Some history of the Spread Eagle Inn at Rockcliffe in the county of Cumberland


The Spread Eagle Inn is a bit of a mystery. It was supposedly in the vicinity of Castletown House Farm so could have been somewhere around the Demesne Farm cluster of buildings. However, a map published in 1865 throws up other possibilities .....

Rockcliffe : Map extract showing Castletown [1865]
© Crown Copyright. Reproduced with kind permission of the National Library of Scotland under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

During our coastal pub tour we cycled to both locations and are still a little unsure about things. What is certain is that many of the buildings shown on this map extract have vanished. Even the road layout is different. Rockcliff Hall, now known as Rockcliffe Old Hall, is a notable exception. Looking out across the River Eden, the building is thought to date from around 1730.

Rockcliffe : Former School at Castletown [2024]
© Photo taken by author on June 21st, 2024. DO NOT COPY

The map extract also shows a school building which is seemingly another survivor. This was established by the Rev. George Topping who, as early as 1837, had moved into Rockcliffe Hall where he received pupils for private tuition in the classics.¹

The site of the castle is marked on the map extract. When the antiquarian, historian and topographer, William Camden visited the locality for his "Britannia" volume, he wrote: "crossing the Eden, you see Rowcliffe just upon the bank, a little castle built not long since by the Lords Dacre for their own private defence." This suggests that the building was erected in the late 16th century. It is thought that most of the structure had gone by the end of the 17th century.

Licensees of the Spread Eagle Inn

Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub. The dates of early licensees are sourced from trade directories, census data, electoral rolls, rate books and newspaper articles. Names taken from trade directories may be slightly inaccurate as there is some slippage from publication dates and the actual movement of people.

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1. "Education" : Carlisle Journal; June 24th, 1837. p.3.

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