architecture, belvedere, Cumbria, eyecatcher, Folly, landscape, Tower

Hampsfell Hospice, Cartmel, Cumbria

High above Cartmel in Cumbria (formerly Lancashire) Reverend Thomas Remington of nearby Aynsome built a small stone shelter. Remington was apparently in the habit of walking on the fell each morning, setting off early so he could watch the sun rise, and above the east-facing door he placed a Greek inscription, taken from Homer’s Odyssey, which translates as ‘Rosy-fingered Dawn’. It became known as the hospice, from the archaic definition of the word: a shelter to travellers.

Postcard, c.1914, courtesy of the Dave Martin Collection. Apart from the addition of a viewfinder on the roof, it is unchanged today.

Remington (1802-1855) was appointed Perpetual Curate of Cartmel Priory in 1834, the living being in the gift of the Earl of Burlington, to whom Remington was domestic chaplain. He had however been officiating at services before this date, having inherited the Aynsome estate (Aynsome Manor is now a hotel) from his uncle in 1826, the year he was ordained.

Undated postcard with abbreviated versions of the verses which are shown in full below. Image courtesy of a private collection.

The real novelty of the Hospice is the series of black-painted boards which were inscribed with poems and instructions in white lettering. According to an early 20th century postcard (above) the first of these was once dated 1834, so if correct the tower must have been extant at that date.

According to an early postcard, this board was originally dated ‘June 1834’, but the board no longer carries a date.

The verse was later joined by an appreciative ‘answer’, thanking Remington for his kindness in providing shelter on the open fell.

The anonymous response to Remington’s welcome.
The chain fence prevented the cattle which grazed on the fell from entering the shelter.

The first known description of the hospice is in 1848, when it was described in the Kendal Mercury. On the ground floor was a simple room with stone seats and a primitive fireplace, which the paper called a space for ‘the tea kettle and its worshippers’. This remains in use today.

Walkers can still light a fire and make a welcome cup of tea.

Steps lead up the outside of the building to a rooftop viewing platform with extensive views across Morecambe Bay and inland to the lakeland hills. The author of ‘The Answer’ had pointed out in 1846 that the exterior steps were a hazard, as initially they had no handrail. The Folly Flâneuse is happy to report that one was soon added to the steps, for the ascent would indeed have been precarious without it.

Early 20th century postcard, courtesy of a private collection. The precarious exterior steps had by then (by popular demand) been given a handrail
The view across Morecambe Bay.

A later generation added a viewfinder to the rooftop, and a board highlighting the landmarks that pepper the vast panorama: natural features can be seen as well as later additions to the landscape including Blackpool Tower and Heysham Power Station.

Sadly the polite request at the end of the welcoming verse failed to stop graffiti, and an ingenious innovation was introduced into the shelter. A board headed ‘Visitors’ Names’ joined the others, and those tempted to incise their names into the structure were instead encouraged to record their details on the panel: a rather novel solution to the age-old problem. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to have done the trick, and Remington’s descendants later added another stern message to discourage ‘wanton mischief’:

Whilst a welcome sight for many walkers, not everyone was impressed. In 1864 a letter to the local paper complained that the shelter was untidy and suggested that a ‘female’ be ‘sent up two or three times in the summer season’ to sweep away the spiderwebs and dirt. Continuing the tradition of referring to the hospice in verse, the fastidious writer declared that:

… seats with loads of dust oppress’d,
Forbid the weary here to rest.

The tower sits on a rather lovely limestone pavement. The viewfinder can be seen on the rooftop platform.

Hampsfell remains a popular destination for walkers, and the grade II listed hospice continues as both belvedere and shelter, although some of the signs are now modern replicas and the graffiti-thwarting board is long gone. It’s a steady climb to the summit, but worth the effort to reach the top. Alfred Wainwright, in his The Outlying Fells of Lakeland, described the spot as ‘a hill small and unpretentious yet endowed with an air of freedom and space’. There are walks to the hospice from Cartmel and from Grange over Sands.

Your thoughts are always welcome. If you would like to comment or share any information please scroll down to the bottom of the page. Thank you for reading. 

 

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5 thoughts on “Hampsfell Hospice, Cartmel, Cumbria”

  1. Ivan Burrows says:

    I visited this lovely little place while taking a quiet holiday in Grange. With my strong binoculars The sights from here were truly fantastic. The building was clean and a fire laid. anyone could have taken shelter here and just needed a match to get a fire going.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Ivan. We had a slightly hazy day when we revisited but I could still see Blackpool Tower. The shelter was pristine, just as it was when you were there. It’s a wonderful spot.

      1. Ivan Burrows says:

        I love that area and Ilike Grange as it’s always clean and devoid of idiots. A very nice place to stay a while.

  2. John Davies says:

    I was only introduced to this building, and Hampsfell, about three years ago, but have visited it several times since (usually followed by lunch in Cartmel!). Lovely to know something about the building, the Greek inscription had puzzled me. There is another lonely tower lower down the fell just to the west of the Hospice…..

    1. Editor says:

      Hello John, I thought you might know this folly. Who needs an excuse to go to Cartmel? Not me! We also explored the Priory on our last visit (Remington oversaw the restoration), which we hadn’t done for many years. I know the little tower, probably also by Remington, but it keeps its secrets well.

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