COCKERMOUTH (All Saints), an unincorporated borough, market-town, and parochial chapelry, and the head of a union, in the parish of Brigham, Allerdale ward above Derwent, W. division of Cumberland, 25 miles (S.W.) from Carlisle, and 305 (N.W. by N.) from London; containing 4,940 inhabitants. The name is derived from the situation of the place at the mouth of the river Cocker, which here unites with the Derwent. The town was taken by surprise, in 1387, by an army of Scottish borderers, who remained here three days. Mary, Queen of Scots, after her escape from the castle of Dunbar, rested some time at Cockermouth, on her way from Workington to Carlisle, and was also hospitably entertained at Hutton Hall, then belonging to the Fletchers. During the civil war of the 17th century, the castle was besieged in August, 1648, by a body of 500 Cumberland royalists, but was relieved on September 29th by Lieut.-Col. Ashton, whom Cromwell had despatched from Lancashire for the purpose. The castle, formerly the baronial seat of the lords of Allerdale, stands on the edge of a precipitous eminence, on the northern side of the town, opposite the confluence of the two rivers. It was originally of great strength and extent, and is supposed to have been erected by Waldeof, soon after the Conquest, although the remains are not apparently of earlier date than the fourteenth century, and to have been constructed with the materials of an older castle, named Papcastle, a Roman fortress, about a mile and a half distant, on the other side of the Derwent, and the former residence of Waldeof. The only perfect and habitable parts are, the gate-house, with two rooms adjoining, and the court-house at the eastern angle of the area. Underneath the ruins of the great tower is a spacious vault, thirty feet square, the roof of which is groined, and supported by an octagonal central pillar, with pilasters at the angles and sides; this vault, from being called Mary Kirk, is supposed to have been the chapel, dedicated to St. Mary. On each side of the gateway is a dungeon, capable of containing 50 prisoners, the entrance to which was probably through a small aperture, visible in the corner of the arch.
The town is situated in a narrow valley, amid scenery richly diversified with hill and dale, wood and water. The Derwent flows on the northern side of it, and is crossed by a handsome stone bridge of two arches, connecting the town with the hamlet of Goat, measuring 270 feet in length, and completed in 1822 at an expense to the county of £3,000. On the margin of this river is an agreeable promenade, about a mile long, terminated at one extremity by lofty well-wooded cliffs, and at the other by the ruins of the castle, and the elevated bowling-green. The river Cocker divides the town into two parts, and is crossed by a bridge of one arch, formerly very narrow, but rebuilt on a wider and improved plan in 1828, at a cost of £2600. The streets have been lighted, but, with the exception of the High-street, which is broad and handsome, are only indifferently paved: there is an ample supply of water from the Derwent and Cocker, from some other streams that flow through the town, and from pumps attached to most of the dwellings. The houses are in general built of stone, roofed with blue slate, and of respectable appearance. Considerable improvement has lately been effected, particularly in the market-place, above the bridge over the Cocker. There is a small subscription library; also a parochial library over the grammar school, founded by Dr. Bray and his associates, and containing upwards of 500 volumes, to which Dr. Keene, Bishop of Chester, was a great benefactor.
Cockermouth is a place of considerable trading importance, enjoying, within a very limited distance, the advantage of three sea-ports. A great trade is carried on in cotton, linen, and woollen articles, for which there are some extensive manufactories; also in the tanning and dressing of leather, and the manufacture of hats, stockings, paper, &c.; and in the vicinity are coal-mines. The moor, containing about 1200 acres, was inclosed and divided under an act obtained in 1813. A railway was lately completed from this place to Workington, 8¾ miles in length; and an act was passed in 1846 for a railway hence to Keswick. The market is on Monday, when a considerable quantity of grain is pitched in the market-place, and on Saturday is a market for provisions, &c. Fairs for cattle are held on every alternate Wednesday from the beginning of May till the end of September; and there is a great fair for horses and horned-cattle on the 10th of October; also two great fairs, or statutes, for hiring servants, on the Mondays at Whitsuntide and Martinmas. The town has no separate jurisdiction: the chief officer is a bailiff, who is chosen at Michaelmas, at the court leet for the manor, from among the burghers, by a jury of burghers appointed for regulating the affairs of the town; he acts as clerk of the market, but exercises no magisterial functions, and has no local authority. In the 23rd of Edward I. the borough returned members to parliament, but from that date till the 16th of Charles I. the elective franchise was suspended; it was then restored by a resolution of the house of commons, and from that period has been exercised without intermission. The right of voting for the two members was formerly vested in the burgage tenants, about 300 in number; but, by the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, was extended to the £10 householders of an enlarged district, which for elective purposes was substituted for the ancient borough: the old borough comprised 3000 acres, and the boundaries of the new contain 9500: the bailiff is returning officer. The county magistrates exercise jurisdiction within the borough, and hold a petty-session every Monday. The steward of the manor holds a court every three weeks, for the recovery of debts under 40s., and a court leet at Michaelmas and Easter; and aided by commissioners appointed for the government of the several manors within the honour, he also holds, at Christmas, a court of dimissions in the castle. The powers of the county debt-court of Cockermouth, established in 1847, extend over the greater part of the registration-district of Cockermouth. The Epiphany quarter-session for the county is held here in January; and this is the principal place of election for the eastern division of the county. The Moot-hall, an old dilapidated structure inconveniently situated in the market-place, has been rebuilt in a commodious manner, and on a more eligible site. There is a small house of correction in St. Helen's street.
The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £132; patron, the Earl of Lonsdale. The tithes of the chapelry were commuted for land in 1813, and under the recent act for a rent-charge of £150; the glebe contains 5 acres. The old church or chapel, erected in the reign of Edward III., was taken down, with the exception of the tower, and the present edifice of freestone built by means of a brief, in 1711, and dedicated to All Saints; it was enlarged in 1825. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, and Wesleyans. A free grammar school was founded in 1676, by Lord Wharton, Sir Richard Graham, and others, the income being £24 per annum. Other schools are supported by subscription, and the poor have the produce of several benefactions. The union of Cockermouth comprises forty-seven parishes or places, and contains a population of 35,676. The hills on each side of the Derwent are interesting to the naturalist, consisting of calcareous stone, almost entirely composed of shells of the genus ammoniæ. On the north side of the town is a tumulus, called Toot-hill; and one mile westward are the rampart and ditch of a fort or encampment, triangular in form, and nearly 750 feet in circumference. William Wordsworth, the eminent poet and laureate, was born here in 1770.
Extract from: A Topographical Dictionary of England comprising the several counties, cities, boroughs, corporate and market towns, parishes, and townships..... 7th Edition, by Samuel Lewis, London, 1848.