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Coniston Water
Coniston Water from Holme Fell.jpg
View from Holme Fell, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north
Location Lake District, Cumbria
Coordinates 54°21′N 3°04′W / 54.350°N 3.067°W / 54.350; -3.067
Primary outflows River Crake
Max. length 8.8 km (5.5 mi)
Max. width 793 m (0.49 mi)
Surface area 4.7 km2
Average depth 24.1 m (79.1 ft)
Max. depth 56.1 m (184.1 ft)
Water volume 113.3 x 106
Islands 2; Peel Island, Oak Island. 1 partial; (at high water) Fir Island

Coniston Water in Cumbria, England is the third largest lake in the English Lake District. It is five miles (8 km) long, half a mile (800 m) wide, has a maximum depth of 184 feet (56 m), and covers an area of 1.89 square miles (4.9 km2). The lake has an elevation of 143 feet (44 m) above sea level. It drains to the sea via the River Crake.

Geography and administration

Coniston Water is situated within the boundaries of the historic county of Lancashire. Today Coniston Water forms part of the administrative county of Cumbria.

Old man of Coniston
Old Man of Coniston from Coniston Water north

Coniston Water is an example of a ribbon lake formed by glaciation. The lake sits in a deep U-shaped glaciated valley scoured by a glacier in the surrounding volcanic and limestone rocks during the last ice age.

To the north-west of the lake rises the Old Man of Coniston, the highest fell in the Coniston Fells group.


Remains of agricultural settlements from the Bronze Age have been found near the shores of Coniston Water. The Romans mined copper from the fells above the lake, and a potash kiln and two iron bloomeries show that industrial activity continued in medieval times. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Coniston Water was an important source of fish for the monks of Furness Abbey who owned the lake and much of the surrounding land. Copper mining continued in the area until the 19th century.

The lake was formerly known as "Thurston Water", a name derived from the Old Norse personal name 'Thursteinn' + Old English 'waeter'. This name was used as an alternative to Coniston Water until the late 18th century.

The Victorian artist and philosopher John Ruskin owned Brantwood House on the eastern shore of the lake, and lived in it from 1872 until his death in 1900. Ruskin is buried in the churchyard in the village of Coniston, at the northern end of the lake. His secretary the antiquarian W. G. Collingwood wrote a historical novel Thorstein of the Mere about the Northmen who settled on the island in the lake.

The Victorian and Edwardian artist Henry Robinson Hall settled in Coniston during the Great War and is buried in the parish church graveyard.

Arthur Ransome set his children's novel Swallows and Amazons and the sequels Swallowdale, Winter Holiday, Pigeon Post and The Picts and the Martyrs around a fictional lake derived from a combination of Coniston Water and Windermere. The fictional lake resembles Windermere, but the surrounding hills and fells resemble those of Coniston Water. Some of Coniston Water's islands and other local landmarks can be identified in the novels. In particular the books' Wild Cat Island with its secret harbour is based on Peel Island. The Swallows and Amazons series involve school holiday adventures in the 1930s.

Historically, Coniston was part of Lancashire (North of the Sands), until Local Government reorganisation in 1974 when Cumbria was created.

Waterspeed record

Coniston Watermap
An Ordnance Survey map of Coniston Water from 1925

In the 20th century Coniston Water was the scene of many attempts to break the world water speed record. On August 19, 1939 Sir Malcolm Campbell set the record at 141.74 miles per hour (228.108 km/h) in Bluebird K4. Between 1956 and 1959 Sir Malcolm's son Donald Campbell set four successive records on the lake in Bluebird K7, a hydroplane.

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