I will now briefly tell you how Christianity came into this valley.  Probably St. Ninian first taught the people the way of God through his missionaries from Whithorn across the Solway, in the early part of the sixth century.  Then St. Kentigern, flying for his life from his pagan persecutors at Dumbarton in the north, somewhere about the year 553, heard, when he reached Carlisle, that many among the mountains had fallen from the faith and were worshipping strange gods, and coming hither by a way we can trace because of the fact that church dedications bear his name, set up a cross in the clearing of the wood or ‘thwaite,’ from which the whole district composed within the ancient parish of Crosthwaite, takes its name.  Here he stayed many days confirming the men in the faith, and so passed south to become the founder of the great missionary settlement of St. Asaph. (pp. 138-9)

Later in that sixth century, St. Brigha, sister of St. Brandon, who gave her name to Bristol city, gave her name also, as I believe, to the Vicarage Hill in this parish, which is still called Bristowe Hill; for Bristol and Bristowe are similar words.  She left behind a memory of her mission work and her sisters in the Nuns’ Well of Brigham, or the home of Brigha. (p. 139)

After her we know nothing till the next century when on the 17th March in the year 687, we know from that famous old chronicler, Bede, that a holy man of God, named Herbert, who was the friend of Cuthbert, died on the island in Derwentwater, which still bears his name, on the same day as that upon which St. Cuthbert died. (p. 139)

The parish and its church and cure of souls was given by Richard Coeur de Lion, within three months of his death, to the Abbey of St. Mary’s at Fountains, and up to the Reformation it was worked by a body of monks who dwelt at Monks Hall, where now stands the cottage hospital.  In the fourteenth century an interesting band of men called Monks of the Guild of St. Anthony, also dwelt there.  They vowed themselves to poverty and to assist all who needed their help by guiding them across the valleys and over the waths or fords, and by giving them shelter at night.  When in the year 1384, a shrine was set up on St. Herbert’s island in memory of the friendship of St. Cuthbert and St. Herbert, it became part of their duty to ferry pilgrims backwards and forwards to that shrine from St. Nicholas’s landing on the west side and from Friars’ Crag on the east side of the Lake, and their useful services in those old days is perpetuated by the name of the crag. (pp. 139-140)….

Wordsworth came to the valley to sojourn a short time in 1793.  He brought with him his sister, Dorothy the poetess.  They walked hither together afoot to stay at the old farm house of Windy Brow.  While there they rejoiced to find that they could live so cheaply.  Sixpence a day was sufficient for them, their food being chiefly porridge and potatoes.  They proved then, as all their life confessed, that simple living was conducive and compatible with high thinking.  It would be better if there was a little more of both in these days. (pp. 143-144)

In the year 1800 another remarkable man visited Keswick, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Old Jackson, the chief carrier between Whitehaven and Kendal, hearing that he would like to live here, offered him half of his house, Greta Hall, for fifty pounds a year, as it was too large for himself, and, as that was too much for the poet, said that as he was a scholar he might have it for twenty-five pounds.  This old Jackson was fond of books, knew his Shakespeare well, read history, and had a capital library well stocked with encyclopaedias and dictionaries.  Coleridge was then in his twenty-ninth year and the prime of his life and work.  He was engaged then upon his poem, ‘Christabel’; the ‘Ancient Mariner’ had been finished the year before.  The thought that Wordsworth was at Grasmere attracted him; the promise of good books at Sir Wilfrid Lawson’s decided him, and with the little philosopher, Hartley—the ‘blessed vision happy child!’ of Wordsworth’s verse—he came here with his wife, Southey’s sister-in-law, to live in 1800.  In the old Register at Crosthwaite Church you may see the entries showing that Hartley, Derwent, and their sister Sara Coleridge were christened in our old font on one and the same day in October of 1803. (pp. 144-145)

In that year another poet, Robert Southey, afterwards poet laureate, who had married Coleridge’s wife’s sister, came with his wife and another sister-in-law, Mrs. Lovell, when Southey took upon himself the care of the household.  No words of mine can express to you the growing admiration I feel for that wonderful benevolence of the literary man who for forty years daily went through his literary task to bring bread to his children and to the Coleridges and their friends. (p. 145)

Other people of note came here in those days, including Charles Lamb and his sister Mary in 1802.  In 1811 another poet came to Keswick.  I mean young Shelley, who had run away with his schoolgirl wife, Harriet Westbrooke.  He was nineteen and she only sixteen-and-a-half.  His father would have nothing to do with him.  He had been sent down from Cambridge for publishing an inflammatory tract, and he and his young wife had come to a house at Chestnut Hill belonging to Mr. Gideon Dare.  There is a pathetic story told of how when the Southeys called on Mrs. Shelley, they asked her how she enjoyed being there, and she said she liked the garden, because when they tired of the house Mr. Dare allowed them to run wild round the garden paths. (pp. 145-146)

