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Green Quarter.jpg
Hallow Bank
Grid reference: NY456041
Location: 54°25’44"N, 2°50’24"W
Population: 95  (2001)
Post town: Kendal
Postcode: LA8
Dialling code: 01539
Local Government
Council: Westmorland & Furness
Westmorland and Lonsdale

Kentmere is a valley, village and parish in Westmorland, within the Lake District National Park and a few miles from Kendal, the county's 'southern capital'. The parish spread along the dale had a population of just 95 in 2001.

The dale

The narrow dale of Kentmere is three miles long, its head at a bowl of hills known as the Kentmere Round; a horseshoe of high fells which surrounds Kentmere Reservoir. The River Kent, which gives Kendal its name, begins from Hall Cove, a corrie at the head of the valley, before flowing through the reservoir. Access to this part of the valley is available by way of the Roman road known as High Street, running today as a bridleway over Nan Bield Pass, from Troutbeck over Garburn Pass, or along an old bridleway up from the village.

The valley is sandwiched between Troutbeck on the west side and Longsleddale on the east. It can only be accessed by road by travelling through Staveley which sits at its mouth where the river meets the Gowan Beck coming in from Ings.

A walk described by Wainwright as the 'Kentmere Round' involves a twelve-mile all-inclusive round trip.[1] In the past there were drove roads up over the horseshoe in the north to the village of Mardale which is now under the water of the Haweswater Reservoir. In the past it was a tradition of the valley's inhabitants to travel from Kentmere to Mardale village church as part of the Easter Sunday celebrations.

The River Kent

The River Kent begins above the reservoir in the heights of Bleathwaite Crag. It collects beneath Kentmere Common in the reservoir which was built in 1848 to control the flow of water to the lower pastures. Lingmell Gill also feeds into the reservoir. Beside the reservoir sits a disused quarry and a cottage formerly used for maintenance of the river.

The river opens out into a transitory lake called Kentmere Tarn just south of the confluence with Hall Gill. The tarn has at times in the past completely disappeared into marshland and in 1840 it was purposely drained to provide reclaimed farm land, but in the past 100 years the mere has reappeared again. It is currently a mile in length. An archaeological excavation there uncovered an 'extended' log boat dated to c. AD 1300.[2]

Other tributaries within the valley include Ullstone Gill, Nunnery Beck, Nuttera Beck, Park Beck and Hall Beck. A waterfall known as Force Jump is situated just north of the village, and there are two bridges at the Staveley end of the valley. The first is called Barley Bridge and includes a dramatic weir. The second straddles the Kent further up the valley and is known as Scrogg's Bridge.

A little further down the valley is the village of Kentmere, which includes Kentmere Hall and the church of St Cuthbert.

The parish

The parish of Kentmere is divided into four quarters:

  • Kentmere Common
  • Green Quarter
  • Hallow Bank
  • Crag Quarter

Over Staveley and Hugill are also situated within the Kent valley, along with the small settlements of Elfhowe and Browfoot.

About the dale

Near Kentmere Hall stands the "Brock Stone" or Badger Rock, a large free-standing rhyolite boulder. It is one of many challenges popular with climbers in the area. It is said that: "Kentmere valley has the greatest number of recorded [climbing] problems in the Lake District (over 125)"[3]

The main rocks and minerals to be found in the valley are green slate and granite. There has been some record of opal being found too[4] on the shores of Kentmere Tarn, though it has never been mined. Much of the local stone has been used since pre-history as the raw material for field boundaries using a local technique known as dry stone walling. Just below the reservoir is a Geological Conservation Review site known as Jumb Quarry.[5] The site is significant due to its volcanic rock which displays "bird‘s-eye tuffs", which contain lapilli (fragments of lava that erupted from a volcanic centre and probably fell into standing bodies of water). The lapilli are believed to have been spherical originally, but were squashed into elliptical shapes as a result of intense pressure during the formation of the Caledonian Mountains.

