WEDNESDAY 15TH MARCH 2017
“Taking the northern waters .... with Dr Garnett"
Professor Robert Fox
The last talk of the winter programme
was given by the society’s president Professor Robert Fox. His topic
was “Taking the northern waters with Dr Garnett”. Thomas Garnett
(1766-1802) was born in Barbon and as a child lived in Bank House. He
showed interest in science from an early age and in his teens went to
be an apprentice of John Dawson (1734-1820) in Sedbergh. Dawson was
an apothecary and surgeon but also had taught himself mathematics.
His work in this subject was known nationally but it was as a tutor of
the subject that he made his name with pupils from Cambridge
University travelling to Sedbergh in their vacations to be taught by
Dawson saw that Garnett had ability and
encouraged him to go to Edinburgh to study for a medical degree and
after four years he obtained an MD in 1788. At that time there was a
great demand for treatment to alleviate pain and fevers but the help
available was poor. There were about fifty physicians in the whole
country and only the very rich could afford their fees the remainder
having to rely on men such as Dawson. Such was the demand for help
that various sorts of people tried to fill the gap ranging from quacks
to those whose treatment was bizarre but not always harmful.
Garnett was not capable of becoming a
physician but saw the possibility of making money from working in a
spa. From at least medieval times some springs were thought to have
healing properties, two in this area being at Humphrey Head and
Witherslack, but a few became commercially developed such as at Bath.
Hotels and bath rooms were built and this attracted wealthy people for
the social life as well as for any health giving benefits. At Bath
there was a master of ceremonies who dictated etiquette, the most
famous of these being Beau Nash.
Harrogate was a spa but the surroundings
were bleak and the available accommodation poor. However, Garnett saw
its possibilities because there were springs producing different types
of water that could hence treat a variety of complaints. Garnett
formed an alliance with Alexander Wedderburn, Lord Chancellor
1793-1801, who provided the finance to erect the buildings to make
Harrogate a successful spa. In addition to making money from his
medical work in the spa Garnett took in lodgers in his house to
increase his income and it was in this way he met his wife.
The climate meant that there was little
demand for the spa in winter and Garnett took to giving scientific
lectures to supplement his income. This proved a great success and he
visited many towns in the north. His reputation spread and when the
Andersonian Institution in Glasgow was formed in 1796 he was appointed
its first professor. He attracted large crowds to his lectures and as
a result was head-hunted to become in 1800 the first professor
appointed at the Royal Institution in London. This was not a success
for a combination of reasons. His wife had died leaving him to bring
up two daughters and he did not really fit in with Mayfair society.
He also probably suffered from depression. In addition to lecturing
he took up medicine again and as a result of doing this caught typhoid
from which he died. Garnett had ability and exploited the
opportunities available and his life showed that social mobility was
possible in the eighteenth century. Professor Fox answered questions
and then was warmly thanked for his talk.
WEDNESDAY 18TH JANUARY 2017
The Evacuation of Civilians from Burma, 1942 (Part 2)
Almost half a million civilians escaped from Burma in 1942 in the
space of six months. This illustrated talk offers glimpses into
episodes from the evacuation and is a continuation from his previous
The first talk of
2017 was given by Dr Mike Leigh on “The evacuation of civilians from
Burma in 1942”. He had given a previous talk on the subject which
dealt with the evacuation in the dry season but this talk concentrated
on the wet season during the monsoon.
Up to December 1941
Burma (now Myanmar) had not been involved in WW2 but then Japan
started bombing Rangoon. This prompted an exodus of British and
Indians who headed for India. However residents felt safe from
invasion because of British command of the sea. This feeling ended
with the sinking of the Repulse and Prince of Wales. In 1942 the
Japanese army invaded from Siam through what had been considered
impenetrable jungle. People fled north towards India by various
means. The British army continually retreated never trying to make a
defensive stand and by May there was one enclave left in northern
Burma at Myichyina but from there it was well over 200 miles to Burma
with no roads. The civilians arriving there by transport were often
totally ill-equipped to face the prospect of walking the arduous
tracks to India. For example many young women would arrive in smart
dresses carrying a small case. As a result thousands of people died
on their journey.
There were two ways
of walking to India from Myichyina one was via the Hukawng valley and
the other via the Chaukan pass. Whichever way was chosen the problem
was that there was a lack of food even though water was abundant due
to the monsoon. Although the air force tried to help by dropping food
it was not nearly enough for the number of people involved. The
Hukawng valley route was through thick jungle and over barren hills
but there was one camp on the route. In charge of this was 25 year
old Cornelius North who in a space of five weeks had around 45000
people passing through and had to deal with an average of 50 deaths
there a day. Apart from his efforts the reason many refugees
eventually reached India was due to the help of tea planters along the
The track via the
Chaukan pass was through a quagmire with thick jungle and rapidly
rising rivers and was considered impassable in the monsoon. However
it was the way chosen by Sir John Rowland and a group of about 60
others many of whom were elderly. This group included many important
people and their survival was due to the help received from Charles
Mackrell. He assembled a herd of 83 elephants which enabled the group
to get across the swollen rivers.
Although Burma was
eventually recaptured by the 14th Army the nature of its
original catastrophic and humiliating loss led to independence in
1948. Dr Leigh answered questions and explained that his mother came
from Sedbergh and had gone to Burma as a missionary where she met and
married his father. They with their children had escaped by boat from
Rangoon at the start of Japanese attacks when he was two. He was
warmly thanked for a most interesting talk.
Making a grand
Andrew Lowe: An
illustrated talk looking at the range of historic doorways in the Lake
District, in order to help people understand the architectural detailing and
dating of buildings over the last few hundred years.
Our speaker was making a welcome return reminding an
appreciative audience that he enjoyed visiting Sedbergh so much that
it is 25 years since he first spoke to the Society. He treated the
audience to a mesmerising sequence of slides depicting different
styles of dated doorways in
the ages. That he was able to do this with such authority was as a
result of his many years’ experience as a buildings conservation
officer for the Lake District National Park. This enabled him to look
at properties without having to actually knock at the door.
The doorway of a building is its focal point; simple
or grand it makes a statement, reflects status and is out to impress.
Viewing the rapid succession of pictures was a
passage through time from the defensive doorways of castles to those
of grand country residences, fine Georgian mansions, typical rural
farmhouses and the grandeur of those belonging to mill managers and
Examples from different periods were taken to
illustrate the different styles of build and dating. These included
Castle with a very ecclesiastical 16c door and
Tower with its 1574 date stone doorway to a medieval courtyard which
was chipped higher to allow access for horse drawn coaches. Yewthwaite
Hall has a date stone of 1581 depicting a pair of shields, one upside
down. Typical doorways of 1550s farmhouses were designed to keep the
weather out. One such depicted an entry porch with a wall on one side
to keep the wind and rain out but no wall on the other side in order
to let the sun in. Early Georgian doors from 1780 had six panels and
were of understated simplicity.
In the 1660s there was no tongue and groove joinery
so the vertical joints were overlaid with strips of wood. Square pegs
in round holes helped to seal the structure. In 17c the date symbols
as seen in Caldbeck sometimes included concentric rings to keep out
evil spirits. Another was surmounted with a caption in medieval
French which translated as ‘Do as you ought and never mind the
consequences’ and another inscribed ‘ANO
DOM - God be with
us, who can be against’. The archeological detail related to the local
geology. Good sandstone and limestone could be dressed. Slate also
featured in porches. Materials had to be transported by road or water.
The coming of the railways revolutionised movement of goods as well as
bringing money and influence. The arrival of the postal service in
1839 created its own problems for the owners of an ancient finely
structured door, none of which had a letter box, of course.
The speaker was warmly thanked for such an excellent
and authoritative presentation delivered with a sprinkling of humour.
The audience left with a mind to be more observant of local doorways
and to have a good look at their own!
WEDNESDAY 5TH OCTOBER 2016
The archaeology of the A66: Greta Bridge
to Scotch Corner
An illustrated talk presenting the results of a series of
archaeological investigations undertaken in 2006/7 by Oxford
Archaeology North on the route of the A66.
The first talk in this winter’s programme was given by
John Zant of Oxford Archaeology North. His topic was the archaeology
of the A66 from
Bridge to Scotch Corner. In 2006/7 most of that section of the A66
was converted to dual carriageway. Under existing law the contractors
had to finance an archaeological survey of the proposed route to
record any sites of interest. John’s talk described what that work
involved and what was discovered.
Firstly research was done to read all the documentary
evidence available on sites along the route and also aerial
photographs were studied. This identified known sites to be
investigated but left much to be discovered. The distance involved
meant that it would be impossible to dig the whole length and so trial
slit trenches were employed. When a site was identified the top soil
was stripped off exposing the boulder clay underneath. Marks in this
disclosed the outlines of enclosures, round houses and structures
supported on four wooden posts. The purpose of the latter could have
been to store grain away from rats or to lie out the bodies of the
dead to allow their flesh to be eaten by birds. The soil removed was
searched for pottery and associated seeds were later investigated to
discover the environmental conditions existing at that time. Very
little was found from the Bronze Age but there was an expansion of
dwellings from c400 BC, the Middle Iron Age.
At one point the road was crossed by Scots Dyke an
earthwork thought to stretch from the Swale at
Richmond to the Tees although there is little evidence for it near the
It was assumed to be a Dark Age boundary between two territories
dating from the 6thand 7th century AD. However, when a
small section crossing the A66 was dug it was proved to date from 900
to 100BC in the Iron Age. It probably was connected with Stanwick the
site of the capital of the Brigantes tribe. This was a large area
surrounded by defensive ditches which had seen a big rise in
population in the 1st century AD, the period of the Roman
A small trench was also dug at Carkin Moor Roman fort
which provided some 2nd century AD pottery but no trace of
the Roman road was found. In the course of the whole A66 survey items
that were discovered included Samian ware pottery, and from more
recent times a silver spoon, some walls and boundaries, a culvert
bridge and a water trough. The relative lack of finds probably
reflected the lack of habitation due to the poor quality of the land
and the effects of ploughing where the soil was under two feet deep on
top of the boulder clay. The speaker answered several questions and
was thanked for his talk which gave an insight into the rescue
archaeology carried out on large engineering schemes.
WEDNESDAY 8th JUNE 2016
History Society Visit To Salkeld
pleasant June afternoon 17 members gathered at Salkeld Mill for a
guided tour of this historic working flour mill.
likely that there has been a mill on the site since the 13th
century, with the current mill having been built around 1750 during a
period of peace, prosperity and population growth in the Eden Valley
and prior to a run of poor harvests and the start of the Napoleonic
Wars in 1793.
original 18th century mill was much smaller than it is
today, being one of several mills in the area each serving their
immediate local community. However, this all changed in the 1870’s
with the building of the Settle – Carlisle railway and the
enterprising millers deciding to produce more flour and using the
railway to send their goods to Leeds and Glasgow.
current mill is operated by two waterwheels, and these were installed
in 1915 and represented a significant financial investment (about
£100,000 in todays money). They were cast in iron sections by B. Henry
of Aberdeen and then brought down by rail and assembled on site. Both
wheels are what as known as overshot wheels, with water flowing in at
the top and then running into a tail race and back into the stream.
The millrace takes the water from Sunnygill Beck at a weir situated
half a mile from the mill itself.
uses “French burr” millstones from Chalons in Northern France,
composed of pieces of freshwater quartz. They are very hard wearing
and resist cracking and breaking up. The millstones are of a ridge and
furrow design and generally only require re-dressing every 2 years.
stones are enclosed in a hexagonal box, called a tun, above which is a
hopper for the grain. The grain flows down from the bottom of this
hopper into an angled wooden ‘shoe’ and the ‘millers damsel’ then
agitates the shoe to ensure a steady and even feed into the eye of the
runner stone. The grain is then forced outwards between the two stones
and nothing is taken away – whole grain goes in and wholegrain flour
the mill produces a wide range of stoneground flours and, whereas
modern milling utilises high speed rollers to separate the different
parts of the wheat grain including the wheat germ, which is full of
natural oils and vitamins, in stone grinding the wheat germ oils are
mixed through all the flour giving it its nutty flavour and improved
currently produces 1 – 2 tonnes of flour each week, that is eighty 25
kilo (56 lb.) sacks and it takes between 20 – 30 minutes to grind each
sack of flour. Over half of the production is used within Cumbria,
with customers including artisan bakeries, hotels, guest houses,
restaurants, specialist shops and home bakers.
concluded the tour members then retired to the mill café where they
enjoyed the organic vegetarian fare that was on offer with the
opportunity to purchase a range of the stoneground flour produced by
Photos of Old Dent - Graham Dalton
The last talk of
the season attracted a sizeable gathering to hear Dr Mike Winstanley
give an illustrated talk on the Highland Clearances. However after
having reported in sick earlier in the day, our versatile chairman
Graham Dalton introduced himself instead and a very interesting
evening was spent looking at some splendid old photos of Dent and its
surroundings, many over 100 years old. These prompted many an exchange
with those present along the lines of; ‘Does anyone know where this
is, or can you recognise anyone?’
The first, taken in
1904 with brilliant clarity, was an outstanding one showing a group of
youths looking over the valley. This a huge contrast to one showing
the valley totally under water in 1928. Then a view looking over Dent
to the old workhouse in Hallbank. This one, pre 1950, showed the
demarcation of buildings between Dent, Dent Town and Flintergill
before other developments encroached.
In studying the
interior of St Andrew’s Church, with its box pews as it was before its
restoration in 1890, Graham bemoaned the dismantling of the
three-decker pulpit. He added that the Trinity College archive is full
of correspondence for and against its removal.
Farming in the dale
featured on a number of pictures; 1891 hay time using scythes with
handles longer that the handler and 1896 hay time at Condor Hall.
On the cobbled
street by the Sedgwick Fountain a group cleaning it before the dates
were added in 1888, another of Eastertime young egg pacers and one of
three cows drinking even before its installation. A Band of Hope
parade taken in 1905 showed a huge crowd passing by. A very
interesting photo of members of the Sedbergh History Society posing
before the Society folded in 1930 only to be re-launched much later.
Further up the
valley an early picture of Dent Head Wesleyan Chapel with an excellent
show of Harvest Festival produce. Then a view of Stonehouse, Arten
Gill and part of the old marble works near Stonehouse bridge, the
latter a listed building and remarkably still standing despite the
efforts of errant drivers over the years to knock it down.
In Cowgill photos
of the magnificent gardens at a house on Weavers Terrace and of the
Mill on the Dee, was it for flax? The Sportsman’s Inn appeared with a
pre-1908 car parked outside by the petrol pump, now no longer there.
Up at Dent Station a cattle wagon was waiting for its load in the
siding. And then there was a fully loaded Burrow’s bus and a picture
of the last Ribble bus to leave the valley crossing Millthrop bridge.
showed the Gate Manor Treat leaving Dent, volunteers on the way to
Dent in 1895 and a huge over 60’s gathering in 1958.
Graham mentioned in
passing that the population of Dent was once over 2,000, exceeding
that of Sedbergh. So there has been a population clearance of sorts
over the years but not on the
The Men Who Built Carlisle Cathedral
Despite clashing with the final of “The Great British Bake Off” the
first meeting of the winter programme attracted a large audience. The
talk was by Thirlie Grundy on “The Men Who Built Carlisle Cathedral”.
The talk was inspired by the many sculptured stone heads in the
cathedral and she produced some most original ideas to explain who
they were. As written records do not exist there is no definitive
answer and whether correct or not her talk certainly produced the
desire to visit the cathedral to view the heads.
The Anglo Saxons had originally built wooden churches with high roofs
but later turned to using stone and some of these contained a stone
stating which mason had built the church and when. The
did not do this and Thirlie thought the faces in Carlisle Cathedral
depicted the masons and were their way of leaving a record of
themselves. Because they spoke French the masons and their families
would have formed a tight social circle separate from the local
people. Building a cathedral was a decades long affair and so
families of masons and their descendants would stay for a long time in
Carlisle. On reaching the age of 14 a boy would
be apprenticed to his father until he was 21 when he would go off to
another mason to develop his skills but return when he was 28 to build
part of the cathedral.
Bachelors were restricted to decorating their work with zigzag patterns
and plain pillars but married men could decorate their work with
leaves and berries. When they carved their faces a bachelor had to
place his in the centre of the arch but a married man could put the
image of himself and his wife at either end of the arch. The married
man‘s head had oak leaves sprouting from it with acorns, the number of
which corresponded to the number of children the mason had. If a
child died then the acorn was removed. Older masons depicted
themselves with a protruding tongue to show that they were still alive
and this may have been the origin of the Green Man so commonly found
in churches and cathedrals. If the mouth of the man or his wife was
defaced then it was implied they had died. Later in the cathedral’s
life the Norman masons were replaced by Anglo Saxons and Italians who
still carved their own faces but had a different symbolism.
The oldest part of the cathedral is now the Border Regiment Chapel and
starting with the faces there and then moving to the east end Thirlie
attempted to place the faces in chronological order showing the family
tree of the masons. She also thought that the carver of the wooden
misericords was the descendant of a mason due to the similarity in
some designs. At the end of her talk she answered questions and was
Wednesday 4th March
Westfield War Memorial Village
The society met in Settlebeck on Wednesday 4th March to
listen to a talk by Peter Donnelly the curator of the
Kings Own Royal Regiment Museum in Lancaster. The subject of his talk
was the War Memorial Village at Westfield.
By the start of WW1 Thomas Mawson had established an international
reputation as a garden designer. His family firm based in Windermere
had been responsible for many important local gardens such as those at
Braithwaite Hall and Holker Hall. He was married with four sons and
five daughters. His third son, James Radcliffe Mawson, joined the 5th
Battalion of the Kings Own Royal Regiment soon after the outbreak of
war. In March 1915 they were posted to the front line and sometime
during 23/24 July 1915 he was fatally wounded.
His death had a profound effect on his father who determined to do
something to help disabled soldiers and their families when the war
finally ended. He had a vision of setting up villages for them where
they could live and work in specially constructed workshops. These
villages would contain good quality housing with gardens at cheap
rents, schools, hotels, shops, libraries, playing areas, churches and
each would have its own power station as a national grid did not exist
at that time. In all 12 such villages of about 3000 inhabitants were
planned to be spread throughout the country but at the end of the war
the government did not financially support the scheme and there was
some concern as to whether it was a good idea to effectively create
ghettos of disabled soldiers.
a meeting was held in November 1918 and it was decided to collect
subscriptions to found a village. The two people who were the driving
forces were Thomas Mawson and Herbert Storey, a local industrialist.
The site chosen was the Westfield estate to the west of the railway
station. This had belonged to Storey but he had moved out when
Lancaster had started expanding near it. Subscriptions were raised by
a variety of methods including a lottery. The latter was the subject
of a court case which decided the principle that a lottery for a
charity was legal. Ambitious plans were designed for the village and
building commenced although it never was fully completed as planned.
Also a factory was never built due to opposition from unions and
firms. The official opening ceremony took place in November 1924 when
a key was handed to Earl Haigh. The central feature of the village
was a war memorial designed by Miss Delahunt.
After WW2 more houses were added but gradually things changed. The
children of the original soldiers had left and the inhabitants were
mainly elderly. With the end of the world wars there were also far
fewer disabled soldiers. The rents had not been raised and this
eventually produced a financial crisis with not enough money for
repairs or improvements. The advent of the “Right to Buy” in the
1980s enabled the trustees to sell 22 properties to raise money. In
1987 the remaining houses were handed over to a housing association to
manage. Houses are no longer sold and in addition to the private
properties there are 90 that are let plus a building used for
administration. Priority for renting is given to disabled
ex-servicemen but others are eligible and the whole complex is run by
After his talk the speaker answered questions from his audience and was
then thanked by the chairman.
Wednesday 18th February
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Admiral Sir John Kerr
The meeting on Wednesday 18th February was held in the
Peoples Hall due to
School being closed for the half-term holiday. The talk was given by
Admiral Sir John Kerr on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Sir
John had ended his career as Commander in Chief Naval Home Command and
in retirement among many other posts had been Vice Chairman of the
Initially in WW1 the Red Cross had tried to solve the problem of
burying the dead but it but in 1917 the Commission was formed largely
due to the efforts of Sir Fabian Ware. After the war in 1920 the
principles for commemorating the dead were decided after some debate.
It was decided that each of the dead should be commemorated by name on
a grave or by an inscription on a memorial. There was to be no
distinction by military or civil rank, race or creed.
Originally wooden crosses were used but these were unsuitable for some
religions and they also rotted. As a result the standard stone slab
was introduced which showed for identified bodies the badge of the
unit, service particulars and if wanted by the next of kin a religious
symbol and a personal inscription. The Commission is responsible for
1.1 million headstones worldwide and has to replace about 22000 of
these annually which are made at
Altogether the Commission is responsible for about 23000 locations in
154 countries. The largest being Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium and the
smallest being one in
in the USA.
People such as Sir Edward Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll were involved in
the design of the cemeteries and memorials, like the Menin Gate, to
those whose bodies were never found. The latter number about
600,000. However, each year bodies are discovered and they are buried
and given a headstone and if they can be identified their names are
removed from the memorials.
The people whose names are included in the cemeteries and memorials are
those that died 1914-1921 for WW1 and 1939-1947 for WW2. They
therefore include those that died from wounds after the wars and also
those in service who died in the flu epidemic of 1919. The names also
include those who were “shot at dawn”.
When the Commission was first formed it was called the Imperial War
Graves Commission but the name was changed in1960. The cost of the
CWGC is £60 million pounds annually and this is met by the governments
UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and India with most
of the cost contributed by the UK. About 1200 are employed with the
majority being either masons or gardeners. The headquarters of the
organisation is in Maidenhead but there are bases in various
countries. The commissioners are appointed by the countries and are
high ranking individuals from that country usually the ambassador or
high-commissioner. The chairman is the Secretary of State for Defence
in the UK.
After his talk Sir John answered questions and was thanked by the
Wednesday 21st January
Crime and Punishment in 19th century
Westmorland and Cumberland
Dr Julie Leigh, a member of Sedbergh and District History Society,
attained her PhD for her research into early policing in Westmorland
and Cumberland. Her recent talk to the Society was based on
information about crime and punishment in this area collected in the
process of that research.
