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Kendal roofscape.jpg
Rooftops of Kendal
Grid reference: SD515925
Location: 54°19’34"N, 2°44’42"W
Population: 27,505  (2001)
Post town: Kendal
Postcode: LA9
Dialling code: 01539
Local Government
Council: Westmorland & Furness
Westmorland and Lonsdale

Kendal, anciently known as Kirkby in Kendal or Kirkby Kendal, is a market town in Westmorland. It is the county's largest town in terms of population, and considered Westmorland's second town, for as the county is divided by high fells, Kendal has served a second county capital. In the days of the Quarter Sessions, the sessions were held in both Appleby and Kendal.

Kendal stands on the River Kent, whose dale gives it its name, 20 miles from Appleby across the Shap Fells. A total resident population of 27,505 was recorrded in 2001, making it Westmorland's largest town.

Kendal today is known largely as a centre for tourism, as the home of Kendal mint cake, and as a producer of pipe tobacco and tobacco snuff. Its buildings, mostly constructed with the local grey limestone, have earned it the nickname the Auld Grey Town.


Kendal stands on the River Kent, surrounded by low hills. It is near the edge of the Lake District National Park; when the National Park was formed in 1951 the boundary was deliberately shaped to exclude Kendal. Although a relatively small town, it is an important commercial centre for a wide area thanks to its rural location. It is affectionately referred to as "The Gateway to The Lakes".

Parish church

Holy Trinity Church

Kendal's Parish Church is Holy Trinity. It is one of the widest parish churches in Britain; even York Minster is but three feet wider. The width is the result of the addition of aisles over the ages.

The nave onto which all else has been built is some 800 years old, but the church stands on the site of older churches and incorpotaed some older material. The shaft of a standing cross dated at approximately 850 AD is housed in the Parr Chapel; a remnant of the earlier church. The church was built with a nave, chancel, two aisles and the tower. Of the original structure, are six nave pillars, the lower part of the tower, pillars and the west wall. However the sandstone found in much of the structure is believed to have been reused from the Anglo-Saxon church which stood on this spot, and it is also believe that this stone in turn was brought from the ruins of the Roman fort at Watercrook.


Kendal is listed in the Domesday Book for Westmorland (which is bundled in with the Yorkshire entires) as Cherchbi.[1] For many centuries it was called Kirkbie Kendal, meaning "Church village in the Kent Dale". The earliest castle was a Norman motte and bailey (now located on the west side of the town) when the settlement went under the name of Kirkbie Strickland

Kendal is a chartered market town. The centre of Kendal is structured around a high street with fortified alleyways (known locally as yards) off to either side which allowed the local population to seek shelter from the raiding parties of Border reivers. The main industry in these times was the manufacture of woollen goods, the importance of which is reflected in the town's arms and in its Latin motto Pannus mihi panis, meaning woollen cloth is my bread. "Kendal Green" was hard-wearing wool-based fabric specific to the local manufacturing process, and was supposedly sported by the Kendalian archers whose valour and steadfastness ensured the English victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt. Kendal Green was also worn by slaves in the Americas, and is mentioned in songs and literature from that time.

The site of several catle ruins, the most recent one built in the late-12th century, Kendal has a long history as a stronghold of one kind or another. Rumours still circulate that King Henry VIII's sixth wife Katherine Parr was born at Kendal Castle, but based on the evidence available this is very unlikely. But it did belong to the Parr family, so it is very likely that she lived there at some time during her early years.

Kendal Mint Cake

Kendal mint cake

Kendal is known for Kendal mint cake, a glucose-based type of confectionery reputedly discovered accidentally by Joseph Wiper during his search for a clear glacier mint.

Kendal mint cake has been borne on numerous expeditions to mountaintops, including Mount Everest and K2, and to both the North and South Poles. Its popularity is mainly due to the very astute decision of the original manufacturer's great nephew to market it as an energy food, and to supply Ernest Shackleton's 1914-17 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

By the time the business was sold to competitor Romney's in 1987 there were several rival mint cake producers, many of which are still in business.

Tobacco and snuff

Snuff production in Kendal dates from 1792, when Kendalian Thomas Harrison returned from Glasgow, Scotland, where he had learned the art of snuff manufacture. He also brought with him 50 tons of second-hand equipment, all carried on horseback. Pipe tobacco and other tobacco products were subsequently added to the firm's production. Ownership of his firm passed eventually to his son-in-law, Samuel Gawith, whose eponymic firm, Samuel Gawith & Co., continues in business to this day. Following Samuel Gawith's death in 1865, the firm passed into the hands of his two eldest sons. During this time the business was administered initially by trustees, including Henry Hoggarth, and John Thomas Illingworth.

Illingworth left the firm in 1867 to start his own firm, which remained in business until the 1980s. The youngest son of Samuel Gawith the First subsequently teamed with Henry Hoggarth to form Gawith Hoggarth TT, Ltd. Both Samuel Gawith & Company and Gawith Hoggarth TT continue in business today in Kendal, producing snuffs and tobacco products still used around the world. Samuel Gawith and Company also hold the distinction of employing the oldest piece of industrial equipment still in production use in the world, a device manufactured in the 1750s.


A bridge over the old course of the Lancaster Canal

Kendal's early prosperity was based largely on cloth manufacture. In the 19th century it became a centre for the manufacture of snuff and shoes; the K Shoes company remained a major employer in the town until its factory closed in 2003. There are still a number of industries based in the town, such as Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon (manufacturers of pumps and turbines), James Cropper paper makers,based in Burneside, just NW of Kendal, Mardix (switchgear) and Heinz, who have a facility making baby milk in the north of the town. Though tourism is now one of the main employers, there is a significant IT and design sector in the town (this being non-geographic dependent) the increase of broadband availability has significantly increased this.

Sights about the town

  • Kendal Museum - one of the oldest in the country, it includes exhibits on area history, culture, archaeology, geology, local and world natural history, Roman Britain, Ancient Egypt
  • Abbot Hall Art Gallery housed in a Georgian villa, mounts nationally important exhibitions. The permanent collection includes works by George Romney, JMW Turner, John Ruskin, Ben Nicholson, Paula Rego, Lucian Freud, Stanley Spencer and Barbara Hepworth.
  • Museum of Lakeland Life
  • Castle Howe, Kendal's undisputed first castle, lies on the hill side over looking the town. The earthwork remains are sandwiched between Gilling Gate and Beast Banks[2]
  • Kendal Castle, to the east of the earthworks, probably built while Castle Howe was still being used
  • Friends' Meeting House, home of the Quaker Tapestry
  • The Brewery Arts Centre (offering theatre, dance, exhibitions, cinemas, music, workshops, youth drama, dance and food and drink)
  • Kendal Leisure Centre
  • Lakeland Radio Stadium official football ground of Kendal Town FC
  • Netherfield Cricket Club Ground - home ground of Netherfield Cricket Club and used also by Cumberland County Cricket Club

Kendal Mountain Search & Rescue Team

Kendal has for many years maintained a voluntary Mountain Search & Rescue Team based at Busher Walk. They have performed numerous rescues around the Kendal area, and along with other local Mountain Rescue teams, helped at the Grayrigg derailment.


  1. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place Names, Oxford University Press, 1998
  2. Kendal - Castle Howe

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Kendal)