Beckermet shown within Cumbria
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|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||North West England|
|List of places: UK • England • Cumbria|
Beckermet (pronounced /bɛˈkɜrmɨt/) is a village, civil parish and post town in the English county of Cumbria, located near the coast between Egremont and Seascale. Historically within Cumberland, it is served by Braystones railway station and is less than a mile west of the A595 road. It is near - around 2 miles/3 km from - the Sellafield nuclear plant which may be seen from the higher parts of the village.
The natural assumption is that the village is so-named because two becks (local dialect meaning streams- specifically Kirk Beck and Black Beck) meet there. However, the name is pronounced with the accent on the middle syllable (over the years, attempts by people to spell the name as they heard it have resulted in versions like Beck Armett in 1570, and Bekyremet in 1279). In the 12th century there was an h in the middle, the earliest known version, from 1130, being Bechermet, so the English Place-Name Society suggests that the name really means "hermit's stream".
The two parishes
Until May 2011 Beckermet was split between two parishes: Beckermet St Bridget (2001 census population 385) to the south east, and Beckermet St John (pop. 1925) to the north west. Arguably, a third parish should be included, as the parish of Haile (to the northeast) extended to within a few yards of St John's parish church, however this extension contains only fields. St Bridget included most of the small village of Calder Bridge, and the hamlet of High Sella field, along with about half of the nuclear plant. A large portion of the population of St John lived in the former mining community of Thornhill, near Egremont. In May 2011 the parish boudaries were changed, and the parishes of St. Johns and St Bridgets were merged to form the new parish of Beckermet, which include Backermet, Thornhill and the northern part of the Sellafied nuclear site.
The current church of St. Bridget, built in 1842, is at Calder Bridge, but the old "Low Church" about 1 km SW of the village (grid reference NY015061), a plain building of Norman origin with 13th century modifications, is still used occasionally. In the churchyard are the remains of two ancient crosses, one of which (see picture) has a runic inscription, of which several very contradictory translations have been made. The church of St. John, in the centre of the village, was rebuilt in 1878-79, but it too has fragments of ancient crosses, and many carved stone medieval coffin lids. The ruined monastery of Calder Abbey is also within St. Bridget's civil parish.
St. John's parish also contains traces of two medieval castles, probably both residences of the le Fleming family, who were granted land in the area shortly after the Norman conquest of the area. The earlier, at Wodobank near Thornhill, had a defensive motte and possibly an adjoining bailey enclosure. A railway line, itself now abandoned, obliterated most of the remains. The outline of the later fortification, known as Caernarvon Castle, can still be traced in the fields north of the village (grid reference NY021073); it was abandoned about 1250 when the family moved to Coniston. Although Caernarvon was identified as a castle site by a later member of the family, 17th century historian Sir Daniel Fleming, some experts believe it was never inhabited, and that its alternative name "Coneygarth Cop" may indicate that it was a medieval rabbit warren.
Calder Abbey, which lies by the river Calder just north of Calder Bridge, is a picturesque ruin adjoining Calder Abbey House, a largely 19th century house which incorporates some remains of the abbey. To the south of Calder Bridge, also close to the river, is Sella Park, a 17th century house incorporating a 14th century pele tower, restored in the 19th century and now a country house hotel.
- Illustrated description
- Historical information on Beckermet St Bridget Vision of Britain- accessed 2008-02-25
- Pictures of old St. Bridget's church visitcumbria.com- accessed 2008-02-25
- Pictures of later St. Bridget's church, Calder Bridge visitcumbria.com- accessed 2008-02-25
- The cross stumps in St. Bridget's churchyard BBC Cumbria- accessed 2008-02-25
- Historical information on Beckermet St. John Vision of Britain- accessed 2008-02-25
- Pictures of St. John's church visitcumbria.com- accessed 2008-02-25
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