COCKERMOUTH, October 17, 1844
We this week continue our Report of the County Business at the Quarter
Sessions held at Cockermouth, part of which we were last week compelled to
omit from want of room
THE CHAIRMAN read, as follows ---
THE BRIDGEMASTER'S REPORT.
Cockermouth, 15th October,
To the Chairman and Magistrates in Sessions.
Gentlemen: The first subject I beg to bring under your notice, is that of
Mountain-beck Bridge Road, at Holm Rook, represented in sessions last as
dangerous from the dilapidated state of the fence on the river embankment
side of it, and which, in compliance with your orders, I have enquired into.
From the best information I have obtained it would seem that the timber
growing on this embankment to the full extremity of one hundred yards from
the south end of the bridge, is claimed as belonging to LADY MUNCASTER, and
the only protection on the river-side of the road, from the bridge walls, is
a thorn hedge, broken down in several places, and through which people pass
at all times at will. In this state it was when I first entered upon my
duty under you; nor do I see that at this day it is much worse. Neither
this fence, nor that on the opposite side of the road (also composed of
thorns) have I at all considered as belonging to the county, and I am the
more confirmed in the opinion they do not, from never having been required
to dress or repair them, by the resident magistrates, or others in that
Indeed, no case do I remember in which fences of a similar description, on
either side or end of the county bridges, are maintained by the county; so
much to the contrary, that in most instances where walls, even, have been
built by the county, in connection with the bridges in point of the
respective properties through which the roads have been formed, those walls
not being absolutely adjuncts of the bridge, and having been built for the
satisfaction of the proprietor of the land they enclosed, were turned over
to, and afterwards maintained by him as his fences.
If I have not misunderstood my duty, it is only in cases, where the county
having cut through an embankment to form the bridge road, and built a wall
to retain that embankment, that they are liable to keep them in repair.
That the road in question is very dangerous and ought to be made safe,
cannot be doubted, but by whom this should be effected, remains, gentlemen,
for you to determine, and I wait your orders accordingly.
In the next place I have to report to you, that the new bridge and road at
Muncaster Mill are completed, and were some weeks since opened for public
use; and it is with great satisfaction I state, that this work I consider
as carrying out more decided improvements in the county than any other which
has passed through my hands; and I think I may take upon me to add, that
what has been done (particularly in the masonry), will be lasting for many
years yet to come.
Great complaints have lateely been made against an inconvenience occasioned
to the public, and some injury done to the county road at Rosley, during the
late and former floods, by a weir which is erected about 90 yards below the
bridge, frequently damming the water back over the roads and lands
adjoining. I do not make this representation as a recent evil, but as one
which has existed for several years: it is, however, expected that I should
bring this matter before you in order that the cause may be in some measure,
if not altogether, abated; for I am sorry to say, but in too many instances
is the county property encroached upon with impunity, as in the present
case, as well as that of the dam built across the Croglin water represented
some time since in sessions.
I am requested, gentlemen, to lay before you a letter signed by several of
the most respectable inhabitants of Wigton. Some of the statements which it
contains, I am fully prepared to confirm, particularly that which relates to
the road, or foot-path raised above the carriage road, running nearly 150
yards along the edge of the river without any fence whatever as a guard
against accident, and it is only about a month since a person fell from this
foot-path and was drowned.
I remain, gentlemen, very respectfully,
**the letter to THOS. MILTON from some of the inhabitants of Wigton, will
TO MR. THOMAS MILTON, Bridge Master.
We, the undersigned, being inhabitants of the town of Wigton and
neighbourhood, beg to state that the road on the south of Low Wiza Bridge at
Wigton, belonging to the county, is unprotected from the river; in
consequence of which serious accidents have occurred, and request you will
lay our statement before the Chairman and Magistrates at the General Quarter
We beg leave also to represent that the Bridge is in a very inefficient
state, and that the road has frequently been covered to a considerable
depth, in consequence of the gateway not being sufficient in times of flood.
7th October, 1844.
JOHN ROOKE, Akehead
SAM. RIGG, Wigton
GEO. F. WINTER
I. IRVING, Vicar of Wigton
The various recommendations contained in the Report were then taken into
consideration, and discussed 'seriatim' by the Magistrates.
A lengthened discussion took place upon the first subject mentioned in the
Report, and the liability of the County to fence the road in question.
THE CHAIRMAN thought that the decision would involve a most important
principle, which the Bench must consider well.
MR. BROWNE said that a similar case to the present occurred near Keswick,
where a river had washed so near to the edge of the road, that the late
owner made a present to a man of a part of this field, as being perfectly
useless to him. The encroachments of the river were still going on; and if
the Bench resolved to fence the road in question, this man might call upon
the County to fence for him. If there was a single yard of ground on the
side of a road, the party claiming it was bound to make good the necesary
MR. HOSKINS asked how the Bench could compel it ?
THE CHAIRMAN said it appeared to him that the County was in this
difficulty, -- that the proprietor of the adjoining lands, not thinking it
proper to keep his fences in repair, and such fences being of use to the
County, could they compel him to put them in repair ? He should doubt it.
Then came the next question, whether the County must be at the expense of
making a fence, and whether such was the probability of accident, that the
public safety required it should be done ? The evil now complained of had
existed there 20 years, he believed, and yet no accident had occurred.
Several Magistrates expressed their opinion that the road was in a dangerous
MR. MILTON, the Bridge-master, said he did not know a single case in which
the County maintained the fences on both sides of the bridge. If they did
so in the present instance, they might have many similar applications.
THE CLERK OF THE PEACE thought the present was an isolated case; and there
were perhaps only two or three of the kind in the County.
MR. JOHNSON thought the proprietor of the adjoining grounds was bound to
keep up the fence for his cattle.
