Thursday, 26 December 2019

The Helvellyn Mountain Cross Shelter history.


The nations favourite 'must do' mountain walk has long been known to be the ascent of Helvellyn, which rises high above the Lake District valleys, creating a high division between Ullswater and Thirlmere. The ascent is equally popular from both valleys, the Glenridding ascent takes in the famous Greenside mine, where lead and silver were extracted from the valley, before the high elevation of Red Tarn is achieved. 

Red Tarn with Helvellyn as the backdrop.

The view from Helvellyn, looking to Ullswater with Swirral Edge to the left.

Striding Edge, with Red Tarn just in view on the left.
From here a decision can be made to either take the famous route of Striding Edge, to the south of the tarn, or Swirral Edge to the north of it. The Striding Edge route is another 'must do' feature of this fell for many walkers, and is famed for the tragic death of Charles Gough in April 1805; the two are usually combined as a horseshoe walk.


 The Thirlmere route, on the west side of the mountain, is an initially steeper yet safer route to the top, levelling off to a more gentle incline after Browncove Craggs is passed.  Either route takes you to the third highest peak in England, standing at 951m above sea level. The view across the bowl of Red Tarn, created by the packed ice turning as a giant ball and scouring out the bowl many thousands of years ago, is a sight to behold, the view expanding beyond towards Glenridding and Ullswater; hence it's popularity as a walk. Many have taken on the ascent only to find they are misted by cloud on the summit, making orientation difficult; many have become benighted in these conditions. Ad-hoc horseshoe shelters are common on lakeland summits, built by either farmers for livestock, or by walkers to create a break from the high arduous conditions; such a one exists on that other lofty peak of Skiddaw, towering above the town of Keswick. These are limited by their orientation and provide little or no shelter when the wind is howling into the opening, usually facing to the east. A biting winter Siberian gale, coming from the east, is perhaps the worst of all. In such conditions the Helvellyn cross shelter is a godsend to the stranded walker. 

The Cross Shelter on Helvellyn summit.
The mountain itself is also famed as the first plane landing on a mountain top, and a plaque denotes this feat of daring do, not too far south of the cross cairn shelter; this story adding to the mountain's allure.

As far back as June 1828 accounts were written where ardent walkers informed the readers, 'How sublime an elevation! How glorious the panorama! What mighty assemblage of mountains! What an infinite diversity of landscape! Water - in all its variety, from the little tarn collected in the hollows of the mountains and the streamlet that trickles down their sides, to the spreading lake, the far-winding river, the broad estuary and the the unlimited sea. .....' In the same account it led on to the walkers stating: 'the high and keen wind drove us to take shelter beneath the pile of stones which stands on Helvellyn Man.' It therefor gives reference to there being some form of shelter on the mountain, but not the cross itself, merely a mound of stones, no doubt a large cairn. Earlier in February of that year a group, including ladies, demolished their flask of brandy while hidden behind the same cairn for half an hour, before descending the mountain to escape the winter wind. Accounts of walkers sheltering behind a mere 'cairn of stones' were still being given through 1860's.
The popularity of the adventure to the summit was to cause discussion on a better shelter to serve any walkers caught out by the unrelenting and harsh fell top conditions. The English Lake District Association came into existence following a meeting at The Queen Hotel, Ambleside on 5th November 1877. It was formed to promote the Lake District as a tourist destination and to advertise it across the nation, particularly now that rail travel could bring those tourists direct to the towns of Windermere and Keswick. It had originally been suggested by Messrs. Cook and Son, tourist agents, in September 1876 following the death of the Silversmith Edward Barnard.


 Cook's had suggested finger-posts but the cost and who was to pay for them was questioned. Cook's stated that an association, like the Black Forest Association, made up of local hoteliers of that area, should be similarly formed in the Lake District. Those association members paid for such posts as they gained large profits from the tourism. Messrs. Cook and Son stated that they were members and if one was similarly formed in the Lake District, they would pay their share.

A similar stone built 'refuge' had been proposed for Skiddaw and was reported as being agreed to by the Skiddaw owner, Lord Leconfield. It had been urged due to the tourists that were now making their way to the summit with great regularity. At the Lake District Association meeting of Tuesday 3rd February 1885 it was stated that, 'During the summer a substantial shelter was erected on the summit of Skiddaw at a cost of about £9.' This had been built by a W. Wilson of Keswick, at committee member of the association, at his own expense. It was also reported that the shelter had been damaged by the wind within one month and by November was in a useless condition. 
On Wednesday 17th March 1886 at The Prince of Wales Hotel, Grasmere, the Association's meeting touched on a range of topics and improvements to the area. On the subject of Helvellyn consideration was given to a shelter on or near the summit, similar to the Keswick summit one, as well as placing a stone indicator on the summit of Grisdale Pass. At the meeting of Tuesday 8th June 1886 at Riggs Hotel, Windermere, the chairman, Mr. Harrison, reported that agreement had been reached for the erection of the shelter and indicators. Although no specific information is available for the actual date of construction and who the builder was, by the first week of September 1886 the celebrated guide, Johnny Mackereth, who led many celebrated parties out from The Prince of Wales Lake Hotel, Grasmere, was reporting it being a great boon and well resorted to. A further meeting was held at The Queen's Hotel, Ambleside, on Wednesday 22nd September where the cost of the construction was given as £8. It was also stated that the Skiddaw shelter repair had been deferred, 'on account of  the difficulty getting water for cement, for which snow had to be used.' On Tuesday 14th December that same year, it was reported at the Association meeting again at Riggs Hotel, that the Skiddaw repair had now been conducted. On 27th June 1891 the Refreshment Hut at the breast of Skiddaw was advertised to be let. This draws a different and distinctive description between the summit hut/shelter to the known hut part way up Skiddaw Breast, from the car park at Latrigg. 


Skiddaw Hut, on Skiddaw Breast

The remaining foundations of the first Skiddaw Hut (next to the fence-line).

The 30th September Association meeting in 1891 saw a proposal for a shelter 'similar to those on Helvellyn and Skiddaw, to be erected on Scawfell. At the the meeting of February 1893 it was stated that there were now shelters on Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Scawfell and Esk Hause. However, an article in the June edition of the Carlisle Journal stated that it would be a blessing if a similar cross shelter were on Skiddaw to provide the same shelter from the wind as that on Helvellyn. This suggests that the Skiddaw summit hut or shelter was now gone. Perhaps that cement required for the earlier repair had been for a base and the shelter was wooden, like the one on the breast route up from Latrigg. It seems to have disappeared quickly, yet the Helvellyn one stands to this day, and unblemished; a permanent structure.

**The research of the Skiddaw huts/shelters, becomes confusing. In 1880 accounts were written where walkers with Mr. Baddeley (Windermere) and Mr. Jenkinson (Keswick - see page bottom for the Jenkinson story) stopped for refreshments at the first of two huts, which was part way up the hill after Latrigg, only to find whilst they had beverages that the higher hut was now closed. (This is a clear indicator of an even earlier higher hut on Skiddaw.) This lower white hut on Skiddaw Breast was reported as still there in the summer of 1936 at least. I have checked the route up to Skiddaw from Latrigg and there is no remnants of any hut or shelter higher than the foundations photograph, nor on the summit, but something was clearly there. It may be that it was located at the site large horseshoe cairn. It is next to the trig point summit and seems unnaturally 'flattened'. There is also a drilled feature in a nearby rock that seems unexplained, and I would be interested in any explanation any reader is aware of. It has to be left to the interpretation of the reader AND I will keep on researching.