To place the subject matter in context, she first remarked on the fact
that in the later nineteenth century Westmorland and Cumberland had
fewer crimes than the industrial counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire
where the populations of about 1½ million were much larger than those
of the two north western counties with their total population of
265,000 Crime rates tended to be higher in heavily industrial areas,
and Westmorland and Cumberland were mainly rural with the exception of
the iron and steel areas of the west coast of Cumberland and woolens
in Kendal. The improvement of transport, through canals and railways,
brought change but slowly.
During the century, manorial & parish control reduced. Not all crimes
were recorded as small crimes were dealt with summarily but it is
clear that there were not enough police and that policing lagged
behind the rise in crime. The first county police forces came into
being in 1839 but they were not made compulsory until 1856 and only in
that year did Cumberland & Westmorland form a police force. Before
that, there were some police appointed privately by groups of local
men of property, for example at Burneside. Dr Leigh had found an
undated document signed by local worthies of the Sedbergh area calling
for the prosecution of perpetrators of a list of specified crimes, of
housekeepers who lodged criminals or strolling vagrants, of disorderly
people and of negligent constables. This probably dates from the
1830s. In 1850, there was a request for a policeman and lock-up for
There were not many murders in the region. While most murders were
family affairs, the most notorious was that following the Netherby
jewelry theft. Three men climbed into Netherby Hall, near Carlisle,
while the family were dining, and stole jewelry worth £400. After the
theft was discovered the police traced the thieves and one policeman
attempted to accost them alone. He was shot dead and all three
(Anthony B. Rudge, James Martin and John White) were hanged for
murder. At the beginning of the century, even children as young as
seven could be executed but as the century progressed the death
penalty was used less. Murderers were often reprieved and transported
There were many more cases of infanticide (the killing of a child by
its own mother within a year of the birth) than of other murders. 53
cases were recorded in the region in the 1850s but there were probably
many more concealed cases. In 1863 a Doctor examining Margaret Allonby
of Kirkby Stephen found she had given birth to a child and
subsequently found the corpse wrapped in a petticoat and hidden in a
mattress. In the case of a servant named Mary Johnston, the child’s
corpse was found buried in her master’s garden. Some mothers were
charged only with concealing a birth. Although infanticide was
technically murder in the C19th century, the courts showed increasing
awareness of the special circumstances and treated offenders more
Other crimes can be related to cultural events and circumstances, e.g.
Irish navvies fighting English navvies, violence at protestant marches
on the west coast, and fighting after drinking on Guy Fawkes night,
and at Brough Hill Fair. A report in 1845 on Milnthorpe, where there
was no resident policeman, recorded the prevalence of drinking during
divine service when the pubs were supposed to be closed and of
disturbances on Sunday afternoons.
Cumberland & Westmorland wrestling and prize-fighting both attracted
gambling. The former was more regulated and organized. The police
eventually cracked down on prize-fighting and on-street gambling. As
attitudes to animals changed (the RSPCA was founded in the mid C19th)
police came down hard on bull-baiting and cock-fighting. People would
take their neighbours to court over incidents of malicious damage to a
cow or horse but were initially suspicious of strangers from the RSPCA.
The Burneside Association for the Prosecution of Felons provided half
an advertised reward of £5 offered for information about the person
who killed a sheepdog, the other half being given by the owner of the
Vagrancy was a major problem throughout the century. There were
regular trails used by vagrants passing through Kirkby Stephen and
Ravenstonedale. The authorities transported people across the county
to avoid trouble but some knew the byways into the county and had
regular calling places where they could beg food. Many were caught
begging in Ravenstonedale and taken to court in Kirkby Stephen. Kirkby
Stephen had 17 pubs and a Temperance Hotel - it had a strong
temperance movement as well as problems of drunkenness. The penalty
for vagrancy was one month’s imprisonment with hard labour. Often the
offence was combined with begging and drunkenness. In the 1860s and
‘70s vagrants were also charged with other crimes, such as theft,
arson, operating as a pedlar without a certificate, using threatening
language, sleeping out-doors, and, in one case, murder.
The extant Kirkby Stephen Occurrence Books, in which the sergeant
wrote long narratives of police actions are a fascinating source of
social history. Policemen recorded instances of men playing dominoes
in a pub kitchen and of landlords refusing to obey a policeman’s
instructions to stop disorderly behaviour and protesting that they
were obliged to sell drink even to a person already drunk. The police
would follow people they thought about to commit crimes, watch them do
so and then arrest them.
Small crimes were dealt with summarily before one local JP at Petty
Sessions. Other cases were heard by two or more JPs, plus jury, in
Quarter Sessions. These had been established in C14th but their former
local government functions (such as responsibility for road and
bridges) were taken over by County Councils from 1889. The most
serious cases were sent to the annual assizes.
The main prisons were at Carlisle and Appleby, where archeologists
have uncovered the remains of a treadmill. Other forms of prison
labour were oakum picking and stone-breaking, which were also used as
occupations for inmates of workhouses. A frequent criminal charge
relating to workhouses, was of tearing up one’s clothes, done in order
to avoid being turned out after one night. The records of a riot at
Appleby Gaol, in which three prisoners escaped, show that the Governor
called police to help but prisoners called on the Governor to help
them against the police and blood was spilt on both sides. Evidence to
the committee deciding on the need for a police force in every county
included the statistic that, in 1852, 45,000 meals were served in
Carlisle Goal and Workhouse.
Police in Westmorland and Cumberland were not needed in huge numbers:
In 1856 there were 25 policemen in Westmorland and 32 in Cumberland.
By 1893, this had risen to 33 in Westmorland and 186 in Cumberland.
The type of policing, as well as the numbers of police changed over
the century, with the introduction of preventative measures and
appointment of detectives. The police took on extra responsibilities
e.g. for truants, people in distress, and weights and measures. When
the Metropolitan Police Force was established in 1829, people were
very suspicious but, by the end of the century, police were accepted
by community. Some people believed that there was a criminal class
pre-ordained to get into trouble but research published in the 1990s
showed that most offenders were not full time criminals but ordinary
people of the working class struggling to survive in difficult
Wednesday 19th November
Sizergh and Recent Excavations
Jamie Quartermaine was the Senior
Manager of this project directing members of the Levens Local history
Group and the National Trust along with a professional team from
Oxford Archaeology North based at Lancaster University. In a wide
ranging illustrated talk he unlocked the mysteries surrounding a
prehistoric burnt mound, an earthwork suspected of being medieval and
the Great Barn all found in the grounds of Sizergh Castle. This proved
to be a very intense, high profile excavation over 13 days covering 8
square kilometres and involving lots of volunteers, including children
from local schools. He explained the techniques used to find the best
sites to focus on.
He described the kidney shaped burnt
mound, located in a bog, as a phenomenal find. Excavating down through
peat to a shale bed two levels of stone deposits were found. The local
limestone would not have been fit for purpose, heat and water would
have converted it to quicklime, so the sandstone discovered must have
been transported at least a mile. Lower down still a trough, 1 -1.5
metre square, boarded with prehistoric timber was located, well
preserved by the bog. The wood was dated and could have been from as
early as 2500BC - making the mound very early bronze age, almost
Neolithic. Pollen examined from the bog was probably from post glacial
vegetation dated at 1200BC. Subsequently alongside the mound a kettle
hole was found caused by ice blocks from the Ice Age sinking into the
So who needed a burnt mound? Did Bronze
Age man put water which had seeped into the kettle hole from the
surrounding bog into the wooden trough, heat up the stones and throw
them into the trough so getting hot water before discarding them to
form the mound; the opposite of a sauna when water is splashed onto
This very significant discovery helps to
unravel the mystery surrounding burnt mounds.
The double banked ditch in the deer park
was located by using images from a drone. This coupled with 3D imaging
showed up a very obvious feature probably going all round the castle,
dating from 1724 – 1787; pre-dating early mapping. Excavations showed
that the bank resulted from spoil from the ditch and formed a very
good barrier to keep animals at bay.
A very detailed survey was made of the
Great Barn. The Strickland family had believed this to date from the
16c making it the earliest stone barn in the north. However this
investigation suggested otherwise.
The earliest barn was a 16c wooden cruck
bank barn with a manmade wooden ramp forming the bank. Huge tapered
timbers, the crucks, supported the roof. These timbers were accurately
dated to 1550 by counting the rings on a cross section. The later
stone barn was observed to have these crucks incorporated into the
walls of the structure and was thus built at a later date on the
footprint of the earlier structure, possibly late 17c and not, as
previously thought 16c.
The dig was filmed for a BBC programme
with Michael Buerk.
The speaker was thanked by Tony Hannam
for this hugely impressive illustrated detective story of our local
Wednesday 1st October
The Bronte Family
The first talk of the season was at Settlebeck School and was given by
Isobel Stirk on the topic of the Bronte family. Patrick Prunty was
born in Ireland in 1777and being an intelligent person was able to
enter St John’s College, Cambridge in 1802 from where he graduated
with a first class degree. At some stage there he changed his surname
to Bronte. After university he became a curate of various parishes
and married Maria Branwell from Cornwall. They had six children,
Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne. In 1820
Patrick became the Perpetual Curate of Haworth but in 1821 his wife
died and her sister Elizabeth moved from Cornwall to look after the
children helped by a maid Tabitha Aykroyd. Elizabeth devoted her life
to the family and she also provided financial support.
Patrick taught the children to read and
write and speak French. He also taught Branwell some Latin and
Greek. To further their education the four eldest girls were sent to
a school for the children of poor clergy at Cowan Bridge. However
their delicate health combined with poor conditions at the school
proved too much for Maria and Elizabeth who contracted tuberculosis
and had to return home dying soon afterwards. The remaining two
sisters were removed from the school. Whilst at home the children
began writing stories which were written in tiny booklets. In
1831Charlotte went to a school in Roe Head run by a Miss Wooler where
she made some lifelong friends. After leaving as a pupil she returned
as an assistant teacher and Emily became a pupil there but did not
stay long. When she left Anne took her
During their adult life the girls worked as
teachers or governesses but Emily never settled at anything and after
a short time away always wanted to return to Haworth and its moors.
Charlotte was more successful but seemed to get on better with the man
in the family than the wife, a possibly not unconnected phenomenon.
She certainly seems to have had an affair with Monsieur Heger. She
and Emily had gone as pupils to a school in Brussels run by him and
his wife and they had returned there as teachers although Emily did
not stay long. After some posts Anne eventually had a happy stay as
governess to the Robinson family in Scarborough. Branwell had a
talent as a painter and went to study at the Royal Academy in London
and also tried to set up as a portrait painter in Bradford. However
in these and some other jobs he tried he always failed through an
addiction to alcohol and drugs. He became a tutor to the Robinson’s
children in Scarborough but this time his failure was due to having an
affair with Mrs Robinson. His dismissal meant that Anne also had to
leave her post.
In 1847 the three sisters had their novels
published. Charlotte’s “Jane Eyre”, Emily’s “Wuthering Heights” and
Anne’s “Agnes Grey”. Anne’s “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” was
published the next year. However, in the space of seven months during
1848 and 1849 three of the Brontes died. Branwell died of
tuberculosis weakened by his dissolute life style. Emily died two
months later from consumption. In the spring of 1849 Anne became ill
and wanted to see Scarborough again but died there and was the only
one of the family not buried at Haworth. After their deaths Charlotte
eventually married her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholl, in 1854
but she became ill and died soon afterwards in 1855 when pregnant.
Her husband stayed at Haworth and looked after Patrick Bronte who died
in 1861 having outlived his children. Their novels and early tragic
deaths had aroused a public interest and even before Patrick’s death
people were visiting Haworth to see the where the Bronte sisters had
The chairman thanked the speaker for her
most informative talk and several people took the opportunity to
question her during refreshments.
Anthea Boulton ‘Treasure Trove of Memories’
A large audience gathered in the Dent
Memorial Hall on the 19th February to hear a talk given by
Anthea Boulton entitled “Treasure Trove of Memories”. She was assisted
by Veronica Whymant and Dilys Evans with technical assistance provided
by Neville Allen. The Dent Oral History Project had been started by
Anthea in 1994 but had since been expanded to cover Sedbergh and other
The theme of Anthea’s talk was the work
ethic in the area particularly before the advent of machinery and
mainly covered the period either side of World War II. Extracts from
conversations with past and present local residents were listened to
in which they remembered their childhood days and life as young
In those days many articles were
handmade rather than bought and trade was often carried out by
bartering rather than cash purchase. Events such as hay making and pig
killing were important in the year and entailed much hard work. There
were also hiring fairs twice a year in which the farm labourers were
picked by the farmers. The ability to milk cows well and to be good
with a scythe were the main attributes needed to be selected for work.
Most farms had a dairy herd and the
regular payment from the Milk Marketing Board provided a life line as
incomes were low. The advent of tractors and later electricity made
things easier in the decades after the war. The present day farmers
work hard but do not have the unrelenting grind endured by previous
generations although that did not prevent them from enjoying
themselves with communal entertainments.
The chairman thanked Anthea and her
assistants for a most enjoyable evening which had been much
appreciated by the audience.
Wednesday 5th February
‘Lakeland Architecture through the Centuries’
Andrew Lowe did not disappoint on
another popular repeat visit as he whisked a large gathering through
500 years of Lakeland architecture in an hour. As a former Senior
Planning Officer in the Lake District National Park with over 30 years
experience his knowledge on this subject is encyclopaedic, even of
‘Wainwright’ proportions. His premise is that architecture should be
pleasing to look at, fit for purpose and built to last… and should
reflect the needs of the time.
His talk was illustrated with a
succession of well chosen slides to illustrate design features. Dacre
Castle (circa 1340) was designed to keep the marauding Scots at bay.
Kentmere Hall dating from 1380 had a fireproof tower with vaulted
ceilings to deflect fire brands. Steep pitched roofs of formerly
bracken thatch were fire risks. Muncaster Castle (1258) had a medieval
tower. The cylindrical outer chimneys such as on Coniston hall (1560)
signalled the importance of the owner. Taking us inside Calgarth Hall,
an early 16c manor house, he pointed out the finest over mantle; the
fireplace tended to be the focus of life and hints of the importance
of the family.
Buildings of the period circa 1620 –
1700 such as typical Lakeland buildings with home-grown rugged
architecture were termed vernacular meaning ‘of the locality’, like a
local accent, buildings which according to Wordsworth ‘grow out of the
rocks of the landscape’. Designed with a porous rough stone finish the
familiar lime wash rendered them weatherproof. Most of the windows
faced the morning sun for solar gain, even if the best view was from
the rear. Doors were kept away from the damp south west prevailing
wind. One surviving 300 year old door illustrated was made of three
oak planks using square pegs in round holes (for better grip). The
master and mistress slept in the warmth of downstairs. There was a
rudimentary staircase on the cool side. A fire window allowed light
into the fire and cooking area. A lockable salt cupboard guarded the
valuable salt. A clap bread air tight oak cupboard, situated against
an interior wall, was the most elaborately carved piece of furniture
in the house. This had to be rat proof as it stored the food which had
to last through the winter months.
By the late 17c, on entering the
Georgian period, more formality and symmetry appeared. Buildings were
highly proportioned by professional designers as illustrated by
Dalemain House with its beautiful Georgian façade dating from 1744.
These designs filtered down to lesser buildings, the town houses,
within the radius of the growing townships. By 1740 elegantly
proportioned sash windows appeared on three storey houses with the
smallest on the upper floor. The wonderful cottages built in Lowther
for estate workers in 1760, designed by Robert Adams, were way ahead
of their time.
In the late 18c, as the grand tour of
the Lake District was becoming fashionable, partly due to Napoleon’s
blockade, people were choosing to come and live here. Many fine
prestigious homes began to appear along the shores of Windermere. The
architecture became more flexible in what came to be known as the
Regency Period and bowed windows appeared. Storrs Hall, built on the
profits of the slave trade, is a good example. The Belsfield had the
finest view on the lake with grounds running down to the shore. The
buildings in Ambleside and Keswick symbolise the Victorian Age,
post-railway architecture. The railways brought wealthy industrialists
needing grandiose houses and also tourists. So wealth, social change
and transport influenced architectural development.
And what about modern building design?
Mr Lowe highlighted two of architectural merit; Ambleside Parish Hall
and Lakeland limited.
Well, Andy Lowe certainly lived up to
his billing and after this excellent talk the appreciative members and
friends were left with a lot more to look out for as they travel
around the district.
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Jeff Cowton 'Wordsworth in Cumbria'
The chairman welcomed members to the
first meeting of 2014 on 15th January at Settlebeck School.
He informed them of the success of the website, run by Neville Allen,
which in the last three months had received 9412 hits. He then
introduced the speaker who was giving the evening’s talk.
Jeff Cowton, the Curator of the
Wordsworth Trust, spoke on the subject of “Wordsworth in Cumbria”.
William Wordsworth, 1770-1850, lived 67 years in the Lake District.
His early years were spent in Cockermouth from where he went away to
school at Hawkshead Grammar School, lodging with Ann Tyson. He
attended Cambridge University and then spent time in London and
abroad. On his return to the Lake District he lived in Dove Cottage,
Grasmere, and finally in Rydal Mount. On his death his grave in
Grasmere became a place of pilgrimage for literary enthusiasts.
The majority of Jeff’s talk was spent
considering original documents of his work. His sister, Dorothy, was a
constant companion and helped him with his work. For instance the
first account of daffodils by Ullswater appeared in her journal. It
was two years later before he wrote his poem on the subject. He
constantly amended his work and that was shown by this poem. When
first written it had only three verses but this was later extended to
four. The notes he made during his life which formed the basis of his
autobiographical poem “Prelude” again show considerable alterations.
Jeff also distributed examples of letters written to Coleridge to give
the audience an understanding of the method of communication two
hundred years ago.
After the talk Jeff answered questions
and said that letters found recently showed that he had a loving
relationship with his wife, Mary. The chairman thanked Jeff for his
most interesting talk and said Wordsworth had connections with
Sedbergh including sending two sons to Sedbergh School.
Dr Raynor Shaw
‘The Angkor Temple
On 6th November the Society
was entertained to a talk by Dr Raynor Shaw as a result of his visit
to Angkor about four years ago. Ever since he was quite a small boy
and had first heard of Angkor Wat ,he had dreamt of going there, and
so, when as a geologist he was asked to go and help assess one of the
temples in the Angkor complex, which the French had said was likely to
slip downhill, he had jumped at the chance.
He described the layout of the
surrounding area, with it very flat plain, flooding in the wet season,
and stretching to the hills some 40 miles away. Angkor means Great,
and Thom means city, and the main complex is a walled city some two by
three kilometres in extent and surrounded by a wide moat. In the
centre of the city is a large pyramidical stone temple known as the
Bayon (representing the Hindu sacred mountain, Mount Meru) which was
the focus of the city. This temple and the walls are all that remains
of the city as all other buildings, even the royal ones, were
constructed of wood and have long disappeared. At its height the city
may have contained as many as a million people, at a time (12th
century) when London probably only had about 17,000 people.
Outside the city there were many stone
temples, from small to huge, and numbering about 170. The famous one,
of course, being Angkor Wat (“Great Temple”). This building is truly
huge, being about 190 metres by 200 metres. It is surprisingly plain
in construction apart from a sort of inside out cloister facing
outwards round the building and containing a frieze approximately four
feet high which runs right around the temple, mostly showing the good
soldiers (facing right) fighting the demons facing left.. The temple
rises in three huge terraces to the top and is crowned with five
towers, only three of which can be seen from afar at any one
time. It again is surrounded by a wall
which is between about 200 and 500 metres from the temple, and outwith
that an enormous moat almost 200 yards wide. The famous views one sees
on postcards (and in Raiders of the Lost Ark) of tree roots growing
over and through the stones are in yet another temple, Ta Prohm, some
considerable distance away, which has been deliberately left in the
state in which it was found, and are not at Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat was
never completely deserted and so did not get overtaken by the jungle.
Like the other temples, Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu temple but
later the population converted to Buddhism in the 13th
cenntury. The amazingly sharp carvings (after 9 centuries) of the
basse reliefs reflect this change
Dr Shaw pointed out that a large city
such as this needed supplies, and in particular water. Cambodia has
only two seasons, the wet and the dry. Angkor is beside the largest
lake in south east Asia. In the dry season this lake is comparatively
very small (2.700 sq km) and only about a metre deep and drains via
the Tonle Sap river to join the Mekong at Phnom Phen about 100
kilometres south.. In the wet season the melting snows in the
Himalayas and the monsoon cause the Mekong to force the Tonle Sap
river to flow backwards into the Tonle Sap lake, and it expands
enormously and can be 9 metres deep and 16,000 sq km. It contains over
2000 varieties of fish, many of which take advantage of the backwards
flowing river to spawn in the lake. The
Khmer built numerous canals, and in
particular a canal to bring the huge building blocks of sandstone from
the hills 40 miles away. They also constructed four enormous
reservoirs or barays which were raised above the ground by huge
embankments.. Built by slave labour from the Khmers’ successful wars,
one of them is eight kilometres long.
The Khmer civilisation was at its height
between the 9th and 15th centuries. It was at
its height in the 12th century when a strong king, Suryavarman, built
Angkor Wat. A series of weak kings, possibly climate change with
prolonged droughts, and war, culminated in the city being sacked by
the Siamese in 1431. The next year when the Siamese came again the
city was deserted, the population having moved south to the Mekong
Delta, and ultimately to Phnom Phen. The jungle gradually took over,
and the complex disappeared from history. It was not until the 19th
century that it was really re-discovered, though intrepid explorers
had reported huge temples in the jungle – and been disbelieved.
[Foot note: The Khmer are the Cambodian
people. In the 1960s and early 1970s there were three political
parties, known simply as the Blue, White and Red Khmer. The latter was
the Communist party, and was the one that ran out of control as the
infamous Khmer Rouge (Cambodia having been part of French IndoChina].
‘Sarah Losh and Wreay Church’
In the second talk of the
2013-2014 winter programme Raymond Whittaker introduced members to the
architecture of Sara Losh, a notable nineteenth-century lady who was
responsible for 18 building projects in the village of Wreay which is
about five miles south of Carlisle. In particular, she is remembered
for the design and construction of St Mary’s Church in the early
1840s. Sara was one of four children born to John and Isabella Losh.
They lived in Woodside, a large dwelling in Wreay and their wealth was
derived from an alkali factory and mining interests in north east
England. They were a cultured family and associated with influential
and intellectual figures like Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey. Sara
and her sister Katharine were joint heirs to the estate when in turn
their father, mother and brother died. Sara and Katharine were very
close and after Katharine died at the age of 47 Sara began to design
and build the church partly as a memorial to her.
