Time went back two hundred years for visitors to Brathay Hall.

John Harden and his wife Jessy lived there from 1804 and their progeny have since spread far and wide. Three of them visited the home of their ancestors in December. They slept well, and found no ghosts but were thrilled to find that the place was thriving. Present occupants are no longer country gentlefolk but hard-working devotees in the world of personal development mainly with young people.

Thanks to the sensitive preservation of much of the interiors it was not difficult to envisage life as it used to be in Brathay Hall, all recounted in the book JESSYS JOURNAL and in sketches currently displayed in Abbot Hall, Kendal. In these very rooms were born the children whose descendants were visiting. And here is where those elegant Balls were held. And this is where 16 year old Robert, after two days travel from Edinburgh, met his aunties and then went off to Tent Lodge, Coniston to pay his respects to mum, and an ailing dad. But he also had fun with the ladies from Miss Dowling’s Academy, whose institution had been advertised on the front page of the first edition of the Westmorland Gazette!

Descendants Priscilla and Peter had come over especially from France, visiting Brathay for the first time. Walking down to the Lake reminded them of how lovely it was to live by water… and how useful that element is to young people today who use it as an outdoor classroom, teaching endurance and co-operation. Their line of the family included many distinguished people who were interested in geology, including two Fellows of the Royal Society. Tom Allan, the dad of Robert, even had an element, ALLANITE, named after him. Let this echo with the 20th century scientific work of the Brathay Exploration Group, who surveyed, Lakes, Glaciers and much else worldwide.

Harden descendants on the steps of Brathay Hall, December 2018

Descendant Patricia, from Oxford, echoed the artistic threads that exist in Brathay. She and her mother have lived with painting and design, which chimes with our original John Harden and his sketches (and his friend and guest John Constable). And a room-full of Harden pictures is currently on show in Abbott Hall. To this we could add one Maggie Bercowicz, a well-known Kendal figure who recently died and who was one of Brathay’s first staff when Francis Scott founded the place just after the War.

The links could go on and on.

It all goes to show that when Past and Present come together, wonderful discoveries can be made.