Saturday, 19 July 2014

Steam Yacht Parties on Lake Windermere

During the Industrial Revolution the local gentry, rich cotton magnates and entrepreneurs loved to socialise on Lake Windermere. They held weekend steamer and tea parties, the ladies showing off their elegant dresses and parasols, while the gentlemen competed for the finest looking steam launch. These would display the very best in velvet upholstery, carpets and leather seating. Even the boat’s name and their own family crest on the crockery. There would be lace tablecloths and servants would be present to serve lunch or the picnic, perhaps on an island on the lake.


The gentlemen might indulge in a little fishing for salmon, trout or char, while the ladies gossiped and relaxed. Char was considered to be a great delicacy in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Regattas, FĂȘtes and Water festivals were an important feature of Lakeland life, a wonderful opportunity to show off a new boat, and take part in water sports, sailing and fishing competitions. Kaiser Wilhelm II visited in 1895, while staying with the Earl of Lonsdale at Lowther Castle. The streets of Bowness and Ambleside were decorated with flags and bunting to celebrate the event. Then there was the ice skating when it froze over, including the winter of 1929. Lily gets involved in many such events, although things do not always turn out quite as she expects.

The Gondola on Ullswater

Lake Windermere has been a focal point of the community since at least the time of the Romans, who could access it from their camp, Galava, at Waterhead. Medieval monks also used the lake as a source of food and transport.

Steam launches still operate on the lake to this day, where visitors can enjoy a sail and even tea out on the lake made on a Windermere kettle. To see a fine display of the most historic, the Windermere Steamboat Museum is most definitely worth a visit.

Excerpt from Lakeland Lily:

The town was humming with people in their best summer dresses. Flags and streamers were everywhere, with much splashing and squealing coming from the lake, everyone enjoying the fun. Besides the sailing races there were always plenty of games for the children: musical chairs at the water’s edge, balloon bursting, eating buns on cycles, tent pegging and apple bobbing. Lily didn’t think herself too old for such fun. Not quite yet.

For the more adventurous, there would be home-made raft races and lots of other silly water games which resulted in the contestants getting a proper soaking if they were anything like her twin brothers. Later there might be a sham sea battle with mock explosions and clouds of smoke as if in a real war. Then the winning side would storm on to the other team’s island and everyone would cheer.

Lily knew her father would take part in the fishermen’s boat race, and likely win it as he so often did. After a picnic tea, which they would take together beneath the trees, they’d loll about and recover from their adventures for a while. Then would follow the grand firework display. It was worth coming to the Water Carnival for that glory alone.

The uncertain Lakes weather had been known to spoil the day in the past, for all it took place in early summer. Lily was delighted that this particular June day was perfect, with a merry blue sky and hardly a puff of cloud, the striped Egyptian cotton sails of the small boats dazzling in the sun. When the figure of Dick emerged from a stand of trees a few yards from the water’s edge, Lily’s happiness was complete.

Sadly, her happiness did not last for long, and what followed set in action a need for revenge which held dire consequences for Lily.However, as with all my books, there is a happy ending.

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