The Corpse roads of Cumbria : Alan & Leslie Cleaver Sept 2019

We had a fascinating and light-hearted talk on what appears to be a rich regional heritage. Cumbria has many words such as bier roads, lyke roads, coffin lines, lych ways and corpse roads which have been used to describe more than 25 paths in Cumbria which were used in medieval times to transport the dead either in coffins or shrouds from their remote rural homes and parishes to the mother church of the parish. It was the mother church of the parish which had the right to bury the dead in consecrated land and they fought hard to keep this financial advantage but by the late sixteenth century parishes won the right to bury their dead themselves claiming the journey and the often harsh weather made transportation very difficult. The paths sometimes covering a distance of  20 miles had features along the way such as coffin rests and coffin crosses where the cortège would stop to read a prayer. The Victorian fascination of the supernatural popularised the many ghosts stories of the corpse roads that abounded at that time. Today they are quiet byways.

 

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