HISTORY OF SKIDDAW HOUSE
Skiddaw House first opened as a hostel in 1987. However, many different characters lived here before then, including gamekeepers, shepherd families and most recently, Pearson Dalton, who spent twelve years living alone here! It was originally built as a gamekeeper's and grouse shooting lodge, by the Earl of Egremont. Read about the interesting history of Skiddaw House and the surrounding area in John Martin's book: The Loneliest House in England.
Copies can be bought at the hostel (£10, cash or cheque only) or by emailing the author John Martin: firstname.lastname@example.org
The pre-hostel history
Skiddaw House was built around 1829 as a ‘Keeper’s lodge’ and grouse shooting base for George Wyndham, the third Earl of Egremont. The Wyndham family, whose descendants became the Lords Leconfield, owned the estate known as Skiddaw Forest and also nearby Cockermouth Castle.
The building was originally divided into two separate dwellings; one side for the gamekeeper and his family and the other for a shepherd’s family. The Earl and his shooting parties also had a few rooms to stay in when they came to visit. This joint usage continued until 1957, when the Leconfield Estate was broken up and Skiddaw House, with its associated grazing lands, were sold to a local farmer. The two resident families left, with just one shepherd staying on to work for the farmer. This shepherd, Pearson Dalton, lived alone in the house (except for his goats, cat and five dogs) for the next twelve years.
Turning the house into a hostel
The House was leased in 1986 by John Bothamley who had already created the YHA Carrock Fell Hostel a few miles away. A new staircase was built, several internal walls and three doorways were knocked through to convert the two dwellings into one.
After much effort and expense (and a chequered history of planning problems!) the building was handed over to YHA and operated as a simple hostel until 2002, when it closed and began to fall into disrepair again. But with the help of the previous hostel manager, many volunteers and the Skiddaw House Foundation (a registered charity), the hostel was renovated and reopened in 2007. It has been welcoming guests ever since, operating as an independent hostel affiliated to the YHA.
Martin and his partner Marie retired as wardens in 2015, when the current wardens Martin and Suzy took over.
From A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells: The Northern Fells by Alfred Wainwright published by Frances Lincoln Ltd, copyright © The Estate of A. Wainwright 1962 Reproduced by permission of Frances Lincoln Ltd.
The Mineral Mining History
The Caldbeck fells that surround Skiddaw House are famed for their geology and minerals.
At least 20 different types of minerals, including silver, copper, lead, zinc, barytes, tungsten and other rare minerals, were mined here from the medieval period until the 20th century. The physical remains, which are noteworthy sites of industrial archaeology, are fascinating to explore and are all within walking distance of Skiddaw House.
Click here for more information about the rich mining heritage of the area.