Friday, 27 March 2020

Margaret Messenger 1881 – Sprunston, Durdar.


Sprunston, just south of Durdar, near Carlisle
 At 1pm on the afternoon of Tuesday 28th June 1881, at Sprunston, Blackwell High, near Durdar, Carlisle, it was realised that three-year-old John Mark Pallister was missing from the family home. He had been with his father in the kitchen, but Mr. Pallister had dozed after dinner and when he woke the child was no longer present. A search was quickly mounted by the family. The servant, 13-year-old Margaret Messenger went to the well with a water tin to fetch water. She found the child drowned at the bottom and quickly alerted Mr. Pallister. An inquest was convened that afternoon at Sprunston and after hearing the circumstances the jury reached a verdict of ‘Accidentally Drowned’.

Margaret was the daughter of the foreman at the nearby chalk quarries and had worked for the Pallister family only from 9th June; she was regarded as an intelligent girl who was engaged to look after the three children and do minor household chores. They had one other servant, a lad called George Haffen, who did farm work.

At about 8am on 2nd July Mr. and Mrs. Pallister left the children, Margaret Hodgson (5yrs) and an infant Mary Elizabeth Pallister, in the care of Margaret while they went into Carlisle. She was instructed to strictly care for the children and not to do any work. George was working in a field approximately 100 yards from the house hoeing potatoes, and at about 10am he heard the baby cry, which he placed little importance to. Shortly, five-year-old Margaret Hodgson, the oldest child, shouted that he had to come, saying a man had taken the baby. He then spoke to Margaret Messenger who repeated this account saying the man had left and went in the direction of the orchard and well. He himself thought they were joking, but checked and found no man, nor any sight of the child. He continued with his work. About half an hour later he then saw Margaret Messenger carrying the body of the infant across a field called Lamb Close, with the five-year-old following her. It was now around 11:30am and a neighbour called Mrs. Story, was quickly called from her house 300 yards away. She found Margaret Messenger stood over the body in a yard and also noticed the front of the body was dirty and wet, but the back was dry; the body was still warm to touch. She asked Messenger what had happened and was told the same account of the man by her. When asked, she added that the baby was found near the well in a pool with a big stone on top of its head. Mrs. Story accused her of lying, saying that she had done this. Mr. Story had returned from Carlisle and guarded her in the house, which he had now locked her in. He also questioned Messenger she now stated that she had fallen asleep while nursing the child in the Lamb Close field and when she woke the child was not there. This further alerted his suspicions as the child could not have walked to where it was ‘found’ by Messenger. She showed him the place, which was a boggy piece of ground just below the well. He confronted her, stating that there were a lot of footprints of her clogs, but none made by any man, and a mark existed where a stone had been lifted, with further clog marks of hers present at that location. She then burst out crying, saying she would tell him the truth, but he warned her to keep it for the authorities. The Pallister’s later returned to learn of this second tragic death of another child.

Superintendent Sempill was called and attended at 6pm. He asked Mrs. Story to retrieve the clogs and clothing worn by Messenger that day. She went with the servant to her room and asked her to tell her the truth. After hesitating, Margaret Messenger then admitted that she had done this terrible deed. The Superintendent was called to the room and Mrs Story told Messenger to repeat to him what she had told her. The Superintendent realised something significant would be said and cautioned her; she then repeated her admission to causing the death of the infant, which he took down into writing. She stated that she had put the child in the bog and no one helped her. He then had plaster casts made of the clog prints near the scene, for later production at court as evidence. Margaret Messenger was then arrested on suspicion of murder.

On Monday 4th July an inquest was commenced at the family home, but adjourned, awaiting the result of the post-mortem. Messenger was further remanded by the magistrates after the inquest adjournment. Doctors. Moffat and Brown conducted a post-mortem and were able to later state that the cause of death was suffocation when immersed in mud. The inquest was reconvened on Monday 11th at The White Quey Inn, Durdar and the verdict was one of Murder of the infant. She remained on remand at the gaol and her mother allowed to pay her a visit.