Raymond said that the only
person in the nineteenth century to give any substantial information
about Sara’s life was Dr Henry Lonsdale in his book, The Worthies
of Cumberland where he portrayed Sara as a woman of many talents.
Educated in Wreay and later in Bath and London, she spoke several
languages, developed an understanding of art and architectural
techniques on her travels in Europe and was a skilled craftswoman.
However, as Jenny Uglow has pointed out in her more recent book about
Sara and her achievements, it has been impossible to discover much
about Sara’s personality and beliefs, since her personal papers and
diaries have not survived. Jenny described the search for the ‘real’
Sara as ‘chasing after ghosts’ and maintained that she can best be
understood through her architectural legacy and in particular through
the design of St Mary’s Church and the artistic expertise that is
revealed in its decoration.
In a series of beautiful
slides Raymond illustrated many aspects of the church, most of which
was built and decorated by local artisans. The church was constructed
in the style of a rectangular Italian basilica with a semicircular
apse at one end. He compared its design to that of a Roman law court
and the prominent position of the altar as similar to that of the
table in a basilica where animal entrails would have been consulted
when important decisions had to be taken in Classical times. Raymond’s
slides illustrated the importance of symbolism in the decoration. For
example, death which is represented by two large poisoned arrows
carved on the door of the church is superseded by many symbols of
regeneration in the interior of the building. Although there are no
human forms or religious iconography in the decoration, the depiction
of animals, birds, vegetation and fossils interspersed with many
carvings of Sara’s signature pine cone provide a feast for the eye.
presentation, it was easy to understand why people come from all over
the world to see such a beautiful and thought provoking building and
why, in the opinion of experts like Nicolaus Pevsner and Simon
Jenkins, it is one of the most important churches in the country.
Saturday 5th October 2013
The day course on “Cumbria in the Dark Ages” held on the 5th
October attracted a large number of members. Thirty four, including
one of our members from France, came to listen to the talks given by
Sheena Gemmell. This number exceeded our expectations and as a result
the event had to be moved to a larger venue and we are grateful to the
URC for allowing us to use their rooms at short notice.
Sheena’s talks covered the period from
the departure of the Romans to the arrival of the Normans, a period
known as the Dark Ages because of the scarcity of written material
covering much of that time. However using the surviving historical
documents and archaeological evidence Sheena gave her audience an
insight into the life and events of the period. We learnt of the
Kingdom of Rheged, the rise and fall of the Kingdom of Northumbria,
the introduction of Christianity, the settlement by Danes and Vikings
and the invasion in 1092 by King William 11 (Rufus) that pushed the
boundary of England up to Carlisle. In addition to these broad themes
Sheena gave us details of the lives of individuals living in the area
that is now Cumbria.
At the end of the day the audience
departed having enjoyed the course and knowing much more about the
Dark Ages in Cumbria. We are grateful to Sheena for presenting such
Wednesday 12th June 2013
The Society visited
Hoghton Tower near Preston on
Wednesday 12th June 2013.
Hoghton Tower is perhaps best known as the place where James VI & 1
knighted a side of beef ( “Arise Sir Loin”) on his way south from a
visit to Scotland in 1617. A picture hangs in the Great Hall showing
what appears to be an extremely drunken Court disporting itself in the
Great Hall and commemorating this event.
The House was built in 1565 high on a hill dominating the surrounding
landscape probably because there had been a peel tower there
previously. In the Civil War the house was occupied unopposed by the
Parliamentarians and the peel tower itself was used to store
ammunition. Someone carelessly used a naked flame and the peel tower
was demolished (together presumably with the parliamentarians
inside). The approach to the house is up a long straight drive, and
the house looks larger than it actually is as you drive up. It is an
early Elizabethan house, built perhaps before the fashion developed
for E shaped houses, and is cast iron gate and a flight of steps.
Three sides of the court are formed by the two storey house, and the
fourth by a wall and an impressive gatehouse facing down the drive.
As well as the large gatehouse tower at each end of the wall there are
small towers, one of which can be hired as a holiday cottage.
Although there are three towers, the House has always been known as
Hoghton Tower, not Towers, perhaps going back to the original peel
The family of de Hoghton have lived continuously there since the
Conquest, and through the female line are descended from Lady Godiva.
Around about the time when the present house was build the “de” was
dropped, but was later reinstated. The present family live in
London, and use the house more as a holiday home. It has been open
to the public since about 1988, after 10 years of restoration as it
had fallen into a bad state of repair. Among its distinguished
guests (quieter and more dignified perhaps than James) were William
II, George V and Queen Mary, and the present Duke of Edinburgh.
Other distinguished persons include Edmund Campion (the Catholic
martyr), Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare (believed to have been
a tutor in the house aged about 15) and JMW Turner.
Many of the rooms are panelled, and there are magnificent fireplaces.
Many of the doors have interesting fittings, and two large doors
connected to the Great Hall have smaller doors set into them for use
in the winter. There are two magnificent four poster beds, in one of
which the Duke of Edinburgh recently slept. There are many family
portraits, both modern and going back to Tudor times. One recent
one of the previous Lady de Hoghton, unfortunately away damaged by a
water leak, normally hangs in the house with the dress she wears in
the portrait beside it. The family has always been Catholic, and
there are two priestholes in the house. There are ancient oak
tables and many other interesting items of furniture. A room full
of doll’s houses is of particular interest. Under the house long
corridors run with vaulted cellars which include “dungeons”, one
complete with skeleton.
Wednesday 20th March 2013
Dr Tony Stephens The Cattledroving Birtwhistles of Craven
and GallowayDrovers, industrialists, vicars, a spy and a poet – all were included
in a wide-ranging talk at the History Society in March by Dr Tony
Stephens of Long Preston. The talk centred on the family of John Birtwhistle (1715-1785), a major drover of Scottish cattle to markets
in England during the C18th. John came from relatively humble origins,
his father being described variously as a yeoman and a ‘badger’
(travelling salesman) from Skipton. Travelling clearly suited John
who, by 1741, was established as a drover of cattle from the
Hebrides to the Great Close at Malham where he established major
cattle fairs in the middle of that century. The cattle were driven
down from Harris in the Outer Hebrides because they were particularly
hardy and well suited to the uplands of Craven. At its height 5,000
cattle changed hands at the fair on the Great Close, and up to 20,000
were traded over the course of a summer. This amounted to around 20%
of all the cattle coming into England from Scotland at the time. He
went on to drive cattle to markets in Suffolk and may also have driven
as far as
Droving made John a wealthy man and by the 1760s he was no longer
described as a ‘yeoman’, rather as a ‘gentleman’. He used his wealth
to purchase extensive estates in
Lincolnshire, Galloway (a 600 acre estate at Dundeuch) and Long
Preston (872 acres) and expanded beyond droving at the time the
Industrial Revolution took off. In 1785 he built a cotton mill at
Gatehouse of Fleet, Galloway, in partnership with James Murray. He
also invested in canals being the largest subscriber in 1774 to the
Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Skipton. His extensive estates also
suggest that he moved into the business of fattening up the cattle
rather than simply droving and selling them at market, making them far
John Birtwhistle had eight children, three of whom (William, Alexander
and Robert) took over the various businesses prior to and on his
death. His eldest son, Thomas, became rector of Skirbeck and his only
daughter, Agnes, married John Vardill, rector of Fishtoft. Birtwhistle
died in 1787 and stipulated in his will that the droving business was
to pay substantial bequests to the family members not involved in the
business. It therefore looks a little suspicious that four of his
sons, the main beneficiaries, died shortly after him - Thomas in 1789,
Richard and Charles in 1791 and John in 1792! They were all in their
30s or 40s and died without legal heirs.
The three remaining sons rationalised the family businesses, William
and Robert managing the cattle business, while Alexander ran the
Gatehouse textile business. At this time William and Robert began
importing cattle from
Ireland via Port Patrick and extended the family estates through
purchase of Balmae near Kircudbright and sheep farms north of Loch
Maree in Ross and Cromarty. While it is not known exactly which drove
routes they used to bring their cattle to the growing urban centres
fuelled by the Industrial Revolution, it is probable they were driven
through Carlisle, down the Eden Valley through Mallerstang to Dent and
beyond. It is also possible that they followed the Galwaithegate
Carlisle through Tebay, Low Borrowbridge,
Lambrigg Park, Three Mile House,
Town and Kirby Lonsdale. This ancient droving route is mentioned as
early as a charter of 1186-1201 and can still be followed under the
name Scotch Road or Old Scotch Road passing close to junction 37 just
on the Sedbergh side of the M6.
Agnes had married John Vardill, rector of Fishtoft in
Lincolnshire. Vardill was an American professor at King’s College New
York by the age of 23. When he came to
in 1774 to make a case for King’s College becoming a university, his
allegiance to the Crown led to him being recruited into the British
Secret Service. George III rewarded him with an appointment as Regius
Professor of Divinity at Kings College (now Columbia University)
though because of the American War of Independence he has unable to
take up the post. He was also a leading spy for the English at the
time of the war, and is even depicted in an early engraving of the
Boston Tea Party in 1773. During 1776 he moved into an office at
17 Downing Street,
to allow him to advise British minsters directly on affairs in the
colony. Later he moved to the family estates at Gatehouse in
where he continued his espionage work against the Irish and French.
William, Alexander and Robert had at least 10 children between them but
only Alexander married the mother of his children, and then not until
after their birth. This led to legal challenges over inheritance with
Agnes claiming to be the only legitimate heir on Alexander’s death.
This was contested by Alexander’s son, John, who eventually won the
case in the House of Lords where Scottish law of succession was upheld
as that was where John had been born, not in
The judgment has since been written into the constitution of a number
of countries including the
An inscription in
Parish Church, in memory of John’s grandfather, celebrates the victory
by listing all the offspring of the patriarch with the notable
exception of Agnes!
Anna Vardill, the daughter of Agnes and John Vardill, was a prolific
author and poet. In 1809 she published “Poems and translations from
minor Greek poets and others” under the pseudonym of ‘A Lady’. The
work is dedicated to the Princess of Wales and indicates a letter from
the Prince of Wales, the future George IV, saying how much he had
enjoyed reading it. This is perhaps indicative of continuing links
between the family and the royal household. In 1812 she published “The
Pleasures of Human Life: a poem” and became a member of the
influential artistic circle in
London known as the Attic Chest. Over the next ten years she
contributed around 200 pieces of poetry and prose to the European
The talk ranged across the world, from the
Hebrides to Malham and Suffolk, from the United States to Ireland, and
spanned three generations of this fascinating family once described as
“the greatest graziers and dealers in the Kingdom”. Tony Stephens did
a wonderful job bringing their lives back to life again, and in
particular painting a vivid picture of cattle droving in the C18th.
Jennifer Holt The Diary of Thomas Fenwick Esq.
The Society met at
Settlebeck High School on Wednesday 6 March to hear a talk by Jennifer
Holt on the recently discovered diary of Thomas Fenwick (c1729-1794)
of Burrow Hall, near Kirkby Lonsdale and Nunriding in Northumberland.
As a landowner and for several years M.P. for Westmorland, Fenwick
travelled extensively. The parts of the diary that have survived cover
the last twenty years of his life. They show Fenwick to have been an
astute observer, with a curiosity displayed in his many comments on
agriculture, wildlife, and natural phenomena, including the direction
of the wind, the daily variations of which seem to have particularly
fascinated him. Fenwick’s systematic recording of what he ate, how he
slept, and the people he dealt with convey vividly the rhythms of the
day-to-day existence of a man constantly on the move. As part of her
broader interest in the history of the links between north-west
and the rest of the world, Jennifer Holt has undertaken the formidable
task of editing the one million words of the diary. The first two
volumes appeared recently (very handsomely, as publications of the
List and Index Society), and the remaining two are due out in the
coming year. The published volumes, which were on display at the
meeting, and Jennifer Holt’s illuminating talk showed how valuable the
diary will be at many levels. These include work on Fenwick’s own
biography and his family history, in which the litigation that set him
and his Catholic sister-in-law Ann Fenwick (née Benison) of Hornby
Hall at odds, is one of several intriguing episodes. As Jennifer
Holt’s talk showed, the history of the Fenwicks is confusing,
complicated by the frequency with which members of the family adopted
the name Fenwick in adult life: Thomas Fenwick himself was born Thomas
Wilson. But the diary’s reach extends far beyond Thomas and his
family. On a broader canvas it will stand as a major new resource for
the history of our area and northern history more generally. All who
are interested in these subjects will long be indebted to Fenwick’s
careful recording of his experiences and to Jennifer Holt for her
skilful editing of such a voluminous work.
Wednesday 20th February, 2013
Maureen Lamb Killington through the Ages
A large audience including several non-members gathered to listen to a
talk by Maureen Lamb on “Killington through the ages”. Maureen
dedicated her talk to the memory of Alwyne Amsden who had died
tragically two years ago. Alwyne had spent much of her time
researching the history of Killlington and had also traced the
ancestry of the local families.
Killington is a village of about 160 people and the parish occupies an
area about 5km wide and 6km long. It is bounded by the A684, the M6,
the Lune and the parish of Mansergh. Geologically it lies on a bed of
Silurian rock but a fault line runs through the parish which can be
seen in various places. The last Ice Age left drumlins on the valley
floor and the Lune had to carve its way through these. One
spectacular example is on the site of the old
Bridge the remains of which are upstream from the present bridge.
References exist for this old bridge being repaired in 1702 and even
earlier in the 14th century.
The name Killington is of Celtic origin and is thought to mean the
place of Cylla’s people. The coming of the Romans and their nearby
major road would have provided an economic stimulus to the area. The
departure of the Romans would have caused a return to subsistence
farming. The Anglo-Saxon conquest left few traces but the coming of
Scandinavian invaders had a lasting impact. They preferred scattered
farmsteads rather than nucleated settlements and many of today’s
farmhouses are still on the sites of their farmsteads. Also many
names such as thwaite and rigg are Scandinavian in origin.
The first written records came after the Norman conquest and the first
named person was William de Killington who had a house probably on the
site of Killington Hall. In the last quarter of the 12th
century he was up in court several times for debt and was also a
witness to a document concerning land at Middleton Hall. In the
middle of the 13th century the Killington property passed
to the de Brus family and then to the
Pickerings who held it for the next three hundred years. Sir William
Pickering who obtained the land built a house with a drawbridge over
the stream which acted as a moat. About 100 years later Sir James
Pickering built a new mansion and the present day ruined tower is all
that remains of it. He would have spent little time there as he took
troops to Ireland, was Sheriff of Westmorland and York, was elected as
an MP to Westminster and acted as Speaker during the reigns of Kings
Edward III and Richard II. He was made the executor of a friend’s
estate but two years later the man’s widow was abducted and taken to
one of Pickering’s houses in Selby. One of his servant’s was blamed
but he was probably responsible. He made enemies and one of these,
Sir James Roos of Kendal Castle, ambushed him with 300 men but he
managed to escape although two of his party were killed. Eventually
there was no male Pickering heir and the inheritance passed to Anne
Pickering who married three times. Her son, Francis Vaughan, by her
third husband came from
and was not interested in Killington and so the estate was sold but
only after the tenant farmers were allowed to buy their land. Among
those taking advantage of this was Edmunde Mealbank who bought Broad
Raine in 1585.
It seems likely that Sir James Pickering built a chapel at the same
time as he built his house. This chapel was not sold with the estate
and the inhabitants petitioned the bishop to allow it to be used for
services and burials. This would save them having to go to Kirkby
Lonsdale some 10 miles away. Their request was granted on the
condition that they were able to support a minister financially. One
such minister was Richard Leake who in 1698 and 1699 preached sermons
which he then had published in
London. He blamed a current plague outbreak as being due to Popery
and drunkenness. Whether this conclusion was the result of his
experiences at Killington is not clear but strangely the plague had
not affected the parish. However, the Pickerings and the Kitsons who
succeeded them were both Catholic families and the Red Lion tavern was
within 50 yards of the chapel.
Legends exist about Killington including the existence of witches.
Indeed an actual example existed in which a lady from Killington Hall
was accused of witchcraft as recently as 1843 but was acquitted.
Another legend was that a treasure chest was buried near Lilymere Tarn
during the retreat of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army in 1745. Despite
attempts to discover it no one has yet succeeded.
Quakers were prominent during the late 17th century and
about a third of the burials at Brigflatts during that period were of
people from Killington. Interesting diaries were written by William
Pooley Blacow and Agnes Ann Kendal which gave an insight into the area
in the 19th century. During the 20th century
two famous visitors to Killington were Bobby and Teddy Kennedy who
stayed there and carved their initials on a barn door. Over a third
of the houses in the parish were built before the 19th
century and, ignoring outbuilding conversions, only six houses have
been built there since 1900. In fact if the Vikings returned they
might still recognize the area. After her talk Maureen showed slides
of the houses in Killington taken about 30 years ago and answered
questions. She was then thanked for her most interesting talk by the
Wednesday 5th December
Katy Iliffe The History of your House
The last speaker
before the break for the festive season was Katy Iliffe the Sedbergh
School Archivist. The topic of her talk was “The History of your
She said a good
source was to talk to neighbours and previous inhabitants of the
house. Also local estate agents who have sold the house in the past
could know things about its history and may even still have its deeds
in their possession. The history of the town may also reveal
information about the house and the area around it. If it is a listed
building then the details of the listing can be obtained from the
internet or from the National Park. The latter may have extra details
not shown on the listing. There may be information in the house
itself, such as dates shown on particular items, but these can be
misleading. For instance a date on a fireplace probably refers to
when it was installed rather than the date the house was built.
Documents may also be found in the house where they have been stored
by previous occupants. An actual example of an unusual place being
under insulation in the attic.
information can be obtained include the local library, the local
history society, the local record office and the National Archive.
The internet can also prove useful but care must be taken when using
it, the information on it is only as reliable as the person who posted
There is a range of
documents that can provide useful details. The best are deeds, if
they exist, although their availability is diminishing with the
growth of the Land Registry founded in 1862. Maps and surveys may show
the house on its site. If they are of a large enough scale they can
show its shape and hence the change of shape over time. Information
on farms can be obtained from the 1940 Agricultural Survey. If the
house is part of an estate then its records may include details. If
the house was involved in a boundary dispute that went to court the
record will be in the National Archive. Other records held there
include details of death duty paid since 1796. Wills can also prove
invaluable but their location is varied depending on their date.
give details about the house, its occupants and its owners.
Governments have always tried to extract money from house ownership.
In 1662 a Hearth Tax was introduced which depended on the number of
fireplaces in the house. Assessors had the power to demand access
into the house to check the number. This was considered too draconian
and in 1696 it was replaced by a Window Tax which could be checked
externally. This resulted in many windows being bricked up as owners
tried to save paying as much tax. Records of these two taxes, if they
exist, will be in the local record office. The best known national
records are the censuses taken every ten years since 1841. These can
show whether the house existed at a particular date and who its
occupants were. Censuses can be found in local libraries, local
record offices and on the internet.
A lively discussion
followed in which attention was drawn to the use locally of Tithe
Maps, Land Taxes and a survey of some houses made in 1913. Finally the
speaker was thanked by the chairman for her interesting and useful
Janet Niepokozycka Packhorse Ways
A large audience of
sixty people met in Dent Memorial Hall to listen to a talk by Janet
Niepokozycha on Packhorse Days and Ways. As part of her research into
packhorses Janet, in the past, had done trips of hundreds of miles
with a packhorse to gain first -hand experience.
The earliest record
of one that she had found was on a carving from Iran dating from
640BC. In the Middle Ages they were depicted in paintings from all
over Europe including one from England in 1480 which showed a donkey
being used as a pack animal. In more recent times they were shown on
prints from the North of England carrying a variety of goods. From
further afield an early nineteenth century one from Japan showed a
horse carrying a load. The type of goods carried varied considerably
and the animals were illustrated carrying things such as water, wine
and vinegar containers. Bales of cloth, wool, lead ore and fish were
other examples of loads carried.
The scale and
extent of the operations varied enormously. The Batemans of Blease
Hall near Kendal were large scale operators around the year fifteen
hundred and carried wool as far as Southampton through all seasons.
On their return journey they brought back items such as dried fruit,
spices and alum. It is not clear whether the same ponies did the whole
trip or whether there were relays of ponies involved. When speed was
essential a pony express system of relays was operated that could
provide 24 hour a day transport. An example of this was recorded by
Daniel Defoe in the first quarter of the eighteenth century. He
stated that fresh salmon from the Lake District was sold in
Billingsgate with the journey taking under three days. At the other
end of the scale there was the man, or even woman, operating with one
pony. These people would visit houses trying to sell things to the
occupants and were known as badgers in England and cadgers in
Scotland. Their activities gave rise to the two words having negative
meanings in the English language and laws were brought in to regulate
The equipment used
by pack horses was fairly standard and bells were associated with them
all over the world. These were to give warning notice of their
arrival and possibly to ward off evil spirits. The saddles used were
arched and had side panels to spread the load. None survive from this
country but some do from other countries and are even still in use in
remote areas. Whether the horses were shod or not depended on the
nature of the terrain and the length of the journey. Getting horses
shod on a journey was not a problem as all villages had a blacksmith.
The animals used included mules, donkeys, ponies and horses. In this
area the Dales and Fell ponies were ideal for use. Working animals
need concentrated feed such as oats and this led to a system of inns
being set up with stalls for the animals and beds for the drivers.
The nature and
state of the tracks used varied widely and some had markers on them to
help with navigation. In the hills the tracks were usually stony and
weathered quite well. In the valley bottoms the tracks became very
bad in wet weather and over the years got hollowed out. As a result
several parallel tracks often existed close to each other. In some
areas steps were taken to avoid this by laying stone slabs and
sections of these tracks still exist. Bridges over streams were
originally wooden but were later rebuilt in stone. These arched
bridges were characterised by their low side walls to allow the
animals to get over when carrying their loads.
The coming of
canals and toll roads signalled the decline of the pack horse. Toll
roads allowed carts and carriages to make journeys which had been
impossible on the previous tracks. The final nail in the coffin was
provided by the advent of railways. A photo exists of Mary Alice
Hartley from Whitworth possibly the last of the pack horse traders but
she has no marked grave in the local churchyard. The speaker was
thanked by Graham Dalton for her most interesting talk.
