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back to Book Reviews

The Story of the Newlands Valley
by Susan Grant
ISBN:1904147178. Published by Bookcase

Story of the Newlands ValleyIn 1992, Susan Grant, Society member no. 1434, began to research the family of her favourite ancestor, her great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Dover. Little did she suspect that, twelve years later, it would lead to her writing a book about the Newlands Valley, near Keswick.

Wainwright wrote the following in his Personal notes in conclusion at the end of Book 6, The North Western Fells: ‘Newlands is a privileged valley, not only extraordinarily pleasant in itself but ringed by grand fells; for a quiet walking holiday there is no better centre.’

In this book, Susan Grant gives the reader a comprehensive insight into the valley’s families, and the industries and daily life there from its early occupancy by the Vikings of the 9th century through to modern times. The book contains 14 chapters on topics such as ‘Life on the Farm’, ‘Travellers and Festivities’, the miners of the 16th century, Newlands Chapel etc.

The book is illustrated with a number of black and white photographs of properties, paintings and landscapes, and some interesting legal documents. These provide a good visual accompaniment to the text. Details of the visit of Mrs Heelis (Beatrix Potter) to the area are included, along with her association with Lucy Carr, the young daughter of the Newland Vicar, Benjamin Lund Carr, who features in The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle.

I found the tales of the hard-working people of the valley – the farmers, miners and innkeepers – most interesting, particularly the way they managed to survive in the harshest of conditions in this delightful, yet often inhospitable landscape during the 18th and 19th centuries. The north-western fells are one of my favourite parts of the Lake District and, having now read this book, I realise how much more aware I am of what lies behind this beautiful area.

One of Susan’s ancestors, Henry Dover, was one of the jurymen at a trial in 1474 mentioned in Chapter 2 of the book. Susan has therefore had roots in the valley for over five centuries and I feel nobody is more qualified to write about Newlands than she is. Although the book is now out of print, Susan has a number of copies from the second reprint and she can be contacted via email at [email protected] if any member wishes to purchase a copy. It is a book that anyone who loves this part of the Lake District should have in their collection.

John Burland - Member No. 2