VISITORS BOOK FOR THE SALUTATION INN (1858-1874)
At the height of summer we’ve chosen this nineteenth-century visitors book from the Salutation Inn as our Object of the Month.
Ambleside became a trading hub in 1650 when it was first granted a charter for a wool market and two annual fairs. The town’s Market Place became a commercial centre for agriculture and the wool trade in Westmorland, and the original packhorse trail between Grasmere and Ambleside was replaced by a turnpike road in 1770. This coincided with an increase in tourists visiting the county, and the publication of the first guidebook to the area, ‘A Guide to the Lakes, in Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire’ by Thomas West (1770).
Just six years after Ambleside got its market charter the Salutation Inn was built as a tavern catering to locals, traders and travellers. It later became a coaching inn as the number of sightseers in Ambleside increased throughout the nineteenth century. The hotel is located near the current post office and market cross (the latter has moved from its original location in the marketplace, with its original stone head now in our collection).
From its humble beginnings as a local tavern, the Salutation has expanded to become a three-star hotel and spa today. Its name means “greeting”, evoking a friendly innkeeper greeting their guests, but could have an additional religious meaning. “Salutation” often describes the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel informs the Virgin Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus Christ.
The Salutation has literary connections too, as John Keats stayed there in 1818 with his friend Charles Brown while on a walking tour of the Lake District and Scotland. In 1835, poets Edward Fitzgerald and Lord Alfred Tennyson stayed at the inn, while Tennyson was composing ‘Morte d’Arthur’.
We can see from this page of the visitor’s book that people come from all over the country to stay at the Salutation Inn – guests have travelled from Bradford, London, Nottingham, and Preston. One party of four at the top of the page has come from Penrith, showing it had a good reputation locally.
As we can see, the Salutation’s visitors’ book was signed by people with disposable income and leisure time, such as reverends and college fellows. Working-class people visited too, but they often came by train on day trips after the railway was extended to Windermere. Outdoor activities were led by wealthy mountaineers, who frequented the Alps when abroad, or working class ‘ramblers’.
A notable name on this page is the fifth name from the top – Major General Sir Andrew Scott Waugh, the Surveyor General of India from 1843 to 1861. Waugh is best remembered for naming the peak of Mount Everest in the Himalayas. He suggested it be named after his predecessor, Sir George Everest, and it was named ‘Everest’ in 1865. He stayed at the Salutation in August 1863, two years after he retired as Surveyor General.