A local amateur historian is appealing for help in his mission to uncover the secrets of one of the most mysterious legends of the Lake District.

Phil Burrows, has scoured the Langdale countryside for 20 years to uncover the elusive hideouts and distilleries of Lancelot "Lanty" Slee, a farmer and quarryman by day, but notorious smuggler of illicit bog-water moonshine by night, but much of the knowledge died with him in 1878, and now exists only in local folklore and hearsay.

Phil made his biggest breakthrough in 2021, when the National Trust recognised his discovery of one of Lanty's illegal distilleries at High Arnside Farm, but is awaiting permission from them to explore underground.

Phil said: "Rumours of a secret stash of his local whisky permeate the local pubs and folklore.

"Using his local knowledge as a quarryman, he was able to find old mines, or in some cases, chiselled his own hideout out of the rock.

"Lanty was always one step ahead - he was the Walter White of his day.

"He even managed to smuggle some into court on on occasion he was caught, and had the audacity to offer some to the judge."

Phil told one story of Fell Foot Farm in Little Langdale, when Lanty was using it to store his liquor:

"It was visited by a customs man, and a lady was employed to distract him by adjusting her stockings whilst sat on the barrel which was upstairs - meanwhile Lanty and his crew were downstairs and they drilled a hole through the floor and drained the barrel, so when he picked it up there was nothing in it!

"This house is still there, and the hole is still there - it's now a light fitting!

"He was a bit of a gangster, and there are also some tales suggesting he was a violent man, like when he and his crew from Ravenglass sailed to Millom, beat up the town, and sailed home.

"The region was full or piracy and lawlessness at the time, so most of the written records were conveniently 'lost'"

The Westmorland Gazette: HISTORIAN: Phil scours the Lakes looking for sitesHISTORIAN: Phil scours the Lakes looking for sites

"There must be so many more sites out there - some have been demolished or filled in, but I'm determined to find them, but it takes a lot of legwork, so I'd beseech anybody who might be able to help me, or has heard snippets of rumours to get in touch."

Phil has made several films of his discoveries, which are on Youtube.