Monday, 28 December 2015

Hindscarth, a gentleman of Keswick and Mount Pisgah

People love journeying to the lake district for a fell walk. This usually entails an exerting walk up a ridge, hopefully taking in the views of the surrounding fells and lakes. Some ridges are sought out for the exhilaration and perception of danger, Striding Edge, Swirral Edge, Sharp Edge, or Hall's Fell Ridge, these being the popular iconic ridge routes. Other ones are more rounded and a walker can spend greater time in the company of companions, walking and viewing the area with little risk of a serious fall, yet beautiful in its opening vistas. One such ridge among others, is the footpath from Little Town to the summit of Hindscarth, especially so if walked in autumn when the fell is clothed in the deep purple haze of the heather. This fell has the added advantage of a view into Goldscope mine, where the early German miners cut into the mineral vein for its rich deposits of copper and lead.

The vein of Goldscope Mine, Hindscarth

You can branch off and walk into the mine. It is dark, but relatively safe with no drops or branch-offs, (though do your internet research) but you will need a torch. If you carry on up the ridge it is initially steep but flattens in places to make a reasonably hard walk with excellent views of Keswick when you turn round to monitor your progress.
Goldscope (Scope End) Ridge, the first cairn just in view

The view back down Scope End ridge, looking to Keswick
 Above, my wife is beginning the last push to the first cairn which Wainwright refers to in book six as:
 'a big circular cairn of some antiquity, the Ordnance Survey maps giving it distinction by the use of the lettering reserved for objects of historic interest. This is the cairn predominantly seen from Newlands and it commands the finest view from the mountain.'

Looking back to Keswick, the first cairn (referred to as above by Wainwright), in view

It is at this point I add that I have come across something to add to the knowledge of Hindscarth, a fell which was always rather barren in historic references. It by no means explains this cairn and/or its builder entirely, but certainly adds to its interest. 
The summit cairn
I came across a newspaper article from 1807 that mentions Hindscarth as follows (and I quote in full):
'Mount Pisgah - A gentleman now (and for a long time past) resident in Keswick, began a few years ago to erect a carrack, or pillar of stones (without masonry) on the summit of Hindscarth; a mountain well known to tourists, as well as the inhabitants of the neighbouring parts. This he undertook to rear a Monument of Esteem for the dwellers in the Vale of Newlands, with whom he had formerly lived with much comfort, whilst a boy. His mode of constructing it is singular. He devoted one day in each year, only to its elevation; when, being well respected by his neighbours, he has the assistance of as many of them as he thinks necessary.     
-The pillar (if it may be so called) is of a pyramidical form; and from the repeated annual accumulation of stones, it has now become a very prominent object, altering in some respect the appearance of the mountain; which is at the head of Newlands. It is now 40 feet in circumference, at the base; 15 feet in height; and is to have another days labour bestowed upon it. The founder (and builder) has denominated it Mount Pisgah, from the circumstance of his having it in view from the windows of his present residence - In other respects, Mount Pisgah commands a most delightful prospect of the Vale of Keswick and Under-Skiddaw.'
Perplexingly, this initially threw up many other questions that seemed difficult to answer:
  • Who was the unnamed Keswick gentleman resident?
  • Why was the cairn so comprehensively destroyed?
  • Who destroyed it?
The 'cairn of some antiquity' referred to, will not be the summit one, and will be the next one along the ridge, towards Newlands. It would be 40 feet in circumference, but is not now 15 feet high, although there is a clear and large debris field around it, although large sections of this are now grass covered. This field shows the cairn would have been considerably higher.
A check of Cumbria Archives shows no early reference to Hindscarth or Pisgah, including this unknown reference to the Pisgah name or the more commonly known one on Pillar Rock.

