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Cockermouth Post Article May 2012 – The American Cockermouth

I was told recently that there used to be a Cockermouth in America in Georgian times and decided to investigate – it’s absolutely true. In New Hampshire today there is a town called Groton, for better or worse, originally called Cockermouth. It was called thus in honour of Charles Wyndham, Earl of Egremont who, from 1761 to 1763 was Secretary of State for the Southern Department, a post he succeeded to after William Pitt. This Department was responsible for, amongst other things, our territories in America. I emailed the Archives Department in Concord, New Hampshire for further details of our American cousins, and back came an assortment of documents, mostly detailing meetings of the town’s Selectmen (the equivalent of our Town Councillors) and their various petitions to the House of Representatives of New Hampshire. For whatever reason the townsfolk had taken exception to the name Cockermouth, and in 1788 they had voted to have it changed to Danbury. Permission was given but, for some reason, the new name was not adopted. Clearly, the mutterings had not gone away and in 1796 approval was given to change the name of the town to Groton. Quite why such an unattractive name should be adopted smacks vaguely of desperation, and it would be fascinating to know why people took so strongly against the name of Cockermouth.

Groton today is a tiny town, with just 593 souls in 2010. It does, however, have the Cockermouth River running through it, and an area known as Sculptured Rocks, with very beautiful rock formations, carved out and smoothed by the river snaking through it. If you take a look at a map of this part of the USA, it is littered with place-names recognisable to us (for example, Nottingham, Ipswich, Wilton, Bath – my favourite is Manchester-by-the-Sea), reflecting the fact that it was an area settled by descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers, who landed at Plymouth in 1620. In 1776 there was a petition, delivered on behalf of representatives of many townships roundabout, objecting to the inflated prices of the ‘necessaries of life’, worrying that this might cause rebellion and defection amongst the soldiers fighting on their behalf at that time. There must have been very mixed feelings too in 1812 when America declared war on Great Britain.

Gloria Edwards

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