Rigg Beck House: Where are the other pictures?

I wrote in this blog last year about my memories of the Purple House in the Newlands Valley, after hearing it had burned down in 2008. I received a message in response to that post from Jane Wright, asking me for other recollections of the time I lived there (1985-1988). I’m ashamed to say that, due to the utterly chaotic state of my life at the time, I did not reply. If you’re reading this, Jane, I apologize.

Recently, there have been quite a few hits on the original post, and a couple of comments. While searching for pictures of Rigg Beck on the internet, I was struck by the fact that only one shows it when the house was occupied. That picture is the one you see, taken by a friend during my first autumn there in 1985. That’s me standing outside, a quarter of a century younger and fitter.

Where are the other pictures, taken when Rigg Beck was full of life? It’s heartbreaking to see only the pictures of dereliction. So many people passed through Rigg Beck during its life as a hotel, family home and later, boarding house.

So I’m asking for pictures and memories to celebrate a unique house in its glory days, as I still remember them. Although we were the last tenants. But it was always haunted by its past – you could see the pristine Newlands Hotel shining through the grime and neglect. Rigg Beck always seemed to me forever young.

I think Varya would approve. If you have pictures or memories, please contact me. Thank you.

9 thoughts on “Rigg Beck House: Where are the other pictures?

    • Hi Ian,

      I apologize for not replying sooner. I wish I did know more about the family, but they’d all gone by the time I lived at Rigg Beck from 1985 – 1988. Varya used to talk about raisng a family of 10 kids without benefit of electricity, and the kitchen was certainly big enough, with a great long wooden bench for that number of people. I know that one son, Adam, died as a teenager at a party and was buried in the local churchyard. For the rest, I should have asked Varya more questions. You may know more about the family than I do. Did you live locally?

      Thank you for the Ambleside link to Mr Vergauwen. The legend was that he was a Dutch merchant sailor, who returned home at yearly intervals to put another bun in Varya’s Aga – clearly unreliable Keswick gossip.

      All the best,

      • Thanks Paul.

        The name Vergauwen is of Flemish/Dutch/Low countries origin, I believe. I have no connection to the family nor have been anywhere near the house – my interest was sparked by an newspaper article about the murder of Leonies’ son, Daniel, by her abusive partner Gerald Dowden. As a musician (and I understand as was Leonie, who studied at Dartington college of arts) and educationist who has been involved in child protection issues, this case fascinated me. If you have the stomach for it, Google ‘Daniel Vergauwen’. Leonie was convicted of cruelty and Dowden got a life sentence. Varya changed the family name to Vee to distance themselves from the stigma and it is very hard to find anyone who will talk about that sad death.

        The contrast of a bohemian, outdoor and creative life from Rigg Beck to the Kingsmead estate in Tower Hamlets could not have been greater for poor Leonie.

        The son of Mrs. Vee, who died in his teens, or early twenties, was also named Daniel but there might also have been an Adam in the family. The eldest son, Reuben, had mental issues and was also found dead in unfortunate circumstances. I think I have knowledge of his daughter. stored away somewhere.

        If you were to look up Jane Wright (who is a top notch photographer) and Dolores Storr, you will find some interesting photographs. Jane was kind enough to send me a sliver of purple painted clapboard, before the fire, which hangs on the wall in my studio. There is also a book written by a former lodger, of which there are copies on Amazon.

        I don’t live locally, I am in Shropshire.

        Very best wishes

        Ian H

  1. It’s time all of you left this family in peace, especially as you almost invariably get your facts wrong.
    As for the guy who wrote the supposed book on Rigg Beck, he used the title just to gain interest and encourage people to buy it. The fact that it is mainly about his sordid sex life and his equally boring job and what little is written about the inhabitants of Rigg Beck are uncaring and insulting. He only mentions the ones who are no longer alive so safe from comeback from family members, how low can you get.

    • What facts did I get wrong? As to the book about Rigg Beck, I’m aware of its existence. But I’ve never blogged about it, nor am I interested in reading it. You, on the other hand, seem to be obsessed with the book. Direct your anger to the author, not me.

  2. My comments were not directed just at you POETMCGONAGALL, but at all readers of this blog. Mr Ian H has no right to write anything about this family of whom he has never met nor had anything to do with. The supposed facts he has written down may have an element of truth but are almost totally inaccurate.
    My views on the book The Purple House comes from a sense of compassion, that this family has endured enough from peoples speculation and uncalled for interest, I wrote about this book here, in the hopes that people thinking they will be getting a biography of Rigg Beck will decide to give it a miss, I am not computer savvy enough to find out how to comment in the appropriate area.
    Rigg Beck was and will always be an amazing place in peoples hearts, but that is where it needs to remain.

    • I understand what you’re saying, but I stand by my previous comment. What facts did I get wrong? And you should not direct your anger at me at all, since I have never blogged about or publicized the book.

      “Rigg Beck was and will always be an amazing place in peoples hearts.” True, as I know from experience, but there’s no reason that good memories of an extraordinary house should not be shared.

    • The short answer is that I am enquiring, because I lived at Rigg beck from 1985-1988 and grew to to love the house and its history. I also considered Varya a friend as much as a landlady. You can see the post here: https://beautifulrailwaybridgeofthesilverytay.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/in-memoriam-rigg-beck-house-1881-2008/. I am not interested in digging up details of your family life, but I am interested in seeing pictures of the house in its heyday. There is a great deal of social history wrapped up in Rigg Beck, from its beginning as a unique Lake District hotel through the period when actors from the Century Theatre were lodgers (Victoria Wood, Bob Hoskins etc.) to its sad decline into decrepitude. That last period is the only one for which there are pictures. I would like to redress the balance by posting photos of Rigg Beck in its glory days, with some historical tie-ins.

      You probably know that Liam contacted me, as you will see from the comments below the post I linked to. I hope that answers your question. Perhaps you should talk to him.

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