Withnail and Tim
3rd June 2012
it not been for the cult film Withnail
and I, Sleddale Hall would probably
have quietly slipped into oblivion.
as Uncle Monty's country cottage, Crow Crag,
it acquired cult status.
was much visited (including,
several times, by the BOOTboys)
in its increasingly derelict state under
the ownership of Manchester Corporation
Waterworks and its successors.
put up for auction in 2009, the successful
bidder failed to come up with the funds
and the house fell into the hands of the
under-bidder, Tim Ellis, a conservation architect from
has been renovating the property and is remarkably sympathetic
to Withnail fans, even setting up a section on the Withnail
and I Forum
at Sleddale Hall and inviting comments.
kindly agreed to show the BOOTboys
around the partially renovated property.
before relating the tale of our visit, let me tell you
some of the history of Sleddale Hall. If you already
know (or don't wish to know) this, you can skip directly
Brief History of Sleddale Hall
stone and slate built house and its outbuildings form
a quadrangle in the valley appropriately named Wet Sleddale
near Shap. It is thought to have been built in
the 18th century, possibly on land once owned by Shap
Abbey. Between 1740 and 1758 it was the home of
William Rawes, Yeoman of Sleddale.
1802 a report stated:
Hall is situated a few miles south westwards from Shap
in a narrow valley among the mountains. We could find
nothing to give us any information as to the quality
of land in this farm. There is a considerable
extent enclosed on each side of the vale which is at
present singularly divided in to different fields. This
we calculated to be about 250 acres, consisting partly
of woodland, partly of poorish meadow ground, and partly
of pasture, all of which, or nearly all, lies in rapid
declivities. Besides the above inclosed ground, there
may be about 2,300 acres of barren mountains, forming
altogether a tolerably good sheep farm. The meadow ground
is mostly capable of improvement by draining, &
that at a reasonable expense. This farm, every thing
considered we suppose may be worth a rent of £150.
But as observed before, our means of calculating the
value were very defective.
1829 record reads:
Hall, now a farm-house belonging to C. Wilson, Esq.,
was long the seat of the ancient family of Sleddale,
one of whom was the first Mayor of Kendal, and possessed
Gillthwaite-Rigg, and some other estates.
the 1920s, Manchester Corporation Waterworks (subsequently
subsumed into United Utilities) was seeking to build
a large reservoir to satisfy its ever expanding needs
for water. It bought land around the Shap area
and built a long access road for the construction of
the Haweswater reservoir. Sleddale Hall was acquired
by the Corporation around that time. The Wet Sleddale
reservoir, however, was built much later, in the 1960s.
Hall was still occupied in the 1940s and
in a book by Sir Clement Jones entitled:
in North Westmorland
1955 sequel to:
Tour in Westmorland
Around the time
of the First World War, Sir Clement was a diplomat
had a strong family connection with Westmorland
as his mother was a Cropper of the paper-making
family in Burneside.
father was Rector of Burneside Parish Church.
many years Jones and his wife owned Godmond
Hall which is pictured on the cover of his first
book. The tours described therein
are thought to date from shortly after WWII.
North Westmorland compendium talks about the average rainfall being
74 inches per year compared with a national
average of 44 inches.
that can be done to dampen and depress our
spirits before going there has been done.
It only remains for me to declare
that I have been twice to Wet Sleddale for
a walk and that on both occasions we had
a fine day.
goes on to observe that the gated road up the valley
is quite a good one - good enough anyhow for a large
truck belonging to Manchester Waterworks.
farmhouse (Beckside) is a perfect little gem of a Westmorland
picture with all the usual, well-loved, familiar features;
the farm at the foot of the fell; sycamores and oaks
round the buildings; alders along the river; a typical
hump-backed narrow bridge, with great boulders for its
farmer, Mr Atkinson, showed him the way across his fields
up the fell, first to Sleddale Grange, an empty farm
fast falling into ruins, and on to Sleddale Hall where
they stopped for a minute to see the Harrisons and their
two "bonny" girls who lived there. Mrs Harrison was
a daughter of Mr Atkinson.
Clement contemplated whether Sleddale Hall was the original
Hall in Anthony Trollope's
novel Sir Harry
Hotspur but concluded
that neither this nor Thornthwaite Hall, a large Tudor
house below Haweswater, was the model. He speculated
whether Trollope ever got beyond the Greyhound Inn at
Hall he described as a lonely sheep farm, high on the
fell side, containing a mixture of Rough Fells and Swaledales
E Grant as Wiithnail
McGann played "I" (Marwood) and
Richard Griffiths was Uncle Monty.
McGann as "I"
and I was filmed in 1986 by which time Sleddale
Hall had been abandoned and was in danger
of falling into ruin.
E. Grant, who played Withnail, recorded
his first impressions of the farmhouse in
his published diary:
Mini-bus together out to the location
in Wet Sleddale, supposedly the wettest
corner of the United Kingdom, through numerous
gates, up a mountainside to an abandoned
cottage on the water board estate.
Looks exactly like the script suggests.
downstairs rooms and the exterior areas,
including the small courtyard appear in
the film but the interior shots of the bedrooms
and staircase were filmed at Stockers Farm,
Griffiths as Uncle Monty
its appearance in Withnail and I, North West Water had
planned to renovate the Hall and convert it into a holiday
cottage and workshop. However, planning permission was
refused on the grounds that it would alter the character
of the valley.
