How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber?
When the wind waved his garment, how oft didst thou start?
How many long days and long weeks didst thou number,
Ere he faded before thee, the friend of thy heart?
And, oh! was it meet, that — no requiem read o’er him—
No mother to weep, and no friend to deplore him,
And thou, little guardian, alone stretched before him
Unhonoured the Pilgrim from life should depart?

–  from Hellvellyn by Sir Walter Scott (1806)

In 1890 a young ‘artist, photographer and landscape painter’ called Joseph Lowe set off from the barn (‘shanty’) his was living in on Home Farm in Grisedale Bridge, Patterdale. He was walking to the summit of Helvellyn to be present at the unveiling of a memorial to another young artist called Charles Gough who had died there in 1805 in mysterious circumstances. Gough’s body hadn’t been found for three months but his faithful dog Foxie had never left him. Poets wrote poems about him, painters painted paintings, as I will tell.  Joseph Lowe would have first walked along Grisedale Beck and then either turned right to climb the vertigo inspiring Striding Edge, a route Charles Gough had taken, or left via Grisedale Tarn, the easier way to the summit.

Striding Edge 3DThe reason I want to write about Joseph Lowe is not so much to do with the fact that he married a Grisdale girl, or even because he lived and walked in places called Grisedale (which didn’t have the E in the nineteenth century); rather he became a wonderful photographer of the Lake District in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But I like Charles Gough’s story so much I’ll start with him.

Gough was a tourist visiting the Lake District from Manchester in April 1805, when on 17 April he decided to walk over Helvellyn to Grasmere. He took his dog, Foxie, with him and set off via Striding Edge. He was never seen alive again. Three months later on 27 July a shepherd heard barking near Red Tarn, and on investigating, discovered Foxie beside the body of her master. The shepherd summoned assistance, and a crowd returned to the scene. They collected skeletal remains and some of Gough’s belongings, which included fishing tackle, a gold watch, silver pencil and two Claude glasses. Also recovered was Gough’s hat, which had been split in two. From this it was surmised that he had fallen to his death from the treacherous Striding Edge. Foxie was found to have not only survived the months beside her dead master, but had also given birth to a puppy, which died shortly afterwards.The healthy dog and the skeletal remains of Gough led a Carlisle newspaper to report “The bitch had pupped in a furze near the body of her master, and, shocking to relate, had torn the cloaths from his body and eaten him to a perfect skeleton.” Another report suggested that Gough had been eaten by ravens.

Mystery surrounded the circumstances of Gough’s death, not only as to how he had died but why he had attempted the dangerous ascent of Helvellyn without a guide. Gough had been contracted by a local artist to copy drawings, but was renowned for being adventurous to the point of taking dangerous risks. Thomas Clarkson, who had met him reported afterwards that Gough was a “venturesome person” whose headstrong nature had caused the local shepherds alarm”. Gough was to have been guided by a man who was a volunteer in the local militia, but who was busy on parade that day. Gough’s body was subsequently buried in the Quaker graveyard in Tirril.

gough text

The story of Gough and his faithful dog so touched Lakeland poet William Wordsworth that he wrote a poem called Fidelity about it. It was much mocked at the time, but I rather like it. Fidelity (1805) can be found at the end, as well as Sir Walter Scott’s poem of the next year called Hellvellyn; an extract from which I started with. Even Edwin Landseer painted the scene of  Gough’s death, calling it Attachment, see below.

For a slightly less Romantic view of the story do read this.

 

Edwin Landseer's Attachment

Edwin Landseer’s Attachment

Let’s return to budding artist and photographer Joseph Lowe. He was born in Rusholme, Manchester in 1865 into a Wesleyan Methodist family. On leaving school he started to work as a ‘warehouseman’, which he was already doing in Manchester when he was fifteen. But a working-class life in the squalor of Victorian Manchester obviously wasn’t his dream. He was probably something of a Romantic because sometime in the 1880s he set off from the city and found a new home in the Lake District – one of the spiritual homes of English Romanticism. The first home he found was, as mentioned, in a barn (called a ‘shanty’) of  the farmer of Home Farm in Grisdale Bridge near Patterdale in Westmorland. Sometime later, in the 1890s, Joseph moved to a cottage in Grisdale Bridge where his immediate neighbours were the family of Robert Grisdale. Robert was the bailiff of Hall Farm.

