In the summer of 1973, I was transported to the shores of Windermere, ‘The Great Lake in the North’ to appear as ‘Titty Walker’ in the classic movie of ‘Swallows and Amazons’, starring Virginia McKenna and Ronald Fraser.
We were fortunate enough to film the scenes set in Rio at Bowness-on-Windermere before the original green boat sheds were demolished in favor of an amusement arcade.
George Pattinson brought along his steamboat the Lady Elizabeth, which you can see here beyond the Windermere skiffs pulled up on the shore.
George’s personal collection made up the basis of the Steamboat Museum now rebuilt and known as Windermere Jetty, where we found the Lady Elizabeth under restoration.
Eighteen foot long, she was built in New York State in about 1900 and brought to England, so was likely on Windermere in 1929 when Arthur Ransome wrote ‘Swallows and Amazons’. She sank off Cockshott Point beyond Bowness, but Mr Pattinson salvaged and renovated her in 1955. You can read more here.
Other exhibits included the exquisite steam launch Osprey, in fine fettle with her copper steam kettle kept brightly polished. I knew her from taking part in a Steam Boat Association rally on Windermere in 1991.
The RNSA dinghies used to play Swallow and Amazon in the 2016 movie can also be seen in the wet dock at Windermere Jetty.
Look up, and you can spy a green beetle on an old burgee.
Arthur Ransome’s dinghy Conch-y-bonddhu, known as Scarab in his books, is on display with Beatrix Potter’s rough, flat-bottomed rowing boat (the pointed bows of which can be seen here hanging on the wall to the right).
It was good to be able to examine Conchy’s rigging. You can read about her here.
The museum has many other treasures including the hull of the oldest yacht in existence in the Lake District.
Every one of the forty boats exhibited has a story to tell. You can find out more about visiting Windermere Jetty on their website here.
The Windermere skiffs can still be seen up the road in Bowness where you can begin to look for locations used in the original film.
If you don’t already have a copy you can read about ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974)’ here. This includes maps and chapters on how to find the film locations.
To learn more about the film locations, please click here.
The ebook on ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons’, which is similar, is available on all ebook platforms, including Kindle here.
A weekend spent steam boating on Windermere in 1991, is featured in ‘Funnily Enough’, a diary of a year when everything changed, can be found here.
I look forward to returning to Windermere Jetty when the Lady Elizabeth is on back the water! The museum will be opening soon.
You can read about the 1901 steam launch Daffodil that I helped to renovate here.