1998 the Hall was placed on the market, but did not
sell. It was re-roofed in 2006.
the years the Hall was regularly visited by Withnail
fans who left their often amusing comments on the walls
(and, on one occasion when we visited, appeared to have been holding
seances) but it gradually deteriorated.
ouija board and ghosts
Halloween Dining Room 2008
February 2009, United Utilities put Sleddale Hall to
auction with a guide price of over £145,000. A
trust named The
Crow Crag Collective was
set up to try to buy the house and preserve it for
the fans of Withnail and I. They were not successful
and the house sold at auction
for £265,000. The would-be purchaser was Sebastian
Hindley, owner of the Mardale Inn in nearby Bampton
which also featured in the film.
spoke of his purchase:
part of our heritage ...I would like to transform it
back to how it was in the film. It could be a working
museum, with self-catering accommodation and maybe a
the sale fell through due to funding problems. United
Utilities then sold Sleddale Hall to the underbidder
at the auction, Tim Ellis.
had actually tried to buy Sleddale Hall several years
earlier when a fellow Withnail fan told him about it
being in a seriously dilapidated state. However,
at the time United Uitilities told him it was not for
sale. He nearly didn't attend the 2009 auction, thinking
that it would be bought by some celebratory with deep
Sleddale Hall is
now being converted into a private home, retaining
a “Withnail atmosphere”. Tim, who specialises in the
restoration of historic buildings, said at the time:
am delighted to have had a second chance to buy this
beautiful building. I first saw the film about seven
years ago and have been a fan ever since. I would like
to restore the building in a way that other fans of
the film would approve.
commenced in August 2011 and is due to be completed
around August 2012.
years to come, our grandchildren will ask "Where
were you when the Queen had her Diamond Jubilee?"
answer will be "At Uncle Monty's Cottage".
I arranged the visit, I had quite forgotten that today
was the Jubilee, though I doubt if Withnail would have
cared. Nor did it seem to worry Tim, who had come up
for a few days to work on and sleep in the Hall with
no TV in sight. Perhaps I do him a disservice
and he was, un-Withnail-like, recording the event at
home on his skybox .
being sure of the Sleddale Hall parking situation (and
to make a bit of an excursion out of the visit) we met
up by the Wet Sleddale reservoir car park.
approached the Hall from the west (i.e. wet) end of the reservoir.
I think this was our first visit to the valley in which
it failed to live up to its name, although
it was certainly threatening so to do.
had been worried that a large-ish group might prove
inconvenient for Tim but he didn't seem to mind. Given
the number of groups he has shown round (five this weekend)
he must sometimes feel more than a tour guide than a
property owner overseeing the development of his property.
word for how it is being developed is "impressively".
There is a long way to go yet but it is clear
that enormous care is being taken to be sympathetic
to its historical and cultural (if that's the right
word) heritage. We noted that the building work
is being done by a local firm of repute. Conveniently,
if things should go horribly wrong, they are also undertakers.
original entrance blocked off
new dining room
in progress in the yard
with a view
describes the room shown to the right here, the lounge,
as being the one least needing renovation.
seems not that much different to when we saw
the Ouija board therein (see above) in 2008!
that visit, we were warned not
to go upstairs as it was too dangerous.
it is perfectly safe and we could see the
high quality manner in which the building
is being developed.
Tim hopes, in time, to turn one of the outbuildings
into a cottage whilst restoring the byres to their original
inspects the Owl Hole
a thank you, we presented Tim a bottle of wine. It
wasn't quite the Finest
wine available to humanity
but it was the finest Chateauneuf du Pape available
Hall with Tim
has yet a lot of work to do before he achieves his dreams
but, from what we saw today, the end result is going
to be a remarkable synthesis of real and imaginary history
coupled with modern technology. We
look forward to a return visit once the development
is complete to see the realisation of the dream.
about Withnail and I
website summarises the film, written by Michael Brooke,
London 1969 - two 'resting' (unemployed and unemployable) actors, Withnail and Marwood, fed up with damp, cold, piles of washing-up, mad drug dealers and psychotic Irishmen, decide to leave their squalid Camden flat for an idyllic holiday in the countryside, courtesy of Withnail's Uncle Monty's country cottage. But when they get there, it rains non-stop, there's no food, and their basic survival skills turn out to be somewhat limited. Matters are not helped by the arrival of Uncle Monty, who shows an uncomfortably keen interest in Marwood.....
film contains a number of lines that have passed into
years ago I was on a business trip to a game reserve
in Zimbabwe with my boss. On being told, at breakfast,
that there were no lions to be seen, he thumped the
table and demanded of
the staff :
There should be lions.
I want lions and
I want them NOW!
minutes later they returned to say there was a lion
on Fotheringay Island that had just killed a zebra and
if we were quick we could see it dining. This summons
stuck in my mind but it was several years before I realised
that it was a reworking of the Withnail demand:
want the finest wines available to humanity.
we want them here, and we want them now!
other Withnail line that I always remember is Uncle
Monty's unusual slant on burglary. I will say
no more for read of offending those of a delicate disposition.
However you will find this and many more at IMDb.
a fuller description of the film see the Shap
more views of Sleddale Hall see Visit
celebrates the Jubilee
it seems that I owe Withnail an apology.
doubted his allegiance to the Monarchy,
I was told (and this picture independently
verifies the fact) that he was to be seen
on TV standing on Westminster Bridge talking
to camera and celebrating Her Majesty's sixty
glorious years on the throne.
surprisingly, the aging process seems to
have treated him quite kindly but I never
expected him to be part of the pageant.
just shows how time changeth man.
Wednesday 3rd June 2012
to Tim Ellis for his hospitality
John S for discovering about Sir Clement Jones
and to Wikipaedia for other historic information
3rd June 2012
climbed in feet:
Roger, Richard, Tony
routes ares put online in gpx format which
should work with most mapping software. You can follow
our route in detail by downloading BB1219.
see which Wainwright top (excluding Outlying Fells)
was visited on which BB outing
For the latest totals of the mileages and heights see: BB Log.
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