cockermouth logo
Mr. William Lancaster Alexander - One Man's Life in the Vale of Lorton

'One Man's Life in the Vale of Lorton'

The following article is by Mick and Jean Jane.

In May 1997 whilst looking around the fields near the Stanger Spa we came across an animal drinking trough in the middle of the field. The writing on it reads :-

THIS WATERING PLACE WAS ERECTED BY
WL. ALEXANDER
IN REMEMBRANCE OF
HIS LATE DEAR WIFE
FRANCES ALEXANDER
AND IN COMMEMORATION OF
THE DIAMOND JUBILEE YEAR OF
HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA
JUNE 1897

We thought it an odd way to commemorate your wife, and Queen Victoria, so we decided to look futher into William's life, and found him to have been a remarkable man. As he had no children, we came to the conclusion that what he did had to be for the good of his fellow man. We found out so much about him that it was decided to put our findings into a book, and all the money raised from its sale has gone into the restoration fund of Stanger Spa. The work for this has been organised by the "Cockermouth and District Civic Trust".

This was a man, who at the turn of the 20th century put in place a "Creche" to help married woman to go to work. In 1897, to celebrate the Golden Jubilee, he went round Lorton, collected everyone's debts, and paid them off. He laid roads, built bridges, repaired houses, schools and churches, and many other good deeds throughout the Vale of Lorton and Cockermouth, all at his own expense.

William L. Alexander was Treasurer, Trustee etc. to Lorton, Wythop & Embelton and Fairfield Schools for over 50 years. He put so much money into these buildings that they were the envy of all Cumbria. His father was a Scotsman who went to sea in 1801 and joined first, the British Navy, then the American Navy. William senior had many adventures and lived in Liverpool, where William jnr was born.

William moved to Cumbria when he was left Shatton Lodge by his Grandmother. By 1865 the good work for his fellow man had already began, and was continued until his death in 1910. It was very rewarding to have found, in Banbury, the Portrait of William after the book was printed. Arrangements were made for it to go back on a permanent loan to Lorton School, where it now hangs in the new extension.

A Trowel and Mallet that was presented to William, when he laid the foundation stone for the Girls classroom, has now gone back to Fairfield School.

William Alexander is buried in the churchyard of St Cutthbert's Church in Lorton.

The portrait arriving back at Lorton School.
The trowel and mallet in foreground now returned to Fairfield
School, Cockermouth, where they were both presented from.

Mr and Mrs David Richards and his sister,
Bobbie Brown (centre) officially hand over the portrait of
William Alexander to Mick Jane.

Most of the details are in the book, 'ONE MANS LIFE IN THE VALE OF LORTON', by Mick and Jean Jane. The book costs 2.99, and is available in local bookshops, the tourist information centre, or by post from the author (plus 50p postage) email: jeanjane@millenium-uk.net.

A leaflet is published (price 40p) by the Civic Trust, describes a walk to Stanger Spa, where you can see the plaque.

In 1902, William Lancaster Alexander said of the Old Chapel at Kelsick, Wythop: "The remains of the old church at Wythop still stands on the lonely mourntain side in the midst of wild and picturesque scenery. I remember years ago attending this church with my late dear wife when she acted as clerk to the late Mr. Woodmason, who wook the service, myself and one or two more being the whole of the congregation. The church was then in a dilapedated condition - defective floor, mouldy walls sprouting with grass. At one time the bell was suspended from the branch of a tree".