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Young People


Colourful Characters of Cumbria's Eden Valley


About this book:

  • ISBN: 978 1 910237 08 3

  • Published April 2015

  • Price £10.00 + postage

  • 112 pages

  • Illustrated with 47 colour and black & white photographs and maps


About this book:
A REBELLIOUS DUKE and a merciless earl share these pages with a wily Georgian politician and a rakish country squire. Four Virginian Washingtons were pupils at an Eden Valley school, long before two young locals took on the early American West and another hit the US headlines as ‘Mr Los Angeles’.
One son of the land became a chaplain to the Northumberland aristocracy and another a Manx tycoon, while a Penrith butcher’s son shared the blame for a ‘Titanic’ sea disaster and a Clifton railwayman’s son became an Australian professor.
All these larger than life characters and more have their place in this new and unique collection of the Eden Valley’s most extraordinary sons.

About the Author:

JOHN SHARPE studied Classics at Durham University and followed National Service in the Army with a working life in the police. A native of Cumbria, he has lived in the county’s Eden Valley since the 1960s. His speciality as a biographer is the unsung hero – or villain. The Eden Valley is a rich mine of worthy material.

Books by John Sharpe: John Metcalfe Carleton: Georgian Rake of the Eden Valley and The Workman Brothers: English Pioneers of the American West (shortlisted for the 2014 Lake District Book of the Year Award)


Westmorland and the Wild West: how the Workman brothers of Clifton pioneered the American West
Countries that grew out of Britain's expanding empire are littered with British place names, testament to adventurous and often desperate people who saw their best or only opportunities abroad. The USA is no exception – with names such as Cumberland, Windermere, Ambleside and Carlisle firmly on the landscape.
Less well known are the 'stories' behind pioneers who put these places on the map. In the case of the Workman brothers from Clifton, near Penrith, their contribution to the expansion of the USA cannot be overstated. There, they stand should to shoulder with legends such as Kit Carson and were key to the growth of Los Angeles. They owned Alcatras and founded a legal dynasty that continues to the present day…
To find out about this adventurous family from their home at Brownhow farm turn to two books by local historian and author John Sharpe. 'Colourful Characters of Cumbria's Eden Valley' devotes a chapter to the exploits of William and David Workman... This book grew out of John's research and own adventures following the trail of the Workman brothers, recorded in his earlier book 'The Workman Brothers: English Pioneers of the American West' which was shortlisted for the 2014 Lake District Book of the Year Award.
David Workman was just 21 in 1818 when he headed for the United States, with £100 cash, to set up as a saddler in frontier Missouri. He returned to Clifton for more funds and to recruit his younger brother, William. Back in Missouri they took on an apprentice, Kit Carson, who later would become a frontiersman and scout, gave his name to Carson City, and became a Brigadier General in the US Army. In 1825 William braved the 1,000 mile Santa Fe Trail into northern Mexico, not then annexed to become New Mexico, and lived a life straddled both sides of the law amongst America's original Wild West pioneers... Penrith Today, February 2016

Delightful Book
By a mighty stroke of luck and good timing John Sharpe's latest book arrived at the conclusion of the Cumbria Family History Society spring conference in April, and sold like hot cakes to a highly appreciated audience who had just listened attentively to his rendition of the life of James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lowther who, incidentally, is featured as one of the colourful characters in the book. A rebellious Duke and a merciless Earl share the pages with a wily Georgian politician and a rakish country squire. Four Virginian Washingtons were pupils at an Eden school long before two young locals … took the central stage in the drive west to the City of Angels.
'It takes one to know one' can adequately describe John who, as a retired Police Officer, could be relied upon to instantly recognise a villain or two, not suggesting for one moment that the term villain is attributable to John but he certainly cuts to the chase in many of these tales! This is as delightful a book … and I've had the pleasure of reading for a long time. Ian White, Cumbria Family History Society, August 2015.

Larger than Life Eden Valley characters
John Sharpe's portrayals of larger than life Eden Valley characters first appeared in the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald and he presents his diligent research with a light touch.
As Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Lancaster, Michael A A Mullett points out in his preface, John – a former policeman – loves a villain and includes James 'Wicked Jimmy' Lowther, first Earl of Lonsdale; 'England's greatest rake' Philip, Duke of Wharton, and prankster Sir Francis Delaval.
Among the other characters are David and William Workman, who became pioneers of the American West; novelist Anthony Trollope who had close family living in Penrith; and station master's son, William John Woodhouse who was appointed Professor of Greek at Sydney University. Cumbria Life, June 2015.

