Cartmell papers contain a document whose title is The Crosthwaite Charter. It lists over thirty mayors of Crosthwaite in the 19th century, the last being a member of the Cartmell family. This document, written on parchment, was identified by the Kendal Archives as being a contemporary spoof. It was popular at that time to carry out political pranks and this one may well have arisen from the rivalry with Kendal, who had their own genuine mayors!
In an early church magazine it was reported that the "ewe" tree (yew) at the top of Church Lane was planted in 1685 by the Rev. James Hebblethwaite. This would make the age of the tree 317 years.
Frances Mary Cartmell kept a little notebook, which detailed bills, receipts, reminders and her seat number in church! On 30th October 1892 she pinned a reminder into her book, that she had loaned three padlocks to Mrs Noble of Eden Mount. One wonders whether they were ever returned!
In 1895 a concert and dance was held in aid of church funds. The dancers found 2.30am was too early to finish!
Mr William Abbot of Dodds Howe won 1st Prize for the Finest Herdwick Ram, in the 1897 and 1898 Royal Agricultural Show.
In 1896 the parish piano arrived for use in any parochial entertainment. The Vicar was appointed as its guardian. A charge of 2/6d was made to establish a fund to enable it to be cleaned and tuned. This may well be the one still in use in the Argles Memorial Hall today!
In 1896/7 the Vicar proposed holding evening, instead of afternoon, services, on all moonlit nights (presumably so that his parishioners could walk home by its light).
An owner of Holker Hall planted a monkey puzzle tree for Mr Burrows in the garden of Hill Top. In no time at all the fashion caught on and further trees were planted at Tarnside, Dodds Howe, Hardriggs, Ormandy House and High Birks. All of them have since been felled.
In 1908 the Westmorland Gazette reported that:
Whitwell and Mark, brewers, were selling beer at 1s/4d to 1s/8d per, gallon.
A waggonette drive with Wiper and Rutter from Kendal to Crosthwaite and Lyth, via Crook would cost you 3/- per hour.
Fat bullocks went for £10 to £20.
Sheep 30/- to 37/-.
Farm labourers earned per half year:-
£17 to £20 for a 1st class worker,
£12 to £15 for a 2nd class worker,
£6 to £10 for a youth.
In June wool prices slumped and large quantities of unsold wool had to be stored on farms.
In the 1960s Manchester Corporation, eager for more piped water, devised a scheme to flood the Winster Valley. A dam was to be built at the southern end of the valley, flooding a large area of farmland and properties, including parts of Crosthwaite, in the Bowland Bridge area. However, the scheme was to prove both costly and hazardous. Caves on the Whitbarrow side would have had to be been sealed, otherwise seepage into the Lyth Valley could have occurred. In the end, after a strong local campaign, common sense prevailed and no further action was taken.
The Milburn family, parents and several children, lived in a little cottage with a barn attached, opposite the Howe School. Billy, one of the children, told Pam Bownass that they had a friendly ghost. All the children slept in one room. On many a night, footsteps could be heard walking around this room. When mother heard these, she would shout up and tell them to get back into bed. The reply would always be, "It's alright, Mum, it's only Harry!" (or whatever the ghost was called!) and the footsteps would cease.
One recent story concerns a fairly new house, built on virgin ground.
A cockerel would crow, incessantly for a couple of minutes, every morning at six. When the clocks changed, the crowing did not, so it came at five. The situation was becoming desperate. An exorcist was even contemplated. One evening, by chance, the lady of the house was reading her Bible in bed and happened to leave it on the dressing table for the night. Next morning at five, the cockerel started to crow. Then, there was the most awful sound of wings beating furiously, real anger in the air, followed by complete silence. The cockerel has never been heard since, except for a distant crow the next morning. When the bible was lifted up, a number of very deep scratch marks had appeared on the polished surface of the dressing table, and scuff marks on the windowsill outside! The lady leaves her Bible in the same place to this day. It has since transpired that (about a 100 years ago) fighting cocks used to be bred in the field on which the house was built.
