THE KESWICK FOOTPATHS CONTROVERSY.
[To THE EDITOR Or THE •• SPECTATOR."] SIE,—A few weeks ago, some attention was aroused by the action of the Keswick Footpaths Association with reference to an alleged stoppage of a public footpath by Mrs. Spencer Bell, of Fawe Park. I have come into possession of some facts bearing on this case which, I think, ought to be known by some of the subscribers to the Association who probably think that they are resisting some act of high-handed tyranny and indifference to public rights. It is difficult to make the facts of the case clear without a plan ; but I may State that Fawe Park House, which was built about thirty years ago by the late Mr. James Spencer Bell, stands on a strip of ground about two hundred and fifty yards wide between Keswick Lake and the high-road which leads from Portinscale, under Cat Bells, and along the western side of the lake, to Borrowdale. The dis- cussion arises upon a road or lane which (1) branches off from the high-road on the left, and descends nearly to the lake (a I)) ; then (2), runs parallel to the lake for about five hundred yards (.5 eJ ; and then (3), turns inland and rejoins the high-road (e d, The section of the road which I have called b e passes under seven yards from Fawe Park House, and being on higher ground, commands a full and near view of the rooms in it.
From the point e the road runs on by the lake to other properties beyond, and I am informed that it was originally constructed by one of these more distant owners for his own use and benefit, and that no repairs have ever been made to it by the public or by any one except the owners of the property through which it passes. What is certain is that Mr. Spencer Bell, when he built his house in 1857, believed it to be a private road. I knew him well (he was the brother of Mr. Jacob Bell, the friend of Landseer), and he was a man of too much taste and judgment to place his house, when he bad all the shore of the lake to choose from, in a slip of ground only fifty yards wide between the lake and an absolutely public highway. But a much clearer proof is afforded by the conveyances of successive portions of the Fawe Park property, by which the vendor who sold to Mr. Spencer Bell expressly reserved to himself, and to all persons claiming through him, a right of way over so much of the road as passed through Mr. Spencer Bell's estate. If the road were a public one, what need was there of this reservation P
When Mr. Spencer Bell purchased the estate, there was a gate at the point a, where the road in dispute branches off from the high-road ; but it was allowed to decay, and not replaced till a short time ago by Mrs. Spencer Bell. The only reason for this change was that the liberty which had been conceded to tourists as a matter of courtesy, was being claimed as a right, and it became necessary to show on which side the legal right lay.
I am bound to say that, having read the proceedings at the public meeting at Keswick, the speech of Mr. Plimsoll, the letters of Mr. Jenkineon, and so forth, and having the facts above-mentioned on the authority of one of the moat respectable solicitors in the North of England, I have come to the con- clusion that the tyranny and the high-handed action are all on the side of the Keswick Footpaths Association, and I cannot think that if their distant subscribers had a fair statement of the case laid before them, they would wish them to persist in a course of action which looks very like spiteful persecution.—I