Sunday, 18 August 2019

The Story of the Tadorne Rescue, between Craster and Boulmer, Northumberland Coast on 29th March 1913

Normally I would write about Cumbrian Lakeland issues, although every once in a while, particularly when holidaying in 'Foreign Fields', on this occasion the Northumberland coast, a story comes to light that deserves fully telling. There is a Northumbrian local book for those wishing to purchase called: The wreck of the Tadorne', published by Howick Heritage Group. I stress I have not read this and for any further reading on the subject it may well be worth a buy. I suspect it contains some extra detail, as this account will have material not covered by the book. I hope having read the account, you will be moved to donate the next time you pass a lifeboat station (RNLI or volunteer group, it matters not), or see a donation box in a coastal village or town pub etc.

Painting depicting the Tadorne Rescue by the Boulmer lifeboat, the Arthur R. Dawes, of the self-righting Rubie Type.

On Saturday 29th March 1913 a dense fog settled across the Northumberland coast. A French Trawler called The Tadorne (Sheldrake or Shelduck) from Boulogne, with a crew of 30 men, was bound for the Icelandic fishing grounds and was passing through this fog in the early hours when it was driven onto Howick Haven rocks, off Howick Sea Houses, approximately a mile south of Craster Harbour. The ship itself was relatively new, built in 1905 at Mackie & Thomson & Co., Glasgow and was 150 feet long. It was initially reported in the local papers that the tide was low but due to the waves, the man could not get to the safety of the shore.  At the time of hitting the rocks the ship was close to land, it being low tide so had the weather been calmer the shore could have been reached. A distress rocket was fired by the crew and the rocket brigade from Craster responded. On arrival the brigade managed to fire a rocket across to the ship, but the sailors were so cold and exhausted from the exposure to the March winter  they were unable to secure the line to the vessel. No men were able to be rescued by this method. Earl Grey of nearby Howick Hall attended with his Countess, his daughter and her husband. It was reported in the papers that he sent a messenger in his motorcar to seek help from the Boulmer lifeboatmen, Boulmer being two miles south of the tragic scene. The lifeboat eventually attended, under the command of coxswain William Stephenson. They found a scene of huge waves dashing furiously over the ship, with the crew having taken to the rigging and lashing themselves to it to avoid the crashing waves. It was further reported that two men perished there purely from the exposure. The shoreline was crowded with local people wishing to help, but unable to offer any assistance, despite the desperate cries for help from the crew of the stricken vessel. The tide had by now risen and the force of the crashing waves had now split the vessel amidships.
The newspapers erroneously reported that four men had now desperately tried to swim ashore and believed one had made it, no doubt gaining uncorroborated accounts from people helplessly watching the terrible spectacle.
The Boulmer lifeboat in its Herculean attempt managed to get the remaining 25 off the broken ship in two batches. Following the transfer they went to Boulmer, returning for their second human cargo. On this return they managed to retrieve one of the crewman from the water who had earlier attempted to make the shoreline by swimming. They attempted resuscitation, but were unsuccessful. 
When the rescue was concluded and all that was left was a broken ship, the dead could be identified. They were later shown to be, Jean Guilbert, born 29 November 1859; Louis Joseph Dugueonoy, born 14 March 1865; Pierre Archenoux, born 15 October 1871; Francois Nouvel, born 22 March 1867; and Emile Duval Gournay, born 17 September 1897.

Earl Grey was moved by the predicament of the trawlermen that he donated £16 to the Lloyds Agent to assist in their care. A concert had been given at Copley Hall and Countess Grey suggested that the proceeds of it also be donated to the suffering men.

On the same night a Swedish barque called the Jacob Rauers from Gothenburg was heading to Grangemouth when it also struck rocks at Marshall Meadows near Berwick, the captain and all the crew were fortunately saved, although the barque itself was lost to the sea.

The inquest took place at Copley Hall, Howick, on Monday 31st March. None of the surviving crew could speak English so Mdlle. Boutet, a French Maid of Countess Grey, translated the fluent evocative French accounts of the captain and his remaining crew into a broken but legible account that the jury could understand.  Much of the circumstances were still assumptions, due to the meagre evidence, but certain parts of the initial reported accounts could be corrected, such as the apparent four that had tried to swim to safety. It was now clear only one man in his boots had attempted the feat, through a belief he was to die on the vessel through exposure; still he died due to the fatal decision. The others had at various stages fallen into the water through pure exhaustion and exposure, no longer able to clasp the rigging that hung between them and the waves swirling and crashing around them.
Captain Eugene Fortain was the first to give his evidence and said they had sailed from Boulogne on 27th March to fish in the waters off Iceland. They had immediately been engulfed by fog. On the fateful night he had known he was off the coast of England, but believed he was 20 miles further out to sea. Only when the fog cleared a little did he realise his predicament, with a fast flowing current taking the Tadorne to the rocks. The crew immediately climbed the rigging and lashed themselves to it to prevent being thrown into the sea. Both he and the engineer fired the distress flares at 04:30hrs. It was 06:30hrs before the rocket apparatus arrived, but only one made it across the ship and by that time he confirmed the crew were too exhausted to attach the line. Archenoux had now become so numbed he fell from the rigging into the water. The 16 year old Duvel feared the same fate and took an ill-fated decision to try and swim to the shore, still with his boots on; both were drowned. Captain Fortain witnessed no further deaths and was then stood down from the inquest.
Next to give his account was Coxswain Stephenson of the Boulmer lifeboat who was impressive in the detailed yet succinct way he gave his evidence. He stated he received the signal at 06:05hrs, and said it had come from the Coastguard station; they landed at the wreck at 07:45hrs. He took 22 men off the ship and landed them at Boulmer, although one succumbed to the cold and died before they arrived at shore. They returned for the others but now there were only three and he told the inquest that two had fallen from the rigging through exhaustion, into the water, before they arrived for the second extraction. The three that they gathered on this occasion were landed at Howick Haven.
Henry Bean was the Craster coastguard and the then told the inquest that he had heard sirens at 04:30hrs. He dimly made out a stricken ship 100 yards off shore. After shouting words of encouragement to the crew he sent a messenger to the coastguard station on a bicycle, himself following him on foot. Once there he telephoned Boulmer and asked the fishermen of the village to launch and rescue the ship's crew.
This then concluded the evidence, which had now corrected some of the well meaning, yet erroneous earlier reports in the papers. The coroner summed up and expressed an opinion that he hoped the jury would share. He went on to state that although not their fellow countrymen, great sympathy was felt to the men of the Tadorne who had lost their lives. He also expressed his great appreciation of the crew of the Boulmer Lifeboat. The jury passed a verdict of Accidental Drowning and concurred fully with the coroner, adding that they hoped recognition would follow from more influential quarters.
Other accounts later showed the Mr. Thompson, a farmer of Howick Sea Houses, supplied sandwiches to the lifeboat crew, rocket brigade and the saved sailors. The crew were then forwarded to the sailors home at Newcastle to aid their recovery. Only the captain remained in the area, to give a full account to the Berwick Journal, and remained over the weekend as a guest of the Mayor. 

Tragic as the sinking of the Tadorne was, the practicality of it, and the equipment it carried, had to be dealt with. The Tadorne was now the property of the Lloyds agent, Alderman Adam Logan (the mayor of Berwick), and as early as 5th April an advert was placed in the papers where a public auction was to be held at Howick Burn. It was later sold to a Mr. Reid of Tynemouth for between £70 and £80.

