Mardale Green – and the tipsy parson

Mardale Green is one of those ‘ghost’ communities that have been a casualty to ‘progress’. Being Cumbrian Characters, this post isn’t just about the lost buildings: it also has a clergyman with a gin bottle!

Mardale Green – sunk with little trace

After months of endless rain in the winter (with flooding across the UK in February), we’ve had months almost without rain since.

A long, dry spell in the summer of 2018 led to a rare sight: the remains of the village of Mardale Green appeared as Haweswater reservoir dried up.

Mardale was bought by Manchester Corporation in 1919 – that city needed a good supply of fresh water, and the Cumbrian valley was deemed the ideal spot to build a reservoir.

Work on the dam itself began in 1934 and the village of Mardale Green was demolished.

Thus whenever a drought reveals Mardale Green, there’s only rubble to be seen.

Mardale Green was already under water when William Palmer’s ‘More Odd Corners in English Lakeland’ was first published, in 1937. The family copy I inherited is the 1946 4th edition.

So he had to turn to the past for descriptions of the village, and its inhabitants.

A friendly review…

First up was a kind report by Harriet Martineau, ‘of Ambleside’.

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), is described by Wikipedia thus:

..a British social theorist and Whig writer, often cited as the first female sociologist. Martineau wrote many books and a multitude of essays from a sociological, holistic, religious, domestic, and perhaps most controversially, feminine perspective.

According to the Martineau Society, she moved to Ambleside in 1845 and died there in 1876.

Although much of Harriet Martineau’s work was closely tied to social and political events of her day, she remains significant as a campaigner for the rights of women, against slavery, and for other minority groups who lacked a voice.

Her comment on Mardale Green circa 1865 is a kind one:

The hostess at Mardale Green Inn will make her guests comfortable with homely food and a clean bed; and the host will, if necessary, act as guide to the passes.

And a negative one

Mrs Lynn Linton (1822-1898) was a controversial Cumbrian Character, who went from feminist to anti-feminist in the space of a few decades.

Eliza Lynn Linton seems to have had a sharp pen in general, and in 1864, she turned it on Mardale Green:

…the royal hotel – the only one – is a wretched wayside public house where you can get eggs and bacon and nothing else – except the company of a tipsy parson lying in bed with a gin bottle at his side.

She was also scathing of the Holme/Hulme family, known since the 13th century as the Kings of Mardale.

…the King of Mardale – the greatest man in the place, the largest landed proprietor of the home blood, and in his time the best wrestler and the best sheep-shearer in the dale – is a yeoman.

Which seems a lot of snobbery for a vicar’s daughter!

The yeoman king

The only pub in Mardale Green was actually called the Dun Bull.

In 1861, ’A Fond Angler’ wrote:

Mardale contains but one small inn, called the Dun Bull, where all the accommodation is afforded that could be expected, viz., good bed and comfortable good dinner.

The 1861 census has Joseph (actually John) Holme 56, farmer of 250 acres, with his Mary, two children, and several farm and domestic servants.

This was Mrs Linton’s ‘yeoman king’. 

 There is also Thomas Holme, 51, perpetual curate, with a wife Mary and two domestic servants. Thomas Holme was John Holme’s brother.

The vicarage was built in 1858, with Thomas’ in-laws Mr and Mrs Crosier providing a special supper for the workmen on its completion.

‘Unflagging zeal’

An anonymous Sketch of Mardale, written in 1863, describes John Holme as ‘genial and kind in his nature’. And continues:

There is a marked social advance in the characteristics of the people, mainly due to the mental energies of the worthy pastor (who is younger brother of our king) and his accomplished and amiable wife, whose unflagging zeal and highly cultured tastes are ever manifesting themselves, in the habits and manners of the tenants of the cottage homesteads which thinly dot this happy valley. 

Unless it was a traveller from elsewhere – was Thomas Holme the ‘tipsy parson with the gin bottle’?

The Dun Bull

And who was serving the bacon and eggs in 1864?

On the 1861 census, there is Joseph Bell, 60, innkeeper, with son-in-law Joseph Airey, 31, daughter Sarah, 37, and their children.

The Dun Bull was ‘to let’ in 1862, with Joseph Bell as then tenant. And a few months later, he was selling his livestock, husbandry implements, innkeeper’s effects, and furniture ‘including one clock’.

An 1863 snippet has a Mr and Mrs Clarke at the Dun Bull. As does an account of a trotting match in Mardale in1866, when Mr Clarke provided ‘a substantial dinner’ for those who had enjoyed the sports.

Sadly, the Clarkes had gone by the time of the 1871 census (it was ‘to let’ again in 1868), so there is nothing more to be found about them.