Christopher Cooper – known as Kitty – died at the George Inn, Newton Reigny, in 1902 aged 84. His story is one of wrestling, poaching, road repairs, farming, the yeomanry – and night soil.
The basic facts
Christopher Cooper was born at Cliburn, Westmorland, circa 1818. In late 1849, he married Mary Jackson (born either Lazonby or Kirkoswald), who was about ten years younger than him.
Their first son, Thomas Jackson Cooper, has to have been born before the marriage (birth not found). In all, they look to have nine children. The youngest, Miles, was born in 1870 when big brother Thomas was 24. Children seven and eight were called Adam and Eve.
Where they lived
The 1861 census shows Christopher and Mary Cooper at Bleak House, Penrith, with Christopher as a farm labourer. In 1871, at Eden Cottages, Carlisle Brow, Penrith, Christopher is a labourer and road contractor. By 1891, they were at Henley Sike, Catterlen, Newton, with Chris listed as a farmer. Mary died in 1894. In 1901, aged 83, Christopher was at the George Inn, where his daughter Margaret was the hotel keeper.
The poaching case
In November 1867, Thomas Cooper, of Penrith, was charged under the Poaching Prevention Act with being in possession of game on the highway on Sunday. PC Foxcroft said he’d seen Thomas Cooper at Greengill, near Penrith, in a turnip field with his father, who had a dog and gun. He heard a shot fired. When Thomas Cooper came on the highway, PC Foxcroft seached him and found a partridge in his possession. The defence said Christopher Cooper had the owner’s permission to take stones from the field to repair the highway. And while walking over it, the dog had found a wounded partridge. His father didn’t have a gun but a stick. PC Foxcroft said they’d admitted in the field they had a gun, to ‘flay’ the crows away.
Thomas Cooper was fined 10 shillings and costs for day trespass. His father Christopher Cooper was fined £2 and 8 shillings, for unlawfully using a dog and gun for the purpose of killing game.
In 2023, Brits despair as raw sewage is pumped out into the sea and lakes, including Windermere, in the Lake District
(Cumbrian Characters is happy at this point to share a link to Save Windermere).
When our ancestors lacked indoor plumbing and sewers, their poo went into privies or on to middens that could be in the street or yard near their house
Instead of being flushed into lakes, the contents were taken away (usually at night) by contractors as a valuable fertiliser, to be spread on farmland. And in the 1870s, Christopher Cooper and his son Thomas Jackson Cooper were part of that trade.
A dirt-y Question. Cooper v Waugh.
This action was brought Christopher Cooper, Scavenging Contractor with the Penrith Board of Health, to recover the sum of £10 5 shillings. 4d. for so many cartloads of night soil at 1s. 2d. per load, supplied to Mr. W. Waugh, cattle dealer, Bull, Penrith.
Thomas Cooper had agreed deals with Mr Waugh, a Mr Hetherington, a John Speak and a T Williamson. The last three had paid up, but it took a court case to get Waugh to do the same.
In 1875. A lengthy case about the ‘impoverishment’ (by poor farming practices) of Greengill Foot Farm by former tenant John Thompson JP, says ‘Christopher Cooper had lived near the farm for 18 years and knew it well. He had worked upon the farm nearly every year…’
Thomas Cooper said in 1874, he took between 60 and 70 cartloads of nightsoil to Greengill Foot Farm.
Road tenders – and great sorrow
1881 Christopher Cooper’s tender to renew rural and Plumpton roads at £23 was accepted by Penrith Board of Health.
1889. Nov. Deaths. At Meeting House Lane, Penrith, on the 24th inst., Thomas Jackson, son of Christopher Cooper, of Catterlen, aged 41 years.
1893. Sept 23. At Catterlen on the 19th, Christopher Cooper, son of Christopher, aged 33.
When Christopher Cooper died in 1902, a warm obituary in the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald says:
The deceased was well known in and around Penrith, he having lived almost all his life at Catterlen and neighbourhood…
For many years he was a member of the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry Cavalry. Being of a genial nature, ever ready to help the poor or serve a friend, he had a wide circle of acquaintances and friends, and it may be truly said that ‘Kitty,” as he was generally called, will be greatly missed.
It also says he had been a champion wrestler.
Christopher Cooper wrestler
According to his obituary:
With his demise, another link with the past is broken.
In his younger days he was a champion wrestler and figured in all the leading rings, from which he brought away many a well contested and hard won trophy.
He was of fine build, standing over six feet in height, and displayed all the characteristics of true athlete.
He could relate some stirring reminiscences of his early wrestling days.
He thought nothing of walking to Liverpool, taking part in the wrestling competitions, and then walking home again.
A ‘Notes and Comments’ piece in the paper a year earlier had recorded:
The old Cumberland and Westmorland art of wrestling, which has made the sister counties famous all over the world, is either dying out or fast becoming an invalid.
Many years ago it had the first place in the popular mind as a test of strength, muscle, and sinewy limb, but nowadays the athletic world devotee its time to football and the wielding of the willow.
Looking over a paper the other day I came across the name of Christopher Cooper in an oldtime account of some sports at King’s Meaburn, in Westmorland.
Mr Cooper, who was a well-known figure in the wrestling ring more than sixty years ago, is the worthy host of the George III Inn at Newton Reigny, and though now 83 years of age he can still tell you of how he walked from Kings Meaburn to Liverpool, just sixty years ago, and threw Donaldson, of Bald How and won in one of the great wrestling bouts of that date.
This article is one of a number on people buried at Beacon Edge cemetery, Penrith.