Isis Parlis Or The Giant's Cave(s) On The Eamont

JamesWhitehead

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#1
Anyone, living within easy reach of Penrith, planning an unusual day out over the Easter holiday, could explore the mystery of what became of Isis Parlis. [edit Aug. 2012: But finish reading this first!]

At your own risk be it, though! Probably the site has been rendered unsafe by landslide or flooding. [edit Aug. 2012: More recent information suggests this is almost certainly the case.]

The last eye-witness account I can trace of these red sandstone caves dates back to the early 1990s. The site seems not to have been visited in the time since the Internet arrived! Though, in 2008, someone posted on a message board their intention of going to the Caves, nothing was afterwards heard from them . . .

A draft version of some literary detective work has been uploaded onto my site:

Archived page from 2012 here. No longer updated.

:shock:

edit 1: 11:53 pm: Some rephrasing. The linked page itself has been expanded.

edit 2: Monday, 9th April, 3:00 pm: Lots of ways to spell it but Isis seems standard on the Web not Issis. Thread title also adjusted as will be webpage heading.

edit 3: 17th August: Date of last visit adjusted to take account of 1990s visit by Grevel Lindop; I've also uncovered a reference to a visit by Marjorie Rowling in the 1970s. It seems there is less and less to see, alas!
 
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special_farces

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#3
Would they be the 'Giants Caves' marked on the OS map at NY 560 302, between Honeypot and Cave Plantation?!?

Presumably hidden in the thick of the trees on the river bank here.

Have not read all the material on the link provided yet, but all very interesting - I enjoyed the Victorian conflation of Celtic and Egytian, and nice to see Talisien getting a mention along with Arthur (this one residing in a northern Camelot).

Edited: because for once I spotted a typo!
 

JamesWhitehead

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#4
They are among trees, certainly, since the accounts speak of the need to cling on to shrubs on the path down to the caves. A few photographs of the River Eamont around that spot are online - it's still favoured by fishermen - but none of them refer to the caves.

There are some other caves on the Eamont called Lacy's Caves - these are still accessible and pictured on the Web. But Isis Parlis remains shrouded in mystery.

I need to go up to the Carlisle area in a few weeks, so I might pack a stout pair of boots and a shaking-bottle, if the weather encourages time out from book-worming! :)
 

JamesWhitehead

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#7
[NB: This post proved to be a false dawn. The references were to Lacy's Caves near Armathwaite but the mysterious inscriptions there are fascinating, even though they are a Victorian mystification.]

I have not managed to get up to Penrith this year so far but - at last! - I have found an image of the giant's cave and it's rather wonderful.

I am going to try and make sense of the inscription, which looks to be dated 1856

The writer actually describes camping out in the cave and does not seem to have been aware how rare it is to see the caves mentioned now!

http://www.thepaddler.co.uk/ukexplakedistrict.html

:)

Oh the Fisher's Gentle Life [N reversed]
Happiest is of Any.
Void of Pleasure, Full of Strife,
And belovd by many
Other Joys are but Toys [S of Joys reversed]
And to be Lamented [N of Lamented reversed]
Only this A Pleasure is [S of Pleasure reversed]
Timber }{ Fishing

APISTOS UEV UDINI
EDEIA IB
1856

helped by another transcription here:

http://www.simdavis.com/2010/03/armathwaite-faces/

I need to look up the Greek and I wonder if there is any cipher intended by the Ns and S which are engraved in reverse four times in the order NSNS, possibly North-South? No, I don't think that sounds like a very useful treasure-map.

Apistos, though . . .
it seems to be intended as a pun
Apistos is used in the Bible to mean unfaithful
but apistogramma is a genus of fish

Oh, I'm beginning to wish I hadn't started this game . . . :(



Having written the above, I am having second thoughts about the identification of the faces with the Giant's Cave. The Giant's Cave proper was situated near the confluence of the the Eamont and Eden Rivers. These carved heads are downstream on the Eamont nearer Lacy's Caves and the village of Armathwaite. I suspect the canoe-paddlers set up camp at Lacy's Caves. :?
 
