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Mystery surrounding identity of Policeman Crag solved

Policeman Crag - Clough Head
Policeman Crag – Clough Head

One of Cumbria’s earliest police officers has been identified as Policeman Crag.

Policeman Crag is a story of an officer who died in the execution of his duty on a Cumbrian fell. The identity of the officer was unknown until this year when a police staff member uncovered the truth of who Policeman Crag was and how he died.

Raymond Greenhow, the Constabulary’s Alarms Manager, identified Policeman Crag to be a reference to Police Constable James Armstrong who died on 30th September 1847.

Raymond, who is a keen local historian, started to research the tale of Policeman Crag after seeing a reference to the death of a policeman at Clough Head. Local people knew of the crag name reference but there was nobody seemed to know who, when and how this referred.

Raymond’s research of public records and papers led to a reporting of an inquest held at the Royal Hotel in Keswick on Monday 4th October 1847. Constable James Armstrong’s body was laid out before the Coroner’s court following its discovery at the foot of Wanthwaite Crags, near Threlkeld.

The court heard that on Wednesday 29th September, PC Armstrong set out to travel from Keswick to Pooley Bridge on foot to execute a warrant of a non-payment of a fine. Following the payment PC Armstrong made his way back to Keswick.

On his travel back he became lost and, instead of keeping to the road, his disorientated route had taken him high up Wanthwaite Crags. On trying to get lower he fell over 300 feet, leaving a trail of blood which resulted in his eye being knocked completely out, his right leg and arm broken, nearly all his ribs fractured and his neck broken.

PC Armstrong, aged 40, of the Derwent Division, left behind a widow and three children. The inquest’s verdict was one of accidental death and the evidence had suggested that the officer in darkness had lost his way, venturing high on the fell before trying to retrace his steps, resulting in the tragic fall.

Raymond’s research has led to James Armstrong been inducted on to the roll of honour of police officers who have died in the line of duty.

Raymond Greenhow said: “This is an interesting but sad tale of an officer who died in the execution of his duty which was a non-payment of a fine warrant.

“The incident has lived on in the memory of the local people of Wanthwaite and Threlkeld. With the specific crag now referred to as Policeman Crag in memory of a pillar and protector of the community. His death shows the demands on a police officer back then, with the execution of a warrant taking days to complete in what would have been difficult weather conditions.”

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