The Clock Tower in the Market Square
|Council:||Westmorland & Furness|
|Penrith and The Border|
Penrith is a market town in Cumberland. It lies in the Eden Valley, on the north bank of the River Eamont which forms the border with Westmorland. Across the bridge in Westmorland is Eamont Bridge. Penrith is a centre for exploring the Lake District, and lies just 3 miles outside the bounds of the National Park.
Other local rivers bounding the town are the River Lowther and the River Petteril. A partially man-made watercourse, known as Thacka Beck, flows through the centre of the town and connects the Rivers Petteril and Eamont. For many centuries, the Beck provided the town with its main water supply.
Name of the town
The name Penrith is from the old British language once spoken Cumberland. Its meaning is debated: some say that it means "head of the ford" (equivalent to the Welsh Penrhyd), presumably referring to a ford on the Eamont, and others "red head (hill)" (Welsh Penrhudd), referring to the red sandstone of Beacon Hill. (The Modern Welsh name for the town is Penrhudd.)
Districts and constablewicks
The town has a number of distinct areas outside the town centre, such as Castletown to the west, Townhead to the north. Townhead was one of the 8 townships or constablewicks into which the ancient parish of Penrith was divided. Others were Middlegate, Burrowgate, Sandgate, Dockray and Netherend within the town proper and Plumpton Head and Carleton outside the town.
The New Streets is a name for the area between Townhead and Scaws on the side of the Beacon Fell which consists of steep streets of some terraced housing but mainly large detached and semi detached houses mostly laid out in the late 19th century going up the hill.
Running along the top of the streets is Beacon Edge from which spectacular views can be seen over the town and towards the Lake District.
The parish church is St Andrew's, which was built from 1720 to 1722 in an imposing Grecian style and is the biggest church in the local Team Ministry. The Georgian structure however was built onto an existing the tower, which remains from the original 13th Century church.
The churchyard has two ancient Norse crosses either side of hogback tombstones from the same period. The main cross, now worn to a shaft, is known as the "Giant's Thumb". It has been dated to 920 AD. The hogsbacks, typical of Norse work in northern Britain, are the "Giant's Grave". It is said that the Giant's Thumb was erected by Owen King of Strathclyde who ruled in the area between 920 an 937, as a memorial to his father. There is a tradition that the 'Giant's Grave' is the grave of Owen himself, who died at the Battle of Brunanburh.
- Church of England: 
- St Andrew - the ancient Parish Church - St Andrews Churchyard
- Christ Church - Drovers Lane/Stricklandgate
- Methodist: Penrith Methodist Church  - Wordsworth Street
- Society of Friends (Quakers): Quaker Meeting House, Meeting House Lane.
- United Reformed Church: Penrith Penruddock Church  - Lowther Street
- Other Protestant / evangelical:
- Gospel Hall Evangelical Church, Albert Street/Queen Street.
- King's Church Eden  - part of the Newfrontiers family of churches
- Roman Catholic: St Catherine's, Drovers Lane.
The ruins of Penrith Castle (of the 14th-16th centuries) can be seen from the adjacent railway station. The castle is run as a visitor attraction by English Heritage. To the south-east of the town are the more substantial ruins of Brougham Castle, also under the protection of English Heritage.
South of the town are the ancient henge sites known as Mayburgh Henge and King Arthur's Round Table. Both are under the protection of English Heritage.
Penrith has been noted for the number of wells in and around the town, and well-dressing ceremonies were commonplace on certain days in the month of May. Three miles south-east of the town, on the River Eamont are the "Giants' caves", where the well was dedicated to St Ninian. The caves are enlarged out of sandstones and their associated breccias and purple shales.
Just to the north of the town is the wooded signal-beacon hill, naturally named Beacon Hill. It last use was probably in 1804 in the war against Napoleon. Traditionally, the Beacon Pike was used to warn of approaching danger from Scotland. Today, although surrounded by a commercial woodland owned by Lowther Estates, the hill still contains some natural woodlands and is a popular local and tourist attraction. On a clear day the majority of the Eden Valley, the local fells, Pennines and parts of the North Lakes can be seen.
- "Ewanion". History of Penrith. Carlisle, 1993. ISBN 0-9519920-3-1.
- ECCP. Country Walks Around Penrith.