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The story of Sellergarth

Alexander Banke was an ambitious, reckless, and completely worldly man who incredibly was appointed 36th Abbot of Furness. He appeared in the Duchy Court at least 12 times between 1509 and 1531 being the defendant in eight cases, usually because he had attempted to gain land or fisheries by fraudulent means. He decided to erect a large deer park around the abbey and during a period of agricultural depression he took possession of the nearby arable land. Among the farms taken were Roose, Sandscale, Southend, Goldmire, part of Roanhead and a portion of Sellergarth.

However this portion was not much use until he had acquired the whole. He was therefore quick to seize the opportunity to obtain the remaining tenements. While he was involved in law-suits outside, there was contention within the monastery resulting in some of the monks, assisted by the men of Sellergarth, expelling him and electing John Dalton as abbot. Two years later Banke recovered the abbey and his abbacy, threw his rival and the rebel monks into prison and took his revenge on the Sellergarth tenants by destroying their village.

 William Case was one of the victims and he took Abbot Banke to court. “The said abbot with more than 22 of his monks and people, on the 16 December, in the eighth year of the reign of Henry V111, broke into the said tenement and turned out the same plaintiffs, to the plaintiff’s utter undoing. Since that time the said abbot has pulled down the said mease together with twenty others in the said town and has also imposed the third part of the arable lands which used to be occupied with the same, so that the plaintiffs and the other inhabitants have been obliged to avoid the said town for lack of mansions in the same.” ( The Duchy Court of Lancaster, 1516). A new park was thus created and it was seven miles in circumference.

Some of the homeless tenants were re-housed at Bridge Gate, Breastmill Beck, and Raiksmoor. It was probable that no more than 24 of the original 32 tenants claimed tenements out of the Sellergarth lands, the remainder passing into the abbot’s territory, now forming part of Manor Farm. 12 of the 24 were settled at Hawcoat and 12 at the new site. When this village was built it became known as the New Barns of Furness.

Drawing by Jo Rose of a typical 16th century Furness Village

The village of Newbarns and Newbarns School exist today in 21st century Barrow. 420 acres of land were allocated to Newbarns and this was formed from six of the old Sellergarth fields. The only relic left of the village of Sellergarth, according to Paul Kelly, is in the name of the field “Seller Butts”, which is sited opposite Manor Farm. “Butts” could refer to the place where archery was practised; this activity was compulsory and happened after Mass. George Case, the present owner of Manor Farm, and a descendant of one of the branches of the 16th century Cases, thinks Sellergarth could have been in the area of the present day Sixth Form College where there was once a pond.    

Sources: Newbarns -  “The Story of a Furness Village” by Paul V. Kelly, 1937

“A History of Furness Abbey” by Alice Leach  1987.