The drilled feature, in relation to the trig point.




The flattened area of the horseshoe cairn. Could this have been the location of the summit hut?
To this day the Helvellyn cross shelter has improved the comfort of many a Helvellyn walker, able to eat food in its protection, no matter what direction the wind came howling from; I myself had felt that relief under its protection. I have been thankful for the Skiddaw horseshoe also, but it in no way measures up to that afforded by the Helvellyn shelter. 


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Wednesday, 18 December 2019

The First Coniston Steamer - The Princess Royal



When you hear discussions related to the Coniston steamer, the conversation invariably refers to the Steam Yacht Gondola that is now owned by The National Trust. It had commenced a service as far back as November 1859 and was retired in 1936. Following a period as a 'house boat' she eventually slipped into a sorry state, which led to her being purposefully sunk onto the lake bed. When she was raised, a rebuild was necessary, assisted by local fundraising and industrial support. She once again sailed the lake, with a new superstructure and hull, in 1980. However, she was not the first  attempt to place a steamer to conduct a tourist passenger service on Coniston Water.

Coniston taken from the Hawkshead road.
James Sladen was an engineer originally from Calderbrook, near Littleborough, Rochdale. He was married in 1845 at the age of 20 years to Ester Holt, both were illiterate. His father Thomas was a Navigator and his father-in-law was a Waterman, so both would work the canals. James was still an engineer in 1851 aged 26, living in the Littleborough area. 
At some stage in the early 1850's James began a business of hiring boats on Hollingworth Lake, Littleborough, having sought permission from the Rochdale Canal Company. These were rowing, or sailing boats, although there was at some stage a number of steamers used by James.
An advert dated 14th April 1855 for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company excursions had added Hollingworth Lake to the itinerary where: '... steamer or pleasure boats are always to be had.' This suggested some continuance of these boats over a period of time previously.
In the Coniston area it was announced on 21st July 1855 that a small steamer had just been put on Coniston Water. It was reported to be similar in design, long and narrow, to those that once ran between Preston and Kendal prior to the railway. It was said that it was a screw thread propulsion, although the engine was not large and had latterly been plying a trade on a body of water in the Rochdale area and was owned by a person from there. The Kendal Mercury of 21st July announced that there was now 'Steam on Coniston Lake'.  The boat was called 'Princess Royal', most likely named after the first daughter of Queen Victoria, herself named Victoria, 1840 - 1901.


The Princess Royal - Victoria
On Monday 16th July the vessel had began plying a trade of tourism.


Kendal Mercury 21st July 1855
Another article referred to it as 'The Queen of the Lake', but it looked fair to begin a passenger service on this Lancastrian water under the proprietor Mr. James Sladen. It was an iron built screw driven steamer, with a boiler and engine of 4 horse-power, built on 'the railway principle'. It had been removed from Littleborough to Coniston as a whole unit and was capable of carrying 60 passengers. The service was to be both first class at one shilling and sixpence (1s 6d), and second class at one shilling. Any child under 12 years old was to travel at half price and any passenger not completing a return journey was still to be charged the same fare.
  Sadly it was not to be. By 2nd August the service was discontinued and the vessel was up for sale by private treaty; there had not been the expected uptake of business for the service to be profitable. It was advertised as capable of being moved whole by train, having originally travelled 100 miles by that technique from Littleborough. Details were to be obtained from James Slidin(Sladen) of Hare Hill Mill, Littleborough. There is no account of who bought the vessel, yet at Hollingworth Lake steamers again plied a trade in 1856 of tourist excursions; it may be that the vessel returned to that body of water. By 1859 he had at least two steamers and over twenty pleasure boats on Hollingworth Lake.

Ester died in the 2nd quarter of 1859 aged 34 years and James remarried Sarah Hudson, the daughter of Ely Hudson, an innkeeper. On the marriage certificate James was then a 'boat proprietor'.

In the 1861 census he was shown as an engineer at Hollingworth. By 1871 he was then listed as a Beer Seller and Refreshment House Keeper. His son Uriah had the next premise and was a joiner and Refreshment Room Keeper; that premise was also under the Sladen name. James died on 31st August 1876, aged 51 years, at The Beach Hotel, Hollingworth; his probate showed him leaving effects under £5,000. Uriah then took over the family boat business.

One would have expected James to have re-visited Coniston and travel on The Gondola. If he did, he must have wondered what might have been, had the uptake of his excursions been better supported. The risk and cost to his fledgling business must have been substantial, but he had seen a potential opportunity and at least tried. 


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Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The Enterprise, the first Ullswater Steam Boat


The two largest lakes of the English Lake District were Windermere and Ullswater. Boats had been used on them over the centuries to provide goods and carry cargos down their lengths and to the remote communities on their shores. With the development of a burgeoning tourist industry, enhanced through steam engines and rail development, Windermere was at the forefront of pleasure cruising on an inland water.
Ullswater itself was a lake used to enable pig lead, that had been extracted from the mined ore, to be transported from the lead mines nearer the head of the valley. As early as 1836 the mining company had resolved to put a steamer on the lake for this purpose, to increase the business efficiency of the company. Such a steamer would take the mined product down the lake and return with coal, required for the smelting operations. Such a vessel would no doubt assist in other articles or persons being in need of transport, at a cost. It is unknown if this resolution ever actually came to fruition, but that kernel of an idea had begun.  It was suggested at this time that the day could not be far away when tourism pleasure boats would steam the length of the larger lakes, such as Windermere which was 13 miles in length, and Ullswater, at 9 miles length.
Windermere was the biggest at just over 11 miles, but in the opinion of some, not the most dramatic, being surrounded by rolling low level fells, with the high peaks giving a distant backdrop. Ullswater however was over 7 miles in length, and was arced at the head by these imposing high peaks, with Place Fell dropping deep into the lake on its southern shore. There was a recognition in October 1858 for an opportunity of tourism development for the water, with Penrith being only a few miles east of the lake. That year a Steam Coal Company was formed and quickly amassed 8/10ths of the finances needed for a steam boat. It was even mooted that a railway branch line could be built to the village of Pooley Bridge itself.
On Christmas Eve that year the first tender was placed in the Carlisle Journal for the building of a steam boat for the lake.


