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Souterstead's People

John Dawson, during his researches for the Torver book and other works, must have spent many hours trawling through Church and Parish records tracking down details of the ever changing local population.  I was recently delighted and most grateful to receive from him a list of the past residents of Souterstead, the first reference dating from 14. Eliz. – the 14th year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1572 or 3).  It is but a brief note – Jo. Atkinson, son of Will. Atkinson, late of Souterstead.  – but here was a link, built in local stone, reaching back 450 years into England’s history.

In 1585 we find Thos. Atkinson, Homager. (literally, one who pays homage – a vassal), giving us a fascinating local proof that the feudal system operated even amongst the green fields of this small parish.

I should point out here that Souterstead refers to the site and that we have no record of which houses existed at what time or what the building (buildings) may have looked like.  Of the two houses there today there is some evidence that a small part of The Larches represents the older property, and anecdotal evidence that this single room and possible cattle byre are the oldest in Torver after the Church House, some parts of which date back to 1378.  I should add that this is disputed and is far from proved.  A visit to Garth Nook, on the Old Dalton Road, a little way past Hazel Hall (on the right) will provide some idea of how the original Souterstead building might have looked.

But back to the list.  Mary Champlay (or Champloy), daughter of Jo. De Suter  born in 1614 suggests an incursion by descendants of the Norman invasion, but there is no detail.  Then came a succession of Atkinsons, Croudsons, Flemings, and Lowthers - Church Wardens and Yoemen, who were born, baptized, married and died at Souterstead.  In 1716, William Taylor, a young man, died at Souterstead.  Who were you, William?

In 1729 a common life tragedy began within these walls – whichever walls stood at the time.  Elizabeth Fleming m. (married) Rich.d Lowther of Broughton.  Their children arrived: Richard in 1731, Robert (33), William (35), and a happy family looked set to bring new life and hope to the already aging house.  Then, in 1735, the year of William’s birth, four year old Robert died.  Two years later (1737) Thomas was baptized, and in 1741 came baby Elizabeth.  In that year or the year following they buried Elizabeth, the mother, and, a year later, her infant namesake followed her to the grave.
Richard Lowther married again six years later and there were Atkinsons on the site as well, suggesting that two houses may have existed.  Then, in 1750, scandal touched the lives of  the Souterstead folk and brought shame upon old Torver.  Within these walls Rebecca, daughter of Agnes Hartley was baptized (a bastard child).  And then, as though that was not sufficient to send the good womenfolk of Torver into paroxysms of spluttering rage, the little madam went and had another one (Jane).  This time she was quite properly packed off to Coniston, probably where she was born and where parish responsibility would have rested, and where they were undoubtedly more used to that sort of thing.

New folk came and went over the years, children were baptized and laid to rest, and Souterstead rested quietly twixt the fells and the water.  Good Queen Bess sank the Armada,  Oliver Cromwell removed the Head of State (at the neck), Wellington beat up the French at Waterloo, and the sheep grazed peacefully around Souterstead’s walls not caring a jot for any of it. 
The first reference to The Larches (by name), the other house on the site, came in 1911 with the arrival of W. Fleming.  Mr. M. Young (Maurice) and family came in 1920 along with the Rev. Stewart (father of Wilson Stewart).

My great thanks to John Dawson for researching all this wonderful stuff and for sharing it with me.

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