St Kentigern's Church
Aspatria is a village in Cumberland resting on the north side of the Ellen Valley, overlooking a broad and beautiful view of the fells and dales, with Skiddaw to the south and the Solway Firth to the north.
The village stretches in an east west direction on the main A596 Carlisle to Workington road and extends approximately two miles in length. It lies about eight miles to the north-east of Maryport, a similar distance to the south-west of Wigton, about nine miles north of Cockermouth and five miles from the coast and Allonby. The parish is bounded on the north by the parishes of Bromfield and Westnewton; on the west by Gilcrux and Crosscannonby; on the south by Plumbland and Torpenhow; and on the east by Bromfield and Allhallows. It comprises the townships of Aspatria and Brayton, Hayton and Mealo, and Oughterside and Allerby.
In earlier days a Roman road leading from "Old Carlisle" to Ellenborough passed through the hamlet.
The population has largely increased since the mid nineteenth century. In 1801, the village comprised 98 dwellings with a population of 321. By 1851, there were 236 family entities, comprising 1,123 residents; by 1871, the numbers had increased to 1,778; and twenty years later stood at 2,714. By the start of the 20th century, the population had risen to 2,885; twenty years later it peaked at 3,521. Although the population slumped in the 1930s to 3,189, it recovered to 3,500, in 1951; and by 1981, the population appeared stable at 2,745.
It is served by Aspatria railway station. Aspatria is located on the fringe of the Lake District.
The parish church of St Kentigern was completed in 1848. Fragments of masonry and crosses from earlier structures on the same site are preserved there.
The name of Aspatria is pronounced locally as Spatra or Speatrie.
The original of the name is not known. One suggestion has it that "Aspatria" is from the Old Norse for "Ash-tree of St Patrick", from Askr and Patrick, though the order of the elements of the name is not Norse and if it is Patrick's something, that word order is more Celtic than Norse, perhaps of the Old Welsh tongue once spoken in these hills. Another suggestion is that it is from the name Gospatrick, a name found amongst the High Reeves and Earls of Northumbria, or in particular the late eleventh century Gospatrick Earl of Dunbar whose family held the manor at that time.
The first entry in the parish register referring to the town as Aspatria in preference to the name Aspatrick or Aspatricke appears in 1712. It appears in the handwriting of the then vicar David Bell. For the next fifty years the spelling fluctuated until eventually Aspatria became the dominant name.
When Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins passed through the town in 1857 they referred to the name Spatter which is not to dissimilar to 'Speatrie' the name locals prefer.
Speatrie Loup Oot
This leads us on to the familiar expression 'Speatrie Loup Oot', which had its genesis in the cry of William Brough, a railway porter, discharging third class passengers after their arrival at Aspatria from the Bolton Loop railway connection. Second class passengers would detect, "Speatrie change ere for Measyat"; while first class passengers heard a polite invitation, "Aspatriah, change heah for Mealsgate."
Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century Sir Wilfrid Lawson, 2nd Baronet, of Brayton made many political and non-political speeches in the neighbourhood, and occasionally made reference to the above phrase. At the opening of the West Cumberland Dairy, in Jan 1889, he made the following reference.
"In olden days Aspatria used to be a railway terminus, and some of us are old enough to remember that when the train pulled up from Maryport, the porter used to come to the door and shout Speytrie, un' git oot."
'Old Bill', as he was affectionately known, was born at Aspatria in 1817. A former agricultural worker, he became a railway employee with the Maryport & Carlisle Railway Company in about 1850. His antics were first brought to the attention of a wider public in October 1863, when he became the subject of a comical sketch at a local concert. During the Music Hall rendition, the Brothers Bouch presented a self-penned song entitled, 'Bill, the Railway Porter'. A performance often repeated by popular demand at the season of 'Penny Readings' performed throughout the 1860s. Unfortunately the lyrics no longer exist, only the joke remains as a curt reminder.
The Rev. William Slater Calverley, vicar of St. Kentigerns (1888–97), referred to the phenomena in his seminal study, 'Early Sculptured, Crosses, Shrines and Monuments', with the following paragraph;
Aspatrick" which is another name for "St Patrick," and which people pronounce "S'Patrick"; as witness what many folks remember, when the Maryport & Carlisle Railway terminated at Aspatria, and the porter now deceased used quite politely to show out the first-class passengers; but, coming to the third class carriages, threw open the doors and shouted "S'Patrick, get out!"
George Macdonald Fraser served in the The Border Regiment in Burma and in his memoir of the campaign Quartered Safe Out Here he talks of the aircraft dropping supplies by parachute over the jungle, the Sikh loaders shoving them out skilfully but it was known that some, mesmerised, fell to their deaths. He recalls a solidier looking up and saying "Dinna do it Singh lad; s'no Spatra, dinna loup oot!" Macdonald Fraser records that the phrase on the railway referred to the villager's usual footwear; ""Aw yem wi' clogs on loup oot".
