Discover the history of the hall
Irton Hall and its surroundings tell a fascinating story, and historical documents available to view at the Hall tell the fascinating history of both the hall and its surroundings. The following are excerpts from those documents:
This parish, which is about two miles in length and one and a half in breadth, is bounded on the north by Gosforth, on the south by the river Mite. The river Irt, from which the parish has derived its name, flows in a south-westerly direction through it. The surface is hilly, and in the northern parts rather mountainous; the soil varying in quality from gravel and clay to a mossy earth. The river Irt was famous for its pearl-producing mussels, and is also frequented by salmon, and abounds with trout and small fry.
The Irton family
The Manor of Irton was held by a family of the same name from the Norman Conquest to the death of the late Samuel Irton, Esq., J.P. In the 35th year of Henry VIII’s reign, Richard Irton held the manor and town of Irton, a castle of Egremont, and Cleator, as well as part of the manor of Bassenthwaite.
A slayer of Saracens!
One of the early members of this family, Adam D'Yrton, of Yrton, was a skilful swordsman, and rivalled in some of his feats the exploits of Richard I. He was one of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and was present at the capture of the Holy City by the first Crusaders under Godfrey of Boulogne. It is said of him that on one occasion he slew a Saracen general, severing his head from his body by a single blow.
Irton Hall, for generations the manorial home of the Irtons, is delightfully surrounded by beautiful sylvan scenery. Much of the hall has been modernised, but there still remains one interesting archaeological feature - the old quadrangular tower, built in the castellated style, and was probably the principal part of the old hall. In the front of the house is the trunk of a gigantic old oak, whose girth three men can scarcely encompass with their arms extended.
The church was appropriated in 1227 to the nunnery of Seaton, or Seakley. On the suppression of monastic institutions, it was granted to the Penningtons of Muncaster, ancestors of Lord Muncaster. The tithes and right of presentation were purchased from Lord Muncaster by the late Samuel Irton, Esq.
Memorials to local families
The Church, dedicated to St. Paul was rebuilt in 1795, and again remodelled in 1856, when the chancel was enlarged, and a new vestry built. The west end is surmounted by a lofty castellated tower, containing a peal of eight bells. Within the church are several monuments to the memory of different members of the Irton, Lutwidge, Winder, Mossop, and Brocklebank families.
An ancient cross
In the churchyard is an ancient cross, nearly ten feet in height, having its four sides richly carved with elegant scroll work, frets, and knots, very much in the style of the Runic crosses found in the Isle of Man.
The Irtons of Irton Hall
Records of the Irton family are persistent through 600 years of West Cumberland History. They were not as bold as were those families who lived in places of strategic importance nearer the Scottish Border; for the sheltered position of their beautiful home, tucked away in the narrow valley of the Irt and the great hills of Wasdale, inclined them to a more peaceful pastoral existence. Nevertheless they had their share of incident, triumph and disaster, of which later generations would have known more, had it not been for a hasty action on the part of one of their wives.
A great collection of treasures
They had lived for five centuries at the least, probably for much longer, in the same old house, which by the middle of the 19th century contained not only that treasure of furniture, books and odds and ends collected through the passing years by a well established family, but also a store of papers, deeds and other documents, which might have been of the greatest value to the student of Cumberland history.
An ill-advised widow’s bonfire
When the last Irton died in 1866, his wife made, one Sunday evening, a bonfire of all the documents, maps and papers relating to the family and its possessions, maintaining that, as there were no more to bear the name of Irton, these relics could be of no interest to anyone else. A few years later, in 1872, the house itself was sold and its contents disposed of by public auction at Irton itself and at Ambleside. A marked copy of the library sale is a torture to any book lover.
Books and manuscripts of the greatest value, including many of the 18th century first editions, went to the winds, at prices which to day sound ridiculous. A number of pictures and miniatures, an old altar cloth, family bibles and other objects, which the last widow Irton took away with her to furnish the home of her widowhood, still survive, together with a manuscript book written in 1764 by Samuel Irton, a London merchant.