Thomas West (priest)

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Thomas West
Died10 July 1779
Known for Antiquarian, author

Thomas West (1720 10 July 1779) was a Jesuit priest, antiquary and author, significant in being one of the first to write about the attractions of the Lake District. Partly through his book, A Guide to the Lakes, the Romantic vision of the scenery and wilderness of the north of England took hold, ushering in a period of continued tourism in the Lakes.

The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains, and its associations with William Wordsworth and other Lake Poets and also with Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin. The Lake District National Park was established in 1951 and covers an area of 2,362 square kilometres. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.



West was born in Scotland in 1720, and was ordained a Catholic priest. [1] He visited Europe, and received at least some of his education there, specialising in various branches of natural philosophy. [2] He returned to Britain in his later life, moving to Furness in 1774 and residing at the seventeenth century Tytup Hall. [1] West dedicated his remaining years to learning and writing about the area's landscape and history, publishing The Antiquities of Furness in 1774. He then embarked on his magnum opus, his Guide to the Lakes. [1]

Scotland Country in Northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, with a border with England to the southeast, and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Furness peninsula and region in south Cumbria, England

Furness is a peninsula and region of Cumbria in northwestern England. Together with the Cartmel Peninsula it forms North Lonsdale, historically an exclave of Lancashire.

A Guide to the Lakes

Claife Station,'viewing stations', to allow visiting tourists and artists to better appreciate the picturesque Lake District. Claife Station.jpg
Claife Station,'viewing stations', to allow visiting tourists and artists to better appreciate the picturesque Lake District.

West had travelled widely throughout continental Europe, and after accompanying various parties visiting the lakes, decided to write a detailed account of the scenery and landscape. [2] Fellow Lakes resident William Brownrigg may have been a contributing factor in this decision. West set out to create a guide that would be of particular use to artists, writing in his introduction that he aimed

William Brownrigg was a British doctor and scientist, who practised at Whitehaven in Cumberland. While there, Brownrigg carried out experiments that earned him the Copley Medal in 1766 for his work on carbonic acid gas. He was the first person to recognise platinum as a new element.

'To encourage the taste of visiting the lakes by furnishing the traveller with a Guide; and for that purpose, the writer has here collected and laid before him, all the select stations and points of view, noticed by those authors who have last made the tour of the lakes, verified by his own repeated observations. ' [3]

To this end he included various 'stations' or viewpoints around the lakes, from which tourists would be encouraged to appreciate the views in terms of their aesthetic qualities. [4] Published in 1778 the book was a major success. As well as being the first guidebook to the lakes, West was amongst the first writers to challenge the view of the wild and savage north, and his book was one of the first to stress the notion of the picturesque environment. [5] It was particularly influential at a time when Grand Tours were popular, as West claimed the Lakes contained much of the scenery that could be enjoyed on the continent, likening it to the Alps or the Apennines. [6] His book was followed by similar works by William Gilpin, Uvedale Price and William Wordsworth. [7] [8] West's book was the beginning of the era of 'true tourism' in the Lake District. [4] It followed on from Dr John Brown's assessment in 1753 that the 'perfection' of the area rested on 'Beauty, horror and immensity', and challenged Daniel Defoe's interpretation of it in 1698 as the 'wildest, the most barren and frightful' place he had ever seen. [9] Despite criticism and satirical spoofs of both the prose of the guides and the attitudes of the tourists they attracted to the Lakes from the likes of Thomas Rowlandson and William Combe, [7] the book ran to seven editions before the turn of the century. [8]


Picturesque is an aesthetic ideal introduced into English cultural debate in 1782 by William Gilpin in Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770, a practical book which instructed England’s leisured travellers to examine “the face of a country by the rules of picturesque beauty”. Picturesque, along with the aesthetic and cultural strands of Gothic and Celticism, was a part of the emerging Romantic sensibility of the 18th century.

Grand Tour Journey around Europe for cultural education

The Grand Tour was the 17th- and 18th-century custom of a traditional trip of Europe undertaken by upper-class young European men of sufficient means and rank when they had come of age.

Alps Major mountain range system in Central Europe

The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, and stretching approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) across eight Alpine countries : France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia. The mountains were formed over tens of millions of years as the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided. Extreme shortening caused by the event resulted in marine sedimentary rocks rising by thrusting and folding into high mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border, and at 4,810 m (15,781 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps. The Alpine region area contains about a hundred peaks higher than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft).

It was to be West's last work. He collected material for the second edition, but died a year after the book was first published, on 10 July 1779 at Sizergh Castle, Westmorland. [2] He was buried in the Strickland family chapel, at Kendal Parish Church. [2]

Westmorland historic county in England

Westmorland is a historic county in north west England. It formed an administrative county between 1889 and 1974, after which the whole county was administered by the new administrative county of Cumbria. In 2013, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, formally recognised and acknowledged the continued existence of England's 39 historic counties, including Westmorland.

Kendal Parish Church church in South Lakeland, UK

Kendal Parish Church, also known as the Holy Trinity Church due to its dedication to the Holy Trinity, is the Anglican parish church of Kendal, Cumbria, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building.


  1. 1 2 3 Lindop. A Literary Guide to the Lake District. p. 220.
  2. 1 2 3 4 West. A Guide to the Lakes. pp. IX–X.
  3. West. A Guide to the Lakes. p. 2.
  4. 1 2 "Development of tourism in the Lake District National Park". Lake District UK. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
  5. "Understanding the National Park – Viewing Stations". Lake District National Park Authority. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
  6. Gilroy. Romantic Geographies. p. 73.
  7. 1 2 Dimbleby. A Picture of Britain. p. 32.
  8. 1 2 Spiegelman. Majestic Indolence. p. 189.
  9. Dimbleby. A Picture of Britain. p. 31.

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