Sheena Gemmel Kingdom of Northumbria
On 17th October members of the History Society were treated to a most
informative and interesting illustrated talk by Sheena Gemmel entitled
“The Kingdom of Northumbria: its Rise and its Golden Age.” Ms Gemmel,
a Doctor of Literature who had studied Early Medieval History at St
Andrew’s University and been a lecturer at Lancaster University, is a
national authority in this field and during the talk she imparted a
wealth of information about the formation, extent, evolution and
influence (particularly its art, religion, literature and
architecture) of the Kingdom of Northumbria, largely in the late 7th
to mid 8th centuries – its ‘golden age’.
Northumbria (literally ‘the land to the north of
the River Humber’) initially evolved from a fusion of two kingdoms:
Bernicia (founded in 567 A.D.) to the north,inhabited by Angles and
centred around Bamburgh; and Deira to the south, a Saxon area centred
around York. Aethelfrith, described by Bede as ‘powerful’, ‘ambitious’
and ‘cruel’, was the king of Bernicia who, through his expansionist
warlike methods unified the entire neck of land comprising central
Britain between the Irish and North seas to the north of the Humber
and to the south of the old Roman Antonine Wall between the Clyde and
Forth rivers. This included Rheged (present-day Cumbria) as well as
Gododin and Strathclyde, and indeed probably also had influence as far
west as Ireland.
Once established, and with Christianity becoming
more widespread, there followed a period of peace and prosperity under
the rule of Edwin (of Deira), 617 A.D. to 633 A.D. He developed links
with the kingdom of Kent and, through this alliance, beyond into
Europe from where cultural influences flooded northwards: education,
reading and writing became more commonplace.
Edwin was succeeded by Oswald, a son of
Aethelfrith, and later and for a long period (642 to 670 A.D.) by
Oswiu. During the former’s reign, when dominion over the Scots was
cemented, St Aidan came from Iona to establish his monastery on
Lindisfarne. It was during Oswiu’s reign, however, that the kingdom
really flourished: through his 3 marriages links with Rheged and
Ireland were strengthened, drawing in diverse Christian influences yet
in an atmosphere of peace and cultural co-operation; the highly
influential Synod of Whitby (664 A.D.) decided in favour of
continental practices; there was a flowering of learning and the arts;
and several important institutions were founded, including Ripon
Cathedral (671 A.D.), Hexham Abbey (673), Monkwearmouth Monastery
(674), York Minster (682) and Jarrow (685). Many key figures in this
golden age were of continental origin, including Theodore, Benedict
Biscop and Hadrian, whilst a local nobleman, Wilfred, was instrumental
in the great building revolution, organising stonemasons brought in
The talk ranged much wider than this core history, with
beautiful illustrations of, for example, Acca’s Cross at Hexham; a
simple memorial stone at Hartlepool comprising the Greek letters alpha
and omega; Bewcastle Cross in Cumbria; and the Ruthwell Cross in
Dumfriesshire depicting Christ’s mastery over the beasts, and the Tree
of Life – in Ms Gemmel’s words, “the monument of the period par
The appetite of our audience for delving even
further into this remarkable period was well and truly whetted.
Dr Sam Riches St. George & that dragon
The opening talk in
this winter’s programme was given by Dr Sam Riches. She is the
co-ordinator of the Centre for North West Regional Studies which is
based at Lancaster University. The topic of her talk was “St. George
and that dragon”. She has featured on a TV programme about him and
Saints Andrew, David and Patrick.
Whereas many saints
can be identified historically George’s life is not known although
some contradictory stories exist placing him in the fourth century.
Rather than attempt to give an historical account Dr Riches
illustrated the myths surrounding his cult. He is a popular saint in
many countries and is the patron saint of several including England.
Also similar figures can be identified in other religions. In this
country he is, these days, viewed as a warrior on a horse slaying a
dragon to save the life of a princess. However, that is an image that
appears to have arisen in the thirteenth century. Much earlier
representations show him on horseback slaying a man, allegedly a
heathen emperor. In the fifteenth century the dragon was illustrated
as snake like with wings, shown as female and with the lance depicted
as killing it in the mouth or throat. George became the Patron Saint
of England largely due to his popularity with medieval royalty
beginning with Edward III.
In other countries
and at different times he was associated with martyrdom. Whereas a
saint was usually connected with a particular type of death, e.g.
Catherine and a wheel, George was shown being killed in a variety of
ways. He was also claimed to have been resurrected, often due to the
influence of the Virgin Mary. Indeed in one story he was tortured for
seven years and resurrected three times before his final death. In
addition to a connection with martyrdom he was often linked with water
and particularly new wells. Also he was strongly associated with
healing and skin disease.
The talk was an
unusual one for the society but was most interesting and the speaker
was excellent. The chairman thanked Dr Riches for her talk. She said
that anyone interested in learning more about St George should go to
Wednesday 21st March 2012
Joyce Scobie - Brewing and the Inns in Sedbergh.
When the original speaker had to cancel her talk due to family reasons
the society was fortunate that Joyce Scobie agreed to give a talk on
brewing and the inns in Sedbergh.
Wednesday 5th October 2011
Anthony Fitzherbert O.B.E
The first meeting of the winter programme held on
Wednesday 5th October attracted a large audience of members
and visitors despite the bad weather. The speaker was Anthony
Fitzherbert O.B.E. and his subject was Afghanistan. He first
travelled there in the early 1970s but had worked there from the late
1980s. His work was involved with issues related to rural development,
agriculture and land management, in particular transforming emergency
relief into sustainable agriculture production. Over the years he has
worked independently for various agencies and organisations including
The first part of his talk dealt with the complicated
history of Afghanistan. The country is on the route from Central Asia
and the Middle East to the Indian sub-continent and therefore had seen
many invaders and had also acted as a buffer state between great
powers. He described the influence of various dynasties such as the
Mughal’s and the Dourani’s and then the contacts with the British
Empire which resulted in three wars. The present frontier between
Afghanistan and modern Pakistan was drawn in 1893 and included the
Wakban corridor to provide a buffer between Russia and the British
Empire. His talk also covered the period from when the British left
in 1947 up to the present time.
The second part of his talk dealt with the agricultural
production and geography of the country and gave a glimpse of
Afghanistan not seen in the TV coverage of the present conflict.
However, some disturbing statistics were that opium sales made up 32%
of the G.D.P. of the country and 80% of the world’s production of
heroin came from there yet this was grown on only 3% of the cultivated
land. After his talk he answered various questions and was then
thanked by the chairman.
Mr Fitzherbert also gave details of funds to help
street children in Kabul and to set up schools in parts of
Afghanistan. There was a retiring collection for those in the audience
who wished to help.
Wednesday 16th March 2011
Dr Trevor Piearce
Victorian Naturalists and the heyday of
The Sedbergh and
District History Society invited the local support group of the
Cumbria Wildlife Trust to join them for a talk by Dr Trevor Piearce on
“the heyday of natural history”. Dr Piearce is Senior Lecturer in
Animal Ecology at Lancaster University.
history became a national obsession in Victorian times. Many popular
books were published containing sketches from zoos and hand coloured
illustrations of various plant and animal species. These were often
sold as individual prints later. These books, for example a five
volume work on shells, were very popular and encouraged their readers
to go out collecting to the detriment of the many species they
extolled. SeObjects” series.
authors have written about this period: Lynn Barber, David Elliston
Allen and R B Freeman amongst others.
wrote popular natural history books at the time. The Rev.John George
Wood produced 46 titles in the “Common
This popular hobby
provided an escape to the country from the grime of the cities and the
growth of the rail network gave easy access. It was healthy exercise
and a cure for boredom. In the era of cheap and abundant domestic
help, ladies had time on their hands to assemble collections of
seaweeds, shells and all sorts of wildlife. Much of this was displayed
under glass domes or decoratively arranged in collages or even (as
illustrated by Maggie Smith in “Downton Abbey”), worn on elaborate
hats. They even made a modest contribution to literature on the
subject. Margaret Gatty, daughter of Nelson’s chaplain, produced a
book on British Seaweeds in 1863. Pamphlets were issued on what to
wear on expeditions. The protection of attendant gentlemen was
essential. These fair creatures ravaged the shorelines using crowbars
and other rock moving implements to collect their specimens.
The abolition of a
tax on paper encouraged an even greater flow of mass produced books
for example “A Year at the Shore” by P H Gosse which enticed even more
eager collectors to the seaside. The collages and private exhibitions
grew of pinned insects, birds eggs and many species now under
protection by law.
A Victorian “David Bellamy” character was Frank
Buckland, son of a clergyman. He had moved careers from surgeon to
zoologist and was an unofficial publicity officer for London Zoo. He
embarked on some interesting projects. He exported salmon eggs (from
the Lune) to Australia, trout to New Zealand and cultivated oysters.
He kept pet alliagtors, fed on puppies and mice and experimented with
exotic additions to the British diet, for example, elephant trunk.
Clubs and societies
of naturalists proliferated, usually meeting in pubs. The “Naturalist”
public house in Prestwich for instance and the Black Cow Botanical
Society. These meetings and various naturalist magazines provided an
exchange of information on a wide range of subjects. These societies
were cheap to join and inclusive. Mention is made of “the pleasure of
women on summer field excursions” (in the nicest possible way one
hopes). The Liverpool Naturalists Field Club had 700 members in 1867.
Competitions were held for the greatest number of species collected on
expeditions. There was frequently a ladies prize for the best
photography and microscopy followed. Wildlife was studied at home and
in hides in the field. More books were produced on how to do it all.
There were hazards
for participants. Skua attack and crinoline entanglement were
examples. William Williams, a famous botanical guide, met his end
falling over a cliff. Advertisements for collecting equipment appeared
in various publications. Climbing irons for egg collectors, blowpipes
for shooting small birds, pin sticking gear for insect collectors
young and old, books on taxidermy all encouraged collectors to deplete
our wildlife reserves. Canon Tristram of Durham Cathedral, “The Great
Gun of Durham” eventually amassed 20,000 specimens of birds. He later
became a Vice President of the RSPB. The Great Auk became extinct in
1840 but the lesson was not learnt.
1782-1865 was a noted taxidermist and eccentric. He survived plague,
earthquake and shipwreck and is known for wrestling a South American
alligator. He experimented with nature’s poisons notably on a donkey
which had to be revived by tracheotomy and bellows.
preserved for sentimental reasons but it was many years before the Fur
and Feather Club became the RSPB.
beginning to become better known as naturalist writers. Beatrix
Potter, Theresa Llewellyn and Arabella Buckley all produced books.
With the era of
Darwin came changing perceptions. Recognition of order and
sequence influenced studies.
Kew Gardens and
London Zoo held many species. Could they all have fitted into the Ark?
The study of fossils introduced evolutionary ideas.
produced works on what is now Cumbria. Mosses and ferns were popular
topics. Collectors were paid to strip the countryside of ferns which
then appeared in the ubiquitous collages, as pottery and glass
decoration and even as miniature replicas of the Crystal Palace. The
Rev Hilderic Friend, a former missionary in China, ironically, died
from prussic acid poisoning when attempting to make metal plates from
of society excursions show fewer beards and more ladies. The
conservation movement was beginning to grow. Meanwhile there had been
an enormous loss of species in a period of about 150 years. However we
have a valuable legacy in the many museums and collections, records
and books of the time still available for study today.
Dr Piearce was
thanked most warmly for a very informative and entertaining talk.
Wednesday 2nd March
Three Centuries of the Workhouse
started his recent talk posing the question ‘Did any of your ancestors
end up in the Workhouse? Who knows?
The Workhouse boom
started with the Workhouse Act of 1723 which provided a legal
framework for parishes.
By 1770 there were
2000 workhouses averaging 1 per every 7 parishes and by 1776 there
were 99 in Yorkshire’s West Riding alone.
from 1732, first in 1,2,3 Settlebeck Cottages, later moving to the
east end of Main St. and then to Loftus Hill, now Loftus Manor; Dent’s
from 1733 at Hallbank.
The 1834 Poor Law
Amendment Act created a Union of Parishes. In January 1840 the
Sedbergh Union consisted of Sedbergh, Garsdale and Dent serving a
population of about 4,000, and continuing with the old workhouses.
Sedbergh’s, with 55 in-mates, was described by the inspectors as ‘not
fit for purpose’. Eventually in 1854 a new one was built on Loftus
Going to the
workhouse was a voluntary process, one ‘fell back on it’, but it was a
last resort and carried a stigma. The complete family would go and
would make its own way there. There was a long entry administrative
procedure including a medical. It was not a prison and in-mates could
leave at any time via an official discharge. Stealing the uniform
resulted in a prison sentence.
The routines made
it sound like a religious community. For 6 days each week up at 6am;
breakfast and prayers, followed by 5 hours work; then dinner and
another 5 hours work until supper and more prayers; bed at
8pm. The sexes were segregated. The women did domestic work;
the men stone-breaking for road-making or bone pounding and crushing
for fertiliser. The elderly and infirm had a day room and exercise
In the ‘No. 3 Diet
for Able Bodied Paupers’ the menu and quantities were stipulated.
Cooked meat on only 1 day per week; on other days it was bread and
cheese or gruel and cheese. Alcohol and tobacco were forbidden. Gruel,
a sort of watered down porridge, consisted of 2oz oatmeal and half an
ounce of treacle per pint of water.
In the 1881 Census
the Sedbergh Workhouse had 2 resident staff, 46 inmates; 8 aged 70+
(all men), 5 with handicap, 3 imbeciles and 2 idiots.
The 1930 plan of
the workhouse showed a T structure. Men were in the left wing and
women the right with dormitories upstairs. The kitchen occupied the
other wing, the master living above.
A separate building
by the entrance was designated for vagrants. Vagrants were an
important part of the system. Individuals could only stay for 1 or 2
nights, not returning within a month. On arrival they had an
obligatory bath and clothes were fumigated. They were up at
6am and sent on their way with a loaf of bread following a
circuit, each workhouse being a day’s walk away.
So this highly
structured system put the care of the poorest of the poor firmly into
the hands of each local community.
The system was
phased out in the 1930’s. The Sedbergh Workhouse was sold in 1952 to
the W.R.C.C. for £1.
Tony Hannam thanked
My Higginbotham for a most interesting and informative talk.
Wednesday 2nd February 2011
Tyler Gunpowder Mills of Cumbria
Mr Ian Tyler gave a fascinating, lively and entertaining illustrated
talk on the gunpowder mills of South Lakeland - a surprisingly
extensive industry, yet now almost forgotten.
Tyler, who is the founder and curator of the Keswick Mining Museum and
has written a dozen books on the subject of mining in Cumbria, began
by explaining the nature and origin of gunpowder. Invented by Roger
Bacon in 1247, its formula consists of 70% saltpetre, 15% sulphur and
15% charcoal. In its milling, which involves crushing, mixing and
refining through a series of drying processes but in a necessarily
damp atmosphere to reduce the risk of explosions, it was finally
packed in the form of pellets, into calico bags, or into barrels lined
with linen bags ready for transportation by wagon, barge and ship.
Amazingly, there were no fewer than 60 different types of gunpowder!
This depended on whether its use was for various types and sizes of
firearms or in mining, quarrying or other industrial processes.
South Lakeland was particularly suitable for its manufacture. A
remote, sparsely populated area, it had plenty of water, rivers, the
availability of charcoal, and several shallow-water ports ideal for
trans-shipment in small sailing vessels: Lancaseter (Glasson Dock),
Arnside, Grange, Greenodd and Milnthorpe among others.
first gunpowder mill was established at Old Sedgwick in 1764. Others
quickly followed, including Low Wood, Elterwater, New Sedgwick, Black
Beck and Gatebeck. Clearly a dangerous trade to be involved in, yet
commanding good wages for the time ( £1 + bonuses per week in the
1820s and 1830s ), several hundred workers were employed across the
region, both men ( mainly in building, processing and transportation )
and women ( mainly in packing ). This lucrative industry needed
considerable initial investment, and the bulk of this ( from 1799 )
came from Mr Wakefield of Sedgwick Hall, the local entrepreneur who
also had business interests in banking and brewing. As the industry
expanded so the Huddleston family of the Elterwater works and the
Wilsons of Rigmaden became involved.
Initially the barrels of gunpowder were transported by horse-drawn
wagons, later attached to rails, and by barge along the length of
Windermere or via the Kendal-Lancaster canal which was constructed
partly for this trade, being routed alongside the Sedgwick works and
through the 150-yard Hincaster tunnel, a significant feat of
engineering. From the local ports it was shipped to Liverpool and
thence into larger vessels overseas, including West Africa where it
became a key component in the triangular trade involving slaves to the
Tyler illustrated his talk with a series of impressive archive
transparencies, mainly in sepia or black-and-white. They depicted
members of the workforce variously operating pressing machines ( to
squeeze moisture from the gunpowder ), posing with their instruments
in the works' brass band, loading barrels ( dozens each day ) onto the
wagons, packing the powder-filled pellets on dust-filmed tables, etc.
Above all, the slides reinforced the ever-present dangers: testing
mortars with 80lb cannonballs; having to use copper nails and banding
on the barrels to avoid sparks( many highly-skilled coopers were
employed ) as well as copper horseshoes and copper-coated rails; being
issued with leather aprons as their only protection against explosions
and burns; and a 'before and after' pair of photographs showing a
powder mill house with its mill-wheel by a river becoming totally
destroyed after an explosion... apart from the mill-wheel itself! In
fact, 102 were killed during the period of the industry ( perhaps a
surprisingly small number ) though countless others must have been
injured by various degrees of burns.
local gunpowder industry came to an abrupt halt in 1937 when I.C.I.
bought up the mills and shifted the entire production to Ayrshire in
Scotland, out of range of the looming threat of enemy bombers. So
ended a remarkable and little-known chapter in the industrial heritage
of our beautiful South Lakes - one very well documented by Ian Tyler
in this talk, at his museum and in his books.
Wednesday 19th January 2011
From Auschwitz to Ambleside
first meeting of the new year was well attended by members who had
come to hear a talk by Trevor Avery who lives in Sedbergh. He had
acted as an adviser to the BBC for their programme “The orphans who
survived the concentration camps” and his talk was about these orphans
and was entitled “From Auschwitz to Ambleside”.
talk attempted to answer three questions about the orphans; who were
they, how did they come to be here and where did they stay? The
answer to the first question was that they were Jewish and there were
three hundred of them aged between 5 and 18, the vast majority of whom
were boys. Most had originally lived in close knit communities in
rural south-west Poland. In addition to the children there were a few
adults to support them but several of these absconded when they
experiences of one boy, Mayer born in 1926, were used to illustrate
how and why they had come to Windermere. He had been forcibly
separated from his parents and along with other boys had been put into
a slave labour gang laying railway lines to concentration camps that
were being constructed. In all he was in nine such camps during the
war. He arrived in Auschwitz Birkenau in June 1943 and managed to
survive there by working as a tailor, a trade to which he had been
apprenticed. His job was altering the uniform of the German
soldiers. His job meant that he avoided the gas chambers but
experienced hunger and starvation. In November 1944 along with the
other inmates he was moved because the Russians were advancing towards
the camp. They were subjected to forced marches without food and
water and anyone who fell out was shot. Then they had a three week
journey in open railway carriages during which many died. They
eventually reached Theresienstadt. This had originally been set up as
a camp for privileged Jews but had become a ghetto for Jews displaced
from concentration camps. Mayer survived there until it was liberated
by the Russians in May 1945 and then hospitals and food were provided.
After the war various individuals and organisations asked the British
Government if it would allow some Jewish children survivors into the
country to recuperate. About 300 orphaned children, including Mayer,
were picked and moved to Prague from where the RAF flew them in
Stirling bombers to near Carlisle in August 1945. They were then
transported to the Calgarth Estate near Windermere. This had been
constructed in 1941 to house workers building Sunderland flying boats
and the children were accommodated in huts that had been used by
single unmarried workers. These huts were situated in what are now
the grounds of the Lakes School. Each child had its own cubicle with
a cupboard and a bed with clean linen, unimaginable luxuries after a
concentration camp. Initially there were problems with them adjusting
to the availability of food and realizing they did not have to hoard
it to avoid starvation. Also, understandably, many had behavioural
problems after their experiences. There were the inevitable problems
with local boys due to the influx of foreign teenage boys but the
conflicts tended to be over local girls rather than racially
motivated. However, despite problems the children were given a
friendly greeting and welcomed by the locals. For the children
themselves Windermere was paradise after what they had been through
during the war. After a few months they left Windermere and many
stayed in Britain making successful lives for themselves.
After his talk Trevor answered questions and then was thanked for his
moving talk by the chairman.
Wednesday 17th November
Richard Cann Slides of Old Sedbergh and area.
At a recent meeting at
Settlebeck School, Richard Cann, Chairman of Sedbergh and District
History Society, showed a selection of slides from the Society’s
large collection, which numbers over 2000 pictures, collected over
the last 30 years. He began with photographs of farming practices in
Howgill in the mid-twentieth century, and then showed photographs
illustrating the histories of Akay House and Ingmire Hall. Finally,
he had selected some old photographs of Sedbergh town, (including
many not featured in the book recently published by the Society). He
had also brought some prints of Settlebeck House and other documents
of interest for people to see after the slide show. The meeting
attracted a large and interested audience.
Wednesday 3rd November 2010
Sydney Richardson Conscription in the
First World War
The social and economic impact of World War I conscription
most interesting talk was given to a well attended meeting on 3rd
November. Mr Richardson, a native of Kirkby Stephen, an Oxford
graduate and former headmaster, had previously addressed the Society
on the topic of the Napoleonic Wars. This time the subject was brought
forward 100 years with many examples drawn from Westmorland families
from the Kirkby Stephen, Ravenstonedale, Tebay and Appleby areas. Many
of the surnames, e.g. Capstick, Cleasby. Cropper and Mason, were
familiar with several members of the audience.
explained that conscription had been introduced by an Act of
Parliament in January 1916 only after other avenues of recruitment
employed since the outbreak of war in 1914 had failed to meet the
rapidly increasing demand for men to serve in the armed forces.
