Monday 14 August 2023

The Great Boat Disaster of Windermere, 19th October 1635, and The Fatall Nuptiall or Mournfull Marriage poem, by Richard Braithwaite.

Windermere from Sour Howes

Windermere from the western side. 

I have conducted a lot of research on subjects that have been forgotten with reference to Lake District history, most of these have been tragedies on the fells and lakes. It really commenced through my interest of a drowning that occurred in Derwentwater, where 5 young ladies of Nelson, East Lancashire (all aged 20 and 21), were drowned on 12th August 1898, and at the time of the burgeoning group holiday experience of the Co-Operative Holiday Association (CHA), commenced by the man regarded as the father of the Outdoor Holiday Movement, Thomas Arthur Leonard. I then began researching other drownings, and was able to do a full account on the origins of White Cross Bay, where a cross was placed to mark the place where two young Wigan men drowned on 13th September 1853. I also was able to compile a fuller account on a tragedy of a training exercise just after WWII, where trainees from Warcop drowned while practicing landings on the islands. 
I don't recall at what point in all my research it was, but imagine my surprise when I discovered sparse references to an even larger drowning tragedy than the Derwentwater incident, and my shock to discover that the number of victims was forty-seven! The incident has become known as The Great Boat Tragedy of Windermere or Winandermere of 19th October 1635, hence the matter appearing closer to legend, than fact; but fact it is. 
Who were they, and how did such a tragedy come to be? One can understand that after 1635, with a lack of print or people of the mass population's ability to read and write, that it came to slip from the consciousness, but not entirely, though different references came to quote date variations and how people came to be on the boat, or ferry. There was a 'great boat' ferry that plied between the western and eastern shores of the lake, connecting the Bowness and Ambleside communities with Hawkshead, and that was the vessel that the sad occurrence happened upon. Variations of the tragedy say that it was a wedding party, another that it was people returning from a Market Day at Hawkshead; perhaps the truth was a combination of these two groups of travellers. Later accounts stated that the married couple themselves were drowned, but evidence later uncovered showed this not to be the case, though family members did drown. Folklore has it that the tragic victims were buried at the back of the church at Bowness, yet they are recorded in the Grasmere register, which I cannot explain, nor it seems could anyone else; the Bowness church has since been extended at the back, so perhaps all evidence is lost. 

There is one other source of information that is crucial to the story, and it is a poem, albeit an abstract account, but the preamble contains significant detail. The poem was all but lost to the knowledge of historians, but there was discovered to be one original printed version which is now stored in The Bodleian Library, at Oxford University. The poem is 'The Fatall Nuptiall, or Mournefull Marriage.  The heavy and lamentable Accident lately occurring, by the drowning of 47 persons, and some of those of especiall quality, in the water of Windermere, in the NORTH. October 19, 1635. 

Contained within the Preamble, or Introduction, are references to those that drowned, and the association of some as family members, namely the mother and brother of the bride. When the list of the dead is inspected it is clear that the only persons these could be were, 'Geruies Strickland's wife of Stavelay' and 'Rolland Strickland'. The married couple were the groom, William Sawrey and the bride, Thomasin Strickland. Sadly the couple were to have a child through the marriage but it was stillborn and buried at Hawkshead on 12th July 1636; Thomasin was to follow the child to the grave, most likely dying through a complication connected to the birth, and buried on 25th July. Had it been immediately after the birth then death could have been through haemorrhage, or some other quick and merciful end, but to have been approaching 13 days later suggests she died a lingering and pain racked death with mercy paying little part. William went on to re-marry a Hester Sands on 10th June 1638. 

Saint Martin's church at Bowness-on-Windermere was extended in 1870 and in the 'Bowness Long Ago' article in the Lakes Chronicle, 12th August 1908 edition, it quoted another local paper from 1888, which spoke of the extension, stating, '..... There were also the graves of, "Long Will Robinson," whom I saw drowned, of, "poor Tom." and the, "eight and forty row" of the ferry boat wedding party when forty-eight persons were laid in one trench, now cut in two by the new chancel. ....." What happened to the removed bones is not stated, but that they were so buried at St. Martin's there now seems no doubt. The church records I believe no longer exist, but, for some reason yet unexplained (perhaps a clerical archivist may have some explanation), but they are listed in the Grasmere Parish Records. These were quoted in the, 'Lakes Chronicle' of 26th August 1908. The article was a response to clarify the position of the earlier stated. 'Bowness Long Ago' article of 12th August; it stated: 


An article, with the above heading. which appeared in our columns of August 12th, has aroused no small amount of interest among readers of the Chronicle: and, in connection with the same topic. we are now favoured with the following supplementary remarks by Mr Bailey- Kempling. 

The article in question makes reference to the Ferry-boat disaster on Windermere, when, through the carelessness or want of judgment of those on board - a sudden flocking to one side - the boat heeled over and some 47 [or 48?] lives were lost. There are four sources of contemporaneous evidence of this catastrophe. The first is the Grasmere Parish Register, and the entry, in its rugged quaintness, is as follows :_

“The XXth of Octob: 1635, theis were all drowned in Windermer water in one boate comeigne over from Hawkshead:- 

Mr. George Wilson, of Kendall. 

John Beck, his wife, his son, and a servant maide, of Kendall

 Thomas Powe, of Kendall. 

Randall Noble, of Kendall. 

John Kitchin's son of Strickland field. 

John Pearson and his wife, of Skelsmere. 

Christopher Phillipson, of Ashes. 

Geruies Strickland's wife of Stavelay. 

Mary, daughter of John Phillipson.

Thomas Milner, boateman and his 2 daughters. 

Henry Pearson and Dorothie, his sister. 

Tho: Bateman, of Crooke. 

James Warriner, of the same. 

John Satterthwayte, of the same. 

Christopher Willan's wife. 

Rolland Strickland. 

Myles Powe. 

Anthony Sewart. 

Anthony Elleray. 

Richard Robinson. 

Thomas Parke, son of Rolland. 

Willm : Park, of Colgarth. 

James Sewart. 

Myles Byrkehead, son of Myles. 

Willm : Roberts, son of Thomas. 

Christoph : Parke, of Colgarth, Willm's brother. 

Willm : Rowes. 

Thomas Wood's wife. 

Nicholas Bell wife. 

George Baxter and his wife. 

John Rowanson. 

Willm: Holme. 

Richard Robinson. 

Willm : Sewart’s wife. 

Richard Seill's daughter. 

Marke Harrinson's wife. 

Arthur Ellis. 

Myles Riggs. 

and 2 more or 3, and 7 horses, and one that escaped.' 

This closing sentence has a subtlety of humour not often found in the staid pages of Parish Records.

 The second authority is Wharton, the old chronicler, who has the following notice:-

"Eighteenth of October, 1635, the river Kent came into the vestry [Kendal Parish Church]. And 19th Thomas Miller, boatman, and 47 men and women were drown'd in Windermere water, with 9 or 10 horses, having been at a wedding." 

Thirdly, there was published a volume, a few months after the accident, which gave a detailed account of the sad affair. It was entitled 

" Fatal Nuptial ; Or, Mournful Marriage, relating to the Heavy and lamentable Accident lately occurring by the Drowning of 47 Persons (and some of them of especial Quality) in the Water of Windermere 19th Oct., 1635. —1636-2/-. 