 A second tender was also placed in January 1859 with an altered specification of 18 horsepower, 70 feet in length with a 14 feet beam, drawing now only 2ft 6ins of water; tenders now to be submitted by 29th January. In March, the positions of Captain, Engine Driver, and General Assistant were advertised, for a proposed launch date around mid June. In mid-May the vessel was by then stored at the rail station and was expected to be transported in a few days time, although the contractor believed the launch date to now appear overly optimistic. Within a week the boat was at the lake, transported in sections and rivetted together on the east shore. It was then reported to be 80 feet in length and 16 horsepower. It was fitted with both a ladies and gentlemen's saloon, each 20 feet in length, with washing room and every convenience attached. It was built by H. M. Lawrence & Co. of Liverpool. A 90 feet long Quay was to be constructed a little north of the river and after some initial problems, landings were secured at Howtown Bay, a further landing at Patterdale Bridge, at the end of the property of W. H. Askew Esq., a staunch steamer supporter from the start. Mr. Howard also seemed amenable to a landing at Lyulph's Tower at Gowbarrow. The date of 20th June was still advertised and the vessel name was expected then to be The Dalemain, a tribute to the Lord of the Manor.
Mr. R. Brownrigg of The Sun Inn, at Pooley Bridge, was quick to see a clear business opportunity and advertised an omnibus to travel between Pooley Bridge and Penrith Train Station, to meet the three afternoon arrival trains and two in the evening; this omnibus was to commence on 1st June. Clearly tourism was about to dramatically expand.
The original launch date passed and was now set for July. The directors of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway were open to the idea of a temporary station at Yanwath to use during the summer season for any parties wishing to visit the lake. 
The initial launch took place at 2pm on Saturday 16th July to huge crowds which had gathered on the lake shore to see the spectacle. The chocks were all removed but one, as Mrs. Slee of Tyrrel dashed a customary bottle of wine against her bow, naming her, 'The Enterprise'; a change from the original idea of 'The Dalemain'. The boat itself was incomplete with the engine still to be delivered and the fitting of internal features still to be added. It was expected to conduct trials at 12 noon on Saturday 28th, so this was set as the firm date. Special trains from Kendal and Carlisle were arranged with a large banquet organised for 4pm at Mr. Brownrigg's Sun Hotel. Sadly, despite getting a head of steam, the boat did not move due to a failure of part of the machinery, which was a great disappointment to all.  Finally, on Saturday 6th August she was handed over from the contractors to the Directors. However, things never go smoothly and after some confusion that lasted from 11am to 2pm, it was realised that the contractor, Mr. Lawrence would be needed to actually sail the vessel, which he then did. 
Her first journey down the length of the lake, took 50 minutes to land at Glenridding Point. Enroute the heavens had opened and continued throughout the afternoon. At Glenridding a serious accident nearly occurred when the rope was thrown to be tied, but the catcher tried to hold the boat with brute strength and was scooped off his feet. An omnibus had been arranged by the White Lion at Patterdale, which was an hour's excursion from the boat. When the boat returned to Pooley Bridge a cautious landing had to take place with great dexterity, as the landing stage was still not built. Then, like now, on journey's end, the weather immediately cleared and glorious sunshine ensued!
From that point it could then begin to ply a daily trade of cheap and reliable passenger transport and after the inauspicious start she then had a very successful first fortnight, making three daily trips up and down the lake, with greater than anticipated passenger numbers enjoying her delights. She would leave Pooley Bridge at 9am, 1pm, and 4:15pm, taking 30 mins to arrive at Howtown and then 45 mins to travel further to Patterdale. The return journeys were at 10:30am, 2:30pm and 5:35pm. Coaches supplemented the journey between Penrith and Pooley Bridge.
The new season for 1860 was to commence in mid June and new internal fittings were now added for improved passenger comfort. Like any new venture the boat was not without controversy and that same month Mr. Marshall was in dispute with the steam boat owners. A case was then commenced in the court of Queen's Bench, against the Ullswater Steam Navigation Company for the illegal erection of a jetty on his land and the spoiling of the fisheries, by the discarding of cinders from the boat; he was seeking £100 compensation. This resulted in an extraordinary General Meeting on 29th June, at the Sun Inn, Pooley Bridge, where it was unanimously resolved to defend the action. The case was listed to be before Westmorland Assizes on 3rd August, but on the day it was withdrawn.
The more well off members of the local societies were philanthropic by nature towards their less fortunate fellow men, and their children. On Thursday 9th August 1860 a day trip to the lake was organised for the benefit of the workhouse children of Penrith and their teachers. Mr. Brownrigg supplied the coach for transport to the lake and on arrival in the steam boat at Patterdale the children were treated to an abundant supply of cake. they were then allowed to make their own 'bent' and re-assembled at the boat at 4:30pm for travelling back to Pooley Bridge, where they again were treated to refreshments. The Steam Company and Mr. Brownrigg charged only minimal fees and the £2 surplus from the fund was to be used to buy the children a harmonium. The 1860 season was due to end on or near 5th October and was regarded as a very successful one. The new 1861 season would begin again on 3rd June.
The dispute with Mr. Marshall had not ended and was again before the courts on 6th and 7th August 1861, and came to be known as 'The Great Ullswater Case.' The spoiling of the fishing was not upheld, but who was the owner of the soil on the lake bed became the issue, for that was what the pier was driven into. The issues argumented over to reach a verdict are perhaps too complicated and intricate to enter into in depth at this stage, but the decision went with Mr. Mounsey and against Mr. Marshall. The half yearly report in October noted that the season had been a good one of passenger numbers, but the case had affected the profitability of the company.
The case continued into 1862 where it was before the court of Queens Bench on 21st and 24th November. The issue of ownership of the soil of a lake bed had implications of national importance. The cases that were stated were of rivers, for clear comparisons to be drawn, even the case of the Mississippi river was quoted. Here, after legal argument, the case was adjourned for the bench to consider its verdict. The decision was announced on Saturday 21st February 1863 and the judgement was for the plaintiff, Mr. Marshall, in that the law as it stood must be discharged. The Lord Chief Justice however, went on to say that if he were sitting in a court if appeal, he would hesitate, for he did not acquiesce in the law as laid down. Notice of an appeal was then given by the Ullswater Steam Navigation Company against the decision of the Court of Queens Bench.
The half yearly meeting of the company was held at The Sun Hotel, Pooley Bridge, on 11th May where a motion was put that all action against Mr. Marshall be suspended. However, an amendment was then put forward that action should continue to obtain a reversal of the courts decision; that amendment was carried, 13 votes for, and two against. On 13th May 1865, at The Exchequer Chamber, the judgement of the court of Queens Bench was affirmed and the case was finally concluded in Mr. Marshall's favour. It is understood that a rent then had to be paid to him.
Following this the steam boat settled down to ply its annual trade of tourism for the lake visitors. In July of 1873 the boat had undergone a refit and a new and stronger boiler was installed, with new plates being fitted to the bottom of the boat. A trial trip showed her powers to be greatly increased.
 It also assisted in conducting local events such as the Dacre, Stainton and Newbiggin school children trips in the summer of that year, being one such example. 123 children took the opportunity to sail and take refreshments aboard The Enterprise, as they journeyed to Patterdale and back.
The Enterprise was still plying its trade in the 1876 season, doing four trips down the length of the lake. By the December of that year however, a new twin screw steam yacht, was tendered and the company who were to build it was Messrs T. B. Seath & Co., Glasgow. The architect was the eminent Mr. Hebson of Liverpool, although he was a native of Penrith itself. In June 1877 The Lady of the Lake, capable of 12 knots, was launched and no further reference then exists for the old Enterprise. What her fate was is unknown, but checks with local sub-aqua groups indicate there is no evidence of any vessel lying in the 60m depth of Ullswater. She was a paddle steamer, and not outdated, so was most likely broken up with important parts and fittings reclaimed.