Initially regular soldiers and reservists were called into battle,
then the Territorials, e.g. the Cumberland and Westmorland, and,
following the famous Lord Kitchener’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster
campaign, volunteers. But, with force numbers depleted, the
Conscription Act made it compulsory for all able bodied men between
the ages of 18 and 41 to join the forces, with single men being called
on first. Exemptions had to be made depending on the following: the
person’s state of health and fitness, their financial clout within
their family, trade or business as to whether they were indispensable
or not, those with a key profession or role in the community such as
teaching, shepherding or thatching and whether they were genuine
In the rural
this latter category caused a great deal of consternation. The country
desperately needed home-grown sustainability to bolster the war effort
and was forcing farmers to attempt to grow more crops on ever higher
and poorer ground. But many large farming families with several sons
could be decimated by the new conscription laws.
tribunals had to be quickly convened to assess and pass judgement on
individual cases and the first local one took place in Kirkby Stephen
in February 1916, as recorded in the ‘Cumberland and Westmorland
Herald’. A Mr R. B. Thompson presided with there being 8 other local
members of the panel including some RDC members, though apparently no
proper working class representation, along with the recruiting
officers. Some were granted exemptions such as a Stennersheugh’s
farmer’s son needed to help with the farm’s large acreage and one
Charles Brockhill, a grocer’s assistant, ‘necessary for the business’.
Some were not so lucky such as R. W. Robinson, a butcher from Crosby
Garrett. In all 24 cases were heard that day. 11 were allowed
exemptions. These could be absolute, conditional or temporary e.g. if
needed to help with the imminent harvest. 12 were refused and one case
One can imagine the
pressures this must have caused within the community! Not only would
there have been rifts between affected families and those local
dignitaries sitting in judgement, but also within the family unit,
with many mothers desperate to keep their sons working at home rather
than face death on the battlefield . Mr Richardson related one story
which had been handed down to him of a Ravenstonedale farming family
of parents with 4 sons and 2 daughter. The wife sent her husband to
seek out a remote farm (located in Borrowdale west of Tebay) to which
the 2 younger sons and 2 daughters drove their stock in order to work
there for the duration of the war and beyond. With the eldest son
exempt and working for his father and the second son sent off to work
with his uncle none of the sons were ever called up. Indeed the
Borrowdale farm prospered and they only moved back to Ravenstonedale
If an exemption was
not received from the local tribunal a County Appeals Tribunal could
offer a second chance. One such was held on April 1st1916.
However, with increasing pressure to recruit, few were successful as
the likes of R. W. Robinson (again!), Nelson Wharton (a shepherd) and
G. W. Bailey (a postmaster at Brough) found to their cost. Among these
was one 20 yr old George Alderson, and uncle from Mr Richardson’s
earlier generations, who was killed in action in 1917.
Further tales of
farmers organising themselves to demand fair treatment, of a voucher
system being introduced, of conscientious objectors, of the Voluntary
Training Corps being joined in return for exemption and of a Robert
Braithwaite being granted a conditional exemption for his vital work
as a rabbit killer (!)…. All embellished what proved to be a
fascinating and informative talk.
Wednesday 6th October
Professor Mike Huggins
c1870 - 2000.
talk of the winter programme was given by Professor Mike Huggins on
sport in Sedbergh and its identity in a regional context.
attitude to sport is governed by factors such as gender, class and
ethnicity but also by the area in which we live and its traditions.
Until 1974 Sedbergh was in the West Riding of Yorkshire and the ideal
sportsman of the urban part of the county was working class,
professional, dour and with a will to win rather than play for
enjoyment. The latter attitude was associated with southern amateurs
but also with sportsmen in the more rural parts of Yorkshire.
Sedbergh town came into this category yet Sedbergh School despite its
amateur ethos was more like the urban part of the county in its
emphasis on playing to win.
Sporting identity is shaped by competition against teams and
individuals and where one lives. Originally sport took place on a
county basis. Events such as horse racing took place at county court
sessions. However, the team sports that developed in the nineteenth
century depended upon having opposition to play against. Because of
its geographical position Sedbergh had to look to Westmorland for
games rather than the West Riding. Even when the railways came it
still took considerable time and expense to travel for matches in
addition to the problem of possibly having to lose pay on a Saturday
morning. As a result the school rather than the town played matches
more regularly. Also with the ability to train more the standard of
sport was higher in the school than in the town. For information
about games one is reliant upon reports in three local papers, the
Westmorland Gazette, the Craven Pioneer and the Yorkshire Dalesman.
Usually only the scores were given but when comments occurred they
could be biased as they often came from the club secretary.
terms of social class the sports could be divided into three
categories, the traditional country sports of the generally better-off
residents, the sports of the townspeople and the sports of the
relatively wealthy pupils and staff of the various independent schools
in Sedbergh. Grouse shooting took place on the fells and fishing in
the local rivers. Hunting was done by visiting packs but by the
beginning of the twentieth century Sedbergh had its own pack. This
died out after the First World War but in 1936 the Lunesdale Pack was
formed which was based in Sedbergh.
The school’s sporting prowess was developed by its headmaster, Henry
George Hart. He brought with him the values of athleticism which
thrived in public schools in the 1870s. He started rugby at the
school and soon it was playing adult sides in addition to other school
sides. In 1895 a split occurred in rugby over the issue of payment to
players to compensate them for pay lost as a result of playing
matches. Many clubs in the north formed the Rugby League and this
left the school without as many adult sides to play and so it
concentrated more on inter school matches. Its importance was shown
by the fact that in 1904 it was given a seat on the executive
committee of the Yorkshire Rugby Union. The standard of cricket also
improved and the school started to employ a professional coach.
Baliol girls’ school also played cricket and in 1902 played a match
against a Sedbergh ladies team. It was most unusual to find a ladies
team at this date and rare in that several were married women.
Sport in the town started to thrive in the last quarter of the
nineteenth century. The cricket team was strong in the 1870s and
played against places like Shap and Kendal. Over the years friendly
matches were played against other towns but when leagues were formed
in the 1890s Sedbergh could not join them because of the problems of
travel and cost. They did join the league at a later date. The 1880s
and 1890s saw the founding of rugby, soccer, tennis, golf and cycling
clubs. The soccer team joined the Kirkby Stephen league and won the
cup in 1906. After the Great War the various sports suffered different
fortunes with tennis thriving but soccer having to withdraw from the
league. However, women became more involved and the hockey team was
successful in the 1930s. After the Second World War the fortunes of
the various sports varied with the soccer team joining the Westmorland
league but the cricket team not playing for a long time. After his
talk Professor Huggins answered a variety of questions from his
audience and was then thanked by the Chairman.
Wednesday 3rd February 2010
The talk on Wednesday 3rd February was held in the Queens
Hall, Sedbergh School, because Settlebeck High School was unable to
provide the internet connection required. Despite a fall of snow
about three hours before the meeting both speakers and audience braved
the weather. The talk was given by three staff from Lancaster
University, Professor Findlay, Professor Emeritus Twycross and Doctor
Hinds. Their subject was the web site that they had created dealing
with George Fox’s journeys in this area in 1652 and 1653.
There are three primary sources that describe
Fox’s travels, the Short Journal, the Long Journal and the 1694
Edition. The originals of all three are displayed on the site
alongside transcripts with comments. The versions are not always
consistent and the speakers illustrated this by considering the
extracts dealing with Fox’s vision on Pendle Hill. The site also
contains many photographs of places connected with Fox and these can
be accessed from their reference in the text of the three sources.
Other links available include maps of the route Fox took and
definitions of terms used in the sources. Finally there are some
videos on the site although the speakers were not sure they added much
to the still photographs also available. The site can be found at
www.lancs.ac.uk/quakers and is well worth
browsing through by local historians or those interested in early
After their talk the audience was able, with the aid of computers, to
investigate the web site themselves under the guidance of the three
speakers. A vote of thanks was given by John Mounsey one of whose
Quaker ancestors died in Lancaster prison as a result of his beliefs.
Wednesday 20th January 2010
first meeting of the society after the Christmas break took place on
20th January at Settlebeck High School and attracted a
large audience of members and visitors. The talk was on the history
of Methodism in the area and was given by Rev Tim Widdess, George
Handley and David Bracken.
Tim Widdess described the origins of Methodism and its early
history. In the late 1820s a small group at Christ Church, Oxford,
had met together to study the Bible. The group had been founded by
Charles Wesley and was later joined by his brother John. Originally
they were known by their contemporaries as the Holy Club but this was
later changed to Methodists because of the methodical way in which
they organised their study and lifestyle. At this stage the group
were devout members of the Church of England and John was an ordained
1735 John Wesley and others set off for America on a mission to
convert the native inhabitants. During the voyage there was a severe
storm and John was very impressed by the behaviour of a group of
Moravians. As a result the Moravian church had a strong influence on
him afterwards. The mission was not a success religiously or
personally and John quickly returned to England.
1738 after attending a church service John had a religious experience
in which he felt his heart strangely warmed and was given the
assurance that Christ had taken away his sins. His brother Charles
had undergone a similar experience three days earlier. John Wesley
devoted his life to preaching the faith originally in churches, but
later in the open air at the instigation of a friend, George
Whitfield. This led to him preaching to large numbers and to people
who did not normally go to church. It was also controversial and led
to a misunderstanding of his purposes and as a result he was sometimes
physically attacked. However, at times he was able to convert even
his attackers. Over the years he travelled more than two hundred
thousand miles on horseback but never visited Sedbergh although he
preached in Kendal more than once. He died still a member of the
Church of England but the differences that had been growing meant that
his movement split from the church a few years after his death.
George Handley described how
Methodism was brought to Sedbergh from Kendal by Jonathan Kershaw.
In 1805 the membership was large enough to build a chapel at the
corner of New Street on the site of the current Community charity
shop. However, this building was badly damaged by a storm in the
early 1860s and was later pulled down. This led to the building of a
new chapel, in a different part of New Street, which was octagonal in
shape and was opened in 1865. The Sedbergh chapel had originally been
part of the Kendal Circuit but the members became dissatisfied with
the lack of attention they received. This led to them joining the
Hawes Circuit and then in 1871, when numbers had increased, they
formed the Sedbergh Circuit.
Lack of finance was a problem
but in this respect they were helped out by William Moister. Born in
Sedbergh he became a missionary overseas but later returned to
Sedbergh and became the first Superintendent Minister of the
independent Sedbergh Circuit. He built a residence for the minister
at his own expense and performed some functions without pay. After
his death numbers fell and Sedbergh became part of the Kirkby Stephen,
Appleby and Sedbergh Circuit in 1900.
However, numbers increased
again and the octagonal shape of the chapel became a problem as it
could not be enlarged. A new chapel, the present one, was therefore
built on the same site in 1914 and in 1919 Sedbergh again became the
head of a separate circuit. In the mid 1920s a new organ was bought
for the chapel as a result of a bequest. Although numbers had
fluctuated over the years the members had exerted an influence in
various ways including many of the women marrying ministers some of
whom were also missionaries.
David Bracken described the
foundation, and in many cases the demise, of the various chapels
situated in Dentdale, Cautley, Garsdale and Grisedale. The situation
was complicated by a split in Methodism caused by the creation of the
Primitive Methodists. One of the founders of this was William Clowes
and the movement split with the Wesleyans largely due to its feature
of holding open-air camps. This practice had originated in America.
Primitive Methodism was introduced to the Sedbergh area in 1822 by
Francis Jersey and although it did not survive in Sedbergh a chapel
was later formed in Dent. Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists were
reunited in 1932.
The chairman thanked the three
speakers for an interesting and informative evening.
Wednesday 4th November 2009
HENRY WILSON: THE NORTH-EASTERN RAILWAY 1854-1923
Henry Wilson, who runs the specialist Main Street bookshop on railways
and other forms of transport, delivered an authoritative and
informative talk on the North-Eastern Railway from its conception in
the mid-nineteenth century during the great railway building age to
its final demise in 1923 when it amalgamated with other smaller
companies to form the LNER ( London and Northeastern Railway). During
those seven decades it grew from operating 700 miles of track to over
1700 route miles, encompassing an area from the Humber in the south to
Berwick-upon-Tweed on the Scottish border in the north, and from the
east coast westwards to Carlisle, Kirkby Stephen and Tebay (this
section of goods line being the closest the NER came to Sedbergh );
and it also owned and ran 40 docks, numerous stations, locomotives,
carriages (the passenger vehicles all carrying the NER's distinctive
pale green livery) and wagons which, in the earlier days, had been the
property of individual mines, quarries, steelworks etc.
In fact, from the time of the world-famous first railway line between
Stockton and Darlington, built in 1825, throughout the remainder of
the 19th century it was goods rather than passengers that the
multitude of early railway companies benefited from: iron ore, coke,
coal, limestone and steel, for example, were key commodities in the
north-east. By the end of the massive expansion of railways in the
1840s London was now connected to Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool,
Manchester, York, Newcastle and Berwick and in 1854 three of the
larger northern companies, (1) the York, Newcastle and Berwick, (2)
the Leeds Northern, and (3) the York and North Midland Railway joined
forces to form the NER.
Under the initial stewardship of manager Captain O'Brien the NER grew
steadily, absorbing the Stockton and Darlington railway, for example,
in 1865. Yet those early days were not without their problems: costs
were rising, there was little departmental co-ordination, and there
were disputes with Hull docks where the merchants felt that their
rightful trade was being diverted away to the Tyne, Wear and Tees
ports. It was only under Henry Tennant, manager from 1871 to 1891, and
more especially Sir George Gibb (1891-1906), that the company made
pioneering strides with its enlightened and innovative policies:
graduates were recruited into its management structure which now had
clearly defined responsibilities! the Traffic Department, for example,
being divided into Operating and Commercial sections, with the latter
sub-divided into passengers and goods). Under Gibb in particular
American marketing systems were introduced with detailed research and
studies being carried out into population statistics, catchment areas
and passenger traffic, even to the point of making special bargain
offers to passengers for selected trips. In addition, the NER was the
first company to officially recognise Trades Unions, much effort was
expended on recruitment and training, and bonuses were paid to staff:
indeed, throughout its existence the NER never failed to pay an annual
dividend to its shareholders.
During these times of prosperity the company developed a distinctive
corporate identity, its green liveried locomotives such as the 2-4-0
'racehorse', the 1886 Class E, the 1901 Class T and the 1906
Smith compound all withstanding the test of time; its grand
architectural station designs such as Newcastle Central and Darlington
Bank Top; its pioneering coaches, such as the 1904 'Open Lavatory
Composite' which had end vestibules and gas lighting; the 1908 Dining
Car; its own 20-ton hopper style wagons; and, in 1904, the development
of electric trains (though these were not brought into full service
until much later in the century}. Meanwhile the company increased the
size of wagons, introduced snow-ploughs, developed more efficient
trans-shipment of goods, and encouraged larger loads through
competitive pricing. All this was made possible not only through
creative management but also as a result of a succession of
long-standing chief engineers such as Fletcher (1854-83) and
T.W.Worsall. By the time that A.K.Butterworth became manager in 1906,
introducing as he did a more popular man-management style, the NER was
firmly established as one of the foremost railway companies in the
country/, but within 3 few years, from 1913, it underwent a period of
Turmoil and Transition', as described by Henry Wilson. The onset of
World War I on the one hand created great pressure on all railways for
the movement of people and goods, yet on the other many lines,
stations, and above all ports in the north-east suffered from intense
bombing; skilled manpower was depleted through recruitment into the
forces (though 'womenpower7 largely took over); and there was a lack
of rolling stock. Then in the twenties, there were further problems
with the coal strikes. By 1923, under the re-organisation of the
country's railways into larger regional units, it became part of the
new LNER - but certainly its largest and strongest constituent part.
Henry Wilson's thorough and fascinating illustrated talk revealed not
only how influential and important the NER had been as a pioneering
railway company, but also how it had evolved into a benevolent
monopoly for its employees, shareholders, and the citizens of the
north-east in general.
Wednesday 7th October 2009
The society met on the 7th October for its first meeting
of the new season. The talk was given by Katy Illife, the Archivist
of Sedbergh School, on “Researching Family History”. She said that
there are three main places where information can be accessed by
individuals. These are at record offices, local history societies
There are also three main sources of information which are
certificates, censuses and parish registers. Birth, marriage and
death certificates were first issued in 1837 and give many details
apart from the date of the event. However, they may not exist for
certain events in their early years. This was because of an initial
opposition to what was seen as government intrusion in personal
affairs, rather like the current opposition to ID cards. Censuses
giving personal information date from 1841 and again give much
useful information such as occupation, age, place of birth, other
members of the family and anyone else living at the same address.
Parish registers started in the mid sixteenth century but few still
exist from that time. They record the dates of events the church
was interested in which were baptism, burial and marriage.
Certificates, censuses and registers were compiled by someone who
wrote down what they thought your ancestor had told them and if the
latter were illiterate they had no way of checking that the entry
was correct. Other useful sources of information are Post Office
directories, business records, wills, gravestones and newspapers
although reading through the latter is a very time consuming method.
Those that are able to research on-line have many web-sites
available. It is best to start with official sites which give
details of where information can be found and then go on to other
sites some of which are free and others which require payment.
Ordering copies of certificates through the pay sites is an
expensive way of obtaining them as they can be bought much cheaper
elsewhere. Because of their religious beliefs the Mormons research
their ancestors and have published their findings on a web-site.
These family trees and others produced by individuals can give much
useful information but cannot be relied on to be correct. They must
be checked out with the information you are able to obtain.
The chairman thanked the speaker for a most interesting and
Wednesday 4th March 2009
Motifs, Monuments and Mountains. Prehistoric rock art in Cumbria.
Dr. Kate Sharpe.
Dr Sharpe who made a study of rock art in Cumbria for her PhD has
since been working on the Northumberland and Durham Rock Art Pilot
Project. In her talk, she spoke first about rock art in general
and then concentrated on recent finds in Cumbria and some theories
about them .
Rock Art is any mark or pattern carved, or painted on the surface
of rock, whether representational or abstract. Most British rock
art is abstract.- patterns of rings, spirals etc., carved on
outcrops, boulders, and cliffs, or on standing stones and
chambered tombs. It is difficult to date but most is thought to be
Neolithic or bronze age.
There are two styles of abstract rock art: ‘Cup and Ring or
Atlantic Style’, comprises circular motifs and fluid designs of
cups, rings, or spirals, found mainly from Derbyshire northwards
and in Ireland & Scotland. ‘Passage Grave Style’ is more angular,
often comprising chevrons and patterns like those on prehistoric
pottery. This style is prevalent in Wales, Orkney, & Ireland. the
two styles are generally found separately, but a a recent find on
Fylingdales Moor included adjacent standing stone panels carved
with contrasting styles. It is thought that these probably
originated in different times and places.
In Northumberland and Durham and the east of Cumbria, rock art is
usually found on glacially smoothed outcrops of sandstone on
elevated moors, below the summit. But in the rest of Cumbria it is
never found up on the hills, but on boulders or outcrops in the
valleys, especially on the shore of lakes.
In the Eden valley, there are carved monuments, megalithic and
burial, on such sites as river terraces, pasture and arable land,
mostly carved on sandstone but on one case volcanic (gabro) - the
Eden Hall rock found in 1909, which has complex motifs, multiple
concentric rings without cups together with chevrons . Long Meg
bears rock art - it is not known whether it was carved before or
after the stone was erected - it could have come from the Eden
river cliffs, perhaps already carved.
In the central lakes, the rock art tends to be on outcrops or
large boulders of volcanic rocks & skiddaw slates, near water,
especially lake shores. There are sites at Buttermere, Dungeon
Ghyll, Grasmere and Broadgate Park, some in gardens or near
car-parks or campsites. The sites can be plotted to suggest a
connection with nodal points on natural and ancient routeways,
possibly the routes to the Langdale Axe factories. The patterns
are mostly very simple cups with the exception of the boulders at
Copt Howe which have rings with no cups.
Dr Sharpe considered whether particular rocks were chosen for
their shape or surface features or for their location in the
landscape? Could the strata and weathering on the surface have
been seen to represent a landscape, perhaps visible from the
boulder? Sometimes natural fissures seem to be incorporated into
the design, with cup marks round them. Did the natural features
inspire the design? Or did the patterns represent mountain
She also considered the choice of location. As all Cumbrian sites
are low lying, they do not command extensive views, and it is
difficult to relate them to mountains as there are mountains in
every direction. But the site at Copt Howe is different - it is
higher, with carvings on vertical panels of two natural boulders
forming an entrance, pointing towards the Langdale Pikes.
Mountains were sacred in early cultures, a place apart from
everyday life,where the gods lived. The axe-makers did not use the
most accessible stone but deliberately took it from difficult and
dangerous parts of the Pikes. This Compares with contemporary
axe-making in Papua New Guinea where ritual purification is
practised before axes are made, to appease the gods of the
mountains. At Copt Howe, the boulders’ astronomical alignment is
such that, at the midsummer solstice, the sun sets behind the
Pikes and appears, from this point only, to roll down the
mountain. A similar phenomenon is seen at a rock art site in
Dr Sharpe described the work of the Northumberland and Durham Rock
Art Pilot Project and the use of photometry for recording. Project
volunteers have found many new examples of rock art recently.
About 2500 panels have now been recorded in England.
Wednesday 3rd December
score of hardy historians braved the weather on Wednesday, 3rd
December, to hear a talk on Gervaise Benson given by David Boulton.
Benson was probably the son of a prominent Kendal family and was born
in the first decade of the seventeenth century. He obtained some
legal training and became Commissary for the Archdeaconry of Richmond
until 1640 when the post was abolished by Parliament. He was elected
an alderman of Kendal in 1641 and in 1644 was elected as Mayor of
Kendal. This meant that he was in important positions during the
Civil War. Luckily details of what happened during that period have
survived in a series of letters from the Minister of Kendal Church,
Henry Masey, to Lord Wharton. Under the former the Presbyterian
system of church government was implemented in Kendal, a move which
had Benson’s support.
1644 Kendal was raided by Royalists and they captured Benson who was
taken to Skipton Castle but later released. Benson spent his own
money on the defence of Kendal and Masey wrote to Lord Wharton asking
if Benson, whom he called Colonel, could be compensated by being made
responsible for probate and wills in the region. The presence of
Scots, the allies of Parliament, around Kendal caused annoyance to the
locals and Benson was worried that the people would turn against
Parliament as a consequence. In 1646 he was appointed a J.P. for
Kendal even though he owned no property there. In fact Borrett Farm
in Sedbergh was all he owned at that time. In 1650 he was ejected as
an alderman along with several others in what appears to have been an
Nationally under Cromwell the Independents had prospered at the
expense of the Presbyterians and Benson was initially in favour of
this but eventually he grew disillusioned even with the Independents
and became a Seeker. As a result when Fox came to Sedbergh in 1652 he
attended a Seeker meeting at Borrett to try to convince them he could
supply what they were seeking spiritually. Benson was not initially
convinced but later that year joined the Quaker movement and became
its unpaid legal adviser.
