Family History Notebook

Page last updated 12/08/21

Swindale (Shap), Westmorland

Undoubtably the best known of the Swindales is the valley of that name which runs parallel to Haweswater reservoir down towards Shap in the east of the Lake District (Grid Reference NY5113). Always a quiet escape from more popular haunts in the Lake District, it narrowly escaped flooding in the last century as part of the Haweswater scheme. The Swindale beck drops steeply down from the upper part of the valley which is separately known as Mosedale.

Swindale is mentioned by name in, and formed part of,  the original land grant to Shap Abbey when it moved there from Preston in Kendale somewhere between 1119 and 1152. It is notable that the grant mentions pasture for 60 cows, 20 mares to run in the woods and 500 sheep - but no pigs.

[In 1703 Swindale Grammar School was endowed - see below. The English Journal of Education By George Moody Published 1857
Darton and Clark

Swindale, of the Parish of Shap, founded in 1703, by Thomas Baxter of Truss Gap in this place, who gave to it an estate, consisting of between two or three hundred acres of land, called Wastdale Foot, adjoining the Spa of Shapwells. The trustees, in 1750, improperly sold it to John Brown of Wastdale Head, subject to a rent charge of 10l. a year ; he sold it along with his estate of Wastdale Head to the`late Sir James Lowther, who, about the year 1775, from some cause or other, refused the payment of this 10l. a year, and withheld it during his life ; but when the present William, Earl of Lonsdale, came to the Lowther estates in 1802, he agreed with the trustees henceforth to allow 25l. a year out of the Wastdale Foot estate, instead of paying up the arrears due from his predecessor. The Gentleman's Magazine 1823 p325 Schools in Westmoreland]

In 1777, in their history of Westmorland and Cumberland, Joseph Nicholson and Richard Burn had this to say about Swindale:-

"This also is part of Thornthwaite Forest; which extended wide in these uncultivated places. It may have received its name, either from the situation, as Swin signifies inclining or crooked; so there is Crookdale in this same parish of Shap: Or it may be called so from wild boars having frequented there; as there are Grisedale, Boredale, Stybarrow, in the neighbouring parish of Barton; and Wildboarfell in Ravenstondale. Hogherd (we have seen) was a name in this parish, now corruptly written Hoggart, or (as varied by the late excellent painter of that name who was of Westmorland extraction from Kirby Thore) Hogarth.

At this place is a small chapel, which was built by the inhabitants to answer the purpose of both school and chapel. There was a small endowment for a schoolmaster, and he was permitted to read prayers on Sunday. By an allotment of queen Anne's bounty, the chapel and school together are now worth about sixteen or seventeen pounds a year."

and of Mosedale:-

"Mosedale,  Moss-dale, is a wild, bleak, mossy, and mountainous dale; but profitable for fine blue slate: which it was found out (which is not a century ago), hath quite altered the faceof the country as to building. It is a beautiful, dry, clean, light covering; and in Westmorland, by reason of its vicinity, cheaper than thatch because durable. Much of it, by land carriage, is carried over Stanemore into the counties of Durham and York.
This dale also is the property of the said Edward Hassel esquire."

Article (1900) on the history of Swindale Chapel