Lime for making mortar was used by the Romans in their building projects but the lime kilns in the Crosthwaite and Lyth area were probably constructed in the mid 18th to the late 19th centuries.
There were, originally, about 12 lime kilns on the edge of Whitbarrow. Some of these were demolished a long while ago, while others are in a state of disrepair. A few are in good condition, having been rebuilt by the National Park Authority. The restored kilns can be seen at Fell Lane on the Howe, Dawson Fold, Jacksons Lot on the Row and Broad Oak.
The conversion of the mosses to productive farmland would have required large amounts of lime to neutralise the acid soil. Lime used to be in great demand for making lime mortar for buildings, as a limewash in farm buildings and for disinfectant purposes. Lime mortar and lime tiering (using lime and sand mix, instead of roof felt) has once again become popular in the grant aided renovation of old farm buildings.
To produce lime from limestone required a heat of 900°C. For this process, they needed large amounts of fuel. They used wood, coal, coke or peat. There was also a local supply of stone. All along the edge of Whitbarrow, these commodities were in plentiful supply. Coal and coke only became readily and cheaply available, with the arrival of canals and the railways. Signs of peat being used are to be seen around a dilapidated kiln, near to Whitbarrow Lodge. Jim Whetton talks about an aerial ropeway, which was used to transport stone to the kiln. Sam Strickland, of the Row, was possibly the last lime burner in the valley.
Sandside and Kendal both had commercial kilns but these have long since been demolished. Today the nearest active kilns are at Shap, where lime is produced for the steel industry.
Potash was also produced and mixed with tallow and caustic lime, to make a liquid soap, to wash woollens in the fulling mills. Potash by itself was a mordant in the dyeing process. Kilns were built to burn bracken or twigs, to produce the potash. The kilns generally had to be within ten minutes running distance of a fulling mill, for the contents were highly soluble and would be destroyed by a shower of rain, especially the heavy kind experienced during thunderstorms. Under these circumstances, landowners with mills were permitted to grow bracken crops lower on the valley side, nearer to the fulling process. The kiln was made of large blocks of drystone walling and stood 3 metres high at the front, at the draught hole, but level with the fellside, at the rear of the circular pit. Field names give a clue as to where these kilns were located, Walkmill Close, Kiln Close, Milkin, Brackenrigg, Elinghearth and Tenterbank. Peter Cartmell tells about the potash kiln at Cartmell Fold, which was demolished and the stone used for building. The remains of one such kiln can be seen in a hedgerow on the old road to Draw Well
The largest quarry at the end of Whitbarrow is owned by the Landowners of Crosthwaite and Lyth. It produced shilla or crushed stone that was formed during the last Ice Age. The stone was used for repairs to farm roads and buildings, within the parish of Crosthwaite and Lyth. Stone from the quarries was free to the ratepayers within the parish.
In the 19th century stone was used by masons and wallers. The Kendal Mercury, 1854 reported that George Thexton had contracted for the whole of the Whitbarrow quarries. The previous contractors had been Messrs Kemp, Braithwaite and Martindale. In 1908, the contract was in the hands of R. Strickland.
A report in the Westmorland Gazette (July 1878) tells the story of Mr Moon of Savin Hill Toll Bar, who was severely injured by the collapse of a sandpit at Lyth, whilst quarrying sand for work on Crosthwaite church. He had to have a leg and fingers amputated.
In the early 1940s stone started to be used outside the parishes. The Landowners benefited by placing a levy amount per ton. The money was used for rate relief. Stone went to a tank factory in Leyland and for iron smelting in Middlesbrough. It was taken to Grange Station in Davy's lorries, using mechanical loading mechanisms (chaeside wire operated loading shovels). Later, Stan Walker took over and put in a stone crusher, weighbridge and hydraulic loading equipment. With this, he was able to move large quantities of stone for motorway and other road construction, including the A590. He also produced a small quantity of ground limestone, which due to its purity, could be used in glassmaking.
