Old times at the Guesthouse

The Old Language (Cumbrian Dialect)    

Farming in the Olden Days   (under construction)

Geological Times in the Lake District    The Ice Age.   (not yet written:   The Holocene)

The Distant Past
From before the twelfth century, and probably from before the Norman Conquest, the land which Low Nest Farm now occupies was part of the Manor of Derwentwater and Castlerigg and belonged to the de Derwentwater family.

"A portion of the parish of Crosthwaite and the land above Keswick were out of the bound of Allerdale barony. Before the Norman conquest there ruled here a very ancient family, descended from Danish or Saxon ancestry. What was their patronymic does not appear, but they were allowed by the Normans to retain their domain in peace, and they adopted, from the place, the name de Derwentwater. This family subsequently acquired possessions in Westmoreland and elsewhere, and in the time of the Plantagenet kings took a leading part in the affairs of the shire." ref 1

Little is known of the de Derwentwaters. Effigies of some of them may be seen in Crosthwaite church. Although they had extensive estates elsewhere their principal residence was a castle or fortified manor house on Castlerigg, overlooking Derwentwater. This Castle is supposed to have been abandoned about 1470 and fell into ruins. An archaeological search in 2008 for the remains of the castle failed to find it but found instead the foundations of a large Roman fort.
Possible locations of the  Derwentwater Castle.

de Derwentwater effigies in Crosthwaite church

The More Recent  Past.

The de Derwentwater dynasty ended for want of a male heir and  in 1417 the estates passed to the Radclyffe family when Elizabeth, heiress of John de Derwentwater  married Sir Nicholas Radclyffe, Sheriff of Cumberland. The Radclyffe's were an equally ancient and noble family  originating from Radclyffe Tower in Lancshire before the twelfth century.  The Radclyffes took over as Lords of the Manor and retained the name Derwentwater.

The Derwentwater estates later expanded, with the marriage in about 1485 of Sir Edward Radclyffe, grandson of Sir Nicholas Radclyffe of Derwentwater, to Anne Cartington, heiress to the Cartington and Claxton estates in Northumberland  including  Cartington Castle and Dilston Hall. Dilston Hall became the seat of the Northumberland branch of the Radclyffes of Derwentwater in the mid 1500's.. The Derwentwater branch of the family built a new residence on Lords island in Derwentwater. Notable Derwentwater Radcliffes include Sir Richard Radcliffe  who was knighted by Edward IV on the battlefield at Tewkesbury in 1471, became a trusted advisor to Richard III, was slain with him at Bosworth Field and was attainted by Henry VII.
In 1688, six generations on from Sir Nicholas,  Sir Francis Radclyffe was created Viscount Radclyffe and Earl of Derwentwater by James II.

Sir Francis' grandson James Radclyffe, The third Earl of Derwentwater (1689-1716) was imprudent enough to take part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 and lost his head on Tower Hill. His estates (including Dilston Hall and the Manor of Castlerigg and Derwentwater) were attainted by the crown and subsequently given to Greenwich Hospital. Lord Derwentwater was held in high regard by his tenantry and is remembered in folklore. In 1832 Greenwich Hospital sold the Manor of Derwentwater to John Marshall Esq. of Leeds.

Stained Glass window in Crosthwaite Church representing the coat of arms of Dame Alice Ratcliffe of Derwentwater.

The quadrants of the coat of arms are :-
      Top left:             The arms of the Radclyffes:                "Argent, a bend engrailed sable"
      Bottom right      The arms of the de Derwentwaters:    "Argent, 2 bars gules, on a canton of the 2nd a cinquefoil of the 1st Ref 5"
      Quadrants 2&3  The arms of de Someri of Dudley       "Or, two lions passant in pale azure"  

("1st" and  "2nd" refer to the first mentioned and second mentioned colours.  Magna Britannia Ref 4 mistakenly states the cinquefoil is "or" but the stained glass clearly shows it is argent.)
( 'In pale' specifies that the lions are aligned in the direction of a 'pale', that is, vertically)
The de Someri arms come from Alice de Someri of Dudley Castle, Warwickshire, who married Sir John Ratcliffe about 1500.
It may be supposed that Dame Alice commissioned the stained glass window after Sir John's death in 1527
.Ref. 5.

