Witherslack is an ancient village with records traceable back to the 12th century. The name Witherslack is derived from the Norse meaning ‘wooded valley’.

In early times the Manor of Witherslack was part of the Barony of Kendal.

Until 1338, it was held by the Lancaster family and by the Harrington family until 1408. Later, in the 15th Century, the Manor was granted to Sir Thomas Broughton, who was discredited at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

This tranquil, but scattered rural village sits under the limestone hill known as Yewbarrow near Grange-over-Sands. The village is also on the banks of the River Winster, which flows out into Morecambe Bay.


With the village being so scattered, it is generally accepted the local pub, The Derby Arms, and the Community Shop next door, are at the heart of the village.

In 1487, the manor of Witherslack was made over to Thomas Stanley the 1st Earl of Derby. The Stanley family does not seem to have lived in Witherslack until about 1875 when they came to live at the newly built Witherslack Hall.

The family later moved to the smaller Halecat House.

Today, Witherslack Hall is now a school providing specialist education and care for young people with special educational needs, managed by the witherslackgroup.

The family later moved to the smaller Halecat House.

St Mary’s chapel stood near Witherslack Hall but was in a ruinous state in 1664 according to the will of John Barwick.

John Barwick, the village’s “pious benefactor”, was born in Witherslack in 1612. He was one of five sons, and his parents, George and Jane (nee Barrow) owned a small farm – probably Askew Green.

John, along with his brother Peter, went to the local Grammar schools and then to Sedbergh prior to attending Cambridge University.

Following his time at St John’s College, Cambridge, he was offered the Bishopric of Carlisle which he refused. He did though accept the Deanery of Durham and later that of St Paul’s in London.

Dean Barwick died of consumption (Tuberculosis) in 1664 at the age of 52 and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral in London where a tablet was erected in his memory. There is also a tablet to his memory in Witherslack Church.

The village was originally part of the Parish of Beetham which lies across the estuary.

John Barwick bequeathed monies for repairs to the old chapel and a new burial ground, as previously the dead had to be carried on a dangerous journey across the sands of Morecambe Bay to the mother church at Beetham for burial.

St Paul’s church was built on land donated by the Earl of Derby and consecrated by the Bishop of Chester in 1671. The bequest left enough money to build St Paul’s Church with enough money left to build the Dean Barwick Primary School and master’s house.


Occupations listed in 1786 provide a glimpse of everyday life in 18th-century Witherslack. There was a turner, wright, carpenter, glazier, waller, six charcoal burners, and four hoopmakers.

Three blacksmiths cared for 352 horses, with some using old packhorse routes between Ulverston and Kendal.

Millers used the water mill for grinding oats and wheat, and barley for the maltsters to brew ale, and there were 70 orchards nearby to harvest.

Farmers provided milk, butter and cheese, and hides for the tanner to make leather for the cordwainer, clogger, and eight shoemakers.

Fat was made into tallow for candles used by the candle-box maker.

Sheep provided mutton and wool for four weavers to make cloth for the tailor. The woodcutter cut willows for the basket-maker and timber for fuel and peat was dug from the turbaries on the nearby moss.

Today the village provides an excellent area for walking, and cycling, and for anyone looking to go horse riding in the Lake District the Witherslack Hall Equestrian Centre is nearby.

In general, the roads are quiet and the footpaths varied.

If you are looking for a holiday cottage with easy access to Witherslack enquire here.


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June 3rd
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