Friday, 18 December 2015

The disappearance of Edward Barnard in The Lakes

In Victorian times the allure of the high volcanic fells of the English Lakes was drawing in a new breed of people which were not eeking a hard living from the mines, quarries fell sheep that the area was renowned for. This new breed of people were the tourists, drawn by the printed articles and guide books of the day and also the verses of the Lake Poets, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey. These initial tourists were not the working classes, but middle class or rich industrialists who could afford to take rooms in the area for the whole of the family, in the hotels that burgeoned to readily receive their money for board and meals. This was the Lakes Tour, on a par with the European Tour that these classes had formerly journeyed on. They would stay at times for weeks and take in the whole experience of the above mentioned guide books and the sights that moved the three great poets.

On the 13th August 1876 Mr Edward Barnard, a jeweller of Angel Street, London, left his wife  and daughter in Keswick to travel to Rossthwaite where he would stay one night, then take a circuit route encompassing Wasdale Head as its extreme outward point. On 14th he duly set off from  Rossthwaite with the intention of walking over Styhead Pass, then on to Mr Will Ritson's Wasdale Head Inn where he would take a meal. From here the intention was to head through Mosedale and over Black Sail Pass, into the Ennerdale Valley and over Gough Pass (known to us as Scarth Gap Pass), and then into the Buttermere Valley. This was a well known tour for Victorian gentlemen, as other walks are renowned in this modern age.

The journey through Borrowdale from Rossthwaite would take him past the 'Fraternal Four of Borrowdale', eulogised by Wordsworth in his Yew Trees poem, which are opposite Seathwaite Farm. Here he would also pass the famous Borrowdale Wad Mines, the most expensive material ever to be mined in Lakeland. Once through the farm he would cross the iconic pack horse bridge of Stockley Bridge, before ascending the steep section onto the route along Styhead Gill and its namesake tarn, before the descent to Ritson's at the head of Wasdale.

Walkers on the approach to Stockley Bridge from Seathwaite Farm.
 Edward Barnard had by this time covered a distance of seven and a half miles and five hundred yards ascent, not a huge walk, but a descent one, especially for a man who would, in all probability not be 'fell fit' and at this time he was in his fiftieth year. Had he walked to Gatesgarth Farm he would have covered thirteen miles, with twelve hundred and fifty yards total ascent.
 He stopped at Wasdale Head for a meal and he then sought the advice of Will Ritson on his best route to Buttermere; was informed to head over Black Sail, into Ennerdale and over the next range into Buttermere. Mr Barnard made half a jest that he would be likely to lose himself and then set off, heading to Black Sail. This turned out to be prophetic as he was seen by two tourists to be making his way up to Black Sail and was never seen alive again.

Wasdale Head Inn/Hotel owned by Will Ritson in 1876
It is unclear how his disappearance was first reported but if became obvious that he had not returned to his wife and daughter at Keswick and a search of his route and the surrounding area was commenced on Thursday 17th August.  His brother Walter, along with other relatives, travelled up to Cumberland, believed to have arrived on Friday 18th to assist in the search of the area. They were aided by other tourists and eight to ten professional guides of the area. They were also assisted by Henry Irwin Jenkinson, the renowned author of  'Jenkinson's Practical Guide to the English Lake District' (ISBN 1298673577, 9781298673572) the book was published in 1875. Jenkinson was thought at the time to have the best knowledge of the English Lakes that any one man could possess. The search for Mr Barnard was unsuccessful and it is a measure of his families concern that a reward was offered to any person finding him of £100 alive, or £50 if found deceased. The failure to discover him must have caused great consternation to the family and searchers, as his direction and destination were both known. It was valley routes and passes that he was following and although not worn to the extent that they are in this modern age, they were much travelled pack horse routes and therefore relatively easy to follow.

Mosedale Valley, Wasdale Head, Black Sail Pass branches off to the left of shot.

