Posts Tagged ‘Westmorland’

“Later that night, the Joads come across the Weedpatch camp, a decent, government-sponsored facility where migrants govern themselves, thus avoiding the abuse of corrupt police officers – “The Grapes of Wrath” – John Steinbeck

Today near Bakersfield in Kern County, California there is a large Grisedale cattle ranching family at the Granite Station Ranch. The E in the family name was added after the family first arrived in America in 1908. Back in Westmorland, England, from where they came, they were just Grisdales. Before I tell the story of the family’s trek from a wet sheep farm in the Lake District hills to the sun of California let me start with a very strange coincidence.

On 5th June 1917 two young Grisdale men registered to join the US Army in Bakersfield in Kern County, volunteering for service in the First World War. One was 28 year-old Frank Joseph Grisdale and the other was a 24 year-old called Robert Thornber Grisedale (whose younger brother Francis Thomas had registered just four days before). Although it is unlikely that they met that day, they may have later in or around Bakersfield where they both lived for the rest of their lives. If they did ever meet they might have wondered if they were related given the unusual nature of their name, unusual at least in California at that time. Of course they were related, but they would have to go back to the seventeenth century in Matterdale before their families would have known each other and back to 1600 or earlier to Dowthwaite Head Farm in Matterdale before their two ancestral lines joined.

Kern County Map 1916

Kern County Map 1916

Frank Joseph’s family had first come to Canada from Cumberland in 1816/17. The instigator of the move was Wilfred Grisdale, who I have written about before (see here). Part of his family subsequently moved to Deerfield in Isabella County in Michigan in 1877 (see here) where Wilfred’s great grandson Frank Joseph was born in 1888. Sometime prior to 1910 Frank had been drawn out West, probably hearing of the opportunities in the recently booming oil industry in Kern County. Until his death in 1952 in Bakersfield Frank worked as an oil well digger in Kern County, principally in the Kern River Oil Field. I will tell his story at a later date.

Kern River Oil Field

Kern River Oil Field

Robert Thornber Gris(e)dale was the first son Thomas William Grisdale, a moderately well-to-do sheep farmer in Longsleddale, north of Kendal in Westmorland. Thomas William was born on his father’s Yoad Pot farm in Selside, Westmorland in 1859. In 1892 he married Agnes Thornber, the daughter of Kendal accountant and real estate agent Francis John Thornber and taken on his own farm called Well Foot in Longsleddale. Robert Thornber was born there the next year – being named after his farmer grandfather Robert Grisdale and his mother’s maiden name – followed in 1895 by Francis Thomas, named after his mother’s father, Francis Thornber, and his own father Thomas.

Well Foot Farm, Longsleddale, Westmorland

Well Foot Farm, Longsleddale, Westmorland

I told something of the earlier history of the family in a story about a Robert Edward Grisdale, the son of Thomas William’s brother Richard, who emigrated to Canada (see here). I also wrote about the family a little further back in Matterdale and then in nearby Martindale, Patterdale and Hartsop (see here). There are other related stories on this site, including a murderous one here.

Returning to Thomas William, although he was a successful tenant farmer he couldn’t buy his farm and ‘every time he made any money the landlord would increse the rent’. ‘So after this happened three times they (the family) left for the US where they could buy and own the and they farmed.’ On 6 May 1908 the family boarded the passenger ship RMS Etruria in Liverpool bound for New York, where they arrived nine days later. They gave their ultimate destination as ‘Kern City’ California. Being ‘sponsored’ immigrants they didn’t have to go through Ellis Island.They most likely went to join Agnes Thornber’s younger brother and sister, James Henry Thornber and Elizabeth Thornber, who had emigrated to Montana in 1892. In fact another brother called John Peters Thornber had made the move first, in 1890, ending up in Madison, Iowa.

