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Details for the tourist information center at Kendal.

25 StramongateKendalLA9 4BH

Information about Kendal


The third biggest settlement in Cumbria behind Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness, Kendal, though known in the past as Kirkbie Kendal or Kirkby in Kendal, is a market town located in the South Lakeland area in the stunning Kent Valley. It often described as the 'Gateway to the Lakes.' It is also known as Auld Grey Town due to the fact that a lot of the buildings there are constructed with the local grey limestone, giving the town a neutral appearance. Kendal is famous for several things such as snuff, Kendal Green and the well-renowned, Kendal Mint Cake. Being near the M6 Motorway and linked by several A-Roads (A591, A65 for example), it is easily accessible by car. It is also accessible by train as it is located on the Windermere Branch Line which are connected to lines in both Oxenholme and Lancaster Railway station.

Kendal's first settling grounds can first be traced back to the Briton people, namely the Brigantes tribe but little is known about their time in the Kendal area. The first piece of substantial history comes from the Romans who, like what happened with a lot of the north territories of Britain, built a fort in 90A.D. at a site known contemporarily as Watercrook (two miles from Kendal's town centre) on the bend of the River Kent, which passes through Kendal. The area was proposed to be an area of importance and the Romans occupying the fort started to trade with the local Brigantes for needed supplies. The fort, known as Alvana or Alauna, was originally built from wood and was later remodelled in stone around 130A.D. during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. While the Romans didn't leave Britain until the 4th Century, the fort was abandoned around 270A.D. as the military units departed. While its ruins are buried under farmland, artefacts from the Romans can be found in Kendal Museum.

The town was also listed in the Domesday Book by the Normans as part of Yorkshire under the name Cherchebie. Though for many centuries, it was known as Kirkbie Kendal which can interpreted as 'village with a church in the valley of the River Kent.' The town has had two castles built upon it, though both have fell into ruin. The first castle was called Castle How (alternatively spelt Howe), and was a motte and bailey castle, a castle with a stone or wooden keep atop raised ground with an courtyard encircled by a ditch and/or palisade. This castle is reckoned to have been built after the Norman Invasion around 1087 either by a Norman nobleman, Ivo Taillebois, a supporter of William and important figure of Norman times. However, there is other speculation that it was either built later after 1100 by a nobleman known as 'Ketel' or even prior to the Norman Invasion. One thing for sure is though, that it was abandoned and a castle was built opposite on Castle Hill known as Castle Kendal, supposedly in the late-12th Century. The remainder of Castle Howe is only the old motte (the keep), as the bailey (courtyard) was destroyed by the building of a park on the spot. Where the motte was stands an obelisk, erected in 1788.

Castle Kendal however, remains more intact than the former and was built in stone. The castle was meant to be a home for a Lancastrian family who were the Barons of Kendal. However, more famously, the castle housed the Parr family, who birthed the same Catherine Parr that survived the English king, Henry VIII. However, it is disputed whether she was born in the castle or not. However, most evidence points to the fact she wasn't as by the time she was born, a lot of the castle was in a poor state and crumbling away as it was abandoned by the Parr family, possibly for London as Parr's father preferred the courts of London. Since the Tudors, it has remained a ruin. Another building, Castle Dairy was part of Castle Kendal. Though it was not a castle itself, it is a well-preserved 16th Century building displaying domestic architecture and furnishings from the time. It was in fact originally the castle's dairy. Both castles are maintained by the South Lakeland District Council.

Another Castle is Sizergh Castle about five miles south of Kendal. Though it is a stately home, it has a strong connection with the Strickland family, who made a name for themselves at Agincourt, and the Parr family. It also has an award-winning rock garden and wide diversity of bird wildlife. It is currently owned by the National Trust. Two miles further south is Levens Hall which was built as a strategic pele tower (watch towers to warn of impending attacks, usually by signal fire ) in 1300 to withstand Scottish raiders but was later incorporated into the Elizabethan mansion that can be seen today. The place is owned by the Bagot family and is currently open to the public. It features stunning gardens designed by Guillaume Beaumont around 1690 and seen as a garden where attention to perspective as been carefully planned and is well known for its large and topiary style garden. The Hall is said to also be a realm of supernatural activity as three ghosts such as grey lady who is said to haunt the grounds, have claimed to have been spotted.

