Ribblehead and Salt Lake Cottages

by Maggie Cassidy

Ribblehead consists of a few farms, a pub (the Station Inn), a railway station and the terrace of six houses known as Salt Lake Cottages - plus of course the famous viaduct. The cottages were built at the same time as the nearby stretch of the Settle Carlisle railway (1869-1876) to house railway employees. The buildings are of standard Midland Railway design and are virtually identical with those at Selside, on the same road but nearer to Settle.

The cottages took their name from one of the shanty towns occupied by the navvies building the railway "Salt Lake by Batty Green," but where the shanty town got it's name is something of a mystery. One story is that some of the navvies previously worked on railway construction in Utah but missionaries from the Mormon Church were recruiting in the Dales in the 1850's so maybe that is where it come from. The navvies gave all their camps strange names, and many camps were named for far away places - Belgravia, Jericho, Sebastapol and Inkerman were just four others on the Settle Carlisle line. Remains of the camps can still be found in the area.

In Chapel-le-Dale at St Leonard's church there is a plaque which commemorates (but not by name) more than 200 people who died during the construction of this part of the line and who are buried there. None of the railway graves at St. Leonard's has a headstone. Many of the dead came from the temporary hospital set up at Ribblehead. Of 215 entries in the church register, 56 relate to children less than a year old; 56 to those between 1 year and 5 years; 13 to deaths at ages between 6 and 15 years; 37 at 16 years but less than 30 years, and 53 aged over 30.

Salt Lake Cottages are remote and windswept, winds of 92 mph have been recorded there. The surrounding countryside is bleak but (to my eyes) beautiful and good for walking. Salt Lake Cottages were all eventually sold off by the railway companies and are now holiday homes. Some of them are available to rent.

Maggie Cassidy (born at no 5 Salt Lake Cottages, 1 May 1948)

Written by Maggie Cassidy
at the request of Genuki