Keswick Reminder Review
Thomas Pennant was a well-to-do Welsh gentleman who left Chester near his home on the 18th of May 1772 and made his way north via Lancaster to Carlisle. Travelling on horseback with a group of friends and servants, he was one of the first to explore the Lake Counties. It was a time of turnpikes and sailing ships, iron and coal. It was before the births of the Lake poets and the railway. The agricultural revolution was already underway and the industrial revolution was about to begin.
His journey took him in daily stages from the sands of Cartmel to the docks of Penny Bridge; from the salt springs of Derwentwater to the undersea mines of Whitehaven, then followed the coast north through Workington, Allonby and on to Carlisle. He then continued to Corbie, returning later to Carlisle. Each stage was decided by how far the horses could travel over the terrain ahead. His preparations must have been meticulous.
Alongside Pennant's diary notes, Christopher Mitchell describes his present-day parallel visits to the same places, thus marking the changes which have taken place over the intervening 200 years. Black and white maps and photographs accompany the script. I personally found the contrasting pictures of the ' before' and 'after' of the construction of the Thirlrnere reservoir very interesting. (Courtesy of the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery).
Another observation which caught my attention concerned the value of the black lead mined near Keswick: 'Such was the value placed on this material that when fragments of it were found washed ashore on Vicar's Island in 1773, a report was commissioned to look to the possibilities of draining Derwentwater to seek out the new source.'
Pennant was a very knowledgeable observer and his notes are filled with careful and accurate descriptions of the wildlife he saw in Furness, Westmoreland and Cumberland as he rode through. His observations of the people (many of whom were well-known landowners) and how they earned their living were equally interesting.
He notes that die farmers, especially in the Keswick and Cockermouth areas were required to plough in high places - such as near the summits of Sale and Broom Fells because of a cursing by the Pope (or maybe King John who wished to punish die people for not following his standard to the borders of Scotland), which was placed on all the lower grounds, thus 'Obliging the inhabitants to make the hills arable! Note the faint ridges next time you drive along the A66. Thomas's diary continues on to Whitehaven, Workington and Carlisle.
Christopher Mitchell has won many prestigious awards for his guide books. This is a local history book to keep and pass on to future generations.
In the footsteps of Thomas Pennant