The boulder field around the summit cairn

With reference to Pillar Rock in the Ennerdale valley, knowing the view from this and Hindscarth, the explanation contained within the below biblical quotation is obvious for their original source.
 "Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” (Deuteronomy 34:1-4;

See below for the 'whole of the land' view from Hindscarth, and one can see the obvious comparison with the biblical 'promised land'. It also stated in the article: '.... altering in some respect the appearance of the mountain' and it would have been clearly visible from Keswick. Some of it may have been robbed to form the more modern summit cairn.

The view down Scope End from the first cairn.
A drone image may show the scar or give clues to the destruction and laying waste to the original cairn; it is so close to any walker, under their nose, that it is easily missed as natural to the vicinity, but closer inspection shows a clear debris field out of context with the immediate area.
One aspect to the news article is that it was not an old tale retold by the writer; the references to '.... it has now become ....' and '.... is to have another days labour bestowed upon it.' show it to be present and still under construction at the time of the news article. That it has now largely disappeared just raises a debate, namely the mystery of the lost cairn (or the whole of it) on 'Mount Pisgah'.


***2nd January 2016 Update***

Following the publishing of this article (now amended) on social media, I had made a schoolboy error and Andy Beck (a knowledgeable person on The Lakes) put on a comment. He believed this to be the lower cairn which is marked on the OS maps and also pointed out my error of originally referring to the circumference as the diameter(my old engineering foreman would have turned in his grave). I had initially disagreed with Andy, but on reflection I came to agree with him and I thank him personally for having moved the subject on.

**Update 2nd August 2019**

These blogs are always a work in progress and whilst researching another Newlands Valley matter I came across another reference to the cairn. In a news article of 1880: '...….. Following the ridge you come to a slope leading to John Grave's man, as a now ruined cairn of stones is called on the top of Hindscarth. Hindscarth is better known among the shepherds as Mount Pisgah. …..' There was a further article in 1821 that shows William Jacksons Solicitors of Keswick, stating that a John Grave of Keswick had by indenture of Assignment, assigned and transferred all his personal estate and effects to a John Banks. Other evidence shows a John Grave as one of three church wardens at Crosthwaite Church in the year 1817 - 18. There is probably some work still to be done on parish registers, if possible, to try and tie up a John Grave commencing in Newlands and moving to Keswick, but it seems clear that a man of that name was the cairn builder. Certainly from Keswick the 15 feet cairn would be clearly visible on Hinsdscarth.


**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. 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.**

Saturday, 26 December 2015

White Pike on Clough Head and the death of William Holliday

People walk the Cumbrian fells for the pleasure of a days exercise yet may never contemplate the hard life previous working people have had to endure to exist on or at the foot of these mountains. We walk past nondescript places and pay them no mind while we soak in the beautiful views of the high fells, lakes and valleys, yet would we stop and pay a due respect if we did know?
At around 11am on the morning of 7th April 1858 Mr Bennett, a farmer of Wallthwaite near Threlkeld, Keswick, told his servant to take a quantity of hay to fodder the sheep on the fell. He stated the place where he was to take it to and informed him that he would meet him there with a bale he himself would fetch. The servant was William Holliday and he was 12 years old, the son of a miner from the Wallthwaite area. The farmer duly reached the agreed place, but the boy was not there. The wind raised to very strong with snow beginning to fall heavily and was blown into large drifts. When no sign of William was discovered search parties of local people were organised but failed to find him. They persisted to search continually, Mr Bennett was himself involved heavily in the searches and had offered a £5 reward for anyone who found the boy, dead or alive; no sign of the boy was found during the course of these searches and it was feared he had fallen into a swolley hole or gill and had been covered in snow. A farm dog had gone with William and had returned without him at about 7 o'clock that fateful night. It was ominously speculated that the beast would have remained with the boy, returning only on his death and comparisons were drawn from the Charles Gough incident on Helvellyn, romanticised and entered into folklore by the writer Walter Scott. Gough had died on 17 April 1805, his dog remaining at his side for seven weeks.
In the absence of fact, rumour always fills the void and a story had taken hold that he had been sighted at a great distance, but due to a severe speech impediment that resulted in only those who knew him well being able to understand his speech, he had strayed away from the neighbourhood and would not have been able to ask anyone the way back.
One Sunday in May Mr Bennett had sent refreshments onto the fell as an inducement to bring the whole neighbourhood out to search for William. They were out in such masses that a proper line search was able to be conducted and it ranged up to three miles from Wallthwaite, well beyond the original meeting place; the search failed to find the boy.

