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Did You Know?

The 15 inch gauge Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway was originally built to transport stone from Eskdale to the coast.

In the 19th Century one of the region's biggest industries was the manufacture of Gunpowder.

The Lancashire cotton industry used millions of bobbins that came from the shores of Lake Windermere

All fascinating facts about the Lake District's hidden past. Nowadays tourism and agriculture are the main industries in the Lake District, but for thousands of years people have lived and worked in the region and left their mark.

Stone Circles and Early Man

Picture copyright, Martin Rushton

There are nearly 50 stone circles in the Cumbria, although most are outside the boundary of the National Park. The most visited is Castlerigg stone circle, on the fells above the modern day town of Keswick. It dates to early Neolithic period and consists of 38 stones set in a circle, with an inner rectangle of another 10 stones. The land upon which it stands is owned by the National Trust and visiting is relatively easy.

Just outside the National Park, at Little Selkeld in the Eden Valley, is Long Meg and her daughters. At just under 350 feet across this is the second biggest stone circle in England. Local folklore claims that Long Meg was a witch who was turned to stone, along with her daughters, for dancing on the moors on a Sunday instead of attending worship.

On the southern edge of the National Park is Swinside Stone Circle, which is situated on the eastern flank of Black Combe. There are 55 stones of varying sizes set into a circle of just under 90 feet diameter. It is not well visited because access is not very easy. The circle stands on private land used as sheep pasture, although a nearby footpath offers good views, as does the descent of the east side of Black Combe.

 

The Roman Invasion

The Romans left their mark in several parts of the Lake District. The remains of their bath house at Ravenglass are amongst the best preserved in the north of England. Hardknott Fort, at the top of Hardknott Pass, is a monument to their hardiness (unless the weather in these parts was considerably different in those days!) and there are also Roman remains at Ambleside, whilst a short distance to the north of the Lake District is one of Britain's best known Roman site, Hadrian's Wall. If you are interested in the Lake District's Roman History then the Senhouse Roman Museum at Maryport is well worth a visit.

What's in a place name?

When Norse settlers took over the region in the 10th century they cleared forests and built wooden farmsteads. Very few of their buildings remain, but the Norse influence can be seen everywhere in the region's place names. Words such as Thwaite, Mere, Ghyll, Tarn, Rigg and Fell are all Norse in origin. You can find out more about Lake District place names and their origins here.

The Victorians

Although tourism started to develop in the 19th century, many other industries were also commonplace during the reign of Queen Victoria. Although the landscape appears to be free of the trappings of industrialisation many of the raw materials that powered the industrial revolution came from the region. Ion Ore was particularly plentiful and the mines of south and west Cumbria were prolific.

Stone and slate quarrying and lead, silver and copper mining were commonplace further inland. The Greenside mine at Glenridding worked until the late 1950's and was even used for seismic tests during the cold war. Extensive remains of the mines can be seen on the path from Glenridding to Helvellyn. Coppermines Valley at Coniston was also a hive of activity, with abandoned mine workings and mine workers cottages still dotted along the hillside.

In the woods of the Lake District were a variety of industries, including charcoal burning and bobbin turning. At the southern end of Windermere is Stott Park bobbin mill, now a working museum but once the provider of millions of bobbins to the thriving Lancashire cotton industry.

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