We had a fascinating and light-hearted talk on what appears to be a rich regional heritage. Cumbria has many words such as bier roads, lyke roads, coffin lines, lych ways and corpse roads which have been used to describe more than 25 paths in Cumbria which were used in medieval times to transport the dead either in coffins or shrouds from their remote rural homes and parishes to the mother church of the parish. It was the mother church of the parish which had the right to bury the dead in consecrated land and they fought hard to keep this financial advantage but by the late sixteenth century parishes won the right to bury their dead themselves claiming the journey and the often harsh weather made transportation very difficult. The paths sometimes covering a distance of 20 miles had features along the way such as coffin rests and coffin crosses where the cortège would stop to read a prayer. The Victorian fascination of the supernatural popularised the many ghosts stories of the corpse roads that abounded at that time. Today they are quiet byways.
Kevin Grice gave an entertaining and informative talk on a relatively hidden aspect of our local history. It seems that the Dad’s army of WW2 was not the first time that Volunteer Forces had been used in military history.
A number of events in the mid nineteenth century including the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the limited effectiveness of the Crimean War, and an assassination attempt on the life of Napoleon the Third in 1858 which involved a grenade made in Birmingham all raised fears of a possible French invasion in 1859. Thus RVC’s ( Rifle Volunteer Corps) were formed all over the country with Lancashire over the Sands and Kendal being no exceptions.
He talked principally about the rifle ranges which were created to fulfil the 24 days a year target practice the RVC’s enlisters were required to carry out. Needless to say these sites were of necessity in relatively isolated areas and amongst those he discussed in detail was the site at Silver How, above Grasmere. Others noted were on Torver Common another at Helsfell, Kendal and one even in Cartmel at Holker Bank in what is today part of the Cistercian Way.
Members of the Society time-travelled back to the Victorian era at the June 2018 lecture through a selection of photographs taken by John Garnett of Windermere (Photographer, Post Master, Printer, Bookseller and Chemist) at the end of the 19th Century. Ian explained the different type of glass negatives (full plate, half plate and stereoscopic pair) and that if properly stored the images are permanent. The photographs required an exposure time of 10 to 20 seconds or the images would be blurred, but most of the photographs were extremely clear even when he zoomed in to show particular features. The photographs shown included the shore at Grange-over-Sands (after the railway but before the promenade was built ie c1868); Holker Hall (before the 1871 fire which destroyed the West Wing); High Fold Farm at Troutbeck (showing Peggy Longmire on her 100th birthday in 1864); Bowness (both before and after the promenade was built); and Windermere Station (c 1900 featuring horse-drawn coaches built in Windermere). Ian displayed a wealth of knowledge of local history which enabled him to date the photographs very accurately.
Ian Gee, a Director and Trustee of the Lakes Flying Company, gave an absorbing and fascinating Talk to a large audience about “Aviation on Windermere 1909-1919”, describing how Edward Wakefield pioneered flight from water on Windermere.
Wakefield built hangars at Bowness and used boat engineers from Barrow to adapt an Avro plane as a seaplane. Despite widespread ridicule “Waterbird” made the first successful flight from water 25th November 1911 from the Lake. The pilot sat at the front with the engine and propellers at the rear. The float was stepped, (a crucial adaptation) and the outriggers made from bamboo.
Wakefield recognised early on the military advantages of seaplanes for scouting purposes as land- based aircraft at the time did not have the range to reach enemy lines. During World War I Windermere was an important centre for training Naval Pilots and the first seaplanes were used 25th December 1914 against Zeppelin bases in Germany.
A replica of the “Waterbird” is currently being built and approaching “air worthiness”.
Despite the cold, windy evening a few brave members attended Dr Suzanne Tiplady’s March 2018 lecture on 300 years of schooling in Satterthwaite. A church survey of 1718 referred to local education for the poor. Poor parents paid 1p per week to Satterthwaite’s curate who was licensed to be a teacher. Richer parents’ children went to Grammar Schools at Hawkshead or Cartmel. We were entertained by stories about successive school teachers some of whom were also curates. Increasing population led to a school being built because the Chapel was deemed unsuitable and in 1850 money was raised from across the district to build a replacement, joint, village school for Satterthwaite and Rusland with a grand house for the teacher. Donations were received from William Wordsworth and people from the Cartmel area. Shakespeare was taught and teaching was rated as excellent but the introduction of compulsory education in 1876 caused standards to fall and needlework was the only subject mentioned. Information about many of the teachers was illustrated with pictures. The school closed in July 2006 when there were only 9 pupils and 1 teacher left.
