Mountain history is on display

A remarkable piece of Lake District history is on display here at the Heaton Cooper archive gallery in Grasmere.

A bronze plaque listing all 20 names of the members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club who served in the First World War is the centrepiece of an exhibition. For many years it was set into the summit cairn on Great Gable, the seventh highest mountain in the Lakes.

It’s accompanied by the Fell & Rock journals from 1914-1919, photographs of the dedication ceremony on Gable in 1924, a poem “We Bought Them a Mountain”, by Max Biden, photographs and crag drawings of Gable, and Fell & Rock guidebooks illustrated by William Heaton Cooper.

The exhibition is to mark the centenary of a campaign to buy Great Gable for the nation as a memorial to the 20 climbers who died in the conflict. FRCC member Herbert Cain said publicly: “Let’s buy a fell.’’

The FRCC subsequently raised the funds to buy 3,000 acres of fell land and gave it to the National Trust. The memorial plaque was unveiled on Whit Sunday, 1924, and remained on the summit until July 2013 when members of the Royal Engineers brought it down for re-casting, and put a new one in its place.

The original has done a tour of Cumbria museums including the Eden in Penrith and the Armitt in Ambleside.

The plaque commemorates the 20 FRCC members who went to war and who were all killed in action. They included Seigfried Herford who’s known for one of the most outstanding achievements in British rock climbing, the first ascent of Central Buttress on Scafell.

William Heaton Cooper’s exquisite drawings of the Lakeland crags were used in the FRCC guides for 50 years from the 1930s onwards. The books were definitive guides for the climbing community, showing new routes as they were developed, drawn on site and working closely with the climbers at the crag face.

Julian Cooper, William’s son, and Britain’s foremost mountain painter, said: “It was a amazingly bold and generous act by the Fell & Rock Club to donate so much of the high fells to the National Trust, and such a fitting memorial to those who lost their lives”

The plaque will be on display at the gallery until May.

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