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Countess Ossalinsky & The Thirlmere Dam

Ian Hall


Twice in her life Mary Jackson found herself the subject of intense gossip. In each case she faced down her detractors, bearing herself with dignity and fortitude. In each case she won through, proudly bearing her renowned title: the Countess Ossalinsky.

In 1839 Mary Jackson, rumoured to be the richest heiress-at-law in the north of England married Count Boris Ossalinsky, said to be a Polish nobleman who had been entertaining, and entertained by, Keswick society for most of the decade. For four glorious years the couple scandalised the town, with the Count’s lavish spending of what was not yet her legacy. The ongoing battle between the Count and Mary’s grandfather fuelled the rumour-mill.

Forty years later Mary, Countess Ossalinsky, found herself again at the epicentre of a storm of public opinion, this time on the national stage, as she took on the mighty Manchester Corporation over their plan to turn her lovely Thirlmere valley into a cold, lifeless reservoir. She was ultimately unable to prevent the destruction of her dale, but exacted a heavy penalty, obliging the Corporation Men to pay enormous compensation for the taking of her land. This is the story of a woman who, under the guise of compliant femininity showed a steely determination to survive and prosper: the Countess Ossalinsky.


Orchard House Books



Publication Date:







b&w photographs.