History of Dufton village

Dufton ribbon
Dufton the place of doves

This page puts the Dufton family into the context of history.
It looks at the various people throughout history who inhabited the land around the village of Dufton, and may well have contributed to our heritage.
We are what we were

Dufton ribbon
450 million years ago Scotland and England were on different continents, seperated by thousands of miles of ocean, Scotland was part of the land mass of Laurentia, and England part of the the land mass of Gondwana. Over millions of years these two gigantic tectonic plates moved closer together and were eventually to collide, Scotland and England fused together as one land by this momentous crash.

The point where these two ancient continents collided. Roll over the cursor. Left of the white line is England, Scotland to the right.
The region where the two ancient continents were melted together formed the Borderland hills, almost exactly where the Roman emperor was to build his wall across Britain. A borderland formed in fire, and with a history of war and turbulence to follow. Surely, no other region of Britain has such a dramatic past as that of the Eden Valley, Cumbria and the Borderlands.

Hadrians Wall, the location where England and Scotland were fused together
Hadrian's Wall near the English and Scottish border

15,000 years ago the Eden Valley was buried beneath a sheet of ice 600 feet deep, as the temperature began to rise the ice sheets groaned, cracked and retreated northwards. Torrents of melt-water shaped the landscape into the river, valleys and scoured hills that we see today.

The landscape on Dufton Fell, above Dufton village, shaped by melting ice.

The first Cumbrians reached the Eden Valley as they followed their prey up to the limits of the ice around 10,000years. By about 5,000BC Britain had become an island, and the improving climate brought open forests of birch and pine, followed by denser vegetation of oak, ash, hazel and elm. This enabled the early Cumbrians of the Middle Stone Age to settle the region as hunters and gathers. The prehistoric Cumbrians of the New Stone Age around 3000BC introduced spinning, weaving and pottery, and were the first farmers, cultivators and herders.

Castlerigg Stone Circle
Long Meg and her Daughters

Early in the second millennium BC, as the Stone Age was transforming into the Bronze Age a group of prehistoric herdsmen arrived in the Eden valley by way of the Pennine passes from Yorkshire and Northumbria. These settlers known as the Beaker people were responsible for the construction of the great stone circles and monuments. The most impressive of these in Cumbria is Long Meg and her daughters at Little Salkeld near Dufton. The stone circles served as meeting and trading places, and were located along the trade routes that pass through the Eden valley. These early settlers lived along the fellside near what became Dufton village, and from many of their burial mounds located near the village on Brackenber moor have come important 'grave remains'. Of particular interest is the ancient Druidical Judgement Seat near Dufton that has recently been archaeologically surveyed. DNA evidence suggests that today's Cumbrians have a much closer degree of inherited affinity with those very early settlers than with the people who settled the region at a later time, such as the Celts, Angles, Norse and Normans.

Research indicates, that at this time in history, the population of the whole of Cumbria is less than 2000 people.

The Druidical Judgement Seat near Dufton village.

Between 300 and 200BC iron using Celtic people crossed the Pennines and arrived in the Eden valley. Technically the Celtic tribes were more advanced than their Bronze Age neighbours. They introduced an advanced mixed farming economy in which the horse was bred for riding and as a draught animal. Castle Hill on the edge of the woods at Dufton is a Celtic Iron Age defended farm, where a pastoral community practised a type of garden agriculture. This ancient Dufton farmstead was an enclosed square of about one acre housing seven round huts and a quern, a square hut was added at a later period.
The settlement was surrounded by an outer bank with a fence on top, and rather unusally it had an inner ditch. This farm was one of three small farmsteads, about a mile apart that shared a large enclosed pasture.

These Celtic people were the colourfully tattooed Carvetti tribe, the Deer people, and belonged to the Celtic Brigantes the Hill people. These Dufton Celts were part of a settled community with jobs and trades, spiritual leaders, religous places and events. The Celtic tribes were arranged into three classes, a mounted warrior group, a spiritual group and the plebs who were the majority. Clifton Dykes, just a few miles from Dufton was the main Carvetti military fort, and the nearby Druidical Seat was the spiritual and ritual centre.