Last of all, but not the least interesting, is the versified reference by Hoggart, a local poetaster. It is as follows : 

"Upon the 19th day of October, 1635 the Great Boat upon Windermere Water sunck about Sun Setting, when was drowned fforty-seaven persons and eleaven horses : ffrom Sudden Death Libera Nos. 

Weepe not, sweet friends, but wipe away all teares 

We are delivered from all human feares; 

Let no man rashly judge of this our fall, 

But rather let't a warning be to all; 

And let none censure what we did, 

Our thoughts were known to God, to mortals hid; 

And though our bodyes sunk into the deepe, 

Our soules did mounte, and therefore do not weepe." 

So much for the "especial quality" of wedding guests—horses and men. 

Thomas Hoggart, " Ald Hoggart" as he was commonly named, was one of those rhymsters (we must not too seriously call them poets) of the neighbourhood to whom attention was called in our previous article. He was a Troutbeck man, not a native of Bowness, though well known here; and, perhaps, not a little of his reputation was due to the fact that William Hoggarth, the famous artist, was his nephew. Cunningham, in his Life of the painter, says of Hoggart: He " was a rustic poet and satirist, whose rude and witty productions (in the opinion of Adam Walker, the natural philosopher) reformed the manners of the people as much, at least, as the services of the clergyman." The late Dr. Craig Gibson also remarks of Hoggart’s verses : “considering that the author was a poor denizen of a rude and remote fell-dale, who died at the commencement of last century, they are altogether surprising." Hoggart died in 1709. Two brief examples of his pen, in addition to the one already quoted, may be given. The first is:_


Under these monumental stones,

A Parish Clerk doth lye,

A hogshead doth enclose his bones,

For he was always dry.

His lips unto the tap he laz'd,

His back to the bung-hole brink,

Who knows (although that he be dead)

But he may dream of drink.

To spare the fare of Charon's boats,

When he to Styx shall come,

This barrel may save him a groat.

To drink in Elysium.

The second is: 


An old Kirk with a new steeple,

A poor towne and proud people.

Much more might be said concerning Hoggart did space but permit. A full account of his life and work was given, some time ago, in a booklet issued by G. Middleton, of Ambleside, and from which the above excerpts are mainly culled. He was, possibly, the best of his class, one of a type in which the true vein of humour was obvious mid uppermost, an artless unaffected soul—the very antipodes to such wretched drivellers as the “Poet Close." 

******* A further piece of evidence I found at the Lancashire Archives where the renowned writer Thomas West (1720 - 1799) viewed the Grasmere register and noted the names of the deceased from the Great Boat Disaster of Windermere. West made famous his 'Viewing Stations' which were specific sites of great beauty, around the English Lakes, that he recommended to be viewed through a Claude Glass. This is basically a slightly convex portable mirror, which could be of various colours or hues, and with your back to the scene to be viewed you looked into the mirror which had caught (and coloured) the whole scene behind you. West had also viewed the Grasmere register and listed the names in letters to others. 


It is that poem however of Richard Braithwaite acknowledged as the first lakes poet, who lived at Kendal and Ambleside, that is perhaps the most moving account. Further detail of Braithwaite can be gleaned from:, though he was the first person to use the word 'computer'. He was also referred to as 'Dapper Dick', a Colonel in the Royal Army in King Charles the Fist's reign. It is not the actual sequence of events that led to the disaster, but the emotion and despair imagined of all groups on board that he attempts to describe to move the reader on a spiritual plane. There is only one original book that is known and that is held at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, It is believed to have been deposited there by a Richard Rawlinson who had Hawkshead connections; he deposited over 6,000 manuscripts to the library. The book itself contains a preamble, then the poem itself: 



to this Funerall




FOR the quality of griefe, none knowes it, but he who hath experimentally and personally felt it. That Place, which hath hitherto been secured from the last perill, you shall now see personated a spectacle of Sorrow: where those who vowed in a Sacred and Christian manner, their vowes to Hymen, the Soveraigne of Nuptialls, are now with Thetis To close in wat’ry Funeralls. The occasion of these sad Obits proceded from a Marriage and a Market day, which begot to the Attendants a mournefull night; yet from that Night (such was their assured expectance, and our undoubted affiance) a happy day. The place, where these drenched Soules were to take Boate, was that famous and renowned Mere of Windermere, a Mere no less eminent and generously knowne for her Sole-breeding, and peculiar kinde of fishes (commonly called Chares) as for those windy and labyrinthian mazes, with those curiously shaded , beauteously tufted, naturally fortifide, and impregnably seated Hands in every part of the Mere interveined. To relate the several windings of it, or more historically to describe it, were fruitless, being already explained by a genuine and learned Relater. To divert then from the Place, to the sad occasion of this Action, thus I proceed.

Windermere, or Winandermere, streaming, or rather staying in a continuate Tract or Channell, without any visible of apparent Current, and dividing the Counties of Westmerland and Lancashire, hath ever constantly kept a Boat for Passengers; especially those Inhabitants who remaine or reside in the Barrony of Kendall,  (a place to her honour, antiently famous for her Commerce and industrious Manufacture) as all others, who may have occasion to addresse their course by that passage, to the Market of *Hawkside, or other places adjoining. To this Boat, upon a nuptiall but fatall occasion, sundry Passengers, and these all Inhabitants within the Barrony of Kendall, (a Burrough as I formerly observed, highly eminent, by having such neare relation and generall correspondence with most places of trade or trafficke in this Kingdome) repaired; hoping with a safe and secure gale to arrive, where no perill had ever yet approach’d. The Boat they enter’d, securely confident, with 47. in number, besides other carriages and horses, which (together with the roughnes of the water & extremity of weather) occasioned this inevitable danger.

 Lanch’d had these scarcely to the medth of the water, being scantily a mile broad, but the Boat, either through the pressure and weight which surcharg’d her, or some violent and impetuous windes and waves that surpriz’d her, with all her people, became drench’d in the depths. No succour, no reliefe afforded, for Gods definite Will had so decreed: So as, not one person of all the number was saved: Amongst which, the Brides Mother, and her Brother in this liquid regiment, equally perished.

To aggravate the quality of this Accident, I need not; an imaginary representment of sorrow is sufficient to it selfe. Onely, let me reare before your eyes this Theatre; on which you are not to expect ought from this Tyringhouse of heaviness, but Scenes of passion and disconsolate anguish.

 Many of these left Wives without Husbands, others Husbands without Wives; most of these, Children without Fathers or Mothers. Estates they had, but indisposed; because in such a moment of time prevented, as wherein they stood most secured, soonest abridged.

What a fatall Nuptiall was this? when those Nuptiall ribbons and sprigges of Rosemary, which were given as favours for a Nuptiall, became Rosemary sprigges to adorne their Funerall?

 What an Embleme of Mortality may men see in himselfe, in this image of himselfe? A Navigator is not to be secure in three inches, nor man of his life, which is but a spanne. How secure were these in their temperate mirth; and with what a calme Convoy they expected to arrive at their Port? If we should consider those billowes, wherewith we are daily and hourly encountered: those perilous passages, whereto we are exposed: with that difficulty of the Haven, at which we are to be landed, wee would constantly tremble, and stand in feare, least every wave, every worldly care, should endanger our shipwracke.