Lifeboatman take to the dangerous waters to save fellow souls at risk to the raging seas, and they expect nothing in return; the knowledge that they have attempted, or have saved a life is satisfaction enough. If there is any other reason it is perhaps that others have, or would, assist them in a similar hour of need, for all men of the sea are kin to each other when disaster beckons, irrespective of national boundaries. Such feats of heroism could not however go unrecognised by society. In early April 1913 a meeting of the Committee of Management of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was presided over by Earl Waldegrave. The silver medal of that institution, accompanied by a Vote of Thanks on vellum, was bestowed on coxswain William Stephenson, along with an additional monetary grant. Additional rewards were also given to the lifeboat crew in recognition of their gallant conduct that day.
At the same meeting the coxswain and crew of the Berwick lifeboat were similarly honoured for their saving of the barque crew, with a doctor and five soldiers on land who had assisted also being recognised and rewarded.

In the second week of April five coffins had been quickly prepared in the villages of Longframlington, Embleton and Craster. They were taken to The Boat House where the five dead trawlermen were placed inside these casks which were then sealed before being placed in a cart for transport to the final resting place. On a day of rain, Father Verity Young, of Saint Mary's Catholic Church at Alnwick, met the funeral cortege at the village Church of England graveyard of St. Michael's Church, Howick. Present also were Countess Grey, representing the Earl(who was away from the area), and the French Consul, Mr. R Enguehard. Also present was the master of the stricken vessel, Captain Fortain, paying his final duty to the men who had been under his command. Snowdrops and daffodils blanketed the graveyard as the men were laid in their final resting place. Although it was in a foreign land to their native France, the homage paid by the hundreds of local fishermen and women of the North East coast was no less a measure of that which they would have received in their homeland.
The French people and government were also eternally grateful to the brave lifeboat crew who rescued 25 of their fellow countrymen. At Boulmer on 14th April 1914, the French Consul Baron de Balabre publicly presented French Government awards to the crew.  Awards from a private French Society called the 'Societe des Hospitaliers Sauveteurs Bretons' had been presented following the shipwreck. Now he said that he had been awaiting on awards from the French Government itself, which he had recommended in numerous letters and were now in his possession. The Government awards were presented, these being a gold medal for the Coxswain and a purse of gold to be distributed amongst the crew members. The proceedings were presided over by Sir Francis Walker, the agent to the Duke of Northumberland, who took a keen interest in the work of the lifeboats. Coxswain Stephenson accepted the award with great humility, saying he and his crew had only done their duty and would continue to do so in response to any call of the distressed. He was roundly applauded. 
A vote of thanks was then expressed to the French Consul and the hope was that the present Entente Cordiale may in time move to be an Alliance. The Consul then expressed his great satisfaction  at the good relations that now existed between the two nations. The meeting then closed.

The crew of the lifeboat who were honoured at the ceremony were: William Stephenson, coxswain; James Stanton, second coxswain; Edward Stephenson, bowman; Mathew Turner, signalman; George Stanton, Robert Holland, Robert Mason, James Dent, Jas Straker, William Stephenson, Robert Stephenson, William Wood, William Wood the second, John Mason, Isaac Gair, Edward Stanton, John Edward Stanton, James Campbell, Andrew Stanton, John William Stephenson, John Stanton and Mathew Stanton. Two further members, John Simm and William Gair had since died. 
The second coxswain, James Stanton died aged 60 years and was buried at Longhoughton on 20th April 1916, well attended by local people and the Boulmer lifeboat crew. He had been the steward of the primitive Methodist Chapel of the area. 


On 19th August 1925 the Boulmer lifeboat was to celebrate its centenary. There had been five vessels used over those 100 years. Two had been unnamed, but the first had been built under the superintendence of the president of the Newcastle Shipwreck Association. It had served for 27 years and had cost £150; it was built by boat builder William Blake of Sunderland. The second had been built at the expense of the Duke of Northumberland, the President of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. It was actually the greatly modified first boat, that had been taken to London for alteration and returned to Shields on 4th October 1853 for further transport to Boulmer, though there was still some criticism by the pilots of the beam being too narrow. The third was called the Robin Hood of Nottingham, £252 towards her cost having been collected in Nottingham itself. She was exhibited in the town on 7th January, drawn through the streets on a horse drawn carriage before being named by the Mayoress. She was then launched into the Trent for transport north. She served for 25 years until 1892. The fourth was defrayed from a magnificent bequeathed by the late Miss M. Fielder, if London who asked it be named 'Milicent', and it served from 1892 until 1911. The fifth was the Arthur R. Dawes, provided out of a legacy of Mr. George Robert Dawes. It was of the self-righting Rubie type, and was the boat in the Tadorne rescue. Since 1825 196 lives had been saved from the sea by the Boulmer lifeboats.
Present at the centenary William Stephenson, proudly wearing his medals presented to him regarding the Tadorne rescue. He had retired in nineteen twenty-two. It was noted at the celebrations that since 1825 after James Addison (whose sister married a Stephenson,) every coxswain of the Boulmer boat had borne the name Stephenson.

of Boulmer Lifeboat, wearing his Silver Medal of the Institution of, Medal of the Societe des Hospitsaliers Sauvetaurs Bretons, Medal (Gold) of the French Government.

In September 1931 the boat was replaced by a motor driven lifeboat, dedicated in a ceremony by the Bishop of Newcastle, with the young Duke of Northumberland present with his mother.

The local fishermen had collected money together to pay for a stone cross to commemorate the five men who had died, although the date of its placing is presently unknown. The grave was tended by person, but the identity was not revealed, the task a quiet sense of duty to sailors taken by the sea. It was only in February 1993 that the carers of this grave were revealed in The Newcastle Journal. 66 year old Alec Thompson, whose hilltop farm overlooked the jagged rocks identified himself as the current custodian. He had walked as a child to the grave with his aunt Margaret who had quietly taken on the duty to the dead without any person knowing this. Alec maintained the role upon her being no longer able. In 1993 he was pictured inspecting part of the Tadorne boiler that still lies off the shoreline.

Alec Thompson inspecting the remains of the boiler of the Tadorne, off Howick Haven.

Three images of the boiler remains of The Tadorne, taken August 2019

The Tadorne Memorial

'This Cross is placed here by the people of Howick, Boulmer and Craster in memory of five French sailors, who, out of a crew of 30, were drowned in the wreck of the Tadorne.'

Around the stone plinth of the memorial at St. Michael's, is the above inscription. Without entering the grounds the churchyard can be accessed from a lane just over Howick Burn and on the west side. You can drive up the lane to it as the more modern graveyard is there. The gate to the estate was closed, but unlocked, I feel sure that access is allowed to the churchyard alone, as it is a Church of England Church, and contains public graves, as well as the Grey family ones. That said, the grounds are well worth paying to visit. 

In February 2013, the French warship Primauguet docked at the Tyne, commemorating the centenary of the saving of the 25 crew of the Tadorne. It also paid tribute to another ship where lives were saved on the Bastiaise in 1940. Through a further turn of fate a trunk of one of the drowned men had been found when washed ashore. It was returned by Lady Grey, with a massage to his bereaved widow. It was forgotten in France until it once again surfaced, and investigations led to the story again re-surfacing. As as result, at the centenary some descendants of the men visited the memorial. These two events, namely the visits of the warship and the descendants, kept alive the memory of the five men who died. Besides the memory of the Fishermen who drowned, they equally honoured the bravery of the Boulmer lifeboat crew who set out that night to rescue fellow fishermen, resulting in 25 saved souls.