The Iron Age village of Dufton

The Roman legions arrived in the Eden valley about 71AD, and attempted to crush the troublesome Brigantes and their fierce mounted Celtic warriors. The Brigantes and Carvetii had taken part in a historic revolt against the Romans a few years before, and orders from Rome insisted the rebels were dealt with. The Romans established a fort at Brougham, Brocavum, an important crossroads for trade routes and a river crossing. This location was selected because it was near Clifton Dykes, which was the 'headquarters' of the Carvetii people. At KirbyThore, Bravoniacum, a marching camp was built and at Crackenthorpe a signal station both of which were along the road from York to Carlisle, and both buildings very near to Dufton. There still remains an original Roman milestone along this road near the village of Dufton. Just north of Dufton at Bravoniacum another road was built by Romans to provide access to the very important lead and silver mines on the fells above Dufton. A mile from Dufton at the Roman fortlet of Castrigg there was evidence that the local tribes traded with the Romans. Evidence from the Vindolanda tablets show that meat, hides, wool, hay, corn and milk were traded, as well as Celtic beer. It is known such items as vechile parts, including wheels, axles and various metal items were being traded. The Carvetii farmsteads along the fellside around Dufton flourished, pollen studies indicate that during this period considerable forest clearance occurred along with an expansion in agriculture that was needed to supply the Roman fort and the towns that developed outside them.

roman way
Map showing the village of Dufton, and the Roman roads and stations nearby.

The period following the Roman withdrawl from the north was perhaps the most fascinating time in the history of the Eden valley. By the fifth century the Eden valley was part of the kingdom of Rheged. The most important king of Rheged was Urien, the monarch who heroically fought the invading Angle tribes, his headquarters were located at nearby Morland. His son Owien was a prominent knight in the legends of King Arthur, there are many Arthurian tales associated with the region. Fragments of the Nennius text, the lost chronicles of North Britain, describe Arthur's campaign against the invading Angles. Research shows that of the thirteen battles listed, nine were fought by Arthur in the region of the Eden valley and Hadrian's Wall. On Urien's death Rheged became subserviant to the kingdom of Strathclyde, during this time the Celtic people of the enlarged Strathclyde kingdom and the people of the Welsh kingdom became known as Cymry, the Celtic word for compatriots. From Cymry came the names Cumberland and Cumbria. After the Battle of Chester in 615 came the decline of the Cymry, the powerful Anglian kingdom of Northumbria had driven a wedge between the Celtic people of Wales and Cumbria, and the movement of Angles into Cumbria accelerated. It was at this time that the Angle settlement of Dufton began to develop. Interestingly, whereas the name Cumberland has its origins in the Celtic word Cymry, Westmorland is derived from the Angle word Westmaringland, the land of the western border, which is how the Angles viewed the region from their Northumbrian homeland.

Dufton place of doves

There were various waves of Angle settlers into Cumbria during the seventh century, but settlements with name endings of tun or ton, enable the origins of Dufton to be dated towards the year 670. Dufton was among a cluster of a dozen villages that formed a distinct group along the fellside. This pattern of Angle farmsteads show a concerted settlement under Northumbrian rule. These Angles were farmers, and brought with them strong ploughs to work the fertile soil of the Eden valley. Dufton would have contained up to ten families housed close together in cruck constructed dwellings. Their farming system was to communally work a three field arrangement. One large field divided into strips would be worked by the villagers to grow oats and some wheat, in another field pulses such as beans were grown and another field left fallow, there was also common grazing land for the village.

The Angles were very superstitious which is why their villages such as Dufton were built about a mile away from the Roman road through the Eden valley. They believed the Roman remains such as the roads and forts were the work of giants. Many of the fascinating superstitions and customs we still have today stem from this time in our history.

Do you know why an Anglo-Saxon husband carried his bride across the threshold of their home, or why we think ghosts can walk through walls? 
Did you know that their god Thor would fly through the skies in his chariot, dressed in his bright red tunic.  And, at Yuletide he would drop gifts for children down the chimneys of their homes....sound familiar?