Now a new and more modern boat would take the company forward as it continued to progress the tourism trade on the most dramatic lake of Ullswater. 

















Saturday, 7 December 2019

The Hallin Fell 'Obelisk'

There are a number of small peaks scattered within the high fells of Lakeland that afford the less adventurous tourist a reasonable amount of exercise, yet rewarding them with no less dramatic views of the valley and lake where they are situated. Buttermere has Rannerdale Knotts, Ennerdale is gifted with Angler's Crag, Borrowdale is bounteously graced with Castle Head, Latrigg, and Castle Crag, Rydal and Grasmere with Loughrigg Fell, and Windermere with Gummer's How. Ullswater is not without such a hill, and is blessed with the stunning views of Hallin Fell, which is anchored partway on the southern side of the lake. 

Hallin Fell and the view to Pooley Bridge, Bonscale to the right with Howtown below.
The lake itself is headed at its Eastern end by Pooley Bridge, with Glenridding at the Western end, which affords access to the Helvellyn range and Patterdale. This lake has two 'doglegs', the first when heading west bends sharply from a south westerly line of travel, arching more to the west only, then at Glencoyne it bends to a pure southerly direction. The lake is just over 7 miles long and a Hallin fell the views the tourist are of the lake curving round the base of the fell into Howtown, where the ferry docks on its plying of the lake, affording more viewing opportunities for tourists. It is this view from the fell that draws visitors to this far side of the lake, with the dead end road to Boredale cresting on the hause, just east of Howtown; upon this hause also sits St. Peter's Church. It is from here that the less adventurous walker can scale the fell, having driven to the church and already at a height of 230m, with only another 160 to scale to the top. When they do, they find the 'obelisk' marked on the Ordnance Survey View-ranger map.


 This feature is sometimes referred to as a pillar or cairn, yet it stands out as being far more than just a marker. It is so dramatic a feature that one cannot help stopping admiring the beautiful views, arcing around the fell, and being drawn to the obelisk itself and wondering, why was such a dramatic monument built? It seems to do more than just mark a good viewing point of the lake, yet no information seems to exist of its origins.

The Hallin Fell Obelisk
From the research I have been able to conduct the question can now be answered. Lord Brougham, 1778 to 1868, was born Henry P. Brougham, the son of Henry Brougham, of Brougham, Westmorland. He qualified as a barrister and was called to the bar in 1808. He was one of a number of young men that launched the Edinburgh Review in 1892, and wrote for the magazine for 40 years, along with other national newsprints. He took to politics and was a mover towards the abolition of slavery, which this led to his defeat of his hope of being the Member of Parliament for Liverpool in 1812. In 1815 he gained the Whig seat for Winchilsea and was to go on to become the Lord Chancellor (1830 to 1834) and raised to the peerage of Baron Brougham and Vaux.  He was instrumental in the passing of the Great Reform Act of 1832, which progressively changed the electoral system. After 1841 he associated himself with the conservative party, but remained out of party politics, but continued to campaign on particular issues. He supported moves for mass education, adult further education, through the mechanics institutes, and also helped to establish University College, London.

Lord Brougham
In mid September 1864, approaching the age of 86 years, he left his home at Brougham Hall, just outside Penrith and went to York to preside over a Social Science meeting on 22nd. Joseph Wilkinson was a veteran Politian and lived at Bonscale, near Howtown. He had assisted Lord Brougham in his Westmorland contests. It was he that had the 12 feet high Obelisk erected and with the aid of 'a good glass' it could be seen from Cross Fell. It was a monument to Lord Brougham to commemorate his 86th birthday on 19th September. On that day a celebration was held on the fell, although the weather was inclement. Still, a number of people were in attendance and drank his health. The toast was given and it was said that Lord Brougham was, '... one who had done most to promote the happiness of his fellow creatures, regardless of country, colour, or creed, than any man living or dead.' No doubt that was in reference to his work on slavery and education, and he sounds like a man who rightly should be remembered for his positive addition to the morals of our society. I am happy to return that information into knowledge of the public so that his memory and contribution lives on.

Also, while in the area, it is well worth visiting St. Peter's Church where you most likely parked up. Another little known piece of Cumbrian (and WWII) history is within it:

 https://scafellhike.blogspot.com/2015/07/heaven-in-lakeland-and-hell-on-north-sea.html




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Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Henry Irwin Jenkinson, the original Lakeland Guide Writer. 1838 - 1891




Henry Irwin Jenkinson was born at Brotherton, near Pontefract, Yorkshire on 22nd December 1838. He was christened there on 1st May 1839 and was the son of Robert and Mary (nee Shillito) Jenkinson; Robert was a grocer at the time of Henry’s birth. When he was born, he had five older siblings, Robert (11 years older), Mary (9yrs), Benjamin (7yrs), Elizabeth (5yrs), James (2yrs).  Little is known of his early upbringing, but he became a member of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics Institute and the York Institute of Popular Science and Literature. In the former in 1857 he was awarded certificates in algebra, geometry, mensuration and trigonometry. In the latter institute in 1858 he was awarded a first-class certificate for excellence in arithmetic, a second-class certificate for geometry and a third-class certificate in trigonometry.

In the 1861 census Henry is shown as 22 years of age with employment as a railway clerk, still in the Brotherton area. He moved to Keswick to work as the station master of the newly opened railway station, but it is unclear if this was in 1861, or when the station opened for passenger traffic in 1865. It was here that he developed his love of the surrounding fells and began to walk them with ardour. In 1867 he was initiated as a Freemason at the Greta Lodge in Keswick; this may be an indicator of his arrival in 1865. By 1869 he is described in local papers as the ‘late station master’, and now he was giving tuition at the Keswick Mechanics Institute for the April examinations of the Keswick Society of Arts.

In 1871 Henry was shown in an advert in the local papers to be the Secretary of the Threlkeld Sheep Show dated 30th August and was one of the earliest indicators of his deep involvement in all thing’s lake district related. At that time, he was living as a lodger on High Street, at the premise of a Mr. Thomas Woof, a boot and shoemaker. Henry was by now a coal and lime agent.

Also in 1871 he was known to show Flintoff’s celebrated model of the English Lake District and in the summer of that year the well-known publisher of maps and books, Mr. Edward Stanford of Charing Cross, visited Keswick and viewed the model. In discussion with Mr. Stanford Henry expressed a desire to publish a guidebook and was encouraged to do so by his visitor. Once the tourist summer season had waned Henry than set about this new project with zeal. He had re-lived the walks, through the winter months, starting on 15th October and ending in mid-May of 1872. He had become benighted on the fells on several occasions, and at times had to struggle through deep snow drifts, conditions uncommon to the usual tourist traveller. He was meticulous in his detail and walked Great Gable on no less than four occasions in order to correctly describe the ascent to his would-be readers. This was the beginning of his fame as ‘Jenkinson’s Practical Guide to the English Lake District’ was published on 15th August 1872 and contained 9 maps of the area. Despite what initially appeared to be a high cost of six shillings, it received excellent reviews and went on to be re-printed on nine occasions over the years, the later ones by Canon Rawnsley, the famous vicar of Crosthwaite.