RMS Etruria at Liverpool

RMS Etruria at Liverpool

Regarding James Thornber, ‘The History of Kern County’ published in 1914 tells his story best:

JAMES H. THORNBER.— The Thornber family descends from Anglo- Saxon ancestry and for generations has been represented in Westmoreland in the north of England, where Francis Joseph and Elizabeth (Peters) Thornber passed their entire lives, the former being engaged as an accountant. The parental family comprised six sons and six daughters and the eighth in order of birth, James H., was born in the village of Kendal, July 3, 1875. Two sons and two daughters are still living and all of them have come to America, the older son, John P., being a resident of Bartlesville, Okla., while the two daughters. Mrs. Agnes Grisdale and Mrs. Elizabeth Marriott, make their home in Kern county, Cal., the headquarters also of the fourth member of the family, James H. The last-named attended the Kendal grammar school in Westmoreland, and later was a student in the Friends’ school at the same place. After he was graduated at the age of fifteen years he was employed in the village until 1892, when he crossed the ocean to the United States and proceeded west to Montana. Securing employment on a ranch near Chinook he soon learned the business of operating a stock farm on the plains. Later he became interested in operating the Black Coulee coal mine, besides which he also engaged in general contracting.

Montana cattle

Montana cattle

Upon selling some of his interests in Montana in October (actually May) of 1908 Mr. Thornber came to Bakersfield. Shortly afterward he purchased one hundred and twenty acres of land in the Weed Patch. The task of transforming the raw acreage into a productive farm was one of great difficulty, but the land was rich and fertile and ultimately produced fruit and alfalfa in paying quantities. Since 1909 he has made his home in East Bakersfield, where he owns a residence at No. 1601 Pacific street. Besides having a real-estate and insurance office at No. 919 Baker Street, he is engaged in the building of cottages and bungalows and these interests, together with the supervision of his Montana ranch, which he still owns, keep him busily occupied.

Ever since he came to this city Mr. Thornber has been connected with the Chesbro Methodist Episcopal Church of East Bakersfield, where at this writing he officiates as president of the board of trustees and president of the adult bible class. With the cooperation of the pastor of this church he organized a Sunday-school at Toltec No. 2 and since then he not only has acted as superintendent, but in addition he has given exceptionally faithful and efficient service in the capacity of local preacher.

Being deeply interested in the religious life of the oil fields, he gives freely of his time, ability and means to promote the cause of Christianity in that particular portion to which he has been called. While living in Montana he was married at Chinook, September 23, 1900, to Miss Alice Greenough, a native of Mechanicsburg, Ohio, and a daughter of the late John K. and Minnie (Currier) Greenough, the former born in Concord, N. H., of Mayflower stock, and the latter a descendant of Scotch forbears. In 1886 the family removed to Chanute, Kans., where Mrs. Thornber was reared and educated, remaining there until 1899. In that year the family located in Chinook, Mont., where the marriage of the young people occurred. Interested in social functions and active in church work, Mrs. Thornber’s deepest affections, however, are centered upon her four children, Chester Harve, Grace Elizabeth, Agnes Myrtle and Alice Celia. Fraternally Mr. Thornber belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America and Bakersfield Lodge No. 224, F. & A. M., also with his wife is identified with Bakersfield Chapter No. 25, Order of the Eastern Star.

Actually James Thornber came to Kern County in May 1908, not October, the same month that the Grisdales were on their way to New York. Obviously the move had been planned in advance. In fact Elizabeth Thornber, having married farmer Edward Allen Marriott in Chinook, Montana in 1899, moved to Bakersfield in Kern County before 1907, so maybe it was her who first attracted her brother and sister and their families to come to California. It is interesting to note that James Thornber having tried his hand at cattle ranching in Montana, and having bought a farm outside Bakersfield, soon abandoned farming and became what his obituary in 1959 called a ‘pioneer realtor’, just like his real estate agent and accountant father back in Kendal in Westmorland.

Jut before leaving England Thomas William Grisdale had sent a lot of money to a local Bakersfield bank for later use to buy land. But when he arrived he found that the bank had misspelt his name as Grisedale and thus Thomas decided it was easier to continue with the misspelling ‘on the account – and everywhere else – rather than to have the bank change the name on an account that was already open’.

