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LANGDALE: In a Time of Change

An Exhibition at the Armitt Museum and Library 

1st May – 31st October 2019.

The Armitt Museum’s exhibition for summer 2019 is an exploration of issues surrounding local identity within the heart of our most popular National Park. The valleys of Great and Little Langdale in the Lake District have seen massive social and economic change in the last few generations and are to a large degree representative of much of the central Lake District. While the views remain largely unaltered, the changes have been fundamental and the valleys at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries are very different places.

At the opening of the 20th century Langdale had a working population employed in the quarries and the gunpowder works as well as on the land. There were 25 farms in the two valleys, those farmers with smaller holdings working part-time in the quarries. At its height before the First World War Little Langdale School had an average of 46 pupils. The development of Langdale as a centre for walking and climbing in the 1930s took up some of the slack left by the closure of the gunpowder works and the fluctuations of the quarrying industry. However, by 1965 only nine school aged children remained in Little Langdale and by the close of the 20th century the majority of the houses in Langdale, with the exception of working farms, had been converted to holiday or ‘second’ homes. 

This story is largely told through photographs and the words of local people. These accounts of the everyday detail of their lives as well as the major events, have been collected by the Ambleside Oral History Group since 1972.
In Langdale these memories stretch far back to before the First World War and include May Bowness’s account of the life of her mother, Mrs Allonby. Her story, even with such a distance of time, is unsentimental. “Life was very raw in the valleys … of course poor people suffered”. 

This exhibition is about ‘sense of place’, the connection between land and community which is at the root of our sense of identity.


Driving sheep over Elterwater Common

Birkett family at The Brow c. 1890

Hay making at Lang Parrock Little Langdale c1910

Dungeon Ghyll Hotel 1936

Bowfell Easter 1938