      Glossary of heraldic terms

Footnotes and References

A bill or writ of attainder is an act of legislation which allows parliament or a monarch to declare a person guilty of some crime and have him executed Note 1  without the inconvenience of a trial. The property and estates and titles of a person who pleads guilty, or is found guilty of the said crime reverts to his Lord, or if he is himself a Lord, to the monarch. On the other hand, in the case of a person who dies beforehand (excluding suicide which is, de facto, a crime) or who elects not to plead and instead to suffer the horrific penalty of  peine forte et dure, their property and titles are not forfeit.

Attainders were nearly always subsequently reversed by the children of the victim petitioning Parliament  to have their land and titles restored. For example the attainder of Sir Richard Radcliffe by Henry VII was reversed in 1495 at the request of his son Richard. (This attainder was because these were the internecine Wars of the Roses and Henry VII opposed and defeated the Yorkist Richard III.)

The attainder of James Radcliffe, the third Earl of Derwentwater was unusual in that it was never reversed. There were religious and political reasons for this.  The Northern aristocracy, including Lord Derwentwater, were mainly Catholic and favoured the Catholic Stuart dynasty of Scotland  as the rightful heirs to the British throne over the imported, protestant, Hanoverian  George I and George II - hence their involvement in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 and the later rebellion in 1745. The Derwentwater estates which included parts of Westmorland and Durham and vast tracts of Northumberland was the second largest and richest in the country (after the estates of the Duke of Ormonde) and provided the finances and, equally importantly, the manpower (their loyal tenantry) to mount an insurrection. The Whig government  found the writ of attainder a very efficient  instrument for impoverishing and neutralising the power of these troublesome northern Lords. The Whigs passed an act of parliament specifically for the purpose of debarring Lord Derwentwater's nephews  from inheriting. When Lord Derwenwater's son died in a riding accident in 1731 the way was clear to settle the Derwentwater estates on Greenwich Hospital. (Lord Derwentwater's younger brother Charles was captured with him after the battle of Preston and also attainted. However he escaped from Newgate prison and went to join the Stuarts in France He was eventually captured in November 1745 on a French warship, off Dogger Bank, bound for Montrose with supplies of arms to take part in the 1745 uprising. He was executed for his original offence of taking part in the 1715 rebellion) ref 2

Greenwich Hospital


Greenwich Hospital was a hospital and charity for old sailors of the Royal Navy established by William III to satisfy, posthumously, the wishes of his wife Queen Mary II. The charter for the hospital was back-dated to 25 October 1694 so that it could be in the joint names of William and Mary. Mary died 28 December 1694 of smallpox at the age of 32.

The equivalent charity for old soldiers, The Chelsea Hospital, (remember the Chelsea Pensioners on armistice day?) was established by a warrant of Charles II dated 22 December 1681. The Greenwich pensioners wore blue uniforms similar in style to the red uniforms of the Chelsea Pensioners

Some old maps such as James Clarke's map of 'The Roads, Lakes etc. Between Ambleside and Keswick" published in 1787 label the land to the south of the road into Keswick as 'Greenwich Hospital'. This same map shows Low Nest as 'Pyat Nest' and identifies the occupier as "Mr Scot".
Jollies Cumberland Guide and Directory 1811 records as one of the principal residents of Keswick "Scott John, Steward for Greenwich Hospital, Piet Nest."

Note 1
  The justice system in medieval times had an admirable simplicity - essentially it was the ten commandments with a few minor additions such as treason. Everyone knew and concurred with the ten commandments - and the penalty for any transgression was death. ref 3 by public execution.
This system had its merits in terms of transparency, deterrence and zero reoffending.
In later centuries the penalty for very minor misdemeanours was commuted to transportation to the colonies, flogging or even the soft option of imprisonment, however the prisoners had to pay for their board and lodging.

.Ref. 1 Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society
          Part 1., Vol XII, Art. XIV.—Some Manorial Halls in the Vale of Derwent. By Michael W. Taylor, M.D., F.S.A.
                        (Warning this is a large document  17MB)

Ref 2.  Dictionary of National Biography. ed. Sidney Lee

Ref 3A Review of the History of Forfeiture in England and Colonial America By Cecil Greek

Ref 4   Magna Britannia: volume 4 ,Daniel and Samuel Lysons, 1816    (Gentry:  Families extinct before 1500)

Ref 5   The History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, volume 2  by Joseph Nicholson Esq; and Richard Burn, LL.D.  Printed forW.Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the strand.   1777.

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