New Home For Alfred Wainwright Papers

Cumbria Archives Service requests letters of support to buy Alfred Wainwright Papers


Cumbria Archives Service has been given the opportunity to purchase the Alfred Wainwright Papers, including correspondence, memoirs, original drawings, lithographs, slides and photographs. This would allow the papers to remain in Cumbria and be accessible for research.

Most of the £200,000 required will be sought from Heritage Lottery Funds. The Cumbria Archive Service will need to demonstrate substantial public support for the purchase – so if you think it is a good idea send an email or letter to Peter Eyre (see below).

Alfred Wainwright first visited Cumbria in 1930, aged 23. Before that day he had never seen the sea, and when he walked to the top of Orrest Head he could hardly believe his eyes. The visit changed his life and launched the writing career that would touch the lives of millions, even long after his death in 1991.

Wainwright's meticulously handwritten guides (around 50 in all), published between 1955 and 1966, have sold nearly two million copies worldwide. Wainwright received an MBE for his work, which also included a number of TV programmes. Today the Wainwright Society boasts about 1,000 members worldwide and its website receives 15,000 hits a month.

A lanky redhead who began writing as an aide memoire for himself, Wainwright was not at ease with his fame. Wasdale-based broadcaster Eric Robson walked many fells with him and said (reported in the Cumberland Times):

“Before I met him I thought Oh God, I'm going to have to spend months with this man who likes animals more than people. His reputation was of this curmudgeonly old sod but he really wasn't like that at all. He didn't suffer fools. But he was a very thoughtful man, quite a shy and pensive person. In the early days he became a cult figure. There would be sightings, rumours would circulate and people would turn up at a pass, but he would be somewhere else by then.”

Wainwright“He was old school, and a perfectionist. He hand-wrote his pictorial guides (which were printed directly from his handwritten and drawn scripts) because he didn't trust some typesetter not to get the spellings wrong. His drawings opened the mountains up. He filleted the mountains, and there have been no guide books the same since. He combined all sorts of talents. He was a good writer and cartographer and the books are much more than just guides. They are works of poetry and philosophy and humour.”


The application for funding needs to be submitted by the end of February. If you think the Wainwright Archive should remain in Cumbria and be generally accessible, then to support this project please write ASAP to:

Peter J Eyre
Assistant County Archivist
Cumbria Record Office

or email:

More about Wainwright

This post has been read 4,578 times

Return to News from January 2010

28 Jan, 2010
Great news if it goes ahead. I'd have thought that "someone" might have put a bid in to archive them in his slate mine being as he lost out on his attempt to get a statue built there...
28 Jan, 2010
Ha read about that, he never does give up does he? Mark Weir I believe. I heard he wants to relocate heaven to the Honister slate mines.
28 Jan, 2010
He saved the lives of 1000's of runners not long back! ;-)
29 Jan, 2010
Hi Mick Can we have more info on this, as I am unsure of what is going on. Are the family trying to get a quick £200000 of lottery money for some old papers? Who else is even interested in them? The article makes it sound like they are about to leave the country with the papers. If so is it really worth £200000 of money that could go to a 'better' (my opinion) cause. Just felt the news item lack enough depth. Hope either you or sarah can help?
29 Jan, 2010
£200,000 seems an aweful lot for his working notes as such, but if the money was used to organise an annual Wainwright weekend with all the attached events, think ofthe renewed interest and all the money that could be raised, for the many charities he supported. R Haythornthwaite
More Comments