Clough Head in the foreground with White Pike jutting on the left(eastern) flank.
On 26th May, exactly 7 weeks after the boy had gone missing, William Harper, a shepherd for Mr Thompson of Birkett Field (this is between Guardhouse and Wallthwaite, below Threlkeld Common), was searching for his stock on White Pike Fell (marked on modern OS maps as White Pike and is the eastern extreme of Clough Head). This is a jut of rocks on this otherwise plain grassy fell face and is about four miles from Wallthwaite. He came across the corpse of the boy William Holliday in the receding snow.
The inquest was held, in the presence of the coroner Mr Carrick, on Thursday 27th May at Wallthwaite and it was given in evidence that on the day he had gone missing the snow had drifted in places up to a depth of 21 feet. It was noted that William Holliday had previously often been over the spot where he later died, but on that day in question the weather must have overtook him and he was unable to regain his bearings in such a blizzard. He was buried at Threlkeld on 28th May with the Reverend William Whitelegg reading the lesson.
One must be guarded in any speculation of how this tragedy came about, but this was clearly the case at the time of and immediately after his disappearance. If such speculation is based on known facts it would have been used to define search areas, extent of search distances, etc. The area William was to meet Mr Bennett is not stated, but since the search extended three miles from Wallthwaite, this would put it in the location of what is now referred to as The Old Coach Road, from High Row, near Dockray, to St. John's in the Vale. One would expect them to check some distance beyond the agreed meeting place as an obvious precaution, so one would assume the meeting would be around Lobbs, or Mosedale Beck, or Threlkeld Common. Perhaps William lost sight of the farmers dog and went beyond the agreed place in search of it, perhaps he couldn't find the sheep and ranged ahead to seek them and the storm came in. Whatever the reason, he would get lost in any snow storm on the barren and featureless Threlkeld Common, but if he continued up he would know he would intersect the Old Coach Road. In large drifts though, he could walk right over this and not have realised he had passed it; that would be the fatal error. 

The view of Clough Head from Halls Fell Ridge, Blencathra. Lobbs and Mosedale Back to the far left, ahead White Pike (Fell) can be seen on the eastern flank of Clough Head, St John's in the Vale to the far right.
I have visited the graveyard at St. Mary's Church, Threlkeld, and there is one grave named Holliday, but it is not William's; the graveyard does appear as if old stones have been cleared in areas, or perhaps the family were too poor to erect one. Now no memorial exists (if ever there was one), or any memory of the boy as he struggled to earn money to help keep the Holliday family. Had it been an adult that died some acceptance could be reached from the hard realisation that people died in the course of their daily work; but a twelve year old boy? Perhaps this will serve as some memorial to William Holliday and hopefully he will be remembered as we continue to walk the fells for our enjoyment and may we pause, before we pass, White Pike on Clough Head.


**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. 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.**


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. (For further reading on Jenkinson read: (
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?


**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. 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.**


Saturday, 12 December 2015

The tragedy of White Cross Bay, Windermere.

Most, to a greater or lesser extent, know the recent history of White Cross Bay, Windermere, by it's association with the building of Sunderland MkIII Seaplanes during WWII and a commemoration stone exists at the Holiday Centre, which now stands on the aerodrome site, to display this important piece of local history.

The bay though was already known by that name and one has to look to a slightly older time for the explanation. The name derives from an actual cross that looks out over the lake near Ecclerigg Crag, on the lake side of Cragwood House (now a country house hotel), not an area frequented by the majority of tourists.