 What loving associates were these to Hymen? what Conjugall consorts to a festive Nuptiall? yet see the close of their marriage melody, drowns it selfe in a wat’ry Lachrymae! What then on Earth is heere constant? or where in ought may we be confident? A merry Evening makes an heavy morning: and a glad going out, a sad returning. Sad to their friends, but cheerfull to their dearest soules, which have call’d from the Depths, and are assuredly heard.

 **It is a good Prayer, to deliver us from sudden Death, yet there is no sudden Death to them that die well. Gods mercy is betixt the bridge and the brinke; Nor are we to despaire of these helpe, who in God repose their sole hope. Abyssus abyssum invocate: These in the depth of their misery, call’d upon the depth of Gods mercy; and though they could not reach to land with the hand of their body; they reach’d with the hand of faith to the Haven of Glory. As no man values the place of his Birth, so is hee not to disvalue the place of his Death. Wee have a sacred President; to whom neither place of Birth nor Death became an Ornament.

Wee are here to pass the waters of tribulation; our Barkes are weake, our passage dangerous: Shelves wee have full of perill: presumption to transport us, despaire to deject us. If wee surcharge our vessel, what may wee expect but drowning? if wee ballase it not enough, what may we looke for but floating? We have an Anchor; it is our Saviour: wee cannot faile, if through him wee suffer. Hee, who can command the Windes and the Seas, will waft us o’re these troublesome Seas, and conduct us to the Port of rest.

 It is time, that while wee are heere imbarked, there is no security; Marchant venturers wee are all, hazarding our state, stocke and store in crazy and leeking vessels. Wee bicker with waves, stormes and tempests: even our own dissorting passions; which like so many billowes, mutine in us, and threaten shipwracke. Neptunum procul a terra; wee eye, and eying, sigh for our Haven.

Poor Sea-fairing Soules, what a doe wee make with our distempered Motions, (which to use the words of that Divine Father) swarme like so many Bees about us; and while they sting us, wee hold them deare unto us!

Invironed wee are with danger on the Maine; and perilous Sands and Shelv’s oppose us in our landing. Though the Course of our Navigation be passing short; the continued Current of our dangerous passage appears long.

 We account him foolishly merry, and insensible of perill, who, when the Windes rage, the Waves rise, & nothing but feare and horrour become Objects to the weakned Ship, carrouseth and drinkes healths to the Winde, as One secure of his approaching fate. And what lesse doe wee, when in these weake Barkes of our Bodies, wee expose our selves to all sensuall pleasures, as if wee were a shore and secure from danger, when wee are surrounded with perill, and farre divided from our Harbour?

The Philosophers question impli’d a Divine Morall: Quanta spissitudo navium? 4. digitorum. And that Sacred Light of the Orientall Church might seeme to answer this, no lesse positively than pithily: Tres cubiti terrae te expectant.

 That surviving glory of Stagyrus reports, that about the River Hypanis, which runneth through a part of Europe into the Sea Pontus, are bred certaine Beastes which live but one day; and surely, if wee should compare thus straite confined limit or period of our own age with immortality, (the Soules sole-harbour after her disbarking from the Sea of misery) we shall be found in regard to our frailty every way as transitory, as these day-dying Beasts.

 Death is such a discursive Serjeant, and so serious in the discharge of his Errand, as there is no place of priviledge to exclude him, or rescue the party arrested by him. Hee ha’s a Mace for the Sea, as well as Land. Which may be instanced in no patterne more clearly, no Object more truely, then in this Tragicke Scene of Sorrow, which we have now in action: Where, of 47. as we have formerly related, not one secured, not one from Death rescued: and this happened the 19. Of October.

 But as waves follow waves, so it oftimes falleth on the progress of woes, for no lesse remarkable is it, that upon the 6. November, a Graves-end Barge was by report cast away, seconding this former very nearly, if not wholly, in number: but the apparancy of their danger begot this report (as wee have since heard) without any other actuall disaster.

 The use of these should necessarily conduce to our selv’s: on Water and Land to recommend us in our passage and conduct to his Sacred direction and protection, by whom wee breath and have our being. In aquis & terries de Deo meditari, & ceolesti ejus custodies now – Ipsos ***comendare, est neque ab aquis nee a terries, motu vel metu discriminus imminentis, periclitari. And Withall, to reteine a charitable opinion of such, as by these premature and adventitious ends, are translated from us. Pauli nanfragium animae salus fiut: Let us apply this, though in another sense addressed, to these hopefull Soules now departed. Hee, who is the LORD of the Depths, can extend his unbounded mercy to the Depths; and put an hooke in the nose-thrills of that Leviathan, who raigneth, ruleth and rageth in the Depths.

This Preamble hath enlarged it selfe to so extensive a measure, as it may seeme to some, to resemble a Mindain Structure: but as arguments give light to Subjects; so Preambles, by way of Introduction, have ever given light to refinedst Poems.


(*In the margin starting next to the word ‘Hawkside’ – The Charter of which Market was procured by that industrious Agent for his Countrey [or is it Countey?], Mr. Allen Nicholson.)

**So as this night bee their proper impreze: Mergimur immerse rapida sub guzgite tuti: “Per maze per terzas, Semita rects bonis.

*** Malum est mori in naufragio, & bonumest mori felize? – Aug in Psal c.48







Hymen, put out thy lights, thy selfe confound

With griefe, to see thy teare-swolne cosorts drownd,

Thy late Attendants: See of forty seven

None rescued from death, but wholly driven

From hope, helpe, harbour! Recollect it thus,

And joyne in mournefull Eligies with us.

Husbands of Wives, Wives of their Husbands reft,

Parents of Babes, Babes of their Parents left.

Heere Widdows tears, and there poor Orphans cryes,

These fill the Cesterns of distilling eyes

With confluence of teares. What a sad Night

Hath damp’t the beauty of a Nuptiall light

With Universal sorrow? – Pray thee stay

And sayle along with me in this same way,

This wat’ry Region, where the curled waves

Afford us teares, and to their bodies graves:

- See, see the leeking Vessell how it strives

And combats with the waves, to save their lives!

It sighs and seeks for Land, but press’d with weather,

And her surcharged burden both together,

While surging billowes mount above the brinke,

Shee’s forc’d to yield, and with her fraught to sinke.

To sinke! O silence that perplexing word,

It will a Deluge of new griefe afford

To the relenting Reader, who with teares

Will rinse each comme and period that he heares:

And wooe th’ inraged waves, and chide them too,

When he in milder tearmes shall cease to woo;

And in such home bred Dialect as this,

Taxe them and tell them, that they did amisse.

(Hand) O should you now see how Child clings on Mother,

Husband on Wife, Wife Husband, one on other,

Grasping the yeelding Streames, who in remorce

With Wat’ry veils shroud their inchanneld coarse;

Should you conceit these Objects, you with me

Would cloze in one-united Lachrymae.


   O WINDERMERE, who art renown’d afarre

For thy sole-breeding there unvalued Charre,

And with thy spacious channell doest divide

Two antient Counties seated on each side;

(Hand) May thy fresh waters salt and brackish turne,

And in their chang’d condition henceforth mourne;

May those distilling conduits of thine,

Loosing their native sweetnesse flow with brine:

Tuning each accent of this accident

To Swanlike Odes of dying dreriment.

