Coniston is a small town which lies between the lake with the same name and the 2,634 feet mountain known as the ‘Old Man of Coniston’. It’s a Victorian town which developed in the 19th century because of the copper mines nearby, and is now a mecca for walkers, climbers and sailing enthusiasts.
The copper mines date back to the 1500s. German miners carried out the early mining activities, using hand tools. In the 1750’s the Macclesfield Copper Company developed the earlier German workings, and by the mid-19th century the mines reached their peak period. However, the increasing depth of the mine workings meant the cost of maintenance and pumping became uneconomical. Imports of cheap copper from abroad hastened the end of the industry at Coniston. Some remains of the surface features can still be seen in the area.
I can still remember the shock when we saw this film on our news programmes. Bluebird wasn’t recovered until 2001, and the remains of Campbell’s body were buried in the churchyard of Coniston Church.
In contrast, I have a lot of happy memories of Coniston – sitting by the lake and enjoying enormous ice-creams (many times!). There was one unforgettable time when we hired a motorboat which broke down part way down the lake. We thought we were going to drift endlessly (a bit like the ‘Flying Dutchman’?) but eventually my friend’s husband managed to get the engine started again! We also had several trips on the Coniston Gondola, a steam yacht which was first launched in 1859, retired from service in 1936, but then restored in the 70’s.