July 4, 2020

Towns and Villages of Cumbria


Thirlmere and Skiddaw By Ann BowkerThirlmere reservoir and dam were created in 1894 from two smaller existing lakes, drowning the cottages and inn of the village of Wythburn along with the surrounding farms and the hamlet of Armboth. At 3½ miles in length and more than a mile wide, the lake serves as a water supply for the city of Manchester. Only the church remains to remind us of the farming village that once existed on this spot.

Wythburn Church By Bryan RothwellThe church, at the southern end of the lake, was first built in 1640, and restored in 1872. Inside are stained glass windows, one by Henry Holiday, who designed a number of windows for Cumbrian churches. Two other windows celebrate St Cuthbert and St Herbert (Lakeland's 7th century saint). Poet Hartley Coleridge (Samuel Coleridge's son) called the church a 'humble house of prayer', while William Wordsworth saw it as a 'modest house of prayer.'

The setting of the village was an inspiration for the two poets and caught the attention of another poet, Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). Wordsworth wrote of the mountain, Helvellyn, which overlooks the village:

Helvellyn By Tony RichardsInmate of a mountain-dwelling,
Thou hast clomb aloft, and gazed
From the watch-towers of Helvellyn;
Awed, delighted, and amazed!
For the power of hills is on thee,
As was witnessed through thine eye
Then, when old Helvellyn won thee
To confess their majesty!

A drowned building, Armboth House, is said to be haunted. Apparently on a Halloween in the 1700's, a bride, just before her wedding, was purposely drowned in the lake. Strange things then occurred each Halloween thereafter-bells ringing, furniture moving, lights appearing, and a ghost dog in the water.

View north from Helvellyn By Ann BowkerThe area around the lake is popular with walkers, and car parks are located at the church and along the roads that skirt the reservoir. Footpaths and picnic areas provide spots for family outings. Fishing for trout is allowed in the lake. On the western road, at Thirlspot, is the King's Head, a former 17th century coaching inn, complete with oak panelling and beams and inglenook fireplaces.

In1280 Wythburn was known as Wythbottune, but its name, which means “the valley where willow trees grow”, was changed in the 17th century. Today the town and the valley are flooded with water, but the quiet beauty of the surrounding countryside, looking up to Helvellyn (3118 ft) and the Wythburn Fells, is undeniable.

Photos courtesy of Tony Richards , Ann Bowker , and Bryan Rothwell

Wythburn under Thirlmere reservoir.

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