There are several older quarries sited on the Township Allotment. Stones from these quarries were used for house building, for making lintels, quoins, pig troughs, gate stoops, mill wheels, bridge covers, pig sties, water tanks, material for lime burning, kerbs and sills. The water tanks were made from limestone slabs, bolted together. They were lined with lead, sometimes had a lid and were used for collecting rainwater from the roof. The limestone slabs were also transported to Windermere by horse and cart. The mill wheels were destined for Wakefield's gunpowder works. Limestone was ideal for the purpose, as it did not produce sparks.
The rockery stone business also flourished, using stone from the quarries. These stones are in gardens all over the country. Before the Second World War, Mr Brooks of Cragg Farm ran the business. He removed the stones by horse and cart to a hand operated crane, which was sited at the road junction near to Whitbarrow Cottage. Ted Wilkinson, Malcolm Hughes and Bob Burrows worked for him. After the War Neville Brooks developed the business, using an Allis Chalmers tractor, fitted with a winch and crane. This allowed larger pieces to be loaded onto lorries and taken to Milnthorpe Station, for distribution by rail. Billy Clark, John Taylor and Heinz Zimmerling, a former POW, were his employees. His base was a large shed built near to Gillbirks Quarry. The last person to remove rockery stone was Mr Lishman, using an old army truck, with a crane attached to it.
When the main quarry closed down, English Nature became involved and paid a fee to keep the quarry closed, in order to protect the limestone pavement and also the nesting sites of peregrine falcons. It has now become a SAC (Special Area of Conservation), recognized as such by the European Commission.
The rivers and the tarns around Crosthwaite have been the source of power for a number of mills in and around the village for 700 years. In the Records of Kendale a corn mill and two fulling mills are mentioned. In the early history of milling in the area, these were the only types of mill. However, around the time of the Industrial Revolution, the water mills of the area were also employed in making paper, producing bobbins for the cotton industry, wood sawing and powering a flax mill at Lamb Howe. Only two of the mills are still standing, Crosthwaite Mill and Starnthwaite Mill, though neither is used for the purposes of milling. The stone from the dismantled mills probably forms part of a good many of the present-day buildings.
The wool trade was a big part of medieval life in the valley. The yeoman sheep farmers produced the raw material; cottage industry provided work for spinners, weavers and dyers, but the fulling of the cloth was done in the mills. Here water was used to power simple machines, which cleaned, thickened and pre-shrank the loose hand-woven material in vats of soapy water. The soap was locally made from animal fat and potash. The latter came from kilns, where bracken was burnt. These kilns were usually sited close to the mills and the source of the bracken. The fulling process then required the matted material to be brushed, teasels were used, or napped to make the felt stronger and more resistant to tearing. Ammonia was needed for this stage. The easiest and cheapest supply of this was the contents, each morning, of the "gazzunders". The smell, when mixed with wet wool, must have been terrible! The next step was to dry the material on "tenter hooks", attached to tenter frames. Lastly, it was dyed and finished by shearmen, with 6 foot shears. It was transported by packhorse to Kendal, Bristol and Southampton. Local names associated with the industry are Walker, Fuller and Ashburner.
Similar in method to the Fulling Mill, this process pounded well-rotted linen and later cotton rags to pulp. The paper was made by hand, sheet by sheet. After being pressed between two layers of felt, it was washed and hung in the drying loft, over cow or horsehair ropes. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the process was further mechanised. Local names associated with papermaking were Swainson, Crampton, Pennington and Roberts.
In the 19th century, bobbins were needed for the Lancashire cotton industry. Raw materials, ash, alder, willow and birch wood were all available locally. With the decline of the cotton industry, the demand for bobbins fell and the Mill at Starnthwaite changed to another role, this time as a corn mill.
This farm was once a water mill, powered by a millrace, fed from a tarn above Lamb Howe. It may have been a flax mill, though no records about it have been found. BULLMAN STRANDS MILL The remains of this mill may be on the Crook border, just across the River Gilpin. Old deeds, around the middle of the 18th century, show that this was a corn mill, owned by the Burrows family. The water to power the millrace came from the Gilpin.
