A Very Unusual Photograph from my Traffic Police Days

Back in 1978-79, as a keen amateur photographer during the Traffic Patrol years of my police career, I was encouraged to take one of my cameras to work with me by the man who was then my Chief Superintendent.  I’m not certain, however, that he and I had quite the same end results in mind. 🙂

Having worked out a shot I would really like to achieve, I found a blacksmith in the village of Blencow, near Penrith, and gave him the drawing of a bracket that I needed — one that would hold my camera at a lateral angle of 45°, down beside the back wheel of my police BMW R80 motorcycle, so that when I was leaning to the right, the camera would come level and allow a dramatic, ultra wide-angle view along the side of the bike.

Never mind Daniel Day Lewis and his famous “Left Foot,” this is my own *right* foot! It was taken at Slapestones Roundabout, at the junction of the A66 and the A592, near Penrith, where Rheged is now located. I took it myself, in 1978 or 79, on my police BMW R80 motorcycle, using a Contax RTS MkII camera body with a 21mm lens and a motordrive, mounted on a bracket of my own design and triggered by a long, electronic, cable release. Copyright: Eddie Wren

With a motordrive fitted to my rather expensive Contax RTS MkII 35mm camera, to wind the film forward after every shot, a 21mm lens, and a 10′ electronic cable release that came up onto the saddle, up the back of my leather jacket and down the left sleeve to my hand, I took three rolls of film in one afternoon.  Many of the images were spoiled, either by vibration or by inaccurate exposure (which needed to be critically accurate on professional transparency film) but a handful of the images were very pleasing.

The best one of all was one I took as I was heading towards Kirkstone Pass, around the very sharp bend at Hartsop, at the south end of Ullswater.  I later submitted it in a photography competition and was delighted when it won top place and a national trophy that was subsequently presented to me at the London School of Economics.  In the photo in question, the chairman of the judges questioned my use of the title ‘Foot Down’, and assured me that if I had asked the motorcyclist, he would have assured me that the ‘accelerator’ on a motorbike is operated by hand and not by foot.   The judge was astonished when I told him that the police officer’s leg shown in the photo was actually my own and he was baffled as to how I’d taken the photo.  (Using brackets to hold cameras in position on  — for example — the side of vehicles was effectively unknown back then so this was apparently my one act of innovation!)

Anyway, I told him that my title referred primarily to the fact that the outer edge of the sole of my boot was actually rubbing along the road because I was banked over so far — it was a very sharp bend — but it also was intended to imply the speed involved, which was much less than appearances suggested, again due to the sharpness of the bend.

The picture shown here was taken slightly further north of Ullswater, at Slapestones Roundabout at the junction of the A66 with the A592, where the Rheged centre has since been built, and did not involve the edge of my boot being scraped along the road!  Once my three rolls of film were used up, I decided that my camera had faced enough jeopardy — primarily from vibration but flying gravel was also a concern — and that was the only time I ever did this.

Finally, the copyright notice on the attached photograph of necessity uses my real name rather than my author’s pen-name, so please don’t be confused by that.

All about Carleton Hall – Cumbria Police H.Q.

History

The ‘mesne manor’ of Carleton Hall, one mile south-east of Penrith, was “formerly the residence of the ancient family of the Carletons, who appear to have been settled here from soon after the time of the conquest, until the failure of male issue by the death of Robert Carleton, Esq., in 1707.”[1]  This occurred after seven successive generations of Thomas Carletons as the ‘man of the house’, and the Hall was then purchased by John Pattinson of Penrith, attorney-at-law.[2]

The south east side of Carleton Hall, Cumbria Police Headquarters, at Penrith. Strictly copyright, 1979, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

In 1828, Thomas Lord Wallace sold the hall and manor to John Cowper, Esq.  “The grounds and walks owe many of their attractions to the correct taste of Mrs Wallace, widow of James Wallace, Esq., His Majesty’s Attorney-General, and mother of the above-named Lord Wallace.  That lady succeeded in rendering Carleton one of the most beautiful spots in this part of England…”[1]

During the first half of the twentieth century it was the home of the Carleton-Cowper family.

