Saturday, 2 January 2016

Caudale Moor, Kirkstone Inn, and the Atkinson Monument.

For the beginning of a walk there is perhaps no better location than the summit of Kirkstone Pass with its tremendous views on either raise to the top while you drive up this iconic pass hause from Ambleside or Patterdale. To get out of your vehicle and take in the view is to sense a firm taste of the views to come as you choose to ascend by walking either Red Screes to the northern side of this pass, or Caudale Moor on its southern flank. You will however firstly gaze upon the famous haven to former travellers this being The Kirkstone Inn, or formerly the aptly named Travellers Rest. It is the start of a walk and also a very apt end, with a beer to be drank sat outside on the benches that adorn the roadside. There is history to these old coaching houses and they have at some time been owned or managed by characters who leave their mark on the building or local landscape, entering into the folklore of the premise. William Ritson is synonymous with The Wasdale Head Hotel, Mary Robinson with the Fish Inn at Buttermere and Mark Atkinson with The Kirkstone Inn, leaving his mark, high toward the summit of Caudale Moor, in the form of a crossed cairn. 

The Kirstone Pass Inn with St. Raven's Edge behind, leading to Caudale Moor and the Atkinson Monument.
On Saturday 14 June 1930 Mark Atkinson, the landlord of The Travellers Rest, (the Kirkstone Inn), accompanied by his wife and son Ion, had been visiting Howtown before moving on to his native Penrith where he had indulged in a game of Putting on the Castle Park Recreational Ground; he was in excellent spirits having won the game. With his wife and son he purchased some newspapers and returned to the family car at the station gates. He sat in the back with his wife and passed a remark about the papers he had just purchased; Ion was then about to start the car when his father leaned back and suddenly died at his wife's side. A doctor was called but there was nothing that could be done to resuscitate him and the car was driven to the Police Station in Penrith where the body was transferred to a hearse and conveyed to The Travellers Rest at the head of Kirkstone Pass. En-route they would pass on the right, the inn at Kirkstone Foot (now The Brothers Water Inn) and Caudale Beck Farm; both of these were also owned by Mr Atkinson. He had suffered from a heart condition, which he was treated for but it had caused no great worry previously.
He was the son of a farmer who had farmed at Littlebeck, then Guard House Farm near Threlkeld until 1916 when he became the licensed Victualler at Kirkstone. He was twice married and the father of a son, Ion and two daughters. One of these daughters was Irene, known locally as the 'Maid of the Mountains' due to her intrepid horseback rides to Ambleside in all weathers.
Mark Atkinson had made a will in which he stated he wished to be cremated:

'... and my ashes enclosed in a box and buried on the top of Caudale Moor, facing the Kirkstone Inn, and a cairn of stones and a cross erected at the place of burial.'

In order for the body to be cremated it had to be transported to Manchester for the cremation. On the afternoon of Saturday 21 June 1930 a procession set out from The Kirkstone Inn and headed up Caudale Moor. This procession was to honour the wishes of Mr Atkinson, expressed in his will, with reference to the committal of his ashes which were in a copper casket, itself encased in oak. Present in this procession was his son Ion who was leading out Billy, the deceased's 28 year old pony which was loaded with the materials with which to erect the memorial. Irene was present with her husband Robert McLaren Lees, a Glasgow University Lecturer who had met her when he used to spend his vacations at the inn. The Reverend C.T. Phillips from Troutbeck attended and read the committal rites and the casket was then interred by the mourners, building a cairn over it, picked from the local rock laying around on this, Mr Atkinson's land. It was crowned with a prepared cross, as Mr Atkinson had stipulated and a  plaque of green lakeland stone was set in the cairn bearing the words:

"HIC JACET.
 MARK ATKINSON
OF
KIRKSTONE PASS INN
DIED 14TH JUNE 1930
AGED 69 YEARS"

The Atkinson Monument, Red Screes as the backdrop
It was noted at the time as being the highest grave in England, standing above the pass of Kirkstone and the Inn at a height of 2,500 feet above sea level. ('Hic Jacet' meaning 'An Epitaph'.)

Mark Atkinson Plaque
Mark Atkinson must have had some concerns for the well-being of his son Ion for he placed a section in the will further stipulating:

'It is my express wish that my son Ion shall desist from motor-cycling.'

Ion was a young man and must have enjoyed this exhilarating method of travel in such beautiful surroundings of lakeland, yet it is reported he kept to his fathers wishes. He was to shortly meet a Miss Elizabeth Renee Flithers of Windermere and after a whirlwind courtship of three weeks they were married at Troutbeck Church on Thursday 1 January 1931 and took a motoring holiday in the south of England (one presumes a car).
Ion took over the public house from his father and in February 1933 he was elected as the annual 'Hunt Mayor' of Troutbeck, nominated by the retiring Mayor, Mr Adam Blades. The duties came with none of the civic responsibilities of local government and mainly consisted of organising an annual hunt followed by a dinner and concert, which culminated in the election of the next Hunt Mayor. It had been a tradition that had an unbroken line of over 160 such functions and the honour was later bestowed on Renee Atkinson on 26 February 1937.

The Atkinson Monument

The plaque on the Atkinson Monument to Ion Atkinson
As the above photograph shows, the monument was added to with a plaque to (William) Ion Atkinson; one presumes, due to the inscription, that Ion's ashes are also laid to rest within the monument cairn.

And so this marked cairn entered onto the OS maps marked 'Monument' and is sought out by knowledgeable walkers who know of it, but not really how it came to be and what it really is. It is a family grave, the highest in England. 

Authors note:- My thanks to Maggie Allan who I have never met, but am in contact with on social media. Due to a foot operation I have been unable to visit the site to obtain specific photographs of the cairn and plaques. When requested, she gave her kind permission to use her pictures.

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