Weedpatch, Kern County in the Dust Bowl era

Weedpatch, Kern County in the Dust Bowl era

It seems highly likely that when Thomas William Grisdale (or Grisedale as he now was) and his family arrived in Kern County it was they who took on the difficult ‘task of transforming the raw acreage (of James Thornber’s farm in Weedpatch) into a productive farm’ and who ‘ultimately produced fruit and alfalfa in paying quantities’. In the 1910 census Thomas William and his family are living in precisely the Weed Patch area and Thomas was said to be a farmer on a ‘general farm’. Weed Patch, just southeast of Bakersfield, was to have a sad history in the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s and even featured in John Steinbeck’s novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. I’m not sure how long Thomas William continued to farm at Weed Patch; in 1917 when both his sons enlisted in the army his first son Robert Thornber Grisedale was working as a ‘farmer’ on Roland Hill’s cattle station in nearby Tehachapi, while his younger son Francis Thomas was a farmhand working for his father. As both brothers registered for the army in the Vineland precinct of Kern County, which is right next to Weedpatch, and gave their address as East Bakersfield, I presume their father was still farming there. This seems confirmed by the many entries for ‘T W Greisdale’ in the Bakersfield City directory as living on Route 4 well into the 1920s, this road led through Weedpatch – unfortunately I can’t find him in the 1920 census. I’m not certain whether all this is actually as it was. The family say that once Robert Thornber Grisedale went to introduce himself to his Thornber relative in Bakersfield ‘but found him not at all interesting in associating’.

Sadly  while serving in the  US Army (L Company, 364th Infantry, 91st Division) in France, Francis Thomas was killed on 4 October 1918, the very day that the German government sent a message to US President Wilson to negotiate terms on the basis of a recent speech of his and the earlier declared ‘Fouteen Poimts’; Francis was sitting under a tree when hit by a shell. Initially buried  in France, his body was returned to Bakersfield in 1921. I don’t think Robert ever joined the army as later on he said he was not a veteran.

Robert Thornber and Eva (Weller) Grisedale

Robert Thornber and Eva (Weller) Grisedale

Before 1930 Thomas William and Agnes Grisdale had retired to Bakersfield and were living at 118 Douglas Street in Highland Park. Agnes died the same year aged 68 and Thomas the next, aged 72.

Turning now to the only surviving son, Robert Thornber Grisedale; in 1920 he was still in Tehachapi but by now was working in the local oil industry as a ‘Wagon Driver’ for a ‘Wholesale Gas and Oil Station’ having married Michigan girl Eva May Weller the previous year. The couple had a child, Francis Robert, in 1921 but he died the next year. The next child, Grant Edward Grisedale, was born in Bakersfield in 1925 but grew up ‘on his parent’s cattle ranch’. Two more children followed: Frank Weller in 1929 and Mona Jean in 1930. I presume Robert bought his cattle ranch, called the Granite Station Ranch, between 1925 and 1930 when the family were already living there and where their descendants still breed cattle. Perhaps one day one of the family will tell me? The ranch is north east of Bakersfield on Granite Road near Glenville. Westmorland-born Robert Thornber Grisdale died aged 92 in 1986. His son Grant Edward Grisedale, who returned to the ranch in 1958 and eventually took over its management, died in 2010 aged 85. I won’t presume to tell anything more of the family’s recent history – that’s for them.


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


A few of Joseph Lowe’s photographs

lowe new 3lowe new 2lowe new

Patterdale township

Patterdale township



Yew Tree Cottage, Deepdale


Postcard of Ullswater  and St Patrick's Well

Postcard of Ullswater and St Patrick’s Well






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.


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

‘There is a clear pool, whose waters gleam like silver. It is not tainted by shepherds, or by their she-goats grazing on the mountain. Nor is it muddied by cattle, or by birds or wild animals, or by a branch fallen from a tree.’

