Reference Number:
GB 3075 STW
Papers of Stanley Watson
1 archive box and 5 oversize items
Creator Name 1:
Watson | Stanley
Biog/Admin History:
Stanley Watson, [born 15.05.1904] son of P G Watson a shipping merchant, was orphaned at the age of eleven. He was educated at South Shields High School and became a ship building engineer apprentice at the Swan and Hunter shipyard. Stanley took up rock climbing as a hobby. In 1930, following the loss of his job due to the Depression, he established the British Mountain Guides organisation which graded routes in the Lake District as Easy, Moderate, Difficult, Very Difficult, Severe and Very Severe. Millican Dalton was one of those who were employed by him. Stanley earned his living working as a guide and through writing, teaching and photography. He also established a climbing school at Newton Place, opposite Borrowdale Hotel, installing gymnastic apparatus in the gardens. The school, one of the first to exist in the country, survived for ten years, only closing following Watson's retirement. Watson was a member of the Borrowdale Mountain Rescue Team, a predecessor of the Keswick Mountain Rescue team. In 1934 Watson made 'High Hazard', a film about climbing in the Lakes in which Helen N L Johnstone, a teacher at Keswick Grammar School though originally from Carlisle, starred as a Victorian climber. Watson married Norah, as she was known, at Seathwaite Church, Duddon Valley 1st October 1935. Her nickname for him was Tanny. Also to feature in the film was nine year old Vivien Verity from Ipswich, who made her first ascent by climbing Napes Needle.

Watson released another film 'Skye High' in 1938. He pioneered a new route on Great Gable, known as Tophet Arete, and one on Raven Crag. His was infamous for climbing Kern Knotts blindfolded. He gave lectures about climbing and was an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society.

Newton Place was closed during WWII and Stanley worked as Inspector of Factories producing aircraft parts. After the closure of the school and the end of the war, Watson turned his attention to handicrafts, becoming a member of the Lakeland Craftsmen's Guild. He formed his own company known as Lakeland Rural Industries, which still exists and continues to sell locally made items. He worked with metal and wood, producing metal trays and bowls which were fashioned during the winter months and sold to tourists in the summer via a shop built onto the house, Grange View, in Grange, in which he and Norah were then living. In 1951 Watson wrote a full length play, 'The cuckoo has wings', this play drew on some of his experiences working in the aircraft factories. Other plays written by Watson include 'The cuckoo goes to town', 'The cuckoo and the monster' and 'The cuckoo and the mountain' which told the tale of local women and their efforts to climb Everest. The plays were performed at the Borrowdale Institute at Rosthwaite over a period of 2 to 3 nights and included characters based on local people, who also performed.

During 1963/64, following Stanley's heart attack, the Watsons moved to Maulds Meaburn. They then moved to Kendal where Stanley later died on 23rd February 1980.
Archival History:
The material had been in the possession of a married couple by the name of Elphinstone. The Elphinstones, prior to moving house c.1994, had set the material aside in the garage as rubbish. Mrs Holdsworth's parents moved into the house and decided that the material looked interesting and decided to keep it. It was eventually passed to Mrs Holdsworth who then donated it to the Mountain Heritage Trust.
Acquisition Source:
Donated by Mrs Holdsworth and Mr B Whiteside
Accession Number:
2004/5 & 2005/1
Scope and Content:
Three volumes of press cuttings depicting Watson's climbing activities and film production (1930-1951); photographs of climbs and film production, (c.1920- 1940) two sketch books of pencil drawings (c.1935) book of postcards, advertising flyers for lectures (c.1935), typescript commentary for 'High Hazard' (1934), poem entitled 'The Boyage of the Oddystan' DVD copy of High Hazard and digital images.
Imposed by format
Access Conditions:
This collection is open for consultation. Readers are advised to contact the Mountain Heritage Trust in advance of their visit in order to make an appointment.
English, French
Related Material:
Description compiled by Maxine Willett, Archivist
Access Points:
Lake District
Mountain films
Rock climbing
Watson, Stanley (1904-1980)
2007-01-31 00:00:00
M Willett