Kelly Spronston-Heath spoke about the history of Fell Foot and the National Trust’s future plans for the estate. Kelly described the history through the various families that owned or rented the estate.
In the 15th century the land was owned by the Canons of Cartmel Priory. Following the reformation the land passed to the Duchy of Lancaster in 1567. By the seventeenth century Fell Foot was a productive and prosperous farm; in 1713 the land was valued at £615. In 1784 the Robinson family, yeoman farmers, sold the land and house to Jeremiah Dixon, a merchant from Leeds, as his family’s second home. At the time there was probably a modest farmhouse on the site. With his wife, Mary, Jeremiah expanded the house that was then described as a substantial villa with pleasure ground and lawns sweeping down to the lake. Mary contributed to the local community, establishing a Sunday School for 12 local children and a number of heath related schemes. The next owner was Francis Duckinfield Astley a businessman from Manchester who purchased the estate in 1813. Up until this time the road to Ulverston passed through the estate, crossing two fords but in 1813 it was moved to the current line when a bridge was built. On Mr Duckinfield Astley’ death the land, house and contents were put up for sale and many of the contents ended up in houses around Windermere. The estate didn’t sell and was eventually rented out but in 1851 Francis Duckinfield-Astley Jr moved back with his family
The next owner, Col John George Palmer Ridehalgh bought the estate in 1859. He and his wife extended the house further and added a gas house with gas lighting throughout the house, an entertaining area and additional boathouses. Col Ridehalgh had two steam yachts, the largest 60’ long could carry 122 passengers, and various yachts and rowing boats. The grounds were landscaped and an arboretum created. The family was immersed in the local community. He was a JP, a founder member of the Windermere Yacht Club and a Col in the Border Regiment. He also maintained a large pack of hounds that he transported to sites around the lake in one of his steam yachts. (Ms Spronston-Heath circulated some fascinating photographs of the interior of the house and the steam yachts from this period). The trust has some artifacts from the Ridehalgh period of occupancy and a quilt which was made for Mrs Ridhalgh is in the Textile and Quilt museum in York and has been taken on a world exhibition tour.
In 1907 Oswald Hedley purchased the house and estate. Mrs Hedley didn’t like the house and so Oswald demolished it planning to replace it with a Jacobean style building. The foundations for the new house were dug but Mrs Headley died suddenly and Oswald abandoned the project and the estate and moved to the north of Windermere. In 1948 Oswald’s third wife, who survived him, gave the land to the National Trust. The Trust leased it, for 21 years, to a Mr Rhodes as a camping and caravanning ground. In 1969 the Trust took the estate back under it’s management as what might be best called a country park; there were also a number of chalets which could be rented.
The National Trust is now planning a major restoration and development of the estate. The gas house and boathouses, which are of architectural interest, are to be restored. A watersports centre will be developed around the boathouses. The arboretum will be restored with further planting, new gardens and footpaths added. Catering facilities will be developed on higher ground to avoid the risk of flooding, Overall access will be improved and better links to public transport developed. Interpretational material will allow visitors to engage with the history of the estate. Ms Spronston-Heath finished by encouraging people to become volunteers at the site, particularly in bringing together stories about the history of the estate.
The October 2016 lecture was given by Andy Lowe, a very popular speaker and the hall was full. Rocks, woodland and water provided the power and resources which came together at times of economic demand to produce a variety of local industries and crafts.The rocks produced minerals such as copper, pyrites, quartz. Lime was used for agriculture and house building. Slate was in demand and the railways provided the necessary transport. The lakes provided access and Greenodd was an important port. The many becks provided water power for the mills.
The coppiced woodlands provided charcoal, the hazel for swill or cockle baskets, the birch for besom brushes. Pegs and bobbins were made too. The oak bark gave the tannin for cow hides to be cured at tanneries such as Rusland. Andy compared this industrial landscape with the industrial city landscape painted by Lowry. The Lakeland industrial activity was scattered over a large area as opposed to the more familiar highly concentrated Lowry setting.
Wine and nibbles were served after the lecture to celebrate 20 years of Cartmel Peninsula Local History Society.