Lead mining had been going on in the Pennines for hundreds of years. Much of this early mining was carried out by a process known as ‘hushing’. It was a type of opencast working using water. ‘This involved building a small turf dam at the top of a hill above the area to be worked. When it was full the water was released and rushed down the hillside scouring the soil and any loose rock away. Once the vein was uncovered, crowbars, chisels and hammers were used to loosen the rock and extract ore. In this process, which was repeated over and over again, broken rock accumulated on the floor of the hush and was eventually washed away.’ Later on shaft and levels were dug.

map 5One of these Pennine lead mining areas was around Dufton and Milburn in the Eden Valley in Westmorland. The mines here were owned by the local nobility such as the Tufton family, the earls of Thanet. It is, as one writer put it, a place of ‘open moorland, bleak, windswept and inhospitable at the best of times’. The story goes that ‘travelling through this area at the end of the 17th Century two Quaker women were so concerned by the conditions of the lead miners and their families that they sponsored the involvement of the Quakers in lead mining with the formation of the Quaker Company.’

A group of Quakers duly set up such a company, known commonly as the London Lead Mining Company, but more fully as The Company for Smelting Down Lead with Pit coal. ‘The company was set up by a number of Quakers in 1692 with mining interests in Derbyshire, Lancashire, North Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as the North Pennines, mining coal and silver as well as lead and at one time (1705-37) supplying so much silver to the Royal Mint that coins were known as the Quaker coinage.’

In Dufton the company not only developed the lead mines but also built mine workers’ cottages and farmsteads. ‘The company had a smelt-mill to the south of the village and it built a water supply system in the form of a syke, which is still visible on the south side of the village green, and later a piped supply with supply points and central fountain/trough erected in the late nineteenth century.’ The Quaker capitalists were always well intentioned. In Dufton they had a fountain constructed on the village green with a Latin inscription which reads in English:

There is a clear pool, whose waters gleam like silver. It is not tainted by shepherds, or by their she-goats grazing on the mountain. Nor is it muddied by cattle, or by birds or wild animals, or by a branch fallen from a tree.

Clean water or not, the ‘reality for most was a life cut short by lung disease and a constant struggle to make ends meet’.

John Wesley preaching in the north of England

John Wesley preaching in the north of England

Not surprisingly the whole of the Pennines become a stronghold of Methodism and other forms of non-conformism. One of the earliest Methodist preachers in the North Pennines was Christopher Hopper: ‘the apostle of Methodism through a large section of the North country’. John Wesley said that Hopper and John Brown first came to nearby Weardale in 1748 but met with no encouragement. Hopper wrote in his diary: ‘It was in a storm of snow that we crossed the quagmires and enormous mountains. When we came into the dale we met with a very cold reception. The enemy had barricaded the place, and made his bulwarks strong.’ He returned the next year when four people ‘found peace with God and agreed to meet together’. Hooper and others kept coming and by 1772 there were one hundred and twenty Methodists in Weardale. One preacher, George Story, wrote:

I exerted myself much above my strength both in preaching and travelling, often venturing in tempestuous weather over those dreary fells when even the mountaineers themselves durst not. I was frequently in danger of being swallowed up in the bogs, or carried away by the torrents. Sometimes I have rode over valleys where the snow was eight or ten feet deep, for two or three furlongs together.

Hopper wrote about his work:

My little substance soon failed, and I saw nothing before me but beggary and great afflictions. Sometimes I was carried above all earthly objects, and had a comfortable view of the heavenly country. At other times I was much depressed, and I could see nothing but poverty and distress.

One family who were eventually to become Methodists was a Grisdale lead-mining family in Dufton/Milburn. Who were they and how had they come there?