The trial took place at the Assizes court which sat on Wednesday 2nd November 1881 and the above evidence was given. Mr. Page was one of the prosecuting barristers and then went on to outline the possible defences to a charge of murder. Three were quickly discounted as not feasible:

·        If a man took the child where were his footprints?

·        The child could have fallen into the pool and drowned, but no water was in the lungs.

·        If the child had fallen from someone’s arms into the bog, who had carried it there? If it were the prisoner, why had she not merely lifted it back out?

He then paid particular attention to a fourth defence in that it had not been proved that the child had Guilty Knowledge’. He had earlier spoken at the start of the trial on this subject. A person under seven years could not have such Guilty Knowledge to commit a crime, neither could a child between seven and fourteen but in this older child that was only a prima facie presumption that could be rebutted, if such Guilty Knowledge could be shown. Had the child done the deed and then openly stated she had killed the infant then Guilty Knowledge would be difficult to show. In this case a murder had taken place and means had been used to prevent the truth being found out. The question for the jury was one whether this constituted that Guilty Knowledge to what she was doing was wrong.

The Messenger family were from the parish of Rosley, near Wigton, and the vicar and also the schoolteacher gave good character references for Margaret as an attentive and kindly girl, the schoolmaster had placed her in charge of his own children.

There then followed a spirited plea to the jury by the defence, before the judge summarised the case. He reminded the jury it was not their prerogative to show mercy, but that it was their sworn duty to ensure justice was done, based upon the evidence presented. He then summarised the evidence, touching on the issue of possible motives and defences. The jury retired for only ten minutes and returned to the courtroom with a verdict of Guilty with a plea to mercy on account of her age. The learned judge then had a terrible duty to perform, for there was only one sentence he could pass. He donned the black cap and said:

‘Margaret Messenger, you have been found Guilty, after a very careful and long trial, of the heinous crime of murder. Your life is now at the mercy of the Queen’s prerogative alone. I shall not prolong the misery, agony, and pain of you and all who have heard this case by one word of reproach to you. My solemn oath is to pass upon you the dread sentence of the law. That is, that you be taken hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, and there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and that your body be afterwards buried in the precincts of the prison in which you shall have been last confined after your conviction, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.’

The judge himself was much affected by the sentence he had to pass on this fourteen-year-old girl. Margaret was removed to the goal and appeals were submitted to the Home Office, for consideration by the Crown. The early appeal pointed out that Margaret now showed remorse for her deeds and had written a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Pallister for murdering two of their children, saying also that God had forgiven her as she now hoped they would also. She also said that she hoped a new servant would serve them better than she had done.  She was examined by Dr. Orange, of the Broadmoor Asylum and Dr. MacDougall, the Carlisle Gaol surgeon, with a view to ascertain her state of mind. Dr. Orange reported to the Home Office and on Tuesday 13th December Mr. Haverfield, the Carlisle Gaol Governor, received that commutation of the death sentence to one of penal servitude for life.

The Messenger family had lived at Chalk Foot, Cumdivock, between Curthwaite and Dalston; Margaret was born there in 1867 and spent her childhood in that area. After penal servitude she was released in December 1891 from Woking prison and is then known to have lived with her younger brothers, George and Joseph, at Howrigg, at Woodside, Rosley, and was employed as a dressmaker. In 1939 she is known to be living about a mile from that location at Howend Cottages, Thursby, now on her own. It is believed she lived to the age of 91, dying as a spinster in 1959 in the Wigton area, which Howend would be part of.

Further information has been volunteered from local people and the house is believed to have been the second one at Howend, as you travel towards Thursby roundabout, from Cockermouth. It was said that the only book she read was the Holy Bible. Children who passed on the way to school were told to hurry by her house, which they did, but never knew why.

Howrigg and Howend, near Thursby, west of Carlisle.


