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The Windermere Ferry

History, Boats, Ferrymen and Passengers

Dick White


There has been a ferry across Windermere for as long as people can remember. The first documented permission of carriage of goods dates from the 13th century when the monks of Coniston were granted the right to ‘carry wood and timber and whatever else they need’.

Early illustrations show them to be large wooden rowing boats that two ferrymen would row across the lake. These early boats carried both horse and men and were known as the ‘horse ferry’ and passengers sometimes assisted. They became an important and valuable means for transporting goods, as the ferry’s crossing was midpoint on the lake, and due to the presence of promontories it narrows to near 500 meters and provided the most direct route for traders between the important towns of Kendal and Hawkshead.

The ferry developed through the years, with added usage and demand with the onset of rail travel and the Lakes as a tourist destination. The first steam ferry was in 1870, which must have been quite a novelty at that time, it initially looked lopsided because they had put the boiler and engine on the same side.

This book tells of the trails and tribulations, from ferry rights, ferrymen, passengers and dispute over ferry prices. It is well illustrated and documented giving us a valuable insight of these years.


Helm Press



Publication Date:



Paperback; 237 x 164mm




Black and white photographs throughout