Pre-history and history

The valley has evidence of habitation going back to roughly 4000 BC, when the valley and surrounding hillsides were almost entirely covered with forest. A major archaeological research project conducted in the valley by a local archaeology group between 1983 and 1999 surveyed and recorded hundreds of archaeological features, as well as excavating two sites - a (radiocarbon dated) pre-Viking and Viking age upland settlement at Bryant's Gill, south of Rainsborrow Crag (on private land, not publicly accessible), and part of a mediæval platform site and farmstead near Kentmere Hall[6]

The valley's rich archaeological heritage also includes the remains of at least five large prehistoric compound or curvilinear sites incorporating the remains of round houses, stockyards and more. One of these sites is on a public footpath at Tongue House in the northern part of the valley.

Significant sites

Kentmere Hall

Kentmere Hall is famous for its tower house; a fortification built for status in the 13th - early 14th centuries – required to guard against invaders from the north and reivers in the border country as was. It is one of many such towers in the Middle Shires.

Kentmere Hall's tower has walls five feet thick, tunnel-vaulted ceilings, a crenellated roof with turrets and a spiral staircase; all built out of local stone. The farmstead to the east of it shows signs of many building phases and changes, in common with many other significant buildings of the Middle Ages and beyond to be found in the valley bottoms of the Lake District.

The manor, having been handed down to the eldest son, the rest of the valley was divided between the younger sons of the Gilpins for generations. What remains of the original estate is now a farm in possession of a private owner. Other important parts of the manor include Green Quarter on the eastern slopes of the valley where there is a bed and breakfast house, called Maggs Howe, that once was home to a branch of the Gilpin family.


Kentmere Church

The present church, dedicated to St Cuthbert, was built to the east of Kentmere Hall. As is often the case with mediæval churches, there is an ancient yew tree standing nearby which has been estimated to date back to the time of William I. Written records of the chapel do not begin until 1692 making earlier history difficult to establish. A graveyard for the church was dedicated in 1701, and the Lord of the Manor paid the curate "a rate of 2s. levied for every 13s. 4d. paid to the lord of the manor". In 1757 this was supplemented with money paid out of Queen Anne's Bounty roughly £400-800. The chapel was remodelled in the 19th century and again in the 1950s. The roof remains of 16th century date.


The valley used to be known for its bobbin mills and for Waterfoot factory which dredged the bottom of the Kentmere Tarn in the 1950s searching for diatomite. A water mill was established by the first Lord of the Manor in 1272. The records state that he had "Liberty granted to erect a mill on the banks of the River Kent at Ulthwaite, upstream of Croft Head" they also stated that the mill was used to cut the sleepers for the Kendal and Windermere Railway in 1860.

The mill was restored in the 1970s and is now a pottery studio producing handmade ceramics. Also, at the Staveley end of the valley, is a photographic paper manufactory known as Kentmere Ltd. A fishery is situated beside the reservoir and every year trout and salmon are released into the River Kent for the benefit of anglers because the river's native population has been diminished.

The area has had a history of mining. This appears to have been predominantly for the green slate available in the valley.


Official records of mining in the area go back at least as far as 1898. Before that it is likely, due to the particularly craggy nature of the valley, that the local dry stone walls and stone for housing were taken from the slopes around the valley, even as far back as the Bronze Age.

Entrance to underground mine near Browfoot

There are two main open cast mines in the valley: Jumb Quarry, within a few hundred yards of the early settlement at Tongue House, and Steelrigg near Staveley. Both produced green slate.

