• Image of a painting of Saint Herbert, an Irish monk who came to live on an island on Derwentwater

    An Irish monk who brought faith to the valley

    Borrowdale has a rich history of Christianity dating from the 7th Century.


    It all began when St Herbert, a monk from Ireland, came to live on an island on Derwentwater that now bears his name. He lived a simple and ascetic life, dedicating himself to prayer and contemplation.


    He also spent time preaching to the local people and converting them to Christianity.

  • Medieval times

    broken image

    Monastic farming

    In medieval times, the whole area was under monastic influence. The great Cistercian abbeys of Furness and Fountains owned land in the valley, and they played a significant role in shaping the landscape and lives of the people there.


    The land was drained and cultivated for sheep pasture, as wool was a primary product of the abbeys. The monks also grew barley, oats and rye, and stored their grain in a 'grangia' thus giving the village of Grange its name.


    Furness Abbey controlled the land in Borrowdale (from Sty Head to Derwentwater) while Langstrath, Stonethwaite and Watendlath were managed by Fountains Abbey.

  • The monks' work

    The monks caught fish from the lake, produced salt from the saline waters at Manesty and mined for minerals on the surrounding fells. Fountains Abbey also ran a successful dairy farm (or vaccary) at Stonethwaite and smelted iron on Smithymire Island. However, all that changed in the 1530s when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and the land reverted to the Crown. The monastic influence in Borrowdale came to an end, but the legacy of Christianity lived on through the local churches.