Considered one of the major tourist 'honeypot' villages in the South Lakeland area, Hawkshead (Hawk-shead) is a village located near three lakes, north of Esthwaite Water, east of Coniston and west of Windermere. Though located in Cumbria, it is actually a part of Furness. This means it used to belong to the county of Lancashire before the border changes implemented in 1974 which created the county Cumbria from areas such as Cumberland and Westmorland.
Hawkshead's earliest history is reckoned to show signs of Norse settlement around the 9th Century. The area where the church is situated, St. Michael's and All Angels, is thought to be the place where the original settlement may have been built. Evidence of such a settlement seems to come from the man-made mound with a partially visible moat or ditch around, which could suggest embankments built for defensive purposes. The name Hawkshead is of Norse origin, supposedly from a Norse man named 'Haukr' who probably developed one of the first settlements along with 'saetr,' meaning place or settlement. It was originally named 'Houksete' in 1200, so it is easy to see how the name evolved over time. Other words used in Cumbrian dialect also has Norse origins such as 'Fells,' Norse for a hill and ' Thwaite,' meaning a clearing, such as Bassenthwaite.
A lot of the history of Hawkshead is actually based around Furness Abbey and its connection with the monastic way of life. Hawkshead was the administrative centre for the abbey as well as place which was cultivated by the monks. They would farm sheep, namely the durable Herdwick breed, using is wool to trade with and bring great wealth to the monks. It is this that helped the village become a wool-based market area from the 12th to the mid-16th Century, due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries under order of Henry VIII from 1536 to 1541. Furness Abbey was dissolved in 1537, the first of the larger houses to be dissolved voluntarily. This allowed the local farmers to trade more freely, not to mention they were able to claim the sheep the monks had farmed, bringing greater prosperity to the villages surrounding. This eventually led to Hawkshead becoming a market town instead, after it received its first market charter from King James I in 1608, this would allow a more consistent way to engage in marketing from buying, selling and trading for various resources.
Hawkshead is the also the place where the poet, William Wordsworth, spent most of his boyhood at Hawkshead Grammar School - which was founded in 1585 by the Archbishop of York, Edwin Sandys - with one of his brothers. After their mother had passed away quite recently, the two boys were taken in by the Tyson family. Ann Tyson, who Wordsworth called a 'kind and motherly Dame,' made some accounts of her time with the Wordsworth boys which are featured in the Grammar School, which is now a museum and library. The Grammar School, while is saw its last pupils in the 20th Century when it was closed in 1909, still contains some of the old furnishings including an Elizabethan charter and the desk Wordsworth inscribed his initials. Wordsworth was inspired by Hawkshead and admired it greatly, he even mentioned it in his poem, The Prelude, 'Up the familiar hill I took my way, towards that sweet valley where I had been reared...' One of the schoolmasters of the school was the brother of the infamous Fletcher Christian, Edward Christian. His brother, Fletcher is the man renowned for leading the Mutiny of the Bounty. It is possible that Wordsworth may have known the Christians as both families hailed from Cockermouth. This lead to a fascination of the Mutiny in later years, helping his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge with his poem, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner that was inspired by the tale.
Another building of interest is the church, St. Michael's and All Angels, a Grade I listed church which was first constructed around the 1300s as an extension to a per-existing chapel from the 12th Century and has been added to over a long period of time with extensions and furnishings added, dating from around 1300 to 1965. It is an active Anglican parish church which was even described in the Pevsner Architectural Guides, Buildings of England, as "one of the best Lake District churches." As the Church was instated by the Sandys family, the north chapel is named 'Sandys' and bears their coat of arms and the date of 1578, the date the status was raised from chapelry to a parish by request of Edwin Sandys. The church tower contains eight bells, where inside there is a separate private chapel which house the tombs of Edwin Sandys's parents.
Hawkshead and a lot of the surrounding lands is mostly owned by the National Trust , under the name Hawkshead and Claife such as most the 4000 acres which Beatrix Potter owned which was bequeathed upon her death in 1943. It also owns Tarn Hows, one of the most popular beauty spots in Britain. The tarn, or corrie lake, is located high up between Hawkshead and Coniston. It is a beautiful place surrounded by pines and larch trees, which is often used for postcards and calendars. There are good walks around the lake which, as it is shallow, may freeze over to create a wonderful sight.
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Cumbria Tourist Information