History of Preston Richard Parish
Our history is interesting and varied and I am sure lots more could be found if anyone wished to delve into it and share their findings with us but until that time here are a few facts we have to date.
PRESTON RICHARD is an extensive township containing the village of Endmoor and the hamlets of Crooklands, Birkrigg Park, Milton, Low Park, Summerlands and several dispersed dwellings bearing different names it is approximately two to five miles N.E. of Milnthorpe, and from five to six S.E. of Kendal. It is crossed by the Kendal Canal, on which, at Crooklands, the Earl of Crawford and Belcarres, the great Wigan coal-owner, had an extensive wharf, and a range of coke ovens.
A long succession of possessors of the name of Richard de Preston owned this manor for upwards of two hundred years, and several of them were knights, but the Preston family of Holker having failed in male issue, it was sold to Sir John Lowther, from whom nearly all the tenants purchased their enfranchisement in 1679. Near the old Hall, which was the ancient manor house, is a farm still called the Deer Park; there is also another park at Birkrigg, where is a place denominated the Sepulchre, being a deserted Quaker's burial ground. Long ago a very ancient "hammerhead of stone" was dug up at Endmoor, and in 1770 was given by the vicar of the parish to Trinity College, Cambridge.
Our Gunpowder Heritage
There are few remains left of the Gunpowder Works built in 1761, these were extended and taken over by the Wakefield family to replace their works at Old Sedgwick in 1850. The works lined both banks of the Peasey Beck between Endmoor and Gatebeck. The factory was originally simply Gatebeck, but became Gatebeck Low Works after 1896 when new plant - Gatebeck High Works - was erected on a virgin site to the north. In 1876 a tramway was built connecting the works to a wharf on the Lancaster Canal and to Milnthorpe railway station. The factory initially had its own sawmill, but in 1880 a separate cooperage/sawmill complex was erected outside Gatebeck village; the old sawmill is still extant. In 1917 Wakefield's merged with the Nobel organisation which became ICI, but falling orders led to eventual closure. As required by law, many buildings were dismantled and/or burned to ensure no explosives remained. In WW2 the site was requisitioned by Army Engineers and between 1956 and 1968 was used for Civil Defence Training. Although much of the works has since been redeveloped as two caravan parks and an industrial unit, surviving features at the southern end of Millbrook Caravan Park include two corning houses, stove house, glazing house, boiler house, four pairs of incorporating mills, two charge houses and a watch house. A weir and large mill race from which smaller leats ran to provide power for waterwheels and turbines within separate process buildings, also survives down the east edge of the Park but a stove house, mixing house, various refineries, workshops, cartridge-making facilities and magazines now survive only as buried remains in the redeveloped areas. A number of administrative/ancillary buildings, however, are still upstanding converted to domestic use at the site entrance; two pairs of charcoal retorts also survive here, reset as gateposts. For further information on Gun Powder sites in our area click here
The Gatebeck Tramway
The course of Gatebeck Tramway connecting the two Gatebeck Gunpowder Works (Low and High) to the Wakefield company's wharf on the Lancaster Canal at Crooklands and to Milnthorpe Railway Station was built 1875, opened 1876 and closed in 1936 when the gunpowder works closed. The gauge was 3' 6" and it was horse-drawn throughout. The overall length was circa 6.5km. It extended south from the High Works, through the Low Works along the banks of the Peasey Beck and across fields to Crooklands where a short spur entered Wakefield's Wharf; it then continued along public roads to the station. Short branches also ran to Crooklands bobbin mill and to the Wigan Co Coal Yards on the Canal. The course of the tramway survives in places as slight earthworks and engineering structures such as bridge abutments, but is mostly known from documentary evidence.
Lancaster – Kendal Canal
The Wharf on the Lancaster Canal at Crooklands was opened in or shortly after 1852 by the Wakefield Company to serve their nearby gunpowder works at Low Gatebeck. Movement of goods between wharf and factory was initially by horse and cart, but in 1876 a connection was made to the newly laid Gatebeck Tramway. The wharf presumably became disused when the factory closed in 1936.
One of our famous sons from Milton
Ephraim Chambers, author of the English Encyclopaedia, is buried in the north cloister of Westminster Abbey. The white marble monument on the wall, which originally had a pyramid above, is by sculptor N. Hedges and the Latin inscription (written by Chambers himself) can be translated:
"Common to many, known by few, who between light and shade neither learned nor simple, passed a life devoted to literature; But as a man, held nothing human foreign from his cause, his days and labours together discharged here wished to rest EPHRAIM CHAMBERS, F.R.S. He died May 15 1740"
He was born about 1680 at Milton, Cumbria, a son of Richard Chambers, a farmer. Apprenticed in London to a map maker he soon had an idea for a larger encyclopaedia than any that was then available. He published his two volume work in 1728 and later editions followed.
He died at Canonbury House in Islington. His brothers were Nathaniel and Zachary and he had two sisters.
A photo of the monument can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
Crooklands Hill Footpath - a footpath 50 years in the making (2017)
One of the biggest concerns to come out of the Preston Richard Community Plan was the danger of walking between Endmoor and Crooklands due to the lack of a piece of footpath at Crooklands Hill, many Politicians had promised for years to do something but nothing ever got done. The below document is the story of how the footpath finally got built.