1652 Benson was put in charge of Sedbergh and Dent by the Cromwellian
government. He did not approve of the conduct of the Minister of
Sedbergh whom he, rightly or wrongly, accused of frequenting all
fourteen of the pubs there. The area was conservative in its views
and as a result Benson’s support of Quakerism made him unpopular. His
wife, Dorothy, was also a convinced Quaker and walked to Carlisle to
visit Fox when he was in prison there in 1653. In the same year she
was imprisoned for interrupting a sermon in church, a favourite Quaker
practice. Whilst in prison in York she gave birth to a son, Emanuell.
In 1655 she died and was buried in the garden of High Haygarth, a
house Benson had acquired in 1652. It is now the Cross Keys Inn and
she probably lies somewhere under the present dining room.
Benson’s radical views got him into trouble with the government and he
was stripped of all his powers except for being a J.P. He produced
pamphlets in favour of Quaker principles such as not paying tithes and
not taking oaths and was active in raising money to fund the
movement. He married Mabel Camm just before the restoration of
Charles II as king. During the 1660s he produced another pamphlet and
in 1675 he joined a sect of Quakers against Fox. A meeting was held
at Draw Well near Sedbergh to try to heal the rift between the sects
and reconciliation gradually happened. In 1679 he died after an
eventful life in which his religious views had changed several times
but he proved an important figure in the rise of Quakerism.
son, Emanuell, survived, despite his mother’s early death, and moved
to Dent where he married and had two children baptised into the Church
of England whom he called Gervaise and Dorothy after his parents.
chairman thanked David Boulton for a most interesting and informative
Wednesday 19 November 2008
been a long time since Dr Andrew White, late of the Lancashire Museums
Service, came to speak to the History Society. His subject was ‘The
Anybody who could acquire a horse could set up as a carrier. It was
the only way of transporting large amounts of goods :- manufactured
goods, raw materials and food, around the country. Before the advent
of canals and railways the Industrial Revolution was dependent on the
hundreds of years the carriers used trains of pack-horses to move
goods from one place to another and these were essential where, due to
the state of the roads, wheeled traffic was impossible. Small but
sturdy horses called galloways carried large loads of wool, cloth,
grain, sand etc and were led from the front by a well-trained horse
who knew the route followed by other laden horses. In the rear was the
carrier himself with his dog. The roads were mostly uncared for and
could be almost impassable in bad weather but the pack-horses
struggled through snow, ice, floods, mud and dust. It was a very
reliable form of transport.
baskets filled with materials, bales of cloth formed into a sausage
covered for bad weather, and various articles were attached to the
wooden saddle which was fastened on to the backs of the horses. The
collar had bells fastened on either side – two rumblers and one
being so far north was nearly at the end of the line as far as the
distribution of goods was concerned as there was little trade over the
border into Scotland before 1745. Most of the trade was southwards
carrying dyestuffs, cloth, alum, stockings, gloves, hats and
hand-knitted garments etc. On return, luxury goods including figs and
raisins were brought north which helped to pay the carriage costs.
were many carriers operating through Kendal as the large number of
inns along Highgate and Stricklandgate testify. Regular services to
London followed one of two routes – one almost due south and the other
south-east through the towns of the West Riding and other large towns
en route. As the colonies were opened up there was an increased demand
for woollen caps for slaves, and also for knitted goods for the army
and navy during the Napoleonic Wars.
larger concerns of carriers operated a service whereby they had four
teams :- one being loaded, a second en route for London, the third
being unloaded at the destination and reloaded with more luxury goods
and the fourth team en route to Kendal etc. Each horse could carry up
to 200 cwt so a team of 10 horses could carry approx. one ton.
Generally speaking, their time keeping was very reliable as was their
ability to keep going in all weathers and on all road surfaces. They
kept up an average of 25 miles per day and stopped overnight at the
various inns en route to stable their horses. Two hundred and fifty
horses carried goods from Kendal every week! However, the use of
packhorse teams from Kendal came to an end around 1750.
the coming of the turnpike roads in the mid 18th c. covered
wagons were being used to carry goods around. They had the advantage
of being able to carry much larger loads (tons rather than
hundredweights) and often carried people who could not afford to
travel by carriage. They were pulled by a team of two, four or six
horses depending on size and weight of the load and could travel much
faster. Goods could be transhipped at various stages if necessary.
Spring carts were used for smaller loads and shorter distances. The
carrier was usually dressed in a smock frock and top hat.
method of transport lasted well into the 20th c. – much of
the impetus came from the townships and villages who were dependent
upon the many small local carriers who operated between the
surrounding districts. One of the last carriers was David Burrow from
Sedbergh who travelled to and fro from Sedbergh to Kendal with his
horse Spider calling at various hamlets with individual commissions.
Between 1910 and 1940 he made three journeys a week to Kendal over
Kendal Fell taking 4 hours there and 4 hours back.
White answered the many questions in full which showed the interest of
the large audience. It is to be hoped that it is not another ten
years before he visits us again!
Wednesday 1st October 2008
The first talk in the 2008/9 winter programme was given by Dr Eleanor
Straughton on 1st October at Settlebeck High School. Dr
Straughton is a member of Lancaster University History Department.
After her research into common land for her doctoral thesis she
combined with Dr Winchester on the Cumbrian Manorial Records Project.
She is currently working on the Contested Common Land Project which is
a joint venture with Newcastle Institute for Informatics, Lancaster
providing the historians and Newcastle the legal expertise.
Although called common land it was in fact privately owned land on
which another person had the right to take or use some portion of that
which another man’s soil naturally produced. This might include,
among other things, the right to pasture and the right to collect peat
and turves, known as turbary. These commoners were determined by
residency or by owning certain properties. The landowner, usually the
lord of the manor, had the right to various things such as minerals
and timber. Today the details of ownership and rights are those shown
on the Common Land Register.
Common land is nowadays largely restricted to higher land and is
important for grazing as well as rambling and nature conservation. It
comprises about 4% of England’s land mass with Cumbria containing
almost a third and Cumbria and North Yorkshire combined comprising
over half of the total.
the past the manor court controlled the land with the heyday of the
system being from the middle ages to c1720. The lord’s representative
was the steward and the jury consisted of the customary tenants. The
court’s purpose was to uphold the customary laws and to maintain good
neighbourhood. This included, for example, setting the starting and
ending dates for grazing, fixing flock numbers and having the ability
to fine offenders. The number of animals allowed to graze the common
could be determined by the number that could be kept through winter in
bye-land, a method known as levancy and couchancy. Another method was
stinting in which a limited number of stints or gaits was allocated to
the common. The number of animals in a stint varied with the type of
animal, e.g. 1 cattle = 4 sheep. If a commoner was too poor to make
use of his stints he could sell or let them to another person thus
producing a useful income.
various social and economic reasons the manor courts declined in
importance but some survived into the twentieth century, the one in
Sedbergh closed in the 1930s. They have been replaced in a variety of
ways including the formation of commons associations. Historically the
most important cause of the loss of common land was the enclosure acts
which reached a peak in the years 1760-1860. Enclosure was driven
largely by food crises and scientific improvements in the methods of
farming needed to raise food production. However, in the second half
of the nineteenth century the tide turned and tourism and the desire
to preserve open spaces for recreation became important causing the
demise of enclosure.
the second half of the twentieth century a Royal Commission on Common
Land investigated the problems and made recommendations. This
eventually led to the Commons Registration Act of 1965 which has
generally been recognised as a bad bit of legislation. The Commons
Act of 2006 attempted to rectify the problems caused by this previous
act and the survey on which Dr Straughton is working is an
investigation into the effects of the 2006 act.
Straughton’s talk was a tour de force by an extremely able young
academic and the audience warmly endorsed the chairman’s vote of
Wednesday 28th May 2008
Visit to Whitehaven
Eleven members of the Society made the
long trek to Whitehaven and were rewarded by fascinating glimpses into
the history of this town which was once among the leading ports in the
country. Mr Ralph Lewthwaite, who was born in Whitehaven, was a very
knowledgeable and amusing guide. The Society is most grateful to him.
The starting point of the guided walk was where Captain John Paul
Jones, who had grown up in Whitehaven, made landing during his raid
on Whitehaven in 1778, a raid which caused consternation in the
country. We were told about the forts and many cannon which guarded
the town and saw the earliest pier, dating from 1634. Also, we learned
about the coal mines, particularly Wellington Pit, which ran out under
the sea for five miles. The last to close was the Haig Pit in the late
Among the industries which Whitehaven
boasted were: salt (salt from the Whitehaven saltpans was exported as
far as Chester by the monks of St Bees), rope making, a foundry,
mineral extraction and linen making - the latter spawning an estate
of over 100 houses with its own school and church in the mid 18th
Sugar, rum and tobacco were imported
and, until 1926, a mineral railway ran through the centre of the town
to the quay. There are some fine buildings and the town was laid out
according to the plan of Sir John Lowther who was able to look, from
his ‘castle’, all the way down Lowther Street to the quay. His castle
was Whitehaven Hospital from 1921 to the 1980s. The town has boasted a
bath house (built 1813), a customs house, several fine churches, a
refuge school, a water treatment works, assembly rooms (1736), market
halls, and theatres, the last of which lasted from 1736-1930. Also,
there were many fine mansions and a beautiful square, named Washington
Square, after its connections with George Washington.
Several famous people were connected
with Whitehaven including Mathias Read, the father of Cumberland
painting and William Brownrigg, a physician whose work to make pits
safer saved many lives.
The local heritage and civic societies
have done much good work on putting up informative plaques and in
trying to preserve and renovate the fine old buildings. A big
redevelopment scheme is underway at the old Wellington Pit.
Where SDHS goes her Majesty follows as
she is visiting Whitehaven in early June.
Wednesday 5th March 2008
Professor David Shotter Rome's Northern
Frontier in Britain
Shotter attracted an audience of over fifty people to hear his talk on
Rome’s Northern Frontier in Britain. He stated that by 69 AD the
border of the land in Britain ruled by the Romans corresponded to the
present route of the A5. To the north of that the land was ruled by
the Brigantes under their Queen Cartimandua and her husband Venutius.
She was friendly to the Romans but he was opposed to them. In 69AD
their marriage broke down and a civil war ensued. His forces overcame
hers and the Romans had to rescue her with the result that they were
left with hostile territory to their north.
Roman Emperor in 69AD and decided on a policy of conquering the
in the hope that a military success would gain him popularity.
He appears to have
considered setting up two provinces, one being the land to the south
of the A5 and the other being the land to the north including present
and even Ireland.
Chester was to be the capital of this latter province but in the
event this did not come to fruition. By the mid 80s AD they had
advanced as far north as Inverness but then trouble broke out in
another part of the Roman Empire and troops had to be taken from
Britain to deal with this. As a result they could no longer hold on to
so much territory and they withdrew south to a line between
South Shields and
Kirkbride. This frontier was marked by a road called the Stanegate
along which were sited forts such as those at Carlisle, Vindolanda and
Corbridge. South of this they consolidated their hold by building
forts such as those at Hardknott, Ambleside and Watercrook near
Kendal. Industrial sites such as Wilderspool near Warrington were
In 118AD there was
a war involving tribes from what is now Scotland but by 119AD they
seem to have overcome the problem. As a first reaction to the troubles
they built a turf wall from the River Irthing to the Solway. In 122 AD
the Emperor Hadrian visited
and decided to build a stone wall from the Irthing to Wallsend. There
were to be milecastles along the wall with two turrets between each.
Even the turf wall to the west of the
had stone turrets probably to act as signal turrets to communicate to
the south. Every milecastle had a north and south gate so people could
pass through the wall under supervision. This had two purposes, one
to keep undesirables out and the other as a means of taxing goods in
transit. Although slaves may have been used to quarry and transport
the stone the legions built the wall itself. Each century of a legion
was allocated a section of the wall to build and the stones to
commemorate their achievement can still be found today. Soon after
the wall was begun a decision was taken to narrow its width and also
to build forts on the wall rather than have them some distance to the
south. An example being the fort at Housesteads.
terrain allowed a V shaped ditch was dug to the north of the wall. To
the south of the wall the vallum was constructed. This consisted of a
flat bottomed ditch situated between two mounds. Its purpose is not
known although it may have been to allow the concealed movement of
troops along the wall. About 140AD the wall was abandoned as the
troops moved north and built the Antonine Wall between the Forth and
the Clyde. However around 160AD the troops abandoned that and returned
to Hadrian’s Wall. The turf section was rebuilt in stone and the
defensive system extending down the coast from Bowness on Solway to
near the fort at Maryport was strengthened. This section did not have
a wall but had milecastles and fortlets on it supported by palisades
and ditches. This coastal section was probably to deter raiding for
loot and also to enable legitimate trade to be taxed. Finally to the
Hadrian’s Wall there were some forts such as the one at Bewcastle.
The purpose of these is not clear but may have been to give advance
warning of invasions or else they may have been to give protection to
the area of the Brigantes tribe cut off from the rest of its territory
by the wall.
After a lively question session the chairman thanked Professor Shotter
for his lecture which had been greatly appreciated by his large
Wednersday 30th January 2008
Sedberghians inTibet, 1904 – 2004.
On the evening of
2008 members of the Local History Society and the local support group
of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust gathered in Sedbergh School’s Heritage
Centre and the room was packed to capacity for a two part
Before giving us an historical account of connections
between Sedbergh and
Tibet, Steve Smith
described what life is like now in
illustrated by his own photos taken on a visit in 2004. Parts of the
city look superficially much as they have for centuries, where it has
pleased the occupying Chinese to allow it. The Potala Palace is still
the magnificent building which the first western visitors would have
seen and there are still monks in traditional dress, but much of the
indigenous quarter nearby is squalid and dilapidated. It is
disorientating to find this cheek by jowl with modern Chinese shopping
malls filled with 21st century goods in a large modern
city. Here and there are signs of the old Buddhist faith persisting,
and Steve showed us photos of religious paintings in vivid colours on
large rounded rocks near the Jokhang Temple.
At the beginning of the 20th century there was
rivalry between Britain and Russia for influence in central Asia, and
as part of this Francis Younghusband led an armed party into Tibet
from Sikkim in 1903, reaching Lhasa in August 1904 after numerous
battles and having crossed several high passes in winter; a great
story in itself. Lt. William Bruce Dunlop, an Old Sedberghian, was
one of the officers in charge of the supply lines employing 3000
ponies, 5000 yaks, 3000 bullocks and 7000 mules, which shows the scale
of the operation. The next connection was in 1922 when Arthur W.
Wakefield, Old Sedberghian, was doctor to the Everest expedition which
went in from the north, Tibetan, side. He himself reached camp 3 at
21,000 ft, but didn’t acclimatise well to the altitude and was unable
to go further. We were shown a photograph of him, and Mallory “with
his kit off” for crossing a river, which had been hidden from public
view until recently, when perhaps people have become less sensitive!
“Freddy” Spencer Chapman was in Lupton House at
before going on to St John’s College, Cambridge. While on a Himalayan
climbing expedition in
in 1936 he met Basil Gould, who offered him a post as his private
secretary on a trip to Lhasa. On this trip Chapman took about 2,500
still photos, some in remarkably good colour for the time, and also
cine film. He had become an excellent photographer and recorded all
aspects of life in Tibet, and his photographs, now in the Pitt Rivers
form a wonderful record of a vanished society. In his spare time he
collected plants which he sent back to Kew, and these included four
previously unknown species. On his way back in 1937 he almost
casually climbed Chumolari, 24,000 ft; alpine style, a first ascent.
George Sherriff was in Evans House at
from 1912-16. He was posted to the NW Frontier in 1919. Then in 1929
while vice-consul in Kashgar he met Frank Ludlow, with whom he later
explored for twenty years, visiting
between 1933 and 1938. In 1943 he became British Resident in Lhasa
and was there for two years, and he was back again in 1946 with Frank
In 1950 40,000 Chinese troops “liberated”
Tibet. Bringing us
up to date, in 2003 Jim Fisher led a Sedbergh School party to Camp 2
on Everest from the Tibetan side, the highest ever reached by a school
Vicky Aspin has been a volunteer worker at the Holehird gardens,
headquarters of the Lakeland Horticultural Society where there are
plants from all over the world, for a number of years, and during the
second half of the evening she told us about George Sherriff, Reginald
Farrer and William Purdom. They collected plants from Tibet and its
borders during the first half of the 20th century and have
connections with this area.
George Sherriff sent back over 21,000
Natural History Museum and Edinburgh
Botanical Gardens. He was a meticulous man, recording not only
details of plants, but also medical equipment and treatments (30
grains of quinine plus whisky as a cure for malaria), food and
weather. He mapped and photographed an area of
along the northern border of Bhutan and the Tsangpo, a region of steep
sided valleys which has given rise to a large number of endemic
species since there was little opportunity for interbreeding across
the ranges. In an unlabelled photograph it was possible to identify
George Sherriff as the man in the shorts (Sedbergh training!) while
wore breeches. Vicky showed us how the herbarium specimens were
mounted and carefully labelled, even to the extent of having colour
panels to show what the flowers were like before they faded. It was
amazing to learn that even in those days his plants and seeds were air
freighted back to Croydon.
Vicky then showed us wonderful photos of many of the plant species
collected by George Sherriff and now growing here. He was
particularly instrumental in discovering Primulas, Meconopsis and
Saxifrages. Among those well known in gardens today were
Primula florindae, Meconopsis betonicifolia,
Clematis orientalis, Euphorbia griffithii (“grow it in
a dustbin so it can’t escape!”) and Gentiana sino-ornata.
Sherriff and his wife Betty spent their later years in Kirriemuir,
Angus, where they developed stunning Himalayan gardens containing
many of the species which he had himself discovered. Alas, these
gardens have fallen into
decline since they died.
Between them our two speakers had spent many months researching their
talks, and it showed. We are very grateful to them, and to Elspeth
Griffiths for all her work behind the scenes, including accompanying
Vicky to the archives at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. Those who were
unable to be present missed a treat.
Wednesday 16th January 2008
At the first meeting of 2008, Martha
Bates spoke about a very influential nineteenth-century lady called
Harriet Martineau. Harriet who was born in 1802 was a writer and
philosopher, and became renowned as a political economist, journalist,
feminist and abolitionist. Martha began by telling us about her early
life, which was spent in Norwich as the sixth of eight children in a
family of Huguenot extraction and Unitarian views. Evidently Harriet
suffered from a weak constitution for most of her life. Furthermore,
she had no sense of taste and smell and began to lose her hearing from
an early age, eventually having to use an ear trumpet. The austere
atmosphere of her home with its emphasis on hard work coupled with a
lack of warmth shown by her mother combined to make her childhood
quite unhappy. Nevertheless, she was interested in learning, read
widely and developed a strong sense of justice.
Martha described how Harriet’s life
became more fulfilled when she began to spend more time away from
home. When she was sixteen she passed some months with an aunt and
uncle in Bristol, enjoying the company of intellectual and congenial
people. In her early twenties, she began to write anonymously for a
Unitarian periodical. However, life became difficult for her when her
father died leaving very little money to support his wife and
daughters. When the bank in which their money was invested failed, and
the man to whom she was engaged died, Harriet had to look for ways to
earn her living. Martha gave an account of how she gradually managed
to do this by writing reviews and stories and eking out her income by
needlework. Eventually, a breakthrough came with her publication
Illustrations of Political Economy which was very popular and
When Harriet moved to London in 1832
she became acquainted with the leading writers and thinkers of the
time, including George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett
Browning and Charles Darwin. She went on a prolonged visit to the
United States and made herself unpopular with her outspoken support of
the Abolitionist party. She also had strong views on a range of
current affairs like Catholic Emancipation, Chartism, women’s rights
and educational methods, and her books and articles continued to be
Periodically Harriet suffered from ill
health, and in 1839, fearing she had a tumour she left London and
spent a few years with her sister and brother-in-law in Tyneside.
After a course of mesmerism, an alternative health treatment, and with
her health much improved, she moved to Ambleside where she spent most
of the rest of her life until she died in June 1876. Although she
continued her writing, her reforming zeal was also put to good use in
local projects, such as the improvement of housing for working class
The Society were grateful for Martha
Bates’ introduction to this inspirational Victorian lady, who was so
ahead of her time.
Members’ Evening -December 2007
The annual Members’ Evening is always
an eagerly anticipated occasion and as usual we weren’t disappointed.
Judith Robinson began the proceedings with her fascinating talk
entitled ‘Researching John Atkinson’s Copy Book’. She showed slides
of the beautifully handwritten pages of John Atkinson’s arithmetic
book. He was thirteen and a half in 1863 when he tackled a variety of
problems, many of which would have been quite beyond some of the
audience! The actual content of the problems gave an interesting
insight into nineteenth-century life. For example, one question
concerned the calculation of a servant’s wages, and another showed
that the rate of death duties depended on the relationship between the
deceased and the beneficiaries of his will. Judith suggested that
references to places like Middlesex and Sydenham indicated that the
author of the textbook from which the questions had been copied
probably lived in the south of the country.
Using censuses and parish registers,
Judith had spent some time researching John Atkinson’s family, and she
discovered that he had spent most of his short life at Cragg Stones in
Cautley, where his father was a farmer and butter dealer. Although the
book was unmarked and there was nothing to show whether John Atkinson
had worked on the problems at home or at school, Judith was curious to
find out about his education. In this investigation she was helped by
Diane Elphick, who has researched local education in the nineteenth
century. Judith could find no record of him on a school roll, but she
concluded that since his family were nonconformists he was most
probably a pupil at the Sedbergh British School. Furthermore as an
1868 newspaper mentioned his two younger brothers, James and William
as prize winners at the Sedbergh British School, it seemed likely that
James had also attended there.
Joyce Scobie’s presentation about
Liverpool cow keepers was equally enthralling. Until Joyce became
engrossed in this study she had had no idea that such a large number
of local families had started dairies in the city. An economic
depression was responsible for this migration, which began in 1818.
Joyce described how hard life was for the dairymen. Milking started at
5am and was followed by the first round of the day. This procedure was
repeated in the afternoon and sometimes there were even three milk
rounds. The women of the family made butter which was sold in the shop
with milk, eggs and preserves. Care of the animals and cleanliness
were priorities, and some fine specimens won prizes at local shows.