Sunday, 21 July 2019

The Death of Constable Thomas Nicholson of Ambleside, 1845

The Death of Constable Thomas Nicholson of Ambleside, 1845

Thomas Nicholson was a saddler and auctioneer of Ambleside. He was baptised in 1813 in the county of Westmorland, although his age varies slightly, dependant on which documents are viewed. He was the son of Joseph Nicholson and Agnes Nicholson (nee Coward). Joseph was Ambleside's first postmaster and Agnes was a bookseller. The post office was on  Agnes was appointed Postmistress in 1839, and in 1841, Agnes is recorded as a widow in the census, so most likely Joseph died in 1839. Their eldest daughter Hannah, took over as the bookseller. 
Little is known of Thomas's early life, although on Thursday 3rd December 1835 he married a 21 year old Dorothy Fleming of Spring Cottage, Rydal, at that village. They would go on the have four children together. Agnes was baptised in 1836, Joseph was baptised on 10th June 1838, Dorothy was born in the last quarter of 1840, and Elizabeth who was born in the 2nd quarter of 1843.
The first advertised auction sale that is known to have been run by Thomas was to take place at the house of Mr. Stalker at the Salutation Hotel, Ambleside, on Wednesday and Thursday, 18th and 19th April 1838. It was the effects and furnishings of a lady who was leaving the area. He continued to advertise auctions of premises and their contents, usually sold at venues in local inns and hotels, throughout his life. Although the date of his appointment as the Ambleside constable is unclear, he first appeared in the Westmorland Gazette as a constable in a case where the shop of a Mr. Davidson had been burgled in Ravenglass, near Whitehaven on the night of 19th May 1843. Silver watches, cutlery and other articles had been carried off and suspicion fell on two men who had purchased trifling goods the day before. Mr. Davidson was a member of a 'Prosecution Association' who secured the services of a Mr. Wilson (one would assume the Parish Constable). He pursued the men to Ambleside and obtained the assistance of Constable Thomas Nicholson. Following contact with the head of Kendal Police, Mr. Frederick Grossmith, a search of the town which proved to be fruitless, and both men returned to The Duke William Inn, Staveley, for refreshments.

The former Duke William Inn, Staveley.

Once there they were told that two males carrying bundles were recently seen on the Underbarrow road. With a quickly gathered posse, they came up to both men near The Punch Bowl, Underbarrow. One managed to escape and it was said that the drunken state of the constables had led to some confusion. That said, both had earlier finished their pursuit and had only come across the information, after the hunt at Kendal was concluded, so there was some excuse for their condition. Mr. Wilson had gathered the property and Nicholson with others escorted their prisoner to Staveley, but continued drinking, now it the company of their detained man. In the drunken confusion of his captors he himself escaped, never to be found again, despite the assistance of Mr. Grossmith, who was called out. The papers were indignant, quoting other recent escapes from other constables, questioning whether the authorities ever considered supplying 'proper instruments of security' to the constables of the area.
On 7th March 1844 Thomas gave evidence, at the Salutation Hotel to a Commission which was under the hand and seal of the Bishop of Chester. The Reverend William Sewell was accused of 'drunkenness, intemperance, intoxication, scandal, and other scandal and evil report'. The case centred upon the conduct of the reverend after a meeting regarding the affairs of the town, at The Salutation on 23rd December 1843. He was then reported as being intoxicated and arguing with others about a scandal of ill-using his wife and children, who then were no longer living with him and lived now in Bowness. Other witnesses gave evidence, one who had been present after the meeting concluded was Thomas Nicholson. He stated he had been in the Reverend's company and saw him drink only a gin and two glasses of wine, refusing other drink. Most witnesses said that the reverend was a sober man by temperment and had been so that night. The conclusion of the Commission was that the reverend had been sober that night, but it was sufficient to admonish him over his previous conduct in his public and private life; the matter was then dropped.
Through the rest of 1844 and 1845 Thomas appeared at court with a number of minor cases of driving more than the statutory two horses and carts on the turnpike road to Grasmere. There was another case of someone not having his name on the side of his cart, contrary to the law, other cases were of people being drunk and disorderly in Ambleside, witnessed by Constable Nicholson and Mr. Grossmith, and another of a 'potter' riding his cart without reins.
The most notable and tragic case he was involved with was at the Ulverston Magistrates Office on Thursday 30th January 1845, where Inspector Davidson preferred a charge against the Hawkrigg family of Skelwith Bridge for concealing the child delivered to Mary Hawkrigg. Constable Winter had attended Skelwith Bridge on hearing such reports and took the family into custody. Mary then led him, the inspector, and constable Nicholson of Ambleside, to the place where the child had been interred in a wood near their house. She said it was living when born but died the following day, about six weeks previous. The body of the child was found wrapped in a cloth and 18 inches under the ground. An inquest had been held at Hawkshead and following the result, the magistrates dismissed the proceedings against all the Hawkrigg family.
The next incident was a further tragic one, although not one where Thomas was on duty, but it would lead to his untimely death; with the circumstances being given to the coroner's inquest held at The Royal Oak, Ambleside, on Thursday 18th September 1845. On Tuesday 16th, William Atkinson a bobbin-maker, and John Workman, a husbandman of Elterwater, were making their way in Mr. Atkinson's gig to the Keswick wrestling when he was overtaken  by Thomas riding a horse, just past the toll bar at Grasmere. Thomas stopped, said he was tired and he and Workman swapped positions. The latter found that the horse rode well. They parted from Thomas at Keswick and at 7:30pm were making their way back to Ambleside, with others. Just past the toll bar outside Keswick they were again passed by Thomas who was galloping horse and he appeared intoxicated. He spoke as he passed, but was soon out of sight. Mr. Atkinson's view was that the horse would have acted quietly on its own, had it been allowed to, and it had no vice about it. Four miles outside of Keswick near the other side of 'Noddle Fell' in the Vale of St. John, they found Thomas lying in the road with the horse about three hundred yards away. (*Author - I assume Low or High Rigg, with Naddle Beck below; there are other known references for 'Naddle Fell') He was bleeding from the nose and couldn't stand on his own. He was placed in their gig and they made their way to Wythburn for 8pm where they had refreshments. Thomas had roused in the gig and said he wanted to be at home. They told the inquest that Thomas got out of the gig at Wythburn, but did not speak or have anything to drink. John Love was a tailor at Ambleside and was at Wythburn when the gig had arrived. Having heard of Thomas's plight had gone out to assist him into the premises and found him fallen out of the gig, with his thigh tangled in the reins and his head dangling to the ground.
They later arrived at Ambleside around 10pm and he was taken to his home. All believe Thomas was just drunk. He asked for his hat which had fallen behind the gig horses hind legs. William Fell, the surgeon, was called and on examination found blood also coming from Thomas's ear. He then felt a severe and extensive bruise on the top of his head and diagnosed a skull fracture. Thomas died at 12 noon on the Wednesday.
So passed Ambleside's constable, albeit not a death on duty, so would never feature in the National Police Roll of Honour. The death was still the passing of an Ambleside notable. 
Crime however never ends and Ambleside still needed a constable. At the end of the Petty Sessions of 8th October, John Longmire was sworn in as the replacement officer for the late Constable Nicholson.
Dorothy remarried a tailor called William Coward, at least 7 years her junior, in 1847. They went on to have four children together, before she died in the first quarter of 1854, aged 38, which was the same quarter as her last child, so likely died in or associated with the birth. William Coward died in 1856, so all the children were orphaned. Some remained with family and others were displaced as far afield as boarding schools in Cheltenham. Agnes, the first born of Thomas and Dorothy, was educated at Casterton servants school, near Sedbergh. This had recently opened in 1838 and was for 100 poor girls who were clothed, lodged, and educated for either  employment in service, or the teaching profession. 
 Thomas's mother Agnes died on 29th March 1862, still at Ambleside Post Office. She was 83 years old and in her earlier years William and Dorothy Wordsworth knew her and Joseph well. Dorothy wrote that she and William used to attend the Post Office late at night. Joseph and Agnes would get up from their beds and allow them to sit in the parlour and alter letters they had earlier posted, before they were sent off in the morning. One would assume it was William, concerned the poem was still not to his liking, and altering again before it was finally posted.