Cragwood House
The White Cross

 This Cross is inscribed with the names of the men and the words:


This is a biblical quotation from Matthew 25:13 and is a part quotation. To give the full quote one must add:

'.... wherein the son of man cometh'

The realisation of the white cross's meaning can begin to be understood by looking to Fleetwith Pike and the cross erected there in memory to Fanny Mercer, the servant girl who died on the fells whilst holidaying with the family she worked for. (For details see other incident logged November 2015.) Most know a brief account of this tragedy and so it is a similar commemoration in the case of White Cross Bay, Windermere; namely to the death of individuals.
The biblical quotation can be loosely interpreted to warn to be prepared for meeting one's maker at a time unexpected, especially the young to whom death always seems so far off a journey, but unknowingly may be far closer than one dares imagine. It would be used in sermons to remind people to always live a kindly, Godly life, ready for that visitation whenever it may uncalled for come.
It was on Tuesday 13th September 1853 that the families of Ralph Anthony Thicknesse Esquire, the Member of Parliament for Wigan, and H. Woodcock, the brother of John Woodcock Esquire, a banker, of The Elms, Wigan, were holidaying on the shores of Windermere. Mr H. Woodcock and his family were there for a period of weeks and were later joined by their nephew, Thomas, who was John Woodcock's eldest son and was 19 years of age. Thomas was an articled clerk with the solicitors firm Woodcock, Just & Scott of Wigan and was also a lieutenant of the 3rd regiment of Royal Lancashire Militia.  Thomas's cousin Ralph Thicknesse (the only son of Ralph Anthony Thicknesse) was staying with the party also; he 20 years of age and was entered into Trinity College, Cambridge. The families were very closely related, indeed Ralph Anthony had married his cousin Mary Ann Woodcock.
Both the cousins, Thomas and Ralph, set off together at about 11:00 am in a paired oared skiff owned by James Robinson of Waterhead and it was their intention to sail to Bowness where they expected to meet other members of the family holiday party. The skiff was long yet narrow and it was the local belief that only the most practised of navigators should endeavour to venture in such a craft. In skilful hands they can cut through the water at speed, yet the slightest of movement was likely to upset the skiff's balance.
At approximately 3.30 pm on the afternoon of Tuesday 13th, John Taylor of Ecclerigg near Windermere, a corn-dealer, was fishing from a boat in the Ecclerigg area when he noticed the two young men in the skiff, sailing on the lake. It passed about 100 yards off him and they were nearing Ecclerigg Point. It was at this time he heard noise as if a boat was scraping rock and he looked across to the skiff; one of the two gentlemen was now standing up in it. He watched them clear Ecclerigg Crag and once done, he turned his gaze away from them. Shortly after him turning away he then heard a shout from that direction, looked up once again, but nothing appeared to be there. He then became aware of something splashing in the water and crying out; fearing a tragedy he made for the area as quickly as possible. The cries of the two young men continued and he himself shouted as loud as he could for assistance, but no other boat was in the immediate area to witness the event and offer such aid. When he arrived at the site of the sinking, both men had disappeared under the water and the skiff was floating keel upwards with clothing and other debris on the water. He looked down into the lake water, but the water was ruffled and he could only see a foot under the surface, he could see nothing of the two men. He had no boat hook to grapple with and hastened to Ecclerigg for help. He gained the assistance of a Mr Swinburn who brought a dragging iron.
The lake at the point of the accident is usually between 12 to 15 feet in depth, though due to recent rainfall was supposed to be higher than usual, although the weather that day was calm.

