button to main menu  Gents Mag 1831 part 1 p.301

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Gentleman's Magazine 1831 part 1 p.301
[As]ssisted by the ebon tints of evening, and the roaring of the ocean, the fanciful may picture to himself worshippers bending amid the massy ruins, though here "the sound of the church going bell" was never heard. Passing Keswick Bay (where the lapidary may find pebbles of every hue, susceptible of a beautiful polish, and suitable for snuff-boxes, brooches, &c.), Saint Bees head, the ancient Barugh, presents itself 220 feet above the level of the sea. On this height the new light-house, with nine reflectors, was erected in January 1822. The parish of Saint Bees is large, as will be evident from the number of inhabitants at the following periods, especially when it is considered that in this remote part of England, the habitations are generally far apart:-
1688. : 1801. : 1811. : 1821.
3,345. : 13,246. : 16,520. : 19,169.
It was part of the kingdom of Cumbria or Strath Cluyd Britons, which was first inhabited, says Mr. Carte, by a Celtic race about 2000 years before the Christian aera. That the genuine ancient Britons posted themselves here, we have the authority of Marianus himself,* not to mention that there are many names purely British. Although every part of it, where liable to aggression, was fortified by the Romans, as appears from the ancient ruins, it was frequently the scene of bloody contention. Speed, speaking of Cumberland, says that it was strengthened with twenty-five castles, and preserved by the prayers of six religious houses, in which latter enumeration that of Saint Bees is mentioned. The village was formerly known by the names of BEGOCK, BEGOTH, or BEGHES, and the Church is styled in ancient evidences Kirkby Begog. The derivation of Begoth seems to be, from two ancient British words BEG OG; by our interpretation, little, young, like the Gaelic oig, little. The name is supposed to have originated from the Holy Bega, a pious woman from Ireland, who is said to have founded a small monastery here about the year 650.† Respecting this holy woman, tradition is not entirely silent. It is said, that on her voyage from Ireland she was in imminent danger of being wrecked upon the rocks below the mountain called Tomlyne, on the coast of Saint Bees, and, according to the custom of those days, vowed to build a religious house, should she be fortunate enough to escape. To her vow and escape the origin of the ancient monastery of Saint Bees is attributed. The mists of revolving centuries dwell upon her memory, and many are the romantic stories attached to her name, fit subjects for the novelist and the poet. This religious house was destroyed by the Danes most probably about the year 873, for at that time history mentions a very formidable irruption of them. It was restored by William de Meschines, brother of Ranulph, first Earl of Cumberland, a family then lately brought over from the continent by William I. by whose grant they became possessed of the earldom of Cumbria. Saint Bees now became the cell of a prior and six Benedictine monks, to the abbey of St. Mary at York. Bishop Tanner mentions ‡ that under this cell there was a small nunnery situate at Rottington, about a mile from Saint Bees. This is confirmed by the ancient names of places still retained there, but few other vestiges are now to be found.
Ranulph de Meschines, the son of William, by his charter,§ confirmed his father's grants to the prior and monks, and still further increased them. William de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle, who married a descendant of William de Meschines, by his charter ‖ confirmed and still further increased his ancestor's grants. Amongst other distinguished names, that of the prior of Saint Bees appears as a witness to "the rules and orders for the burghers of Egremont," by Richard de Lacy, about the reign of King John. In the reign of Henry IV. a Richard Hunte was appointed to Saint Bees, as a free chapelry in the gift of the Crown, but the abbot of Saint Mary's remonstrated with the King, and the grant was revoked. After the dissolution of monasteries, 7 Edward VI. Sir Thomas Chaloner became possessed of the monastic property, paying to the Crown yearly the fee farm rent of 143l. 16s. 2 1/2d.. This yearly rent was afterwards granted (4 and 5 William
* See Camden, p.1002.
† Tanner's Notitia, No.73.
‡ Notitia, No.72.
§ 1 Dugd. Mon. 395.
‒ 1 Dugd. Mon. 397.
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gazetteer links
button -- "Keswick Bay" -- Fleswick Bay
-- Kelsoe Kirk
button -- St Bees Lighthouse
button -- St Bees
button -- St Mary and St Bega's Church
-- "Tomlyne" -- Tomlin Rock

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