Friday, 12 July 2019

The Low Bridge Inn closure at Kentmere.

The Low Bridge Inn closure, Kentmere.

A popular and endurance testing Lakeland walk is The Kentmere Horseshoe. It starts at Kentmere village, taking in Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag(The Beacon), Mardale Ill Bell, Harter Fell, Kentmere Pike, and Shipman Knotts. It can be done the other way around, and makes a change to those who have walked it a number of times. You park up near the church or hall for a small fee, if early enough to get the limited parking places. If not, there is a field near Low Bridge in the village where parking is allowed on days named by notice, again for a minimal fee. This is accessed right at the bridge and on the opposite side of the road, near the Kentmere village side, is a house called Low Bridge.

Low Bridge, Kentmere, and the house of the same name.
What most walkers do not realise this house was The Low Bridge Inn. It should not come as a great surprise, when you think of it logically. It is a long valley, with habitation near the top, or head. It has a pass which accesses the Mardale valley, where a pub was also at the valley head, indeed it is difficult to think of a populated valley where there is not an inn to service the community and traveller.
 Despite having held a licence for over 300 years it shut in 1887. What happened to it? All local inns of the time would serve a community in more ways than just ale and/or a room for the night, and The Old Bridge Inn of Kentmere was no exception. 
On Tuesday 30th October 1838 the inn was the scene of a triple inquest following the deaths of a father and son, and another man, all three dying on the fells.
On 30th December 1847 it was the place of an inquest on the death by burning of six year old Elizabeth Hunter, of The Head, Kentmere. Her clothes had caught fire at 5pm on Tuesday 28th as she reached for a stick; her mother Mary (wife of William) was out feeding the family pig when the tragedy happened and the child died that night. The verdict was Accidental Death.
On 9th May 1850 it was the meeting place for the reading over and executing of the Award of the Commissioner for the Kentmere Common Fields Inclosure. Notice was given by the Kendal Land Surveyor, Mr. C. Webster. In September 1854 he also advertised the premise and Corn Mill for letting. It must have been a Mr. W. Philipson who became the tenant of the owner Miss. Susannah Sharp, as The Kendal Land Surveyor once again advertised the premise for letting, now in the possession of Mr. Philipson, for a decision on 17th December 1859.

The view back towards Staveley and the mouth of the remote Kentmere Valley.
The view to Kentmere from Garburn Pass to Troutbeck
Like many country inns, especially those remote ones, it was the venue for the annual sports day for the valley. Such a day was 29th June 1860 when it played host to the Kentmere Sports, of hound dog trailing, boys running, and this was followed by wrestling which consisted of 6 rounds.
Unfortunately a few can always spoil it for the many and the inn suffered from some disorder. On 31st May 1879 a James Gilpin was drunk and quarrelsome on the premises, refused to leave on request, and was then evicted. He returned with an axe, smashing into the door and broke a window with his fist. He was found guilty and fined. The landlord Thomas Hall, came in for some criticism from the Magistrates bench for not giving his evidence in a straightforward manner. As a landlord the two groups of people you do not want to fall out with are, the police and the magistrates, both having great sway on the issue of your licence to serve alcohol.
The 16th April 1880 saw it return to the venue of an inquest, this time over the body of a 52-year-old quarryman called William Sharp, who lived at Kentmere flag quarry and was killed the previous day. He had been crushed by a two-ton piece of rock in the quarry that he and witness John Ridding, of The Nook, Kentmere were ‘bringing down’ from the roof. Despite the quarry using some inherently dangerous practices while blasting to bring down rock, and the manger not being aware of any inspection scheme by a government inspector, the verdict was only one of Accidental Death.
The 11th October 1880 saw the premises once again return to disorder with John Airey and James Thompson Jackson being found to be drunk on licensed premises. Neither appeared at court and were found guilty on the evidence of Constable Johnston and fined 10s and 13s 6d respectively. Next at the petty sessions was Edward Sarginson, the landlord of the premises. He and his wife had been away that day and the premises had been left in the charge of a servant girl. However, he still had a vicarious liability and was fined 49s and his licence endorsed. Matters were not boding well and the cumulative effect of disorder was mounting.
Matters seemed to quieten but local people can have objections many years later, especially if part of a temperance movement and/or a church. There was also a Temperance Hotel in the village, located only on the other side of the narrow river and must have suffered, or been disturbed by any alcohol infused disorder, when miners, quarrymen and farmhands had just been paid.  Many incidents of local disorder and rowdiness would go unreported, being such a remote licensed premise with no immediate method of communication with the police.

The former Low Bridge Inn with the Temperance Hotel behind, as seen from Kentmere Church.