Aspatria is an ancient settlement and seems to have been home to a group of Norsemen, perhaps among those who fled to the area from Ireland around at the brief fall of Dublin around 900. In 1789 a surgeon by the name of a Mr Rigg employed a group of labourers to level a mound called Beacon Hill, situated close behind his house at Aspatria. After reaching a depth of about six feet they dug into a cavity walled around with large stones and found the skeleton of a Norse chief almost complete over six feet long. At the head of the gigantic skeleton lay a sword, with a remarkably broad blade, almost six feet long, ornamented with a gold and silver handle. The scabbard of the sword was made of wood, lined with cloth. The workmen also unearthed several pieces of armour, a dirk with a silver studded handle, a golden buckled belt, and a breast plate. The artefacts remain the property of the British Museum. Further finds were made on the same site in 1997 when a mobile phone mast was being constructed.
The manor of Aspatria is part of the ancient barony of Allerdale below Derwent. Awarded by Ranulph de Meschines, grantee of the whole of Cumberland from William the Conqueror, to Waltheof, son of Gospatrick, Earl of Dunbar, from whom the obsolete name of Aspatrick, may have been derived. Upon the division of the estates of William Fitz Duncan, and his wife Alice de Romney, among their three daughters, the manor passed to Alice the youngest. However Alice died without issue and the estates passed to an elder sister who had married into the Lucy family. The latter family terminated in a female heir Maud de Lucy. She married Henry Percy, the first Earl of Northumberland, who received the whole of her estates. It remained in this family through eleven generations before passing by the marriage of Lady Elizabeth, sole daughter and heiress of Josceline Percy to Charles Seymour, sixth Earl of Somerset. In recent times it again passed by a female heir to the Wyndham family, from whom it has descended to Lord Leconfield and now Lord Egremont.
The village stands at the northern end of the West Cumberland Coalfield and there have been mines in the area since the 16th century. The opening of the Maryport and Carlisle Railway, in 1842, led to a rapid expansion of the industry. The Brayton Domain Collieries sank five different pits around the town at various times and there were also mines near Mealsgate, Baggrow and Fletchertown. In 1902, a new mine was sunk at Oughterside. The last pit in the town, Brayton Domain No.5, closed in 1940.
In 1870, one of England's first farmers' co-operatives, the Aspatria Agricultural Cooperative Society was established here with offices in the market square, facing the Aspatria Agricultural College which flourished from 1874 until 1925.
Sir Wilfrid Lawson MP (1829–1906) lived at Brayton Hall just outside the town. He was a committed nonconformist and a leader of the Temperance Movement. His memorial stands in the market square, topped by a bronze effigy of St George slaying the dragon – the dragon said to represent the demon drink. Brayton Hall was destroyed by fire in 1918.
Next to the railway station is a small industrial area where mattress manufacturer Sealy have maintained their British head office since 1974. There is also the First Milk creamery, a farmers' co-operative which produces Lake District Cheese, now the third best-selling Cheddar Brand in the UK. 60 tonnes of cheese are produced daily, using 800,000 litres of milk. The business of the Aspatria Farmers, formerly the Aspatria Agricultural Cooperative Society is also close by.
- Rugby Union: Aspatria RUFC
- Durham Mining Museum Index of Mines
- Brayton Domain - pictures of Aspatria mines
- Vikings on the Solway Plain - pictures of local 'finds'
- Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names, A D Mills, p. 16, 1998
- Carlisle Herald and Examiner, 5 Feb, 1887
- Collins and Dickens (2011) chapter 3
- West Cumberland Times 5 October 1895
- P Abramson: A re-examination of a Viking Age burial at Beacon Hill, Aspatria, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Transactions 2000, p79-88;
- Holme St Cuthbert History Group: Plain People, 2004
- Bulmers History and Directory of Cumberland, 1901
- Durham Mining Museum Index of Mines
- J Rose & M Dunglinson: Aspatria, a Cumbrian Town (Phillimore, 1987)
- Wigton Advertiser, Sept. 28 1918
- Cumberland News, August 12, 2011
- Rev. William Slater Calverley; W. G. Collingwood M.A. (1899). Early Sculptured Crosses, Shrines and Monuments in the Present Diocese of Carlisle. Kendal: Titus Wilson.
- A. D. Mills (1998). Oxford Dictionary of Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford.
- Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens (2011). The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices. London: Hesperus Press Ltd.
- T. Bulmer (1901). History and Directory of Cumberlans. Preston: T. Bulmer & Co. Hesperus Press Ltd.