Little Urswick from Holme Bank banks
Last Updated: 19 January 2014

Little Urswick from Scales road

Little Urswick seen from the Scales to Birkrigg road with Black Combe in background
Little Urswick is a distinct and separate village in its own right, just less than a mile from Great Urswick.  It has 114 dwellings, an increase of around 62 over living memory.  Known in the area for many years, when the rural villages were home to a continuity of resident families and a local dialect still prevailed, as Lile Ossick,  the history of this village appears to at least equal the age of its larger neighbour, Gt Ossick.  The dialect representation of 'great' is pronounced phonetically as written here.

Little Urswick village green
Little Urswick village green
The centre-piece is the village green, in reality, a thin covering of soil and now well cared for grass over an extensive outcrop of Urswick Limestone Formation, which still, character-fully, presents itself through a few 'bald' areas on the green.  As with the local dialect, the village has lost its pub, The Swan, which neighboured the school overlooking the village green.  In the early 1900s the green would become the annual short term bed and breakfast accommodation for large numbers of geese brought over from Ireland and taken from village to village throughout the area to be sold to local people.  One can only imagine the noise that geese in those numbers would make, and the relief that those living around the green would feel when they moved on to another village and peace returned.
Urswick Grammar School

The village green was always known around the Low Furness villages as Little Urswick's school green as it was the play area for the village school.  With a charter signed by Queen Elizabeth I and dating from 1585, there can be very few villages of the small size of Little Urswick that have, or have had, a Free Grammar School in continuous use for 409 years.  The old photograph, taken in the 1920s or 1930s shows the school as it would have been during the 44 years, 1876 to 1920, that John Dobson was headmaster.  John Dobson features in this website via the homepage link to 'Historical items'.  His daughter, Martha Helena Dobson, who grew from childhood in the village, was later to be headmistress at the same school from 1946 to 1956.  They were both deeply interested and well informed in a wide range of local topics such as archaeology, nature, botany and local history and much credit is due to them for the knowledge and accompanying love for the locality that they passed to later generations.  Community is a much talked about and sought after social phenomena in modern times which of necessity is now pursued by synthesis.  Community in the long years that Urswick Grammar School and educators such as the Dobson family were at its nucleus was the outcome of a largely stable population reproducing itself and constantly regenerating organic social bonds with a resulting level of cohesion that synthesis will never equal.      The school house where John Dobson and his wife Mary lived and brought up their four daughters is the ground floor three windows and front door to the left of the building.  One of the classrooms of the school is located above the school house.

HM Queen Elizabeth II at Urswick Grammar School

Village children performing for HM Queen Elizabeth II
On the occasion of the school's 400th anniversary in 1985, it was visited by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, but nine years later it was to close in favour of a modern building  of pagoda like appearance closer to Great Urswick.  The structure of the school buildings has survived as a conversion to three private dwellings, amongst which the original Free Grammar School, renamed as White Rose Cottage, now only hints at its long history by a 1585 date stone.  Nothing in the village informs that it possesses such a significant historical building, remarkable in its origins in such a small rural village.  Its presence has been responsible for establishing an educated populous in what would be, until the coming of the railways and the transformation of the peninsula consequent to the discovery of iron ore, an isolated part of the country.

Redmayne Hall

Redmayne Hall and Little Urswick crags
As recently as fifty years ago, this village, then of around fifty dwellings, included six working farms within its boundary.  These included Redmayne Hall which, whilst no longer a working farm, has been wonderfully conserved by its present owner, as the farmstead that it was, possibly dating from Elizabethan times.  Only one working farm still tentatively remains within the boundary of the village.  Agriculture is still very evident throughout the parish, but is now focused on fewer units, usually operating outside of the main settlements.

Little Urswick from Quernbarrow Hill

Little Urswick from Quernbarrow Hill
Quernbarrow Hill alongside the road between Little Urswick and Hawkfield is grass covered just like all of the pastoral land in the parish.  Its name, however, bears a clue to a unique feature which it possesses within Urswick Parish.  The solid geology across the parish is Carboniferous Limestone, all of the original overlying strata of other rock types having been eroded away over many millions of years.  But on the summit of Quernbarrow Hill the limestone is capped by a remnant of the original overlying sandstone which has survived all of the erosive forces which have stripped the sandstone from the rest of the parish.  The hill's name derives from the use once made of this sandstone source to make querns for the milling of corn in the kitchens of the area.

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