In 1818 Keats tells us he walked here from Wythburn, and the same day went to Lodore and fell into one of the pools and got wet through up to his waist.  The next day he walked round the lake, went up to Skiddaw, came down, had his dinner and walked to Uldale. (p. 146)

I must tell you that there died on September 7th, 1856, Jonathan Otley, who was the first to discover the stratification and classification of our Cumberland rocks.  Professor Sedgwick, speaking of our rock system in 1831, said that it must never be forgotten that we owed this discovery to his indefatigable energy and industrious observation.  He was a clockmaker and swillmaker, and he it was who made the old clock in the tower at Crosthwaite. (p. 146)

For those of us who believe in a reasonable Christianity, it must not be forgotten that at this time there lived at Keswick Frederick Myers.  This man Myers was a reader and a thinker who believed that the more people who were educated the nobler they became.  He gave popular lectures on great men and also started an excellent library.  The newer German theology introduced by Maurice did much to leaven English theological thought.  Some of you may have read his ‘Catholic Thoughts.’  If much of his way of thinking is current coin of the church now, we cannot forget that he and Maurice were pioneers in Christian philosophy. (p. 147)….

Several people have been here who have described Southey, but the best personal description we have of him is that of John Ruskin, who came here as a little lad of ten and went down to the Friars’ Crag and there saw, in his opinion, one of the four finest views in Europe, a view which, together with one he had on Shap Fells, he never forgot.  The roots of the trees at Friars’ Crag particularly impressed him.  He tells us that it made a difference to him in his views of tree growth for the rest of his life. (p. 148)

But it was on a later visit, when he was twelve years old, that Ruskin went with his friends to Crosthwaite Church and saw Southey and described him thus: ‘His eyes were as black as a coal, and in turning they flashed very much as a coal does in burning.’ (p. 148)

The flash of Southey’s dark eye was remarkable, and his swift change of colour when he was roused to remonstrance has been likened by Carlyle to that of a cobra’s when it opens its hood and sets back its head to strike. (p. 148)

In 1835 another poet laureate, Tennyson, with his friend Fitzgerald, visited Keswick, and while here wrote and re-wrote parts of his poem ‘Morte D’Arthur,’ and I sometimes think that our Bassenthwaite lapping on the crag and washing in the reeds as I see it when I gaze down on the woods of Mirehouse from Skiddaw, inspired some of his lines. (pp. 148-149)

In 1850 Tennyson visited Keswick again, this time with his bride, Miss Emily Selwood, whom, as a cousin of my mother’s, I have known something of and reverenced.  Seeing a carriage one day in the town, he asked to whom it belonged, and learning that it was the Mirehouse carriage, he went up to the lady occupant and asked her about James Spedding in a gruff way and spoke about the Speddings as if he knew them.  She asked him to drive with her to Mirehouse, and it was not until they were within the gates that he told her he was Alfred Tennyson, the friend of James Spedding. (p. 149)

Another guest at Mirehouse was Tom Carlyle, who always spoke of Tom Spedding as the only man who really understood him, and who stayed at Mirehouse in 1818 and again in 1865.  On the latter occasion he came to rest there, completely worn out after completing his work on ‘Frederick the Great.’ (p. 149)

A well-known writer in Blackwood, William Smith, the author of ‘Thorndale,’ dwelt in this valley between the years 1852 and 1864, partly at Portinscale and partly in Keswick.  It is interesting to know that the house he came to, 3 Derwentwater Place, had just been built by the hands of a mason poet, Richardson, of St. John’s-in-the-Vale, who grew up to become the Robert Burns of this neighbourhood.  All who care for racy rhyme and humorous delineation of character to the life in good Cumberland dialect ought to possess themselves of his two volumes of Cumberland talk.  Too delicate in health for the hard work of a waller, he became the dominie of St. John’s-in-the-Vale School.  No man loved that valley better than he, and he lies buried within a hundred yards of the schoolroom in which he taught. (pp. 149-150)

Bothe the Vicarages at Crosthwaite and St. John’s, Keswick, have given birth to writers of considerable fame.  The well-known authoress, Mrs. Lynn-Linton, was born on Vicarage Hill, and those who read ‘Lizzie Lorton,’ ‘Christopher Kirkland,’ and her ‘Lake Country’ know how deeply she cared for this neighbourhood.  Her ashes were deposited in July, 1898, beside her father’s tomb in Crosthwaite Churchyard.  Beside his father’s tomb, in the St. John’s Churchyard, rest the remains of Frederick Myers the poet, who was born in the St. John’s Vicarage.  Too early in life he gave up the art of the poet for his passionate endeavour to pierce the veil and ascertain by physical experiments if the spirits of the departed can commune with those who still walk the earth. (pp. 150-151)

(Chapters at the English Lakes, pp. 126-151)