Communication with home was kept alive
in a number of ways. Some women came back to have their babies, and
children often returned for a spell of fresh air. Many people came
home to retire, but Joyce said that dairying was such hard work that
some men did not reach retirement age. Although stricter rules and
regulations made life more difficult for the cow keepers, they
numbered 900 by the turn of the century. However, during and after the
First World War they began to dwindle, until in the 1970s there were
only 4 left.
Interestingly, the Wilson family
provided a link between these two excellent talks. Peter Wilson, who
had inherited John Atkinson’s diary, is a descendant of Robert Wilson
who had written a diary about his time in Liverpool as a cow keeper.
The Life and Work of Thomas Hayton Mawson
The first lecture
of the 2007/8 season was held at Settlebeck School on Wednesday 3rd
October. Over forty members of the society met to hear a talk by
Elizabeth (Bette) Kissack on the life and work of Thomas Hayton Mawson,
the landscape architect with particular reference to his connections
with the Lake District.
Thomas was born at
in 1861. When he was six the family moved to Lancaster and his father
bought a plot of land on which he built a pair of semi-detached
houses, in one of which the family lived. It was there that Thomas
first started gardening. The family soon moved to Ingleton but when
he was twelve he went to live and work in Lancaster for an uncle who
was a builder and a keen horticulturist. When he was fourteen his
father bought a property at Langber End to set up a nursery and fruit
farm and Thomas was needed to help. Sadly his father died after two
years and a little later Thomas went to London to find work. He was
soon able to send for his two brothers Robert and Isaac, his sister,
Sarah, and his mother to join him. In London he met Anna Prentice
whom he married in 1884.
Whilst on honeymoon
in the Lake District Thomas received a letter telling him that a
proposed business partnership had fallen through. As a result he and
Anna decided that there was the potential in the
Lake District to start a family business there. The whole Mawson
family moved to Windermere with Thomas running a landscape gardening
practice with Robert and Isaac running, in conjunction, a nursery and
contracting business. Their first commission was to landscape a
garden at Bryerswood in Far Sawrey. This was followed by work at
Graythwaite Hall which gave Thomas the opportunity to display his
passion for terraces and balustrades complemented by ball-finials.
Other characteristics of his work were large lawns for playing games
and yew hedges. Whilst working there he met the architect Dan Gibson
and the two subsequently worked together at Brockhole. Mr Gaddum, the
owner, was a keen photographer and made a record of the building of
the house and the landscaping of the garden. As a result of this
Thomas obtained other commissions at Holehird, Cringlemire, Langdale
Chase and Moor Crag.
In 1900 Thomas
designed and built for himself The Corbels in Windermere. On the
opposite side of the road his brother, Robert, and family lived in one
half of a semi-detached house whilst his sister Sarah, and family,
lived in the other half. Isaac and his wife Rosa lived in Oak Street
and Heathwaite was built for other members of the Mawson family. The
first edition of Thomas’ book “The Art and Craft of Garden-Making” was
published in1900. He opened a London office in 1901 but the same year
saw the death of his brother Isaac.
Thomas and Anna’s
family, which included eight children, had a holiday home built on the
shoreline at Hest Bank and the nearby railway station enabled Thomas
London much quicker than from Windermere. Thomas, in conjunction
with Dan Gibson, was responsible for building a Congregational Chapel
at Hest Bank where he worshipped. Thomas also wanted to create a
model village there and designed several houses including The
Pillars. As an architect Thomas’ designs were characterised by
protruding slated gables and windows with a central pillar. His
reputation grew and he obtained a commission from Lord Leverhulme to
landscape fifty acres of ground around his house, Royston Cottage, on
Rivington Pike. This included the design for a Japanese garden which
was fashionable at that time.
Returning to the
Lake District he obtained more commissions including landscaping
gardens for Rydal Hall, Briery Close, Wood Hall and Above Beck. His
work on the latter in
Grasmere included a Japanese style garden. Before the outbreak of
the First World War he returned home from
Greece where he had
been working. All the unmarried men in his Lancaster office enlisted
and sadly one of his sons killed in the war. After the war Thomas was
responsible for the building of the Westfield Military Village in
Lancaster on land given by Mr Herbert Lushington Storey. Thomas had
previously landscaped the gardens of Mr Storey’s house Bailrigg which
now forms part of Lancaster University. In his last years he and his
wife moved from Hest Bank to Caton Hall before returning to Hest Bank
where he died in 1933. He was a man of international status having
worked for Kings as well as Dukes, Lords and Viscounts.
thanked Bette for her most interesting lecture the highlight of which
had been her wonderful collection of slides showing Mawson’s work.
Visit to Briggflats
a lovely July evening Briggflats Meeting House was the venue for the
final summer meeting.. It was particularly appropriate to sit in a
place so steeped in Quaker history to hear about the local origins of
the movement. Tess Satchell welcomed us to Briggflats and showed us
some of the archives which are still held there. These included a Book
of Sufferings which recorded the persecution that was experienced by
early Westmorland Quakers.
main part of the evening was devoted to what David Boulton called his
‘unstructured romp’ through approximately fifty years of Quaker
history in the Sedbergh and Dent district. He based his survey on his
book, Early Friends in Dent, and it was anything but ‘unstructured’!
He began by making the point that movements arise out of the
conditions of their time, and that in the case of Quakerism the
catalysts were the Civil War and arguments about secular and religious
David narrated how in 1652 George Fox felt compelled to travel to
Westmorland to seek out groups of ‘seekers’ who were rebelling against
Calvinist theology, and looking for new ways of being Christian. Many
had been officers in Cromwell’s New Modern Army. This area, with its
large parishes and lack of strong control was ripe for the rise of a
radical movement, demonstrated in1862 by a strike in Dentdale against
the payment of tithes. Therefore George Fox’s opposition to the clergy
and religious hierarchies provided an attractive option. Beginning at
the top end of Dentdale, and initially passed on from group to group,
Fox made his way around the area. Gradually he persuaded people by his
arguments, and by 1664 missionaries were being sent out to take the
message to other regions.
his description of how Quakers suffered for their religious beliefs,
David gave examples of their resilience in the face of prolonged
persecution. He recounted how, refusing to attend church, to swear
oaths, and to pay tithes, or ‘steeple-house rates’, as they called
them, they repeatedly had their goods and chattels seized.
Furthermore, some were in and out of gaol many times. Following the
Conventicle Acts, their meetings were broken up, sometimes violently.
However, there is evidence that local people began to take pity on
them, to the extent of sometimes paying their fines and tithes. It
wasn’t until 1689 when the Toleration Acts legalised Quaker meetings
and meeting houses that they were left alone to practise their
religion without interference.
Thanks are due to David for a very informative and interesting talk,
and to Tess for her hospitality.
Wednesday 6th June
The Webster buildings of Kendal
Wednesday 6th June eleven members of the society assembled
at Kendal Museum in beautiful weather to be met by Mrs Patricia Hovey
and Mr Trevor Hughes who took us on a tour of the Webster buildings of
Kendal, starting with Beezon Lodge and finishing at the Town Hall, in
the building of the earliest parts of which Webster father and son
both played a part
Hovey told us a bit of the background of the family before we set out.
Francis Webster, came to Kendal in 1787 at the age of 20. He was
principally a builder but did design buildings also. He became an
alderman and then Mayor of Kendal in 1823. When he died in 1827 he had
completed many substantial buildings in the town and the surrounding
area. His elder son, George, trained as an architect and his younger
son, Francis, ran his father’s marble showrooms at Aynam, now the
Bridge Restaurant, and he lived next door in another Webster hosue.
Francis the elder was man of entrepreneurial vision, buying up all the
land on which the canal, with its attendant buildings, was to be
constructed, at the cost of three shillings a yard. He then carried
out the building work associated with the canal, including the canal
superintendent’s house. He also sold off plots of land on Thorny
Hills, proceeding to build houses for the purchasers. There are
certain features which mark a Francis Webster building although his
architect son could build to any style required. For example, the
former used dressed stone, the cutting and dressing being done at his
own water mill at Helsington, where, also, stone from Garsdale and
Hutton Roof was polished into what was called ‘Kendal marble’ and used
for fireplaces etc. The Websters also had their own quarry and seven
lime kilns, making a tramline to carry all the material into Kendal.
Both built ‘houses for gentlemen’ and these were much in demand and
not only in Kendal. Ingmire Hall and Rigmaden are but two examples of
Webster houses elsewhere.
Private housing was but a small part of their building enterprise.
Public buildings from churches, schools and assembly rooms to bridges,
gaols and a bank were all in their repertoire.
To list them all would be tedious but a few
examples follow, Miller Bridge, built in 1818, took traffic across
the river to Aynam and that side of Kendal for the first time, and
what is now the HSBC bank, which is now the oldest building still
operating as such. The Quaker Meeting House, St Thomas’s Church and
the Catholic Church are all Webster buildings as were the Ladies’
College and Stramongate School,
now used for other purposes. The Shambles
and the Farrers’ building were restored by them and the workhouse
built. Francis is responsible for the first pavement in Kendal and for
helping construct Appleby Gaol. George built churches in several
villages, including Natland and Whittington. There seemed no end to
their enterprise and energy and Kendal is justly proud of their
of our members, Judith Robinson, was able to add information and
anecdotes from her own youthful days in Kendal, enthusiastically
identifying a door in a passage as ‘my great grandmother’s front
door’. In times past when streets were muddy and dirty front doors
were put on the side of a building. Also the front door often served
as the entrance to the business as well, the home being above the
party was very grateful to our two guides who were so knowledgeable
and enthusiastic and from whom we learned many other interesting
things on the walk.
A Walk Around Appleby
The first summer visit of 2007 was to Appleby.
Members were taken on a conducted tour of the attractive town by
Vivienne Gate and other representatives of the Appleby Society. Our
tour began at the ancient Moot Hall where the business of the town
council is conducted. The present mayor gave us a short talk about the
town’s history and traditions. Appleby, which was originally the
county town of Westmorland, gained its charter in the twelfth century,
and the Moot Hall was built in Tudor times. On a plaque over the door,
the date 1596 is recorded. Appleby was ravaged by the Scots on several
occasions, and some of its original streets have not survived. However
on Boroughgate, its wide main thoroughfare, there are some lovely old
The mayor, indicating some of the many pictures of
former mayors and inhabitants of the town on the walls of the chamber,
told us about a few of the town’s notable inhabitants. One of these
was Jack Robinson, who gave his name to the saying, ‘as quick as you
can say Jack Robinson’. He also showed us some of the impressive robes
and regalia which are used on ceremonial occasions. Interestingly, two
halberds belonging to the town always stand outside the house of the
incumbent mayor during his time in office. We were reminded of the
annual Horse Fair for which Appleby is widely renowned. Evidently, so
many visitors descend on the town for the event that many citizens
tend to batten down the hatches during the fair.
Armed with our newly acquired local knowledge we
were led up Boroughgate to St Anne’s Hospital, a group of small
almshouses clustered around a small courtyard with a fountain. They
were founded by Lady Anne Clifford, a local sixteenth-century
landowner, for destitute widows. We were allowed into the tiny chapel,
where much of the woodwork dates from the seventeenth century, and the
striking eighteenth-century texts around the walls replaced older
originals. At the back of the almshouses is a peaceful grassy area
where the residents once had small gardens. Next we walked to the top
of the hill and looked through large gates at Appleby Castle. Sadly,
it has been closed to the public for several years since English
Heritage refused to accept the plans of the owner of the castle to
develop the site.
Then we were given an unexpected treat. John and
Jill Hodge who live in a lovely Georgian fronted house halfway down
Boroughgate invited us in to see the building and the garden.
Attractive period features have survived in the house and these are
complemented by beautiful furniture and decoration. For the gardeners
amongst us, their collection of interesting plants was of special
Our tour ended with a visit to the parish church of
St Lawrence at the bottom of the town. Like so many churches, it has
been added to over the centuries, from the oldest twelfth-century
building in the tower, the fourteenth-century porch and pillars in the
nave, to the restoration of more recent times. Perhaps the most
memorable items in the church are three memorials at the far end of
the church. One is a small, unadorned effigy of an unnamed lady, which
contrasts with a beautiful alabaster figure representing Margaret,
Countess of Cumberland, mother of Lady Anne Clifford. She herself is
commemorated on a large black marble monument.
Appleby is a most interesting ancient town, and we
were really grateful to our knowledgeable guides, who gave up their
time to show us some of its finer points.
Wednesday, 21st March
Ken Clarke on “Victorian Photography and the Brunskills of Sedbergh
true inventor of photography was a Frenchman, Joseph Niepce whose
first successful image was of a view from his window in about 1826.
Then in 1839 two people published papers on different methods of
obtaining a permanent image. Daguerre in France had built on Niepce’s
work to produce daguerrotypes. These were high quality images but
they produced a mirror image and could not be reproduced. Fox Talbot
in England introduced the modern system of negative and positive image
production which enabled copies to be easily made. His first photo
was of a window at his house, Laycock Abbey, taken in 1835. Initially
because of cheaper cost and superior quality the method of Deguerre
was the more popular but eventually after a modification the Fox
Talbot process became supreme.
Photographic studios were open in London by 1840 and by about 1850
they had reached the Lake District. The technology improved with time
but it still required the sitter for a portrait staying still for a
considerable time. Various props were available to hold the head
still which looked more like torture implements than aids to
William Brunskill was born in Ingleton in 1797 but later moved to
Sedbergh and in 1818 married Hannah Wright. Later that year Hannah
died in childbirth. In 1821 William married Elizabeth Blenkarn and in
1824 their son, Richard, was born. Their second son, John William,
was born in 1825. William was a painter, plumber and glazier and his
two sons joined him in the family firm. The family lived in various
premises in Sedbergh probably starting in Settlebeck cottages. From
there they moved to a house in Main Street in the area of what is now
the Nat West bank. From there they had moved to what is now 7 Main
Street by 1847. In 1850 Richard married Isabella Ellis.
1858 the two brothers had started taking photographs as several street
scenes of Sedbergh exist showing a house with a gallery on the site of
what is now the library.
However, this must have been a minor occupation because the 1861
census lists them as being painters, plumbers and glaziers like their
father. They soon started to buy property, in Kendal and by 1865 in
Back Lane on the site of the present numbers 21/22. It was there that
they probably had their Sedbergh studio. For health reasons and also
because of the greater number of tourists they decided to open a
studio in Bowness although for some time they seemed to spend the
winter in Sedbergh and the summer in Bowness. Pictures of their
original studio in Bowness still exist. They eventually decided to
move permanently to Bowness and sold their Kendal and Sedbergh
properties. They built themselves a purpose built house with a large
glass window to provide the light needed for photography. The house
Their business flourished and even when Richard died a man was
employed to take his place. When John William died his wife carried
on the firm until it finally closed. Luckily about 17500 of their
images survived and have been bought by the Armitt Museum in Ambleside.
The chairman thanked Ken Clarke for a most interesting talk that had
provided a fitting end to the winter programme. Thanks to a generous
donation the society has been able to buy from the Armitt Museum
copies of the 300 photos connected with Sedbergh.
Wednesday 21st February
A large audience assembled in Dent Memorial Hall on Wednesday 21st
February to hear Denis Sanderson start off by talking on 'The
Geological History of Dentdale and Area'.
Standing in the very schoolroom where he had sat at lessons as a
child, in a region famed for its geological associations, he was able
to put his local knowledge to good use. In an informative and lively
presentation he explained where various features of interest could be
seen in the locality. He started by walking us up Barbondale where the
beck follows the line of the Dent Fault with Silurian age rock to the
left and limestone to the right. The Dent Fault is not quite dead and
he reminded us of the earthquake of 9/8/1970, the biggest recorded in
England, measuring 4.9 on the Richter Scale, Haycock Ghyll is another
good vantage point and at Gawthrop the older Ordovician rock shows
through. Flinters Ghyll is a good place to observe the flat like
paving called Hawes Limestone and Binks Quarry up Deepdale is a good
spot to see fossils . He likened Rise Hill to a giant layer cake with
11 or 12 different aged limestones sandwiched between sandstone and
This was a really good laypersons guide to local geology and will
have no doubt encouraged members to take a fresh look at our local
The second talk by Julie Leigh entitled 'The Policing of 19c
Cumberland and Westmorland' was based on her research into local
policing, particularly relating to the Kirkby Stephen area.
An amusing role play exercise illustrated the difficulties encountered
by the then elected village constable with conflicting evidence,
unreliable witnesses and local petitioning. The local lock-ups were
very basic, very confined and offered no privacy.
As the population grew so did the crime.
Wednesday 7th February
John Claister on The History of Cricket in Sedbergh
On a cold February night, in weather not at all suited to the
topic of the talk, members and visitors met to hear John Glaister tell
us about the history of cricket in the town.
Cricket had started at the school and in 1841 the first match was
played against a team from Kirkby Lonsdale. Presumably because of
transport difficulties it was played in a field opposite the
Swan Inn at Middleton. In the early years the team seemed to consist
of schoolboys plus a few men from the town. One of these, Mr Smith a
solicitor, caused an incident in 1846 when he ran out the star of the
Kirkby Lonsdale team. He ran him out whilst he was backing up at the
bowler’s end which was considered unsporting. The players adjourned to
the Bull afterwards and the drink did nothing to improve relations.
Eventually the visitors coach left to a mixture of abuse and missiles
with Mr Smith trying to restrain the boys. In those days cricket in
this country was sometimes played in the autumn which would be
considered unseasonable now. Bowling was underarm and not overarm as
now. Wickets and pitches were very bad and as a result matches did not
last long even if they were two innings games. Indeed the drinking
afterwards seemed the major event and could go on until the small
hours of the next morning!
Cricket at the school had thrived sufficiently for the first past
versus present match to be played in 1850 which the present won
convincingly. Over the years the school produced several good
cricketers but only one test match player, Mitchell-Innes, who has
died recently. However, Mr Glaister thought that J.A.Burrow from the
nineteenth century was the best. He was a local boy and had played for
many local clubs and ones in central Yorkshire with great success.
Sedbergh town club played its first game in1863 and its formation may
have been connected with the decline of the school under Dr Day as
headmaster. Its zenith was reached when cricket leagues were reformed
some years after WW1. The town team was the best in the Westmorland
league during the 1920s when it was composed of a mixture of school
staff and local men. However, it had ceased to exist by the mid
thirties and was not reformed for another forty years.
The chairman thanked the speaker for his talk and during coffee and
biscuits afterwards members were able to look at a display of
photographs from the archives of Sedbergh School and the History
Wednesday 17th January 2007
Andrew Lowe on
"Bank Barns, Boskins and
members and visitors attended the opening talk after the festive
break. It was given by Andrew Lowe on the subject of “Bank Barns,
Boskins and Bee-Boles”.
Andrew had a career in planning, being Senior Planner with the Lake
District NPA and then its Building Conservation Officer. In addition
he has lectured for various universities on the industrial archaeology
of the Lake District and also on its traditional buildings.
His talk to the society dealt with the various farm buildings that
could be found within the Lake District National Park. Farm buildings
are the best vernacular buildings for the absence of change whereas
domestic buildings are continually altered due to the fashion of the
time. Barns by definition are a building where corn can be threshed
and stored and they usually have a section for cattle. They need to be
watertight yet ventilated. Most of the barns in the Lake District have
been built of stone obtained within a radius of 200 yards of the
building. Originally they had steep roofs when thatched but less steep
roofs were needed when slates were used.
Bank Barns were built on slopes with the main door, which was situated
on the slope, not in the middle of the barn. The larger area was used
for storing the corn before threshing and the smaller area for storing
it after it had been threshed. Opposite the door was the winnowing
window which helped cause a draught to blow away the chaff which was
formed during the threshing. The bottom floor of the barn was used for
cattle or storage of carts, etc. The threshing could be done by hand
but there were examples where water or horse power had been used. The
earliest barn dated from 1659 but even this had been built using some
foundations from an earlier barn. The status of a farmer was shown by
the quality of the workmanship on the barn and by decorative features
such as finials on the gable end of the roof.
Inside the barns the partitions were known as boskins and these could
be made of wood or stone. They were usually lime-washed to act as an
antiseptic. Many of these have now been removed to give larger open
spaces within barns.
Other types of farm building still exist such as hennery-piggeries. In
these the hens were housed on the upper floor and pigs on the ground
floor. Only the top levels of society could afford coach houses and
dovecotes. Finally before the advent of sugar from the Americas every
farm house would have had its bee-boles. These were recesses where bee
hives could be sited to protect them from the rain. They were usually
facing south-east so that the bees got the maximum hours of light.
Andrew dealt with a variety of questions and gave his opinion on the
uses to which the surviving barns should be put. To date a
considerable sum of money has been given as grants to ensure their
preservation. He was thanked by the chairman for a most interesting an
Wednesday 1st November 2006
by Tony Hannam
on Professor Roger Fawthrop’s lecture
WITH ONLY CROWS AS PASSENGERS TO SEDBERGH
Professor Fawthrop has featured on our programme before and there was
a large audience in anticipation of another fascinating talk about the
Furness & Yorkshire Union Railway Project of 1865. He began by giving
some background to the politics behind railway development in the
There were two major periods of planning and construction.
1. 1843 – 1855 The principle trunk routes and 2nd tier routes, the
core of which still exist today; e.g. the east and west coast main
2. 1865 – 1880 The major cross country routes such as the Settle –
Carlisle, the branch lines and metropolitan commuter lines.
Railway mania was at its height with 268 Railway Boards in existence
in York County alone in 1847. The mentality of the time seemed to be
to fill in the open spaces on the map; no National Parks to contend
with in those days. That only a handful came about was because of the
necessity for an Act of Parliament for each project and stringent
compliance with the tiniest detail. The Boards had to have the power
to construct, finance and operate the line. Also agreement had to be
reached to hook up with other existing lines. The vested interests of
the powerful LNWR and NER made life difficult.
The East & West Yorkshire Union railway (EWYUR) had plans to run a
line up Wensleydale from the NER line at Melmerby (nr Ripon) to
Leyburn, Hawes, Mallerstang, Sedbergh (via Garsdale) and Barbon to
link up with existing lines at Kirkby Stephen, Ingleton or Milnthorpe.
This was opposed by the big two and eventually only the Leyburn –
Hawes section was built by NER. The demise of EWYUR followed but ‘the
baby got a new suite of clothes’ and the Furness & Yorkshire Union
Railway (FYUR) came into being.
