Coniston Water

From Wikishire
Jump to: navigation, search
Consiton from Monk Coniston
Coniston from Holme Fell

Coniston Water (usually simply called Coniston locally) is a lake in Lancashire, within the Lake District. It is the third largest lake in the Lake District;[1] five miles, half a mile wide, and covering an area of 1,210 acres. Coniston has a maximum depth of 184 feet and sits at 143 feet above sea level. It drains to the sea by the River Crake.

Coniston Water is an example of a ribbon lake formed by glaciation. The lake sits in a deep U-shaped glaciated valley scoured by a glacier in the surrounding volcanic and limestone rocks during the last ice age.

To the north-west of the lake rises the Old Man of Coniston, the highest point in Lancashire and the chief fell of the Coniston Fells group.


The name of Coniston appears to be the Old English cyningestun, meaning "king's estate", though the spelling with an "o" may reflect not the English but the Norse koningr (king).[2] Ekwall in The Place-Names of Lancashire, speculated that this could have been the centre of a 'small Scandinavian mountain kingdom' "[3].

The lake was formerly known as "Thurston Water", a name derived from the Old Norse personal name Thursteinn.[4] This name was used as an alternative to Coniston Water until the late 18th century.[5]


Remains of agricultural settlements from the Bronze Age have been found near the shores of Coniston Water. The Romans mined copper from the fells above the lake, and a potash kiln and two iron bloomeries show that industrial activity continued in mediæval times. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Coniston Water was an important source of fish for the monks of Furness Abbey who owned the lake and much of the surrounding land. Copper mining continued in the area until the 19th century.

The Victorian artist and philosopher John Ruskin owned Brantwood House on the eastern shore of the lake, and lived in it from 1872 until his death in 1900. Ruskin is buried in the churchyard in the village of Coniston, at the northern end of the lake.

Arthur Ransome set his children's novel Swallows and Amazons and some of its sequels on a fictional lake, but drew much of his inspiration from Coniston Water. Some of Coniston Water's islands and other local landmarks can be identified in the novel. In particular, Peel Island is the Wild Cat Island of the book including the secret harbour.

Waterspeed record

Ordnance Survey map of Coniston Water, 1925

In the 20th century Coniston Water was the scene of many attempts to break the world water speed record. On 19 August 1939 Sir Malcolm Campbell set the record at 141.74 miles an hour in Bluebird K4. Between 1956 and 1959 Sir Malcolm's son Donald Campbell set four successive records on the lake in Bluebird K7, a hydroplane.

In 1966 Donald Campbell decided that he needed to exceed 300 miles per hour in order to retain the record. On 4 January 1967 he achieved a top speed of over 320 miles per hour in Bluebird K7 on the return leg of a record-breaking attempt. He then lost control of Bluebird, which somersaulted and crashed, sinking rapidly. Campbell was killed instantly on impact. The attempt could not be counted as a record-breaking run because the second leg was not completed. The remains of Bluebird were recovered from the water in 2001 and all of Campbell's body except for his head were recovered later in the same year. Attempts to find the head so as to bury him whole have been made with no success.

The Lady in the Lake

A grim event here was the discovery in Coniston in 1997 of the body of Carol Ann Park. She had gone missing in 1976. In 2004 her husband, Gordon Park, a retired teacher from Leece, near Barrow-in-Furness, was tried and convicted for her murder, in a trial known as the "Lady in the Lake" trial after the Raymond Chandler novel of the same name.[6]


Kayaker's view of the lake

The lake is ideal for kayaking and canoeing and there are a number of good sites for launching and recovery. It is paddled as the second leg of the Three Lakes Challenge.[7] The steam yacht Gondola tours the lake in the summer months, along with two smaller motorised launches.

Boats may be hired from the lakeside near the steam yacht, with various sizes of boat for hire, from small canoes and kayaks to large personal craft.

Along with Ullswater and Derwentwater, Coniston Water has a mandatory waterspeed limit of 10 mph, though this is suspended for boats attempting new world waterspeed records during Records Week; usually the first week in November.


Outside links


("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Coniston Water)
  1. Waterscape - Coniston Water}}
  2. Ekwall, Eilert (1922). The place-names of Lancashire. Manchester: Chetham Society. 
  3. Whaley, Diana (2006). A dictionary of Lake District place-names. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society. pp. lx,423 p.80-81. ISBN 0904889726. 
  4. Derivation of the Names of Lake District Lakes and Tarns
  5. West 1784, 'A Map of the Lakes in Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire'
  6. "Vigil for Lady in the Lake killer". BBC News. January 28, 2006. 
  7. "Coniston Water". Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
Major waters of the Lake District
Cumberland: Bassenthwaite LakeBurnmoor TarnButtermereCogra MossCrummock WaterDerwent WaterDevoke WaterEnnerdale WaterLoweswaterThirlmereWast Water
Cumb. / Westm.: Ullswater
Westmorland: GrasmereHaweswaterRydal Water
Lancs. / Westm.: WindermereElter Water
Lancashire: Coniston WaterEsthwaite WaterSeathwaite TarnTarn Hows