Kirk Fell and the head of Black Sail Pass, viewed from Looking Stead route to Pillar.
It was such an extensive search over this accepted route that when he was not found, speculation arose that he had absconded, perhaps through a business or family complication. This caused such concern to the family that they responded to it utterly refuting both lines of speculation, asserting that both his business interests and family life were beyond reproach.
The Bishop of Gloucester was holidaying at Wasdale Head and himself was reporting updates on the search for Mr Barnard. It had been speculated by the searchers that he had either missed the track when in Mosedale itself or had missed it in Ennerdale. Had the former been correct they further speculated that he would have gone up the steep Scree to Windy Gap (now referred to as Wind Gap between Pillar and Scoat Fell and not to be mistaken for the Great and Green Gable Windy Gap), this would put him at risk to the steep screes of Steeple on a descent, but was a calculated area to search. Two other walkers that week had made this navigation error in poor visibility, but had the sense to turn back, knowing they had somehow erred. Had he made Ennerdale it was again speculated that he may have incorrectly taken the Loft Beck, Seavy Knott route to Black Beck Tarn, descending the precipitous rocks below Haystacks and Green Crag. This was perplexing for the family and searchers as it gives a very large search area to cover. They were struggling for a lead and hung on any find that may be related to Mr Barnard. One was a packet of sandwiches found wrapped in a Newcastle Daily Chronicle dated 10th August, which was located two thirds the way down the Steeple ridge. He had links to Newcastle so this seemed worthy of a concerted effort in that region. His cousin James F. Barnard had been relentlessly looking since 18th August and reiterated to the Bishop that Edward was still to be found in the mountains and has not absconded.  By Tuesday 29th August his family were giving up hope of him being found alive; Walter and his entourage making their way back to London. If he was going to be found, it would appear he would be found dead. His disappearance was now well known to all walkers and even the finding of American money 'Greenbacks', at Scarth Gap was brought to the attention of the searchers, but that would have put him on the safest leg of his venture.

The mounded grassy top of Looking Stead and its cairn, from the Pillar side.
The searches however did not end and on Sunday 10 September, a party consisting of three local miners, two shepherds and a farmer, was once again checking the area of Black Sail Pass and Pillar. Their search had proved fruitless and they were just about to abandon the days efforts when at around 1:30pm they found a body of a man on a smooth grassy mound, broken only by a large stone, at Looking Stead, near Pillar; it was Edward Barnard. Although after a period of one month, the body was in a state of decomposition, it could be seen that he appeared to have laid down and was in a natural pose, his head resting on his hand. There were no broken bones and with the exception of a torn trouser leg where an animal had appeared to have worried the body, his clothing was unmarked. He was identified by the ring on his finger and his engraved watch; he had a guide book which was in his pocket. A ladder was brought to the scene to act as a stretcher to assist in conveying the body, it was now covered, and so transported over Gough Pass (Scarth Gap) to Gatesgarth Farm in Buttermere, where the inquest would be held on Tuesday 12th.

The view across Ennerdale from Looking Stead, Gough or Scarth Gap Pass to to the far right of shot.
In the evening Mr Jenkinson, accompanied by Dr Knight, attended Gatesgarth to view the body; it was Dr Knight's medical view that death was natural and sudden. The inquest took place on Tuesday where evidence was given by Mr Thomas Carney, one of the miners in the search party that found the body. It was stated that the it was found approximately 600 yards from the path of Black Sail, in the direction of Pillar(Looking Stead summit is 750 yards from the path, so it was a reasonable approximation). Also in attendance was Will Ritson, of Wasdale Head, who, after feeding Mr Barnard, had given him directions to Black Sail. He went on to say that Mr Barnard had looked weak and did not seem a good walker. Evidence of identification was given by his brother Walter and cousin Faraday Barnard. The jury reached a verdict of 'death by natural causes'.
 Following the inquest at Gatesgarth Farm, the body was conveyed to London by the family, for burial at Highgate Cemetery on 13th September. It was the intention of the family to erect a bronze statue to mark the spot of his demise, yet one was never erected but a cairn was believed to have replaced it; Barnard's Cairn.
For the completion of this article it would be good to have a photograph both of the cairn on the summit of Looking Stead and a further one of Barnard's grave in Highgate Cemetery. It would be interesting to see any inscription that may be contained upon it. The first is beyond me at present through a temporary infirmity, though the spring may mean I will be returning to Pillar. The second is just impractical being over 300 miles distance away. Any assistance that anyone out there can offer with the latter would be greatly appreciated; that said, it is not essential to the tale.
Correction. (20.01.16)

