Lowgill in 1949


The anonymous piece below portrays an endearing picture of Lowgill as a place left behind by the times where life was ‘Slow’. Much of it rings true, although it fails to point out that the hamlet had a telephone kiosk (admittedly reported to be ‘often’ out of action by the parish council over the previous two years), and that the parish council, at the request of Edward Knowles of East View farm, had specifically written to the county council two years earlier requesting a road sign ‘at the higher end of Lowgill village as the danger at this point to the children on the road is very considerable.’ Councillor Knowles was also part of the parish council’s campaign to get a better water supply for the village because of the ‘unsatisfactory state of the village water pump at Lowgill’.

The Rose and Crown was also twice visited by the author Jessica Lofthouse in the years after the war. She portrays Mr Hird as sitting in his rocker by the fire in the stone-flagged bar while she perched on the settle and drank tea brewed by his wife from water boiled on the hob. The pub, owned by Yates and Jackson of Lancaster, closed in the early 1960s.

The old school behind the Church of the Good Shepherd also closed in 1961 when the new school in Lowgill opened but it is still regularly used for village and church functions. The Tony Denby referred to in the article was indeed ten years old, having started at the school in June 1945 when his family moved from Arkholme to Lowgill House. Within a few years, however, his family had moved to Higher Greenbank, Botton.  Tony recalls his walk to school took him down to Thrushgill and then over the fields to Ivah and on to Lowgill.  Other pupils in the school register walked from Guy Hill and Greenside to the north and Ivah, Swans and Higher Lythe to the south, while yet others came from Botton Head, Lower Houses, Thrushgill and Park House over the parish boundary in Botton, and from Fourstones, on the county boundary with Yorkshire. The school log book suggests free school milk was available from 1942 but cooked school dinners from the kitchens at Hornby were first served in a new wooden hall at the side of the school on 28 April 1952. Mrs Gladys McIntyre was head teacher at the time, serving at the school from 1931 to 1969.

The temporary village constructed for the workers on the Haweswater Aqueduct is described elsewhere on this website. A separate section on the school is also planned.

Click images to enlarge

This Lovely Lancashire

People kept telling us we simply had to go to Lowgill. No, they hadn’t been themselves and they didn’t know quite where it was except that it wasn’t near to anywhere in particular, but they had heard it was the loneliest village in Lancashire, right up in the fells, and ever so quaint.

So we went. And it was. Somewhere between Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale we discovered an alarming switchback of a road which rose and narrowed and dipped and wriggled round incredible corners and came in its own good time to a tree-girt huddle of grey stone cottages.

As there seemed to be no competition we concluded that this must be Lowgill. It was Nothing Modern. At the entrance to it, some Lancashire County Council workman had painted ‘SLOW’ across the road in bold white letters. A descriptive writer, that fellow.

Life here moves so slowly that the village has become isolated in time as well as space. After seeing it you are in a position to judge whether a century of progress has been worth while.

It has nothing modern about it except a few radio sets – and they run on batteries. Too far from the world ever to watch the world go by, all it gets from this scientific century is a weekly visitation from a butcher and a grocer, a monthly appearance by a hardware van, a daily glimpse of a postman, an occasional motor bus at a cross-roads two and a half miles distant and a chance to telephone the doctor in emergency.

It has no electricity, no gas, no water taps.

The only inhabitants who can feel the pulsing of modern life are the men who go up to work the fell farms. They have adjusted themselves sufficiently to add milk production to sheep grazing and stock rearing and will tell you, with a suggestion of wonderment, that Lowgill milk now ends up in tins for city folk.

For the women there is only the village, a very little world of sighing trees, orchards, beehives and hams on the hook, with men to feed, lamps to trim and water to draw from pump or well.

Then there are the children.

The little school-house behind the Church of the Good Shepherd is perched on the edge of a steep grassy slope, and up to it every day, winter and summer, clamber 23 children from Lowgill and the fell farms around. If this is Lancashire’s loneliest village, here indeed are the country’s hardiest school kids.

Ten-year-old Tony Denby for instance, marches 3½ miles to school daily, and others, younger than he, walk nearly as far. No diet-balanced hot dinners and free milk for these children. They have a one-roomed school, a coke stove to heat it, a filter pot to strain water drawn from the beck, and in their haversacks they bring packets of sandwiches and bottles of cold tea. Every one of them is the child of a farm worker and not one of them cares twopence about the fact that their school is £6000 behind 1949 standards.


Village Life

For that matter, nobody in Lowgill seems to mind being behind the times. We didn’t mind either, after sitting down in the Rose and Crown to the sort of tea you would only get in a village that was a hundred years out of date.

We wouldn’t have believed there was an inn left in England like the Rose and Crown, nor inn-keepers like Mr and Mrs Roger Hird. The bar – if you care to call it that – is a cosy cottage kitchen with a big black Victorian grate where you can warm your hands at the fire, admire a year’s bacon ration hanging over your head, and become one of the family in five minutes.

But Mrs Hird gave us to understand that Lowgill is the scene of many a social whirl. There are occasions such as the day of the sports gala and sheepdog trials, where five hundred people are in the neighbourhood of the village at once, and dancing nights when one hundred farming folk pack themselves into the schoolroom – where 23 children look a crowd – and launch into the Lancers.

Once Lowgill used to hire a fiddler as well as a pianist for these dances, but he got knocked over so often that he doesn’t come now.


Upstart Rival

At present Lowgill is enjoying another thrill. It is on the line of the aqueduct which is to bring more Lake District water to Manchester.

A mile or two beyond the village an army of workmen are burrowing into the fells. The accents of Liverpool, London and Dublin have been heard in the Rose and Crown.

Above all, a rival village has blossomed overnight on the fells – complete with electric lighting, modern plumbing, even a cinema.

Lowgill finds this phenomenon a topic of conversation, but has shown no sign of envy or symptom of an inferiority complex.

The villages know perfectly well that the upstart will vanish one day just as quickly as it came, and Lowgill will be just where it was before, alone on the quiet fell.


Original copied from a transcript loaned by MS.
Photos by MW.
Additional sources:
Parish Council Minutes, 15 April 1947, 18 December 1947, 30 March 1948, 13 April 1948 (annual meeting).
Tatham Fells C of E school log books (transcripts copied by MT)
Osborne B, This Remote School: the old school at Tatham Fells, 1875-1961, portrayed from its log books (no date)
Jessica Lofthouse, Lancashire’s Fair Face (Robert Hale & Co. 1952, 2nd edition 1976), pp.192-3.

Click here for further authorship and copyright information