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parish church

Most Northerly in England.

Nicholforest is the most northerly Parish church in England. The Church is dedicated to St Nicholas. There is a small wooden bell turret with a spire. There are many stained glass windows, all by John Scott & son, with a five light East window depicting Christ the Good Shepherd flanked by the four Evangelists. The church of St Nicholas is located at the gates of Kingfield House, in a semi wooded situation about half a mile from the village hall. Built in 1866, it is Gothic architecture in style, to a design by Alexander Graham of London "The church was entirely rebuilt and enlarged by the addition of a chancel in 1866, at a cost of £2,000. It is a handsome stone building, lighted by several stained glass windows. The church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building. (from Wikipedia, October 2016)


  • First Sunday of the month is Matins at 9:30;
  • Second Sunday of the month is Evensong at 18:00;
  • Third Sunday of the month is Communion at 10:30;
  • Fourth Sunday of the month is Communion at either Nicholforest or Kirk-Andrews at 11:00; Fifth Sunday of the month is Communion at Arthuret (Longtown) at 10:30.

Contact the Rector Reverend Russell Tague for information about weddings, baptisms and funerals.

Church of St. Nicholas

Parish church. 1866-7 by Alexander Graham. Snecked rock-faced sandstone with ashlar dressings. Slate roof in blue and purple bands with some shaped slates and with a crested tile ridge. Comprises a nave with a lower chancel which has an apsidal east end, and a north transept which has a lean-to vestry in the angle with the chancel. The west wall has 2 chamfered lancets below a rose window. The north and south nave walls each have 3 windows of 2 trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil below a pointed head and have buttresses between bays. On the south side there is an open timber porch to the right of the left-hand window. It rests on a stone base and has a steep roof. The entrance is formed by a gable truss with curved braces rising to a collar which supports a turned king post and has shaped bargeboards. The north gable of the transept has a window of 3 trefoiled lights below a foiled circle. The apsidal east end has 5 windows with bar tracery, each with a quatrefoil above a trefoil-headed light. On the south side of the chancel there is a 2-light window which almost matches those to the nave. Above the western bay of the nave there is a timber bellcote, painted white, and boarded below the trefoiled bell openings. It supports a slated spirelet.

The Church

The history of Nicholforest Parish

There has been a church in Nicholforest for many hundreds of years. There is but a single reference to a church in Nicholforest in medieval documents but it is impossible to say where the church was located or which saint it was dedicated to.

In 1663 there is the earliest post medieval reference to a church in the area. In that year Bishop Stearne licensed William Blathwait [sic] to teach boys to read and write in the chapel at Nicholforest (Capella de Foresta) thus proving of an existing chapel and referring to possibly the oldest school at Nicholforest.

Parish registers begin in the 1750's nut there are gaps in the early years. The church was situated near Chapel Burn, approximately 250 metres south of the Vicarage and in 1814 Archdeacon Fletcher described it thus:

"I visited this chapel 31 August 1814 and found it a most miserable place-very small - with a dirt floor - no altar etc."

The Archdeacon then cajoled local landowners and landholders to rebuild the chapel and this had certainly been achieved on his next visit in 1817 when he noted that it was rebuilt at Warwicksland and now had a churchyard.

Fletcher goes on to say

"There was no chapel yard before. Some few were buried in the field without the service being read. Some were carried to Stapleton and the clerk there assured me 'If the minister was not in the way, they just happed* them up and left them."

*Happed-cover up, to wrap up

The first burial was the following year when 50-year-old Jane Glendinning from Hawick was buried in the new churchyard.

In 1862 a momentous event occurred in the life of the church when the Rev Henry Morrogh Joyce was installed as vicar. Within four years he oversaw the demolition of the 1817 church and the erection of the present church built in 1868 to the design of Alexander Graham, a London architect.