During these early years how did Joseph make a living? ‘He had not started to advertise a studio at that time so maybe he worked from home and travelled around taking pictures of the countryside and quite possibly visiting people at their homes to take their portraits.’

By 1901 Joseph calls himself a ‘landscape photographer’ – it seems did had given up his pretentions to be a painter. ‘By this time Joseph will have been taking pictures of the local countryside and selling them to the public.’

jessie 2

Jessie Grisdale Lowe

It was while living at Grisdale Bridge that Joseph would have met Robert Grisdale’s daughter Jessie, who was twelve years his junior. However things happened, in 1905 forty year-old Joseph married twenty-eight year-old Jessie Grisdale in Patterdale church. The couple set up home just down the road at ‘Yew Tree Cottage’ Deepdale Bridge, still in the parish of Patterdale. Here they would live and have the photography studio until Joseph’s death in 1934.

It was probably around this time that Joseph started to produce his landscapes in postcard format for sale to the public as picture postcards were becoming very popular… he travelled all over the Lake District taking topographical photographs and he published them as postcards.

As well as being a prolific photographer, Joseph also took an active interest in the village activities and was involved in some role or another in athletics, cricket, football and rifle shooting.

It was not until 1925, when he was 60 years old, that Joseph advertised his studio in trade directories. His studio was at his home in Yew Tree Cottage at Deepdale Bridge. Maybe his travelling activities had diminished by that stage in his life.

Because of his extensive knowledge Joseph gave lectures and talks about the Lake District.

From Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland, 1840-1940

Yew Tree Cottage at Deepdale Bridge (see below for Joseph's own picture)

Yew Tree Cottage at Deepdale Bridge (see below for Joseph’s own picture)

In 1909 Joseph and Jessie had a son called Geoffrey who didn’t  have his father’s artistic bent and became a ‘road contractor’. Geoffrey married and moved south and later in life his mother Jessie (Grisdale) Lowe probably left Yew Ree Cottage and lived with her son. She died in 1970 aged 94 in Surrey.

To finish I’ll just briefly place Jessie Grisdale’s family. She was the fifth of six children of Hartsop-born Robert Grisdale (1845-1912), who became the bailiff of Hall Fram in Grisdale Bridge, and his wife Rachel Storey. Robert’s parents were John Grisdale (1809-1883) and his second wife Mary Brownrigg. John’s an interesting man; he was born in Hartsop Hall became a miller in Hartsop then a landowner and ‘stateman farmer’ at Beckside Farm, as well as one of the last masters of the Patterdale Hunt before it merged with the Matterdale Hunt in 1871. And John’s parents were the Robert Grisdale and (1782-1861) and Elizabeth Jackson I discussed in a previous article (see here).

Joseph Lowe

Joseph Lowe

Lowe-Joseph-obit

A few of Joseph Lowe’s photographs

lowe new 3lowe new 2lowe new

Patterdale township

Patterdale township

 

Lowe-Joseph-STUDIO-yew-tree-cottage

Yew Tree Cottage, Deepdale

 

Postcard of Ullswater  and St Patrick's Well

Postcard of Ullswater and St Patrick’s Well

 

Helvellyn

Helvellyn

 

FIDELITY (1805)

By William Wordsworth

The young man whose death gave occasion to this poem was named Charles Gough, and had come early in the spring to Patterdale for the sake of angling. While attempting to cross over Helvellyn to Grasmere he slipped from a steep part of the rock where the ice was not thawed, and perished. His body was discovered as is told in this poem. Walter Scott heard of the accident, and both he and I, without either of us knowing that the other had taken up the subject, each wrote a poem in admiration of the dog’s fidelity. His contains a most beautiful stanza:–

“How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber,

When the wind waved his garment how oft didst thou start.”

I will add that the sentiment in the last four lines of the last stanza in my verses was uttered by a shepherd with such exactness, that a traveller, who afterwards reported his account in print, was induced to question the man whether he had read them, which he had not.

A BARKING sound the Shepherd hears,

A cry as of a dog or fox;

He halts–and searches with his eyes

Among the scattered rocks:

And now at distance can discern

A stirring in a brake of fern;

And instantly a dog is seen,

Glancing through that covert green.