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Wednesday, 25 March 2020

The 1854 visitation of a shoal of whales to the Solway Firth coastline


On Saturday 16th December 1854 an event of marine nature began to unfold which would culminate in a gruesome but welcome harvest for both the Scottish and English communities of the Solway Firth coastline. On that day, fishermen were plying their trade in the Irish sea when they became surrounded by masses of whales, up to 30 feet in length, and these sailors were in fear of being capsized. The creatures, which were visible as far as the eye could see and estimated in news reports as in their thousands, appeared to be in a state of exhaustion.
 Through the night they were swept by the tide into the Solway Firth and the coastal residents were alarmed by the sounds emanating across the shores of Dumfriesshire and Cumberland. The Crimean war was underway and local people even speculated to the sound being a Russian invasion. The morning however was to enlighten them to an unlooked for but welcome bounty of meat and oil, which would both feed the communities and lighten their lamps for years to come. The greatest number were thrashing at the ebb of the tide and in a state of exhaustion, and were stretched out from Annan Waterfoot, to Sarkfoot, although the greatest number were near Browhouses, Eastriggs; the largest was estimated at 40 feet in length. The local population fell upon the creatures, described as 'conductor' or 'calling' toothed whales from the northern oceans, with any form of cutting tool that could be utilised to kill, then strip the skin and blubber from the carcasses. The largest fought against the impending death and resisted the crowds eager to kill it. One man unwisely climbed onto its tail to prevent the animal from thrashing about and was thrown 20 yards along the shoreline from a single flick. The slaughter continued despite there initially being insufficient horses to draw the creatures higher up the beach, and many were left in the sea with their throats cut to be thrown onto the sands with the next incoming tides, when more horses had by then been acquired. The oil bounty was estimated at a quart for every 4Ibs of blubber rendered in the cooking pots. 
By the Tuesday over 200 of the creatures had been slaughtered in Annan and other places, with the subsequent rendered oil selling at between 4 and 6 shillings a gallon, dependent on quality. This was valued at £600, a typical wage of the time would have been £1. In Silloth Bay alone 20 were killed, with others being taken at Port Carlisle, Bowness, Cardornock, and several other places along the coast. It was said that had more people been at hand many more could have been killed, although between 300 and 400 people had been engaged in the Annan harvest. One whale, presumably that had been landed at Port Carlisle, was exhibited at Carlisle and drew large crowds, unused to such a sighting of a creature of the depths.

Image taken from The Illustrated London News depicting Silloth Bay.


On Thursday 28th December a business opportunity presented itself when one of the whales, which was 20 feet in length, was seen floating dead off the West Pier. The tug brought it on shore at the old quay and it was put on public display in a temporary shed at a fee of 2d per head, from which the tug owners recouped a considerable sum of money. A further whale was washed ashore at the ship building yard of the town.
This mass beaching was considered as one of, if not the greatest, landing of whales upon the shores of the nation that had ever been encountered. Scientific speculation abounded at the reasons for such a beaching. One was that they had followed the herrings which were, some time previous, found in abundance in the Firth, but none were found in the stomach contents. Another was that they had been frightened from the native grounds by tremendous storms that had recently passed over India and the Crimea. The most likely theory settled upon was that of some submerged volcano would have stunned and stupefied them, only to be caught in the current which sets around the Isle of Man, which would speedily carry them into the Solway. 
Further whale sightings would occur in the firth; four of 30 feet length, were sighted in July 1860 between Ross and Abbeyburn, but returned back to sea; on Sunday 13th July 1862 a number were seen at Brow Pow (Powfoot?), near Brow Well, Dumfries, although they returned to the ocean. In July 1863 the shores of Dumfriesshire were again visited by whales, with 6 beaching near Priestside; all 6 were killed and rendered to extract the valuable oil. A further one was landed a month later at nearby Waterfoot. Single whales or small shoals continued to be sighted in the late 1800's, but none ever came close to matching the huge shoal of December 1854.

**Taking into account the image, the whales were toothed and from the 'northern oceans', their main size of up to 30 feet in length and the name of conductor or calling whales, there seems little doubt that these were sperm whales. This was a term not commonly referred to in the early and mid 1800's, although some references exist. The term comes from an oily waxy substance within the whales head used for echo location called spermaceti and could be up to 1,900 litres. That 'echo' was most likely the 'conductor' or 'calling' sound the creatures made.**
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Sunday, 12 January 2020

The Fatal Seathwaite Tarn Riot of 1904

The Duddon Valley was eulogised by Wordsworth in his 33 sonnets that tracked the Duddon from its source to its estuary in the Irish Sea, finishing then with a valedictory one that was voted as one of the BBC viewers favourite 100 poems. Along its journey he describes the beauty of the river, its surroundings, the tranquillity of its setting, and the people who live on its banks; Particular reference is inferred to Robert Walker 1709 - 1802, the vicar at Seathwaite Church.

