A handful of days nestled within the charming embrace of the Duddon Valley in the Lakes, a forced separation from the digital world.
I’ve passed through Ulpha on numerous occasions in the past, en route to Eskdale and the lofty central fells. Yet, a few days in this tranquil dale have unveiled a treasure trove of interest—far too abundant to uncover in such a brief sojourn. Allow me to share a tale I intended to post on Saturday night.
Perched loftily upon a hill, surveying the valley below, stands a dilapidated ruin known as Frith Hall. It came into existence around 1608, courtesy of the Huddleston family, custodians of Millom Castle, who conceived it as a hunting lodge for their deer park in Ulpha. Later, in the wake of the forfeiture of their properties following picking the wrong side in the English Civil War, it transformed into an inn along the pack-horse trail to Millom.
This inn garnered notoriety for its clandestine trade in contraband. Customs officers would attest that the locals were abundantly supplied with contraband delights—brandy, rum, tea, tobacco, soap, and other heavily taxed goods. Historical records also hint at the inn possibly hosting ‘irregular marriages’ for eloping couples—a practice outlawed in England in 1753. In the annals of 1730, a staggering 17 such unions were documented.
In due course, Frith Hall relinquished its inn status, evolving into a farmstead. In Harriet Martineau’s ‘Guide to the English Lakes‘ of 1855, one John Coward is listed as a resident of Frith Hall, donning the titles of “auctioneer, appraiser, and farmer.“
Legend has it, a spectre haunts these hallowed grounds. Back in 1736, during the inn’s heyday, a certain William Marshall, termed a “sojourner,” met his demise and found eternal rest on these premises. Some whisper of a fatal drunken brawl, while others murmur the word “murder.” Whichever the truth, his ghost lingers, a perennial presence in this place.
Oh, the stories and fables woven by the fireside, etched into the unyielding stones of these timeworn walls.