There were also at least six underground mines in the valley. At the height of production in 1914 Steelrigg employed five men below ground and nine above. The quarry fell out of use in 1923 and 1925 and employed only four men with no active mining listed between 1921 and 1926. Mining was resumed in 1927 and continued until at least 1938.[7]

In early works and literature

"Kentmere... This place hath its name from the River Kent, which springs there, and from a mere or lake therein called Kentmere; which river gives name not only to this particular district, but to all the south-west part of this county, called Kendale. It springs about 3 miles north from the chapel, and from thence runs southward through Kentmere, Staveley, Strickland, the township of Kendal, by Natland, Helsington, Levins and from thence into the sea. It receives in its course two small rivers, Sprit and Mint. The former springs in Long Sleddale, and runs in at Burneshead. The other springs in Fawcet Forest, and its course meets with Grayrigg Water which springs above the hall, and falls into Kent about a mile above Kendal. Kentmere is bounded on the east by the chapelry of Long Sleddale, on the south by the chapelries of Staveley and Ings, on the west by the top of Garburne Fell, and on the north by Patterdale in the parish of Barton and Mardale in the parish of Shap."
Joseph Nicolson and Richard Burn: The history and antiquities of the counties of Westmorland and Cumberland. 1777. Transcribed by Anne Nichols

"Minstrels of Winandermere"

A traditional local song of the dale was the "Minstrels of Winandermere" [Windermere]. Two versions of the words of the song exist, one set found by Reverend Charles Farish, whose mother was Elizabeth Gilpin (née Washington). He claimed they dated to the 13th century. However, the style is somewhat affected for the 13th century and everything but the first verse must be regarded with a suspicious eye.

Bert de Gylpyn drew of Normandie
From Walchelin his gentle blood,
Who haply hears, by Bewley's sea,
The Angevins' bugles in the wood,
His crest, the rebus of his name,
Pineapple-a pine of gold
Was it, his Norman shield,
Sincere, in word and deed, his face extolled.
But Richard having killed the boar
With crested arm an olive shook,
And sable boar on field of or
For impress on his shield he took.
And well he won his honest arms.
And well he knew his Kentmore lands.
He won them not in war's alarms,
Nor dipt in human blood his hands.

according to William Partridge Gilpin

At Crookbeck were his footsteps seen,
The holy pilgrim he affrays;
O waly, waly Kendal Green,
And waly, waly Bowness braes!

Ev'n when they kiss'd St Mary's ground.
Them still their flutt'ring hearts misgave;
They cast an eager glance around,
Mistrusting every foam tusk'd wave.

For the wild boar is raging nigh,
Bark'd are the trees about Boar-stile,
At Underbarrow is his sty,
Oh waly sweet St. Mary's Isle!

But hark at Kendal rebecks sound,
And Bowness Millbecks echo wakes,
In Crookebeck ford he felt the wound,
In death his burning thirst he slakes.

The gallant hero washed his spear,
A tear unhidden left his eye,
His faithful dog was bleeding near,
The river stream'd with mingled dye.

And well he won his honest arms,
And well he won his Kentmere lands;
He won them not in wars alarms,
Nor dipt in human strife his hands...

Charles Farish was a friend of William Wordsworth. In his book Poetical Works vol. 1 a footnote to Guilt and Sorrow; or, Incidents upon Salisbury Plain states that some of its lines were taken "From a short MS. poem read to me when an under-graduate, by my schoolfellow and friend Charles Farish, long since deceased. The verses were by a brother of his, a man of promising genius, who died young."W. W. 1842 in a statement by the editor of the volume the footnote goes on to say that: "Charles Farish was the author of The Minstrels of Winandermere" as a result there is some debate as to authorship of the song commemorating Richard Gilpin's achievements).

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Kentmere)


  1. Wainwright, Alfred: The Far Eastern Fells
  2. Wilson, D.M.: 'A Mediæval Boat from Kentmere, Westmorland' in Mediæval Archaeology (1966) 10. 81-88
  3. -- Kentmere Bouldering by Greg Chapman
  4. --
  5. Application for GCR status for Jumb Quarry (PDF)
  6. (Dickinson, S., Bryant's Gill, Kentmere: Another 'Viking-Period' Ribblehead?, in J.R.Baldwin and I.D.Whyte (eds.) The Scandinavians in Cumbria, The Scottish Society for Northern Studies (1985), 83-88.)
  7. -- Steelrigg mining records Durham Mining Museum