Following further information from Jim Egan(who I am indebted to), with reference to Barnard's Cairn location and with the continuing improvement of my foot following an operation (the infirmity referred to above), I decided to try to locate and photograph the cairn. It is not the one on the actual summit of Looking Stead and one report had Edward Barnard going past Looking Stead, on his journey to Gatesgarth, Buttermere. My wife and I parked up at Gatesgarth car park, near the farm where the inquest was held and head over Gatesgarth Pass, into Ennerdale, in effect, the reverse of his unfinished route. I was hoping to pick out the cairn on the hillside below Looking Stead but that proved an impossibility at a distance. 

Gatesgarth Farm, Buttermere where the inquest was held and the intended destination of E. Barnard's walk.
The lower hillside of Looking Stead and Pillar had been forested, but in recent years it was cleared. The area was a torment to get though but I had a rough idea of where the cairn was. Through Green Cove there is a beck (or Ghyll) that runs down the hillside and there is an area of replanting of trees that is fenced off to keep livestack and deer out. The cairn can be located at map reference (10 figure) NY18472/12368 or at a normal six figure reference NY185124. The height is at 292m, so not that high and there is a forest track below it. Be careful! it is old decayed fir tree branches, so the description of a grassy mound no longer accurately describes the location. As for the deer fence, it is high, but the bottom left corner is totally flat to the floor, so no damage is caused accessing the cairn from here. 

The Cairn, viewed looking down the Ennerdale Valley, High Stile range in view.

Looking up the valley, L to R, Haystacks, Brandreth, Green, Gable, Windy Gap and Great Gable.

Looking across the Gatesgarth Pass and Haystacks

The higher plaque

The lower information plaque

Looking up to Green Cove, the 'shortcut' taken by Edward Barnard.

Heading back over Gatesgarth Pass and looking back.
The last photograph shows a curved line, lowering from above centre left to centre middle. There is then a break and the line then appears to continue straight, to the right, dropping slightly. In the break you can just make out a 'pimple' just below the break; that is Edward Barnard's cairn for those without GPS. There had originally been a cross of marker sticks in the top but it was known that sadly, this was lost. It marked the way to the passes. 
Only the headstone to finish the story off and perhaps, just a chance of a contact from descendants?



  1. Hi Raymond,
    In order to find the grave in Highgate Cemetery you will need to do a search - see
    If you find where the grave is I am happy to go along and take photographs etc for you.

    1. Thanks Jim. I did see this but at £40 that is beyond my interest level. One if I am in London I may go round. If ever you need any lakes advice, give me a shout.

    2. It looks like his aunt (Sarah) was married to Michael Faraday ( who are both buried in the dissenters (Sandemanian) plot in the west cemetery. I would guess that Edward is buried in the same place as the non-conformism seems to have come from his grandfather ( who he was living with at the time of the 1851 census (

    3. Re: the cairn - see and the various links at the bottom of that page.

    4. Jim, Thanks for this. One repoort suggested him passing Looking Stead, another seemed to have him on it. This helps and I should be able to find it and get photos and a map reference. I will then update, though busy getting over a foot op. at the moment, so will be in the spring.

    5. I managed to get along to Highgate Cemetery yesterday but was told that the Sandemanian area was off-limits due to the wet weather. It is on a muddy slope which is very slippery and access is not likely till the summer months.

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    7. Jim, it would be brilliant if you could tidy up the end of the story. My foot is improving and when I get a better bout of weather I will find the cairn to photograph.

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