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Kendal, Westmorland

Historical Description

Kendal, a market-town, a municipal borough, a township, a parish, and a parliamentary division in Westmorland. The town stands on the river Kent, and on the Kendal and Windermere railway, at the termination of the Kendal and Lancaster Canal, 21 miles N of Lancaster, and has a station on the L. & N.W.R. Its name is a contraction of Kentdale, and its former name was Kirk-by-Kendal, or more fully, Kirkby-in-Kentdale, signifying " the church town in the valley of the Kent." The stretch of valley around it is fer tile, and is encompassed by hills of considerable height. A barony, including the town, was given by William the Conqueror to Ivo de Talebois, and passed to the Bruces, the Rosses, the Parrs, the Thwengs, the Lumleys, the De Coucys, the Copelands, the Beauforts, the Crown, and the Lowthers. The title of Baron Kendal was borne by the early owners; that of Earl of Kendal was borne by John, Duke of Bedford, brother to Henry V., by Prince Charles, third son of James II., by Prince George of Denmark, and by other distinguished persons; that of Duchess of Kendal was conferred by George I. on the German lady, Madame Schulenberg; and that of Baron Ross and Parr of Kendal continues to be borne by the Earl of Pembroke. A strong castle was founded on the summit of a steep green eminence on the E side of the town by one of the earliest barons, was completed in the early part of the 13th century, and appears to have resembled several strong baronial fortresses of the time of William the Conqueror. It was the birthplace of Queen Catherine Parr and of her brother the Marquis of Northampton; it is supposed to have been dismantled by some body of royal troops in consequence of the Marquis of Northampton's effort on behalf of Lady Jane Grey; and it is now a ruin, comprising only four broken towers and part of the outer wall. The town was settled by Flemings in 1337, and -became in their hands famous for the manufacture of woollens and of "Ken-dalgreen" buckram. It was fearfully devastated by the plague in 1598, visited by James I. in 1617, and occupied by some of the rebels of 1715 and 1745. It was the death-place of Romney the painter, and it numbers among its natives Richard de Kendal the grammarian, Bishop Potter, Dean Potter, Sir G. Wharton, Walker the astronomer, and Hudson and Wilson the botanists. It was freed from villeinage by one of its early barons, and was made a borough by Elizabeth.

The town stands chiefly along the right side of the Kent, and it has a principal spacious street about a mile in length, another leading from the railway station to the main street, and a number of smaller intersecting streets and lanes. Its appearance to a considerable extent is exceedingly irregular, and still answers in some degree to the poet Gray's account of it in 1769: "All the houses, excepting the principal streets, seem as if they had been dancing a country dance, and were out. There they stand, back to back, corner to corner, some up-hill, some down-hill, without intent or meaning." The interior aspect, nevertheless, is pleasant. The houses are built of mountain limestone, and, though mostly rough and greyish, they look clean and comfortable. The building-stone has been called marble, and it so far deserves the name as to be quarryable in large blocks, of a light whitish colour, susceptible of good polish, and extensively used for making chimney-pieces. Four bridges span the river; the latest is of iron, and was built by the corporation in 1887 in commemoration of Her Majesty's Jubilee. The town-hall, or White Hall, is an edifice of 148 feet by 37, built in 1828 at a cost of £6000, has on its chief front an Ionic portico and a receding balcony, and contains a newsroom, a ballroom, and a number of other apartments. It was reconstructed and enlarged in 1894-95, and is surmounted by a handsome clock tower. The market-house, erected in 1888, is a large and commodious structure. There are banks, hotels, a mechanics' institute, several libraries and newsrooms, a museum, a sanatorium, a memorial hospital, baths, a workhouse, almshouses, and a cemetery. The sanatorium was erected in 1882 by the urban sanitary authority for infectious cases; the memorial hospital was built in 1870; Sleddall's Almshouses were built and endowed in 1887 by the late John Sleddall, Esq., in commemoration of Her Majesty's Jubilee. The endowment produces about £5 30. The baths and washhouses were purchased by the corporation in 1884, and a swimming bath was added. The museum, in the New Road, contains a good collection of small antiquities, limestone fossils, and objects of natural history. The parochial church dates from about the beginning of the 13th century; measures 140 feet by 103; has a remarkably fine interior; includes three chapels, formerly belonging to the Stricklands, the Bellinghams, the Parrs, and the Chambreys; the last now an organ chamber; is surmounted by a strong tower 72 feet high; was restored in 1852, 1864, and 1869, at a cost of more than £11, 000; has several memorial windows; contains some brasses and epitaphs; a tablet in relief by Flax-man, and was the scene in the 17th century of a curious adventure, worked by Sir Walter Scott into his poem of " Rokeby." St George's Church, near Stramongate Bridge, is a handsome structure with two slender towers, surmounted by low spires. St Thomas' Church, at Strickland Gate, is also a fine structure with a tower. There are Congregational, Primitive Methodist, Wesleyan, Unitarian, United Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic chapels, and meeting-houses for Plymouth Brethren and Friends. The Roman Catholic chapel is a neat edifice. The free grammar school was founded in 1525, is a plain building, had £38 a year from endowment and six exhibitions at Oxford, and numbers among its pupils Bishops Law and Potter of Carlisle, Dr Shaw the oriental traveller, Ephraim Chambers the first English Encyclopedist, Dr Fothergill, and some other distinguished men. Sande's Hospital and Blue-coat School, with an endowment of £328, were amalgamated in 1886 with the free grammar school, and now form a grammar school with an endowment of about £550 under the control of the governors of the United School and Hospital Foundation of Kendal. The new buildings were erected TO. 1887 and 1893, and there are thirty free scholarships to sons of inhabitants. In 1892 a public free library was opened. St George's Hall was opened in 1879. The cemetery at Parkside Road was openedin 1855, has two chapels, and is under the control of a burial board. A small cemetery in Castle Street, formerly used only by dissenters, has a small chapel. Another small cemetery belongs to the Society of Friends. St Leonard's Hospital, or the Spittle, was anciently an institution of note, was given by William de Lancaster to " Conyngesheved" priory, and passed to the Lowthers. An old chapel stood on Chapelhill, and was converted into a dwelling-house. Another old chapel stood at Stramongate Bridge, near an old house bearing the inscription "Pax hac domo."

