Mardale is a glacial valley in the Lake District, in northern England. The valley used to have a hamlet at its head, called Mardale Green, but this village was submerged in the late 1930’s when the water level of the valley’s lake, Haweswater, was raised to form Haweswater Reservoir by the Manchester Corporation.
Most of the village’s buildings were blown up by the Royal Engineers, who used them for demolition practice. The exception was the small church, which could accommodate only 75 people, and had an all-ticket congregation for its last service. It was then dismantled in April, 1937, stone by stone, and the stones and windows were re-used to build the water take off tower which is situated along the Western shore of the reservoir.
Some 97 sets of remains were disinterred from the churchyard and transferred to Shap. Alfred Wainwright protested bitterly about the loss of Mardale in his series of pictorial guides to the Lakeland fells, having first visited it in 1930. The ruins of the abandoned village occasionally reappear when the water level in the reservoir is low.
In response to the submerging of the village the Manchester Corporation provided a new access road that runs for four miles along the south-eastern side of the reservoir to a car park at Gatesgarth. From here ascents of the peaks surrounding the head of the valley, such as Harter Fell, High Street and Kidsty Pike may be made.
The Haweswater Dam was considered to be an engineering feat in its time. The creation of a reservoir in the Haweswater area was first looked at by a Royal Commission in 1866.
Fifty years later in 1919 an Act of Parliament enabled the development of Haweswater beck into a reservoir with a capacity 85,000 million litres. Construction started in 1929 on the dam however, was abandoned for three years between 1931 and 1934. Once complete the reservoir took almost a year to fill with the first recorded water overtopping and flowing down the overflow slipway in 1941.
Windows and some of the stones from the church were reused in the draw-off tower situated a little way back from the dam wall. Two hundred men worked on the construction of the dam. They lived in a temporary village called Burnbanks, with their families which was built nearby.