The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words, and most postcards do this well. However, great picture postcards do not simply capture an image but go one step further: they encapsulate within the confines of a small piece of card the essence of a place within a specific era. They serve as memorials to the culture and way of life depicted. For this reason, I think that old postcards, paintings, and photographs of the Lake District are fantastic vehicles for recalling – and perhaps comparing – what life and the places they depicted were like then and now.

I found a website today which I thought I would share with you. It is called Fellsphoto, and contains a number of vintage images of the Lake District. I was particularly interested in some of the photographic postcards as I have visited those specific places before; and seeing these old pictures have enriched my own experience of those areas.

Keswick is about 35-45 minutes’ drive from our guest house, Blenheim Lodge, in Bowness-on-Windermere. We go to this town often enough as our vet is located just behind the Cumberland Pencil Museum. Here is an postcard of Moot Hall.

Abraham’s Series No.417 ~ before 1907
Coaches taking on passengers in the market place at the back of the Moot Hall.
Postmarked 1907 so the photograph would be taken previously. The women’s dresses suggest 1904 or earlier. (Photo and words courtesy of

Now look at Moot Hall and Keswick town centre 100 years later.

The other side of Moot Hall, Keswick, as it is now. Notice the difference of dress. No horses here! (Photo courtesy of

The following two images depict the sad tale of a village that is no more. Wythburn and Armboth, two previously thriving settlements in the Thirlmere area, were submerged when Manchester Corporation bought two smaller lakes, Leathes Water and Wythburn Water, and constructed a dam to increase their capacity for holding more water as a reservoir – Thirlmere. The water would be piped to Manchester City for consumption. The end result of this was that Armboth was totally engulfed, whilst Wythburn only has one building left standing, the 17th century Wythburn Church.

The Victorian era. Coach stop outside Wythburn Church on the journey from Ambleside to Keswick. (Photo courtesy of

The demise of Wythburn in 1894 save its church has left the latter standing sole sentry as a reminder of days gone by.

Hartley Coleridge, the eldest son of the Lakes poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, described this little church as Wythburn’s ‘humble house of prayer’. Wordsworth described it as ‘Wythburn’s modest house of prayer’. (Information and photo courtesy of

The flooding of Armboth and Wythburn led to the creation of Thirlmere, meaning ‘the lake with a gap’, which probably refers to the narrow strip of land separating the original two lakes, Leathes Water and Wythburn Water. An old postcard posted on Fellsphoto clearly shows the dividing strip of land prior to the formation of Thirlmere as we know it today.

‘Thirlmere, then known as Leathes Water and Wythburn Water, looking north from Steel Fell, as it was before 1894, before the flood.’ (Photo and quote courtesy of

Thirlmere is now a much visited lake celebrated for its incredible reflections. It is also beloved of walkers and boating enthusiasts seduced by its scenic beauty and quiet waters.

Thirlmere reflections. (Photo reproduced courtesy of

I enjoy browsing through old postcards and photos, trying to pinpoint what has changed between then and now. Living in the Lake District has made me more aware of how fragile this lovely landscape is. It has taken millennia for the Lakes to take their present form. Unfortunately, it takes man no more than mere seconds to a few short years to defile this land, sometimes changing its face for the worse for many years to come.

Living in and visiting the Lakes involves taking on a not unreasonable responsibility to tread lightly so as to ensure its preservation for the enjoyment of future generations. The Lake District National Park has a quintessential character that visitors look for. This personality of the English Lake District, if one may call it such, can easily be destroyed by pollution, over urbanisation, and even the style of attractions and activities available to residents and visitors alike.

The English Lake District is a wonderful place to visit. Poets and writers have waxed eloquent on its charms. My hope is that by following the range of Lakeland images from yesteryear to the present, we will be inspired in our desire to help sustain the integrity of this beauteous part of the world; by which I refer to both its physical presentation as well the effects that this environment has on the subconscious and often emotive aspects of the human psyche – notably that of peace and a feeling of well-being as one ambles by the waters, through green leafy forests, or Lakeland’s many hamlets, villages and towns.

woodlands behind blenheim lodge
Enjoy a peaceful holiday in the Lakes. The Dales Way Footpath as seen from our back garden and a guest bedroom, also called ‘The Dalesway’. The National Trust fence you see separates our garden from National Park fells.

‘Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’

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