The Lyth Valley has had its fair share of dramas. These are some of them:
In 1921 a zeppelin airship, built at Barrow, crashed onto Cocks Moss, because of engine trouble. Farmers, busy in their fields, found time to go and investigate! It had to be tied to an ash tree, until engineers from Vickers could come to repair it. It was then flown back to Barrow.
During the Second World War, bombs were dropped on the mosses by German aircraft, en route for Barrow. They were caught in the beam of the searchlight battery, positioned in the valley, near to Gilpin Bank Farm. Three planes crashed during the war in a field near Low Plain Farmhouse, Brigsteer, near Savin Hill Toll Bar and onto the roof of the Vicarage in Crosthwaite. A Bren Gun Carrier demolished the front of Tarnside Cottage!
Several coaches on day visits to the Lakes have come to grief in the drainage ditches along the A5074. On occasion, cars and lorries have also ended up on their sides. One such was a large tanker, laden with liquid soap. This had to be pumped out before the tanker could be righted! In the 1920s a brewery steam wagon failed to take South Low corner and threw itself over the wall, as did a gritter lorry in 2000!
There have been a number of fires in the valley over the years, at Johnscales, Flodder, Fell Edge, Ormandy House Barn, the joiner's shop at Crosthwaite Green, Starnthwaite and Cowmire Hall, to name but a few.
Perhaps the most amusing incident was the Lyth Valley's first ram raid!
Whilst Greenacre bungalow, in the Howe, was being built, some Suffolk tups, owned by Mr Barnes of Flodder Hall, gained access to the patio area of the house. Seeing their reflected images in the large glass doors, they head-butted their supposed enemies. The result was, of course, several broken panes of glass. That claim form must have raised a smile in the offices of the insurance company!
At the age of 20, Jean Walling had the singular honour of being chosen by a panel of judges at Woburn Abbey to be National Dairy Queen. The judges were the Duke of Bedford, Richard Todd, Lord Soames and Sir Ridley Rowley.
Jean had worked at her father's farm on leaving school. She also helped in his cattle haulage business. She delivered milk around the hamlets in billycans. She won her first competition, Miss Crosthwaite Sports' Queen, at the age of 15. The following year she became Miss Westmorland. With the support, guidance and protection of her parents, she went on to win other competitions, leading to the regional contest of the Dairy Queen of England and Wales.
Walking down the catwalk at Woburn Abbey, in front of a thousand guests from the farming community, Jean describes her feelings about that moment, "I felt like Cinderella. My dress was home-made, of pale blue satin and short. The other contestants had flowing ball gowns. What a shock when I was announced as the new Dairy Queen!"
Her prize was a three week trip to Canada and America, where she was to promote the dairy industry. The highlight was a speech she gave to 30,000 people at the Royal Canadian Show.
On her return to England, Jean took part in an episode of the Archers. At the Dairy Show in London, she introduced Princess Alexandra and Sir Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister, to the Dairy Queens of Scotland, Ireland and Canada. The most amusing celebrity she met was Ted Moult, the farmer and broadcaster. They discussed the future of doorstep deliveries. Happily, the sale of milk in supermarkets has not meant the end of this traditional service.
The church bells used to be rung when someone died, a different number of tolls for a man, woman or child.
Rum butter was eaten at a baptism. It was given to nursing mothers, as it was thought to help them recover from their confinement.
A silver coin would be placed in the hand of a new-born child, ensuring wealth enough for life.
There was a saying among farmers, "At Candlemas Day, put cards and candles away".
Magpies crossing one's path were said to be:- One for sorrow, two for joy (mirth), three foretells a wedding (a letter or a girl), four for a boy, five's a sign of silver, six a sign of gold, seven's a sign of something, that never must be told!
When you first hear a cuckoo turn your money in your pocket.
Never sow turnips before the cuckoo comes.
One year's seeds, seven years' weeds.
Finally, there is the countrywide custom at a wedding of throwing confetti, rose petals or rice at the bride and groom, for luck. Also the best man throws coins for the children to pick up, before the lychgate is untied.
A century or more ago
They took nature by the hand
And worked with, and not against it,
Made up this scenic land.
Can we in this New Millennium
As trustees of our fate,
Use and not abuse it
Before it is too late?