What did incense thee thus? What furious fate?

Thethis and Hymen were they at debate?

Did any impious one this shipwracke cause,

Some high Delinquent to Heav’ns sacred Lawes,

Whose deepe-dyde sinne did so the State infest

As it became a Scourge unto the rest

That were his haplesse Consorts? or some wretch,

Some hideous hagge, or late-reprived Witch

Sprung from those desart Concaves, forlorne Cells,

Raising these stormes with their infernall Spells?

No; No; nor this, nor that, nor any these

Gave life to these expiring miseries.

It was that fixt decree, to which ‘tis fit

That wee who are his Creatures should submit.


 The sacred Scriptures they will plainly tell

How those, on whom the Tower of Shilo fell,

Were not the greatest sinners, Nor ought we,

To judge, but by the rule of Charitie

To measure all our Censures: for who ar’t,

That liv’st so free from act, so pure in hart,

Who canst in judgement with th’Almighty stand,

Or prove good weight when balanc’d by his hand?

If he doe spare then, ‘tis his mercy to us,

And if hee scourge, hee doth but justice doe us.


 But let me now divert my dolefull Scene,

And pencyle these who now have drowned bene,

In their owne native feature! “These were such

Who, to relieve their Meniey, labour’d much

In their industrious Wool-worke; justly fam’d,

And for their Manuall labour Sheare-men nam’d.

An usefull mystery! Which though it make

Course cloaths, and such as ne’re did Alnage take,

Yet tis commodious to the Common-weale,

And fit for Sale, although unfit for Seale.

For if th’ poore work-man scarcely can supply

With late and earely toile his Family

Now when his Trading is exempt and freed,

In paying Alnage how should hee succeede?

But Heav’ns be blest for our dread Soveraigne,

Who cheers with freedome such an honest gaine.


   Most then of these wract Passengers were such

Whom never yet ambition did tutch,

Grinding oppression, griping avarice,

“Conscience their praise, and competence their prize.

Much comfort (sure) crowns such wheres’ere they dye,

Though drencht below, their thoughts are fixt on hye.


   But amongst these, both love and blood doe urge

An higher straine of passion for my *GEORGE.

*Mr. George Wilson, Atturney in the Common Law: one of pregnant conceit and sincere in the course of his practise.

Of pregnant ripe conceit, firme to his friends,

And ne’re soak’t Clients purse with endlesse ends;

Young, yet well read in hours; fixing his love

On Lawes Divine and on the Land above.

Such dispositions make a good Atturney,

And wing his passage for an heav’nly journey:

Where he this fee may for his labour erne,

Peacefull Eternity without a Terme.


(Hand) A just weeke after, and same houre o’th day,

His Corpes were found, that hee was throwne away,

Untouch’t and undisfigur’d; to imply

Mans face i’th Depths retieines a Majesty.


   Next Him, those nursing fosters of my Three,

Three little ones, whom they so carefullie

Tender’d, exact of me their funeral teares,

With such a Monument as Vertue reares

On her true-meaning followers: for to show

How their industrious Master and these two

Exprest their love and zeale to me and mine,

Would aske a lasting-living-loving-line:

And Gratitude keepes somewhat to requite;

“To Him my love, to Them my last good-night.

Yet recollect those latest words She said,

When she that fatall vessel entered,

While thrice she lanched forward to the Maine,

Thrice she step’d in, and thrice retyr’d againe,

As one divining what would after fall,

With trickling teares thus on the Oares did call;


   Oh stay thy Boat, secure me and my Mate!

“One may foresee, but not prevent their fate.

Next these, His losse, who at my Table fed,

And as one of mine owne, was sometimes bred,

I mone; One may their duty farre forgit,

Yet God forbid, wee should not this remit,

As wee hope for remission: Hee is dead,

And with him my disasts are buried.

To waft him o’re (no doubt) it did Heav’ns please,

From th’waters of Contention unto Peace.


   For th’ rest, I knew them only by report,

Of honest fame, though of obscurer sort.

And these with those I confidently trust

Are now enrowl’d ith’ number of the just.


   Now to our selves let something be applied,

And then these papers shall be laid aside,

“J’st so, that we in hourely danger stand,

Whether wee saile by Sea, or go by Land?

“That we to th’ World, but one entrance have,

But thousand meanes of passage to our grave?

“That all our ways are hedg’d about with feare,

While wee are Pilgrims in this Desart heere?

“That none shall be exempted, but must goe

Unto the place where they’r confined to?

“And that the wise shall no more fruit receave

Of all his labours, then the foole shall have?

And that their end’s alike, for both shall die

To prove them Coheirs of Mortality?

“For th’ politick Him must yield to swelling Humber,

As well as th’ least of his inferior number,

“And Archie that rich foole, when he least dreames,

For purchast lands, must be possest of streams:

“What can wee practice, project or devise,

When ther’s no priviledge for Foole or Wise?


 Let’s like wise Merchants then, make it our care

To looke unto our Faith, our Fraught, our Fare;

Like Prudent Pilots, on our guard let’s stand,

That with safe prize wee may returne to Land.

For ev’n methinks, before they yield to Fate,

Their case they seeme thus to expostulate.


 Spare me, insulting waves, the Father cryes,

Take pitty, of my poore parentall eyes,

In me yee shall drowne many; for my life

Supports a Family, Children, and Wife.

These perish if I fall; then pity take

If not for me, yet for mine Infants sake.

I have industrious beene, and given relief

Out of my little store, to ease the griefe

Of hungry Soules; Nor doe I boast of this,

For Heav’ns you know, I’ve done too much amisse:

Not in those works of mercy that were wrought,

Have I perform’d my duty as I ought.

Give me some longer respite, that I may

Redeeme the time wherein I went astray.

Thou who command’st the winds and waves, and went

Upon the waters, calme this element;

Steere our weake Barke, for it is in thine hand,

To still this Storme, and bring us safe a land:

But let not our will, but thy Will be done,

And as hee ends, another streight begun.


   I am a Mother, O deliver mee

From these inclosing dangers which I see;

A tender Infant hangs upon my brest,

And only in my bosome takes sweet rest;

How will it cry, if it his mother lacke!

Then for the Babes sake shield me from this wracke.

If shuddering horrour now surprize mine heart,

Oh what an anguish will it be to part

A mother from the fruit of her owne wombe,

And in the wat’ry depths, to have a Tombe?

Excuse my feare, deare Lord, it is not common

For vizile Spouts to be in a Woman.

Where my Lord is, my thoughts are fixed there,

Yet flesh and blood their dissolution feare.

To thee then I direct my sole request,

In whom I put my trust, in whom I rest:

Incline thine eare to a poore Womans crye,

And be thou mine, whether I live or dye.


   The feare-surpirized Childe, who sighs for shore,

And ne’re knew well what danger went before;

Sends forth a shrieke or two, yet knows not why,

For ‘las hee knowes not what it is to dye.


   Oh save me, Mother! When shall we get home?

I have desire that wee to land may come,

I’l goe no more by Water, by your leave,

Nor shall a Cock-boat e’re your boy receave.

