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back to Book Reviews

Mardale:
Echoes and Reflections of a lost Lakeland community
by Shap Local History Society
Published by David Grayling Publishing
ISBN 978-0-906939-06-5

MardaleShap Local History Society has produced a highly informative book about the history of Mardale, taking the reader from the early Iron Age with its settlements such as the fort at Castle Crag, some 500 feet above Whelter, to 1936 when the villagers left Mardale Green following the flooding of the valley to create a reservoir for Manchester.

In the summer of 1984, I visited Mardale when the waters of Haweswater had dropped so significantly that the ruins of the homestead, Mardale Church and the Dun Bull Inn could all be seen. I was even able to walk across Chapel Bridge which had reappeared from beneath the waters. I also met George Bell, one of the former residents of Mardale Green who had lived at Grove Brae as a boy and had moved out nearly fifty years previously; he had seen the stories on the television news about the village having reappeared and had made a pilgrimage from his farm near Lancaster to visit it once again.

That afternoon I called in to see Wainwright and Betty at 38 Kendal Green and AW was fascinated to hear about what I had seen. He recalled visiting Mardale in the mid 1930s after the houses had been vacated and the church was in the process of being demolished. There were no people, there were no animals – the place was deserted. Despite his regret about the hamlet of Mardale Green having been drowned by the building of the Haweswater Dam and the raising of the water level, AW did write in The Far Eastern Fells: ‘Mardale is still a noble valley.’

The 200-page book includes some excellent photographs, both colour and black and white. There are eleven chapters exploring the history of Mardale, including topics such as its church, school and houses, the Dun Bull Inn, and the so-called Kings of Mardale (a title taken by the head of the Holme family from the 13th century).

It also covers artists, poets and writers, including Wordsworth, Jonathan Otley, MJB Baddeley, Arthur Mees, Heaton-Cooper and of course AW, who have featured this valley in their work.

Drawing together published information, material from the archives of Shap Local History Society, and more recent research undertaken by its members, the book includes many previously unpublished photographs. The first 500 copies sold out within two months of publication, and it has now been reprinted.

I found the book a pleasure to read, full of fascinating facts about this wonderful part of Lakeland. For anyone who loves the far eastern fells, and this valley in particular, it is a must-read publication.

If you wish to order a copy (£14.95 plus £3.00 postage & packing), go to www.shaphistorysociety.org.uk or ring Liz Amos, the secretary, on 01931 716244.

reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2