H. I. Jenkinson's 1st Edition Guide Book

Pall Mall Gazette 15th August 1872
 Other guidebooks covered the lakes, but none covered the depth of material that the Jenkinson’s Practical Guide did. If the book had a fault it was his own opinions on the Geology of the area, but in that they added to the readers debate on the book’s merits. That they had been written by a man who lived and breathed the English Lakes was perhaps their greatest selling point, for here was the most authoritative guide for any traveller. One account, reported to be well attested, was of him setting off at midnight on 17th June 1871 to walk over Great Gable, Scafell Pike, Bow Fell, Helvellyn, Blencathra, and finally Skiddaw. The distance was said to be 70 miles, coupled with the huge cumulative ascent. On his way up Scafell Pike he had encountered drizzling rain and mist. Then at Hanging Knott he felt it necessary to descend due to the lack of view, but then met two shepherds who were able to direct him, having once again ascended with them. In time he would go on to write similar books on The Isle of Man, The Isle of Wight, North Wales, and the Roman Wall; also other books not ‘Guide’ related.

Now Henry was a celebrated man of the Keswick area and his life would go on to form newsworthy events, causes being given greater authority by his involvement in them. On Wednesday 31st December 1873 an ‘Old Folks’,( or ‘over 60’s’) day was organised for those eligible residents of Keswick and surrounding areas. The organiser of the event was Henry himself, acknowledged as such by the vice chairman, Mr. Mumberson, who was the Keswick auctioneer. The oldest male present was 87-year-old John Twentyman and the eldest female was the 84-year-old quilter (3,570 in total), Mrs. Thompson. Those that could not be present due to infirmity had their celebratory dinner taken to them, making a grand total of 219 elderly residents given a hearty free meal and day of merriment. After songs, poetry recitals, and games, the day concluded with Auld Lang Syne, followed by the National Anthem, with carriages then ready to take the more infirm to the homes. These ‘days’ would go on to become an annual event, thanks largely to the driving force of Henry. He had also tried to organise a ‘Young Folks’ day along similar lines, but the interest was not found, and it became too impractical.

By 1876 the books were essential carrying companions for any serious tourist, especially in the Lake District. A London Silversmith called Edward Barnard had travelled to Keswick with his wife and daughter. He set off on 14th August on his own to walk from the Scafell Hotel in Borrowdale, first to Wasdale Head, then over Black Sail Pass, Gatesgarth Pass, and when there, to catch a coach back to Borrowdale; but he never arrived there. Mr. Jenkinson was called to organise the search for him, himself assisting in the hunt. On Sunday 10th September two farmhands from Wasdale eventually found Mr. Barnard’s body resting against a stone in Ennerdale, below Green Cove. Mr. Jenkinson was called and when they searched the deceased, they found his guidebook in a pocket. In the second week of October of that year, his wife's brother, David Reid of Newcastle, presented Mr. Jenkinson with a gold hunting, keyless, chronometer watch and chain and compass, valued at 70 guineas, with the inscription: 'To Henry Irwin Jenkinson, from the widow, brothers, and sisters of the late Edward Barnard, in recognition of the services they can never repay. September, 1876.' I wonder where this lost piece of Keswick history is now?

 https://scafellhike.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-disappearance-of-edward-barnard-in.html

Henry immersed himself in all things Keswick and Lake District related. On 22nd October 1879 Henry organised a concert at 7:30pm at The George Assembly Room, Penrith. Part of the concert was a 'Rock Band', namely Messrs. Till & Sons, performing on their famed 80 piece musical stones, gathered from Skiddaw and the surrounding mountains. Part of their Performance was Handel's Harmonious Blacksmith. The performers had been engaged for eight years in the creation of the instrument, which was regarded as the greatest musical wonder of its age. Reserved tickets were 3s, 1st class, 2s, 2nd class 1s, 3rd class 6d, although the last were limited. On 26th August 1878, the Derwentwater Regatta was held, organised by Henry, who was the Honorary Secretary. These name but two ways he saw hos duty to his adopted town and community.

1880 saw Mr. Jenkinson now openly proposing and speaking of the purchase of Fitz Park as a public amenity. The ground was offered for sale as building plots and he then broached the subject of its use by the public as a park. Its loss would deprive Keswick of a location for the agricultural show and a place to practice volunteer drill, cricket, football and other games. His appeal struck a chord with townspeople, which led to the eventual purchase; it was said that a further day’s hesitation would have been fatal to the project. The price of the land was £7,000 and although the land was purchased it took monies raised from benefactors, with other sums from the public, to finally clear the debt and provide the nucleus of an endowment. Had Henry Irwin Jenkinson been given his full reign he would have gone on to fulfil his wider project for the park, namely a free library, gymnasium and public baths, but others had feared the spiralling debt. The final £500 debt was cleared on the day of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, celebrated across 20th and 21st June 1887, across the nation. Part of those celebrations were the organising of bonfires across the country. In the Lake district Mr. Jenkinson was the Keswick representative on the bonfire committee meeting held in Ambleside.




When Rawnsley and Jenkinson came to work closely together is unclear, but they joined in a right of access crusade on behalf of the general public. In that period of the Jubilee there was a growing concern of access to ‘public’ footpaths, none more-so than around the Keswick area. Rawnsley was the local Preservation of Footpaths Association president, with Mr. Jenkinson as the secretary and they were seeking funds to defend the public use of such paths in law. The access to Latrigg became an issue of national importance, as the landowner, Mr. Spedding, stated that the public had no right of access. The association disagreed, claiming the right of ancient users. On 30th August 1887 a protest march was organised by the group. This was high-lighted in a letter written and published in the local press where the vice-president, W. Routh Fitzpatrick, and the Honorary Secretary Henry Irwin Jenkinson, both thanked the members of the society, public and visitors, for their support in asserting their public right of way onto Fawe Park and Latrigg. On the afternoon of Saturday 1st October, a crowd of 2,000 people joined the association in the removal of barriers for a further ascent of Latrigg via Calvert’s Road and Greta Bank, without the landowner’s permission. They took the zig-zag path to the summit, where their loud cheers could be heard the town itself. This finished with the National Anthem being sung and people then made their way off the fell, fully satisfied with their day’s efforts.

Other issues had arisen, such as access to Aira Force, in the Ullswater area, but these were largely resolved through discussion between Mr. Jenkinson and the Association, and the owner of the land, Mr. Howard. What was now becoming ‘The Latrigg Case’, still needed resolving and funds were still gathered through adverts in local and more national papers, with Mr. Jenkinson as the Hon. Secretary. The case was before Lord Justice Grantham at Carlisle Assizes in the first week of July 1888. The matter revolved around there being two routes; one described as a ‘private occupation road’, and the other of a more public character. After hearing from all the witnesses, most of an elderly nature who described to the court their earlier experiences of access to the fell, the lawyers finally got together prior to the retiring of the jury. Finally, a compromise was agreed; Mr. Spedding was to retain the only access via the private road, with the public having access by use of the other. This meant that the principle of access to Latrigg summit had been achieved, so all were satisfied. Not only had this Yorkshireman become the accepted expert guide and author of Lakeland, but now he was the champion of its residents and visitors.