On 10th September 1887 at the adjourned Brewster's Sessions at Kendal Mr. F. W. Watson applied for a renewal of the licence in consequence of a change in the tenancy. He pointed out that there had been a licensed premise there for 300 years, the owner and tenant were both respectable people. He stated that there had been no complaint of disorder against the premise and it was a centre for tourists, anglers, and sportsmen alike. A Mr. Woolcott submitted a petition of objection, saying there were only 174 residents, of which 77 were children, and only 15 adult inhabitants did not sign the petition which objected to the renewal. It was further said that the licence was now unnecessary and the premise was a fruitless source of sin. After two hours deliberation the Magistrates Bench refused the application. 
It was then said that a strenuous appeal would be made against the refusal. This decision not to renew the licence had been based on the discretionary power of the licensing magistrates being as absolute in the renewal as it was in the granting of one. They had refused it not on the grounds of disorder, though those reasons were put forward, but on the grounds of: firstly the wants of the neighbourhood, secondly there no longer being a need for a licensed premise in the village of Kentmere, and thirdly the inability of the police to supervise such a remote inn. It was later to become known as the Sharp-v-Wakefield and others(Justices of Westmorland) case.
The matter was taken before the Justices at the court of Quarter Sessions on the grounds that under the Licensing Acts of 1828 (9 Geo. IV., c. 61), 1872, and 1874, the magistrates did not have jurisdiction to refuse a renewal on the grounds stated, but the decision was upheld. At the Queens Bench Division on Monday 30th April 1888 before Justice's Field and Wills the decision was again upheld following an earlier hearing. Justice Field said the matter relied upon the Act of 1828 and he could not find by either legislation or construction by judges on statutes(*Author - I take this to refer to case law), that anything had limited the wide discretion of the magistrates. Section 9 of the act said they had full power to decide, touching the granting, withholding, or transfer of any licence, and also to decide on the fitness of the person. So long as the power was not exercised corruptly or arbitrarily, the magistrates and Quarter Session Justices were correct and the appeal was dismissed - with costs. 
The implications of this decision for a small and isolated country inn were recognised as having a far wider impact across the area and nation as a whole. The local papers questioned what this might mean for other isolated inns at Ambleside, Bowness, Windermere, Grasmere, Langdale, Hawkshead, Troutbeck, etc.
Although the late tenant of the Low Bridge Inn had not been a member of the Westmorland Licensed Victuallers Association, such were the implications for their members that they decided to take the matter further, with the support of other like organisations around the country. Another Public House, The Swan Inn at Middleton, near Kirkby Lonsdale, was also seen to be under similar threat. It had opened to supply the workers needs, whilst the nearby railway was built and following the recent death of the tenant the ratepayers of the area were conducting a similar petition for closure, as the Kentmere residents had done.
On Saturday 15th December 1888, before The Master of the Rolls, and Justices Fry and Lopes, the Sharp-v-Wakefield and others case was heard by the Court of Appeal, but the rulings were unaltered. They decided again that so long as the power was exercised judicially then the power of the magistrates was absolute. They also agreed that the wants of the neighbourhood and the remoteness for police supervision were matters for the courts to take full account of. 
It was announced in April 1889 that the Licensed Victuallers decided to take the matter forward to the House of Lords, the highest court of the land, such was the importance of the decision on many rural communities. Hope was expressed since the Solicitor General was of the view that the magistrates did not have the discretion as exercised in the Low Bridge Inn case. The concern again was the loss of a livelihood for the licensee and the loss of an amenity to the locality. The Wasdale Head Hotel was one such premise quoted as at real risk by this decision.
The Kendal Otter Hounds met on Thursday 8th May 1890 at Stramongate Bridge. The River Kent was followed to its source, but without any success. At the conclusion many followers proceeded to the Low Bridge Inn, forgetting the circumstances of the famous licensing case. 
In March 1891 the matter was before The Lord Chancellor and Lords Bramwell, Herschell, Macnaghten, and Hannen, at the House of Lords, who reserved judgement. Finally, on the morning of Friday 20th they announced their decision. The appellant had based their appeal on the grounds that the original legislature had never intended to entrust the magistrates with a discretion so wide as to cause such injustice. The Lords again disagreed and upheld the decisions of the earlier courts.
So ended one of the oldest Liquor Licenses, The Low Bride Inn, in the County of Westmorland, whose memory would pass into relative obscurity. The premise in modern times is a house bearing the relic name of Low Bridge, perhaps in homage to its former purpose.
Thankfully it did not act with the impetus for the Temperance Movement for the closure of other mentioned remote inns and hotels, the Wasdale Head Hotel, perhaps being the most notable example. 
In a modern age, wouldn't it have been refreshing though, at the end of a long hot summer's walk around the Kentmere horseshoe, to have sank a pint of fine ale at the public house; or would that desire now impact too greatly on one of the quietest occupied rural valley communities of Lakeland? I think the jury will always be out on that one for many years to come.
Susannah Sharpe died aged 76 in the Kendal registration area, her death being announced across the nation in newspapers, including the 30th December 1995 edition of the Edinburgh Evening News. The papers referenced the famous licensing case that was lost in the remote valley and hamlet of Kentmere, which for a brief spell in time, occupied the minds of the nation in a debate on the closure of inns by magistrates. The Cumberland Pacquet and Ware's Whitehaven Advertiser said that the case had cost the Licensed Victualler's Association £7,000, but since their unsuccessful attempt to challenge the original decision there had been a number of cases where magistrates had decided on other closures but challenges had since been launched, and won, in the higher courts. That caveat that the magistrates had to act judicially provided an added check to ensure that any decision was fair with regard to the needs of all in the community, itself a check on the Temperance Movement. The Swan Inn at Middleton still provides for the community and tourists visiting the Kirkby Lonsdale area to this day.


Thursday, 11 July 2019

The tragic deaths of Thomas Gillespie, his son Thomas, and John Huddlestone. Kentmere 1838

The tragic deaths of Thomas Gillespie, his son Thomas, and John Huddlestone. Kentmere 1838

Thomas Gillespie was a 50-year-old Woodreef who lived at Bank (or Bankhog) House (*now a barn), Kentmere Hall, with his wife Mary and their children, on the estate of Christopher Wilson of Rigmaden. (A modern equivalent to a Woodreef/reeve is a Woodland Ranger.) One of the children was 14-year-old Thomas, and on the night of Friday 26th October 1838, they were joined by 44-year-old John Huddlestone, a tailor and bachelor, of Staveley.

Kentmere Hall

He stayed the night with them and in the morning, they set off together with the Gillespie family terrier to go fishing at Hayeswater Tarn, which was approximately six miles away, towards Hartsop village, in Patterdale, with the intention of returning that evening.

Hayeswater (Tarn), with the modern dam now removed and returned to the original level of 1838.

The weather worsened and even in the sheltered Kentmere valley it was described as a terrible day, with the water higher than could be remembered. The winds were strong, with snow was now falling, and the conditions were expected to be far worse on the high surrounding fells. Even those with an intimate knowledge of the mountains would have found the severe weather very challenging and there were no places of shelter on the fell tops. When they did not return that night Mary began to slip into a terrible state of anxiety. As Sunday progressed and there was still no sign of them, she sought out another resident, Reginald Sharpe and told him of her plight. On Monday morning he went with Henry Hogarth and a dog, over Garburn Pass, then through Troutbeck Park, to Kirkstone, and descended into Patterdale.

Kentmere from Garburn Pass.

They enquired all along the route to no avail, but at Hartsop they were told a man and a boy had gone into Mr. Gelderd’s house, The Kings Arms, in a very wet state. With their spirits temporarily lifted they went there only to find that they were not the Gillespie family. They then set off for Hayeswater, but a search there also revealed no clue of the missing party’s whereabouts. They then checked Hayeswater Gill that feeds the Water from Thornthwaite Crag, but to no avail. By now time was advancing and they were despairing of finding the party. On the high route back to Garburn Pass along the fells and near Glad Grove Gill, they were met by a small terrier dog which had ran out barking at their own. They immediately recognised the terrier as being the Gillespie family dog.

The hills to the west of Kentmere, left to right - Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick and the path to Thornthwaite Crag. Glad Grove Gill is to the right of Froswick. 

They quickly went into the gill and found all three dead. Mr. Gillespie was lying on his back and his face upwards, his son was lying between his father’s thighs, leaning on the left one with his arms entwined around it; he had a piece of oatmeal in his mouth. Mr. Huddleston was lying a few yards away, face down. Both men had flasks of rum on them, Mr. Gillespie’s was part consumed and Mr. Huddlestone’s was empty. It was now 5pm and the two searchers were forced to leave the bodies, taking only the terrier back with them to Kentmere. The next morning, they returned with other residents and brought the three bodies back to the village and the grieving Mrs. Gillespie.

An inquest was held at the Low Bridge Inn on Tuesday 30th October, before the coroner Mr. R. Wilson Esquire. It could only be conjectured that the three were returning to their native Kentmere valley via the high route and had become overtaken by the inclement weather and had sought what shelter they could in the gill. The had become benighted, had fallen asleep and starved to death in the cold conditions. A verdict of ‘Found Dead’ was returned.

