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North West Kendal, Cumbria

Kendal Mint Cake and the Gateway to the Southern Lakes


Kendal’s origins date back to the C8th when the monastic settlement of Kirkland was established near a crossing point on the River Kent. A small settlement grew up round the church.

William II established a barony here to secure his Northern territories. A motte and Bailey castle was built at Castle Howe, later to be replaced by the larger stone built KendalCastle.

Richard I granted Kendal the right to hold a market in 1189, this brought prosperity and Kendal grew rapidly, becoming the major market town for the surrounding area. Its prosperity was based on wool and Kendal was a major centre for the wool trade, which explains its Latin motto – Pannus mihi panis (‘wool is my bread’) and the teasel heads and tenter hooks on the Kendal coat-of-arms.

Many different woollen cloths were made in Kendal but the most famous was ‘Kendal Green', a hardwearing cloth said to have been worn by the Kendal Bowmen who fought at the battles of Crecy and Poitiers. The green colour was achieved by first steeping the cloth in a yellow dye from dyer’s greenweed and overdyeing it in blue from woad or indigo. Kendal Green was later exported to America where it was worn by slaves working in the plantations. In return, Kendal received sugar and tobacco – raw materials that gave rise to making of Kendal Mint Cake and the snuff-making trade in town.

Medieval Kendal grew up around the high street, Highgate, lined on both sides by small alleyways known as yards.


These were often named after the owner of the main house which stood at the top of the yard. They were full of small workshops for dyeing and weaving of wool, tanning and leather working, timber yards, small foundries as well as stables and cottages.

Kendal became a major shoe manufacturer in the the C19th when the Somerville family began making K Shoes. The factory closed in 2003 and the site is now a retail shopping village.

Now Kendal’s most famous export is Kendal Mint Cake. This has been made for over 150 years after a vat intended to make a clear glacier mint was left to boil, resulting in what we now know as mint cake. Mint cake was immortalised when it was taken by Sir Edmund Hilary on his successful attempt on Mount Everest in June 1953. Since then it has been carried as a high energy snack by hill walkers and climbers.



1000+ Posts
Kendal is a thriving and vibrant place. It is small enough to be explored on foot.

The out of town KVillage and the supermarkets have not affected the town centre which has a lot of small family run shops. It also has a monthly farmers market in the Market Place on the last Friday of each month.


The River Kent runs through the town and there is a pleasant footpath along the river. It is crossed by several bridges.


Nether Bridge to the south of the town and was built in the C17th to replace the old ford. It has been widened twice to allow for increasing size of vehicles across it.


Nether Bridge.jpg

The town contains many large and impressive buildings, Many dating from the C18th.





Castle Dairy on Wildman Street, dating from the early C14th, is the oldest inhabited building in Kendal. It is thought the word ‘dairy’ is a corruption of ‘dowry’ and this may have been the dower house for the castle. It still retains many of its original features including a small chapel on the upper floor. It is now part of Kendal College, hosting various activities and educational opportunities.

Sandes Hospital on Highgate was built in 1659 by a wealthy cloth manufacturer and ex mayor of Kendal, Thomas Sandes, who founded a school and eight almshouses for poor widows. The Gatehouse was the master’s house and housed the school and library over the gateway. The school merged with Kendal Grammar School in 1886. There is still an old iron collecting box in gateway with the words “Remember the Poor”. The row of cottages
through the archway were rebuilt in 1852 and still house elderly people.

Sleddal Almshouses and Chapel on Aynham Road were built in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.


The Impressive Kendal Town Hall dominates the top end of Lowther Street and the clock tower can be seen across most parts of the town. The building dates from 1825 and was built on the site of the Exchange Hall. It was originally a popular meeting place with billiards room, newsroom, lecture hall and ball room. It became the Town Hall in 1859, when it was decided the the Moot Hall was ‘inadequate’. The clock tower was added in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It is still used by the town and district council.

The Carnegie Library on Stricklandgate was built in 1905, replacing an old library in the Market Place, which had been demolished. This was part of a huge project funded by the Scottish-American millionaire, Andrew Carnegie, who set up a trust fund for ‘the improvement of mankind’ and included the building over 3000 public libraries.

Kendal had two castles, built on either side of the River Kent. The earliest, Castle Howe,
was built on a hill to the west of the river. It was a motte and bailey castle built at the end of the C11th ,during the subjugation of Westmoreland by the Normans and predates the ruins of Kendal Castle. Only the motte and some earthworks survive. The obelisk is late C18th, and was erected to mark the centenary of the overthrow of Catholic James II. The area is now a public park.

Kendal Castle was built on a hill to the east of the river and is C12th. Richard I granted Kendal the right to hold a market in 1189 and this brought increasing prosperity and may have prompted the building of a new castle. This never saw any military action, but was designed to impress with a curtain wall with six towers and a dry moat. Castle Howe would have been regarded as cramped and old fashioned, and was probably abandoned once the new castle was complete.

The castle was owned by the Parr Family in the C14th who had become wealthy through trade in wool and cloth. By the mid C16th, the castle was abandoned as the family moved to more comfortable accommodation in the town. By 1578 much of the castle had been robbed out for building stone. The site was bought by Kendal Corporation in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and is now a public park. All that is left are parts of the walls, tower and the remains of the keep.



1000+ Posts
Kendal is a thriving centre for arts and culture with events and festivals throughout the year and has many museums and art galleries.

Abbot Hall Art Gallery is in an attractive Georgian House by the river. It has a permanent art collection including many works by local artist George Romney as well as a rolling programme of exhibitions. It has a gift shop and coffee shop.

The Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry is housed in the stable block of Abbott Hall and is a folk museum with period rooms and old shops. There is information about the Arts and Crafts Movement, rural trades and the industrial history of the Lake District.

Kendal Museum was founded in 1796 and is one of the oldest museums in the country. It has information about the history and natural history of the area. It covers everything from neolithic and Roman artefacts to a Viking Boat from Kentmere Tarn. There is information about Kendal Castle and also author and walker, Alfred Wainwright, who was Borough Treasurer for many years. It has one of the largest taxidermy collection in Europe and the World Wildlife Gallery contains examples of rare and extinct animals. It gives an insight into the habits of the Victorian collector and highlights the importance of conservation today.

The Brewery Arts Centre in the old brewery on Highgate, hosts a full programme of theatre, music comedy, films, festivals along with lectures and exhibitions throughout the year. It is one of the north’s leading multi-arts venues with pub, restaurant and attractive gardens.

The Quaker Tapestry in the Friends Meeting House on Stramongate could be described as the Bayeux Tapestry of the Quakers. There has been a long history of Quakers in the Kendal area. The Quaker movement began here when George Fox addressed a huge crowd on Firbank Fell between Sedburgh and Kendal in 1652. In Kendal, his powerful preaching won many followers and Quakerism is still strong in the area today.

Forty embroidered panels tell the 350 year history of the Quaker Movement and how its ideals influenced the development of the area.

The tapestry took 15 years to complete, involving over 4000 people in 15 different countries.



1000+ Posts
Holy Trinity Church, Kirkland

Set above the banks of the River Kent on an area known as Kirkland, this is one of the largest parish churches in England. It can hold more than 1100 congregation.



There is thought to have been a church here in Saxon times and a church is mentioned in Domesday Book. The present church built in the first part of the C13th when Kendal was growing rapidly in prosperity from the wool and cloth trade. The nave was completed first, followed by the inner aisles and the tower. Much of the south aisle dates from the C15th when the church was enlarged to accommodate the Flemish weavers who arrived to start the weaving industry. The Parr chapel was added in the C15th followed by the Bellingham Chapel in the C16th, and this is now the memorial chapel for the Border Regiment, housing the colours of the 55 Westmorland Regiment of Foot. The chapel was originally separate from the church with its own entrance.

There was a major restoration in the C19th when the walls were strengthened and buttresses replaced and a west porch was added. The nave was reroofed, the box pews were replaced and the floor flagged. Stained glass was replaced and heating installed.

Kendal church plan.jpg

Entry is through the C19th porch into into the outer south aisle There are splendid carvings of a bishop and a king’s head on either side of the arch.


The first impression of the church is its size, with nave and two side aisles on either side.


The C15th black marble font is to the left of the door and has a splendid carved wooden cover dating from the late C19th from money raised by the ‘ladies of the church’ in memory of a former vicar.


On the outer wall of the south aisle is a modern sculpture made from fibre glass depicting ‘The Family of Man’, showing Mary and the infant Jesus as refugees with three children representing the African, European and Asian peoples of the world.




1000+ Posts
At the end of the outer south aisle behind a cared wooden screen, is the Parr or Lady Chapel, which was the chantry chapel for the Parr Family of Kendal Castle. The tomb of Sir William Parr, grandfather to Katherine Parr is here.


The reredos behind the altar depicts the Annunciation, Nativity, Crucifixion, Resurrection and the breaking of the bread.


The stained glass window is early C20th and depicts fourteen female saints.


The coats of arms of the Parr family can be seen round the top of the walls. The lovely hammer beam roof has four angels holding the four symbols of Christ’s crucifixion; cross, crown of thorns, ladder, hammer and nails.



The Strickland Chapel is at the end of the inner south aisle and was the memorial chapel of the Stricklands of Sizergh Castle. It contains the tomb of nine year of Walter Strickland who died in 1656, with his wrapped effigy beneath. There is also a table tomb to an unidentified family member, with a C17th Bible box on it.





1000+ Posts
The nave is the oldest part of the church and feels almost small compared with the rest of the church. It now has a free standing altar to be nearer the congregation. The pulpit and lectern are C19th.



The high altar table is C17th . The reredos behind it is made of Caen stone with polished Kendal Fell marble pillars. The niches were designed to hold statues, but this was felt to be ‘too high’ at the time. The east window concentrates on the death of Jesus and resurrection.




The tiny Becket Chapel is at the end of the inner north aisle and has a very modern altar table. Pews are modern but the pew ends are C15th.


Beyond is the Bellingham Chapel at the end of the north outer aisle. An old standard hangs between the two.




1000+ Posts
The Bellingham Chapel was built in the early C16th as a chantry chapel for the Bellinghams of Levens Hall. The practice of saying mass for the souls of the dead was discontinued during the Reformation and the chapel was opened up into the north outer aisle. This may explain the difference in roof design and heights, with the aisle being lower than the chapel.



The chapel roof is flat and painted blue with painted ribs with carved bosses. The corona, representing the crown of thorns, was made in 1969 in memory of Bernard Gilpin, a well renowned C16th preacher known as the ‘Apostle of the North’.


The outer north aisle was reroofed as part of the C19th restoration and has carved and painted angels.



In the far corner of the Bellingham chapel is the tomb of Sir Roger and Lady Margaret Bellingham. The brasses on top are not the originals, as they were stolen in the C17th.



Near it on the wall is a brass commemorating Sir Alan Bellingham who bought Levens hall in 1562.


The lovely stained glass window in outer north aisle was reinstalled here after All Hallows Church in Fellside was deconsecrated and turned into flats.


A board at the back of the west wall lists donations for bread for the poor.


The church is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm. There is plenty of parking by the church. It is well worth visiting.


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