The Irtons of Irton Hall
ART. VI. The Irtons, of Irton Hall. By the Rev. S. TAYLOR.
RECORDS of the Irton family, if meagre, are persistent through 600 years of West Cumberland History. They were neither so bold nor so dominant as were those families who lived in places of strategic importance nearer to the storms of the Scottish Border; for the sheltered position of their beautiful home, tucked away in the narrow valley of the Irt between the sea and the great hills of Wastdale, inclined them no doubt to a more peaceful pastoral existence. Nevertheless they had their share of incident, triumph and disaster, of which later generations would have known more had it not been for a hasty action on the part of one of their wives.
They had lived for five centuries at the least, probably for much longer, in the same old house, which by the middle of the 19th century contained not only that treasure of furniture, books and odds and ends collected through the passing years by a well established family, but also a store of papers, deeds and other documents, which might have been of the greatest value to the student of Cumberland history. When the last Irton died in 1866, his wife, a Senhouse of Calder Abbey, made, one Sunday evening, a bonfire of all the documents, maps and papers relating to the family and its possessions, holding that as there were no more to bear the name of Irton these relics could be of no interest to anyone else.
A few years later, in 1872, the house itself was sold and its contents disposed of by public auction at Irton itself and at Ambleside. A marked copy of the library sale, which has come to hand, is a torture to any book lover.
Books and manuscripts of the greatest value, including many of the 18th century first editions, went to the winds, at prices which to day sound ridiculous. A number of pictures and miniatures, an old altar cloth, family bibles and other objects, which the last widow Irton took away with her to furnish the home of her widowhood, still survive, together, strangely enough, with a manuscript book written in 1764 by Samuel Irton (I), the London merchant, who took great interest in the story of his ancestors and who called in the help of Mr. Warburton, Somerset Herald, and of a certain Mr. Jones to investigate their records in the family archives and elsewhere. The result, which is given in Appendix 1, exactly as it was written by Samuel Irton, is an amusing if not altogether valueless production, which can only be described as a hotch-potch of muddled family traditions and records, jumbled up with scraps of information concerning certain earlier Irtons, which Warburton seems to have gleaned promiscuously from any available source in Cumberland and out of it or perhaps in some cases from his own unaided imagination.
It is unfortunate that in 1664 65, when Dugdale made his Visitation, the Irtons in common, with certain other Cumberland families did not put in an appearance. The Irton Visitation pedigrees are earlier and short. They will be found in Appendix 3
But in spite of these omissions and the disaster of the bonfire there remains a good deal of material from which to draw. The late Dr. Parker of Gosforth made many notes as the result of patient work, and a certain amount of other information has been gathered by Mr. W. N. Thompson, Dr. C. Moor and Col. Haswell, to all of whom the present writer is greatly indebted, as also to the Rev. C. M. L. Bouch, who has helped him in the task of compiling the following notes, which if they are perforce somewhat scrappy in their account of the earlier Irtons, present a connected story of the family from the end of the 15th century onwards.
This has been captured from Vol. XLI of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, written by Rev. S. Taylor and published in 1941.
I have requested permission to reproduce a more complete transcript of this article.
As spelled in original document.