Drawing 34: Roman Villa, Ravenglass

Direction of view: ESE

Notes: This sketch is disfigured by many modern intrusions in the form of wooden posts alongside the lane, and English Heritage interpretation signs.  These are, however, an improvement on the wooden fence which formerly blighted the scene.  The background of trees has also changed significantly since AW’s visit, those on the left having disappeared completely.

This view appears on page 190 of The Outlying Fells, and on page 178 of Wainwright in Lakeland, where, as usual, the original sketch is reproduced.  Wainwright in Lakeland  was published in 1983, to mark the 21st anniversary of the opening of Abbot Hall art gallery in Kendal, and was essentially a fund raising venture.

Mary Burkett (one time Director of Abbot Hall) told me the story of how Wainwright once cajoled her into taking him for a day’s outing to this site.  AW had told her in several conversations that he was very interested in the Romans, and knowing she had a car, he asked if it would be possible to go to Hardknott, to which she readily agreed.  Before they were due to go, a young lad from the Town Hall arrived to see her, with a note from AW, which said ‘Can we go the way the Romans went?’ – meaning over Wrynose and Hard Knott passes.  Mary Burkett was happy to oblige, and AW was very excited at the road journey to Hardknott.  They then went on to Ravenglass, and it was whilst looking round the Roman site there that Miss Burkett looked across and saw AW, a rotund and rosy-cheeked figure, smoking his pipe, and she thought it would make a good photograph, so she snapped him.  In fact, she took two pictures.  AW turned to look at her and said ‘Did you just take my photograph?’, and she said she had.  She told me that he didn’t really mind, because they liked each other and were good friends.

Comments: I first visited this Roman site on 3rd May 1992, during a weekend break in Eskdale, the objective of which was to complete the final sections of Paul Hannon’s “Furness Way”.  Peter Messenger and I drove to Ravenglass and got the photo, as well as taking some pictures of the “La’al Ratty” train which we then caught to Dalegarth.

My next visit was on 20th June 2013 with Anne Setright.  We caught the “La’al Ratty” train from Dalegarth to Ravenglass, and set out to walk back.  A beautiful morning was clouding over, but there was still some sun for our photos of this site.  After getting our photo, we walked over Muncaster Fell and through Eskdale to St Catherine’s church – though by the time we got there it was raining, so that sketch had to wait for another day (see 379).

On 24th October 2013, the Westmorland Gazette published an article by Kasper Evers on this building.  This confirms Wainwright’s comment that the building had been a bath house, and the article is illustrated with a reconstruction of a Roman bath house similar to that at Ravenglass.

Peter Messenger’s photo was taken in the late 1970s, and shows the dilapidated appearance of the site at that time.