by Denis Perriam & David Ramshaw
The front cover seems to say it all. A straw-hatted idler leans on a wall and gazes across a sheep-encrusted sward. In the distance a train puffs happily across a red sandstone viaduct above a wooded valley. In front of it a grand church sits benignly among its gravestones and quiet cottages send up wreaths of smoke. The painting shows Wetheral in 1842 and is by Sam Bough. He pitched his tent in the Wetheral meadows for a month or two, wore great navvy boots and velveteen knee breeches and adopted a decidedly Byronic air. Not the sort of demeanour you would expect of someone born in Abbey Street, Carlisle. He was supplied with free butter, milk, eggs and vegetables by Fergus Graham of Abbey Farm and there was, so we’re told, “dancing and singing till late”. He also did a little painting because there’s another picture of the Wetheral ferry with the oarsman pulling away from shore as more passengers approach down the hill. Wetheral was a favourite spot with artists even though the famous 18th-century sculptor, Joseph Nollekens, was dismayed to discover that one of his finest works was to be housed in Wetheral Church. However, 50 years after Sam Bough sported himself in the Wetheral meadows, Thomas Bushby was delighted to paint pictures of children gathering flowers in the local woods and upright women gossiping at the gates of thatched cottages. William James Blacklock made a fine print and an admirer of his, WJ Fairlie, made an equally fine painting of the Priory, Matthew Nutter painted the same puffing train crossing Corby Bridge and J W Carmichael produced a book, Views on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, which was published in 1839.
The railway transformed Wetheral. It had begun life as a sheep pasture – that is what the name might mean. It had been a place of religion. A fragment of a substantial Anglo-Saxon cross was found in the churchyard in 1965. The Priory was founded in 1112 by Ranulf Meschin to house 12 Benedictine monks and the Howard family of Corby Castle had been responsible for expanding and enriching the very fine church over the centuries. But the coming of the railway, meant that Wetheral was within commuting distance of Carlisle and Brampton. In 1843, George Elliot, the proud proprietor of Elliot’s Spirit Vaults in Brampton built a neat mansion on a slight eminence overlooking Corby Castle. John Scott built Westerley House, later known variously as Oak Bank and Killoran, out of red Dumfries sandstone, in 1872 for the considerable cost of £4,000 and a wealthy Chinese-tea merchant spent a thousand pounds less building Eden Mount the year before. In 1856, Elizabeth, Annie and Jane Robinson were advertising a “Ladies’ Boarding School,” which later became Lime House. The grandest house of all was built for Christopher Ling, a corn merchant and future mayor of Carlisle. Wandales cost £5000 in 1881, but Mr Ling rented the house out in 1904 as he could not bear to live there after the death of his wife. Great Corby and Wetheral were not just the preserve of the wealthy and artistic. Children in their precarious bonnets and a patient dog posed for a picture of the Sunday School well over 100 years ago and in 1959 the 67 children in Great Corby School waited patiently for the cameraman to click his shutter. Half a century earlier, Mr Beaton posed in his cabbage patch with six reluctant lads leaning on gardening implements as they learnt the arts of horticulture.
Denis Perriam and David Ramshaw present a wide-ranging collection of history, anecdote and picture, that portrays the everyday story of these two villages. Their picture-spreads cover everything from the Women’s Land Army to a novel by Thomas de Quincey, a murder, a railway accident, fishing, ferrying, Fantails, farming, milling, buses, village parties, including an Abba performance, and an aeroplane crash. Those peaceful sheep in Sam Bough’s picture have had plenty to think about over the years.ISBN-13 978-0-9559017-2-0
A4 portrait format, 96 pages, full colour, 358 images, softback (£13.00)
Price in UK £13.00 Online order: post and packing free
Finalist 2009 Lakeland Book of the Year Awards - for Illustration & Presentation