Would it truly be ‘spooky season’ without a delightful campfire ghost story? The Lake District is known for its rich history of folklore and supernatural sightings, it’s truly an incredibly magical area filled with an abundance of history and stories often passed down through generations. But I bet you didn’t know about the ghost of Wicked Jimmy, the first Earl of Lonsdale? He is said to roam the lands and estate of Lowther, the very spot we pitch camp in every summer for Kendal Calling.
If you should ever find yourself amongst the old land and halls. Of Lowther Estate and its grand castle walls.
Keep a wary eye on the blind spots you pass, and listen for the cries of an ill-fated romance.
For in a place so serene hides a dark gruesome scene, of an Earl and his lover, after death intervened.
The Earl went by many names throughout his life, earning the nicknames: Toadstool Earl, Jimmy Grasp-All, and Gloomy Earl, none of them in any way a compliment to his nature. Living from 1736 to 1802 he was quoted as being “Tyrannical, overbearing, violent, and frequently under no restraint of temper or of reason” so basically, the worst person you would ever want at a dinner party. James Lowther (Wicked Jimmy’s formal name) had the luckiest of blessings to inherit three fortunes, making him the Bill Gates of Georgian wealth. As one would assume of a man born to such privilege he then pursued politics, having a talent for the political gamesmanship of the time.
Demonized in public and disliked in private, it’s hard to imagine James Lowther having a soft side or soft spot for others in general, but surprisingly he did have affection for one individual, and that was for his mistress Betsy Lewes. Betsy was the daughter of an innkeeper who was said to have returned the sentiments, and was later installed into a house by James not far from London, where she was spoiled with all kinds of luxuries.
Tragically, where James Lowther’s great fortunes seem to run out, Betsy passed away not too long after. It is rumoured that Jimmy, inconsolable with grief, refused to admit that she had passed away. He is said to have dressed her and dined with her decaying body, eventually coming to some sense and keeping her body in a glass-lidded coffin; she was finally laid to rest 7 weeks after her death.
The Earl died on the 24th of May 1802 where it was rumoured that his corpse had leapt from his coffin during his funeral, and that his spirit still roams Lowther Castle in its now out placed Georgian dress. On the anniversary of his funeral, if the moon is full, you may even spot his ghostly carriage through the grounds of Lowther Castle.
Whatever the truth is, it certainly ties a very hauntingly macabre bow around the legend. So you never know, next time you’re in the fields with us and Kendal has gone quiet from sleepy festival goers, Wicked Jimmy may be afoot, still stuck in 1802 forever yearning for his beloved. Happy Halloween Kendal Callers!