A Very Fortunate Man
On the 23rd November 1665, the Manor of Castle Carrock was sold by Sir John Ballantyne and his wife, Dame Anne, to Charles Howard, Earl of Carlisle. So began a connection between Tottergill and the descendants of the Earl, which was to last until 1937. The farm was freehold, but within the boundaries of the manor and subject to manorial law. It figures from time to time in the Howard family records, for instance each time a lord of the manor died the incumbent of Tottergill had to pay a ‘fine’ or ‘heritot’* to the estate. As the 17th century drew to a close, the farm was owned by the Hodgson family, who were there for another 200 years.
Henry Hodgson of Tottergill was a very fortunate man. At the time of his death in 1677 he owned a bed with two sheets, a bolster and cover cloths. He bequeathed them to his daughter Jennet. At a time when many slept on piles of straw, ownership of a bed and linen was of some significance. Henry also owned a ‘brass and iron pott’, unbleached cloth, ropes and baskets, wood faggots and wood, corn and hay, two oxen, four kine (cows) and three calves, a horse with apparel, 6 lambs, geese and poultry. His son Thomas got a cupboard, ark* and table and the rest went to his wife Dorothy, along with sundry debts!
From the inventory to Henry’s will you get a brief glimpse of life at Tottergill three hundred years ago. He is listed in records as a thatcher and coalminer - activities which would supplement what he could make from the land. At home he worked on the farm with his horse to grow crops and keep animals for meat, eggs, feathers and wool. He gathered wood for fuel and Dorothy cooked in the ‘pott’, over an open fire. Valuing the few items of furniture that he owned, he passed them on to serve the next generation of the family. Henry Hodgson, of ‘good and perfect memory’ was not an educated man and was only able to make his mark, at the end of his will, as were his neighbours, called in to do an inventory of his goods, as was the local custom. Life on the farm would have been hard, especially in winter, when no fresh food was available and their diet would have depended on foods which could be safely stored, smoked or preserved.
When he looked out from Tottergill over the valley below he would have seen a pattern of long, narrow fields along the valley bottom, with ‘common’ grazing areas on the rougher land, a legacy from medieval times. Castle Carrock was smaller – the surge of new building in 19th century prosperity was still in the future. Water came from local streams – Carlisle was too small to need the reservoir yet. The railway hadn’t arrived and all travel was on foot or by horse, on unmade and muddy roads. Using power generated by a hillside spring, the farm had its own mill, complete with sluice, millrace and wheel.
This meant that grain could be ground at home and a difficult journey down to the mill on the river Gelt was avoided.
There were other Hodgsons also living on the farm. Anthony Hodgson died around the same time as Henry. Parish records list him as ‘yeoman’, so he was likely the elder brother. Down in the village below there were many others of the same name.
* heriot – payment of the best live beast on the farm to the lord of the manor on the death of the tenant
* ark – chest or box