Miscellany 2 - Longsleddale in Fiction
button Postman Pat   button The Wizard of Longsleddale   button Robert Elsmere

postvan in Longsleddale

Postman Pat

Postman Pat (Pat Clifton) was created by John Cunliffe and first appeared in 1981 as a television series for pre-school children, with animation by Ivor Wood. The stories are set in the fictional village of Greendale which was inspired by the real valley of Longsleddale. The post office was based on the one now closed on Greendale, Beast Banks, Kendal, near to the author's house; one story names it as Garner Bridge Post Office. Books were published from 1981 onwards and a second TV series was made in 2004. There are now dozens of stories, toys and other items based on Postman Pat.

Postman Pat's first vehicle was a red small box type van, registration PAT 1, but in later episodes he can be seen driving a postbus registration PAT 2. He is always accompanied on his rounds by Jess, his black and white cat; they are inseparable. The series continues to be popular, with its catchy theme song, the cast of distinctive characters, the exitement of the postal delivery for young children, and the imaginative stories. Each one tells of a small adventure or problem very close to a young child's experience, which gets resolved.

Unlike Greendale, Longsleddale has no village centre with shops and other services, but it has a narrow winding road with stone walls, scattered farms with plenty of sheep, mountains and weather. This is also a community where everyone knows each other, and what is going on, and can be relied on to help out. The post van is a familiar site here, with a friendly postman, and like Postman Pat, he always gets the mail delivered whatever the weather! Alas there is no cat onboard.

More information can be found online:-
from the BBC
from Wikipedia.

thanks to Rose Bowerbank, Kendal Library
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   The Wizard of Longsleddale

Doctor Lickbarrow lived at Murthwaite in the 17th century and was probably the local healer and diviner. There is a tale that he dabbled in black magic and he has become the ‘Wizard of Longsleddale’.

Once when away at church there was a violent storm, tree branches broken, slates lifted, in which the doctor thought he spotted the work of the devil. Hurrying back home he found an apprentice working with the ‘Book of Magic’, open at the pages on ‘How to raise the Devil’. Ordering the young man out, the doctor struggled to close the book and lock away Old Nick.

When he was dying he was told of two pigeons squabbling on the roof of Murthwaite. Told that the black pigeon had defeated the white, the doctor replied that it was all over for him too; soon after he died.

thanks to Geoff Waine of Murthwaite
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Robert Elsmere

Robert Elsmere was written by Mrs Humphrey Ward and first published in 1888 (London: Smith, Elder, & Co). The novel describes the life of Robert and his wife Catherine as they wrestle with personal, moral and social questions closely related to Church reform. It was a best seller at the time and new editions were published up to the 1980's, but it is not an easy read!

Most of the story is set elsewhere but the early chapters describe Longsleddale, called Long Whindale:-

‘The narrow road, which was the only link between the farmhouses sheltered by the crags at the head of the valley and those far-away regions of town and civilisation suggested by the smoke wreaths of Whinborough on the southern horizon, was lined with masses of the white heckberry or bird-cherry.’
‘as the walker penetrates farther ... the hills grow steeper, the breadth between them contracts ..’
‘...the great masses of frowning crag which close in the head of the valley ... give it dignity and a wild beauty.’

Whinborough can be identified as Kendal, Shanmore as Kentmere, Marrisdale as Bannisdale, and High Fell as Harter Fell. Catherine's family name was Leyburn, long associated with Longsleddale. She lived at Burwood Farm; despite imaginary extensions and a change of location, it is recognisable as Low Sadgill:-

photo of Low Sadgill in 1910
Low Sadgill in 1910
‘On one of these solitary houses the afternoon sun, about to descend before very long behind the hills dividing Long Whindale from Shanmoor, was still lingering ... bringing out the whitewashed porch and the broad bands of white edging the windows into relief against the gray stone of the main fabric, the gray roof overhanging it, and the group of sycamores and Scotch firs which protected it from the cold east and north.’

Mrs Ward has little time for the proprietor-farmers in Long Whindale, ‘brutal, swearing, whisky-drinking stock’, but concentrates on the life of the gentlefolk, which included the well-educated Leyburns. They had returned to the valley and bought the farmhouse from their grandfather, a farmer who ‘drank away an acre a year’.

She describes building which actually took place in the late 19th century, but includes fictional features:-

‘... a freshly built church ... peaked and gabled, with a spire and two bells, and a painted east window, and Heaven knows what novelties besides. The primitive whitewashed structure it replaced ... had become a quick and hurrying ruin ... the rotten timbers of the roof came dropping on the farmers’ heads ... and the wind raged through innumerable mortarless chinks’

Also in the novel is the legend of the ghost of a drowned girl, ‘t' bogle o' Bleacliff Tarn’, who spoke to Mary Backhouse as she returned home over Stile End Pass at Midsummer, distraught by the rejection of her Kentmere lover. By the next year she was weak and delirious:-
‘She thowt she heerd soombody fleytin' and calling' - it was t' wind came skirlin' round t' place’
She died that Midsummer night as the legend had predicted.

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