Keswick - Lake District
Copyright Marcus Roberts (with additional material by Dr Yaakov Wise (also with special thanks to Ian Tyler for his expertise on local mining history)


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By Godfrey Gould

I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1931 in a Jewish family and lived for my infancy in Sunderland, Co. Durham. At the outbreak of War in 1939 I was eight and together with other Jewish families my mother, sister and I decamped to Haltwhistle, a small market town between Hexham and Carlisle. My mother and sister lodged with others in a house or houses and I was placed with a local family nearby for our short stay - I was teased by other boys in the house and hated it. As we were not bombed, invaded or otherwise disturbed, everybody went back to their homes after a week. My only memory was of being stung in the hand by a bee, but a few years ago I was able to go back instinctively to the very house in which I had stayed some 60 years before!

Bombing started in 1940. Londoners think that their city was unique in this respect but, of course, it was not so. Following the invasion of Norway the raids over North East England grew and remained worse, and at some stage we were evacuated to Keswick. My mother, sister and I lodged in a small semi/terrace house on the north side of the road towards Bassenthwaite. Many of the other north-east Jews took over a hotel just on the south side of the town on the short road which leads down to the lake (not along the side of the lake). We must have stayed there about six months from spring to autumn of that year and I went to the local school further to the west. I believe kosher food was delivered to the Hotel from Newcastle (?) each week and the many ladies who lived there did the cooking probably on a communal basis. You must realise that all this comes from the memory of one who was then only nine. The sun always shone; it never rained - such is the memory of one who did not then know that Keswick is just about the wettest town in England!

It was an idyllic time of my life. A pervading smell was that of burnt wood, very sweet, from the shavings of the Keswick Pencil Co. I had a bicycle and explored the nearby countryside managing to cycle a fair way up Skiddaw, well, I thought so. Although boating on the lake did not feature, the motor launches were stored on the far side of the little bay for the duration, but we boys would spend weekends playing on them causing no damage and with no interference from adults. There may have been services on Shabbat, but there seemed to be few Jewish men there, just women and children. On Saturday mornings we would go to a children's film show at a cinema/hall by the river on the road leading to the Railway Station - now I would have spent my time at the station (unfortunately closed due to the stupidity of Dr Beeching - what a wonderful preserved line it would be). Further up was the Keswick Hotel. I believe Roedean School was evacuated there, something which impressed my mother; to me it meant nothing. I remember little of school. I had my first experience of school meals - I suppose with rationing and money tight it was a good way of feeding me, but it put me off bread and butter pudding for decades until I tasted that sold by M&S. I had also collected a lot of Lake District picture postcards which I lent to a teacher, and who managed to lose them. I hope she.......!

I vaguely remember a Seder [Passover celebration] at the Hotel in the Ballroom and services which must have been on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur [Jewish New Year and Jewish Day of Atonement]. I'm pretty certain that a Rav [Rabbi] and Chazan [Cantor] came from Newcastle or Sunderland to conduct these services. However we kids took little interest in these, when just adjacent was Derwentwater and all its attractions.

After we returned to the North-East in the autumn of 1940, initially to live with my grandmother in Newcastle and later in Whitley Bay, we continued to visit the Lakeland, or nearby. A number of Jewish families had been evacuated to Appleby and Penrith. About 1943 we started to holiday in Appleby and later in Penrith. The latter introduced me to Ullswater, a lake I know better than ever I did Derwentwater. But that is for another time, perhaps?

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