The Grisdales of Patterdale and Hartsop

Posted: July 13, 2014 in Family History
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Lying just south of Ullswater is the village of Patterdale, and just south of that you reach Hartsop, before climbing the long hill to Kirkstone Pass. Throughout the nineteenth century there was a large Grisdale yeoman farming family in Patterdale and Hartsop, whose descendants have spread all over the world. I have long wanted to say something about the family but didn’t know how to start. So I’ll start once again with William Wordsworth.

Written in March while resting on the bridge at the foot of Brothers Water

The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter,
The green fields sleep in the sun;
The oldest and the youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!

Like an army defeated
The snow has retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the hill;
The plowboy is whooping—anon—anon:
There’s joy in the mountains;
There’s life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!

William Wordsworth, 1802

Brothers Water

Brothers Water

William and Dorothy Wordsworth visited Hartsop in April 1802.  Their experiences of visiting in spring are recorded in the poem above, ‘Written in March while resting on the bridge at the foot of Brothers Water’. As one critic commented, William obviously decided that March rather than April was more appropriate for the theme of spring! Dorothy Wordsworth described the people at work around Hartsop, ploughing, harrowing and sowing and spreading manure on the fields using pitchforks.   She also made reference to the ‘hundreds of cattle in the vale’. They then walked on past Hartsop Hall where William composed another poem to describe the crags looking up from Dovedale:

Unimaginable sight!

Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald turf,

Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,

Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,

Molten together, and composing thus,

Each lost in each, that marvellous array.

Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge

Fantastic pomp of structure without name,

In fleecy folds voluminous, enwrapped.

Right in the midst. An object like a throne

Three years later, in November 1805, Dorothy Wordsworth once again walked over the Kirkstone Pass and down into Hartsop.  ‘She remarked on the beauty of the fields below Brothers Water.  “First seen like a lake, tinged by the reflection of yellow clouds.  I mistook them for the water; but soon we saw the lake itself gleaming with a steely brightness; then as we descended appeared the brown oaks, and the birches of lovely yellow and, when we came still nearer to the valley, the cottages and the lovely old Hall of Hartsop with its long roof and elegant chimneys”’

Hartsop Hall

Hartsop Hall

As William and Dorothy looked around Brothers Water they would have seen only two farms lying just south of the lake: Hartsop Hall (which they walked past) and Caudale Beck Farm; this is likely where they saw ‘the oldest and the youngest’ at work. Both these farms belonged to members of the Grisdale family throughout much of the nineteenth century. When Wordsworth composed his poem the yeoman farmer at Caudale Beck Farm was without any doubt Thomas Grisdale (1746-1813) who arrived there probably in about 1774 when he married. It was his family no doubt that Wordsworth referred to as ‘the oldest and the youngest’ at work.

Thomas’s son Robert (1782-1861) would later become the farmer at the more imposing Hartsop Hall. His other sons John and George would also become yeoman farmers in an around Hartsop.

The Wordsworths were of course Romantics. A slightly different, and rather condescending, view of the hamlet of Hartsop itself, which lies at the northern end of Brothers’ Water, was given by the intrepid traveller Celia Fiennes when she passed through Hartsop in 1698. She described the farming tenements:

Here I came to villages of sad little huts made up of drye walls, only stones piled together and the roofs of some slatt; there seemed to be little or noe tunnells for their chimneys and have no morter or plaister within or without; for the most part I tooke them at first sight for a sort of houses or barns to fodder cattle in, not thinking them to be dwelling houses, they being scattering houses here one there another, in some places there be 20 or 30 together; it must needs be very cold dwellings but it shews the lazyness of the people; indeed here and there was a house plaster’d’, but there is sad entertainment – that sort of clap bread and butter and cheese and a cup of beer all one can have…

Caudale Beck farmhouse

Caudale Beck farmhouse

About a century later in 1790 Joseph Budworth described Hartsop as he descended from Kirkstone Pass:

We see at the bottom of the road part of Bridder Water (Brothers Water), which looks as if embayed in mountains, with trees and copse woods on its margin, giving it the appearance of a fish pond in a large garden…  On entering the vale of Hartsop, we have a full command of Bridder Water, this small dale though not clothed with good grass, is prettily wooded, and is beneath a semi-circular mountain with misshapen interstices, forked like lightning, but which are effects of conveyers of torrents; hanging proudly over the valley, as if to deter any inhabitants from fixing there and I did but observe one house.

I will come back to the Grisdales of Patterdale and Hartsop later, but first let’s go back a little, back one generation.

Robert Grisdale was born in Dockray in Matterdale in 1705, the seventh child of farmer Thomas Grisdale and his wife Mary Brownrigg, who had farmed both at Crookwath and Old Mills. Before that Thomas’s father, another Robert, had also farmed at Crookwath and his father, yet another Robert, came of course from the cradle of the Matterdale Grisdales, Dowthwaite Head.

Having no doubt worked on the family farm as a young man, Robert married Esther Gatesgarth from Johnby in St Andrew’s Church in Greystoke in 1735. Whether Robert had already moved from Matterdale when he married we don’t know, but by 1738 the family had moved and were the tenants of Boredale Head Farm (sometimes called Dale Head) in the remote valley of Boredale – midway between Martindale and Patterdale, to the east of Lake Ullswater.