The next settlers into the Eden Valley were the Norse men, it appears that rather than invaders they arrived mainly as peaceful refugees from Ireland, although the settlers at Appleby were Danes who had crossed over the Pennines.  The fact that both Norse and Anglian place-names exist alongside each other suggests that they lived in harmony.  These Norse settlers introduced sheep farming for both fleece and food into the fells of Cumbria, which was to be such an important factor in Cumbrian life.  It was also a time of resurgence for the British Kingdom of Strathclyde, during the 10th century the Anglian control had decreased.  The Cumbrians now consisted of various Celtic tribes and they allied themselves with the Norsemen and Scots against the English. 

In 945 the English King Edmund marched his army into Cumbria and won a great victory when he defeated Dunmail, the Cumbrian king, in battle at a site below Helm Crag between the lakes of Grasmere and Thirlmere. 


There is a legend that as King Dunmail led the Cumbrians into battle he ordered each warrior to place a stone on the ground to mark the border of Cumbria. It was thought by the Cumbrians that these stones would hold their souls while they were on the battlefield. After the battle the defeated Cumbrians removed their own stone and reclaimed their souls.  To this day there still remains a cairn of stones by the roadside below Helm Crag, each stone commemorating a Cumbrian warrior killed in battle, and who was thus unable to remove his own stone and collect his soul. The cairn also marks the burial place of King Dunmail. After the battle the king's crown was thrown into nearby Grisedale Tarn. It is claimed that the Kingdom of Cumbria will rise again if the crown is ever recovered.

 However, feeling unable to hold Cumbria King Edmund gave the region to King Malcolm of Scotland in return for homage and promises of peace.  But promises were broken, and over the following years the balance of power continued to switch between England and Scotland.  Between the years 945 and 1174 possession of Dufton village changed at least six times, it spent 87 years under English control and 142years under Scottish rule.  But even though Cumbria was at times controlled by the English or Scots it had always been an independent region, even the charter of the lord of Gilsland in 1139 referred to 'all my friends and men Cumbrian, French and English', the Cumbrians were always a separate people.

For centuries it was regarded almost as a rite of passage for English kings to undertake the conquest of Scotland, which they regarded as a breakaway region. The Scots for their part, believed it was their divine mission to dish the English by any means necessary and hurl them back over the border.  As for the Cumbrians they were caught in the middle, their lands were a constant battlefield, the border battlelands.  It was regarded by many as a time for Cumbria when 'Christ and all the saints were sleeping'.  A consequence of this war torn past is still reflected in today's Cumbrian way of life.  The Cumbrian dialect has well over a  hundred words for describing the different ways of hitting someone, and Westmorland and Cumberland wrestling is still practiced at sporting events.

So, are we to feel sorry for the poor battered folk of Cumbria?  Not for a moment.  Although they existed mainly as pastoral farmers with their large flocks and herds, they also moonlighted as plunderers and raiders.  They rustled cattle and captured slaves from neighbouring regions such as the English in Northumberland and Scots in Dumfries, and they benefited by trading with the seafaring Irish war bands.  The men of Cumbria had a bad reputation with their neighbours, and even King Henry I  would not travel into the region with out doubling his bodyguard.

Dufton place of doves

The Norman conquest of England initially had little effect on the Eden Valley, the region was then under the control of King Malcolm III, 'Canmore', a fearsome Scottish warrior king.  But, around 1070 Gospatric the Earl of Northumberland, a cousin of Malcolm, took part in the northern revolt against the Normans.  Finally, the defeated Gospatric fled from the Normans, and whilst in retreat was able to over-run Cumbria, eventually he gained favour with the Scots and was allowed to keep control of Cumbria.  But the Scottish raids into England continued, and King William was finally provoked into taking action.  After William the Conqueror's infamous 'Harrying of the north', Gospatric was brought to task, he was made to pay homage and money to King William, but curiously was  allowed to keep Cumbria.  The savage devastation of the northern counties by the revengeful William saw thousands of miserable refugees fleeing into the mountains of Cumbria and the borderlands.  However, the king's distrust of Gospatric grew, and in 1072 he marched his army to Carlisle, built a garrison there and ousted Gospatric.  But an isolated garrison such as Carlisle needed continuous reinforcing and supplying.  For almost half a century the Cumbrians fought a guerrilla war against the Normans, they attacked the supply wagons and ambushed patrols and caused havoc for the Normans.  The cost to the Normans was immense both financially and in soldiers.  The old Roman road that ran through the Eden Valley was used by the Normans to transport their heavy equipment, but it was one of many areas that filled the Norman soldiers with dread.  The fells and marshland of Hartside, Cross Fell and Dufton Fell were infamous for swallowing up in the mist any Norman troops foolish enough to follow their Cumbrian attackers. The garrison at Carlisle eventually fell into the hands of the Scots and came under the command of Dolfin, the son of Gospatric.