What was at stake was the transport of high quality coke from Durham
to Barrow in Furness so that it could be shipped to the South Wales
blast furnaces. At the time this was traveling on the South Durham and
Lancashire Union Railway (SD&LUR) via Barnard Castle and Kirkby
Stephen to Tebay. 68 million tons were moved during WW1.
James Ramsden at the Barrow end of FYUR had an eye on this lucrative
traffic as he was a major shareholder in both companies. He was also
interested in moving 200,000 tonnes of Haematite per year from Barrow
to the South Staffs. steel works. Neither company could avoid paying
LNWR for using the Tebay to Carnforth section or indeed from Carnforth
This is where a Furness line link from Arnside to Barbon via
Milnthorpe could have hooked up with the proposed Hawes-Sedbergh line,
and the Ingleton-Leeds line, cutting out LNWR. Only the
Milnthorpe-Arnside section was eventually completed. This enabled the
gentry of Kendal to go to Grange but ‘only crows’ to Sedbergh.
4th October 2006
first lecture of the 2006/2007 series drew an audience of forty people
to hear Yvonne Luke's talk on "Rethinking Ingleborough".
From Victorian times up to the Royal Commission of Monuments survey
in 1988 it was considered that the summit of Ingleborough contained an
iron age fort surrounded by a rampart. It was thought that there were
twenty hut circles within the rampart. These were clustered in the
central area of the summit with the north-western and north-eastern
areas apparently empty.
Yvonne had studied aerial photographs and detected a faint circle in
the north-western corner and later investigation on the ground had
suggested that this was a ring cairn pre-dating the iron age by about
a thousand years. A path appeared to lead from it to a break in the
south-western part of the rampart. From there a pathway occurred
in the scree below leading to a grassy area. Ring cairns are well
known in the Peak District and are thought to be ritual structures
dating to the second millennium BC. They are also found in the Dales
were they are 10-12 metres in diameter. Yvonne wondered if what had
been thought to be iron age hut circles on Ingleborough were really
bronze age ring cairns. She also thought she had detected a few half
ring structures there.
She had investigated the rampart and decided it could not be a
defensive feature of a fort for various reasons. Firstly in places
there was what appeared to be a ditch, or a quarry site for the stones
of the rampart, on the inside the rampart. This would have been a
nonsense defensively. Secondly there were several breaks in the
rampart and many of these appeared to be part of the original design
and marked by orthostats (standing stones). They did not have a ditch
or quarry scoop behind them. Finally the most imposing part of the
rampart occurred where it was least needed defensively as there were
sheer drops below it. She thought Ingleborough had been a sanctuary
in that it was used for ritualistic purposes and also provide a
shelter for cattle and people when danger threatened their pastures
below but had not been a fort.
The surface of the summit was getting badly eroded by the large
number of walkers there and already some archaeological sites had been
lost. She hoped that money would be found for a dig to occur to
answer questions before the evidence had been destroyed. After her
talk she answered several questions before being thanked by the
chairman who wished her success when she submitted her thesis for a
Saturday 25th March 2006
Annual General Meeting of the society was held in Settlebeck School on
Saturday 25th March. After the minutes of last year's AGM
had been approved the officers of the society presented their annual
reports. Apart from the usual lectures and visits the year had been
dominated by 25th Anniversary celebrations. Two successful
exhibitions were held in Sedbergh and Dent and there had been an
enjoyable dinner at which the guest speaker was Sir Christopher
Booth. The society had also launched a web-site,
www.sedberghhistory.org, and had gained some new members as a result.
The finances of the society were sound and there were 279
subscriptions to the society meaning it had about 350 actual members
spread throughout the world.
The Very Reverend Ingram Cleasby was re-elected as President and the
existing officers and committee members were re-elected en-bloc with
the addition of Mrs Josie Templeman. After the formal part of the
meeting the large number of members present took part in a short quiz
and then enjoyed splendid refreshments provided by the members
Wednesday 15th March 2006
in this season's lectures took place on Wednesday 15th
March when a large audience came to hear one of the society's most
distinguished members. Professor Robert Fox is the Professor of the
History of Science at the University of Oxford and his talk was on
"The Scientists and Schools of Sedgwick's North Country".
Grammar schools were schools that had been endowed for the free
teaching of the grammar of the classical languages, Latin, Greek and
sometimes Hebrew. They often taught other subjects but the pupils
would pay for this tuition. A survey done in 1818 showed a wide range
in the number of pupils and the salary paid to staff. The Master at
Leeds received £500 per annum whilst many in small schools only got
about £50. In addition to the Master some schools had an Usher who
helped him and some had a person who taught the three Rs. The
buildings were similar in that all the pupils were in one large room.
The Master sat at one end on a raised dais and the pupils sat on
forms. These were grouped together so that pupils sat with others who
had reached the same standard. The pupils learnt the grammar by rote.
During the nineteenth century these schools declined except for those
in big towns or a few such as Eton that attracted wealthy people.
There were several reasons for this. The importance of the classical
languages for getting a career had declined although they were needed
to get into Oxford and Cambridge Universities. National, British and
Dames' Schools provided a cheaper way of being taught the three Rs.
Also those schools endowed on a fixed income found that to be
increasingly insufficient. By the end of the century the Grammar
Schools had either closed or had been converted into elementary
schools or in some cases survived by become fee paying schools
teaching grammar as well as other subjects. Dent came into the first
category and Sedbergh into the last.
In the seventeenth century the Grammar Schools in the North West had
produced many pupils who had gone on to Cambridge where they had made
successful careers mainly in Science and Mathematics. A contemporary
had called them the "hard progeny of the North". Examples were
Sedgwick and Watson. The former had been appointed Professor of
Geology, without any knowledge of the subject, but had gone on to a
very distinguished career. Watson had been appointed Professor of
Chemistry, again without any knowledge of the subject. He had gone on
to be Professor of Divinity and finally Bishop of Llandaff, a
place he hardly ever visited in over twenty years.
Other people came up through different routes. John Dawson, from
Garsdale, was largely self-taught initially but became an apothecary
in Sedbergh after studying in Lancaster, Edinburgh and London. He also
coached Mathematics to some of those reading it at Cambridge. They
stayed with him in their vacations and he was so successful that he
gained a national reputation and eventually earned his living from
it. John Dalton from near Cockermouth went to Kendal and then to
Manchester teaching and lecturing. He produced an Atomic Theory of
immense importance in Chemistry. Finally there was Thomas Garnett
from Barbon who had become an apprentice of Dawson. He had gone to
Edinburgh and then set up as a doctor in the spa town of Harrogate.
He next moved to London where a glittering career as a lecturer
beckoned. However, his wife died, he became depressed and soon died of
The chairman thanked Professor Fox for a most interesting lecture
which the audience had enjoyed and it had provided a fitting end to
Wednesday 1st March 2006
A meeting of the society was held in Dent Memorial Hall on Wednesday
1st March and it attracted a large audience. The first item of the
evening was a showing of a film made in 1985 called “Adam in
Paradise”. David Boulton at that time was running Granada Television’s
current affairs and regional programmes and he commissioned the film
and was the presenter on it. The Adam referred to was Adam Sedgwick
and the Paradise was Dentdale. In the film David outlined the history
of the dale, in particular its opposition to tithes over the
centuries. He then went on to meet some of the characters in the dale
in 1985. Some of the views on the history would need to be revised in
the light of recent research but the film provided an interesting
record of the dale and its inhabitants two decades ago. Unfortunately
David was unable to be present but sent a letter giving details about
the film and we are very grateful to him for lending the copy to the
society for the meeting.
The film’s mention of the importance of knitting to the history of
Dent provided an excellent introduction to a showing of “The Terrible
Knitters of Dent” starring Betty Hartley, Elizabeth Middleton and
pupils from Dent School. This delightful film explained how the
knitting was done and the clothes and equipment used by the knitters.
The trade was an economic necessity for survival due to the decline of
farming in the dale. Copies of the video are available in various
places in Dent and it is well worth buying as it provides an excellent
record of a past way of life.
Wednesday 15th February 2006
Year at Killington Hall' with Mrs Judith Robinson
Judith is a member of the Society and a large audience turned out
for her presentation of 'The 1876 Diary of Agnes Ann Kendal' which is
the title of a book she has recently published.
Agnes Ann was the 8th and youngest child of Robert and
Elizabeth Kendal (nee Fawcett).
Robert was a tenant farmer at Killington Hall which is where Ann
lived along with her unmarried older sister Sarah and brother John.
The diary gives a quite fascinating insight into life in Victorian
England through the eyes of a 19 year old farmers daughter.
Judith was congratulated for bringing the diary to life in such a
compelling way with old and new photographs interspersed with
voice-overs reading extracts from the diary. What would Agnes have
thought if she had known her most private diary had been made so
public 130 years later?
Today we regard Killington Hall as somewhat isolated. In 1876 we hear
of a constant stream of social visitors and frequent outings to
Kendal, Orton, Sedbergh and occasionally to Cautley. The 'Red Lion
Inn' was only across the yard but the family were tee-total.
The diary reveals Agnes to be a committed Christian and although the
Anglican Church was only yards away it was to the Vale of Lune Chapel,
then non-conformist and now known as St Gregory's, that Agnes went to
worship and teach at Sunday School. Making 2 trips on Sunday would
have meant walking about 16 miles.
She rather surprisingly made no reference to shopping of having any
money other than pocket money.
She enjoyed baking and there are references to sewing, dress-making,
mangling, cleaning and churning butter. She only seemed to help on
the farm with milking cows and bringing in the hay; 116 carts and 47
sleds in 1876.
The highlight of the year was the visit to Orton Pot Fair in June
where the previous year she had met her future husband Jim Wharton and
to whom she was secretly betrothed.
Her courtship and Jim's visits delightfully enlighten her days. Jim
would often catch the train to Tebay from Sedbergh, even hitch a lift
on a goods train and frequently walk the 13 miles back home.
It was 5 years later on February 9th. the day before her 25th
birthday, that they were married. Sadly they did not live happily ever
after. On Dec. 5th she gave birth to a son but 3 days later
she was dead as was her son 10 days later.
Jim remarried, moved to Kendal and had 9 children. No photos were
kept of Agnes and there is no gravestone for her and her son in Orton
Happily the diary survives and having been handed down through Jim's
family to Judith's aunt and now the book is a fitting memorial.
Judith was warmly thanked for sharing this in such a delightful way.
Wednesday 1st February 2006
year the members giving the talks were Kevin Lancaster and Roger
Kevin's subject was "Inventories and Bonds". Soon after a
person died an inventory was taken, of the possessions and debts that
they had, to be used in conjunction with their will. This task was
normally undertaken by four neighbours. For this area the earliest
surviving record was from the first half of the sixteenth century.
From then the number increased until the Commonwealth during which
there was a steep decline. After that the number sharply rose and
peaked around 1700. During the eighteenth century the practice
declined and finally ended in the nineteenth century. Most of the
inventories for this area are to be found in Preston and we are lucky
that the society has transcripts of so many, the latter fact largely
due to Kevin's efforts. In his lecture he compared some from a period
in the seventeenth century with another sample taken a hundred years
later. The comparison showed the effects of inflation and increasing
wealth in the area. Particularly interesting was the much wider range
of furniture in the houses. Also the terms used to describe some of
the farm animals had changed with the later ones being the same as our
contemporary ones. Finally Kevin stressed the importance of the
information provided by bonds, sureties required when loans were
Roger Underwood's subject was "From Bristol to Sedbergh and back
again, a journey of fifty years." This talk linked the fortunes of
the Uptons of Ingmire Hall with the Smyth's of Ashton Court near
Bristol. The latter were a much more important and wealthier family
with the head being a baronet and Ashton Court being the centre of a
very large estate. The family were leading figures in Bristol society.
Florence, the sister of the baronet, became the second wife of John
Upton of Ingmire Hall. His first wife had been the daughter of the
Bishop of Bristol. Their son Thomas died in 1843 of pneumonia, caught
from exposure on Kendal Fell, but not before he had produced two sons,
Thomas and Greville. Back in Bristol Florence's brother Hugh had died
and been succeeded as baronet by another brother, John. The latter was
a confirmed bachelor and this meant the title would pass to Thomas.
However, he was indulged by his grandmother and he died in Bristol due
to his excesses, leaving Greville as the heir.
At this stage a man suddenly appeared on the scene claiming to be
the son of Hugh from a marriage contracted in Ireland. John accepted
his claim to be the heir to the baronetcy and then conveniently died
the next day. Naturally a court case, which was the talk of Bristol,
was held to decide who had the right to succeed as baronet. The
claimant was found to be an impostor and Greville became the baronet.
Florence eventually died in 1852 having seen her grandson inherit the
title. Another Florence, the daughter of Thomas born in 1837, later
acquired Ingmire Hall as Mrs Upton-Cottrell-Dormer. Ashton Hall was
eventually overwhelmed by death duties in the early nineteenth century
and was bought by Bristol City Council.
The speakers were thanked by the chairman who remarked that the
evenings such as this showed how lucky the society was in being able
to draw on the skills of so many talented members.
Wednesday 18th January 2006
Smith of York University addressed the society on the topic 'Robert
Lowther, Governor of Barbados 1711-20: saint or Sinner?' In an
interesting account of Lowther's time in the West Indies, Dr Smith
explored some of the controversy surrounding this enigmatic character.
As a plantation owner, married to the Barbadian heiress, Joan
Carleton, Lowther was already well acquainted with the Caribbean
island. Dr Smith suggested that Lowther's appointment as Governor was
probably connected with his family's support for the Stuart regime.
Lowther cannot be condemned for his involvement in slavery , since the
practice was generally considered to be acceptable during this period,
and many other members of the gentry were engaged in it. However, he
was heavily criticised for various aspects of his governorship.
Some of the charges against him were outlined by the speaker. He was
accused of extortion and corruption, and manipulating the law for his
own ends. He was recalled in 1714 to answer the charges, but after the
death of Queen Anne, he was allowed to return. According to his
critics, things continued much as before. A law was passed which made
trading with other islands illegal without the purchase of expensive
licences, but apparently he himself engaged in illicit trade or turned
a blind eye to it. Furthermore, he raised a tax to fortify the island,
but it was reported that much of the money was diverted elsewhere.
Dr Smith then considered how far the criticisms against him were
justified. He maintained that leading contemporary opponents of
Lowther, like Rev William Gordon and Samuel Cox had personal reasons
for their condemnation, and that later critical histories reproduced
some of the earlier accounts. Seemingly, other writers had their own
reasons for castigating him. Although there seems to very little
evidence to suggest that there were many positive outcomes of
Lowther's governorship, Dr Smith reminded his audience that in judging
him it has to be remembered that standards in eighteenth-century
public life were very different from today.
Wednesday 4th January
'Andrew de Harcia and the
Scottish Wars of Independence' by Adrian Rogan
The story of his amazing career: border warfare in the early
Andrew de Harcla was one of the outstanding northern knights involved
in the Scottish Wars of Independence. He was the subject of Adrian
Rogan’s interesting talk to the History Society in January.
Unfortunately, there were computer problems so that we were unable to
see his collection of photographs very well.
The de Harcla family had connections with Hartley Castle near Kirkby
Stephen and several photographs showed how well it had been
positioned. Sir Andrew also owned land in Sedbergh and district and
had the advowson of the church in which he placed his brother James!
De Harcla served under both Edward I and Edward II and for his
services he was created Keeper of Carlisle and later Keeper of
Carlisle Castle. He amassed a large body of soldiers; men at arms,
esquires, hobelars ( mounted soldiers who could also fight on foot)
and archers. He was defending Carlisle Castle at the time of
Bannockburn in 1314. A year later the Scots attacked Carlisle,
capturing it but de Harcla defended the Castle so well that the Scots
He was involved in several other skirmishes eg. at Boroughbridge where
he defeated the Lancastrian rebels and was rewarded by being created
Earl of Carlisle. At this time he could do no wrong!
Mr Rogan believed that de Harcla and Robert Bruce had met several
times. A self confessed romantic he mentioned the rumour that de
Harcla was in love with Bruce’s sister Constancia. De Harcla thought
that it was time for a permanent truce between England and Scotland so
having no faith in Edward he went secretly to Loch Maben to meet
Robert Bruce to conclude a peace treaty. The townspeople of Carlisle
were delighted as it would mean peace but the king was furious and
ordered the capture and execution of de Harcla. Without a proper trial
he was tied to a hurdle and dragged through the streets of Carlisle
before being hung, drawn and quartered and then beheaded.
Adrian Rogan is writing three docu-novels on the life of Andrew de
Harcla. The first entitled Northern Warrior is already in print’
Wednesday 7th December 2005
Slate Quarries and Quarrymen in the South Eastern Lake District: Dr
At their last autumn
meeting for 2005 members spent a most interesting evening learning
about quarrying activity in the Lake District. Dr David focussed on
our nearest quarries in Troutbeck, Kentmere and Long Sleddale which
produced either the better quality green slate from Borrowdale
volcanic rocks or inferior bluish slate of Silurian origin.
In the late 1850’s 120-150 workers were employed in Westmorland
producing about 2000 tons per annum at a rate of 19 tons per worker.
By 1896 Welsh quarries dominated the industry, attracting more capital
investment and producing 80% of the total output compared with the
Lake District’s 4.4%, putting it 4th in rank behind Wales, Scotland
Slate competed with tiles and thatch as a roofing material and was
also used for building construction, walling and paving.
Most quarries in our region were relatively small and usually fell in
and out of use. Dr David explained how census data on quarrymen was
hard to come by as many of them had other seasonal occupations such as
in farming or transferring the slate on carts to the transport
networks. Locally extracted slate was usually used within about 15
There were 3 main categories of worker: rock hands who drilled and
extracted the slate; rievers, who split it into thin sheets, or
dressers. The latter were itinerant workers and were important to the
success of the company in producing the finished article.
Until the coming of the railways most slate was moved by local
shipping from small ports or on the canals. Slate barges even
travelled up and down Coniston Water and Windermere.
Dr David illustrated several quarries with excellent slides.
Quarries still form an important part of our former industrial
landscape and after this lecture our members will be enthused to
resume their survey of local quarries in Sedbergh and district in
Wednesday 19th October 2005
The Memorialisation of The Great War 1914-1925 by Ian
Every village, town and city has its own memorial commemorating those
who lost their lives in the two world wars.
Ian Lewis has been researching World War One memorials and in his
fascinating lecture and overhead slide show brought our attention to
the great diversity of memorials in South Cumbria. These ranged from
seats dedicated to specific people, trees planted in memory of local
soldiers and decorated mugs to the more conventional war memorials
found in local graveyards, which list those who fell ‘for King and
There was a feeling in 1914 that British ‘values’ were being eroded;
the war that broke out was thought of as a means of purifying and
cleansing the nation. Pressures for young men to join up were
considerable and initially most left their homes in euphoric mood
little dreaming of the horror and destruction that was to ensue.
Once the war ended, local people felt that a tangible form of
remembrance of their dead was the least they could do. Parish Councils
met to discuss how to raise the necessary money; this was not always
easy as unemployment was growing.
Amongst the different memorials were street shrines dedicated to those
who had lived in the neighbourhood, wooden crosses at road junctions,
lych and cemetery gates. Some buildings displayed Rolls of Honour,
many being beautifully decorated. Stained glass windows in churches
remembered officers and men from well-to-do families.
Members were able to supplement Mr Lewis’s list by suggesting Sedbergh,
Garsdale and Dent memorials with which he was not familiar.
Wednesday 5th October
The Sedbergh and
District History Society opened its 2005/6 season with
a lecture by Dr Peter McCue on “Ghostly Armies: an Examination of some
Over the centuries there have been numerous reports of people seeing
apparitional warriors, soldiers or armies. Dr McCue dealt with three
such cases the first happening at Edgehill, the site of the first
battle in the English Civil War, which was fought on 23rd October
1642. About two months later according to two tracts ‘A Great Wonder
in Heaven’ and ‘The New Years Wonder’, ghostly sounds and sights
related to the battle were experienced in the area on a number of
occasions. It was claimed that King Charles I sent people to
investigate the phenomena and they themselves saw the apparitions.
However, no documentary evidence supporting this has been found in the
The second case of a ghostly army was reported from Souter Fell near
Keswick. The army was allegedly seen on the eastern side of Souter
Fell on several occasions in the Eighteenth Century. They were
reported in ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ in 1747 and in a book by Clarke
in 1787. William Lancaster of Blake Hills and his household observed
the phenomena and he, at least, did exist dying in 1788 aged about 78.
The third case involved a phantom battle near Loch Ashie to the east
of Loch Ness. Sightings have been reported over the centuries
including some from the second half of the Twentieth Century. One
account reported the men as being dressed in ragged clothes with bare
feet and bare legs. They carried either short swords or sticks. Short
swords were used by the Picts and they may have been the warriors in
Finally Dr McCue mentioned an alleged sighting of a Danish or Viking
army in Dent. There was a reference to this in a book in the 1950’s.
It was reported as having been seen by the Middleton family but he had
not been able to confirm that. His lecture stimulated his audience to
ask him many questions and they provided him with information about
sightings in Dent and Souter Fell.
Dr McCue had given the society an excellent lecture on an unusual
Anniversary Exhibition 2005
The exhibition celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Sedbergh &
District History Society.
Displays, based on members’ research, highlighted particular people
and activities, but they also paid tribute to the people who stayed in
the dales and those who moved on to wider horizons. The exhibition
recognised the role that the lives and activities of local people
played in the evolution of our landscape and that the clocks did not
stop with the Industrial Revolution. The clocks tick here just as in
other cities and towns around the world.
The exhibition offered a small glimpse of past worlds. It did not tell
the whole story, or offer a chronological history lesson. It provided
snapshots to remind us that time does not stand still. Traces of the
earliest settlers, the Celtic tribes who named Dent and some of our
hills and rivers, and the Norse language, survive in many farm names.
Mills, quarries and other remains reveal our industrial heritage, and
together with roads and tracks, show the ebb and flow of economic
life. Documents, and photographs, illustrate the lives of the people.
It was pleasing that so many people found something of interest in the
exhibition. The archive was available to look through or for personal
research. The exhibition was adapted for each venue; for example in
Dent, the Parish Council kindly agreed that the Enclosure Award map
was available for display.
Thank you to all the people, too numerous to mention individually, who
helped to make the exhibition possible.