The Stepping Stones, near Seathwaite village, the subject of the 9th sonnet, which continues into the 10th.
Seathwaite Tarn, Duddon Valley, looking northwest. The curve at the far end is caused by the dam.


The River Duddon near Seathwaite
It was however not always to be so tranquil as the events of 25 July 1904 show. A large number of navvies were employed in the Barrow Waterworks dam construction at Seathwaite Tarn, in the Duddon Valley. It was to supply drinking water for the Furness area and was to be nearly 400 yards long. A serious disturbance occurred, three men were reported being seriously injured and special drafts of the North Lancashire Constabulary were sent to Ulpha to quell the riot, leading to six persons being arrested. The incident was apparently started when the landlord of the Newfield Hotel refused to serve alcoholic drink to about seven navvies who then threatened to kill him, smashing the windows to the premises and later to the church, vicarage and school. Although now in the county of Cumbria this area was Lancashire at the time, Cumbria being an amalgamation in 1972, following boundary changes of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire of which Barrow, Ulverston and Duddon were part; hence the references to prisoners of Lancashire Constabulary.

On the morning of 27 July 1904, at the Police Courts at Ulverston Thomas Dawson(the landlord of The Newfield Inn at Seathwaite, Duddon Valley) stood in the dock with James Greenhow, a young barman at those premises and Henry Knox Dodd, an engineer of Glasgow and the assistant engineer at the namesake's tarn dam. All were charged with offences following a serious disturbance on 25th at Seathwaite. Dawson was charged with unlawfully wounding James Foy, 33 years by shooting him in the leg, Greenhow was alleged to have shot Garrett Kinsella, 23 years, in the shoulder; and Dodd with shooting in the leg a 25 year old Millom Labourer named Owen Kavanagh; he died of the injury the next day at around noon. Owen was a native of Millom, the son of John and Jane Kavanagh, both parents originated from Ireland. In 1899 Owen had joined the North Lancashire Regiment and in 1901 had been based Southampton. He had minor brushes with the police in Millom for drunkenness. These offences were in April 1899, July 1901, and March 1902.
The three accused had been charged at Broughton Police Station and transferred to Ulverston by train under the escort of Inspector Hume and a contingent of officers. They were accompanied by Mr Butler, a solicitor from Broughton, who oversaw their interests. All three stood in the dock although the charges against Greenhow and Dawson stood separately to the one Dodd faced. Only one witness, John Thomas Standing, a driver at Seathwaite Waterworks was called to initially give evidence. He stated that at about 2:40 pm on the afternoon of Monday 25 July he had seen six or seven men damaging the windows at Seathwaite Church and School. He was tackled by them but managed to break away and fled to the Newfield Hotel where he found that damage had previously been caused to the hotel windows. Few were left undamaged and the rioters then returned. He went on to give evidence that the rioters shouted 'If you do not open the door we will bash it in' and Foy threw a huge cobble through a glass pane. He stated the position was so serious that Greenhow fired a shot from a distance of ten yards which felled Kinsella. This did not stop the attack and Foy threatened the landlord Dawson who then fired from a distance of only five yards, hitting Foy in the leg, and Foy was carried into an out-house to be attended to.
Their solicitors (Dawson was represented by Mr Wilson Butler of Broughton) in their defence, pointed out that this was an important piece of evidence in that it showed that despite the use of a gun and the subsequent injury to Kinsella, the rioters had not been put off their concerted attack on the premises. Present in the hotel bar at the time was Mrs Dawson, also Miss Dawson, and some girls who were at serious risk of being killed by missiles flung through the windows. When stones were not readily to hand, wood and iron spouting was used. Thomas Standing said that the use of guns was the last resort for those defending the hotel.
Standing was further cross examined by Mr Bradshaw who represented Dodd. Through this cross examination Standing summarised the whole of the event stating that Greenhow fired the first shot, then Dodd shot, and later Dawson. Greenhow's shot felled Kinsella and although he lay on the ground wounded, the attack continued. He further stated that Kavanagh was a dangerous man, and he was leading the attack. Dodd asked him repeatedly to desist but Kavanagh continued with his threats and stone throwing. Dodd was simply protecting the premises, and it was necessary to use a firearm. Two other Millom men arrested at that time were discharged as no evidence of identification was offered to the court. It was also clear from later events in the tale that other men were wanted but had not yet been apprehended; this would later transpire to be a considerable period of time.
After an hours' evidence Superintendent Whittaker asked for a remand for a fortnight due to Foy's injury and further stated that it may be necessary to amputate his leg; however, the three accused were remanded on bail to the sum of £50 and two sureties of £25 each.