Mary was now a grieving widow and had five other children to care for, three of whom were very young. Local gentlemen began a subscription for her, and the local Westmorland Gazette paper encouraged their readers to donate generously, the Bank of Westmorland being the place where donations could be sent or deposited. Although no final amount was advertised, a meeting was arranged to take place at 10:30am on 28th March 1839 at the bank, to decide on the best method of apportioning the money subscribed.

It is unclear what happened to the Gillespie family but there is no record of them living in the valley in the census of 1841.

Such a tragedy touches a community at a very personal level, the subscription was one form of the community’s expression of grief and humanity. Another was displayed in the form of words of a poetic nature, where that greater expression was openly displayed in the 8th December 1838 edition of the Westmorland Gazette, the full article being:

ORIGINAL STANZAS, On the three unfortunate persons, Huddlestone, Gillespie and bis son, who perished amidst a snowstorm, and were found lying dead beside each other on High-street hill, betwixt Kentmere and Ullswater, October 1838.


Reader, hast thou ever been

Amidst that wild, stupendous scene,

Mountainous High-street and its rock-pil'd height

Of shelving cliffs and precipices bare,

The eagles stronghold and the foxes’ lair

Whose rav'nous cries the timid sheep affright,

Re-echoed from the gloomy caverns there.

Pleasant it is in Summer's opening prime,

The craggy sides of this said hill climb,

And from its, summit see the ardent beam

Of morning light o'er eastern landscape stream;

Magnificent the view—

Wood, water, hill and dale.

And the green-pastur'd vale,

By the sun's bright rays tinged with a golden hue.

Here, stretching far away,

a dimly-purpled gray,

The distant mountain-peaks enthron'd in clouds;

And, closer still at hand,

Shepherds and flocks a joyous band,

Bask in the shade, that from the heat them shrouds.

Woe to the traveller, in winter time

Doom'd this hill's bleak hill’s ridge to climb,

’Midst mists and drizzling rain,

And gusts of wind which roar amain:-

The pelting storm sweeps by, -

Who his dang'rous way could wend,

Through deathly perils without end.

No hand to guide, no friendly shelter nigh;

Many have tried

To thread the murky gloom and perilous maze

Of the hill-path, and far from human gaze

 Have droop'd and died!

Weary and faint, they sat them down,

To rest on the steep hill side,

The eagle from his nest had flown,

On the tempest-wind to ride.

Ah! who shall stay the raging storm,

Ye hapless, death-doom'd men;

The snow-cloud drifts its awful form,

To whiten cliff and glen.

The angry sleet show'ring fast,

How can ye onward go!

The swollen stream is hurrying past.

And the boiling torrents flow.

Now bid farewell to hearth and home,

In vain you gaze around—

Poor souls! to you no help will come,

None hear that wailing sound.

“O had we never ventured here,” –

Methinks you thus might say,

“Our bones had found some other bier.

Than in snowy shroud to lay: -

“And who shall list our dying groan,

Save the wild birds shrieking nigh;

No friend to soothe the struggling moan,

And close the sunken eye.

"A cold, cold hand is on our heart,

Its blood will soon congeal;

Yet, ere we thus from life depart

Together let us kneel:-

“Tho bootless is all human aid,

And sad our destiny,

Father! On Heav’n our hope is stayed,

We lift our pray’rs to thee!

“Since, life must end at thy command,

Resign'd we yield our breath:"—

Then, clasp'd together hand in hand,

They calmly sunk in death.

And now the tempest-storm o'er,

The wind is hush'd and still:

Although the gushing torrents roar,

Down High-street’s rugged hill.

And over Hartsop’s village bright,

The golden sunbeams shine,

Hayswater tarn gleams with the light-

But hark! - that piteous whine.

The shepherd hies him on apace,

Towards his faithful Tray;

Three dismal forms he soon can trace,

Stiffen’d and cold as clay.

And some who shall say in Kentmere vale

What sorrows there is known,

When yonder widow hears the tale—

She's husbandless and lone!

And for her sake, her children's too,

Shall pity’s tears not flow,

And charity their sufferings view

And gentle aid bestow!



The sad incident is now over 180 years old, but still touches the modern soul, not sanitised by the passing of time. Local people and tourists alike have a common interest in leisure on the Lakeland fells, just as the three men had in 1838. It is not believed any headstones were erected, certainly none remain. With the Gillespie's not staying in the valley and Mr. Huddlestone having no descendants to remember his passing, it had slipped from the memory of the community. I have spoken with two local historians who were unaware of the tragedy. Kentmere is a close community and I am sure in now being reunited with this piece of history, tragic as it is, they will be keen to reflect on the passing of the three, and also feel great sympathy for the plight of Mary Gillespie and her five remaining children.


Thursday, 27 June 2019

Reverend James Jackson Memorial Cross - The Patriarch of the Pillarites

The Patriarch of the Pillarites

The Reverend James Jackson 1796 to 1878

While researching fell history on the internet  I came across an article in The Fell and Rock Climbing Club Journal of 1907, page 40, which referred to 'The Patriarch of the Pillarites', which was the title assumed by the Reverend James Jackson of Sandwith, Whitehaven. He had given himself that name following his fascination with being an octogenarian, coupled with his burning desire to climb Pillar Rock, in the Ennerdale Valley. He achieved this and wanted to continually repeat this feat on an annual basis, which was to lead to his death. Other climbers erected a temporary iron cross, then later had the nearby rock carved with his initials and the year of his death. Any walker of the lake district with an interest in the histories it generates knows of the rock carving of a cross to the Scafell tragedy of September 1903, where four climbers fell to their deaths, which altered the techniques of mountaineering in lakeland. I was fascinated to question why with two such high profile incidents occurring, why was the Scafell carving so well photographed, yet the Pillar one had no image on the internet whatsoever? This was despite a great variety of articles on 'The Patriarch'. Intrigued I set out to find the cross and to try and add far more detail on Reverend James Jackson's earlier life as the pastor of Rivington, Lancashire, assisted by a visit to his church there. Over the last few years I have came back to this story and can now add that detail, so adding to the history of the English Lakes.


James Jackson’s place of birth has long been unclear to people writing informative internet explanations of his life. He was born at Kendal on 12th April 1796 and baptised there on 26th August of that year. His parents were Robert and Agnes Jackson and James had an elder brother called John who was born on 10th June 1794 at Kendal, baptized on 14th August of that year. 
Nothing further is known of any other family members, it appears these were the only children of Robert and Agnes. 
His early childhood remains a mystery, beyond a mention at an inquest following his death that he was educated at both Appleby and St. Bees. It was then recorded that he joined the army and served in the Napoleonic war of 1815.
James’s life begins to be better documented when he chooses the church as his calling in life and on 16th July in 1820 the Lord Bishop of Chester held an ordination ceremony at Windermere (Bowness) where 14 Priests were ordained, and nine Deacons appointed, with 500 children being later confirmed. Previous to the Ordination ceremony an excellent speech on the duties and responsibilities of the Christian Minister was given by one of the candidates for Priests Orders. The lesson was ‘2 Cor., c, vi, v, 4 – “In all things approving ourselves as the Ministers of God” ’; the candidate was James Jackson, who would be 24 years of age when appointed.
The Reverend Jackson was to become the Minister for Rivington, near Chorley, Lancashire. He married a Susanna Thorpe at the Parochial Chapel of Rivington on 8th September 1835 and the officiating Minster was a J. Whittaker. Both James and Susanna are recorded as ‘of this chapel’; she was born there, and her parents died before she was 16 years old; Susanna would have been married at the age of 19 and married a man 20 years older than her. Although it may turn a head in more modern times, he would be of some standing in the community, in constant employment and financially secure. The union would have been of mutual benefit to both. The two witnesses were Timothy and Ann Lightoller, although Ann was illiterate and was only capable of making her mark: ‘X’.  It is believed the Jacksons had two children. Agnes was the first born in 1836, baptised on 10th June at The Chapel, Rivington and grew into adulthood, surviving beyond both her parents. Franklin Rawdon Jackson was the second born in the second quarter of 1838, but he died aged one on 5th November 1839 and was buried at Rivington.

