Archive centreWhitehaven
TitleJohn Musgrave, solicitor and businessman, Wasdale Hall, Netherwasdale
DescriptionFamily records and business and investment papers of John Musgrave reflecting his extensive involvement in West Cumbrian civic life. For railways and industries, see: DMG/37/1, 3; 38/1-6, 8, 39/2, 5; 40; 44; 45/1; 46/1-4; 57/1; 60/1-2; 68/1; 92/1; 93/1; 127/1; 145; 157/1; 162/1; 167/2-3; 179/8, 11; 184; 186/7, 11; 187/5, 8, 9, 14, 15; 188/4, 5, 10, 12, 17-21; 188/23, 31; 190/6, 7, 12; 191/1, 5; 196/3-5, 8, 12-13; 198/5, 15; 199/3, 4, 15; 204/14; 205; 209/6; 216/6; 217/2, 8; 218/2, 3; 224/2, 3; 226/1, 3; 227/6, 7; 232/5; 234/5; 235/3; 238/1; 242/4; 250/3; 251/3.
ContextJohn Musgrave (May 1816-17 April 1912) practised as a solicitor in Whitehaven from 1841 to 1876 when the business was transferred to his son, John Raven Musgrave. He also held a wide number of important offices in West Cumbria at various times including chair of Netherwasdale Parish Council, manager of Wasdale Head School, secretary and chair to the Whitehaven Town and Harbour Trustees, member of Whitehaven Board of Guardians and Whitehaven Union Rural Sanitary Authority, and chair of Whitehaven District Highway Board and Whitehaven Library.

John Musgrave was interested in, and invested in coal, mining, railways, ships, land development, banks and tramways. He was President of the Whitehaven Savings Bank, chair of the Solway Junction Railway Company, a director of the Maryport and Carlisle Railway, the Cockermouth and Workington Railway, and the Cleator and Egremont Railway. He helped establish the Cleator and Egremont Railway and the Parkside Mining Company. His interests in several local hotels lead him to advocate the expansion of West Cumbrian tourism through the construction of the Sty Head Pass.

In addition to his town house at 2 Lowther Street, Whitehaven Musgrave acquired the Wasdale Hall estate and owned various other properties in the West. The records in this collection reflect these interests.

Mr J Musgrave DL CA Taken from Mr J Musgrave: Special Sketch c1866

Mr Musgrave was born at Lorton, near Cockermouth May 1816, son of the yeoman of Lorton. He was educated at Lorton Grammar and then was privately tutored at Whitehaven.

At the age of 16 he entered the office of a local solicitor, Mr Richard Armistead with whom he served his articles. Later, Musgrave and Armistead went into partnership and Musgrave was admitted as a solicitor in 1841. In the course of the partnership, before it was dissolved, the firm were appointed solicitors of the old Whitehaven Junction railway Company, and afterwards to the Whitehaven and Furness Railway Company. Once Mr Musgrave had set up on his own he secured a very extensive practice in shipping and Admiralty cases as well as the usual business of a solicitor.

Musgrave, along with two other notaries established the Cleator and Egremont Railway with the idea of developing a mineral district (iron ore mining).

In 1848 Musgrave was appointed secretary to the Whitehaven Town and Harbour Trustees, a post that he held for fourteen years. However, after stepping down as secretary, Musgrave then became a member of the Board and then chairman.

Whilst on the board, Musgrave became involved with what was called the 'Town's Party', a group of four men, opposed to Lord Lonsdale's 'Castle Party' and engaged in the promotion of the trade of the town and the general welfare of the inhabitants. In the period during which the Town's Party held a majority in the Board, the town secured a water supply from Ennerdale Lake, a sewerage system was established, a wet dock constructed, the harbour deepened and the streets generally improved. Musgrave as chairman petitioned the national government to grant the board a Whitehaven Town and Harbour Improvement Act, which was fulfilled in 1876. This was needed as Whitehaven suffered severe overcrowding. Its population was 127 people to the acre, which was worse than London, Liverpool, Glasgow , Bristol, Birmingham or Manchester and the situation was exacerbated by an outbreak of Typhoid fever.

Mr Musgrave served for many years as a Poor Law Guardian and representative of the Whitehaven Rural District, first on the Rural Sanitary Authority and afterwards on the District Council. He was also deputy lieutenant for the county, a Land Tax Commissioner, president and senior trustee of the Whitehaven Savings Bank and chairman if the directors of the Whitehaven Joint Stock Banking Company Limited. He was also chairman of the Whitehaven Library and senior vestryman at St Nicholas' church.

Mr Musgrave spent summer months at Wasdale Hall, near Wastwater and wintered in Whitehaven. He also enjoyed shooting, playing tennis and cricket.
ArrangementJohn Musgrave and his executors had sorted the majority of the archive into bundles. Where bundles referred to one subject, such as the Musgrave family, they have been grouped together, otherwise they have formed the 'General' section. The arrangement within the groups is chronological. The arranagement of papers within the bundles is normally chronological but, where possible, by subject.
Related materialSee also DBT/5/1-1; For Musgave's business papers, as solicitor, see DBT.
Catalogue levelFonds
Subject termsLocal Government
Poor Law Unions

Show related name indexes

Show related place indexes

CodePerson/Corporate namesDates
NAX8Musgrave; John (1816-1912); Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant; solicitor, landowner, businessman1816-1912
NAX9Netherwasdale Parish Council
NAX10Wasdale Head School
NAX11Parkside Mining Company
NA16Musgrave; John Raven (b 1848); solicitorb 1848
CodePlace names
PAX6Wasdale Head/Wasdale/Cumberland
PAX13Stangs End
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