button to main menu  Gents Mag 1754 p.230

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Gentleman's Magazine 1754 p.230

  Kirkby Stephen
Kirkby Stephen

AS I continued some days at Kirkby Stephen, in Westmoreland, I made some occasional observations, which, if you think proper, you may communicate to the publick, Yours, &c. S.
THE etymon of the name is easily traced, as bye is the old Saxon word for a village, so that Kirkby is church town; and Kirkby-Kendal, and Kirkby-Stephen, signify the church towns of Kendal and Stephen.
The village is situated on the west bank of the river Eden, which takes its rise from Hughstat mountain, about six miles higher up, on the skirts of Yorkshire, near the sources of the Swale and the Rother. This mountain is falsely called Hutton Morvel in most maps, and indeed, none of these desolate places have been laid down with any tolerable degree of exactness.
The whole village consists of one single street, indifferently built, which lies nearly north and south, opening on Helbec mountain at one extremity, and Wildbore at the other. There was once a fine market place, 70 yards wide, and near 100 long, but by some strange inattention to publick utility, houses have been suffered to be built on it, and others afterwards to be built before them. The market is on Monday, and as the stocking manufacture supplies the principal trade, this traffic is the first at the market; it generally begins about six and is over by eight in the morning. Tho' the situation of Kirkby-Stephen is under bleak and barren mountains, yet the communication with several of their own dales, and with Yorkshire, along the river heads, affords a pretty considerable market; an advantage which Brough, near Stainmore, has lost for want of such connection.
Three fairs are also held at this place, one on the first Thursday after Whitsontide, chiefly to supply new married persons with household goods and furniture; another on the 18th of Oct. for cattle; and the third, which is much superior to the other two, on the Monday preceding Fastens Even, (or Shrove Tuesday), called every where in the north Callop Monday, from an immemorial custom there, of dining that day on eggs and collops.
The town has no magistrate but a petty constable; the people in general are hospitable, their manners are plain and open, their constitution vigorous, and their apprehension quick.
As to the number of inhabitants, I am of opinion that the number of the licens'd publick houses will give a tolerable estimate, if the proportion allowed be as one to ten; thus Kirkby-Stephen has 20, Appleby 29, Penrith 52, Carlisle near 70, Wigton 23. It will perhaps be necessary to alter this proportion with respect to towns that abound with manufactures; but as these are easily distinguished, and the licensed houses all over the kingdom are necessarily known, estimates may be made without expence, and by a method which, as I remember, has not been thought of before.
The river Eden, which below Carlisle becomes the Pontem indignatus Araxes of Virgil, admits here of all varieties of bridges, even of stepping stones; and as the whole town, or rather whole county, is one bed of limestone, we may observe most amazing varieties in the cradle of the river, wrought by time and the constant force of a rapid current.
The church of Kirkby-Stephen is low, and the porch looks like a hole into a hermit's cell; the steeple is square, about 18 yards high, and has four bells of a considerable size, but not well proportioned to each other; the oldest bears date 1631, and the newest, which is also much the largest, 1749; the carpenter that new fram'd them when this was put up, having made his bargain for the old frame, it happened that as he was throwing down the last piece, a nail which he had not perceived caught hold of his cloaths, and the piece of timber being heavy, drew him after it, from a window being 15 yards high, and dash'd his brains out against some of the pieces he had thrown out before; an accident which was the more regretted as it happened on a Saturday night, when the man had just compleated his job, and was in haste to return with the money to his wife and family at Appleby.
The steeple is built on limestone rock, and there is a new geometrical stair case turned round a cylindrical column, which leads into a decent gallery at the west end of the church, of good workmanship.
In the east end near the chancel adjoining to the south wall, is the burying place of the Musgrave family; the inscription runs round the stone.
Near the middle, betwixt this and the cemetery for the Wharton family, is the effigy in stone of the famous Andrew Herclay, earl of Carlisle, who was
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gazetteer links
button -- Eden, River
button -- "Hughstat" -- Hugh Seat
button -- Kirkby Stephen
button -- (ring of bells, Kirkby Stephen)
button -- St Stephen's Church (?)

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