Businesses in Buttermere Towns and Villages of Cumbria


(See also Buttermere Lake)

Buttermere village long view By Graeme DougalThe hamlet of Buttermere is a beauty spot situated between Buttermere (the lake) and Crummock Water. In a deep valley hemmed in by the Buttermere Fells, Robinson, and the High Stile Ridge, it sits on a level green meadow.

The village hall is a former schoolhouse. Almost on the bridge over the beck is the Bridge Hotel. The Fish Hotel sits in the village center.Buttermere Bridge Hotel By Graeme Dougal

The church of St James occupies a hummock overlooking the village where the Newlands and Honiston roads meet. Wordsworth said of the church, “A man must be very insensible who would not be touched with pleasure at the sight of the chapel of Buttermere.”

Buttermere St James Church exterior By Graeme DougalBuilt in 1841 (later renovated), it replaced an earlier church of 1507. Local blue slate was used in the church's construction. Above the church porch is a two-belled tower.

In the bright church interior is a commemorative tablet to Alfred Wainwright (1907-1991), famous fellwalker and author of the well-known Pictorial Guides to the Lakes. The tablet sits below a window with views to Haystacks, the fells where his ashes were scattered. The church organ dates to 1820.Buttermere Wainwright Memorial By Graeme Dougal

The first church congregation was too small to warrant a clergyman, so a “reader” took the services. For his trouble he was entitled to free room and board, shoes, and clothing.

Buttermere is a popular starting point for walks. A low level 4-mile circular walk skirts the edge of the 1½ miles long lake. Behind the village is a path to a waterfall at Sourmilk Gill.Buttermere St James Church By Graeme Dougal

Buttermere gained fame from more than its setting. It became known for a 19th century scandal. Mary Robinson, a comely daughter of the owner of the Fish Hotel, was mentioned for her attractiveness in Joseph Budworth's (alias Palmer) 1792 guidebook to the Lakes, A Fortnight's Ramble to the Lakes. Her description dubbed her the “Beauty of Buttermere”.

Buttermere Fish Hotel By Graeme DougalShe was conned by a swindler and crook, John Hatfield. He was already married twice and hadn't bothered to divorce either wife. Both had given him children. The bankrupt bigamist posed as the Earl of Hopetoun's brother when, in 1802, he met, courted, and married 18 year old Mary. His crimes were discovered, and he was arrested (in the past he had served several prison terms for debt) and sent to jail. He was also charged with defrauding the Post Office by franking his own letters and with the impersonation of various well-known people.He was executed by hanging at Carlisle in 1803.

Mary later married a Caldbeck farmer. The novel, Maid of Buttermere, by Melvyn Bragg details her story. Even Wordsworth got a hand in, writing about Mary's story in his Prelude (7th book):

“. . .And how, unfaithful to a virtuous wife
Deserted and deceived, the spoiler came,
And woo'd the artless daughter of the hills
And wedded her, in cruel mockery
Of love and marriage bonds. . .”

Buttermere distant view By Graeme DougalApproach the village from the Honister Pass or Newlands Pass from Keswick or from Cockermouth via the Lorton Vale. Its glorious natural setting is reflected in the painting of Buttermere (the lake) by Turner that hangs in the Tate Gallery.

For a full account of John Hatfield's life go to Steve Bullman Images of Cumbria

Photos courtesy Graeme Dougal

Buttermere is on the B5289 south of Cockermouth.

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