The reason that Dufton and the Eden valley are not recorded in the Domesday Book, the great land survey of England taken in 1086, is because like most of Cumbria the region was again under Scottish rule at that time.

In 1092, the Anglo-Saxon chronicles record, that King William Rufus, the most savage of men, marched north with a powerful army and captured Carlisle and expelled Dolfin.  Cumbria was of little value commercially to Rufus, although there were lead and silver mines and excellent forests for hunting, much of the land around Dufton was preserved for hunting.  But hunting was not just for sport, the forest provided important food supplies for the king's court and army, as well as timber for royal and military use.  It was Cumbria's strategical position that was of concern for Rufus.  If the troublesome rebels or Scots held Cumbria they were only a two day march into the heartland of England and gaining control of the all important Humber region.  The river Humber virtually divided England in to north and south, hence Northumberland.  Its tributaries stretched to the Pennines, thus allowing just a restricted passage for travelling north or south.  Any enemy approaching the region was shunted into a narrow corridor.  Even a small army positioned here could prevent movement and cause havoc for the crown.  So Rufus built Carlisle castle to take control of the region and prevent raiders passing through Cumbria and over Stainmore, or passing along the Tyne valley and through Northumberland to the rich pickings of the Vale of York.

Appleby castle
Appleby castle, with Dufton and Dufton fell beyond.

But, this turbulent border country was to be ravaged by war, rebellion and constant quarrelling for centuries to follow.  To strengthen his hold on Cumbria William Rufus moved trusted lords and peasants from the south to settle in the area in an attempt to ensure loyalty and establish southern customs. He also ordered a line of fortification to be built along the Eden Valley,  a castle was built at Appleby, and what began as a cluster of Norse farmsteads in the early tenth century grew into the town of Appleby.  The king granted Ranulph de Meschines, a powerful soldier and fierce warlord, the Earldom of Carlisle.  Ranulph ruled his border empire which included the Eden valley, and which continued to be disrupted by the rebellious Cumbrians.  The rebels were led by the Earl Boethar who from his headquarters near Buttermere inflicted defeat after defeat on the Norman lord.  With the sinking of the White Ship, in 1120, Ranulph was replaced and command of the Eden valley and the barony of Appleby passed to his sister the wife of Robert d'Estrivers.  Their daughter carried the barony in marriage to Ranulph Engain.  In 1135 King Henry I died, there was upheaval as his daughter Matilda and nephew Stephen battled for the crown of England.  Eventually, for supporting Stephen's claim King David of Scotland was granted control of Cumbria, once again Dufton found itself in Scottish hands.  King David gave the barony of Appleby to Simon de Morville, and many of the estates on the border were given to Anglo-Normans such as the 'de Bruces', and  'de Balliols' from whose families would come two Scottish kings.   The twenty years that King David had control of Cumbria was a time that saw Cumbria flourish.  In a peaceful period Carlisle changed from a border garrison town to a centre of trade and commerce.  But kings of this period were not to be trusted, and in 1157 Dufton found itself back in England as
King Henry II broke his promise by claiming Cumbria for England.  Simon's son Hugh de Morville was allowed to keep the barony, but he was one of the four knights implicated in the killing of Thomas-a-Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170.  For this offence, and for being involved in a rebellion against the crown, the king seized de Morville's land and retained the barony. 

The sword with which Morville  murdered Thomas-a-Becket was held in Carlisle Cathedral.
It is recorded that King Edward I prayed at the site, and gave offerings to the church.



The Scots still angered at the loss of Cumbria continued their raids into England.  The Anglo-Saxon chronicles record how in 1174 they were able to capture Appleby Castle with ease.  King Henry called the men of Appleby traitors and accused them of aiding the Scots.  The subsequent assizes in 1175 demanded to know why there had been no resistance to the Scots, and why the castle had surrendered with out a struggle.  It is at this assizes that Robert de Dufton is fined 40 shillings, and this is the very first occasion that the name Dufton is recorded.

