelet, but she feared the loss of her virginity, the most precious treasure with which heaven can endow her sex. By divine command Bega hastened her departure from the place, but she was induced to leave her bracelet behind her, that miracles in ages to come might be performed in that neighbourhood in testimony of her holy life.

St Bega Arriving At St Bees, Around 880 AD
St Bega Arriving At St Bees, Around 880 AD

The bracelet was said to have been given to St Bega by an angel in Ireland. It is described as “a bracelet having the sign of the holy cross clearly stamped on the top (in summitate) of it”. In 1315, when Lord James Douglas “came to the castle of Egremont in Coupland and there did many evil things with his men” the “ecclesiastical vestments of St Bega the virgin” were looted.

There can be little doubt that the influence of Bega was a power in the south-western portion of the county in the early years of the twelfth century. The district had borne her name, and a parish church was entitled in her honour. Legend has it that she then lived a life of piety at St Bees. The most likely period for her journey would have been sometime in the thirty years after 850, when the Vikings were settling Ireland.

  • The St Bees place-name is derived from “Kirkeby Becok” – the “Church town of Bega”.
Statue Of St Bega Praying To Mary
Statue Of St Bega Praying To Mary

The chief relic to which the monks of St. Bees paid veneration was the bracelet above mentioned, which St. Bega left behind her on her flight from Cumberland. In the legendary life of the saint several stories are told of the power of this talisman. One story claimed that when the holy bracelet was exhibited in public on account of its great sanctity, a certain individual sacrilegiously stole the precious cloth in which it had been wrapped and hid it in his boot. By the vengeance of St. Bega the leg of the thief became paralysed, and thus was his sin discovered. Having been carried to the priory church, he confessed his guilt, and his leg was restored to its original soundness by the goodness of the most merciful Virgin, who is wont to pity those who are truly penitent.

The Life manuscript contains accounts of nine miracles brought about by the influence of St Bega. They are earthy folk tales with miraculous interpretation:

  • The first concerns a raider from Galloway, who set out to steal a horse. His mother warned him against theft on the land of St Bega, but her son was scornful and moving his hands to the private parts of his buttocks he tauntingly said, “what can that little old woman do to me?” As he escaped on the horse, arrows were fired after him as he crouched low, and the inevitable happened.
  • The third concerns Godard of Millom, whose men would not remove their horses from the monks’ pasture to which they had strayed. When the men came to saddle the horses, they found the hooves almost severed, and in penance Godard gave the field to the Monks.
  • The seventh miracle tells of three men of Workington, who were imprisoned in Egremont Castle for killing a man in a drunken brawl, but having confessed their sins to St Bega, were rescued by her and found sanctuary at St Bees.
  • The ninth miracle tells of two sick brothers who, after seeing a vision at Tynmouth, travelled to St Bees in a cart, and were healed; leaving the cart as thanks.

Around 1400 it is recorded that St Bega’s day was celebrated ‘in albs’ (for a lesser saint) at the mother house of St Mary’s Abbey, York. A fifteenth-century Book of Hours in the Bodleian Library from St Mary’s records the day as 7 November. Since this discovery in the late 20th century, St Bega’s day has been celebrated in St Bees on this date.

St Bees Man

During an archaeological dig in 1981 in the area of the 14th Century ruined chapel at the east end of the Priory, a number of medieval burials were uncovered, and the remains of an earlier building on a different alignment to the Priory was found.

The most significant find was of a man aged 35–45 in a lead coffin in a stone vault (effigy), given the name St Bees Man, whose body was in a remarkable state of preservation. It has now been established that he was Anthony de Lucy, a Teutonic Knight, who died in 1368 in the Crusades in Prussia.

St Bees Man Effigy (Nearest)
St Bees Man Effigy (Nearest)

Anthony had suffered several traumatic injuries, both prior to and at the time of his demise. One of the latter injuries, a puncture to the right lung, is the likely cause of death. The extent of these injuries suggests that he had been a physically active man who participated in violence.


His remarkable preservation seems to have been the result of post-mortem preparation, including the use of a lead wrapping, a pine-pitch impregnated shroud, and the formation of adipocere. The use of a lead wrapping has analogues with late-medieval funerary practices for some individuals of high social standing. High status is also implicit in tooth extractions, dental treatment being a rarity in the medieval period.

Although the body was over six hundred years old, his nails, skin and stomach contents were found to be in near-perfect condition. After his death the vault he was discovered in, was enlarged to take the body of his sister, Maud de Lucy, who died in 1398. The probable effigies of both Maud and Anthony can be seen in the history display at the Priory.

The six hundred year old face of St Bees Man during autopsy:
Note the short-cropped beard, irises of the eyes and worn dentition.