The Grade II* Listed Building is described as early 18th Century, with alterations made later that century.  It was restored in 1859 and partly rebuilt in 1937.[3]

The name ‘Carleton’ originates from the Old English words ‘ceorl, ‘carle’ or ‘charle’, which mean ‘farmer’ or ‘free peasant’, plus ‘tūn’ a ‘vill’ or ‘settlement’. The meaning is therefore: ‘settlement of farmers’, as a result of which prolific originations the place names and surnames of Carlton, Carleton and Charlton are quite common in England.[4]

During the war years of 1940-43 the hall was occupied by the Furze Close School and from 1943-46 it was a military hospital.

Police Years

In May, 1950, the hall was occupied by the Cumberland and Westmorland Constabulary, forerunner of the Cumbria Constabulary which in turn came into existence when the modern, non-metropolitan county of Cumbria was created in May 1974, at which time both entities absorbed small areas from North Yorkshire (the Sedbergh area) and Lancashire (the South Lakes and Furness). Cumbria is the second-largest county in England, at 2613 sq.ml. (6,767 sq.km.).

An intake of cadets on the south east steps of Carleton Hall Police H.Q. in the late 1970s, Photo copyright, Eddie Wren, 1979. All rights reserved.

Related old buildings nearby which used to be the stables, carriage houses, etc., frame three sides of a courtyard which during police years has been known as the ‘traffic yard’, where the vehicle repair garages are located.  The rest of the police headquarters consists of modern buildings of various ages.

Recollections

Steve Shearwater:  When I was stationed at H.Q. Traffic (nowadays known as the Roads Policing Unit), back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the main entrance foyer  of the old building at Carleton Hall was still lined with large, grand oil paintings, with eyes that — according to several of my former ‘control room’ colleagues who like myself used to do security checks through the hall at all hours of night — would “follow you around,” always seeming to be looking at you wherever you walked.  Given that the only illumination, by necessity for security checks, was a small flashlight, the autonomous, random creaking of ancient floorboards and the legend of the ‘grey lady’ ghost added to the experience!  I presume that the oil paintings and the grey lady are all still there.

Specifically on the subject of the ghost, Gordon Mackenzie fascinatingly writes: “I would be about 7 or 8, so maybe 1965/6, my dad [the headquarters caretaker] had a workshop in the cellar of Carleton Hall next to the Armoury and which was eventually used to store weapons in about the 1970’s.  We used to live in one of the cottages which became the printing Dept in 1977 and I used to go and see the old man at night in his workshop, no security in those days.  I asked him one day about the ghost.  My Dad was very private and we had a struggle to get anything out of him about his childhood and war service, but this night he opened up to me about the ‘grey lady’. He said that he saw her on several occasions and not to be scared of her, and that she had a friendly face and was a guardian of Carleton Hall. She was searching for her baby daughter that her husband had killed in a fit of anger because he wanted a son and heir! The old man never spoke about the ‘grey lady’ again and would not repeat what he said to me, he denied it.   A long time ago but one of those moments in my life that I will never forget.   Carleton Hall can be a bit spooky to some but we never felt anything like that, I suppose we were used to it having grown up there.”

In this context, Heather Thompson has mentioned that some of the staff in the Admin. Dept., located in the actual Hall, hated working overtime because when it was time to leave they found the deserted building creepy.

Steve Shearwater

More recollections from serving/retired police officers and staff about any suitable H.Q. topics would be very welcome for inclusion on this page (side-issue pages can easily be added). Please post any pertinent, non-controversial comments in the ‘Replies’ box, below, and if possible perhaps also send digitised images for inclusion (all info & images will be credited to the sender).

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Sources

  1. The history and antiquities of Cumberland: with biographical notices and memoirs, 1840, by Samuel Jefferson, Vol. 1; pages 93-4.
  2. The history and antiquities of the counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, Vol. 2; pages 403-4.
  3. British Listed Buildings
  4. Wikipedia

Acknowledgements (other than those mentioned in the actual article, above):

  • Mark Jenkins