How Ullswater was saved

How Ullswater was saved






On Tuesday 29 August, a memorial is to be unveiled to celebrate the Ullswater Preservation society and Norman Lord Birkett QC who, in 1962, saved Ullswater from becoming a reservoir.

The memorial is the seventh addition to the Ullswater Heritage Trail – a series of sculptures and installations along the Ullswater Way commemorating key moments in the lake’s (and the valley’s) history and masterminded, fundraised for and delivered by the Friends of the Ullswater Way.


In the early 1960’s Manchester Corporation Waterworks proposed the building of a weir on the river Eamont at Pooley Bridge, effectively creating a reservoir and increasing the level of the lake by some 3ft.


There was an immediate and vociferous public outcry – local residents formed the ‘Ullswater Preservation Society’ and quickly organized a petition of over 500,000 signatures.


Following the rare initiative of a Petition to the House of Lords, the proposal was debated on 8 February 1962. Passionate speeches from all sides of the House and most notably by Lord Birkett QC resulted in the proposals being thrown out.


Richard Inglewood whose father, the first Lord Inglewood, played a leading role in the campaign, commented: – “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 died of a heart attack a few days later”


Miles MacInnes, whose late father Gurney was Treasurer of the Society added: – “This is a great David and Goliath story and one which should not be forgotten.  We are very grateful to United Utilities who have generously sponsored this impressive memorial.  We are delighted that Lord Birkett’s Grandson, Thomas Birkett is joining us in this celebration


The Memorial has been carved on local slate by well-known lettercarver Pip Hall; it has been erected on a popular view point near the Ullswater steamers pier in Pooley Bridge.



For further information or images, please contact Miles MacInnes
on 07718 523047  or at


Note for Editors.


  1. INVITE TO PRESS: The memorial is to be unveiled on Tuesday 29 August at 2.00pm. Map reference: NY 467 243.


  1. Quote from Lord Birkett’s speech:-


“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”.


  1. An inscription on the memorial -‘Si Monumentum Requiris Circumspice’ is taken from Christopher Wren’s monument in St Paul’s Cathedral and translates: – ‘If you seek his memorial – look around you’


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.


  1. 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.


  1. Lord Birkett is also commemorated in the Ullswater Yacht Club’s ‘must do’ annual Birkett Trophy and a plaque on a lakeside cliff in Hallin wood.


  1. For details of Pip Hall’s work see


  1. This memorial is the seventh in a series of installations supported by the Friends of the Ullswater Way (FOUW) which was founded in March 2016, and involves all 5 parishes around Ullswater. It has raised almost £20,000 during the last year to finance art and heritage installations on the Ullswater Way Heritage Trail.


Full details on the work of FOUW can be found on their website (

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