St Bees Man. Photo: © Dr Ian McAndrew
St Bees Man. Photo: © Dr Ian McAndrew
Whitehaven Harbour

Whitehaven Harbour

The first mention of Whitehaven as a harbour comes from 1172, but the foundation for the first quay was laid in 1633 by Sir Christopher Lowther for construction of the Old Quay to export salt and coal.

The Bulwark Quay was completed in 1711 making Whitehaven the third largest trading port in England during the eighteenth century and the most important rum port in the UK. Construction of The West Pier Lighthouse, West Pier and North Pier surrounding the Outer harbour began in 1832 and finally the Queen’s Dock was built in 1876.

Over 1,000 ships are documented as being built in the port of Whitehaven. The most famous shipyard was that established by Daniel Brocklebank which eventually became part of the Cunard Line.

Since 1990, £20 million of grant funding has been invested in and around the harbour improving public access. The harbour no longer sees the amount of trade vessels it used to. However, the harbour still has an active fishing industry with vessels bringing in a large variety of fish including sole, skate and prawns.

The sea locks themselves not only let the inner harbour stay water-filled at all times, the massive gates also act as flood defences. For centuries, the town was flooded by fierce storms, but with the help of the Environment Agency, the sea lock now helps to keep the town dry.

Now, the tourist industry is of growing importance to town’s economy.

Whitehaven Harbour
Whitehaven Harbour
Crossfield Number 2

Capped Iron Ore Mine

Nestled among the trees, just off the Coast to Coast cycleway, at Cleator Moor in West Cumbria is a stone cairn. The cairn marks the spot where an old Iron-Ore mine has been capped. But, which one?

Crossfield #2

The Crossfield Iron Ore Company was formed around 1860 by Captain James Robertson Walker of Gilgarran, John Munro Mackenzie, of Tobermory, and hugh Munro Mackenzie, of Distington. The company sank a total of 17 pits at Crossfield.

At the mines of the Crossfield Iron Ore Company, the iron ore was found in the mountain limestone, in faults or dislocations, running north and south, almost in harmony with the geomagnetic North. The distribution of the ore deposits is very irregular, and their existence is only determined by borings, which had to be made almost at random.

The iron ore of Cumbria is exclusively of that kind which is known mineralogically as red hematite; it is chemically an anhydrous peroxide of iron (ferric oxide), containing about 70 per cent, of iron. The red hematites in the county are by far the richest raised in the United Kingdom.

The ores raised at Cleator Moor were rich in metallic iron and valuable for the manufacture of steel. They were described as:

Compact red hematite; easily scratched by a file; lustre, earthy; colour, purplish grey; streak, bright red; fracture, uneven; containing cavities lined with crystals of specular iron, and containing, in some cases, quartz.

Mr A. Dick

The ore was in great demand. Following extraction, it was exported around the United Kingdom on new railways. The ore contributed to the rapid growth of a number of towns in West Cumbria.

  • The railway came to Cleator Moor in the mid 1850’s, with the creation of the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway Company. With the creation of the company, the output and shipment of ore increased.

From one shaft at Cleator Moor
They mined for coal and iron ore.
This harvest below ground could show
Black and red currants on one tree.

In furnaces they burnt the coal,
The ore was smelted into steel,
And railway lines from end to end
Corseted the bulging land.

Pylons sprouted on the fells,
Stakes were driven in like nails,
And the ploughed fields of Devonshire
Were sliced with the steel of Cleator Moor.

The land waxed fat and greedy too,
It would not share the fruits it grew,
And coal and ore, as sloe and plum,
Lay black and red for jamming time.

The pylons rusted on the fells,
The gutters leaked beside the walls,
And women searched the ebb-tide tracks
For knobs of coal or broken sticks.

But now the pits are wick with men,
Digging like dogs dig for a bone:
For food and life we dig the earth –
In Cleator Moor they dig for death.

Every wagon of cold steel
Is fire to drive a turbine wheel;
Every knuckle of soft ore
A bullet in a soldier’s ear.

The miner at the rockface stands,
With his segged and bleeding hands
Heaps on his head the fiery coal,
And feels the iron in his soul.

Norman Nicholson
Crossfield Number 2
Crossfield Number 2

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement

Prehistoric Cumbria

West Cumbria is littered with prehistoric settlements, barrows, cairns, standing stones, circles and earthworks which are still much the same as they were thousands of years ago.

Around one mile from Monks Bridge is the Tongue How settlement – it is one of the best you will see in Cumbria, and perhaps all of England. Bronze Age activity accounts for the most extensive use of the area, and evidence for it includes some of the largest and best preserved field systems and cairn fields in England, as well as settlement sites, numerous burial monuments, stone circles and other ceremonial remains.

View via Google Earth
  • Because of their rarity in a national context, excellent state of preservation and inter-connections, these prehistoric monuments are identified as nationally important.