James Layland of Wigan was a coachman in the service of Ralph Thcknesse Esq., and was with the family at Windermere. At around 4:00 pm that day he was sailing in a boat on Windermere near Ecclerigg Crag  when he saw the lake being dragged. When he rowed towards the area he was told by the draggers, one being Mr Swinburn, that it was Mr Woodcock of Waterhead, Ambleside. The dawning of a tragedy for the family he was in service to must have struck him and he assisted in the search; within five to ten minutes of him arriving at this calamity, the body of Mr Woodcock was raised. He was hauled into a boat and taken as quickly as possible to Low Wood Inn, over a mile in distance away. James continued to assist in the search for Mr Thicknesse and within three minutes his body was also discovered and removed to the same location. (The Low Wood Inn would the be the scene of the inquest, held in the presence of Mr. R. Wilson Esquire, the next day. The watches on both bodies were late found to have ceased to work at 3.30 pm.)
Immediately after arrival of both the drowned men, every effort was made to restore life, yet despite three medical men being called and in attendance, working on both for over two hours, all efforts were proved futile and they were beyond recovery. (In a modern age this effort after that length of time in the water seems pointless, yet even now resuscitation continues, irrespective of time, until a doctor or paramedic declares life is extinct.)
Very shortly after the sinking a young man by the name of Fleming, who was from Ecclerigg, had been at the scene of the accident. He left before the bodies were recovered, to try and organise grappling irons be brought to assist in the body recovery. He was heading to Bowness when he came upon another boat going towards Ambleside and hailed them to seek their assistance in conveying the sad tidings to the family and organise further grappling irons be got ready to assist. Unfortunately aboard this boat was Mr Thicknesse, the father of Ralph, Mr H. Woodcock, (the uncle of Thomas) and other family members so the tragedy was then compounded with this unwitting method of delivery of the distressing news to their loving families, who were thrown into a state of great alarm. They at once landed and Mr. Thicknesse accompanied the ladies of the party, with the exception of Thomas's aunt, home. Mr and Mrs H. Woodcock remained with the drowned young men and accompanied the recovery party to Low Wood Inn, until nothing further could be done for the now deceased Thomas and Ralph.
Mr H. Woodcock left the town by the night mail train to bear the sad tidings to his brother, John Woodcock, Thomas's father. He then returned with some servants and another uncle, a Mr Harrison, to Windermere on the 3.00 am mail train.
The inquest commenced at Low Wood Inn at 1:00 pm on Wednesday and the relatives were permitted by the coroner to begin the sad journey by special train, of escorting the bodies, back to their Wigan homes of Beech Hill and The Elms; the families travelling with their deceased loved ones. The people of Wigan were waiting at the station and on the streets to receive the return, in its unlooked for and unwanted form, but felt it necessary to join in the sad commemoration with the grieving families.

The funeral of the two young men took place on Monday 19th September at Wigan. The families were well respected gentry in the area and the shops of the Market Place were closed during the time of the funerals, the townspeople in their thousands lined the streets and were present at the burials as they were both placed reverently in their family vaults at All Saints Parish Church, Wigan. The rear church wall bears the following inscription:


On 28th October 1853 the below verses were printed in The Liverpool Mercury Double Supplement. I have repeated the whole poem, putting in italics, after the title, the papers explanation (although it is in the same section as the newspaper placed it). It seems to suggest that the title itself was not with the verses, but clearly refers to the drowning.

(The rough copy of these verses was picked up in the Park-road and no doubt refer to the above unfortunate youths.)

Winandermere! no face of fear
Did thy Blue Waters wear;
'Twas with a smile thou didst beguile
The destined pair!
The Elder bore the barb of war,
His friend the scholars Gown;
The syren wave became their grave,
With few to see and none to save,
They both went down!

O Langdale! shroud thy twins in cloud;
Scawfell! thy forehead veil:
Sad echoes, wake! from Curwen's brake
To Loughrigg Fell!
Urge, Brathay, slow thy sweet streams flow
Along its crystal bed;
And Tarn and steep conspire to weep
The silent mound where softly sleep
The early dead!

Ye braes! unclose each flower that knows
Its season of the year;
Bring forth, O lake! thy hoards to deck
With gems that bier!
And all ye leaves, that nature gives
To bank and bush and burn,
Break out - too late - too soon - forget
The cycles of your wont, to wet
With dew that urn!