On the other hand, Kendal is best known for its produce and market reputation. As a chartered market town, which it was given grant in the 12th Century, its prosperity has often reflected upon the trade which it has endorsed. For instance, in the medieval times, the woollen trade was very important for Kendal and is even a part of the coat of arms and the town's motto being: Pannus mihi panis, Latin for 'wool (cloth) is my bread.' However, such wealth and affluence did not go unnoticed. Areas like Kendal were often targets for Border Reivers, raiders from the Anglo-Scottish borders who plundered and often kidnapped people indiscriminately (except from family members and people with military power) in the sought for power and riches. Methods of protection were devised in Kendal, such as fortified alleyways with high streets, to shelter the townsfolk from these attacks. Kendal also has a lot of scattered 'yards' around, alleyways which make Kendal easily accessible and were often used for trade between different areas as businesses like tanners, dyeing and weavers, would sustain the industrial activity. These yards are often named after people such as Redmayne's (Redman's) Yard or Dr Manning's Yard.

Some of Kendal's most prized businesses have often been mentioned and involved in history. Kendal Green was a type of wool, amongst others produced in Kendal, which was a resilient cloth often used in the conflicts of the Hundred Years War such as Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) and even the Battle of Agincourt by archers. The wool is created by using mordant cloth with alum, then dyeing the cloth yellow with dyer's greenwood and after that with a blue colour, namely woad or indigo. Less well known is that Kendal Green was shipped off to North America for the use on plantations by slaves. Kendal Green has been mentioned many times in literature such as Shakespeare in Henry IV Part 1: 'Why, how couldst thou know these men in Kendal green, when it was so dark thou couldst not see thy hand?'

Funnily enough, it is because of Kendal green's involvement in the slave trade that managed to provide Britain with sugar and tobacco, which were used for Kendal's other produces. Possibly the most famous produce of Kendal, the Kendal Mint Cake, was first made by a man named Joseph Wiper in 1869 and the business was succeeded by Wipers until 1987 when the company Romney's (named after the Lancastrian George Romney, the famous local portrait painter) bought it and still continue to use the same method employed by the Wipers along with their name as well as their own. It is often a found in a 'bar' type format with the majority being crystallised sugar with peppermint flavouring. Still popular today, the mint cake comes in three main varieties: white sugar, brown sugar and chocolate-covered. This very product was taken on Ernest Shackleton's Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1917 and the first successful ascent of Everest in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and his team. It even makes up a standard part of the field rations of the modern Irish Defence Forces.

Snuff is another produce that Kendal became known for. Probably the most well-known firm in Kendal, Samuel Gawith & Co. first began manufacture after the son of Kendalian Thomas Harrison, Samuel Gawith launched his firm from his father's, which was started in 1792. After Gawith's death in 1865, the firm was shared between his two eldest sons, but was initially administered by two trustees, Henry Hoggarth and John Thomas Illingworth. This caused a split as Illingworth set up his own firm in 1867. Eventually, his firm became known as Gawith Hoggarth TT, Ltd and setting up with one of Gawith's relations. Both of the companies are still producing snuff to this day.

In more recent history, Kendal was awarded the Fairtrade Town status in 2003 and has two operating secondary schools: Kirkbie Kendal School and Queen Katherine as well as Kendal College, a further education centre. Kendal is also renowned for its two museums, Kendal Museum of Natural History and Archaeology and the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry. While the latter (which won the 1973 Museum of the Year in Britain) focuses on local history with traditional crafts and displays of domestic life and farming, Kendal Museum exhibits archaeological displays tracing our specie's heritage from the Stone Age to modern times. Along with Lakeland wildlife, it even has dioramas of African and American creatures.

There are plenty of other attractions which are great for visiting such as the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, a converted Georgian villa which displays work from George Romney, JMW Turner to others such as John Ruskin and LS Lowry. It also features memorabilia of Arthur Ransome and is the official address of the eponymous society. There is also the Holy Trinity Kendal Parish Church which dates back from the Saxon era and is also connected to the Norman elements of Kendal as well as the Parr family where, in the Parr Chapel, William Parr, 1st Baron Parr of Kendal is buried. He is the grandfather of Catherine Parr. It was also the unfortunate sight where Kendalian people were slaughtered by Scottish troops under the order of Duncan, the Earl of Fife, in 1189.

Last of all is the over 150-year old brewery which was converted into an arts centre around 40 years ago. Located in the middle of town, it is now known as the Brewery Arts Centre which often holds theatre, dance, cinemas, music, workshops and occasional gigs by bands, local or national. It also features a bar and restaurant.


Location: Kendal

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