In the lap of the Gods
2019 sees the 250th Anniversary of the beginnings of the tourist industry in Keswick and Borrowdale. Between October 2rd-7th 1769 the poet Thomas Gray, author of ‘Elegy written in a country churchyard’, stayed in the Queen’s Head and travelled round the lake, writing enthusiastically to his friend and later publishing his journal. Six months later Wordsworth was born. A mere twelve years later Peter Crosthwaite opened his museum in Keswick Main Street and held the first Derwentwater Regatta with his crony Joseph Pocklington. Tourism was up and running.
Gray called the area ‘the Vale of Elysium’ – the lap of the Gods, and so it is. Its fate has also seemed to be in the lap of the Gods – absentee landlords who bought estates and islands with an eye towards enhancing the landscape, under the watchful eye of Wordsworth and Southey. Throughout the 250 years there has been a perennial tussle between the preservationists and the entrepreneurs; a battle which shows no sign of abating. Now we are all Gods through the National Trust, the largest landowner by far, which claims to own the valley ‘for ever, for everyone’.
Orchard House Books
Paperback; 150 x 228mm
Black and white illustrations throughout