Come, mountain ash! your red tears dash,
Up where the eagle sails;
And hyacinths strew, both white and blue,
Your tremulous bells!
And staider flowers, in rich men's bowers
By all your variance seen;
The pansy neat, the rose so sweet,
The passion-flower, and fuschia, meet
For graves so green!

But who will bring his harp to sing
The story of the drowned!"Twere sure not hard to find a bard
These lakes around!
Alas! not so; uncharmed we go
From Loughrigg to Lodore,
And call in vain for one last strain
From hands that sweep the strings again
Shall never more!

The "dove" that pressed you soft, warm "nest"
Has flown aloft to sing,
And Grasmere's lyre can magic fire
No longer fling. On Greta's wall no numbers fall,
And Rydal, too, is dumb;
For time can warp each favourite harp,
Though strong the strings, or sweet, or sharp,
The chords have come!

But linger long the wings of song
That flutter 'mid the hill;
Even yet through fell and scar and dale
Their echo rings!
And liquid notes from silent throats
Shall swell one last refrain,
Then mount to skies where never dies
The song that can immortalise
The hapless twain!

Yon bird that brings on loaded wings
Subsistence to her young,
And left her nest on mountain's crest
Securely hung -
Shall she not cry and steerless fly
O'er all she lived for - lost!
When closed and dead each beak she fed
Lies underneath, with dust o'erspread,
And feathers tossed!

And she that floats to bugle notes
So unsuspecting by,
Content to turn aside, and learn,
"What means that cry?"
If hearts can break, tis time, O lake!
The unenvied meed to wear,
She looked - she saw the floating oar -
The cap she knew - the coat he wore -
The streaming hair.

North Wind! arise, and drown the cries
That sting our startled ear:
Canst thou not quell that voice of wail,
O Windermere!
Furrow thy face, but o'er one place
Forbear, at least, to rave;
By yonder bank, where down they sank,
Preserve a circle calm and blank,
As marble wave.
J. W. H.
Liverpool Mercury.

I have been unable to discover who J. W. H. was as a poet, though the words are poignant and were repeated in The Westmorland Gazette. The above italic insert of the time seems to suggest the paper also did not know the author, yet printed the poem. 

As earlier stated, Ralph Thicknesse was the only son of Ralph Anthony Thicknesse and the tragedy struck the father deep to his soul. In the days of the son taking over the family inheritance and business, this long family line had now been broken and he was left with one daughter, Ann.
In August of 1854 Ralph Anthony and his remaining family went to go to Harrogate, the Spa town in the north of England, taking up apartments at The Dragon Hotel, intending on stopping there for some weeks; he would be 54 years of age. Although appearing well, on Sunday 20th August he was seized with pain and withdrew to the hotel. Despite Dr Kenyon (of Harrogate) calling on the help of Dr. Simpson from York, Mr Thicknesse deteriorated on Tuesday morning and died shortly after 11:00 pm that night from a heart condition. On Wednesday his body was transported back to Wigan and conveyed to Beech Hill, the family Home, arriving at 9:30 pm and, like his son, a large crowd had gathered for the sad homecoming, the local church bell tolling the journey from the railway station to Beech Hill.
Mr Thicknesse was born in 1800, the family being renowned in the area, through mining and banking. In 1828 he had married his cousin Mary Ann Woodcock and they had three children, two daughters and Ralph the son. He lost his youngest daughter and then lost Ralph, his only son. This left one daughter, Ann. She was to marry Francis Henry Coldwell who by Royal Licence, took the name Thicknesse and the family crest. In this fashion the family wealth went to Ann and the family name of Thicknesse was carried on. He led a life in the clergy and upon his death had he had become the oldest Anglican Bishop. He and Ann bore five sons and two daughters, hence the Thicknesse name continued and did not die out so tragically with the death of Ralph Anthony Thicknesse.

It is a tragic tale, both deaths emanating from the same close family, yet it has at least shown some hope to the end. There have been many such deaths in the Lake District, not all have left their mark in the landscape, such as the memorial to the young men and the place-name of 'White Cross Bay'. 


**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. 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.**