Portraits of Eden men of influence
James Lowther, thanks to a sequence of fortunate deaths, became "the richest commoner in England" before he came of age in 1756. Egged on by an ambitious widowed mother, he was determined to make the most of his wealth and position and, thereby, he earned himself the title of 'Wicked Jimmy.'
He was a member of Parliament in 1757 and came to control nine seats in the House. The members at his command were known as 'Lowther's ninepins'. In 1761 he married Lady Mary Stuart, the daughter of the wealthy Earl of Bute. As John Sharpe comments: "Their match was hardly made in heaven, but it was good for his social status, without curtailing his amorous adventures."
In 1786, he manipulated the 'mushroom election' in Carlisle. Seven hundred freemen were entitled to vote. Lowther made 1,400 miners from Whitehaven and others honorary freemen, his 'mushroom voters', and had his man elected to Parliament.
He also had a capacity for 'merciless parsimony'. He avoided paying compensation for a mining accident, by closing his mines down. He refused to pay the £5,000 owed to William Wordsworth's father at his death in 1783, and he never paid the unfortunate Daniel Bloom who managed his carpet factory with its foundling employees for 30 years.
Lowther is just one of John Sharpe's 14 men of eminence – he tells of no women – who have graced the Eden Valley over the centuries.
Just like Wicked Jimmy, Philip Wharton was a pampered young aristocrat who came into his fortune at an early age. John has a concise way with dramatic anecdotes: 'Entering parliament on his 21st birthday, Duke Philip soon exercised his considerable talents as an orator with so vitriolic an attack on the Stanhope government's integrity that Lord Stanhope had an apoplectic fit and died the next day.'
He was president of the blasphemous Hell Fire Club, was dissolute, dissipated and debt-ridden. He squandered his fortune and Robert Lowther bought his Westmorland Estates. He became a Catholic, a Jacobite, and a traitor and wandered around Europe in 'a state of drunkenness and beggary, pursued by a clamouring mob of creditors.' As some redemption, he died in a Spanish monastery at the age of 32.
Others of John's heroes have been more respectable and respected. William John Woodhoue was born on Clifton Railway Station in 1866. His father was a railway man and 34 years later Woodhouse was Professor of Greek at the University of Sydney in Australia.
Joseph Scott, the son of a newspaper printer, was born in Penrith, six months after Woodhouse. He became 'Mr Los Angeles', a campaigning advocate and a leading citizen in the rapidly developing city. Today, it is his statue which stands next to that of Abraham Lincoln, in front of the Los Angeles Courtroom.
David and William Workman from Clifton had also played important roles in the founding of Los Angeles a century earlier.
A less attractive character was John Mecalfe Carleton of Helbeck Hall, near Brough – "a con-man, irresponsible social-climber and archetypal Georgian rake".
More admirable was the Rev. William Warkman, from Clifton, who, together with his son, Henry, served the parish of Earsdon and the Delaval family for over 90 years.
Another son of Clifton was Henry Bloom Noble. He became the most successful Manx businessman of his day and left a fortune to educational and medical causes on the island.
The criminal and the virtuous, the worthy and the vicious, colourful men who all hailed from the Eden Valley, are to be found in this entertaining collection of pen portraits. Steve Matthews, Cumberland News, May 2015

A Fascinating Read
These portraits have appeared in one form or another as articles in the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald and may be familiar to some readers. The book is founded on the notion that we do not always know as much as we might about our area's most important asset – its people. It does not pretend to be an historical treatise or work of reference but rather a jounralistic compilation of portrayals of some extraordinary characters associated with Cumbria's Eden Valley.
Accompanied by some excellent photographs these true accounts will entertain and possibly scandalise you in turn. A fascinating read. Keswick Reminder, May 2015

Fascinating Stuff
John Sharpe is well-known in local history circles for his lively talks. This book is a chance for the wider public to enjoy the fruits of his researches. What particularly fascinates is the number of 'colourful characters' with Westmorland connections who had influence far beyond these shores, including:
* the brothers David and William Workman emigrated to America where they become 'amazingly adventurous' trades and pioneers in the Wild West;
* Henry Bloom Noble who 'had a major impact on the life of the Isle of man';
* William John Woodhouse, the railwayman's son who became a professor of Greek in Australia;
* Joseph Scott, who was an influential figure in the development of Los Angeles from 'a sleepy pueblo' to the third largest city in the USA;
* George Washington, the first American president, whose ancestry can be traced back to Burneside Hall.
Back in Westmorland, Mr Sharpe tells the stories of such characters as the notorious James Lowther, first Earl of Lonsdale; and John Metcalfe Carleton, described as the 'old Etonian rake of the Eden Valley.'
Allan Tunningley, Westmorland Gazette, April 2015

Eden's Colourful Characters Revealed
The life and achievements of some of the Eden Valley's most colourful characters are explored in a new book by author John Sharpe. 'Colourful Characters of Cumbria's Eden Valley', Mr Sharpe's latest book, contains a series of portraits, some dating back as far as the 17th century.
The people he chooses to describe have two things in common – first that their lives at some point connected with the Eden Valley, and second that they, or their connection to the area, are not widely known about.
The latter is surprising in that some of the characters in Mr. Sharpe's book rose to real prominence in their lifetime.
Included in the book are Joseph Scott, who roe to enormous prominence after emigrating and making his fortune in California, and was eventually known as 'Mr Los Angeles.' Scott's statue still stands in the city where he made his name.
Scott died in 1958, but going back tot he 18-19th centuries another pair of Eden Valley men, brothers David and William Workman, became pioneers of the American West and lived fantastically adventurous lives in the the frontier.
Closer to home, Mr. Sharpe writes of Philip Duke of Wharton in Westmorland, who was a pampered young aristocrat who squandered a vast fortune in the early 1700s, and James Barker Bland, a 'footloose farmer with intellectual interests.'
Another of Eden's 'greats' is William John Woodhouse (1866-1937), a railwayman's son who became a professor of Greek in Australia.
A total of fourteen articles make up this fascinating and richly-researched book. In his preface, Michael Mullett, Emeritus Professor of history at Lancaster University, notes Mr. Sharpe's 'lively, reader-friendly style' with political and economic background carefully filled in. Former policeman Mr. Sharpe has published many articles on Cumbrian history. Cumberland & Westmorland Herald, April 2015


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