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Historical Notes

 

Beckermet is an ancient settlement, about a mile from the Irish Sea near Braystones, where remains of a Neolithic lake settlement were discovered, and sits in an undulating landscape formed by glacial moraines with hillocks affording views of the Isle of Man, Black Combe and the fells around the Scafell range. The division of the village of Beckermet into St Bridget’s and St John’s goes back to pre Norman times when twin religious foundations were established. Stone cross shafts, one of which may relate to Tuda, Bishop of Northumbria, referred to by the Venerable Bede, survive at St Bridget’s church. Historically Beckermet has two parishes, but also includes a small part of the parish of Haile, coming to a sharp point in the field named Tail End in the middle of the village where two becks meet. The Black Beck merges with the Ker Beck, or Red Beck, so named because when in spate it was coloured by the iron ore workings upstream.

 

The name of the village may derive from the meeting of these becks, but it has also been suggested that the name derives from hermits associated with the foundation of St John’s. The distinctive pronunciation of the village name suggests a Beck Hermit, but Bec may refer to Beech trees.

Beckermet was essentially a group of farms, with dates from the eighteenth century still visible on a number of houses and barns, but with the opening of the Whitehaven and Furness Railway, with a station at Braystones, in 1850 the village became much more accessible. Beckermet had its own railway station from 1869 on the Cleator and Furness line, providing access to Egremont, but was primarily for freight, and like many of the local railway lines was built for moving locally mined coal and iron ore.

A number of families bought land and built large houses here in the parish of St John’s, bringing a degree of gentrification. The first of these houses, Barwickstead, was built from 1858 for a Whitehaven surgeon William Barwick Clarke, who claimed descent from the brothers Barwick - Peter, surgeon to King Charles II and John, Dean of St Paul’s London, who built the church of St Paul at Witherslack. Bankfield was built for William Atkinson in the 1880s; Kerbank for the Misses Chester who owned the water mill in the village; and houses were built for two brothers of the Robley family who inherited money in 1875 from their uncle, John Robley, who had made a fortune in cotton in Manchester. In 1884 his nephew, also named John Robley (1828-1891) built Yourity (renamed Mayfield), on Morass Road and in 1900 his brother Thomas Robley (1833-1902) built Ingleberg on the Braystones Road.

Some notable trees

The surviving trees planted around these new houses in the nineteenth century still add distinc­tion to the village, beech trees and mature flat topped Austrian pines being conspicuous survivors. The horse chestnuts, notably the large specimen at Croft Lodge in the centre of the village, and those at Ingleberg have had to be felled because they were diseased and the tall elm that used to grow near to the south corner of the house at Ingleberg, together with those that used to grow by the Black Beck, opposite the terrace of Brookside, died decades ago.

Oak seems not to have been a favoured tree amongst the new house builders. One planted to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 died shortly afterwards but its replacement is still thriving near the bus shelter on the village green. , and there is a mature specimen at Ingleberg, next to a barn that was built in 1817.  Oak is also conspicuous in the hanging wood above the Red Beck. Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) was planted at Barwickstead and still flourishes, but this makes minimal impact on the village as it is hidden behind the house, and it seems not to have been planted elsewhere. Mention should also be made of the magnificent Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) that once towered over the White Mare and can be seen in many old photographs, sadly this too had to be felled.

BALM has been inspired at least in some part to continue the planting tradition and to renew these losses.

ABOUT BECKERMET

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