The Rev Joyce stayed in the parish for 54 years till 1916 when he retired to Loweswater. Upon his retirement, he was one of the longest serving incumbents in Carlisle Diocese. The Rev Joyce was the son of John Joyce from Cork, a customs officer at Port Carlisle who succumbed to pneumonia the day after rescuing a boy from drowning in the Carlisle Canal in 1845. At least three generations of the Joyce family took Holy Orders.

The church sports several stained glass windows all by the Carlisle firm of John Scott and has an chancel apse. The previous church had no separate chancel.

The Border Lands

Nearly two thousand years ago the Roman emperor Hadrian defined the outer limits of his empire with the biggest civil engineering project then undertaken, -- The Roman Wall. He chose the line from Solway to North Sea as the place where he could say "this is where empire ends".
For hundreds of years after the departure of the Romans, the area in what is now Cumbria, see-sawed between various Kingdoms, principalities and petty warlords. The Scots would have everyone believe that it was part of Scotland but in fact it was part of Strathclyde, a kingdom in its own right that eventually became part of Scotland.

Read More... Border Reiver History


The history of Nicholforest Parish

Bulmer's History and Directory of Cumberland, 1901, tells us that "Nicol Forest Chapelry covers an area of 8,497 acres, and extends about 10 miles along the rivers Liddel and Kershope which separate it from Scotland."

Nicholforest is said to have derived its name from a Norman baron Nicholas de Stuteville, who was one of the early owners of the Barony of Liddel, of which Nicholforest forms a part.

Within the parish are several small hamlets, but no settlement with the exception of Kershopefoot, which could be called a village; Catlowdy, Warwicksland, Scuggate, Stoneygate, Penton and Bushfield are all part of Nicholforest.

The area is historically of great interest. In the sixteenth century the Borderland was divided into six Marches: three on the Scots side and three on the English side. Nicholforest was part of the West March. Kershopefoot, which is in the northern corner of the parish, right on the Border, was a recognised venue for the Scots and English reivers to meet on days of truce, and reference to this can be found in the fine Border ballads which recount the deeds of these men.

"At Kershopefoot the tryst was set, Kershope of the lily lee."

(Hobbie Noble)

Descendants of these Borderer, Armstongs, Forsters, Grahams, Bells and many others, still live in and around Nicholforest parish.

Probably the oldest building in the area is Stonegarthside Hall, an impressive ancient Border stronghold; at one time it was the seat of the Forsters. It is now a listed building. Below the massive edifice are dungeons; and in one of the four-foot thick walls is a heart-shaped aperture through which one can see almost the whole extent of Liddesdale.

The present church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, was rebuilt in 1866 on the site of a church built in 1744. The parish registers date back to 1760.

The Church of England school at Warwicksland was rebuilt and enlarged in 1870 at a cost of £630 raised by voluntary contributions. There was a house attached for the schoolmaster. At one time, children attended from the age of five until leaving age; then it became a Primary School for the five-to-eleven age group. In 1988, because of the small number of pupils attending - three to be exact - it was considered not economically viable. Indeed, the children appeared on T.V. as they returned for the new term in September 1988, Warwicksland School being at that time the smallest in England. It closed at Christmas that year. The premises are now in private hands.

The railway, originally the North British Railway, ran through Nicholforest until 1969, when the Beeching axe descended on the "Waverley" main line route to Edinburgh. Penton and Kershopefoot Stations fell victim, and as one local farmer said, regretfully, "The life went out of the parish with the closure of the railway."

In its heyday Penton Station was not only a passenger and freight link with Edinburgh, London and the South, but was also a thriving centre for agricultural trade and commerce. It was a collecting point for milk; and milk from the Channel Island herd at Kingfield was sent in churns daily to London. Sheep and cattle came by rail; some from as far away as the Isle of Skye. One local landowner regularly went there to buy sheep at 2s.6d. per head, and the story is still told of how on one occasion he was returning home on the train, full of ale, and pulled the communication cord, causing the train to stop by his farm. When informed that a £100 find was to be imposed upon him, he replied aggrievedly, "You've been travelling over my land all this time, and I don't see why I should have to go to the station and walk all the way back here."

