|Currently the lineage of the Cragg family in Australia can only be
traced back in England to the year 1770. Before the details of their lives
are disclosed some background information needs to be examined so the family
threads can be seen in the whole tapestry of life that was Britain in 1770.
Britain was unlike its European neighbours in many ways. It was this unique character that had effectively prepared it for the bloodless revolution, which would eventually sweep the world. The Economic Revolution brought forth changes in the Industrial and Social spheres of the British nation between 1760 and 1850. Britain no longer had the feudal system Europe still employed, and people who were not subject to poor relief were free to move about the country. Agriculture radically changed with land enclosure and new farming techniques, resulting in many tenant farmers leaving the land, or finding employment with the large land owners. Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the increasingly laissez-faire government effectively ruled the country. The monarchy was still intact, but had greatly reduced power. Thus profit making ventures and commercial expansion in trade, coupled with advances in technology (such as the steam engine) and a newly available workforce made the Industrial Revolution possible. People flocked from the country to the towns in search of work, in what was later described as the urbanization of Britain. The population of Britain also increased rapidly due to the agricultural revolution and advances in health, reaching 9 million in 1801, from 6.5 million in 1750.1
In this period England was already divided into counties. The county that Cragg history is concerned with is Cumberland, which is the most north-western county of England. On its northern border is Scotland, while to its west is the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland across the Irish Sea. To the east of Cumberland was Northumberland, and moving clockwise the counties of Yorkshire, Westmoreland and Lancashire. Cumberland County was broken up along ecclesiastical lines into dioceses, though these dioceses were sometimes not confined to the boundaries of the county. In 1770 the north of the county was the Diocese of Carlisle with bits of Durham Diocese encroaching over the eastern border. The south of Cumberland was part of the Diocese of Chester. This has changed many times since 1770 and affects where certain civil and church records are kept today. Each diocese in turn was broken down into parishes, and each parish was served by a clergyman of the Church of England and a central chapel. The parish was also the smallest civil unit for administration, on which matters like poor relief were based.2 In 1974 the county system changed dramatically with the redrawing of boundaries, creation of new counties and the amalgamation of smaller ones. Cumberland was joined with Westmoreland, a part of Lancashire and a part of Yorkshire forming the county of Cumbria as it stands today.
The inhabitants and expatriates of Cumberland (Cumbria) have always been fiercely proud of their distinctive landscape, dialect and remoteness from the more prosperous counties of England to the south. This no better borne out than in the poem Canny Cumberland written by Robert Anderson and published in 1820.
May preach and palaver, and brag as they will
O’ mountains, lakes, valleys, woods, waters, and meadows,
But canny auld Cummerland caps them aw still:
It’s true, we’ve nae palaces sheynin amang us,
Nor marble tall towers to catch the weak eye;
But we’ve monie feyne cassels, where fit our brave fadders,
When Cummerland cud onie county defy.
Whea that hes climb’d Skiddaw, has seen sec a prospec,
The poet makes references to notable landmarks that reside in an area known as the Lake District in the heart of Cumbria. It is a jewel that has been preserved from urbanization and industrialization to such an extent that the Lake District has become the foremost holiday destination in Northern England. Though its resources have been exploited over the centuries it has retained a sense of timelessness. The English Poet William Wordsworth called it 'the loveliest spot that man hath ever found'. Today this beauty has been preserved mostly due to the fact that the Lakelands were declared a National Park in 1951.3 The Lakelands cover an area of 2330 square kilometres, and is pre-dominantly farm country dotted with mountains, fells, crags, lakes and waterfalls, all wrapped in a colourful history of struggle and settlement. The story of the Cragg family begins here.
1. Shena Coupe, Modern History, 1985, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Sydney.
2. Cumbria Archive Service, Cumbrian Ancestors (Notes for Genealogical Searchers), 2nd ed., September 1993, Cumbria County Council.
3. The Lake District(A Pitkin Guide), 1994, Pitkin Pictorials Ltd., Great Britain.