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The English Lakes As Seen Through the Eyes of a Victorian Traveler {number Three} from Bowness to Furness Abbey

Updated on August 8, 2015


This is the third in a series of hubs looking at the English Lake District, situated in the county of Cumbria in the north west of England. Now it is designated as a National Park and is a very popular region which is visited by people in their thousands. However, in this series I look at the region through the eyes of a Victorian traveler, who would have been well off enough to be able to visit the region , a region, that was still out of the reach of the masses.

In the first of this series our traveler arrived in Windermere. In the second he he toured Windermere and Bowness. Here our traveler tours from Bowness to the famous Furness Abbey. Our traveler had found himself comfortably situated in the Royal Hotel. He has now decided to visit Furness Abbey. Before preparing for the trip he would have inquired about the cost of his excursion

Map of the Lake District

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Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 unported license | Source

Weighing up the costs

It must be understood, that the drivers of the country cars during his time, was very much dependent on the payment they received from travelers. While the Inn keepers charge for the carriage and horse only, and the payment of the drivers was for the most part an established one, and it was considered dependent on the pleasure of the traveler. The rate was three pence per mile outwards, the return journey not being charged for.

The advantage to our traveler, by hiring his mode of locomotion, was that the driver would be familiar with their localities and able to point out to our traveler all the places and objects of interest along the way. The charge for a one horse conveyance was one shilling per mile. For a two horse conveyance one shilling and sixpence per mile. In the case of a long trip, as for example 10-12 miles, there was a reduction to one shilling and four pence. Again the return journey was not charged for.

For conveyance to a certain point, there was no charge for food for man or horse. But if there was any waiting at the end of the drive, in order to return, the feed of the horse and the drivers dinner would amount to about three shillings and six pence. The hire for a single conveyance for the day was 15 shillings, and the drivers pay of five shillings, bringing the total to one pound a day exclusive of food. In ascending Kirkstone Pass, between Ambleside and Patterdale, and in going from Borrowdale to Buttermere by way of Honister Crag{pass} all carriages, but light cars, must have additional horses.

Honister pass

Conveyance over Honister Pass would cost our traveler more money for the extra horses required to undertake the journey
Conveyance over Honister Pass would cost our traveler more money for the extra horses required to undertake the journey | Source

The Newby Bridge

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Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Source

Bobbins Were in Great Demand.


The journey begins

In order for our victorian traveler to proceed to Furness Abbey, he would have to go down to Newby Bridge, either by Steamboat or by road, which past the grounds of Storrs, and ambled over the hill and dale, meandering through copses until the bride appeared opposite the Inn.

When leaving Bowness our traveler past the villas of Burnside, Ferney Green and Belfield on the right hand side before he reached Storrs. The copses which he passed have been invaluable as a source of charcoal for many hundreds of years before our traveler saw them, and they were to remain valuable for many more years to come as the demand for bobbins grew with the times.There were bobbin mills at Skelwith bridge, Troutbeck bridge and at Keswick.

Two such woodcutters famed in the locality were two brothers by the name of Dodgson, who came from Cartmel Fell and lived a century before our traveler's time. The legend as it that they were so intent on their wood cutting that they spent the whole of Sunday cooking food for the whole week ahead. They ate little but oatmeal porridge, and when that fell short they made do with Friar Tuck's { of Robin Hood fame} ostensible diet of dried peas and hard beans.

As they grew older, they began to feel the need of domestic help. One of the brothers took a wife and when the old fellows were still chopping away well into their seventies, come rain or shine, ill, or well, there was a wife in the dwelling and children to help. The brothers left considerable property, but it went the way of miser's money. There were no Dodgson's left in Cartmel in the times of our traveler.

All the way to Furness, there were specimens of roads and lanes which were locally called Ore gates {ways} from them being constructed from the slag and refuse of the iron -ore, formerly brought into the area be smelted, on account of the abundance of charcoal there. If our traveler had been artistic he would have found no more a picturesque scene than than around the hut of a woodcutter, who remained in a particular spot until their work was done. Upon the roof of the hut there would have been piled dried heather which substituted as a coarse thatch. The smoke would have oosed from the chimney, thin and blue, or the children would have been about the fire in front of the hut where the great pot boiled, the traveler could not have done anything but stop and capture the scene in the manner of a sketch.

Newby Bridge to Ulverston

It was eight miles from Newby Bridge to the cheerful little town of Ulverston. It was then possible to reach Ulverston by Railway which branched from the Lancaster and Carlisle line at Carnforth, and crossing the estuary.

