Drawing 237: Honister Crag
Direction of view: WNW
Notes: From the higher of the two old quarry tracks above the north side of Honister Pass. This view also appears in Lakeland Mountain Drawings (85), page 114 of Wainwright in Lakeland, and page Fleetwith Pike 3 in The Western Fells. Volume 1 of Lakeland Mountain Drawings appeared in 1980; Volume 5 in 1984. Comparing mountain drawings 85 (sketch 237) and mountain drawing 418 (sketch 236) emphasises the point made above about Wainwright’s eyesight.
Comments: I first took this picture on slide film on 31st July 1979, at the start of a traverse of the entire High Stile ridge, from Haystacks to Great Borne. A “hard walk, with an eventful descent of Rake Beck near the end”, according to my diary. The weather was overcast with a little rain. I was on my own, and working towards the completion of my first round of the Wainwright 214 fells, achieved on Selside Pike just fifteen days later.
I took the picture for the digital project on a glorious summer’s day – 17th July 2017. See 201 for an account of that day, which ended in a laborious hike back up the pass from Gatesgarth.
Wainwright writes of Honister Crag that “in this grim workshop, men battle not only with the living rock, but also against adversaries of gravity and stonefalls and cruel weather” – conditions ameliorated somewhat these days.
A vivid picture of working conditions in the mid-19th century is provided by Harriet Martineau: “The dark, stupendous, almost perpendicular Honister Crag frowns above; and as the traveller, already at a considerable height looks up at the quarrymen in the slate quarries near the summit, it almost takes his breath away to see them hanging like summer spiders quivering from the eaves of a house. These quarrymen are a hardy race, capable of feats of strength which are now rarely heard of elsewhere….. The best slate of Honister Crag is found near the top; and there, many hundred feet aloft may be seen (by good eyes) the slate built hovels of some of the quarrymen, while others ascend and descend many times between morning and night. Now the men come leaping down with their trucks at a speed which seems appalling to strangers”.
The photograph from which this sketch was drawn is in the County Archives at Kendal, reference WDAW/4/1/1/2/28. A small, square photo with vertical lines on it which don’t actually correspond to the composition of the sketch.