The settlement includes the earthworks and buried remains of four prehistoric stone hut circle settlements, associated field systems, funerary cairns, a cairn cemetery and an extensive cairnfield, a Romano-British farmstead, and a medieval shieling and associated lynchets.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
  • During the 1950s one of the funerary cairns was excavated, and was found to contain a stone cist and evidence of a cremation.

The funerary cairns have forms similar to excavated funerary cairns dated to the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age (about 3000-1500 BC) while the unenclosed hut circles are considered by comparison with dated examples from elsewhere in northern England to span a broad period from about 1750-450 BC.

Poppy Taking In The Views At A Tongue How Funerary Cairn
Poppy Taking In The Views At A Funerary Cairn

Two of the prehistoric stone hut circle settlements lie adjacent to each other; the western settlement exhibits a hut circle measuring approximately 13.5m in diameter with walls up to 0.35m high and an entrance on its eastern side. A substantial stone wall connects the hut circle to a sub-circular stock enclosure to the south east. This has an entrance on its northern side and contains a sunken interior within which are traces of a later three-sided drystone structure of uncertain function. To the north east of this enclosure, and joined by a stone wall, is a circular feature interpreted as a second hut circle. The eastern of these two adjacent stone hut circle settlements consists of a partly excavated and reconstructed hut circle measuring 9.5m in diameter with walls up to 0.75m high together with two associated stock enclosures; an oval one to the west of the hut circle and an irregularly-shaped one to the north.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement

On the hillslope to the south, west and east of these hut circle settlements lies an associated field system defined by a series of parallel stone banks. The fields are generally long and narrow and vary between 27m and 32m in width. The absence of stone clearance cairns in some of the fields and the presence of cairns in other fields suggests different agricultural practices were undertaken here.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement

The third prehistoric stone hut circle settlement lies approximately 400m WSW of the two adjacent hut circle settlements. It consists of a hut circle measuring approximately 9.5m in diameter with walls up to 0.5m high and an entrance on the western side. To the north lies an oval stock enclosure which is connected to the hut circle by a stone wall.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement

Approximately 350m east of the two adjacent stone hut circle settlements is a complex unenclosed stone hut circle settlement consisting of two hut circles and five artificially levelled terraces upon which huts are considered to have been constructed. Associated with this group of dwellings are the remains of at least five enclosures, some of which would have been used for stock control whilst others display evidence of soil slippage, suggesting they were used for cultivation.

The prehistoric remains on Tongue How reflect either sporadic or transient occupation over a long period. The funerary cairns have forms similar to excavated funerary cairns dated to the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age (about 3000-1500 BC) while the unenclosed hut circles are considered by comparison with dated examples from elsewhere in northern England to span a broad period from about 1750-450 BC. Sporadic occupation at Tongue How is then attested by the Romano-British farmstead and the medieval shieling and its associated lynchets.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Monks Bridge

Monks Bridge

Monks Bridge, in West Cumbria, is the oldest packhorse bridge in the county. The bridge crosses Friar Gill – a narrow chasm etched into the landscape by the flowing waters of the River Calder. The water is also very cold, as my feet can testify. Brr!

  • The river, old as time itself, flows through a timeline from prehistoric settlements on the high fell through the old abbey and then on to a modern day nuclear plant and into the sea.

The bridge is said to be medieval and associated with Calder Abbey, but probably rebuilt C17 or C18. The bridge is constructed from sandstone blocks, with thick sandstone slabs forming a pathway. The pointed arch spans 18 ft, and is 3 ft. wide. Monk’s Bridge is a Grade II Listed Building.

Stone began to be used instead of timber in the 12th century and became increasingly common in the 14th and 15th centuries. Many medieval bridges were repaired, modified or extensively rebuilt in the post- medieval period. During the medieval period the construction and maintenance of bridges was frequently carried out by large estates and the Church, especially monastic institutions which developed long distance packhorse routes between their landholdings.

Monks Bridge is a narrow and beautifully formed stone arch bridge. It has no parapet, handrail or side stones so there would be no obstructions for a horse or pony crossing the bridge with wool, farm produce, or even mead.

Some stone built medieval bridges still survive. These can be classified into three main types based on the profile of the arch which is typically pointed, semi-circular or flattened. A common medieval feature is the presence of stone ashlar ribs underneath the arch. The bridge abutments and revetting of the river banks also form part of the bridge. Where medieval bridges have been altered in later centuries, original features are sometimes concealed behind later stonework, including remains of earlier timber bridges.

Bridges were common and important features of medieval towns and the countryside and allowed easy access along a well developed road and trackway system. However, only around 16 largely unaltered medieval single span bridges have so far been recognised to survive in England. All these are considered to be of national importance.

Monks Bridge & Wet Feet For This Shot
Monks Bridge
Monks Bridge