In 1204 King John gave the Barony of Appleby to Robert de Veteripont, the king also made Robert the Sheriff of Westmorland and custodian of Appleby Castle.  These were troubled times for King John, it is regarded as the most disastrous of reigns of any monarch. King John lost his lands in France, suffered a rebellion by his own barons, the Northerners, and he fought a civil war and was forced to concede to the Magna Carta.  At one stage a French prince controlled more than half of king John's kingdom, and the king of Scotland ruled the northern counties of England.
John de Dufton was one of Robert de Veteripont's knights, he was involved in the defence of Brougham and Carlisle castles against the invading Scots, and fought against the rebel barons.  For being loyal to the king it appears he was granted the Barony of Dufton.  Interestingly, John de Dufton's granddaughter Eleanor was to marry into this influential Veteripont family, the most powerful in Westmorland, when she married Nicholas de Veteripont.  Nicholas owned the manor of Alston Moor, and all of its important lead and silver mines.  After Nicholas's death Eleanor lived in the hamlet of Keisley on the edge of Dufton village with her two daughters and son.  She held the manor of Dufton among her possessions.

Dufton place of doves

A charter granted to Appleby in 1200 by King John ensured that for the next century Appleby became a prosperous market town, run by some very sharp-dealing merchants, and the surrounding district including Dufton continued to flourish as well. 

In the 12th Century Cumbria was considered a wasteland of very little value.
During this time monks were allowed to settle the land and build their monasteries. They were able to transform the land, by draining and cultivation, into the finest farmland and pastures. The monasteries organised small local farms into vast commercial concerns, and traded not only throughout Britain, but with their fellow monks across the sea in Europe.
The ideal climate and pastures enabled flocks to be reared that produced the finest fleeces. The demand for this high quality wool made Cumbria into a prosperous region.  

In 1281 a Priory of Carmelite, White Friars, was founded at Appleby, just a few miles from Dufton. The Friars were given pasture land, 60 cows, 20 mares and 500 sheep The proiry was gifted to the Church at York.  

At this time the village of Dufton consisted of only a few settlements, there was the demesne, pronounced demain, which was the manor house, the home of John de Dufton and his family.  There was a corn mill and about ten scattered dwellings that housed the tenants that worked on the estate.  Records from that time tell us some of the families that lived in these houses.  There were the families of John Ware, William Brun and Robert Bates.  Each villager had their own small plot of land which was stripped farmed, the tenants would also be expected to work for the lord of the manor on his lands.  The villagers' obligations to their lord of the manor were organised  at the Baron Court which was held every few months. There was a small amount of oats grown and apples, but most of the estate would be pasture land on which extremely large flocks of sheep would graze.  The trading of fleece was extremely profitable, and teams of pack horses took wool along the Eden valley to York, and Kendal where it was sent to London and exported to the markets of Europe.
But events were to follow that brought this prosperity to a halt.  In 1322 Appleby was looted by Scots raids, much of Dufton was destroyed.  The Black Death reached Appleby in 1348, and a third of the population of Westmorland died.  And, in 1388 Appleby was again sacked and destroyed by the Scots.  On top of these disasters the climate got colder, and much of the cultivated farm land reverted to waste.
For the rural market town of Appleby, and the surrounding settlements, whose prosperity depended on farm trade, the cumulative impact of war, climate change and pestilence was devastating.

Dufton place of doves

And finally......

A mention of two very famous men that had links to Appleby and the surrounding district. 

William Pitt, the British Prime Minister, was the member of parliament for the District of Appleby, but he never visited the town. 

President George Washington was due to join his brother at Appleby School to be educated, but the death of George's father meant he remained at home with his mother. 
In October 1781 the captured English captain of the frigate Guadeloupe was questioned by George Washington.  On hearing that the captain was from Appleby, Washington  said.....
"I am very glad to meet a Westmorland man, my family sprang from that county and my brother was at Appleby school."

What a shame that these two great men never stood by the river Eden at Appleby and saw the sunrise over Dufton Fell.

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