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A Brief History of Clappersgate

Written by Leah Dacre on

Here at the Good Life Cottage company we are lucky enough to look after 3 historical properties located in the small hamlet of Clappersgate; Wayside Cottage, Croft Cottage and the Old Dairy. Clappersgate is situated a mile from Ambleside on Coniston road, beneath Loughrigg fell.

In the 16th century Clappersgate was classified as a port, since it had a wharf on the Brathay river where slate from local quarries were loaded and taken down river to Windermere and onwards to the south.

There was a horse-operated mill, an inn, a store and two farmhouses. The port is now the boat house and harbour of the Croft, a large house built about 1850 for a prosperous Liverpool merchant. The inn and store have now disappeared but there is still a cluster of picturesque houses and cottages. The Croft and its stables have been converted into flats and small houses. At the entrance to the stable yard there was once a vagrant whipping post!

Turning left in Clappersgate the Hawkshead road leads down to the Brathay bridge (formally the boundary between Westmorland and Lancashire). The name Brathay means ‘the broad river’ and above the bridge is a broad pool where, despite human intervention trout still lie.

Just over the bridge on the left the house now called Old Brathay has some literary associations. Originally ‘Low Brathay’ it was a farm in the Middle Ages and there was an inn nearby. The present house dates from the 16th century and in 1880 was occupied by Charles Lloyd a member of the Quaker banking family and friend of local poet William Wordsworth. Lloyd frequently entertained the Wordsworth family as well as Coleridge, Southey and other members or the Lakes literary circle.

In 1805 John Hayden diarist and artist came to live at the adjoining property Brathay Hall. Here de Quincey, Dr Arnold of Rugby, and Constable the artist were all visitors. It was probably whilst staying here that Constable produced an over romanticised drawing of the Langdale Pikes showing a lake at the foot where none exists. Both properties now belong to the Brathay Hall Trust and are centres for leadership and development training.

In 1880 Brathay Hall was bought by Giles Redmayne and six years later he built the church at Brathay which is now known as Holy Trinity. Redmayne made his fortune in the Italian silk trade and the stuccoed Italianate appearance of the church reflects this interest. Although incongruous in a Lakeland setting the building has a melancholy Victorian charm.

In 1859 a Sunday school was built in memory of Giles Redmayne further up the leafy valley of the Brathay in between Skelwith Fold and Skelwith Bridge, a day school, with a house for the master, was built on land given by the Duke of Buccleaugh. The school is now a community centre serving a wide area.

Many of the buildings in Clappergate remain unchanged externally and when visiting it really is like walking through history.

Leah Dacre

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