The building still stands on the River Gilpin, three quarters of a mile from Crosthwaite Green. In the middle of the 16th century a family called Starnthwaite came from the Bolton-le-Sands, Over Kellet area of North Lancashire. They gave their name to the mill and the area. It was probably used, at that time, as a fulling mill. Although there are no Starnthwaites in Crosthwaite now, local people with the names Harrison, Dickinson, Rowlandson, Hall and Turner are probably descended from them, through the female line of the family.
Around 1708 Starnthwaite became a paper mill. The Crampton family probably bought it around 1726. The paper produced may have been "brown papers", used for pressing and packaging textiles. The mill was thoroughly refurbished in 1786 and was most likely converted to white paper at this time. These fine quality papers were destined for Hudson and Nicholson, printers, booksellers, binders and stationers of Kendal. Their warehouse was in Highgate, the premises long occupied by Titus Wilson and Sons Ltd., printers and publishers. The building is now used by Milletts.
There is a cottage in the Starnthwaite Mill complex, that was known as "Raghouse". May Armstrong told the story of going to Skelcies Cottage in the 1940s. There was a little one-up, one-down building in the bank of the orchard, that had had a fireplace in the lower room. This was always referred to as the "rag'ouse". An elderly couple, who once lived there, collected rags for the mill.
Its conversion to a bobbin mill in the 1840s came at a time when the Lancashire cotton industry was booming. The mill employed as many as 40 people. The young apprentices working at the mill "lived in". These apprentices lived in appalling conditions, working up to 12 hours a day. The 1867 Factory Act regulated and improved the lot of these children. The building burnt down in the 1870s. Mr Gibson bought the ruined site from Mr Pennington. It later came under the ownership of Mr Strickland of Ellerbank Mill, Crook. He ran it as a corn mill.
In the 1880s Revd H. V. Mills, a Unitarian minister, and a committee bought the buildings, in order to run it as an industrial colony, a charitable venture, where unemployed men were taught useful trades, working on farms and in workshops. The mill was used to grind corn and saw timber.
A few years later, the building became an Epileptic Home, boys being sent by the Guardians of the Poor, from the Work Houses. The water power was used to provide electricity and a swimming pool was made by damming the beck. Mr Greaven, who took many of the photographs in the early 20th century, was a pupil at the school. When he left he went to lodge with Mrs Thornburrow, at Guide Post Cottage, until he died in 1929.
Mr J. M. Sladen, a committee member of the Home, started a Boy Scout Troop. They were visited in 1915 by Lord Baden-Powell. Kit Newton gave boxing lessons to the boys, for which they gained a number of silver cups. He was very proud of the fact that he had trained, in Blackpool, alongside Stanley Matthews. Conditions in the Home were rather primitive and without the means to improve these, it was taken over, in 1935, as an Approved School. Funding for the necessary improvements came from the Home Office.
In 1975, the building was used as an Intermediate Treatment Centre for boys, with shorter programmes of outdoor education, craft and environmental studies. John Gavin, a teacher there from 1977 to 1982, has written a section in the chapter about schools entitled Starnthwaite Ghyll, Intermediate Treatment Centre.
In the 1980s the site was sold for private development as flats, with further houses being built in the grounds.
Starnthwaite Epileptic School
Boy scouts on the occasion of Lord Baden-Powell's visit
Kit Newton and boys with boxing trophies
It seems that this was a fulling mill, mentioned as early as 1374, for its oak tenter hooks, which were used for stretching cloth. Nothing now remains of the building, save for a few stones. Stones and timber from the mill were recycled to build Hardriggs Bank Barn. Power came not from the Gilpin, but from a small stream and mill pond to the north of Mirk Howe Farm.
Situated on the south side of the Schoolhouse Bridge, beyond Crosthwaite, on the right bank of the Gilpin, these mills were probably Walk Mills (another name for fulling mills), where the material was trodden. Nearby fields are called Walk Mill Close and Hollow Mill Pasture.
This small mill was mentioned first in 1374. It was fed by a mill pond in a glade or "hollow", with steep sides, next to the Gilpin, in Crosthwaite. It may have been a fulling mill.
This building still stands on the Gilpin, down the lane, opposite the Argles Memorial Hall. The roof is supported by a wonderful arrangement of heavy beams, to which is attached a swinging beam with chain pulleys, to raise sacks from the lower floors.