North Pennine Lead Miners

North Pennine Lead Miners

In the early 1700s, these Grisdale lead miners were, without much doubt, working for the Quaker-owned London Lead Mining Company. By the late 1730s, John Grisdale and his wife Jennet Robinson were having their first children: daughter Mary was born in 1735, followed by Ann in 1738 and Richard in 1743. John had three brothers, Anthony, Richard and William, who were lead miners too. Their father, another John Grisdale (‘senior’) was probably born in Milburn in the early 1670s, although I can find no record of such a birth. I believe his parents were Anthony Grisdale and Dorothy Hasty who married in nearby Melmerby in July 1671. Anthony died in Milburn. The reason I believe Anthony was the father of John and his brothers (and sisters) is because John named his first born son Anthony in Milburn in 1697, and the name would recur in the families of some of his descendants who became lead miners in nearby Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales in later times.

Anthony is in fact an extremely rare name in the Grisdale family, both at this time and later. Except for the Milburn/Swaledale Anthonys, the only other family where the name crops up at all is in the family of an Anthony Grisdale who was born somewhere in Cumberland around 1600, but by 1627 at the latest was living in the town of Wigton. His son Alexander was the father of the Harrington coal miner Henry Grisdale I wrote about in an earlier article (see here). Several of Henry’s descendants were also called their children Anthony. So I believe that Anthony Grisdale of Milburn, the putative father of John Grisdale Senior, was either another unrecorded son of Anthony Grisdale of Wigton or, less likely though still possible, the son of this Wigton Anthony himself.

Leaving aside these genealogical considerations, there can only have been one thing that brought Anthony Grisdale to the Milburn/Dufton area around the year 1671: to work in the lead mines.

Dufton today

Dufton today

We can get a feel for the Dufton mine from a report entitled ‘A geological account of the Lead Mine in Dufton in Westmoreland’ written by geologist T. Allan to The Journal of Science and the Arts in 1813:

Dufton is situated near the great road from London to Glasgow, and is, consequently, to be visited with less inconvenience than any other mining district in the north of England. It lies three miles north of Appleby in Westmoreland, on the west side of a range of hills which extends from the borders of Scotland, and includes Cross Fell, and the mining district of Alstone Moor. Along the western verge of this range, there are several detached and remarkably regular conical hills, the appearance of which had often attracted my attention, when passing along the road between Penrith and Kendal. It is on the west side of one of these, which is called Dufton Pike, and which I should guess to be about 600 feet high, that the village of Dufton is situated; and the hill is so placed, that the ravine in which the mine occurs is entirely concealed from view…..

The ravine in which the mines are wrought, may be about half a mile wide at the entrance, and extends from Dufton Pike about a mile and a half: the ascent to the mines is steep, but such as to be practicable with carts…

The vein was originally wrought on the summit of the western front of the precipice; and the lead produced by hushing; that is, by bringing a stream of water to run over the place where it crept out. Subsequently a level was constructed…

Augustine Washington Snr.

Augustine Washington Snr.

But what about George Washington? What connection could the Grisdale lead miners have had with the future first President of the United States? The answer lies in the local market town of Appleby, which is situated only three miles from the Dufton lead mine. It was in Appleby that George Washington’s father Augustine Washington (called ‘Gus’) had spent several ‘unhappy years’ at Appleby’s Grammar School as a boy. Despite his unhappiness, in 1729 he decided to send his sons Lawrence and Augustine Jnr there too. They came all the way from Virginia. Lawrence was to stay at the school until 1738 when he returned to Virginia. George Washington was the son of Augustine Washington and his second wife Mary Ball. He too was all set to come to the Grammar School in Appleby when his father died in 1743.

When the American War of Independence was nearing its end in October 1781, the captured English captain of the frigate Guadeloupe was questioned by George Washington. On hearing that the captain was from Appleby, Washington replied:

I am very glad to meet a Westmorland man, my family sprang from that country and my brother was at Appleby School.

Appleby Grammar School

Appleby Grammar School

Perhaps when John Grisdale and his wife Jennet visited Appleby from time to time to make purchases or join in the fun of the fair, they might just have seen George Washington’s brothers around the Grammar School? Paths do cross, but the Washington and Grisdale families lived in parallel universes. By chance, George Washington didn’t come to study in Appleby and went on to great things. This Grisdale family were set for centuries of mining poverty and death.