The old Market Place

Ulverston  Market place 1860
Ulverston Market place 1860 | Source

Laurel and Hardy statue

The statue outside the Coronation Hall in Ulverston the birth place of Stan Laurel
The statue outside the Coronation Hall in Ulverston the birth place of Stan Laurel | Source

Wrynose Pass

permission CC-By-2.5 Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.5 generic license
permission CC-By-2.5 Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.5 generic license | Source

Ulverston to Furness Abbey

From Ulverston to Furness Abbey was around six miles. There our traveler would have found a handsome Inn the Furness Abbey Hotel. The charges were considered moderate and he would have had many attractions available to him besides the first class accommodation that it offered, by way of the relics of antiquity that adorned the walls of several rooms. The traveler would stay here if he was to study the Abbey.

The Abbey was founded in AD.1127. Its domain extended over the whole promontory in which it lied. And to the north, as far as the Shire Stones on Wrynose. They occupied the space between Windermere on the east and the Duddon on the west.The Abbot was a sort of King and his Abbey was enriched, not only by King Stephen, but also by gifts of the neighbouring land owners who were glad to avail themselves not only of its religious enrichment, but of its military powers of defense of their estates against border foes, and the outlaws of the mountains, the descendants of the conquered Saxons who had inherited their fathers' vengeance.

The Abbey was first populated by people from Normandy, -a sufficient number of Benedictine monks coming over from the monastry at St.Marye of Furness. However, in a few years their profession changed. They then followed St Bernard, and wore the white cassock,cowl and scapulary, instead of the garb of the grey monks. the abbey in common with many others was situated in a fine place. It stood in the depth of a glen with a stream flowing by, the sides of the glen were clothed in woodland. A beacon once belonged to it, a watch tower on an eminence accessible from the abbey, whose signal fire was visible all over Low Furness, when assistance was required, or when foes were expected.

The building was of a fine red stone of the region. It must have formerly filled the glen, and the ruins conveyed to our traveler the impression of the establishment being worthy of the zeal of its founder, King Stephen, and, the extent of its endowments, which were princely.

The boundary wall of the precincts enclosed an area of 65 acres, over which were scattered remains that have been assessed as being those of a mill, the granary, the fish ponds, the ovens, kilns and other offices.

Furness Abbey -ruins 2007


Furness Abbey

Map of Hawcoat



the architecture , the heavy shaft was alternating with the clustered pillar, and the pointed Gothic arch. The masonry was so good that our traveler would have been impressed with hoe firm and massive the remains were at that time, the winding staircases within the walls were still in relatively good condition in many places.

He would also have seen the tall ferns and knotted grasses along with a jumble of stones covering the pathway where once the Abbot and his train swept past in religious possession. In order to have the best view of the whole abbey ruins , he would have had to pass through a gate at the southern end, and ascend the grassy slope before him. From the ridge of this field he would have not only seen the Abbey, but also a great deal of the surrounding countryside.

If he had the time to extend his ramble he would have found it worthwhile to visit the small village of Hawcoat, lying in the south west of the Abbey, and distinguishable from the ridge by a square tower rising in the middle of it. The path to it lies across the fields and could not have been mistaken, the distance was about a mile. Although there was nothing of special interest in the then primitive little village, he would have been amazed with which the inhabitants regard a stranger which would have shown they were not much in the habit of seeing visitors.

The tower was the object of attraction to him. The keys could be obtained from a nearby cottage. from the top of the tower our traveler would have a fine distant view of the sands and the Valley of the Duddon, with mountains that closed in at the upper end.

Summary notes

Ulverston lies in South Lakeland. Furness {Barrow in Furness} is a peninsula and region of south Cumbria England. The area is divided into Low Furness and High Furness. Low Furness is the peninsual itself that juts out into the Irish sea. High Furness is the northern point of the area that was originally north Lonsdale, but is not on the peninsular itself. Much of it is within the Lake District National Park and contains the Furness Fells.

The town of Barrow in Furness dominates the region, with other smaller towns such as Ulverston, Dalton in Furness, Coniston and Broughton in Furness.

In the next in this series our traveler explores Coniston Water and its environs.

Associated articles.

The English Lake District through the eyes of a Victorian Traveler.

The English Lakes through the eyes of a Victorian traveler. {Windermere to Bowness]


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      freecampinggaussie, Hi , nice to meet you, I am glad you enjoyed it and share my interest in how life used to be in times gone by. Thank you for your appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.

      Hi aviannovice, Deb, the region was made for you and your camera. Hope you do see it one day. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Furness Abbey is remarkable, and so inviting for the likes of me. I am intrigued by the statue of Laurel and Hardy. One day, I would love to go to this part of the world, drink in the sights, and naturally, photograph the birds.

    • freecampingaussie profile image


      5 years ago from Southern Spain

      I really enjoyed this as I have been here before ,however we will be visiting in July so it was good to read this and enjoy the photos .I love thinking back to how it was years ago. Voting you up. Doing some hubhopping/


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