There was a coal depot at the station, and Millican's Supply Stores across the road sold a wide variety of goods. On the station itself there was an animal feed store where John Leslie, the storeman, mixed very good meal to his own special recipe. Not far from the station, beside the Bridge Inn, at the top of the hill, until the early 1950s, twice-yearly auctions were held, in Spring and Autumn. Stock was driven in, much of it on foot, from outlying districts such as Bewcastle and Roadhead; and farmers who met there partook plentifully of the ale, and slept in the barn until the next day, sometimes for several days. Cattle and sheep sold at the auctions would be taken to the station for transport elsewhere.

Local folk used the train for journeys into Carlisle, the fare at one time being 1s.0d. return. Cheap excursions to Edinburgh were a regular treat for local families. The trains were usually very regular and reliable, and many local farmers and outdoor workers geared their meal times to the trains passing by.

Between the wars, the Forestry Commission planted thousands of conifers on the surrounding fellsides, covering the bleak moorland like green knitted blankets. In the early 1990s the trail link had gone, and the forests were being cropped, huge lorries, some in tandem, thundering their way across the countryside, churning up the roadside verges, and dominating the winding country roads. Those forests still owned by the Forestry Commission are open to the public for hikers and ramblers, but those sold off to private concerns are now padlocked and entry is forbidden.

For many years, the Forestry Commission provided employment for local young men.

The Border between England and Scotland lies along the course of the river Liddel in Nicholforest parish. It was a salmon and trout river, where otters were once prolific, and in days gone by, hunted. The otters' place, in the late 1980s was taken by the voracious mink, a "foreigner" released into the environment by mink breeders when the bottom dropped out of the fur trade. The mink has only one natural enemy, man, and therefore breeds freely. Its destructive qualities made it very unpopular both in the fishing and farming communities. Mink are now scarce.

The road bridge connecting Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway spans a beautiful gorge, Penton Linns, where the river Liddel surges round great rocks, much of these rich in fossils. In summer it is a gathering place for youngsters who jump off the bridge high above the river into a deep pool below. Even after the death of a local man, the dare continues.

Upstream from the Linns, until 1990, there was a suspension bridge, known locally as the "Swing Bridge", which provided a short cut to the Scots side. For well over 100 years this bridge had spanned the river at this point, and it was the responsibility of both English and Scottish councils to maintain it. In the winter of 1990, just after undergoing extensive repairs at some cost, the bridge was washed away in a storm.

The remains of two lime kilns can be seen on the English side near Peter's Crook Farm, and up to about 1940, limestone from Scotland was bucketed by pulley across the Liddel to be burnt. Farmers came from outlying areas with horses and carts to collect the lime with which to dress their fields.

At Stoneygate there was a blacksmiths shop until the early 1950s, Jobby Turnbull being the blacksmith. Nearby at Drakemire, Wat Cowan plied his trade as a clogger. The parish was plentifully supplied with inns and alehouses, many of the latter now dwelling houses or farms. Probably the most famous of these establishments was "The Huntsman", or "The Corner House"; but known locally as "Annie Jane's". Annie Jane Potts was the proprietress of "The Huntsman", and her premises were the centre for a variety of entertainments: "Burns' Suppers"; "Tatie-pot Suppers"; "Kern Suppers", and magnificent farmhouse dinners and teas were her speciality. Every Easter Sunday night she made traditional mulled ale, with eggs, stout, ginger and spices, to her own recipe, and people came from all parts - especially from over the Border, where Sunday drinking was forbidden, to enjoy a convivial evening.

Entertainment in Nicholforest in days gone by was varied. Until the 1960's dances were held at Scuggate in a wooden hut known as "The Border Hall"; Jack Ratchford did the catering, and Arthur Faulder with his gramophone supplied the music. Over 120 years ago, Nicholforest had a Dancing Master, Mr. Morrison, a strict disciplinarian who supervised the local dances. He would stand in the centre of the hall, with a cane in his hand, and anyone who misbehaved or stepped out of line, was tapped smartly with the cane.

