All text and images © Friends of the Ullswater Way 2017
INSTALLATION COMING SOON
Birkett Memorial -
“So small, so lovely, so vulnerable”
Soon, in Pooley Bridge, a memorial will be unveiled to remember the Ullswater Preservation Society and Norman Lord Birkett QC who, in 1962, made a decisive contribution towards saving Ullswater from becoming a reservoir. The memorial is generously sponsored by United Utilities
In the early 1960’s Manchester was facing a serious water shortage. The existing sources, including the reservoirs of Haweswater and Thirlmere, were insufficient to cater for a growing population and increasing industrial demand.
As a result, the Corporation Waterworks put forward a number of proposals for taking increased supplies from the Lake District, including Ullswater. Plans for the lake involved building a weir on the river Eamont at Pooley Bridge, effectively creating a reservoir and increasing the level of the lake by some 3ft (0.9m).
Manchester Corporation promoted a Bill to the 1961/62 Session of Parliament which included these proposals.
There was an immediate and vociferous public outcry -
The Bill was debated in the House of Lords on 8 February 1962. Passionate speeches from all sides of the House and most notably by Lord Birkett QC resulted in the approval, by 70 votes to 36, of a motion to exclude Ullswater from the Bill.
Lord Birkett’s powerful speech, “deeply felt and eloquent”, is rightly considered one of the finest in modern Parliamentary history and undoubtedly saved the lake “for all people for all time”.
He concluded, “Thus far and no farther. Go away. Come again another day, if you will. But in the meantime, do that which ought to have been done before. Produce the hydrological data on which the House can come to a proper decision. Until that is done, you have no right whatever to invade the sanctity of a National Park".
Lord Birkett died of a heart attack a few days later.
In 1965 a revised and much reduced scheme was approved following a Public Enquiry. Water is now taken from Ullswater by tunnel to Haweswater under strictly controlled conditions which prevent abstraction when water levels fall. A huge underground pumping station at Parkfoot Holiday Park is largely unnoticed.
The Making of the Birkett Memorial
It will be erected on land owned by United Utilities near the Ullswater steamers pier in Pooley Bridge. This disused pumping station is a very popular view point.
The inscription ‘Si Monumentum Requiris Circumspice’ is taken from Christopher Wren’s monument in St Paul’s Cathedral and translates ‘If you seek his memorial -
It was chosen as being particularly appropriate by Richard, Lord Inglewood, whose father, William Vane MP (later the first Lord Inglewood) was instrumental in ensuring the success of the campaign.
by Miles MacInnes, whose father Gurney was a founding member of the Ullswater Preservation Society.
With thanks to our sponsors and supporters
Richard Inglewood and descendants of the Ullswater Preservation Society
William Norman Birkett, 1st Baron Birkett © National Portrait Gallery, London
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