What meane these swelling bubbles that arise,

And with these sprinklings wash mine head and eyes?

I cannot tell, but they affright me sore,

Get I to land, I’l trouble these no more.

At Ducke and Drake I’d rather safely play,

On our owne Poole upon the Holy-day.


- Ay me! That last wave, mother, washt my coat,

An other such would throw me out o’th Boat.

Faine would I sleepe, but yet I cannot heere,

Take any rest, I’m taken so with feare.


- Oh save me Mother! thus her Lambkin cride;

And she with teare-swolne eyes again replide.

Feare nothing, Child: Heaven shield us from mishap;

Sleepe pretty Ape, l’l shroud thee with my lap.

‘Twixt feare and love such mutuall conflicts bee,

The waves socke her, she him upon her knee.

Weigh these surprised soules who rightly can,

And shares not in these miseries of man

With joynt compassion? Who can eye this Shelfe

Of danger, and reflect not on himselfe?

Of the whole substance of our Marchandize,

One onely Pearle’s of unvalued prize:

Which got, wee gaine; which lost, it is in vaine

To have possest the Indies for our gaine.


   Let’s then contemplate Him, where wee may rest,

For all things else are losse, hows’ere possest.

If wee have wealth, perchance, wee have not health;

If wee have health, perhaps, wee have not wealth;

If health and wealth, yet friendship may be scant;

If health, wealth, friendship, wee may honour want;

If health, wealth, honour we injoyers be,

Yet what are these if wee want libertie?

But God is all in one, for it is hee

Who with a girdle bounds the surging Sea:

Nought may oppose his Empire, whose command

Reacheth from Sea to Sea, from Land to Land.

Some Merchants for Silkes, Sables, golden Oare,

Dive in the depths, before they vent to shore,

But wee runne no such hazard; for wee seaze

On Him, who in Him seazeth wholy these.


   Draw in thy sailes, my Muze; and muze on Him,

Who free from staine, assoiles our soules from sin.

*Jonah. 2.5.6. Who, when the Waters compasse us halfe dead,

The Depths enclose us, weedes enwrappe our head;

When wee to th’ bottome of the mountains go,

And th’ Earth with barres immuzes our bodies too;

Yet from the Pit will Hee our Spirits raise,

To whom bee still the sacrifice of Praise.




 For further reading on the foole Archibald (Archie) Armstrong:

Here, I am the documenter of the evidence and mainly choose not to offer my opinion as explanation, the reader can apply their own. It stands as a sad yet important piece of Westmorland history and one of the biggest fresh water drowning tragedies in the country. Certainly the poem hasn't been available in a public forum for approaching 400 years, which is surprising for what is one of the nation's greatest loss of lives. To my knowledge it took the sinking of the Marchioness on the River Thames on 19th August 1989 to surpass this lakeland tragedy, when 51 drowned.

(**On the meaning of 'barke', its usual meaning refers to a vessel or barge, but here, also a body carrying a soul.)


It appears that the great boat tragedy was not the only fatality, and it is the accounts of the Fleming household of Rydal Hall that gives reference to another tragedy: 

The Estate and Household Accounts




Rydal Hall, Westmorland

1688 – 1701



Page 245 - September 14 1697:

This day Tho. Brathwaits Great boat was cast away, being over-loaded and it being a stormy day, with 4 men therein viz. Rob. Grunel, Rob. Grunel his son, Will. Ellerey, & James Brathwait of Sawerey, ye last of whom was drowned, & ye other three narrowly escaped. She was loaded with Limestones. This Boat was cast away 62 yeares ago next Octob. ye. 19th, when 46 persons were drowned, & 7 Horses, it being a very windy day upon Windermere.

 This seems to suggest that the boat was recovered after the tragedy of 1635, although there would be repeated repairs. Perhaps this indicates that the Great Boat, as a ferry was replaced and the older vessel went on to be used in the transport of quarrying material. 















Friday 2 December 2022

 The Elterwater Gunpowder Explosion of 1840

Gunpowder is an explosive material that is manufactured from three main products, sulphur, carbon (in the form of charcoal), and potassium nitrate (in the form of saltpetre). One such place of manufacture was at Elterwater, in the Langdale valley of Westmorland (now South Cumbria). I have copied in another account of gunpowder manufacture for a more detailed explanation of the process:

 In July 1836 the Elterwater Gunpowder Company had applied to the Lancaster Midsummer County Sessions Magistrates for authority to alter their sites at Elterwater and Nibthwaite in order to increase their production ability. The directors were then listed as Messrs. John Huddleston, John Gaskaith, Isaac Wilson, John Green, John Robinson, Thomas Benson, James Bousfield, John Braithwaite, and John Robinson jnr.; the motion had been granted. Gunpowder was initially produced for use in the local quarries and mines that were producing slate and ore extraction.
In 1840 the company was part owned by John Robinson the younger, who also managed the day to day production process of the premises, and he was also a farmer. At around 2.30pm on the afternoon of Friday 24th January 1840, he was in the counting house of the works on the banks of the River Brathay when he heard a terrible explosion which was to eventually claim five lives. He rushed to the Corning and Glazing House, and the Press House, and found that all three had been destroyed with only 6 yards in length of the outside walls standing. There had been around 3 to 4cwt (1cwt = 50kgs) of gunpowder in the corning house, 25cwt in the glazing house, (both these were under the same roof), and 7 to 8 cwt in the press house, which was around 50 yards from the former process buildings. Around 4 yards outside the corning house he found 40 year old Robert Barker who appeared to be dead, having been blown out by the explosion. Although Robert rallied for a short time despite his head injuries and the loss of his right leg, he died one hour later after being taken to his own house. He had visited Robert in the corning house only 15 minutes before the explosion had occurred and all appeared normal. At the inquest held at Mr. Tyson's Board Inn, at Langdale on the Saturday into the death of four workers (which adjourned and resumed on Tuesday due to a fifth death), before the coroner Mr. Richard Wilson Esq., he had described him as a cautious man who rarely touched liquor. The only other man working in the corning house was 28 year old John Bell, who was also killed in the explosion that eventually claimed a total of 5 lives, with two others seriously injured. The principle moving power in the corning house had operated for 14 years without any incident, and only the frame had been enlarged about 3 years ago. (the only other incident at the works had been the death of John Sandford, on Tuesday 12th January 1836, when he was driving a horse and cart out of the gates and on getting down from the cart and on seizing the horse's bridle his head was crushed between the cart and the gate, and died instantly.)

The saltpetre refiner John Ritson told the inquest that he had worked there for 12 years and was working refining sulphur when he heard and felt the force of the explosion. Such was its nature that he could not initially leave the building due to the debris of stone and wood raining down after the explosion. When it cleared he ran to the source of the explosion and found 45 year old William Rigg much injured, though he initially survived. 

John Wilson was working in the cooperage at the works and ran to the source of the explosion there finding 28 year old John Bell  nearly dead, again a few yards outside the corning house. He was very badly burned and was taken to the watch house, where he died a short time later. He knew that John had worked there for around two years and was a very prudent individual. 

Another John Wilson ran from the packing room to the pressing house where he found 50 year old Joseph Holme lying quite dead having been in the hottest part of the explosion, and was very badly burned. Joseph had only worked at the premises for 12 weeks.