In these early years there appears no insight into his character, beyond him being a man of the cloth but intriguingly there was an incident at Rivington where at four o’clock on the morning of 25th June 1837 the Reverend was woken by the noise of men shouting outside the vicarage, then the sound of a stone rolling down the roof was heard by him. He looked out the window and saw two men withdrawing from his porch.

The Vicarage at Rivington, home of the Reverend Jackson.

 He may have been a man of the cloth, but he also had a family to protect and was an ex-soldier. He went out and confronted them, the main antagonist refused to give his name, so the reverend seized his cap resulting in the man threatened to kick him. The two were Thomas Bouch and Charles Thompson. That assault appears to have happened as both appeared before the magistrates. Bouch was there for a breach of the peace and assault, one presumes the threatened kick on the brave reverend. Bouch was ordered to find sureties and ordered to pay costs of 14s 6d. Thompson was before them for being drunk only and ordered to pay costs of 5s 6d. This could have started as a drunken prank with any resident of Rivington as the victim, or jealousy at this particular man’s standing in the community. Another possibility is that the reverend was not liked by all members of the community and greater insights into his character will later become apparent, making this scenario certainly well worth consideration.
There was the mundane reporting of local weddings in the family columns of local papers, naming the reverend as the officiating clergy, but life took on the ordinary existence of a pastor.
On Monday 31st July 1843 a half yearly meeting was held at The Swam Hotel, Bolton, by the proprietors of the Bolton and Preston Railway. Present was the Reverend James Jackson of Rivington, who asked for a point to be explained whether the first act was to be revived or the tram road and canal were to be filled in and converted to a rail line, and what the cost of each would be? Clearly, he kept an interest in local politics, on behalf of his parishioners.
In April 1847 he is listed as a contributor to ‘The Cobden National Tribute Fund’ where he donated £1 to the fund. £60, 692, 3s 10d was the national total to this point. Richard Cobden was a British Statesman and economist who advocated free trade and non-interventionism both during and after the efforts to abolish the Corn Laws and he believed them to be the solution to world prosperity and peace. It was given the title of Cobdenism and still forms a debate to this day in political and economic circles. Clearly the Reverend also had a viewpoint on world politics and economics.
In February 1850 he assisted another parishioner at court in the settlement of a claim on an old lady’s estate, where she had promised him money for assistance, he gave her on the death of her husband. It was through the assistance of Reverend Jackson that the money was awarded.
Another insight into his interests, perhaps through retirement, was that in July 1856 he appeared as a witness at a case where a Thomas Latham was claiming £50 following the death of a neighbour, Mrs. Alice Marsh. He had assisted her husband following a robbery in January 1850, staying with him for over 2 months. Following the husband’s death, he went on to assist the lady, who then gave him a note promising him £100 on her death. He came across objections from a relative, Robert Eatock, and the amount was arbitrated to £50, which Mr Latham agreed to. There was an allegation that Latham had plied Mrs. Marsh with raw rum, a quantity of 10 gallons was suggested and denied.  Even that was not paid, so Latham took the matter to court. One of the witnesses he called was the retired Reverend James Jackson, of Rivington, who had been present on 3rd March 1853 when Mrs. Marsh had said that: ‘Tom ought to have it.’ The Judge found for the plaintiff, quoting the corroboration by the Reverend as sufficient evidence. Clearly his status and reputation spoke volumes to his credibility as a witness to events.
 There were however two very well documented events in Reverend James Jackson’s life, both made famous by none other than himself and the first was to occur at Rivington. The weather cock of the church blew down in high winds and required re-seating on the spire. The ‘steeplejacks’, most probably local builders, declined the job which must have disheartened the reverend. That fulfilling this parish need was refused and by professionals must have been beyond the pale to him, so he seized the article from them and climbed the steeple, replacing the cock on it’s spire in service to the local community. The placing was in his own words a two-handed job, but there it stands to this day as a testament to his brave, (some would say foolhardy) feat.

The Church at Rivington

The weathercock
Some locals were in awe, others aghast that their pastor had taken such an unnecessary risk to his life. It was said by James that in the short walk back to his residence he had formed the feat into words in his own mind, this being a short poem, or ditty:

“Who has not heard of Steeple Jack,
That Lion-hearted Saxon,
Though I am not he, he was my sire,
For I am Steeple Jackson.”

On Saturday 6th September 1856, by virtue of a charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I, at the request of Bishop Pilkington (who founded Rivington School), a meeting was convened at the Chapelry at Rivington where the ‘dwellers and remainers’ were allowed to vote in their next reverend. This followed the resignation of James Jackson after 33 years of pastoral service to that community. Of the two candidates that were put forward, the Reverend Thomas Sutcliffe of Blackburn gained 75 votes, the Reverend Thomas Crossfield of Stafford gaining 45 votes. There was some legal objection on the matter, it’s basis being whether the occupiers of Belmont had any right to vote, yet Mr. Sutcliffe was duly appointed to replace James Jackson.
James then surfaced at Broughton-in-Furnace living at a house called Broom Hill on New Street. John, his older brother by two years, was the inn-keeper at The Kings Head Hotel in Broughton-in-Furnace. When at that address James came into possession of a Celtic artefact of the ‘perforated or wedge-shaped class’ which was dug up near Broughton Tower during the construction of the Coniston Railway. It was 9¾ inches in length, 3 inches breadth, 2 inches thick and weighed just over 2lbs. He is known to have been there on 7th August 1861. Around August 1863 however, he purchased the house at Summer Hill, Sandwith, near Whitehaven, for £455. It is here he resided with both his wife and daughter for the rest if his life.
The Reverend, now in retirement at Whitehaven, appears to have been a man of art, for on 28th April 1863 he was a member of the Art Union of London. Listed in the London Evening Standard were members entitled to select a work of art of different values. ‘Reverend J. Jackson, Whitehaven,’ was in the 10 shillings category.
Art was not his only interest and in June of 1866 the Whitehaven Industrial Exhibition took place and was advertised as guaranteed to take the interest of the mineralogist, botanist, with steam engines to further captivate the interest. Many inventions were exhibited; so many that only a passing comment could be made to each and their inventors. One exhibitor was: ‘Rev. J. Jackson, Sandwith - economic ball and socket double truss.’ Because it got the same rudimentary mention as all the other inventions, it is unclear what its engineering purpose was.
It was while at Sandwith that another event occurred that gave some insight into his character. It was reported long after his death that the reverend had taken to law and ruined a poor man who had enclosed a trifle of garden land. The implication would seem to be one of a particularly unchristian view, by a well off former minister bringing to ruin a poor villager.
It was also whilst he was at Sandwith that the feats of endurance he was to become renowned for occurred, both in his stamina, bravery, and risk taking. If this Reverend was anything, he was a self-publicist, but there is no reason to ever doubt the tales he would tell to show these qualities. He was also opinionated, sometimes to his own detriment. He was to write a series of letters to George Seatree a well-known climber and president of the Fell and Rock-Climbing Club, and these letters were a further insight into this retired reverend character.
He told Seatree:
 ' . . . during my lengthened and varied and still robust existence I have been beneath the Falls of Niagara. I have sung " God Save The King " in the hall of St. Peter's. I have ascended Vesuvius in the eruption of 1828. I have capped Snowdon in Wales, and Slieve Donard in Ireland, and nearly all the high hills in this district, many of which I can see from my residence. It only remains for me to mount the Pillar Rock, and then I may sigh for something else to conquer.'
With reference to Pillar Rock, one feat brought some adverse reaction to James Jackson’s stated view. In the letters it was commented on how the brothers, Edward and Thomas Westmorland had ascended the rock in the company of their sister. ‘N.Y.Z.’ wrote in to the paper expressing that he had read the story with ‘incredulous amazement’, believing they must have ascended Pillar Mountain, not the rock itself. This view was based on N.Y.Z's simple belief that it was beyond the capabilities of a woman. However, that same month Mr. Seatree and Mr. Stanley Martin made the ascent and found their names on the top. Reverend Jackson then admitted he had written the doubting letter and now accepted the truth of the account. The Westmorland’s were reported to have always held this slur on their character against James Jackson.

