Saturday, 22 August 2015

A pair of clogs, a pair of stockings and two empty chairs at Loweswater School

On a previous publication on this site dated 5 March 2015 I explained how I researched  an event referred to by Wainwright in his walking guide books. As little information was available on this incident I visited Whitehaven Archives to research it and was successful. Whilst researching, there was one other incident that caught my attention and again refers to the Loweswater Valley. I will initially give some idea of the location as the terms are not overly familiar to anyone other than local people and even then a farmer I spoke to did not recognise the beck referred to. I am however more than satisfied that we are talking of the area in and around what is now generally referred to as Maggie's Bridge which is the National Trust car park for visitors to the Eastern end of Loweswater. We see here on the old map below, the key areas of the account, Stockbridge, Mill Hill and High Cross. The school referred to is not the one converted into the village hall, it was erected in 1839, 36 years after this event; it was what is now called Rose Cottage which lies a little lower down the hill toward Scale Hill direction and is off this map. Note there is no reference to Maggie's Bridge, just Stock Bridge which I believe is a separate one and leads to Mill Hill.

Old map showing Mill Hill, High Cross and Stockbridge.
For a story over two hundred years old the writer could embelish the tale to try and add something to make the account touch the emotion of the reader. There was however an eyewitness to the events of that day and his account, given here in full with (hopefully) just one undecipherable legal word, requires no such writers embelishment:

'John Head of High Cross in the County of Cumberland Esq. being Sworn and examined **** & siath that yesterday morning about eleven o'clock he was crossing the Rivulet called Stock Beck in Loweswater on horse back it was then swollen with the rain which had fallen the night before and the water ran over the top of a foot bridge across this Beck a little but not so deep as it has at some other times that he passed by a pair of clog shoes and stockings laying on the North End of the Bridge and he went forwards to Thomas Clarkes house at Mill Hill about 200 or 300 yards from the South side of the Rivulet and there informed the family that he had seen the clogs and stockings & enquired if any of the children had gone over when he was informed that Jane and Isabella Clark two infants the former 9 years of age and the other about 6 years of age had gone to the school which is at Rose Bank on the North side of the Rivulet and he went to the school aforesaid to enquire if the children were there but they had not been at school that day on which a suspicion arose in his examinant mind that the children aforesaid had fallen into the Rivulet and  a search was immediately made in the Rivulet & the Bodies of both these infants were found in the Rivulet below the Bridge Dead that means to restore animation were used but without effect as the accident had happened more than two hours before as he computes & the Limbs and joints of both the Bodies were stiff before they were taken out of the water

John Head

The above is a witness statement dated 26 November 1806 and was attached to the inquest document of Jane Clark(e). Both inquests were heard by the Coroner Thomas Benson with a 12 man jury drawn from the locality, at the Clark family home Mill Hill, Loweswater, the tragedy occurring on 25 November 1806. A summary of both inquests is that they died 'casually accidentally & by misfortune' - in modern terms a verdict of Accidental Death.

The entry in the Loweswater Parish Burial Register,
The burial Register entry above reads:

'Jane and Isabella Daughters of Thomas Clarke of Mill Hill Labourer they were Drowned in Stock Beck on the 25th November and Buried 27th

It is a terrible event to read in such eye witnessed detail but when you can remove yourself from the emotion, particularly being a parent oneself, you can see an insight into the lives lived by people in those days. Checking on modern mapping systems the distance from the house at Mill Hill to the crossing is approaching 500 metres and the total distance to the school was 1.4 kilometres, just short of a mile.

Rose Cottage, the former Rose Bank school the Clarke sisters attended.
Following my interest on the Crabtree Beck article I passed on the detail to the 'Lorton & Derwent Fells Local History Society' who referred to it in their most recent newsletter. I have since checked through their previous journals and it appears that John Head, the discoverer of the clogs, stockings and then sadly two bodies, was the owner of Mill Hill (though he lived at High Cross), inheriting it from his father in 1789. The first paragraph of  'In Search of Loweswater’s Corn Mill' on page 10 of number 46 of the journals refers to Mr Head and Stock Bridge being near Maggie's Bridge.

The link above is the reference to this article and these journals are very informative on the Lorton and Derwent Fells history.