The mill keeper John Richardson ran to the explosion source and found 26 year old Thomas Walker lying outside the press house, badly burned but still living. He was taken to Mr. Richardson's house and his burns were treated but he died the next day at 8am. Mr. Richardson confirmed to the inquest that all the men who died were very careful of their duties and he regarded his employers to have no want of care towards the safety of all the employed men.

All the above deaths were heard on Saturday 25th, and the inquest was resumed on Tuesday 28th due to the death of William Rigg. Then it was stated that another mill keeper by the name of David Huddleston ran to the scene and there found William Rigg standing about 7 yards from the west side of the press house. He was greatly burned and also cut and injured by the flying debris, though he was sensible. he assisted William to remove his burning clothing and after extinguishing the flames he then assisted him to the watch house where he laid until the Sunday and eventually died. He had been unable to comment on how the accident had happened. All the witnesses were of the opinion that the explosion had originated in the corning house, where only Robert Barker and John Bell had been working. All workers present were required to, and were wearing, slippers and leather clothing as part of the works safety measures to prevent just such an occurrence as the explosion. 

William Pearce told the inquest that he had worked at the complex for 14 to 15 years and had been there when the corning, glazing, and press houses were constructed; there had never previously been any accident. He himself had escaped the tragedy only by good luck as he should have been in the buildings but for him being needed to repair a mill which had been damaged a few days before. He had actually been in the press house just ten minutes before the accident and had walked to his house 300 yards away. He had been employed in the making of gunpowder for 28 years with no previous experience of an explosion.

Two other men had worked in the glazing house and were seriously injured though eventually recovered; they were, John Bowness and John Walker.

Robert Barker left a widow but no children, John Bell a widow with two children, Joseph Holme left a widow and six children, Thomas Walker left a widow and four children, and William Rigg a widow and four children. Of the two survivors, Stephen Walker had a wife and five children, and John Bowness had a wife and one child.

A subscription fund was commenced to assist the distressed families and injured workers. At the similar Low Wood gunpowder works the workers there collected monies and Mr. Robinson junior published his gratitude in the local papers. By Saturday 8th February those papers were able to report the news that the two injured men, Bowness and Walker, were making a positive recovery and hopes of their restoration to full health were entertained. Donations increased, with £10 being received from Mr. John Wakefield Esq., of Sedgewick. Messrs. Jackson & Hamilton of Liverpool also donated £10 and John Crossfield Esq., and Robert Heywood Esq., both of Liverpool, each donated £5. Smaller donations of £2, £1, and shillings were also received to add to the fund. Later, other larger donations continued to be received. 

The funerals of the first four the men were conducted on Monday 27th, at Langdale and 50 members of the Independent Order of Oddfellows of Ambleside being present, the deceased Robert Barker being a member of the Order. They carried the coffin to the church wearing black rosettes and white gloves. (The current church was built in 1858.) They donated £6 to the widow Mrs. Barker, and a further £2 at a later date. The Oddfellows N.G. (Noble Grande, or Presiding Officer), spoke a eulogy over  the grave.   Each Oddfellows member dropped a sprig of Thyme into the grave, a ceremonial rite of the Odd Fellows. There was a great concourse of people present for all the four deceased men. 

It was not the only tragedy at the complex, but it was the biggest, and the first. When you drive down the valley to be recharged by the tranquillity of the Langdales, with its stunning mountain views, just turn your head as you pass Elterwater and contemplate that it was not always so. 

Ray Greenhow.

Thursday 21 July 2022

The Scafell Pike and Great Gable Great War Memorials


The Scafell Pike Memorial Plaque (photograph care of Ian Murphy)

The summit cairn of Scafell Pike

Approaching the summit of Scafell Pike, from the Lingmell Col path.

On 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Carl Ludwig Joseph Maria) was assassinated in Sarajevo. This led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, which began a chain of events through nation's alliances, that inevitably led to upheaval of the European continent, and eventually involving the developed nations of the world.  Britain entered the conflict after Germany attacked France through neutral Belgium. Men from all sections of British Society (and the Empire) heard the call and volunteered for the army and navy to defend freedom. The horror of that conflict led to the names of battles to become ingrained in the British consciousness; Marne, Gallipoli, Jutland (naval), Verdun (French), The Somme, Ypres (Passchendaele), Amiens; to name but the main ones. It was a war that would eventually cost an estimated 17 million people their lives.

Within the English Lake District there had been a group of men who had coalesced under a shared desire to invigorate their lives through a passion of climbing inaccessible crag faces, pitting their skill and courage against a seemingly impossible task. When the rallying call was sounded, each, as much as any man, if not moreso, saw their duty as putting aside their passion, along with their climbing equipment, and morally accept the King's shilling and enter the armed services. 

When that conflict ended at 11am, on 11th day of 11th Month,1918, the huge human carnage ended, and those that lived to bear witness to the terrible cost, returned as best they were able, to their former lives. Many did not return and of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club 20 lives were lost. Men of the valleys had also volunteered, tough men who hard earned a living from the tough landscape of lakeland.

The nation mourned at the loss and methods of honouring the sacrifice of the youth of the nation were considered by all; how could that loss of life be honoured within the counties of the country? How could lakeland honour the fallen? 

Lord Leconfield had himself decided on a fitting tribute to the men of the surrounding valleys who worked the landscape, and had given the ultimate sacrifice, never again to return to their homes in the valleys of the Cumbrian high mountains. He had been approached by Mr. Gordon Wordsworth of Ambleside, the grandson of the poet William, and Mr. Arthur Christopher Benson, the well known author (who, among other works, wrote the lyrics of, 'Land of Hope and Glory') and Master at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Both men were representing The National Trust. This was confirmed by Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley (one of three founding members of the Trust), in a letter he wrote to The Carlisle Journal, published on Tuesday 30th September 1919. 

'Sir, Scafell Pike is the highest mountain summit in England. This, henceforth, by the goodwill of Lord Leconfield, The Lord of the Manor, is to be placed, subject to any common rights that exist, under the custody of the National Trust. He makes this gift in honour of the men of the Lake District who fought, and in thankful memory of the men who gave their lives in the Great War 1914 - 1918.

 It is not intended that any monument shall be placed upon the summit, but it is probable that in the existing cairn that a rough stone may be inserted recording the gift and its purpose'.

On 24th August 1921, a party of climbers, including American tourists, attended the summit of the pike and witnessed the unveiling of a tablet which had been set in the summit Ordnance Survey cairn of that highest of English fells. The ceremony was overseen by Mr. Hamer, the then Secretary of the National Trust. To this day the plaque proudly sits inset for all to witness and thus recall, then honour, the men who fell in that horrendous war 'to (supposedly) end all wars'. The plaque states a quotation from Lord Leconfield: 

“in perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom peace and right in the Great War 1914 – 1918.”

Lord Leconfield did not end his contribution at this one summit and following a further approach by Mr. Wordsworth and Mr. Benson, he agreed to also pass to the Trust the summit (all above 2,000ft) of Scafell, which is adjacent to its namesake Pike. 



