|As the renovation
work on the former Ship Inn got underway in 2007 Sean and Jayne Cussack
allowed expert Philip Cracknell, BA AIFA from Greysouthern free rein
to carry out a Historic Building Survey on the Castle Bar building
at No. 14, Market Place.
His study included the early pictorial map drawn up for Henry Percy,
the ninth Earl of Northumberland, who owned various properties in
Cockermouth, dating from around 1600, which shows the buildings of
Market Place in the heart of the town.
Mr Cracknell states in his report: While there was no requirement
for an historic building survey with regard to the planning application,
it was considered that the building was of some historical and archaeological
importance and warranted a survey. The present owner of the building,
Mr. Sean Cusack, kindly allowed the author free access to the building
during the programme of works in late 2007 and early 2008.
The exact date for the foundation of Cockermouth is not known, but
the Borough Charter of c. 1210 shows that the town was in existence
for some years before the earliest reference to its castle in 1221
or the grant of a market in 1227. Moreover, the charter of
c. 1210 is a confirmation of privilege conferred on the free men
of the town some time in the past, implying that the original foundation
occurred at an earlier date. Evidence that an urban community was
in existence at Cockermouth by c. 1200 comes from the contemporary
grants of land in the town to two monastic houses. The degree of
burgage plot subdivision, which had taken place by c. 1270, suggests
that the demand for burgage plots had been high and that the town
was flourishing. The survey of c. 1270 lists in the borough
two water corn mills, a fulling mill, a dye works, eight corn measures,
the market tolls and three smithies. The existence of a dye
works and fulling mill suggests that there was an important woollen
industry based on the surrounding sheep pastures.
The historic background showed that despite the Plague and political
upheavals Cockermouth was granted a Market Charter in 1227 and steadily
grew in stature as a town. In 1578, at the date of the Percy Survey,
there were 108 burgages listed, although many would have been divided
and there may have been as many as 200 properties with street frontage.
By 1587 the number of burgages had risen to 135.
The report shows that the Castle Bar, along with several other buildings
on the north-eastern side of Market Place, have façades of
eighteenth or nineteenth century date which conceal substantially
unaltered buildings dating to at least the sixteenth or seventeenth
centuries. Parts of the Castle Bar certainly date from the sixteenth
century, if not earlier, and it was probably originally the house
of a relatively rich merchant. The property was known as the Ship
Hotel from at least 1811 and then as the Ship Inn during the later