Stock Bridge is itself on private land, as is Mill Hill. This Mill I understand to be a ruin or is now just one barn following a fire and I was told locally that the stone was used to build further on High Cross.
 I managed to view what I believe is the Stock Bridge; if I am correct then it is a substantial structure, though it appears to have no sides. If this was the bridge at the time then the water must have been at some height and according to John Head, historically and within his personal experience, it was known to have been higher. Certainly the bridge I viewed was on the track to Mill Hill, though perhaps it was raised after the tragedy?

We were not there so do not know the full detail of the terrible chain of events that led to the tragedy but with the evidence of only one pair of clogs and one pair of stockings being found by the bridge it seems reasonable to speculate that one daughter, most likely the younger Isabella, got into difficulty and was taken by the current. Jane being the older would feel that sense of duty to her younger sister and remove her clogs and stockings (no doubt valuable commodities to a labouring family) and try and get Isabella to safety, but she herself would also be taken by the current and cold November flood waters. Perhaps it was the other way around, but there appears little doubt one tried to rescue the other but failed, with a double tragedy for the Clarke family.

Walk the tranquil valley, go up onto Melbreak, Hen Comb, Carling Knott or Low Fell and cast an eye down to the tranquil valley below, Crabtree Beck and Stock Bridge show it wasn't always so.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wordsworth's Hart Leap Well; Richmond North Yorkshire.

This will perhaps be seen as a deviation from my normal walking area and in fairness, this was not to be a walking weekend away from the lakes. It was a trip to split a journey to Nottinghamshire and spend a few days away in my recently acquired caravan (straight admission, I am now a caravanner!). We parked near Scotch corner in the Caravan Club Park, this being North Yorkshire, but those that know me will know the lakes are never from my thoughts. For a number of years I was aware of a journey Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy took through Richmond towards Askrigg and on through Wensleydale on their journey to Grasmere and home at Dove Cottage.
Five miles out of Richmond on the Barden Fell Road they passed a location and three stones that caught his eye. On speaking to a local Shepherd he was made aware of the story or local legend to this location, that being Hart Leap Well.
The poem is 45 verses long, each of four lines and the poem is in two distinct parts. The first tells the tale of Sir Walter as he chases a magnificent Hart all day wearing out the other hunters, the dogs and three horses. The Hart eventually succumbs and is killed at this location, Sir Walter honouring it through:

'Three several pillars, each a rough hewn stone,
And planted where thy hoofs the turf have graz’d.'

He also erects an arbour and honoured the Hart and the pursuit it gave him until eventually he himself died and was buried in the Vale.
If this seems too gruesome or distressing a topic for some, it is well worth the read as the second part is Wordsworth's finding of this place on his journey with Dorothy across this moor, heading to Wensleydale. In the second part of the poem Wordsworth describes how he found the place and speaking with a local Shepherd is told the legend, that is this first part. He then goes on to describe the landscape and how Nature itself remembers the events of that fateful day:

'I look’d upon the hills both far and near;
More doleful place did never eye survey;'

It must be considered by the reader that anti blood sports is not a new phenomena of 20th or 21st century, but has roots also in the Romanticism period that Wordsworth was a leading light in. He continues to discuss with the Shepherd the air that now exists in this place and I will leave it to the reader to gain fully through that reading of the poem, the full sense of what he felt and how it moved him. The final verse is worth the publishing here as it digs right into the soul of the anti hunt movement:

'One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she shews, and what conceals,
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.'
The 'she' being 'Nature' herself, or at least is my interpretation. Below is the link to the poem:

I went across to Richmond about 10 years ago to try and locate this site but incorrectly took the Swaledale Valley and found three pillars toward the river Swale, although they looked too new for Wordsworth's time. I now know it was not them and the six figure map reference for the well is SE135965. We went on  a cold wet very drab day and initially I was very disappointed with the weather, yet considering the way in which Wordsworth describes it on his passing it now seems the most appropriate weather for it. Nothing now remains of the well or the scene as the poet found it; Richmond being an army town with Catterick Base nearby, this is a tank training area.

 I include below the photographs I took.

Looking South East to the entry to the training area and the top of Barden Fell. The Road to the left is to Richmond, to the right Askrigg.
The concrete area viewed above, possibly the drain had something of the location of the well?