The work of the footpaths association continued into 1889 with meetings to discuss access to Derwentwater; Mr. Jenkinson was still listed as the Honorary Secretary. The paths to Friar’s Crag and to the summit of Castlehead had always been considered public, now this access was more formalised.

The Herculean body of work Jenkinson subjected himself to, for the betterment of the residents and visitors to Keswick, took its toll on his well-being. He had been known as a strong and hearty man, but his friends noticed a serious change in him. Due to the workload he subjected himself to he worked well into the night on these projects and to the clearing of debts.

In 1891 he was known to be living as a lodger at 4 Southey Street, and recorded as a Common Writer of Guidebooks. On Tuesday 26th May 1891 he was travelling to Ingleton when he was struck down seriously ill. At the age of 52 years he had suffered a debilitating stroke and suffered paralysis and lost the power of speech. He was a single man, but on 2nd June his nearest family had him taken to the Essex Asylum at Brentwood, London, where he could receive the best care to hopefully aid his recovery. That outcome never occurred and following a period of three months debility, he died there at 1pm on Friday 28th August. He was interred in West Ham Cemetery on Tuesday 1st September with his brother (Benjamin Shillito Jenkinson), and his wife, also his nephew and his wife, present. Due to the distance it could be understood that a man who was held in such reverence by the people of Keswick, should have so few at his funeral. Canon Rawnsley was so moved by his sad departure that he wrote one of his many sonnets for such occasions:

IN MEMORIAM

HENRY IRWIN JENKINSON

28th August 1891.



On moor and fell, in silent mountain places,

We meet him still to ask him of the way,

By pathless crag, where streams perplexing stray,

Each Shepherd’s track familiarity he traces;

Or, where the Greta by the grey town races

And brims its pools, now solemn and now gay,

He mingles with the old men at their play

Or gazes on the children’s happy faces.



But whether through green park or purple mountain,

Free on the sunny height, by shore or wood,

That never resting spirit haunts us still!

His heart of hope springs upward like a fountain,

Who blessed the far-off future, and whose will

Was ever set to serve the public good.

Now the funeral had occurred it fell on the good people of Keswick to recognise their friend who had given the best part of his life to the people and causes of Keswick, but what was the best way to do this? On Monday 14th September a public meeting was called and Mr. Mumberson put forward a suggestion that a public shelter or pavilion be built in his memory. A further meeting was held on Wednesday 23rd where Mr. Hewitson suggested an obelisk in Higher Fitz Park be at least erected. Canon Rawnsley seconded a motion to a monument with an inlaid medallion likeness and inscription. Finally, a set of gates were decided upon and on Thursday 6th July 1893, the same day as the Royal Marriage of the Duke of York, the Jenkinson Memorial Gates were formerly opened at Keswick. They were designed by Thomas Hodgson, (who was also the Fitz Park Treasurer) who also designed the medallion portrait that is displayed above them. The gates themselves cost £130, with Mr. Hodgson charging only for his material costs and workmen’s wages. The anti-friction rollers were supplied by Mr. Henry Powley. Canon Rawnsley gave a fine eulogy to his parted friend, saying he needed no memorial, as this was there for all to see by merely looking around them. He was a man later worn down in life by his public service, concerned also in the clearing of personal debt, and debts from the projects he had instigated on behalf of the town. Some believed that those ought to have been cleared prior to the erection of memorials, and people on the day agreed to work to that aim in the near future.  He died a poor man, but his memorials were the gates, the Old Folks Dinner and the books he had written, especially his lakes guide. 


The Memorial Gates
To this day the park stands as his greatest contribution. Other walking guidebooks have come along and inspired new generations. The early Jenkinson 1st edition books command a high price when they come up for auction. Still, the tribute to him is to sit and rest in the park, especially when the traffic is light, and one can sense the beauty he felt in his adopted town of Keswick 160 years previous. The houses are far more built up, the traffic cannot fully be escaped, but the eye can be cast upward, or the memory invoked, that peers onto the mountains and lakes that inspired Mr. Jenkinson on his first arrival. He was a single man, so there were no family to remember him. The town of Keswick however was his family, he provided for their wellbeing and they loved and remembered him.



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Monday, 7 October 2019

Maryport Lifeboat - The Civil Service No5. 1886 - 1905


On Saturday 27th November 1886 a cargo of some importance to Maryport arrived at the railway station. It was the new lifeboat called The Civil Service No.5; it remained there until her inauguration ceremony on Thursday 2nd. The boat was so named as it had been supplied from the subscriptions made to the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund, originally commenced by Mr. Charles Dibdin, F.R.G.S., who was the Secretary of the Institution and this was the fifth boat paid for from the fund. It had 8,000 subscribers, all paying half a crown each and had raised £10,000 total. The lifeboat was 31 feet in length and rowed 10 oars, double banked. It was fitted with all modern improvements, including water ballast tanks, fitted amidships to increase stability and assist in weight reduction when transported.
On the day of inauguration the old Henry Nixon boat was reverentially placed upon her carriage for the final time and was to be taken to London to be broken up.
At 1pm the various societies gathered in Fleming Square and began to lead out at half past the hour. The chief interest was in the new lifeboat itself, with its crew of 10 oarsman, the coxswain, sub coxswain and bowman, all seated in the boat with their cork jackets on. The procession of 2,000 people wound its way to the boathouse at the dock. Inspector Grisdale and Sergeant Simon commanded a group of police officers to manage the 5,000 crowd who lined the dock itself. Once there the boat was formally handed to Lieutenant Tipping of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution(RNLI), who gratefully accepted it as part of their fleet of boats. The Institution had now been in existence since 1824 and was credited with saving over 32,000 lives. It now had over 300 lifeboats around the coast of the United Kingdom, of which he was responsible for 60, stretching from Holyhead to the north of Cumberland (which now had 5), taking in the Irish coast and the Isle of Man. The boats were preferably manned by local fishermen due to their personal knowledge of the coastal waters and their strength of arm, in the rowing of boats. The Lieutenant said that the coxswain and sub-coxswain were paid a small fee towards maintaining the boat, but the men were only paid for work done. He recognised that they went to sea to primarily save life, but the crew received £1 for going to sea through the night and 10 shillings if through the day.  If a man lost his life or was maimed while engaged in a rescue, then the institution stepped in to maintain his family. Only the previous year a 35-year-old Whitehaven lifeboat man called James William Henny was killed and the institution had subscribed £200 for the maintenance of his family; this information was received with loud cheers from the crowd. At the conclusion he formally handed the boat to the local Secretary, Mr. Senhouse, who after a short speech, then asked the Reverend E. Sampson, of Maryport, to perform the services. The christening was performed by Mrs. Senhouse, who formally named the boat and broke the customary bottle of champagne against her hull. The proceedings closed with an evening concert at the Athenaeum, where the crew were seated in the gallery in full lifeboat uniform and headgear.