It was mentioned in records as early as the 13th century. Over the last 200 years, it has been run as a grain mill by James Wilson, William, Frank and Edward (Teddy) Fox and from 1921 onwards by William (Billy) Inman, in partnership, for a while, with his brother Jack. In 1947, it was bought by Mr Buckley and tenanted by Joe Kegg. He bought it from Mr Buckley in 1950 and ground oatmeal and a small amount of poultry meal. When he retired, it was sold and became a private residence. It is now owned by the Dove Nest Group, who run it as a Management Training Centre.
Crosthwaite Mill - interior
Millrace at Crosthwaite Mill
Joe Kegg - last of the Crosthwaite millers
Crosthwaite Mill - interior
Mr Stan McCrone came to live at Hardriggs, with his family, in 1956. Before he came to Crosthwaite, Mr McCrone, an electrical engineer, patented the design for the Cronapress Bell, the strip bell, most commonly seen on buses.
He had the idea for the bell during the Second World War, when travelling on a crowded bus, as he could not reach a single bell press. He developed his idea in evenings, after a day at work.
When he came to Crosthwaite, he was able to use the bank barn, in the grounds of Hardriggs, as a workshop. This barn was built with materials obtained when Mirk Howe Mill was demolished. The mill was situated just the other side of Lord's Bridge. The barn still has a horse stable and cow stalls and the roof is slated, with pargeting plaster underneath.
At first he worked on the production of the bells part-time, but with their growing success and an increase in demand, it became a full time venture, eventually employing two more men. The men worked a four day week and took their breaks, in fine weather, on deck chairs in the kitchen garden. On one occasion, one of the men answered the phone and asked the lady on the other end of the phone to wait while he checked some paperwork. When he returned to the phone, she asked if she could have a copy of the "holding" tape she had been listening to in his absence. Nothing he said could convince her of the fact that she had been listening to the sound of lambs in the field, by the garden, bleating for their mothers, who had been moved the night before!
The materials for the strip bells came from the Midlands and Hastings.
Cronapress supplied Ribble buses with five foot lengths, which slotted together to make longer bell presses. As well as bells in buses, the system was sold for use in factories, hospitals and banks, in fact anywhere an alarm bell was needed.
A flourishing export market opened later, especially with Australia. On one occasion, a £4,500 order, which should have gone by sea, was suddenly urgently required and was requested to be sent by airfreight. This was done and the cost was exactly the same as the goods, that is, another £4,500! The goods were sent C.O.D.
Cronapress continued operating at Hardriggs until 1988, when Mr McCrone sold his business. The manufacture of the bell system continues in Leeds, most of its trade being with Commonwealth countries.
Although Bridge End is not in the parish of Crosthwaite and Lyth, it is important to the valley.
Hartley Trotter talked to Anthony Hargreaves, one of the garage's longest serving employees, about his time under six different employers. His first was Winder Yapp, who founded the garage in 1921. He sold and repaired bicycles, sold R.O.P. petrol (Russian Oil Products) and repaired motor car punctures. His parents were the publicans at the Hare and Hounds in Levens.
Walter Garner followed him. He carried out the same business with the addition of repairs to motorcars. He was a Salvation Army man, who occasionally preached at Levens.
Raymond Bowman then purchased the garage, enlarged it and became more involved with the motor industry. He also had a small fleet of lorries, used to transport bricks. Fina petrol had now replaced the original R.O.P.
The next owners were Frank Colton, followed by Mr Brailsford. They sold new and second hand vehicles. Jos Smith was employed as a salesman. On one occasion Jos was asked to move a car on the forecourt. He did not realise that a broken down vehicle was attached to it with a tow rope. When he set off, the broken down, driverless car followed behind him. Unfortunately it took a different route to Jo's and demolished a petrol pump. When the owner of the garage remonstrated with him, he exclaimed, "It wasn't me, it was the bloke behind!"
At present the garage is owned by P.V. Dobsons of Levens, who have enlarged the premises over the years, selling Nissan and Jaguar cars. At present they are in the process of refurbishing the showrooms and are agents for Jaguar and Volvo.