The members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club had themselves considered a permanent tribute to their unfortunate fellow climbers who never returned alive to their homeland, to enjoy all the English Lakes had to offer them in their thrilling sport of rock climbing. The club had been formed in the Coniston area on 11th November 1906, and by 1921 had developed into a membership of nearly 400. On the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, 15th and 16th November 1921, nearly 200 of those members met at Coniston for the first meeting of the club since the end of the Great War. On the Friday there had been a covering of snow laid down making conditions on Doe (Dow) Crag difficult, thus adding to the pleasures of the climbers. At 11am on the Sunday they held the 'King's stand-by', as a special memorial for those of them who never returned from the conflict in 'foreign fields'. The annual dinner was held at The Sun Inn.

On 13th October 1923, the Fell and Rock Climbing club once again held its annual dinner at Coniston. The Right Honorary F. D. Acland, received on behalf of the National Trust, the deeds of property, purchased by members of the club, purchased by them as a memorial to their fallen colleagues. It had originally been intended to try and raise a fitting memorial near Pillar Rock but when the Musgrave estate came on the market, with the farm at Row Head in Wasdale having the rights over Kirk Fell and Great Gable, mention was made of this. The estate then fell as a whole, into the hands of Mr. Herbert Walker, of Seascale. A committee was formed and approached Mr. Walker, stating their fine intentions to him. He approved the idea and placed a reasonable price on the rights to be conceded to the club. Nearly all the members of the club subscribed to the purchase price and this and more was raised, without any need for an approach to public subscription. 

Great Gable, looking majestic from Sprinkling Tarn area.

On Sunday 8th June 1924, the club and others, amounting to 500 - 600, gathered on the wet and mist shrouded summit of Great Gable for the unveiling ceremony of a specially designed bronze plaque which contained a relief map of the area purchased, and the names of 20 members who fell in that war of 1914 - 1918. Every climbing organisation in Britain was represented in the crowd who gathered on the mountain top. Mr. Godfrey A. Smalley, past president of the Alpine Club; Mr. Harry A. Scott, and Mr. Philip S. Minor, of the Rucksack Club; Mr. W. A. Brigg, of the Yorkshire Ramblers; Mr. J. J. Brigg. Mr. Eustace Thomas, and Mr. Herbert P. Cain, were among those present. The plaque was cast by Mr. B. S. Harlow, who was principal of the firm, Robert Harlow and Son, brass founders etc., Heaton Norris; he was also a prominent member of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club. The lettering was by Messrs. G. P. Kershaw and Co., successors to Messrs., Thomas Webb and Co., Stockport. A tribute was paid by Mr. Geoffrey Winthrop Young, a poet, essayist, and mountaineer, who had himself lost a leg on 17th August 1917 whilst serving on the Izonso Front, Italy. After amputation he had walked 16 miles to avoid capture.

The original plaque (with the later corrected name Whitley, bottom right).

His tribute was: 

'Upon this mountain summit, we are met today, to dedicate this space of hills to freedom. Upon this rock are set the names of men, our brothers and our comrades, upon these cliffs, who held with us that there is no freedom of the soil where the spirit of man is in bondage, and who surrendered their part in the fellowship of hill and wind and sunshine, that the freedom of this land, the freedom of our spirit, should endure. This bronze stands high upon the crowning glory of our free land as a sign between us and them - our covenant to them that we still hold their freedom of this splendour of height, still breathe its fearless health, the inspiration of its faultless pleasure. By this ceremony we consecrate a twofold remembrance. In token that these men gave their mortality of manhood for a redemption of earthly freedom this rock stands a witness, perishable also in the onset of time, that this realm of mountain earth is in their honour free. In token that their sacrifice bears witness still beyond death to the imperishable ideal of spiritual liberty we commit to-day, not in bronze, but in unalterable faith, our thought of their triumph in the spirit to these spaces of power and light. By this symbol we affirm a twofold trust. That which hills only can give the children - the discipline of strength, freedom, the freeing of the spirit through generous service - these free hills shall give again, and for all time. The memory of all that these children of the hills have given, service and inspiration fulfilled and perpetual, this free heart of our hills shall guard.'

The bronze was initially covered with the Union Jack, flown by HMS Barham, the Queen Elizabeth class battleship, and flagship of the 5th Battle Squadron at the naval 'Battle of Jutland'. It was unveiled by Dr. A. W. Wakefield, of Keswick, the secretary of the club, who himself had been part of the Mallory expedition to Everest. (Barham was to later be sunk when struck by three of four torpedoes fired at her by U331 on 25th November 1941, while hunting for Italian convoys in the Mediterranean. It sank so quickly there was a total loss of 862 lives, with 487 being saved by rescue).

H.M.S. Barham

The plaque unfortunately was cast with a spelling mistake of, 'B. H. Whitty', when the correct spelling was B. H. Whitley. A 'correction' was attached but detracted from the appearance and seemed not to correctly honour the name of that fallen soldier, and climber. In July 2013 the plaque was taken down by the Royal Engineers, and a new plaque recast, the name now corrected; this was replaced by the Engineers in the September of that year. This would rightly honour the deceased, and be in preparation for the coming of the centenary in 2018 on what is now no longer called The King's Stand-by', but now Remembrance Sunday, and seems to have been settled, or referred to, as early as 1920.

(I am a foundryman by trade, specifically trained as a patternmaker, and it was that interest in the casting origins that caused me to commence my research. The original 'pattern' would be constructed and carved, to be packed around in moulding sand in a metal box in the foundry, then stripped, the moulding box closed, creating the shaped cavity. This would then be cast with molten bronze - an alloy of copper and tin, the latter making the soft copper much harder, yet still have qualities of toughness. I would expect the original pattern to have at some time been destroyed. If that were the case, the original casting could be cleaned to create a die moulded from it, and a new pattern then cast in resin, with the old Whitty name removed and a correction placed in the void, ready for remoulding in the foundry and a fresh casting made.)

The re-cast plaque. Frost somehow adding to the reality of felltop conditions.

Another image:

Another image showing the rock capping Great Gable which the memorial plaque is attached to.

The 2013 memorial service on Great Gable to unveil the new plaque, which I attended. A fog bow appeared, giving a spiritual sense to the event.

The Remembrance Day service on Great Gable takes place irrespective of weather; it honours men of the mountains who knew the hell of the Western Front and battlefields of Europe. It would seem dishonourable to their memory to fail to attend, purely on grounds of weather alone, as long as an individual's capabilities and experience can cope with what the elemental weather throws at the mountain. 

All who took part in The Great War (not called The First World War, as there was never supposed to be a second, but sadly there was just that), are now dead, yet still we line our streets and parks, or visit Great Gable, to honour them on Remembrance Sunday and quote the fourth verse of Lawrence Binyon's seven verse poem, 'For The Fallen':

'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.'

It is such a fitting tribute as we remember those who did not return from the Great War; and in equal measure, Britain's finest men and women killed in more recent conflicts, such as, WWII, Korea, Suez, Northern Ireland, The Falklands, Afghanistan; indeed any field of war where soldiers have died in service of defending freedom for their country, and their Monarch.
We say, 'Lest we forget'; when we attend Great Gable we show that we don't, and never will, so long as the mountain stands, with the plaque bearing witness to 'The Fallen's', ultimate sacrifice.

I have below attached a link to an Imperial War Museum website on the specifics of the memorial and the men who are listed.