A slipway was built for the Maryport lifeboat and in February 1887 the RNLI in London accepted a payment for this from the Civil Service fund of £242 6s.

On Tuesday 21st June 1887 a lifeboat race took place at Whitehaven which sportingly pitted the Civil Service No. 5 of Maryport, against the Dodo of Workington, and the Elizabeth Leicester of Whitehaven. The race was over a distance of 6 miles by either option of sailing or rowing. The race was won by the Maryport vessel followed by Workington, then Whitehaven, with prizes of £8, £5, and £2, respectively. When the result was received at Maryport the news was received with 'great satisfaction'.

On Wednesday 19th October 1887, trials were undertaken where the lifeboat was capsized several times in Senhouse Dock by use of a steam crane. The boat was then taken outside into the sea where she performed admirably under sail. Lieutenant Tipping and her crew were highly satisfied with her performance.

The lifeboat was called out to a Norwegian barque, the William Leavitt, on the morning of Saturday 25th November 1888. It had sent two distress signals, having parted with its anchor in a storm off Workington and had beached 7 miles higher in the Solway, 300 yards out from the high water mark at Dub Mill Ledge. The Maryport steam tug Senhouse had managed to get to her first and had saved the whole crew of 16 souls. Part of the cargo of timber was salvaged, but the ship itself became a total loss. Letters of appreciation were received by the Maryport Steam Shipping Company who owned the tug, and the Maryport Lifeboat. They were sent by the Swedish and Norwegian Vice Consulate, on the request of Captain Gude of the William Leavitt. The letter to the lifeboat station acknowledged that although saved by the tug, had it not reached them first, then the captain knew that the lifeboat would have continued in its perilous journey and would itself have rescued the crew.

Earlier to the rescue of the William Leavitt crew, on Thursday 22nd November, the Estrella de Chile, a 556 tons registered iron sailing ship, built in Glasgow in 1867, had left Whitehaven harbour. She was initially towed for 3 miles by a tug, with a cargo of railway material bound for Rasario, but could not get beyond St. Bees Head, due to the storm conditions. She was pushed back into the Solway and grounded on Robin Rigg sandbank on Saturday night, after striking the botttom three times. Lights were seen from Maryport, but no distress rockets; these lights eventually disappeared from view. The next morning nothing could initially be seen out at sea, but as the visibility gradually improved, at about 2pm, Captain Nelson, the harbour master, saw through powerful binoculars what he took to be debris in the direction of Robin Rigg, 11 miles out to sea. He immediately fired the signal rocket for the lifeboat crew to assemble, which brought thousands down to the dock. At 3pm the lifeboat was launched and towed out by the steam tug Senhouse, with the crowds patiently standing in the rain to await the outcome of a hoped for rescue.

The Estrelle de Chile on Robin Rigg, with the steam tug Senhouse and the Civil Service No.5 lifeboat rescuing the crew.
The lifeboat crew were: John Benn(coxswain), John Lannigan, Joseph Kirkbride, William Kirkbride, jun., John Lowery, William Ball Robinson, Samuel M'Graa, James Peat, Michael Hawkins, John Byers, John Scott, John Johnston, and John Robinson.
Captain Nelson and Captain Penrice, the Honorary Secretary of the lifeboat institution at Maryport, accompanied the tug. The weather was strong winds and the tug made slow progress, it being nearly dark when it was lost to the view of those waiting on shore. It was 6:10pm before the re-entered the harbour, towing a fully laden lifeboat. The tug lit a 'flare-up' light to show they had been successful and the whole harbour let out a tremendous cheer. 
On arrival at Robin Rigg the tug and lifeboat had found the hull of the vessel under water with the crew having taken to the rigging. The men had nearly succumbed to the cold, but the sight of rescue vessels had reinvigorated them. The lifeboat separated from the tug, but found great difficulty in getting to the stricken men. Eventually they loaded up with some of crewmembers and tried to get them to the tug. Due to the weather they could not transfer them, so had to return to the sunken ship and take every crew member on board. One French sailor out of fear was refusing to leave and had to be physically pulled off the rigging, by ropes and thrown off the ship by the carpenter. All were saved, with the exception of Donald Napier the mate. A couple of hours prior to the arrival of the lifeboat, with the captain and one other crew member, had fallen from the rigging. The captain and other man managed to re-scale the rigging, but the mate was washed away. He had managed to grab the back stay for several seconds as his loss was excruciatingly played out in the face of the crew. He was 25 years old, from Lieth, and was a married man. Once at Maryport the benumbed men were taken to the Coffee House where a roaring fire was glowing; the captain taken to The Golden Lion Hotel.
On Monday the shipwrecked crew were presented with new suits and left for their respective homes, after being given a sum of money from a representative of the Shipwrecked Mariners Society, even though none were members. They were extremely grateful for this and the kindness shown to them by the people of Maryport.

On the morning of Saturday 31st January 1891, a terrible storm struck the coast of West Cumberland, the likes of which had not been seen for many years. The ebb tide turned an hour earlier than listed, due to the ferocity of the sea. Between 8 and 9 o'clock a small vessel was seen in distress off Maryport harbour and a rocket signal was immediately fired to alert the lifeboat crew. The vessel was the Wave trawler of Whitehaven and it was driven onto the north shore. Naval Reserve men entered the water up to their necks and threw a line to the vessel, but this uninviting method of escape did not appeal to the trawler crew. Sgt. Major Smith went so far into the water that the waves came over his head and two others had to assist him back. Samuel Hardingham, a coastguard man, managed to get to the wreck and it was at that point that the lifeboat rounded the north pier, so the captain opted for that method of rescue of his crew. However, despite their best efforts the lifeboat drifted to leeward; the anchor had been dropped on the windward side, but had little effect. The lifeboat was striking the bottom and in danger of being smashed. It fired red rockets and the crowds then ran to its aid, leaving the trawler. That crew then took to its own punts, but they overturned and the crew returned to their stricken ship. Captain Nelson and 5 other men then came from the shore in a skiff and managed to get the trawler crew off their vessel and safely to the shore. The lifeboat was still at serious risk, but after slipping the anchor and breaking an oar, they managed to get into deeper and safer water and set the sail for Silloth. The coxswain was to later comment later that the tribulations around the trawler were nothing in comparison to the Silloth journey. The trawler crew were removed to the custom house, where every attention was given to them. The master commented on him having fished for 40 years and had never before experienced conditions that bad. Their fares home were paid for by the Shipwrecked Mariner's Society. 
Later that day another trawler which had lost its sails, struck the woodwork of the pier. The Angus Glover of Preston, put into Maryport that afternoon in a distressed condition. She had lost her master at sea, he had been washed overboard. A sloop, the Go-Ahead, of Whitehaven, had foundered off Workington that Saturday morning; all three crew were lost to the raging waves.

Friday 30th October 1891 saw the lifeboat returned to Maryport following certain modifications, particularly the raising of the deck. Practice drills were regularly conducted with the boat, and example being the afternoon of Tuesday 9th May 1893. The launch was satisfactory, with John Benn still as the coxswain. It lasted from 3:35pm to 6:45pm, and was put under sail to the lightship and back.

