Above Derwent

ABOVE DERWENT: township in Crosthwaite parish, in Allerdale Above Derwent ward, Cumberland.

Above Derwent CP comprised the ancient townships of Braithwaite, Coledale or Portinscale, and Thornthwaite, and the chapelry of Newlands.   

Acreage of administrative unit: 

14,750 acres [5969 ha], including much unenclosed common on the Derwent Fells. Swinside pasture (203 acres [82 ha]) was enclosed in 1814. The commons of Thornthwaite manor (1273 acres [515 ha]) were enclosed in 1814 and Ladstocks common field in Thornthwaite (76 acres [31 ha]) was divided in 1843 by private agreement.


668 in 1811 rising to 1115 by 1851 and then stable through the 19th century. The population was 1207 in 2001.

Land ownership: 

The ancient townships were in the forest of Derwentfells. Except for Thornthwaite, they were within the manor of Braithwaite and Coledale, Honour of Cockermouth. Enfranchisement was offered from 1759. The Water End estate was created by Lord William Gordon from 1784.  Manor of Thornthwaite held by Patrick of Workington (Curwen ancestor) by 1230, purchased by the Ratcliffes in 1628, then the Greenwich Hospital and Marshall family (see Keswick). Enfranchised in 1814. The plantations were created by the Greenwich Hospital from 1815 and the Marshall family from 1846-8, being acquired after WW1 by the Forestry Commission, the largest landowner in 2012.

Economic activity: 

Important for mining non-ferrous metals, particularly the medieval copper mines of Newlands, where Goldscope became the principal working of the Elizabethan Mines Royal. Also lead in Thornthwaite worked into the 20th century, at the Brandley/Brandelhow mines, and at Force Crag mine and mill in Newlands, where barytes was mined until 1991. Coppice woodland supported mining, tanners of Keswick to the 18th century, and a 19th-century bobbin mill at Thornthwaite, where forestry commenced with the Hospital Plantation from 1815. Pencil manufacture at Braithwaite by 1847. The woollen mill at Coledale, built 1824, became the Cumberland Pencil Co. from 1868-98. A wool carding and spinning mill at Stair by 1847. Braithwaite station on the Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway opened in 1864 and closed in 1966. The tourist trade from 1770s grew from the circuit of Derwentwater and touring from Keswick.

Places of worship: 

A chapel was established at Newlands prior to 1571 but rebuilt in 1843, and another at Thornthwaite by Patrick of Workington c.1240, which became St Mary’s church. St Herbert’s chapel of ease was built at Braithwaite in 1900, replacing a mission room. A Methodist Chapel existed in 1938.


In 1819 Thornthwaite had a school, containing 21 children. By 1833 there were two daily schools, supported by the parents. Braithwaite school, erected in 1842, remains a primary school in 2012.  The Traveller’s Rest, an early 19th-century coaching inn on the Whinlatter Pass, became an isolation hospital in later 19th/ early 20th century.

Additional sources used: 

James Wilson, The Registers of the Priory of St Bees; Angus Winchester, Landscape & Society in Medieval Cumbria; CACW/DLec./136&300; www.visitcumbria.com; Susan Grant, The story of the Newlands valley, VCH, II, pp.18 & 506 TNA/ADM76/59; Abstract of Education returns, 1833

Compiled by:  Derek Denman, Keswick History Group

How were these summaries compiled for Cumberland?


Other Websites


Above Derwent on Vision of Britain


Specific to this township:


Lorton & Derwent Fells LHS: Source Material for VCH.


Countywide Web Sites


this link gives a schedule of many Cumbria-specific sites, which cover several Cumbrian townships; each would need to be opened and searched using the FIND facility to see if any reference is made to this township..

Outcounty Web Sites


this link gives a schedule of many national sites, which contain information about Cumbrian history; each would need to be opened and searched using the FIND facility to see if any reference is made to this township.

Other Resources


Map of Above Derwent (1901)


Historical buildings in this township


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