The Wolf Warriors
Ulverston is a market town in the South Lakeland district of Cumbria in North West England. Historically in Lancashire, the town is in the Furness area 8 miles (13 kilometres) north-east of Barrow-in-Furness. It is close to the Lake District, and just north of Morecambe Bay, neighboured by Swarthmoor, Pennington and Rosside. Ulverston’s most visible landmark is Hoad Monument, a concrete structure built in 1850 to commemorate statesman and local resident Sir John Barrow. The monument provides views of the surrounding area, including Morecambe Bay and parts of the Lake District.
The name Ulverston, first recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as Ulurestun, is derived from two elements: the first is either the Old Norse personal name Úlfarr, or the Old English Wulfhere; the second element is the Old English tūn, meaning “farmstead” or “village”. The personal names Úlfarr and Wulfhere both translate roughly as “wolf warrior” or “wolf army”, which explains the presence of a wolf on the town’s coat of arms. The loss of the ‘W’ in Wulfhere can be attributed to the historic Scandinavian influence in the region. Locally, the town has traditionally been known as Oostan. Other variations of the name recorded throughout history include Oluestonam (1127), and Uluereston (1189).
The town’s market charter was granted in 1280 by Edward I. This was for a market every Thursday; modern Ulverston keeps its old market town appearance, and market days are now held on both Thursdays and Saturdays. The charter also allowed for all public houses to open from 10:30 am until 11:00 pm irrespective of any other statute on the books. During the summer months the Saturday market day is themed with craft stalls, charity stalls and locally produced wares on “Made in China” stalls. In 1671 Sir Daniel Fleming called it:
A good market, especially for corne.
In 1874, The Local Board for the Town and Hamlet of Ulverston applied to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry for permission to erect a covered market house. Under the lease, the rights and privileges of Ulverston’s free street markets and fairs were leased from the Duke, with a 999 years term. The Market Hall was officially opened in 1878. In 1935 a fire destroyed the original building, resulting in the present structure.
The town also contained a number of cotton and linen mills which worked well into the nineteenth century. Shipbuilding was also carried out at Ulverston until the 1840’s. A canal connecting the town with the sea was constructed in 1793-6, and led to a considerable increase in the shipping trade, becoming the chief port from which Furness ores were exported. However, the canal became redundant after the opening of the railway and docks at Barrow. The canal was formerly abandoned in 1945.
Ulverston was first served by the Furness Railway’s line from Barrow & Dalton-in-Furness which was completed in 1854. There was a branch line to Conishead Priory, while a mineral line connected with the furnaces. Three years later the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway opened a line to Carnforth via Arnside and built a new through station which opened in 1857. The old Furness Railway terminus was subsequently used as a goods depot.
Historically, the ancient parish included several other chapelries or townships which later became separate civil parishes: Blawith, Church Coniston, Egton with Newland, Lowick, Mansriggs, Osmotherley, Subberthwaite and Torver. From 1894 to 1974 the town constituted an urban district in the administrative county of Lancashire. It became a successor parish in the Cumbria district of South Lakeland under the Local Government Act 1972.
Over the years the town has been the birthplace of several famous people. Sir John Barrow, born at Dragley Beck, Ulverston, was the Admiralty’s Second Secretary: a much more important position than First Secretary. A monument to him—a replica of the third Eddystone Lighthouse—stands on Hoad Hill overlooking the town. Famous Ulverstonians include Norman Birkett, who represented Britain at the Nuremberg Trials; Maude Green, the mother of Rock and Roll music legend, Bill Haley; Norman Gifford, an England test cricketer; Francis Arthur Jefferson, a soldier awarded with the Victoria Cross; and comedian Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame.
The Laurel & Hardy Museum is situated in Ulverston, and in 2009 a statue of the duo was unveiled by comedian Ken Dodd, outside Coronation Hall in the town centre. One of Ulverston’s lesser known sons is the late Bryan Martin, senior BBC Radio 4 newsreader and presenter of the ’70’s and ’80’s, who announced on the Today programme the death of Elvis Presley in 1977 and broke the news of the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980.