Sunday 26 June 2022

The Tragic Death of Edward George Hobley 1866 - 1916, at Swarthbeck Gill (Ghyll)

The view of Howtown Bay, Ullswater. Visited by the artist Edward George Hobley, to paint the scene on 11th May 1916.

Portrait of James Scott 1836 - 1926 Penrith Urban Council's First Chairman
Artist - Edward George Hobley ARCA 1866 - 1916.

 Edward George Hobley was born at Wallingford, Berkshire, in the final quarter of 1866. He was the son of Frederick and Mary (nee Parker) and was the eldest of three sons. Edward would progress to be an accomplished artist and finally settled in the town of Penrith, through marriage and employment.

Edward went on to study art at the Leeds Academy under Mr. John Snowdon, and in October 1891 he had a small display in an exhibition of other works, at that Academy. He was by this time a former pupil and was furthering his skills and studies in Paris. On 26th September 1893, he gained some recognition as a 'rising young artist of promise' in the Bradford Daily Telegraph, having exhibited a home portrait of a Bradford man, Joseph White, painted in his home. This was at the autumn exhibition of the Art Museum in that city. Clearly he was displaying his skills as both a painter of not only landscapes and nature, but of portraits as well, likely a good way of earning a comfortable living for an up and coming artist. He would go on to paint works of Morecambe Bay, exhibited in 1895, 

His most celebrated work was a picture exhibited in 1898 at The Royal Academy Burlington House, called, 'A Shaft of Light', which depicts calves in a barn with a beam of light entering the scene. The positive comment in 'The Tablet' newspaper read, 

'In " A Shaft of Light" MR. EDWARD G. HOBLEY shows himself the disciple of MR. CLAUSEN and of MR. STANHOPE FORBES, masters whom any painter, not endowed with originality, may be proud to follow. Mr. HOBLEY paints a stable interior, containing two calves, on whom a shaft of sunshine is shot through an aperture in the wall. It touches one calf on the side, and the ear of the other is lighted up by it to a high blood-red, " re-pured vermilion," as a poet has called the effect.'

 That picture today is in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery at Liverpool, purchased by the Liverpool Corporation in 1899.

'A Shaft of Light'

Edward's move to Penrith had already occured at this point as the painting's submission was also commented on in the local papers and he was described as 'a local artist'. 

'A LOCAL ARTIST.—We notice that Mr. Edward G. Hobley, who has taken up the position of Art Master at the Penrith Technical School under the recognition of the Local Technical Education Committee, has this year two pictures hung "on the line" at the Royal Academy. " One of them," the "Times " critic says, " is a very effective study of light and shade—A Shaft of Light (149) by an artist whose name is new to us, Mr. Edward G. Hobley." The other is a watercolour landscape. Many able critics, such as the" World," "Truth," etc., speak favourably of his work. We understand that Mr. Hobley intends working in the district permanently, and we have no doubt that the Penrith Art Classes, and the general public interested in art, will be better for his presence.' 

The above proved to be the case and he opened art classes at the college: 

Penrith Observer 20th September 1898

On 22nd April 1899 he married 24 year old Annie Vipond, the daughter of the late Mr. William Vipond of Penrith, at Christ Church, Carlisle. This would be a happy event for the Vipond family, for they, and Penrith, had suffered a great sadness following the unexpected and unexplained death of 27 year old Frances (Fanny), Annie's elder sister, in 1892. She had gone missing from her uncles' home during a storm and a search eventually discovered her body in Beacon Woods, Penrith. The inquest revealed that she had died of self administered poisoning, but could not explain whether the drinking of the bottle's content was deliberate or a mistake, believing it to have been mixed up as a bottle of medicine. The marriage of Edward and Annie would bring happiness through the birth of five children, Freda Vipond Hobley (born 1900); Olga Mary (born 1903); Edward Kent (born 1907); George Frederick (born 1911); and Dorothy Eva (born 1913).

Family Portrait of Annie Hobley and the first four children, painted by Edward.

On the skill of portraiture, Edward was commissioned to paint the late James Scott, a former Chairman of Penrith Urban District Council, which then hung in the Town Hall. He was also commissioned to paint lake images of Ullswater and the surrounding scenery for the Ullswater Navigation Company and at least twenty were done by him which were reproduced and sold in their thousands. Postcards were produced of these, for the furtherance of the burgeoning tourism trade.

Edward had become a celebrity in the area through his skills, and a successful business was the fruits of his labours. However, in the course of his endeavours, around 1910 - 1911, he became lost on the High Street Fells range and when he finally reached safety it caused a chill in him from which he never fully recovered. He later began to suffer strange fancies of religion and of the war in Europe, twice suffering from ill-health.

On the morning of Thursday 11th May 1916, Edward left his home with his painting equipment, stating that he was going onto the fells to paint cloud effects. He did this many times, so no concern was expressed when he did not come home that night. He did not return by the next morning though, and the matter was reported by his worried family to the police. Their enquires revealed that he had been seen about noon in the High Winder area of Ullswater. A search was conducted that Friday but no sign of him was found. On the Saturday search parties was organised which included local scouts, two of whom were Rowland Slack and Norman Jones, and they were detailed to search the steep Swarthbeck Gill area of Swarth Fell (part of which is Bonscale Pike). This is steep and the famous Westmorland climbing brothers had made some new ascents of the cliffs in that area. As they climbed either side of the Gill they noticed a depression and on checking it they saw an entrance in the rockface. They had discovered an old lead mine and on entering, within a few feet they discovered Mr. Hobley's camp stool and kit bag. They then saw Mr. Hobley's feet. His legs were pinioned and his throat was cut, with a razor lying close by his hand; his collar and tie had been removed. His easel bag was also close by. The alarm was raised and PC Downing of Pooley Bridge was informed then the body brought down to the laundry at Ravencrag. Supt. Barron was informed about the initial finding and he informed the Hobley family, though it was some hours before they were made aware of the distressing circumstances. Another sad circumstance was that his 83 year old mother had arrived only that week and was at the family home at Brunswick Square when the sad news arrived.

Just inside Swarthbeck Gill mine.
(Above mine image by permission of Mark Hatton.)

An inquest was held at Ravencrag on Monday 15th May where his brother, Robert Arthur, (an assistant master at Radcliffe Gardens Secondary School, Pudsey, near Leeds), stated that all the family had been concerned over the last few years, with Edward's apparent derangement of mind, which seemed to worsen.

Constable Downing also gave evidence and stated that in Edward's bag was found a sketch of an Ullswater scene that seemed to by drawn from higher up Swarthbeck Gill. The coroner summed up the evidence and reminded the jury that they all knew the deceased and had witnessed his deteriorating ill health. He stated that the should have no difficulty in drawing a conclusion that Edward had met his death while his mind was unbalanced. Unsurprisingly, suicide, was the verdict the jury returned and they expressed their deepest sympathies for his widow and family.

The funeral took place on Tuesday 16th at 2pm and he was laid to rest at Barton Church. On Wednesday 6th February 1935, Annie passed away of heart failure and was known in the Penrith area as a kindly woman; all five of the Hobley children survived her. She was cremated at Edinburgh and her ashes were similarly laid to rest at Barton church.