Buttermere and its people

Painting of Crummock and Buttermere from 1790 by William Green

Did Buttermere once belong to an 11th century Norse chieftain named Buthar? If so, does the lake get its name from originally being Buthar’s mere?

We know large numbers of Vikings settled in Cumbria during the 9th and 10th centuries and many names in the area are of Norse origin, for instance we call a stream a 'beck' which comes from the Old Norse bekkr. But Buthar's mere? Perhaps is this simply wishful thinking.

More probably the name Buttermere derives from Old English and means "the lake by the dairy pastures", indicating the fertile nature of the lush valley bottom sitting between the two lakes - literally a great place to make butter.

The characters of Buttermere

Whatever the origins of its name, and despite it rugged surroundings, Buttermere Valley has a long history of settlements and people.

One of the most famous residents of Buttermere is Mary Robinson (1778-1837). Known as the Maid of Buttermere, Mary was the daughter of the landlord of the Fish Inn in the village and she was the subject of Melvyn Bragg's 1987 novel of the same name.

Click the links below to discover more about Mary, Fanny Mercer a servant who fell to her death and also the Victorian entrepreneur Nicholas Size. Then why not get out there, visit Buttermere Valley and walk in their footsteps?

The Maid of Buttermere
Captain James Budworth, an early explorer of the Lake District, announced to the world that hidden in Buttermere was the most beautiful girl he had ever set eyes on… Click the link for a PDF with more about Mary.

" this loving meeting beside the lake between the innkeeper's daughter and great gentleman of the realm was romance itself"
- Melvyn Bragg, The Maid of Buttermere

Fanny Mercer
Learn from the story of this young servant girl whose memorial cross overlooks Buttermere after a tragic accident cost her life. Click the link for a PDF with more about this story.

Nicholas Size
'Auld Nick' had grandiose ideas for the Buttermere Valley. He dreamt of building a chair lift to the top of High Crag, a nine hole golf course and services for the growing influx of motorists. Click the link for a PDF with more about this character.