The town has a head post office, is a seat of petty sessions, county courts, and quarter sessions, and publishes three newspapers. A weekly market is held on Saturday, and also on Wednesdays during the summer months; fairs for horses are held on 22 Feb. and 9 Nov., and for cattle on 22 March, 29 April, and 8 Nov.; and hiring fairs are held on Whit-Saturday and at Martinmas. Manufactures of woollens, linseys, railway wrappers, horse-cloths, carpets, trouser-stuffs, woollen cords, ropes, clogs, bobbins, combs, fish-hooks, leather, snuff, tobacco, &c.; also dye, marble, paperworks, brewing, tanning, iron and brass founding, and the making of agricultural implements, are carried on. There are also several large boot factories. The town as a borough comprises all Kendal and Kirkland townships, and part of Nether Graveship township; and it is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors. The municipal borough is divided into three wards-East, North, and West, and has a total population of 14, 430. Acreage of the parliamentary division, 148, 898.

The township of Kendal, as already noted, lies all in the borough. Acreage, 2242; population, 12, 248. The surface is very diversified; includes much fertile land and many orchards; and extends away to some of the Lake mountains. An ancient camp was on Helsehill; and many features of interest will be found noticed in our articles on the townships. There are sixteen churches in theancient parish of Kendal, three of which are in the township. The living of the parish church is a vicarage in the diocese of Carlisle; gross value,, £530 with residence. Patrons, Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge. St Thomas' is also a vicarage in the diocese of Carlisle; gross value, £250 with residence. The net value of the living of St George's is £172 with residence. Population of the ecclesiastical parish of Holy Trinity, 8600; of St Thomas', 2615; of St George's, 3215.

Kendal Parliamentary Division, or Southern Westmorland, was formed nnderthe Redistribution of SeatsAct of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 34, 922. The division includes the following:-Kendal Ward-Beetham, Crook, Crosthwaite and Lyth, Docker, Farleton, Fawcett Forest, Grayrigg, Haverbrack, Helsington, Heversham-with-Milnthorpe, Hincaster, Hugill, Kentmere, Lambrigg, Levens, Long Sleddale, Meathop and Ulpha, Nat-land, Nethergraveship (part of), Nether Staveley, New Hutton, Old Hutton and Hohnscales, Over Staveley, Patton, Preston Patrick, Preston Richard, Scalthwaiterigg, Hay, and Hutton-i'-th'-Hay, Sedgwick, Skelsmergh, Stainton, Strickland Kettle, Strickland Roger, Underbarrow and Bradley Field, Whinfell, Whitwell and Selside, Witherslack; Lonsdale Ward-Barbon, Burton, Casterton, Dillicar, Firbank, Holme, Hntton Roof, Killington, Kirkby Lonsdale, Lupton, Mansergh, Middleton; Kendal, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyWestmorland 
Ecclesiastical parishKendal Holy Trinity 
Poor Law unionKendal 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Kendal from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Westmorland is available to browse.