Catalogue description Papers of Stanley Watson

This record is held by Mountain Heritage Trust

Details of STW
Reference: STW
Title: Papers of Stanley Watson

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'.

Note: "
Date: c.1920-1986

Imposed by format

Related material:

Hiatt screw-gate karabiner held by Fell and Rock Climbing Club, (ref 5.2). One file, held with papers of Borrowdale Grange with Borrowdale Parish at Cumbria Archives Service, Carlisle, contains photographs, pastel drawings and papers, (ref 174/35), Image (Abraham Bros) of Watson leading Olverson's reproduced on back page of the FRCC Chronicle No 42, Jan 1985.

Held by: Mountain Heritage Trust, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Watson, Stanley, 1906-c1966, mountaineer

Physical description: 1 archive box and 5 oversize items
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.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Mrs A Holdsworth via John Williams, member of Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team, April 2004.

Custodial history:

The material had been in the possession of a married couple by the name of Elphinstone. The Elphinstone's, 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.

Administrative / biographical background:

Stanley Watson, [born 07.12.1906] 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 Norah Johnstone, a teacher at Keswick Grammar School though originally from Carlisle, starred as a Victorian climber. Watson married Norah at Seathwaite Church, Duddon Valley 1st October 1935. Also to feature in the film was nine year old Vivian Verity from Ipswich, who made her first ascent by climbing Napes Needle.


Newton Place was closed during WWII and Stanley worked as Inspector of Factories producing aircraft parts.


Watson released another film 'Skye High' in 1938. He pioneered a new route on Great Gable, known as Tophet Arête, 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.


After the closure of the school, 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. 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.


During the 1960's, following Stanley's heart attack the Watsons moved to Maulds Meaburn. They then moved to Kendal where Stanley later died.

Link to NRA Record:

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