Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between Ireleth and Kirkby Ireleth?
If you're looking for information on Ireleth and type 'Ireleth' into an Internet directory or search engine, chances are you'll come up with lots of information on 'Kirkby Ireleth'. What's the difference?
Kirkby Ireleth is a parish, but is not the parish in which Ireleth and Askam lie. We were part of Dalton parish until, in the 19C, the formation of the parish of Ireleth-with-Askam. We were officially recorded as 'Above Town'; this was an administrative area that included Marton and parts of Lindal, and which roughly equates to the modern voting ward of Dalton (North).
Kirkby Ireleth parish is centred on St Cuthbert's Church at Kirkby-in-Furness and extends north and north-west towards Seathwaite. The name Kirkby is not uncommon and so (like the many Broughtons) it adopted the additional name of a larger nearby centre (Ireleth) to distinguish it from, say, Kirkby Lonsdale. (Note: the Kirkbys were an important family in that district; the centre of the modern village of Kirkby did not exist until relatively recently. Rather, it was a group of hamlets — Sandside, Beck Side, Marsh Side etc. — huddled around Kirkby Hall.)
Thus, all of Ireleth's earliest records are categorised with those of Dalton until 1874. Marriages, funerals, baptisms and the like were almost always carried out in Dalton, though some of these are recorded at St Cuthbert's. These may, however, be Kirkby people who'd moved to Ireleth, yet who returned to their home parish for these significant events.

What do the names Ireleth and Askam actually mean?
Arthur Evans believed that the name Ireleth was of Norse origin. The Norsemen who came to Furness were not the coastal raiders so famous in history books, but came from the Isle of Man. A group of Norsemen had settled there and attempted to establish a breakaway kingdom, independent of King Harald of Norway, in 895. Harald sent out a punitive party, and so many of these rebels fled to the Furness coast. Arthur Evans, in the Evening Mail, wrote:

"Ire" is considered to be a personal name of a Norseman who came over to Furness from Ireland during the time of the Norse or Viking invasion of this part of the country.
His craft would come up the Duddon Estuary and he would land in the marsh. Very soon he would make his way further inland on the side of the hill, where he would make his home. "Leth" is Norse for a "Slope" and as his home was on the slope of the hill, it was called "Ireleth".

Melville and Hobbs had earlier offered the name as meaning "hillslope of the Irishmen". This was repeated in Oxford University Press's A Dictionary of English Place-Names, thus:

Irlid 1190 'Hill-slope of the Irishmen'. Old Scandinavian Irar + hlith.

The origins of the name Askam (occasionally written 'Askham' and 'Eskam' in early documents) was also examined Melville and Hobbs. They offered a Norse connection, too, in the Old Norse name 'Aski' with the element 'ham' (enclosure) or 'holmr' (low land liable to innundation by flooding). They wrote that:

'ESKHAM was the name of one of the common fields of Ireleth in 1776. The name ASKam appears first in records about the time of the dissolution.'

Is Ireleth really in the Domesday Book?
Barnes, Walton and other local historians wrote that Ireleth's recorded history began in 1086 with the Domesday Book. This became the accepted wisdom, simply through being repeated often enough. There is indeed a place name 'Gerleuuorde' (part of the manor of what had been known in pre-invasion times as Hougun) which was attributed to the place we know as Ireleth. However, it sounds very little like 'Ireleth' in any of its current or earlier forms, and its association with Hougun does not necessarily mean that it is Ireleth.
It is also important to remember that Furness was effectively under Scottish control in 1092 and the whole area was at the north-western-most tip of Domesday's coverage. Although the area traditionally looked south-eastwards for its administration (even when under Scots control) it was still in an area which may have provided less than reliable returns data.

When was the ironworks chimney knocked down?
The following report is from the North Western Daily Mail of Monday 12 February 1934:

Askam's big chimney fell at 3.40pm on Sunday. It was unexpected and the prediction had been confidently made only an hour or so before that it would not collapse until today.
Since Tuesday half a dozen men have been cutting the bricks at first one of its eight corners and then another. That was how it was done — with hammer and chisel. There was no blasting, no underpinning and firing. It is the first time a chimney of such tremendous size has been so dealt with, but it is necessary for an accurate fall . . . The crack ran up the Askam side of the huge mast. It trembled and then came straight down upon itself like a concertina. There was no room for the last thirty yards of it to fall and this toppled slowly over and crashed mightily alongside the old engine house.
The whole thing had happened before you could count to five. All that is left now is a great heap of bricks and southward stretches another low mound of bricks and iron bands that once circled the chimney to the top.

How old is Ireleth? Is there any archaeological evidence of early life here?
Askam's age is easy to verify, but Ireleth is trickier. As with the village's name (see opposite) much is open to discussion. On many maps the top of High Haume is marked as being an ancient settlement. This would make sense; it offers excellent strategic views of the oversands route and much of the area south to Walney. However, little or no actually archaeological work has been carried out there (though Melville and Hobbs did a basic survey).
Barnes hypothesised that High Haume might be the site of the ancient capital of Hougun, though Steve Dickinson in The Beacon on the Bay has carried out a fairly clear demolition of this theory.
Having said this, there are several reasons to believe that Ireleth has been in existence since pre-Domesday times. Firstly, its name has clear links to Norse or Irish colonisers. Secondly, its location at the crossroads for the oversands route and the top road from Dalton to Kirkby almost certainly means that there would have been some kind of settlement here. Thirdly, Abbey records of Stephengarth (later Marsh Grange) imply that land was being cultivated in the region from earlier than the eleventh century.

Which is the oldest part of Askam the station end or the Lots end?
The Lots end can lay claim to being the oldest planned part of Askam, though dwellings quickly sprang up at the northern end of the early village. 'Chapter Two: House and Home' of A Short History of Ireleth and Askam-in-Furness covers this in full.
Workers flooded into the area when the Park deposit was discovered, but there was little or no accommodation available. Ireleth landholders began to capitalise by selling off stretches of fields near the workings; these fields correspond exactly with Steel and Sharp streets, and the other streets that run parallel to them (going north).
As the village grew, the ore investors developed an ambitious plan for Askam. This formally layed-out area became the Lots. However, at about the same time, the Furness Railway put its line through to Kirkby. At the point where the railway crossed the oversands route, an informal station (or, at best, dropping-off point) grew. This is the site of the modern station and, inevitably, the place where dwellings developed.