THE CHAIRMAN was of opinion that if an action were brought against the
County to make them build a wall in this particular place, the indictment
would not go against them. The road to Buttermere was very dangerous, but
could the County be made to build a long and expensive wall in order to
render it quite safe ? There was a road which he himself would have to
travel that day which was so precipitous and dangerous that he might drop
down into Wybergh water below; but in a lonely district, no one could
expect a perfect military road. The present case should be considered well.
MR. T. HARTLEY thought the County should fence the road, -- the expense
would be light; and he begged to move that it be done at the expense of the
County. It might be made when MR. MILTON suggested, a rough fence and a
MR. IRTON seconded the motion.
MR. BROWNE thought the County ought not to suffer through the negligence of
LORD or LADY MUNCASTER in not keeping their fences in repair. He begged to
move as an amendment, that the road be not fenced by the County, but that it
be left to parties to seek legal redress from whomsoever they might consider
MR. BRISCO seconded the amendment.
THE CHAIRMAN certainly thought that the Magistrates should be careful in
steering clear of adopting as a general principle that owners of lands
allowing their fences to go down might throw them upon the County.
After some further discussion, the Chairman put the motion and
amendment; and the names having been taken down, it was announced that the
numbers on each side were equal. A casting vote therefore lay with the
CHAIRMAN, who, after some consideration, recorded it in favour of the
amendment, which was consequently carried.
The BRIDGE-MASTER was then instructed to take the necessary steps, by
bringing an action or otherwise, to induce measures for preventing the water
from overflowing the public road at Rosley.
The BRIDGE-MASTER also received instructions to inspect the road and bridge
complained of in the petition from Wigton, and to report thereon to the next
Sessions, - some protection to be in the meantime placed along the dangerous
Broughton Bridge, hitherto held by the trustees of the Cockermouth and
Workington turnpike road, was then formally adopted as a County Bridge.
PAUPER LUNATICS AND LUNATIC ASYLUMS.
THE CHAIRMAN said he had received a letter from the Secretary of State,
requesting him to call the attention of the Magistracy to the subject of
County Lunatic Asylums. He had also received the Report of the
Commissioners on the subject of lunatics, which was founded on a survey of
the different asylums and licensed houses; and it appeared to him to be a
little one-sided. The Commissioners had been very particular in noticing
the errors in licensed houses especially, while they seemed to pass over, or
but slightly noticed, many houses that were well-regulated. There were some
in Durham, and he dared say in Newcastle, that had many deficiencies, and it
was right enough to mention these; but they passed over many that he knew
to be good. They certainly did point out some places that were unfit for
the reception of lunatics. The object was, that Parliament might take up
the subject next Session, and compel counties which had not asylums, either
by themselves, or by uniting with others, to build one.
This was a very material question, because this County could not be called
upon to build for itself, or to join others, without incurring a heavy
expense. He believed there were a sufficient number of proper asylums in
the neighbourhood, -- taking into account those at Newcastle, the one at
Dumfries, and the room there often was at Lancaster, - for the reception and
accommodation of the unfortunate class of paupers to whom their attention
had been directed.
If Boards of Guardians would send pauper lunatics to proper places, and
would pay sufficiently, they might have them as well taken care of as if an
expensive building were erected in this County. But he was afraid the
Boards of Guardians, for the sake of saving, perhaps, the difference betwee
7s. and 9s. per week, were too apt to send them to the cheapest places; and
these cheap places were shown in the Report to be unfit to send lunatics to.
Some of the pauper lunatics were ill- treated in inferior houses; but he
should be sorry if they made that a ground to saddle the County with the
expense of building an asylum.
He had been desired to submit this to the Bench; there must, therefore, be
some object in it; and from what had passed Parliament, it was evident that
something of this sort was in comtemplation to be brought forward next
He suggested that the Clerk of the Peace should communicate with the Boards
of Guardians to obtain correct lists of all the pauper lunatics sent to
those houses, enumerating such as were not dangerous, but were kept in
parish workhouses, with full particulars concering their stiuation and
MR. BROWNE thought such returns should distinguish between lunatics and
idiots, as many of the latter class were quite harmless, and there was no
occasion to remove them.
THE CHAIRMAN thought it would be best to appoint a Committee of Magistrates,
to meet at the next Sessions, to consider this question. then, as the
communication from the Secretary of State required a reply, the County would
have a suitable body of men to correspond on the subject.
The suggestion was approved of.
MR. BRISCO asked, if in addition to that it, would not be desirable to
appoint in the neighbourhood of each Union, two or three magistrates to
visit those lunatics who were in the Union workhouses, and to see the
individuals themselves ?
THE CHAIRMAN thought it might answer if the Magistrates in Petty Sessions
were requested to assist in getting the returns.
THE CLERK OF THE PEACE stated that he was already in possession of the
necessary returns, which were now, under the act of Parliament, annually
made out by the Clerks to the Board of Guardians. By the next Sessions he
would be able to give the Magistrates the fullest particulars.
THE CHAIRMAN said he was glad to find this was the case. Was there any
reason to infer that these were correct lists ? He was afraid they did not
THE CLERK OF THE PEACE said they were furnished by the parties he had named.
If the same parties were again applied to, they would, of course, make
The resolution was then formally carried - "That these Reports, with the
lists of lunatics and idiots, be submitted to a committee of Magistrates."
The following Gentlemen were then appointed on the committee: --
MR. BROWNE, MAJOR MACLEAN, MR. STANGER, MR. J. SALKELD, and MR.
W. N. HODGSON.
The question of the liability of the County to repair the roads at the end
of Workington new bridge was then brought forward. A general opinion was
expressed against the existence of any such liability; and it was resolved
that the County should take no steps in regard to it.
This terminated the County business; and the Court adjourned at half-past
two o'clock in the afternoon.