The present Parish Hall at Warwicksland was rebuilt in 1966 after a fire destroyed the old one; money having been raised locally by sports days, beauty contests, dances, raffles and other means. In 2004, a £200,000 lottery grant allowed major refurbishment of the Village Hall. For example, the heating and electricity were renewed, a disabled entrance and toilets were added, and the kitchen and roof were replaced. Nowadays, the Women's Institute and an Art Club are the main regular users of the hall; dances, musical events, and Harvest Suppers also take place from time to time.

There used to be clay pigeon shoots, hound trails, quoits and penny pitching at The Huntsman and the Bridge Inn, and on land at the back of the Parish Hall at Warwicksland, cricket matches were played at weekends and on summer evenings. Sheepdog trials have taken place since the 1950s, and people come from all parts both to compete with their Border Collies, and just for the enjoyment of watching.

Farming, mostly sheep and cattle, is the chief occupation of the local people; very few crops are grown, and most of the land is under grass or forestry. Farmers began diversifying, some into tourism, but the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 caused a crisis in Cumbria (the worst affected county with 843 cases). Footpaths were closed and campsites near farms had to cancel bookings. Ten years later, the number of tourists visiting the Parish is still lower than itused to be, but development plans for more accommodation suggest this may change.

At one time there were several small establishments selling such necessities as paraffin, soap, sugar, butter, animal feed, etc. By the early 1990s only one remained - the Catlowdy Post Office and General Stores. There was also a travelling shop, much appreciated in wintry weather, which carried a wide variety of foodstuffs and household goods. A fishmonger and butcher came weekly from Newcastleton. Since 2010, the Penton Exchange, which offers a hot lunch on the last Wednesday of each month now provides a delivery service of vegetables from Cochrane's in Longtown and meat and pies from Elliott's in Newcastleton.

In the centre of Nicholforest is the sporting estate of "Kingfield", and the beautiful woodlands are a haven for roe deer, red squirrels, badgers, hares, rabbits, stoats and many other native mammals. Bird life is abundant and varied. Summer visitors include cuckoos, swallows, martins, swifts, spotted flycatchers and many others, which join the resident birds, such as the great spotted woodpecker, heron, cormorant, rooks, jays, goldcrests, tits, pheasant and partridge, and many others.

In late autumn, the wild geese fly in to winter on the Solway coast, from Spitzbergen, and are often seen grazing on local fields during the winter months before heading back north to their breeding grounds.

Other winter visitors are fieldfares, redwings, bramblings and migratory starlings. Several species of birds of prey are resident in Nicholforest, including owls, sparrowhawks, kestrels, buzzards and merlins.

The roadsides in summer are rich in a variety of flowers; honeysuckle, wild rose, meadowsweet, ragged robbin, melancholy thistle, spotted orchis; and rare wild orchids can be found in hidden corners off the beaten track.

On a clear day, from the highest hill, Brown Knowe, the whole of the Solway Plain amnd the Northern Lake District can be seen.

The air here is clear and pure, as can be proved by the lichens and mosses to be found everywhere on roofs, fences, gates and buildings.

Pam Forester 5/3/91 (original text)
Margaret Robb 28/10/16, 4/11/16

The Waverley Line

In the Railway Building era of the mid 19th Century it was proposed to construct a railway through the Central Borders.
In 1850 a plan was drawn up to take the route from Carlisle through Longtown, Kirkandrews, Canonbie, Langholm, Ewes Vale and onwards to Hawick. The Engineers Blyth and Jopp pointed out the fact that this proposed route would cross rivers eleven times near Hawick.
Negotiations continued in the next few years until 1858 when another plan was proposed to take the route through Liddesdale. This route was to be known as the Border Union Railway. Later it was renamed the Waverley Route.