Dr Colin Penny, the museum manager of Lancaster Castle, gave a fascinating talk on the history of the castle. The talk included the history of the buildings and the medieval kings, the small part it played in civil wars and the prominence of the castle in law and order through the centuries. In addition Dr Penny talked about the people associated with the castle and provided many anecdotes relating to the castle.
Due to the strategic point of castle hill, the Romans had a fort there in AD74 and the Normans built the first castle in 1093. The Duchy of Lancaster, including Lancaster Castle continues to belong to the reigning monarch.
In 1166, under Henry 11 the castle became the centre of an area from Liverpool to Furness where judges took trials every March and August. The castle thus became a prison where people were held until trial. Dr Penny described how the prison system changed over time and the prison closed in 2011, the oldest continually used prison in Europe.
Dr Penny also touched on the Pendle witches and the Peterloo organiser Henry Hunt who were all tried at Lancaster Castle.
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”.
In October 2017, Dr. Rob David gave a fascinating talk on the fate of the those men retaining their German/Austrian nationality were mostly interned, including an enclave of German miners at Nenthead and hotel waiters from Keswick. Losing the wage-earner left many families in great poverty.
Those who were naturalised British had mixed fortunes, especially when “Germanaphobia” spiked after events such as the sinking of the “Lusitania” and horror stories from Belgian refugees. Some pork butchers in Barrow had their windows smashed, and “spy fever” fuelled by the media led to the German wife of an ex MP near Whitehaven being interned. This followed a U Boat attack on Lowca Coke Ovens. Some others however lived unmolested.
After the War most were deported but some such as the Head Waiter from Keswick were allowed to remain. Some families were never reunited.
At the end of Rob’s lecture, he mentioned his interest in the Trapp family and Harry Mudd of Grange. Subsequently Pat Rowland has been helping Rob with his research and Rob has produced two papers which are both on this website:
The Trapp Family of Grange-over-Sands during the First World War
Harry Mudd of Grange-over-Sands
Despite the wet weather there was a good turnout for the fascinating talk by Dr Bill Shannon on Dr Kuerden’s 1685 map, and other early maps of the Cartmel Peninsula in September 2017 . The history of mapping in the area included the 1025-1050 Anglo Saxon Map, 1410 Gough Map and the first printed map in 1540. Dr Kuerden (1623- 1702) was a medical doctor from Cuerden near Leyland who developed an interest in history and surveying. He collaborated with Christopher Towneley in compiling material and had ambitious plans to produce a 5 volume History of Lancashire. Eleven volumes of his manuscripts including 84 maps were discovered in the 1950’s in Towneley Hall. The maps include detailed surveys of roads (including buildings, notable inhabitants and roadside features like shrubs and walls) on the southern part of Cartmel Peninsula and a survey of the boundary of Cartmel Parish. Unfortunately Dr Kuerden died without publishing any of his materials. However Dr Shannon intends to publish a book about Dr Kuerden and his research.
Following Bill’s talk I looked for the Houseman family in Cartmel as Bill had mentioned that Widow Houseman’s was where Dr Kuerden lodged whilst surveying the Cartmel Peninsula. Widow Houseman may have been married to John who died in 1661. His will described him as living at Cartmel. The only entries in the Parish Register (online records start in 1664) for the Houseman family of Cartmel are between 1664 and 1673. Ellin, a daughter, was buried in 1664, Jane Houseman was married in 1671 and Elizabeth Houseman was married in 1673. Houseman is a common name in the Warton, Lancaster area and the family may have originated from there.
See also his research paper:
The landscape and people of the Cartmel Peninsula in 1685: the Keuden &Townley maps. Transactions C&WAAS CW3, 18, 2018, 201-222.
In Feb 2018, Mike showed how important the West Indies trade with Britain was in that period. Lancaster and Liverpool were important ports but direct colonial trade was more important to Lancaster than the slave trade as many ships went via the Canary Islands rather than Africa.
There were many roles involved in the West Indian trade, which was considered both a risky and prosperous business. Various Quaker families from the Cartmel and Furness areas were involved in some capacity, connected to others through marriage or business.
Quakerism was introduced to Tortola, British Virgin Islands, by James Birkett of Cartmel Fell, in the 1750s and there was a strong trading relationship between Lancaster and Tortola with materials for supporting a community going one way and sugar and cotton returning. The Rawlinson family originally from Rusland were more influential than most.
Mike supported his fascinating talk with various research materials including letters, census, shipping registers, muster rolls, photographs, invoices and newspapers.