History of High Beckside Farmhouse

High Beckside is located in the peaceful conservation village of Hartsop. During the 1600-1700’s there was relative prosperity in the Lake District for farmers, and they were only lightly affected by the agricultural upheaval affecting the south.

Hartsop was a prosperous sheep farming village and many of the houses reflect the thriving wool trade. It was during the 1600’s (when High Beckside was built) that much of the Lake District was managed by small tenant farmers. Their farmsteads were surrounded by lowland arable fields along with space to graze cattle, and grazing rights on the higher fells for sheep. Flocks had to be regulated to prevent sheep from wandering onto someone else’s ‘heaf’. Farmers from Hartsop and neighbouring valleys would hold shepherd’s meets once a year on the high fells to exchange sheep that had strayed into another heaf. Local farm tenants would have made an income from a mixture of farming and mining. Numerous lead mines in the surrounding valleys provided ore for an Elizabethan smelter at Hogget Ghyll in Dovedale, and there was extensive quarrying for building and roofing slate on the flanks of Caudale Moor.

Hartsop in 1861, from 1st edition Ordnance Survey:

High Beckside is a grade 2 listed 17th century farm house, built to an archetypal layout which prevailed in the Lake Counties for over a century. Features such as the original fire window, spice cupboard and entrance heck are all clues to the cottage’s original layout. Other typical elements were the Fire House (where most living, cooking and eating took place), Buttery (dairy or pantry) and Downhouse (back kitchen – now the drying room). The ‘fire window’ would let in light for cooking over the hearth, with a large chimney hood resting on the fire-beam above. Storage and sleeping chambers were upstairs.

The original ‘Wool Loft’ was used for storage of wool, and sleeping accommodation for children and servants. Access to the Wool Loft is via the original outside Spinning Gallery steps. The Wool Loft gable end still has its original ‘crow steps’ – a traditional Lakeland feature giving protection to the roof in strong winds.

High Beckside has been handed down through the generations, and was gifted to our Dad, Benny, during the 1980’s. Being a traditional Lakeland builder, Benny has sensitively restored and modernised the cottage over the years.

Ann Macbeth (1875 1948)

The famous artist, Ann Macbeth rented High Beckside between the War years. Her work included book-binding, appliqué, embroidery and ceramics. She enlarged the windows at High Beckside to provide more light for her needlework. Two of her religious panels – The Good Shepherd and The Nativity – depict Patterdale in the background can be seen at Patterdale church. Ann Macbeth was a striking figure in the village, often seen wearing a long flowing cape brightly coloured skirts and long necklaces. She gifted her ceramic pieces to local people, especially for children’s christenings – one for the recipients being our Dad, Benny.

In the 1920s, she tried to ease the effects of economic depression on local farming families by advocating the production of rugs from herdwick wool. She invented a loom that could be easily constructed and taught local women how to weave rugs on it, publishing her ideas in The Country Woman’s Rug Book.