To take a step back and consider how this must have appeared to the residents of High Duddon in such a sleepy backwater of the nation; to have been the scene of a riot where their hotel, school, beloved church and vicarage, had suffered such riotous damage was incredulous. Coupled with the fact that shotguns had been fired, one man seriously injured with one dead, was beyond belief but for the evidence of their own eyes in seeing this trail of devastation. Great sympathy went out for the men charged, yet it was also extended to John Kavanagh, the father of Owen, who had travelled the road to Seathwaite, following news of his sons death. 
Accounts at the time further noted that the Newfield Hotel was also the Post Office for the area, and any attack upon the Royal Mail was a serious matter.

Police proceedings could not continue on 27th July without the opening of the inquest which was to commence an hour later, at Newfield Hotel, Seathwaite, Duddon. The coroner and the jury had the opportunity of viewing at first hand the damage in the hamlet caused by the riot. John Kavanagh identified the body of his son, along with a Patrick Delaney. Dr Fawcett of Broughton gave evidence to the inquest that the thigh bone had been shattered by No. 6 shot, stating that Owen had been conscious almost to the last but had never made a statement. The inquest was then adjourned until 16 August.
When the coroner recommenced the inquest, the Magistrates court hearing had by this time decided that Henry Knox Dodd should be acquitted of the charge of shooting Kavanagh dead. He now gave evidence to the inquest that he was cycling by the Newfield Hotel when he dismounted to enquire why the windows were broken. He was told by Miss Dawson that some men had done it and it was at this point four ruffians came out of the kitchen and demanded a sovereign from him. After  going home he returned, got a gun from the kitchen, and went into a new room being built on the side of the hotel. He was questioned:
Q 'Why did you shoot the man in the hip?'
A 'I could not get any lower'
Q 'Why did you not shoot his hand, or where you would not have killed him?'
A 'I was not quite sure where I was going to hit him'
Q You could have shot his right hand'
A 'No sir, he was swinging it'

In the inquest summary the coroner he was clearly critical of the Lancashire Constabulary when he said it was extraordinary that those responsible for the peace in the county, knowing that a licensed house and the number of men working in the district posed an obvious disorder risk, did not take better precautions to prevent such a rising. He then informed the jury on a point of law, stating that if Dodd fired in protecting the house and inmates against rioting and felony it would be justified, but if carelessly, recklessly or wantonly, then he must be committed for manslaughter (At the Assizes.)
The jury returned a similar verdict to that of the Magistrates, namely one of 'Justifiable Homicide.'

On September 13th Garrett Kinsella was released from hospital where he had been treated for a gunshot wound to his shoulder. On Saturday 5th November 1904, he pleaded guilty at Lancaster Assizes to the offence of riotous conduct and was sentenced to 9 months hard labour by Mr. Justice Phillimore. The Judge stated that had it not been for the injuries the rioters had suffered, he would have sentenced him to penal servitude. Garrett had been in trouble with the police in the course of his young life. At the age of 16 he had been sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for breaking into Phillips greengrocers in Millom, with two others. In March 1902 he and Owen Kavanagh failed to answer to a drunk and disorderly offence in Millom and warrants were issued. At Lancaster Quarter Sessions in October 1903 he had absconded when wanted for a burglary offence in the Broughton area and was apprehended and sentenced in February 1904. Even after the riot he was still failing to answer to his bail for a Drunk and Disorderly in March 1909.

