|Brothers Water from High Hartsop Dodd ascent|
‘..... the boughs of the bare old trees, the simplicity of the mountains, and the exquisite beauty of the path ..... the gentle flowing of the stream, the glittering, lively lake, green fields without a living creature to be seen on them.’
Most walkers have heard the story, or folklore, of the lakes name being changed to Brothers Water following the death of two brothers in its waters; that said, most have also heard folklore tales of coffins on galloping horses at Burnmoor Tarn and heart shaped woods on the Howgills being rather 'Romeo and Juliet' in its tragedy of feuding families causing rifts and lovers in suicide pacts; none of which could be evidenced, however, they are marvellous tales. This change from the previous Broad Water name to Brothers Water is fact which can easily be seen from viewing old maps and prints. Maps of 1600's refer to it as 'Broader Water', from 1700's as 'Broad Water' which persisted to the end of that century. In 1800's however the name change is recorded in maps and on old prints of the time.
The reason for this change has stubbornly persisted and on any balance of true or untrue, it has to be said that it is not as far fetched as other 'folklore' tales, seeming to have a ring of truth, the problem always was to show the evidence of this, or was it just that - Folklore?
I have recently been able to do some work on this and the tale; I was aware of the reference in 1855 by Harriet Martineau in her: 'A Complete Guide to the English Lakes', she references:
'Brothers' Water derives its name from the accident - which is said to have happened twice,- of brothers being lost in it, in the attempt of one to save the other. On one of the two occasions, the accident happened through the breaking of the ice, when the brothers were making a venturesome short cut across it to church.'
Here we now have a reference albeit confusing, to perhaps two sets of brothers, but there is no other reference that I can find that repeats this.
It was time to try and put this one to bed as the expression states. Three things needed to be established:
- Did this occur?
- If so, who were the brothers?
- If so, when?
|The view of Brothers Water from Angletarn Pikes, looking to Red Screes beyond with Caudale Moor to the left and Kirkstone Pass between the two fells.|
'Brothers Water figures on the map as Broad Water'.
Maps take time though to be re-drawn and new names inserted. The same article refers to a manuscript diary of 1789 as:
'We soon passed a small lake, a feeder of Ullswater, called the Brothers, from two brothers having been drowned in it.'
The 1819 writer made no other reference so the compiling writer of the 1890's article fell strongly on the side of the manuscript writer of 1789. This now locates the incident in time-scale as previous to 1789, yet the Brothers were not named.
By viewing a further article from the 1850's it again referred to the story specifically naming the brothers as 'Atkinson' and having died as a result of falling through the ice in a frost, though here there was no reference to a specific, or any date.
There was now firm evidence of the incident (though more would be helpful), the way it occurred and the surname of the two brothers who died.
In order to confirm this and research the date I set out to view microfilm of the registers of Patterdale Church, not surprisingly called St. Patrick's. By scouring back through the registers it was eventually shown that on (Thursday) 5th January 1786 John and George Atkinson were buried having been involved in a tragedy where both drowned and they resided at Low Hartsop, which is just over the road from Brothers (or the then Broad) Water. Being a burial register and not an inquest report(none now appearing to exist) it does not say where, how, or specifically when they died. One would expect that the bodies would be quickly recovered, especially if it was known where they had went to, or if someone witnessed them fall through the ice; any funeral one would speculate to occur within a week. This seems to suggest that the date of their deaths would be in the last week of 1785.
By going further back in the registers there was a John Atkinson baptised on 4th November 1758 at St Patrick's Church, Patterdale, with George baptised on 31st March 1766. The father of the brothers is listed as Thomas Atkinson and there was at least one other child, Mary, also shown in the records. This puts the brothers at 27 and 19 years of age, two young adults. I found no other reference to another set of brothers dying earlier, though there are other drownings recorded so am satisfied that the referral by Harriet Martineau to two separate incidents is incorrect.
An uncorroborated account gives a reason for the brothers deaths; it states that they were taking a short-cut to church across the ice on the lake. This is very doubtful as the lake appears to take a longer detour from Low Hartsop, and even if they were going to church (which may indicate they died on Sunday 1st January 1786) they lived on the Kirkstone Pass side of the lake and there is still no reason to walk across it as good access is easily obtained from each side without need of a short-cut; it is also past the lake. There is no residence in the area that I could regard as better to take a short cut over a frozen lake than a journey either side of it; it is simply an impractical short-cut. On as balance of probabilities I would say they were there purely for a recreational purpose, perhaps skating?
|The view across Brothers Water from the Cow Bridge to Hartsop Hall path.|
The three questions posed earlier are now answered, to the best of anyone's ability some 230 years later. No monument exists as a form of remembrance, there is no cross to view as at Fleetwith Pike with Fanny Mercer, or plaque such as the Gough memorial on Helvellyn, yet they are honoured still, in the landscape name of 'Brothers Water'; which is very fitting to their memory.