On Tuesday 6th February 1894, a barque supposed to be the Vale of Doon, bound for Silloth was believed to be in distress passing Maryport. The vessel was showing a flag for a pilot, the weather was thick and stormy. A telegram was sent to Silloth to see if it had arrived, which was negative, so a watch was kept all night from Maryport. On the Wednesday morning a barque was seen a mile off Maryport, at the lightship, flying a flag of distress in a strong gale. The lifeboat was launched at 11am, towed out by the steam tug Dunrobin. Once contact was established with the captain it was found to be the Trinidad and was at anchor, needing no assistance. It had set off from Workington with rails, towed past St. Bees Head by a tug, but due to stress of weather had been compelled to put back.

On Saturday 6th October 1900, a ship was in distress off Maryport and the lifeboat was called. The ship was drifting towards Robin Rigg sandbank. It was a stormy night with a high flood tide. While the lifeboat crew were made ready and the necessary arrangements made to launch, the crowd that had gathered were becoming impatient at the extended delay. An Inspector Holmes of the Cumberland Sea Fisheries shouted, "Will nobody go?" At that two men volunteered to set out with Mr. Holmes and the three went out in a small vessel to effect a rescue. It was around an hour from the firing of the flares to the launch of the lifeboat, towed by the steam tug Netherhall. On the arrival of the three men at they lightship, they found the stricken vessel was on Robin Rigg and had split in two with the captain and seven crew having been in the rigging of one section. They were now in a boat put off the Silloth steamer Kittiwake. It was at this point that the Netherhall and the Maryport lifeboat arrived and the saved men were transferred to the Netherhall and later landed at Maryport. The men had been in a critical condition and the vessel was the Topdal, bound for Whitehaven with a cargo of Pitch Pine. It had been in distress off the Isle of Man on the previous Thursday, saved by the Ramsey lifeboat. On the Saturday the captain had decided to run for Whitehaven in the absence of the arrival of a pilot. It had been 8 miles off St. Bees when the wind increased and blew it off course.

The steam tug, Netherhall.
The delay of the lifeboat caused an inquiry to be launched by the committee of management of the RNLI, on 8th November. Following their investigation they arrived at three findings against the coxswain which were published. They criticised his apparent apathy in not readying the crew at 6pm and launching the boat; he ought also have not returned home at 7pm, once the boat was got ready; and once the signal was fired he took too long in launching the boat. They were of a mind to dismiss him, but for his past excellent service and issued a severe reprimand instead, warning him that any further incident would bring about dismissal.

On Wednesday 3rd December 1902 the boat redeemed itself with an early launch in readiness for any reports of distress by fishermen caught out in a sudden storm. Boats could not return to the harbour and the lifeboat was credited with saving five lives that stormy day. Some criticism was levelled by a captain for not keeping alongside his frail vessel, but the local press emphasised the importance of the lifeboat in saving life, not property.

The Hougomont was a 2,261 tons register 4 masted barque on a voyage from San Francisco to Liverpool. It was carrying a 4,000 ton cargo consisting of 1,000 tons of wheat, 1,000 tons of barley, numerous bales of sea weed, 32,000 cases of tinned apricots and pears, and 24,000 cases of salmon. It commenced its journey on 9th October 1902 and due to difficulties in landing it eventually had to anchor off Maryport on the morning of Wednesday 4th March 1903. The Brilliant Star, a powerful tug was subsequently sent by the owners to escort her to Liverpool. It arrived at Maryport on the Thursday morning and set off with the ship in the afternoon. When day broke on Friday 6th the Hougomont could be seen on its own off Allonby, and in distress. The tug had needed to release the vessel in the Solway and seek its own shelter from the terrible storm. A telegram was sent for the Maryport lifeboat to attend and save the reported 32 crew. The Hougomont was by now broadside on the beach with the crew having to take to the mizzen rigging, the foremast having been lost in the forenoon. It was 2pm before the lifeboat reached the vessel and managed to save all the crew, the captain, his wife and two officers had decided to remain with their ship.  The cargo was strewn across the shores and retrieved by the locals of the area. The Hougomont was the largest vessel ever grounded on the Cumbrian coast.
 An inquiry behind closed doors was conducted on 12th March at Maryport Town Hall into why the lifeboat had taken so long to reach the vessel. From the circumstances gleaned in the town, at the time of the report it transpired that seven of the lifeboat crew had refused to sail out in the lifeboat, which had been offered to be sailed by Inspector Holmes of the Cumberland Sea Fisheries. Only when other men volunteered to man the boat was it able to attend the scene of the Hougomont and save the crew. The decision of the Board of inquiry was:
  •  That, while not calling into question the personal courage of the coxswain of the lifeboat, the committee considers that he should have shown more energy in the necessary steps of getting the lifeboat to sea, such as obtaining the services of the tug, filling up the numbers of the crew, encouraging the waverers, and calling for volunteers. He is admonished to assume greater personal responsibility in these matters for the future.
  •  That after fully considering all the evidence the committee consider the seven men mentioned had no adequate excuse for leaving the lifeboat, and are therefore dismissed from the crew.
  •  That for the future there is to be no regular enrolled crew at the station, the places for exercise or service being filled up from the first comers so long as they are known to the coxswain as competent men. The seven men mentioned above, are, however, never to be employed.
The vessel was eventually recovered at high water (12:30pm) on Sunday 15th March by the Liverpool Salvage Company. Three powerful tugs were used to finally pull her from the Cumbrian shore.

The Hougomont being recovered.
On the night of Wednesday 18th May 1904, the little Scottish schooner called Jane, of Garlieston, went ashore on the North Bank at Maryport, carrying a cargo of pit timbers. The vessel sent off signals of distress and the lifeboat was launched. It managed to rescue the three crew and landed them safely at Maryport; the schooner itself was a total wreck.

On the night of Tuesday 6th September 1904 the Allonby postman saw what he believed to be lights of distress out at sea; they appeared closer to the Scottish side than the English coast. He cycled to Maryport to alert the authorities who were initially troubled, as it was not a stormy night, although it had been raining. The lifeboat was however launched around midnight and went in the direction of Robin Rigg, although the crew found nothing. They continued to the Scottish side, but again found no vessel in distress. They eventually returned at 9am. It was later believed that the lights had been fireworks from the Scottish coast, but messages had earlier been passed warning of festivities taking place. Whatever, the cause, the original report had been given with good intent and the local papers praised the crew for the commitment.

By May 1905 the Civil Service No. 5 lifeboat had served the town of Maryport for 19 years. Now it was to be replaced by a new and updated bigger vessel which was of the 'Watson' type: it was 38 ft long and 9ft 4ins wide. It had 10 double banked oars and was fitted with two drop keels, to improve stability. The new vessel was also provided by the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund and was to continue the name of 'Civil Service No. 5'. So commenced a third chapter in the saving of life off the coastline of Maryport.

(All photographs and pictures used are by the kind permission of Maryport Maritime Museum)

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