On Thursday 26 January 1905 at Lancaster Assizes Court, James Foy appeared charged in connection with the riot at Seathwaite. He had since had the injured leg amputated at Ulverston Union Infirmary on Wednesday 10th August and was now to shortly undergo another operation as the first was not a great success. He pleaded Guilty and recognised that the offence was caused by alcoholic drink; he had since taken The Pledge, whilst in hospital. He was sentenced to one day's imprisonment, the judge recognising that he had to pass a lawful sentence of imprisonment, but the calamity he had brought upon himself by his criminal act, was more punishment than he should pass on him, by use of the law. 

On 13 July 1905 members of the Barrow Corporation visited the Duddon Valley to inspect the waterworks, noting the good progress that had been made in the laying of over 17 miles of pipes from the intake works. It was expected that the dam would be fully constructed and in operation by the autumn of 1906. This would give the tarn an area of 30 acres. An added advantage to the dam construction was the new road from Seathwaite to the tarn itself. The dam builders, Messrs. Kennedy's Limited of Glasgow, had constructed this and it was appreciated by the carters of the area. 

The riot investigation was to continue and on 29 November 1905 at North Lonsdale Magistrates Court, James Burns and Thomas Burns (they bore the same surname but were not related) were placed in the dock on a charge of rioting on 25 July 1904. Superintendent Whittaker told the court that the police had scoured the country for the two men and Thomas had given himself up at Newcastle; James Burns had been arrested the previous day at Askam-in-Furness, Lancashire. It was noted that both looked to be in a poor and haggard state. They were each remanded for a week.
Evidence of identification had been provided by no less than eight witnesses, one of whom was Miss Dawson.
A PC Demmsey of Newcastle gave evidence that he had been approached on the street by Thomas Burns who said to him "I am sick of it" The officer asked what he meant by it and Burns stated that he was wanted on warrant by Lancashire County Police in connection with the Seathwaite Riot adding further "I have been out of work and am afraid to go back. When handed over to PC Dunn of Askam, he said to this officer on the train "I remember being at the public house, but I don't remember rioting, I was so drunk. I had gone to Seathwaite to seek work when I met Foy and my brother, and I went back to the public house."
At 1 am  on 28 November, James Burns was arrested by Inspector Hogg of Millom (Cumberland) at the Ironwork's Pier, Millom. He said to the inspector, "I can soon clear myself of the Seathwaite job if I can only get my witnesses. I should like to know who has given me away."  James Burns was handed over to Inspector Hulme (Lancashire).
When asked at the Magistrates Court whether they wished to say anything, Thomas replied 'No' but James asked that his brother John be called as a witness. John's evidence was that he and James had gone to Seathwaite to look for work, leaving Millom at about 7:30 am and arriving at Seathwaite at about ten to one. They went into the Newfield Hotel and had one pint of beer and after about ten minutes the landlord came into the room and put Foy out. He went on to say that Foy went quietly but returned again for his beer. Thomas Burns, himself and brother went out quietly but Foy was struggling with another person who went back into the Hotel. Foy asked him to return and fight. Mr Dawson came to the door and went back again and they all followed. Kavanagh then got a two gallon tin and filled it with beer, throwing it into the yard. John Burns then picked up the tin and carried it back into the hotel when stones then came in through the windows. He stated that he and another person named Carlton then went to the navvies huts and his brother came after them. It was after about half an hour that he heard shots and he returned to the hotel, finding Foy shot in the leg. He covered him with bracken until help came. 
He was cross examined by Superintendent Whittaker and he stated that he could not tell who threw the stones. He was unaware of any damage to the church, vicarage or school and Kavanagh, Foy and several others were present when he was first in the hotel. The prisoners were then committed for trial at the next Lancaster Assizes Court.
On Monday  29 January 1906, before Justice Grantham, Thomas Burns, 23, and James Burns, 27, were indicted for riotous assembly and damage at Seathwaite that fateful day. Mr John Sharpe was the prosecutor and Mr Greaves Lord the defence. The two defendants pleaded 'Not Guilty'. Mr Sharpe laid out a summary of the affray that took place on 25 July 1904, including the alleged behaviour, the buildings damaged, and the death of Kavanagh and injury to others. 
The specific events laid by the prosecution were that the landlord went into the house and brought back a pint of beer and handed it to Foy outside. Foy had stated that it was not his pint and insisted on entering the house, but was prevented from doing so by the landlord and a scuffle broke out. Four others came out of the house and joined Foy in the scuffle and so began the chain of events that led to the eventual riot and fatality. The landlord was then aided by a joiner called Wilkinson, but the five men then set upon him and he ran into a barn where he managed to bolt the door and looked on the future proceedings from a hole in it. The alleged offenders then ran into the inn and Wilkinson could hear the sound of breaking glass.
Miss Dawson had gone off to a hay-field about half a mile away for assistance. She returned at about 2:30 pm and saw the men throwing stones at the windows. Miss Dawson had no difficulty picking out these men from nine, some sixteen months later. They were seen to run into the kitchen and broke a spirit vessel of rum and also brandy. After wrecking the place they then left. 
They threatened Thomas Hodge,  Roger Postlethwaite, Emmanuel Jackson and George Wilson with beer bottles, one taking hold of Postlethwaite's horse bridle. Each in turn saw evidence of damage by the men to the church, vicarage and school. In total there were 104 panes of glass broken. The witnesses gave evidence that the men returned then to the hotel. Dawson the landlord had saddled his horse and set out for assistance, but on hearing shots, returned and defended the premises, himself firing a weapon. After summarising the arrests and previous sentences against the other offenders, Mr Sharpe pointed out that the prisoners before the court may not have actually thrown stones as individuals, but provided that they stood about with approval, having regard to the seriousness, they were guilty of riot.
James Burns, who was defended under the Poor Prisoners Defence Act, admitted being present from beginning to end but on the two vital occasions he had gone round a corner. Since the death of Kavanagh, the landlord Mr Dawson was in no fit condition to give evidence as a witness. The evidence of a large number of witnesses was cross examined to try and show that it was by no means conclusive. 
It was at this point the evidence of PS Dunn was given where he informed the court that Thomas Burns had said:
'I suppose I shall get more than Kinsella, as he was wounded. I remember being in the public house but I was so drunk I don't remember the row, I went up that day to seek work.' 
Inspector Hogg then gave evidence for the arrest of James Burns and his reply on arrest was:
 'I can get out of that job if I can get my witnesses.'
This concluded the case for the prosecution.