The view to the right

Turning round and looking across Swaledale

The view of the road as Wordsworth journeyed toward the well, note the abandoned tank on the fell top.
I do believe I found the scene more desolate than even Wordsworth did; it would appear Nature still hasn't forgot the day of the hunt.

It seems strange to me that the people of North Yorkshire and especially those of Richmond have not in some way marked this location as the scene of a poem which is from the father of Romanticism, even at the Tourist Information centre, now in Richmond Library, the people were unaware of it's location nor had any knowledge of it, though in fairness it is run by volunteers now, as I am led to believe. Somewhere on the internet I would have thought some local person/historian would have made this place memorable, but there is very little except for writers of a bygone era. For a much researched poem, having discussion pages to it's name, pouring over each lines very meaning, nothing notes it in the landscape, nor is it shown on the OS 1:25000 Explorer map. It is referred to in a book by Edna Whelan 'Holy Wells of Yorkshire' with the map reference given, so it is there.

Nothing remains of the well or the features Wordsworth found, but that does not mean it should be forgotten. I don't live in Richmond or North Yorkshire so I hope some resident in the reading of this, will pick up the baton and run with it until a more permanent reference is made at the side of the road and in local literature.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Wad Mines of Seathwaite, Borrowdale.

Seathwaite has been my default starting point when setting off for a fell walk giving access to the iconic high fells of Scafell Pike, Great End, the Glaramara Ridge, or Great Gable. You can also access Kirk Fell or the Langdale Valley, so there is variety from this relatively easy location for me to reach and a certainty for free parking, whatever the time of year, if you get there relatively early. Though for all I've walked the area, it has only been these last couple of years that I have visited the spoil heaps that are layered like steps, up the right hand side of Sourmilk Gill/Gillercomb. These are the Wad/Black Cawke or Plumbago Mines, that were the birth of the world famous Keswick Pencil Factory, though Wad had it's many uses with respect to moulding, casting dyes and weaponry. Napoleon was not a happy man when deprived of this source, the best quality Wad in the world. Wad, graphite is one of the best dry lubricants and in a previous occupation in the foundry industry it was used in the moulding process. If ever you coated your hands in 'plumbago' it was impossible to retain your grip on anything.

Although taken from a different aspect, you can make out the spoil heaps, layered up the fell.
While at the base of the fell you are also not too far away from 'The Fraternal Four of Borrowdale', the yews mentioned after the Lorton Yew in Wordsworth's Poem 'Yew Trees', though that is for another write up one day.

The Wad (Plumbago) Mines

This is a good alternative route onto Green Gable via Grey Knotts and Brandreth, making a change from the more usual Gillercomb hanging valley route. You will see the first spoil heap jutting out, covered in grass between the trees and wall and is known as Robson's Stage. Rising higher toward the grey spoil heaps you come to Gilbert's stage with the John Banks marker stone to it's left.

John Banks
Efquier 175(2)

Many mistakenly think of this (there were originally 5) as a memorial stone yet it is a boundary marker. Due to robberies at the mine and pilfering of this very expensive material, an Act of Parliament was passed making it a specific offence to steal Wad with a maximum penalty of 7 years deportation.

The relationship of the marker with the Gilbert's Stage
To carry on up the fell you pass other stages, crossing the top fell wall via the steps, reaching a number of other levels before moving on to Grey Knotts. There is however one further marker that seems to have eluded people. I found this coming at the mine from the other direction, down from Grey Knotts.

John Sheperd
Note the same date yet alternative spelling, clearly not done by the same carver. Sheperd was another owner of a level. Having found this stone I began to take an interest in the Wad Mines and bought the book 'Seathwaite Wad' by Ian Tyler. This gives a very in depth history of the mines and well worth a read. For those not wishing to miss this marker, (referring to a map and not a GPS) the reference will be NY229128. It is basically at the 'T' junction of the vertical and horizontal walls to the left of the mines, then 50 yards (or metres) straight up towards Raven Crag. You can see a small pool on the OS maps.

The Sheperd marker with the pool, the higher Wad Stages just beyond the boulder and Dale Head in snow.
As can be seen, this is very fragile, being there for over 260 years and clearly should not be touched.

Wad/Black Cawke/Plumbago.

Above is a sample I picked up off the spoil heaps.

NOTE OF CAUTION - These mines are open and marked with 'deep excavation' yellow warning markers.