The Westmorlands
In the course of the letters the Reverend enquired of Mr. Seatree what equipment he had used to ascend the rock; spikes, ropes etc.? He asserted his powers of endurance by stating:

‘To give you some idea of my powers of endurance, I will briefly say that Oct. 1st, 1864, I walked 46 miles in 14 ½ hours, Oct. 4th, I walked 56 miles in 18 hours; and on Oct. 7th, 60 miles, my crowning exploit, in 19 hours 50 minutes. The last mentioned was to Keswick and back, via Whitehaven and Cockermouth.’

In 1875 he attempted to ascend the rock in company but had to concede to only a partial success and had been benumbed by the cold. They did not achieve the summit but were satisfied they had gained the correct route. He wrote to Seatree and said he hoped before the summer was too far advanced, he expected to vindicate the title of ‘Patriarch of the Pillarites’ he had given to himself. He wrote to Seatree dated 1st June 1875 and informed him he had achieved the summit and returned unscathed to his home. He said he would send an account for publication for 10th June Whitehaven News.

Reverend James Jackson photograph recording his passion with Pillar Rock.
Although climbing Pillar Rock had become a goal in his life, which he achieved, his fascination with it would eventually lead to his death.
On Saturday 4th May 1878 the Coroner Mr. John McElvie, held an inquest at Wasdale Head. Giving evidence was William Ritson, farmer and owner of the Hotel. He said that he had known the Reverend for ten to twelve years; he had arrived on the Tuesday afternoon and had set off at 5am on Wednesday with the intention of climbing Pillar Rock. When he did not return, he sent two men to look for him. They were John Jenkinson, a labourer of Burnthwaite, and Isaac Fletcher of Wasdale Head, to look for him but they returned and had been unsuccessful. They went again on Friday, finding his body in Great Doup. His watch had stopped at three o’clock, albeit undamaged; £2 gold, 10s 6d in silver, 4d copper along with other articles were found on him. There was also a bottle which contained a verse, on the cork was ‘Rev. J. Jackson, Sandwith’, evidently meant to be placed on the rock, once ascended. The verse was as follows:

‘Two elephantine properties are mine,
For I can bend to pick up pin or plack;
And when this year the Pillar Rock I climb,
Four score years and two’s the howdah on my back.

Date of the third ascent, May 1, 1878.”

Of course, the only thing the jury could do was to find that death was the result of an accident. His two sticks were found nearby, one 40 yards above him and the other 100 yards below.
Whilst awaiting the inquest the terribly disfigured body had been placed in an outhouse of the Inn.
The funeral took place at St. Bees, which is very near to Sandwith.

The Grave

A close-up of his name on the headstone.
A couple of years after his death two veteran mountaineers, Mr. F. H. Bowring and Mr. J. Maitland, both contemporaries of the Patriarch, built a cairn and placed an iron cross on the spot where the Reverend Jackson had been found, but the winter storms carried both away. On August 16th, 1906, a more lasting memorial was completed. Another veteran, Mr. C. A. 0. Baumgartner, the oldest living Pillarite, having ascended the Rock so far back as 1850 in conjunction with Mr. J. W. Robinson and Mr. Seatree, had the initials "J. J." and the date " 1878" chiselled on to the nearest suitable rock to where the body was found, by Mr. (George) Benson Walker, marble mason, Cockermouth. Taking advantage of the day set apart by Mr. Robinson, (of Robinson's cairn fame) one of Cumberland's foremost cragsmen, for his hundredth ascent of the Pillar Rock, an opportunity was found to have the work done. Mr. Robinson, Mr. Walker, and Mr. Seatree were accompanied by Mrs. Robinson, Miss Cleeve, Tasmania, and Miss A. E. Seatree. Mr. Walker found the rock to be very hard, but in a few hours an effective memorial of the old clergyman was inscribed which nothing short of an earthquake should destroy.
An earthquake certainly has not destroyed the memorial, but the coupled effect of time and weather has etched into the numbers and initials, making them all but indistinct from the rough rock face. The cross that accompanies the lettering is still clear to see and the one’s fingers can read the letters, that the eye can hardly see.

The cross to Reverend James Jackson. Hollydog applying some perspective.

The Cross in close-up
I knew he had fallen in Great Doup, but after four searches I was still unable to locate the inscription. Through a former work colleague, who is also a Mountain Rescue team member, he was able to ask some fellow climbers. Steve Reid, the owner of Needle Sports at Keswick, was able to assist, and I thank him greatly for that help. He had located this elusive memorial and manged to pass me greater detail on its location.  A further visit finally located the writing, along with the cross. Crosses are carved in the landscape to commemorate the passing of a notable human being and this deserves to be known further afield, especially after 141 years.

Postscript: On his death Reverend Jackson left effects to the value of £10,000 in his probate, with the executors of his will being his daughter Agnes, and his niece Elizabeth Jackson. His wife Susannah died on 25th January 1883, aged 66 years. Both she and Agnes are buried in the same grave. Agnes had married a William Pettigrew (who was 20 years younger than her and an Irish born farmer's son) in 1885 and died a widow on 21st February 1905, leaving effects of the value £1,464 16s 5d, to Miss Ellen Berry and Ernest Lamb, who was a draper.


**I have previously published this account, and other new material, for public knowledge. I did so in the expectation that anyone wishing to further expand that public knowledge would do so by highlighting this original account, and then adding new information they discover themselves, as I have above. Sadly I am aware of one site that has repeated a large section of an account of another all but forgotten lakeland memorial to two boys that drowned and making out it was new, despite his following my many new lakes history accounts. I was asked by a person writing a book for Wasdale MRT for the generation of funds to assist that worthy cause. I gladly agreed to its use and he stated he would reference my original account. Such a stance by the latter is an honourable one; I hope the former person reflects on his conduct and no longer copies my work and then makes out he has found a new lakes history; that is dishonourable and diminishes him.**


For further reading on the letters, this is the link. It may only be of interest to climbers or lakes historians: