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Off the beaten track in Keswick

According to Tripadvisor, The Derwent Pencil museum, the Lakes Distillery, Alpacalay Ever After are some of the top attractions in Keswick. St Kentigern's Church, Crosthwaite barely merits a mention, not even making it into top 50. This is a great shame, as the church – normally called just Crosthwaite Church, Keswick is well worth a visit, particularly its churchyard.

Situated on the edge of Keswick, on the road that takes you to Portinscale, the church has the most stunning views of the fells from the churchyard.

And here you can find the graves of a number of notable Keswick residents. Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley was vicar at this church for 34 years. But it is his campaigning to preserve the beauty of the Lake District that is now remembered more than his sermons. He led the protests to stop a railway being built through the Newlands valley to carry slate from the mines but is chiefly known today as co-founder of the National Trust.

There are a number of war graves, which - though in the distinctive plain shape that you see in all Commonwealth War cemeteries - are made not in the usual pale Portland stone, but in local green slate. An earlier war grave is that of Percy Ogden who died in 1917 and whose epitaph "per ardua ad astra" singles him out as a First World War pilot and early member of the Royal Flying Corps (which became the RAF).

Of great interest to us, is the headstone commemorating Samuel Ditchfield, who died in 1925, and his widow Kate, who died in 1954 – she was the woman who built Endymion House in 1938. Satisfyingly, the lettering on the headstone is wonderfully modern, and slightly out of place, just like Endymion House itself.

The most important grave, however, is that of Sir Robert Southey, the poet, who died in 1843. He is rarely remembered now (as the rather neglected state of his grave attests) and certainly not taught in schools, but during his lifetime he was considered just as important a figure as his fellow Lake Poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. He was Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813, and lived most of his adult life in the Lakes. He and his family lived in Greta Hall, in Keswick itself – it is now a B&B.

Curiously, sharing Southey’s grave is his long-standing and much loved servant, Elizabeth Thompson. How many people would want to be buried with their

boss nowadays? 21 March 2023 is the 180th anniversary of Southey’s death. If you’re up in the Lakes this year his grave is worth a visit. If you go inside the church you can see a memorial to him, with the epitaph written by his friend, William Wordsworth.


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