William Norman Birkett was born in Ulverston on 6th September 1883 and died in London on 10 February 1962 – a sadly relevant date.
Although Ulverston was then in Lancashire, he was certainly a passionate Lakelander who loved and cherished the Lakes - described in his famous speech as: ‘so small, so lovely, so vulnerable’.
The son of drapers, with whom he worked initially, he left school at 16, was a Methodist Preacher, President of the Cambridge University Union, Liberal MP, Barrister, QC. He was one of the British Judges at the Nuremberg war trials, a Court of Appeal Judge and Law Lord. He was ennobled in 1958.
He was described as "one of the most prominent liberal barristers in the first half of the 20th century".
Lord Birkett’s powerful speech, “deeply felt and eloquent”, is rightly considered one of the finest in modern Parliamentary history and undoubtedly saved the lake “for all people for all time”.
He concluded - “Thus far and no farther. Go away. Come again another day, if you will. But in the meantime, do that which ought to have been done before. Produce the hydrological data on which the House can come to a proper decision. Until that is done, you have no right whatever to invade the sanctity of a National Park".
Tragically, Lord Birkett died of a heart attack a few days later. He is best remembered for this final triumph which is commemorated by the naming of Birkett Fell overlooking the west shore of the lake, a plaque on the lake shore below Hallin Fell and now the commemoration on the Ullswater Way by the Steamer pier house in Pooley Bridge. In addition, each summer the Ullswater Yacht Club stages the Birkett Trophy – a ‘must do’ regatta.