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Revd Charles Hudson Mountain Climber Extraordinaire

Revd Charles Hudson Mountain Climber Extraordinaire
Charles Hudson was a remarkable man, probably unknown to most of our readers but certainly not to anybody familiar with the history of mountain climbing
Here’s another Lincolnshire Worthy who set out to conquer the Matterhorn !
Please don’t miss this wonderful adventure yarn complete with wonderful illustrations. . .

Although born in Ripon Yorkshire, 1828 son of Joshua and Jane Hudson, I’m considering him to be a honorary Lincolnshire man as this is where he settled.
Educated in York, then St John’s College in Cambridge Charles Hudson showed excellence both in academic studies and sporting prowess.
After his education he entered the church but promptly went off to serve as an Army Chaplain in the Crimean War.

His desire to be a mountain climber was already fired at this point, indeed, such was the desire that after the fall of Sebastopol he didn’t return home straight away but travelled and explored some mountainous regions including Mount Ararat.
On returning home to England he joined the famous Alpine Club but he still had to earn a living so he came to Lincolnshire.
Skillington near Grantham to be precise where he secured the living of Skillington church.

This takes us to the Golden Age of Alpinism.
The summer of 1865 saw a determined attempt to conquer the mighty Matterhorn, a mountain in the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy, despite the dangers and the fact that 5 previous attempts out of the last 10 had failed.
The expedition was led by and Englishman Edward Whymper, it was Whymper who actually met Charles Hudson in Zermatt, Revd. Hudson was there with Douglas Hadow (a young friend whom he’d quite literally shown the ropes to) and planned his own attempt to climb the Matterhorn . . . they joined forces !

Revd Charles Hudson climbs the Matterhorn

Ascent of the Matterhorn 14 July 1865 by Gustave Doré

Above you’ll see the wonderful illustration by Doré of this famous event in the Golden Age of Alpinism.
The climbing party left Zermatt early on the 13th and by midday they were already at 11,000 feet so made a base camp, pitched tents and prepared to spend the night on the mountain.
Next day saw a daybreak start with Edward Whymper and Charles Hudson taking turns as lead climber.
By 10am they were at 14,000 feet and stopped for a rest before attempting the terrifying overhanging cliff just before the summit, this proved tricky, especially for Charles Hudson’s young friend Douglas Hadow but . . . by 1.40pm the party of 7 climbers were stood on the peak of the mighty Matterhorn !

A moment of elation and tremendous triumph, man conquering nature but tragically, this is not the end of the story . . .
After an hour on the peak and the setting of flags etc the descent began, roped together but moving carefully one at a time - it was a laborious process.

At 3pm Michel Croz, the highly experienced Chamonix guide, was with Douglas Hadow and Charles Hudson, Croz laid down his pick in order to help the young Hadow re-secure a foothold.
Hadow slipped, fell and knocked over Croz, they both fell !
Being roped together they immediately took Charles Hudson and Lord Francis Douglas ( Seventh Marquis of Queensbury ) with them !
There was some more rope between them Whymper, Peter Taugwalder and his son also named Peter, so they had a moment to brace and take the strain, the rope tensioned and held briefly before it snapped and Michael Coz, Douglas Hadow, Lord Francis Douglas and Reverend Charles Hudson of Skillington church in Lincolnshire plunged 4,000 feet to their deaths †

the death of Charles Hudson famous Victorian mountain climber from Lincolnshire

The Tragic Fall by Gustave Doré

Triumph had turned into tragedy and great joy into horror, for half an hour emotion paralyzed the men before they collected themselves and managed to descend.
A few days later the bodies of Hudson, Hadow and Croz were recovered and buried in the Zermatt churchyard, the body of Lord Francis Douglas was never recovered.

It caused a great stir and much controversy, blame was apportioned by Whymper though I do not propose to go into it here. The incident did reverberate further than the climbing world though with no less than Queen Victoria herself asking the Lord Chancellor if there wasn’t any law which could be passed to stop these dangerous adventures!

The parish church of Skillington in Lincolnshire, dating back to Saxon times, has two stained glass windows to the memory of Revd Charles Hudson and there’s also a brass plaque to commemorate his life and achievements placed by Friends of the Alpine Club.

A wonderful man, full of the Victorian spirit of adventure . . .


  1. veronica said,

    October 18, 2012 @ 7:50 am

    What a tragedy! the loss of life especially but also , imagine that tumult of rapidly changing emotions. The euphoria and then utter terror and uncertainty. It’s so sad.

    RIP as always .

  2. v said,

    October 21, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

    The Kendal Mercury of July 29th 1865 reported that before Hudson left England, he had invented a wire ladder for scaling precipices and was keen to use it . But for some reason, this ladder was not used on the climb.

    Edward Whymper wrote to The Reynolds Newspaper of August 13th 1865 and gave an account of the accident and stated that he thought the rope between those we had fallen could not have been pulled tightly enough.

    The National Probate Calendar of August 23rd 1865 states that Charles Hudson left under £5000 in his will.

  3. Tom Waugh said,

    June 13, 2016 @ 4:54 pm

    I’ve just returned from a trip to Zermatt where I saw Charles Hudson’s grave in the British Quarter where they have a mountain climber cemetery.
    There have been some 500 deaths on the mountain.
    If you are interested, I have some images of the grave.
    Best wishes from Switzerland.

  4. Rod said,

    June 13, 2016 @ 4:55 pm

    Thanks for the comment and welcome to the site.

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