Snow in March – beware of low-flying sheep!

With the UK gripped by snow this first day of March 2018, here’s a look back to some rough weather in 1881.

Low-flying sheep isn’t a popular search on Google! But, it does make a fun headline. Not that it was funny, in March 1881, for the farmer concerned.

The Carlisle Journal reported, on March 11, there had been flooding in Carlisle on the 9th and 10th: after five days of continous rain, following heavy snow before that, the River Eden overflowed to nearly 21 feet on the flood register on a bridge.

The floods had abated within a few hours, but elsewhere, the snow had proved far more serious. At Aughtertree, a Mr Thomas Harrison had 121 Herwicks covered with snow. When dug out, 19 were found to be dead and a 20th died later.

On March 3, Mr Wood of Aughtertree also suffered losses, and described one sheep as having been bodily lifted by the force of the wind and blown away. It still hadn’t been found.

Householders dug out of the snow

The occupants of Lownthwaite Cottage, situated in a hollow between Bassenthwaite and Rushwaite, had to tunnel their way out after the house was completely buried in a snow drift. A Mr Brown, of Intack, on the Uldale Common, was dug out by neighbours after his house was so buried in snow not even the chimneys could be seen.

At Fellside, Caldbeck, the snow reached 20 feet deep in places: a Mrs Harper and two young children were trapped in their cottage on the edge of the fell from the Thursday night (March 2) to the Sunday morning.

Again, farmers were counting the cost to their flocks, with the paper naming James Dalton, Messrs Bell, George Thompson and Thomas Pears of Fellside; John Smith, Biggards; Joseph Richardson, Hudscales, and; W Turner, Greenhead.

The Fellside families

Of those named in the story:

Thomas Pears was born 1851, died 1930, married Ann Dalton (1851-1890) in 1879. They had three daughter and two sons.

His half-brother Wiliam Pears (1855-1932) married Mary Dalton (daughter of James in the article). They also lived at Fellside – and their descendants still do.

James Dalton was Ann Dalton’s uncle. He married Mary Leathwaite Bell (1819-1904). He looks to have lived his whole life in the hamlet of Fellside, from his baptism in 1817 to his death in 1890.

The Bells were a Fellside family as well. Mary was one of eight children of Richard Bell (1769-1854) and Mary Wood (1779-1871), who had taken the tenancy of their farm in 1832.

Richard’s exploits are said to have included walking 319 miles from London back to Cumberland in five days.

After his death, the tenancy was taken over by Joseph his eldest son and John his youngest – they are said to have been the first to introduce a mowing machine into the neighbourhood.

It would have been Joseph and John who were the Messrs Bell in the snow report.

The poor trapped Harpers were Roseanna, born 1853, described on the 1881 census as an agricultural labourer’s wife (husband Henry isn’t listed, so must have been away from home). The two young children trapped with her must have been daughters Ada, 7 and Alice Greenup Harper, 4. It must have been quite an adventure for them.

And the others

Although the 1881 census was taken just a month after the snow (on April 3), there’s no George Thompson listed.

The others who can easily be found are:

Intack. John Brown, widowed, 72 shepherd b Caldbeck

Hudscales. Joseph Richardson, 44, b Caldbeck, with wife Mary 43 b Ireby and nine children.

Greenhead. William Turner, widowed, 68, b Caldbeck, with brother Joseph, five children and a baby grandson.

Fellside is also home today to YHA Caldbeck.