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JamesWhitehead

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#8
I have at last located a rather splendid plate to illustrate Isis Parlis but still lack a photograph or anything recent. I should state here that, according to Grevel Lindop in A Literary Guide to the Lakes, the Caves are on private land. Permission was to be sought from the landowners, who then were also the owners of Honey Pot Farm. That was back in the 1990s. Presumably that still would be the place to start, if anyone is planning a visit. I fear I will not make it up there this year.

The plate is from Hutchinson's History of Cumberland of 1794.

I have added brief pieces by Defoe and Coleridge, also a "horrid" Sonnet by Barbara Hofland or Hoole from 1805. The largest new addition is a short chapter from Jefferson's Antiquities of Leith Ward from 1840.

Archived page from 2012 here.

edit: surplus "then" removed.

edit 2: Lindop may have visited the spot in person some time in or before 1993. Already, he states that "the further and deeper" of the caves "now seems to be inaccessible owing to erosion and rockfalls." I feared that was probably the case. :?

edit 3: 15th August. Date of Lindop's book confirmed, making his the last account I have found so far. Some changes to the text above, which erroneously dated his visit in the 1970s!

New:

Additions to the site uploaded yesterday are a section on Lindop and a bleeding chunk of a strange epic from 1835, called Ullsmere by the very obscure John Charles Bristow.

I knew you were all waiting for that! :)
 
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JamesWhitehead

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#9
IsisParlisPic.jpg

Not much to look at, granted but this is - finally - a photograph of the smallest of the Giant's Caves.

As explained above, I gather the site is not accessible now and the sandstone caves were always vulnerable to collapse.

The page is taken from a 1914 article by Rev. Arthur Heelis - Beatrix Potter's Brother-in-Law. Now that three years have elapsed, a lot more curious stuff about the mythology of Isis Parlis has turned up.

My own site was taken down when I realized it would cost money to maintain it. It survives on Archive.org as it stood in 2012.

I will change the links above to reflect this, in case there is any interest in this esoteric subject. :cooll:

Edit: This area is very much in the news today 06.12.2015, as the River Eden, a little further SE has burst its banks and flooded the town of Appleby-in-Westmorland. The Eamont is a tributary of the River Eden.
 
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Krepostnoi

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#12
I know this is an old thread but I can confirm that the caves are still there as of today. If anyone is still interested I can upload some pictures
I'd certainly be interested in seeing some pictures, Mark, thank you for offering. What is your connection to the caves?
 

JamesWhitehead

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#15
Fantastic to see them at last!

Old prints will always have exaggerated their size but there has probably been some subsidence since their glory days! :clap:
 
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#16
There are 3 caves in total, in the first picture the left hand cave goes in about 30 feet and the right hand one maybe 6 feet. These twolook like they have filled in over time. The 3rd cave is approx 300 feet downstream and goes in about 6 feet.
 

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JamesWhitehead

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#18
It is nearly two years since Mark Greggain kindly posted his photographs of the caves. I have now relocated a pair of sketches from 1866 by one John Thompson, which it is possible to relate to them.

The Giant's Cave pictures taken in 2017 are strikingly similar to the 1866 sketch signed John Thompson. The sharp sandstone strata creating the jagged arches with the more weathered rock on the right and foliage still visible on the left of the images.

Thompson's second sketch is noted as taken from an old engraving - possibly the one in Hutchinson, which is below. Taken together, the sketches suggest that a collapse of the structure had taken place by 1866; since then, some silting of the floor has divided the entrance into two triangles, as seen in Mark's photos.

It seems unlikely the caves will ever recover their former popularity as a place of pilgrimage and ritual. They were never easy to access, even in the days of the shaking-bottles, though men, women and children used to scramble along the precarious banks to attend.

The larger of the caves is illustrated with the son of the photographer standing within for scale and there is evidently still a real cavity behind him. The grey matter in the foreground looks to be the branching roots of a large tree but, behind it, a flat platform may be the surviving foundations of the stonework which once adorned the entrance to this grotto. Even the old engravings show this as a precarious pillar of rustic blocks, propping up a kind of dome over the entrance.

We must allow for some exaggeration in the depiction of this gothic hermitage. The weight of the hillside, the threatening trees and the deepening shadows turn it into a picturesque narrative.
GiantsCave1866.jpg

GiantsCaveFromOldEngraving.jpg

IsisParlisHutchSmaller.jpg
 
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