 

The Dog is not of mountain breed;

Its motions, too, are wild and shy;

With something, as the Shepherd thinks,

Unusual in its cry:

Nor is there any one in sight

All round, in hollow or on height;

Nor shout, nor whistle strikes his ear;

What is the creature doing here?

 

It was a cove, a huge recess,

That keeps, till June, December’s snow;

A lofty precipice in front,

A silent tarn below!

Far in the bosom of Helvellyn,

Remote from public road or dwelling,

Pathway, or cultivated land;

From trace of human foot or hand.

 

There sometimes doth a leaping fish

Send through the tarn a lonely cheer;

The crags repeat the raven’s croak,

In symphony austere;

Thither the rainbow comes–the cloud–

And mists that spread the flying shroud;

And sunbeams; and the sounding blast,

That, if it could, would hurry past;

But that enormous barrier holds it fast.

 

Not free from boding thoughts, a while

The Shepherd stood; then makes his way

O’er rocks and stones, following the Dog

As quickly as he may;

Nor far had gone before he found

A human skeleton on the ground;

The appalled Discoverer with a sigh

Looks round, to learn the history.

 

From those abrupt and perilous rocks

The Man had fallen, that place of fear!

At length upon the Shepherd’s mind

It breaks, and all is clear:

He instantly recalled the name,

And who he was, and whence he came;

Remembered, too, the very day

On which the Traveller passed this way.

 

But hear a wonder, for whose sake

This lamentable tale I tell!

A lasting monument of words

This wonder merits well.

The Dog, which still was hovering nigh,

Repeating the same timid cry,

This Dog, had been through three months’ space

A dweller in that savage place.

 

Yes, proof was plain that, since the day

When this ill-fated Traveller died,

The Dog had watched about the spot,

Or by his master’s side:

How nourished here through such long time

He knows, who gave that love sublime;

And gave that strength of feeling, great

Above all human estimate!

 

Hellvellyn (1806)

By Sir Walter Scott

 

I climbed the dark brow of the mighty Hellvellyn,

Lakes and mountains beneath me gleamed misty and wide;

All was still, save by fits, when the eagle was yelling,

And starting around me the echoes replied.

On the right, Striding-edge round the Red-tarn was bending,

And Catchedicam its left verge was defending,

One huge nameless rock in the front was ascending,

When I marked the sad spot where the wanderer had died.

 

Dark green was that spot ‘mid the brown mountain heather,

Where the Pilgrim of Nature lay stretched in decay,

Like the corpse of an outcast abandoned to weather,

Till the mountain winds wasted the tenantless clay.

Nor yet quite deserted, though lonely extended,

For, faithful in death, his mute favourite attended,

The much-loved remains of her master defended,

And chased the hill-fox and the raven away.

 

How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber?

When the wind waved his garment, how oft didst thou start?

How many long days and long weeks didst thou number,

Ere he faded before thee, the friend of thy heart?

And, oh! was it meet, that — no requiem read o’er him—

No mother to weep, and no friend to deplore him,

And thou, little guardian, alone stretched before him

Unhonoured the Pilgrim from life should depart?

 

When a prince to the fate of the peasant has yielded,

The tapestry waves dark round the dim-lighted hall;

With scutcheons of silver the coffin is shielded,

And pages stand mute by the canopied pall:

Through the courts, at deep midnight, the torches are gleaming;

In the proudly-arched chapel the banners are beaming,

Far adown the long aisle sacred music is streaming,

Lamenting a chief of the people should fall.

 

But meeter for thee, gentle lover of nature,

To lay down thy head like the meek mountain lamb,

When, wildered, he drops from some cliff huge in stature,

And draws his last sob by the side of his dam.

And more stately thy couch by this desert lake lying,

Thy obsequies sung by the gray plover flying,

With one faithful friend but to witness thy dying,

In the arms of Hellvellyn and Catchedicam.

Notes

In the spring of 1805 a young gentleman of talents, and of a most amiable disposition, perished by losing his way on the mountain Helvellyn, His remains were not discovered till three months afterwards, when they were found guarded by a faithful terrier-bunny, his constant attendant during frequent solitary rambles through the wilds of Cumberland and Westmoreland

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