Friday, January 14, 2011

Londonderry's Hermit

This postcard found on eBay prompted my story….

Crystal Lake, AKA “Skenker’s Pond” or “Mosquito Pond”, is located in Manchester’s south end off Bodwell Road. The City of Manchester runs a municipal park there with swimming. There is still a fieldstone bathhouse located at Crystal Lake Beach, built in 1942 by the Works Progress Administration, which was renovated in 1987.

Charles Alan Lambert arrived in Manchester in the 1840s from Lincolnshire, England to live the life of a hermit. He bought 40 acres on Mosquito Pond, as it was known then, and built a hut.  It appears that Lambert had failed in his law studies, and at love, and decided to take to the woods as a hermit. He lived a vegetarian lifestyle, wrote poetry and tended sheep. He was a local celebrity, and was sought out by tourists for his home grown herbs.  During his life he amassed a large collection of Indian artifacts, which he showed to visitors. He did not allow himself to drink coffee, tea, or alcohol. (Sampson, 2000) 

Lambert lived in his hut for 60 years, and died at the Sisters of Mercy House of St. John for Aged Men in 1914. He was buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery with a gravestone marked “The Hermit” (Perreault, 1984) His will stipulated that all his property was to benefit St. Patrick’s Orphanage in Manchester.

The famous Manchester photographer Ulric Bourgeois (1874 – 1963) was known for his photographs of the mill workers and French Canadian immigrants. He also had a series of photographs of the hermit Charles Lambert. Bourgeois read about Lambert in the local papers, and bicycled over to Mosquito Pond with fourteen glass plates to make 28 exposures of the hermit over the years. Lambert was almost eighty years old at the time they met, but over a dozen years he struck up a friendship with Bourgeois and allowed him to photograph his lifestyle.  This postcard is one of Bourgeois's photos.

For more information on Charles Alan Lambert:

“Mosquito Pond, or Life in the Woods”, by R. B. Perreault,  in the The Manchester Journal,  July 4, 1984.
Manchester: the Mills and the Immigrant Experience, by Gary Sampson, Acadia Publishing, 2000, pages 103 – 107.

New Hampshire Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff , by Eric Jones, Morris Book Publishing, 2006, pages 72-74.

Encyclopedia of New England,  "Hermits", by Burt Feintuch and David H. Watters, Yale University Press, 2005, pages 759 - 760.

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Great story! Sounds kind of like Londenderry's answer to Henry David Thoreau!

  2. Heather,

    That second smaller photo is from my web site. I own the original post card. You can't see his face well, but you can see the shack he lived in. I grew up in that end of Manchester. Some day I might blog about him :) Keep up the great work.

    Jan at CH

  3. Years ago I purchased an amazing photograph of Charles Allen Lambert taken by Ulric Bourgeois, entitled "Hermit Poking a Beehive" as a Christmas gift for my husband. He was, himself and avid photographer and I thought he'd love it if only for the quality, the resolution and the interesting subject, but he did not care for it and foolishly left it behind when he left our relationship. I treasure it and it hangs in my livingroom. I contacted a museum in Manchester, NH to learn about the artist and his subject and they were most helpful. I hope to some day visit that museum and see their collection. My Lambert was elderly in the photo I have. His multi-layered clothing was torn and tattered and he was sorely in need of a bath judging from his bare hands. In one hand he held a home-made bow and arrow and a dead rabbit (but I just read he was vegitarian???)and in his left hand he held the stick with which to poke the dormant hive. It tells such a story! I hope to find more photos of him some day.

    Stephanie S.
    Lancaster, PA