A Lake District company has been accused of removing Windermere's links to slavery from its boating tours.

Paul Holdsworth, a boatmaster who worked for Windermere Lake Cruises (WLC) for 10 years, told the Guardian he quit after employees were banned from mentioning slavery in their commentaries.

Mr Holdsworth said that during his time skippers made up their own commentaries during boat tours and talked of all aspects of Windermere’s life and history.

He alleges however that the company told employees that slavery references may cause distress or upset to passengers and said that the guidebook, which was being updated, had references to slavery removed.

Many of the grand houses on the waterfront were built by businessmen who benefited from the slave trade including Col John Bolton, a Liverpool-based merchant.

Mr Holdsworth told the Guardian: "That’s a bit of a commentary that seems to have caused a problem but there’s loads of other historical facts being said. And I’m not talking about the details of slavery, I’m just talking about the bald facts."

Other sensitive subject matters that apparently were not censored were Nazi death camps, high-speed boat crashes and drownings, said Mr Holdsworth.

The Westmorland Gazette: Windermere Lake Cruises

Anti-Racist Cumbria approached Windermere Lake Cruises to offer support to co-create respectful transcripts and wording. 

CEO Janett Walker said. "We hope WLC will take us up on our offer. Windermere Lake Cruises says it aims to give a world-class visitor experience; an entertaining, accurate and informative commentary is part of that experience.

"Enslavement is part of the history of the lake, and it is an insult to people’s intelligence to pretend it didn’t happen, it is there for all to see. We hope we can work together to create a positive outcome to this situation; one that will allow our shared local history to respectfully be part of the experience that millions of visitors enjoy on Windermere each year."

A spokesperson for Windermere Lake Cruises: "Firstly, we are mindful of the need to respect confidentiality in relation to employees and former employees, so are unwilling to comment on specific employment related matters.

"Windermere Lake Cruises Limited operates 17 Class V passenger boats on Windermere and carries over one million passengers annually. Our larger vessels have a pre-recorded commentary system, but on our smaller vessels a live commentary is delivered by the Skipper. Reasonable parameters for these commentaries are specified by the company, which are kept under constant review and are communicated to our Skippers.

"We are a sustainable passenger transport provider and these parameters are intended to ensure that our commentaries add to our customers’ enjoyment of the services we offer and do not cause upset or offence to those listening.

"Following the receipt of complaints regarding the inclusion of reference to the Transatlantic Trade of Enslaved People in our commentaries, we decided to amend the reasonable parameters for our commentaries.

"We are not an organisation responsible for providing education or historical interpretation of the area in which we operate and felt there was no compelling need to refer to the Transatlantic Trade of Enslaved People, given that this aspect of our commentary had been the source of complaints.

"We carefully consider the content of our live and pre-recorded commentaries, as well as our guidebooks and marketing materials, and constantly strive to provide a positive visitor experience while respecting the diverse perspectives and sensitivities of our audience."