Boredale Head farm

Boredale Head farm

Robert and Esther weren’t the first Grisdales to move from the west of Ullswater, where we find Matterdale, to the lake’s eastern parishes of Patterdale and Martindale, and they wouldn’t be the last. But they were the family who were to stay longest in the area and are the ancestors of many Grisdales today in the UK, North America and Australia.

As they farmed the rocky soil in Boredale, Robert and Esther had four children: Robert 1738, John 1741, Elizabeth 1744 and Thomas 1746, all born at Boredale Head Farm and all christened in Martindale’s tiny chapel.

The number of descendants of these four children is truly enormous and they spread not only all over England (such as to Lancashire and Liverpool) but also around the world: to Canada and Australia and elsewhere. Here I will focus on just a few who first remained in Martindale but then moved to farm in Patterdale and Hartsop.

Boredale

Boredale

The first son Robert (born in Boredale Head in 1738) married Elizabeth (Betty) Park in Grasmere in 1774. He became an Innkeeper in Hartsop (he and his family were already there in 1787 and he  most probably came in the 1770s) and died in Hartsop in 1817. One of his sons was called John Grisdale (1774-1854). He married Dorothy Harrison in Patterdale in 1805 and at some point took over the tenancy of Caudale Beck farm on the shore of Brothers Water in Hartsop. But when John died his son, also called John (born in about 1811), seems to have disappeared or died and thus couldn’t follow his father as the farmer at Caudale Beck.

Actually this John (1774) wasn’t the first of the family to farm at Caudale Beck in Hartsop. His uncle Thomas Grisdale (born in 1746 to Robert Grisdale and Esther Gatesgarth) was already the ‘yeoman’ farmer there in 1787 and had probably taken the tenancy in 1774 when he married local Patterdale girl Jane Atkinson. Eight Grisdale children were born at Caudale Beck Farm between 1775 and 1793, but not all survived. Thomas died at Caudale Beck in 1813. His son John (born 1775) married Dorothy Jackson in Patterdale in 1807 and went on to farm at Beckstones farm near Patterdale until his death in 1851. Thomas’s other son Robert, who was born at Caudale Beck in 1782 and had initially gone back to farm in Martindale but sometime in the 1810s he became the tenant farmer at the more imposing Hartsop Hall,  literally just across the field from Caudale Beck and adjoining the road as it starts its long climb to Kirkstone Pass. I wrote a little about this Robert Grisdale and one of his adventures here.

I know this array of John, Thomas and Robert Grisdales is bewildering, and I haven’t even mentioned the Georges, or the women! If anyone would like better explanations of the people involved and their relationships they can contact me or look at my Ancestry tree. I will probably write more about some individuals in the future.

Basically what we see here is various members of the family of Robert Grisdale and his wife Esther Gatesgarth first living and working on the family farm at Boredale Head in Martindale and then moving to in the 1770s to Patterdale and Hartsop, to farm at Caudale Beck, Beckstones and Hartsop Hall. Some of the family are still in the area.

Painting of Beckstones Farm, Patterdale

Painting of Beckstones Farm, Patterdale

When the Wordsworths made their visits to Hartsop and observed the scene around Brothers Water the ploughboy whooping and ‘the oldest and the youngest at work’ on the shore of the lake were most likely the family of Thomas Grisdale of Caudale Beck farm.

Of course the Wordsworths were ‘Romantics’ and life in Hartsop was hard for the farmers and others. When James Clarke visited Hartsop in around 1787 he concentrated on the decline of the community at Glenridding north of Hartsop after the arrival of the lead miners. He writes:

It is unlikely that Hartsop witnessed the same influx of miners given the lack of miners’ cottages in the village.  Miners working in Hartsop appear to have walked from Patterdale each day.

A Hartsop cottage

A Hartsop cottage

One of this Grisdale family ended up a miner in the mines Clarke saw; I might tell his story another time.

One writer wrote this:

While the sight of tenants going about their work may have appeared romantic to visitors and poets, it is clear that farming was difficult in Hartsop.   It is clear that there was little good arable land.  A survey of Hartsop and the southern part of Patterdale made in 1839 recorded the existence of some 300 acres of arable land, although how much of this was regularly under the plough is not known.  A further 920 aces were classed as meadow by the survey made in 1839, although much of this is likely to have been of poor quality.  An earlier account of the meadow land belonging to Hartsop Hall Farm in 1823 (when Robert Grisdale was the farmer) described it as being of little worth, adding that the ‘the chief part of it wants draining, and the sheep pastures too dry and rocky’.

MAP

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Comments
  1. pennydene says:

    This is really interesting and fascinating to read. I am a descendant of the Grisdales and did not know much about them. If I’m correct, my great great great aunty on my mothers grandmothers side (confusing I know) was called Jessie Grisdale who was married to a photographer called Joseph Lowe. I can’t wait to read more about my ancestors on this website.

  2. malcolmcoils says:

    Thanks for using my painting in your article- an acknowledgement would have been nine.

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