In summer 1926, the then resident Fisher family played host to a young Evelyn Waugh (1903 – 1966), who was on the verge of giving up a teaching position to take up writing more fully. He was taken otter hunting down on the River Derwent before a whistletop tour of the Lakes.
Entry From The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh
Higham, Bassenthwaite Lake, Cockermouth, Cumberland Wednesday 4 August, 1926
The Fishers sent a big red motor car to bring me here. This is a very Gothic house with turrets and castellations and a perfectly lovely view across the lake to a mountain called Skiddaw. There was plenty to drink at dinner and no nonsense about ‘joining the ladies’. There are quite a number of odd-looking women, mostly called’ Aunt Effie’. After dinner they never appeared again. We just went straight to the library and smoked cigars and drank whisky.
Next day we had breakfast – a prodigious meal – at 7 o’clock and went out to hunt for an otter. Mr. Fisher wore a suit of flannel plus-fours with brass buttons and a pink collar. He and I and all the men were armed with long spiked sticks, the women with cameras. We met some hairy dogs on a bridge and the hunt started. It was a most ill-disciplined affair. Two men seemed of imporatnce – a very fat old man who, besides Mr. Fisher’s clothes, wore a pink waistcoat, and a young man called Jack who had a trumpet and a whip. Jack would not do what the fat man said, and the dogs would not do what jack said. We walked along the river (called Derwent) for some time, when suddenly the dogs started making noises like sea-lions and all the men ran into the river except the master who danced on the bank saying ‘put terriers in’. Jack tried to dig a hole and while he dug the dogs stood round and kicked the earth in again as fast as he threw it out. Then there was a long pause and we started walking again. Then there was another sudden noise and Jack danced about in water so deep that only the tip of his trumpet appeared. We caught an otter to the great delight of the ladies with the cameras who took ‘snapshots’ of all the more barbarous details and were rewarded with bits of bloody otter’s meat like the dogs. Then we went on walking until the Master was tired and Jack fell down in the water and hurt his knee and then we got into a Ford van and drove back very wet with a deaf terrier we found on the road.
After luncheon we went for a drive – me and Mr. Fisher and an Aunt Effie and the brother who had mumps and a chauffeur called Thomas. We saw a lot of lakes and a seat where Wordsworth wrote and a very Welsh lake with piers and jetties and promenades and ice-cream carts called Windermere. When we came back we played tennis – Allan and his father were both worse then me. Dinner, cigars, bed.
If you are eagle-eyed, you may notice that the house is referred to as “Higham” not “Higham Hall”. The “Hall’ bit was added by the council after they acquired the property much later, presuamably to make it sound grand. Marketing eh?