button to main menu  Clarke's Survey of the Lakes, 1787

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Page 57:-
  floods, St John's in the Vale
This rivulet (with another hereafter to be described,) is remarkable for having been the scene of the most dreadful and destructive inundation ever remembered in this country, and of which may awful vestiges may to this hour be traced; this happened on the 22d of August 1749. All the evening of that day, horrid, tumultuous noises were heard in the air; sometimes a puff of wind would blow with great violence, then in a moment all was calm again. The inhabitants, used to bosom-winds, whirlwinds, and the howling of distant tempests among the rocks, went to bed as usual, and from the fatigues of the day were in a sound sleep when the inundation awoke them. About one in the morning the rain began to fall, and before four such a quantity fell as covered the whole face of the country below with a sheet of water many feet deep: several houses were filled with sand to the first storey, many more driven down; and among the rest Legberthwate Mill, of which not one stone was left upon another; even the heavy millstones were washed away; one was found at a considerable distance, but the other was never yet discovered. Several persons were obliged to climb to the tops of the houses, to escape instantaneous death; and there many (particularly those who were either worn out with age, or too weak to attempt remove) were obliged to remain, in a situation of the most dreadful suspense, till the waters abated. Mr Mounsey of † Wallthwaite says, that when he came down stairs in the morning, the first sight he saw was a gander belonging to one of his neighbours, and several planks and kitchen-utensils, which were floating about his lower apartments, the violence of the waters having forced open the doors on both sides of the house. The most dreadful vestiges of this inundation, or water-spout, are at a place called Lob-wath, a little above Wallthwaite: here thousands of prodigious stones are piled upon each other, to the height of eleven yards; many of these stones are upwards of 20 ton weight each, and are thrown together in such a manner as to be at once the object of curiosity and horror. Those who wish to see this place must turn in at a gate (marked in the Plan) which leads towards Wallthwaite , and is just before you arrive at the eleventh-mile post: it is necessary, however, to inform travellers, that they must proceed either on horseback or on foot to visit it, as a carriage will hardly be able to pass this road.
The quantity of water which had fallen here is truly astonishing, more particularly considering the small space it had to collect in. The distance from Lob-wath to Wolf-Cragg is not more than a mile and an half, and there could none collect much above Wolf-Cragg; nor did the whole rain extend more than eight miles in any direction, as maybe seen from the Plan No.IX. At Melfell (only three miles distant) the farmers were leading corn all night (as is customary when they fear ill weather,) and no rain fell there; yet such was the fury of the descending torrent, that the fields at Fornside exhibited nothing but devastation. Here a large tree broken in two, there one torn up by the roots, and the ground every where covered with sand and stones.
Many falsehoods are related of this inundation; as, that a large stone came rolling from the mountains and rested a little above the school-house where the master and his scholars then were; and that this stone broke the force of the water, which would otherwise have carried away both the pedagogue and his pupils, together with their college: This story tho' commonly told and believed, is a mere fiction, and no tradition of the kind is preserved in the neighbourhood.
In this narrow pass is a place called Guardhouse, where are the remains of a very strong wall; its name gives the most probable grounds for conjecture concerning its use, viz. That it has been a watch-tower, to guard this defile against the incursions of invaders. An old writing, preserved at Greystock Castle, informs us, that this was the place of safety where the family of Threlkelds of Threlkeld-Hall used to preserve their provisions; though I well know, that those turbulent and uncivilized ages (of which we have so many remains) made this precaution necessary, I cannot help thinking
* (sic) Wallthwaite is called , in a boundary-roll of Ralph de Greystock Warkthwaite: this roll was taken at a perambulation A.D. 1576.
gazetteer links
button -- "Guardhouse" -- Guardhouse
button -- "Lob Wath" -- Lobwath (?)
button -- "Mosedale Beck" -- Mosedale Beck
button -- "Wallthwaite" -- Wallthwaite
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