Mr Lord for the defence then called Thomas Burns who stated he had gone from his home town of Millom to Seathwaite to obtain work. He met Foy, who was his cousin. After going with him to the Newfield Hotel and after the start of the disturbance, he said that he tried to get Foy away and played no part in any damage to any building. He stated his reason for not remaining at Seathwaite after the incident was that the remuneration of the work was not sufficient. When cross examined by the prosecution with reference to the amount of evidence from other witnesses stating that he did indeed riot, Thomas Burns stated that their minds were unclear after the evidence they gave, both here and at Ulverston. He was questioned why he had kept away for 16 months and he stated he had been in South Wales and had only found out a month before he gave himself up that there had been a warrant for his arrest.
James Burns said he finished at the waterworks and took his 'sub' on the day in question. He stated that his only part in the events of the day was trying to assist Thomas Burns and John Burns to remove Foy from the hotel and that Foy was acting like a madman.  When he heard the landlord was going for assistance he actually helped to yoke and saddle the horse.
Mr Lord in final summary for the defence then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoners and informed them that it was not sufficient that the accused were merely standing passively by, but to be guilty of riot they must have been throwing stones, committing damage, or encouraging others in concert to do so. 
Mr Justice Grantham then summarised, concluding by saying that he regretted  that good and reliable workmen should give way to drink, and so make themselves guilty of excesses. The landlord did his duty, and Foy's folly had precipitated the trouble. 
The jury did not leave the box and found the men guilty. Thomas Burns had previously been in trouble and was given 12 months hard labour, James Burns was given nine months.

So finally ended the riot of Seathwaite Tarn and Wordsworth's peace and tranquillity settled once again on the Duddon Valley.

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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.