From the Sheperd marker stone it is easy to swing round to the right and find a safe route onto Grey Knotts, leading to Brandeth and then Green Gable. At the summit look out for the Avro Anson crash site near here. You can see the impact scar in the rough direction of Styhead Tarn (though more information about this again, I intend another write-up). Now it is simply a question of deciding if you head for Base Brown/Gillercomb, or onto Great Gable. Whatever you choose, all the best, I hope the weather remains fine and you have a little more knowledge on a very important historical industry that helped shape Keswick's name as the manufacturing centre of the world famous Keswick Pencil.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI SL611 (Ill Crag) & De Havilland Dominie X7394/'Merlin V' (Broad Crag)

I have walked from Seathwaite on hundreds of occasions now over the last 12 years and as time passed I became increasingly aware of the aircraft crash sites in the area and set about to visit these and others in Lakeland. This Supermarine Spitfire has evaded me in the past, attempting to search it out on three previous occasions (once forgetting my maps, compass and GPS and others by rain/cloud and snow). I was adamant on this occasion to locate it and then move on to the De Havilland on Broad Crag. The route up Grains Gill was uneventful on this warm clear day, eventually turning to Esk Hause below Great End and then taking the path that comes out above the Hause.

The view south from Esk Hause to Harter Fell.
The path to Ill Crag, Great End now on the right.
 From here it is a right turn for Ill Crag and Scafell Pike, however once up the steeper 'Fix the Fells' stepped path and onto the boulder field, it is here you need to head over to the left and begin to descend to map reference NY225077 which is a drop off of approximately 50 metres. Try and do this in the dry weather as it is a scree slope, you may begin to find debris on the scree yet the impact scar and main remnants are against a rock face, though there is not much left.

Beginning the descent, Esk Pike in the near distance.

I think she's spotted something!

The wreckage in relation to Esk Pike, note the square on the rock-face, the plaque.

The plaque

***LY LOST HIS LIFE 20 11 47

This is a view of the impact site, looking towards Ill Crag.
 F/Lt Donald James Ott Loudon (25yrs of age) was an instructor who was en route to Turnhouse (now Edinburgh airport) when he struck Ill Crag on Scafell Massif. When he didn't arrive a search was mounted but scaled down after a few days. The Spitfire and his remains were eventually found by a shepherd boy on 1 May 1948, a time gap of 163 days. He is buried at Halton (St. Michael) Churchyard, which I believe is Cheshire.


From here I moved back up to the Scafell Pike path that skirts the south of Broad Crags. I would advise not doing this as the route and instead visiting this site by either dropping down between Great End and Broad Crags, or if visiting this only, approaching from The Corridor route to Scafell Pike and branching off at Greta Gill, south of Round How. To come over the top of Broad Crags exposes a person to cliff faces and at least one deep gulley. I was beginning to think this was actually up on the cliffs, but I sighted one of the engines on a relatively flat grassy section and then spotted the other further below and to the east. 

Impact scar, Great Gable beyond.

If you head for map reference NY217007 and look towards Great Gable, you should see both of the engines.

The higher engine.

Debris previously gathered and secured behind nearby rocks.
Looking to Styhead Tarn and the lower engine

The lower engine, Hollydog giving a scale.
This plane was acting as an air ambulance, of Royal Navy in Fife. It was transporting a seriously ill patient to Rochester on 30 August 1946 when it struck the mountain on the Scafell Massif, killing all five occupants including the surgeon. Like most of the crashes in the lakes it was attributed to bad weather and having to come down to get under the cloud to get a fix on location; no doubt they wrongly believed themselves clear of a mountainous area.

Sub Lt. Sydney Kenneth Kilsby Pilot (24) - Buried Dunfirmline
CPOA (Chief Petty Officer Airman) Harold John Clark (25) - Cremated South London
Cdr Surgeon William Tudor Gwynne -Jones (54) - Buried Plymouth
Sick Birth Attendant Leslie Howard Watkinson (19) - Owston (All Saints) Churchyard
Commissioned Ward Master Charles Robert Allwright DSM (The patient) (61) - Buried Dunfirmline (Douglas Bank) Cemetery

Sadly the mercy run to save a seriously ill patient ended in tragedy for all on board. Thousands walk The Corridor route to Scafell Pike and never know what they are passing.