Businesses in Egremont Towns and Villages of Cumbria


(See also Egremont Castle , Florence Mining Heritage Centre , Gurning)

Egremont Main St. courtesy of Graeme DougalThe small market town of Egremont, once the scene of bloody conflict with invading Danes, lies inland from St Bees on the bank of the river Ehen, flowing seaward from Ennerdale. The town's Norman name likely originated from the town of Aigremont in Normandy. It means the ‘Mount of Sorrow’.

On a mound above the main road lie the pinky-red sandstone ruins of a castle built c1120 by William de Meschines and once the seat of the barony of Copeland (Egremont). Destroyed in the 16th century, only the gatehouse, front of the great hall, and curtain wall survive. An interesting herring bone pattern of stonework is visible. When first built, a drawbridge and moat guarded the south entrance along with the square tower.

Egremont Castle entrance courtesy of Graeme DougalThe castle is the subject of a local legend, one immortalized by Wordsworth in The Horn of Egremont. It tells the tale of the local Lord of Egremont. One version says he was captured in the Crusades, and his younger brother took advantage of the fact to secure the Lordship for himself. The first Lord was released and, upon returning home, sounded his horn (which could only be blown by the true Lord) outside the castle gate alerting his disloyal brother to the fact he had returned home to reclaim the Lordship. The brothers were eventually reconciled.Egremont High St. courtesy of Graeme Dougal
Egremont began its market in 1267 when King Henry III granted a charter to Thomas de Multon. Lined by shops, inns, and houses of various periods, its wide, tree-lined main street was designed for the market's stalls. The market sold corn, meat and other foodstuffs. Annual fairs supplied horses, cattle, and servants.

The tradition of a Crab Fair, first held in 1267 when Lord Egremont gave away crab apples, continues. On the third Saturday in September, during the “Parade of the Apple Cart”, apples are thrown to the public. Track and field events, shows, and hound trails take place. An early event was the prize of a sheep fastened to the top of a greased pole. Anyone able to reach the top claimed the prize. Nowadays, a leg of lamb rewards the climber. Egremont St Marys Church courtesy of Graeme DougalAn unusual aspect of the fair is the World Gurning Championships, where people put their heads through a horse collar and “make faces”, the most atrocious winning a prize. The town's medieval history is celebrated each May Bank Holiday weekend when medieval days are recreated with jousting, banquets, music, and other pageants. The legend of the Horn is re-enacted.

The church of St Mary and St Michael-rebuilt in the 19th century-dates from 1220. William de Meschines originally gave it to the priory of St Bees. The church contains 13th century chancel windows, interesting carvings, stained glass, and a square bell tower.

The 16th century Lowes Court building houses the Tourist Information Centre and a gallery/craft shop. The Egremont Hotel was originally a coaching Inn called The Egremont Lowes Court courtesy of Graeme DougalBlue Anchor, possibly used for smuggling. In 1720, it was renamed the Coach & Horses with stabling for 36 horses. Employment was once provided by the manufacturers of linen, thread, and paper, and by the leather tanning and dressing industry.

Wordsworth immortalised a second Egremont legend in his The Boy of Egremont, about William Fitzwilliam. The story begins with his father, a cruel and vicious man, who led raids throughout the north of England, murdering and torturing men, women, and children. On his death, the son (the Boy of Egremont) inherited much of northern England as well as the Earldom of Moray. Slated to be the possible king of Scotland, he met an untimely death while out with his dog. A forester reported that the boy attempted to jump across the Strid, a chasm in the River Wharfe, and fell to his death. No one knows for certain, and his body was never recovered.

Egremont sculpture courtesy of Graeme DougalLimestone and sandstone (used on the roof of St George's Chapel at Windsor) were quarried locally, and haematite iron was mined as early as Norman times. Egremont once supplied both Workington's and Whitehaven's foundries. The miners were nicknamed ‘The Red Men of Cumbria’ after the red colour of the iron ore. The Florence Mine, the last working iron ore mine in Western Europe, tells the story of the miners and their lifestyle in its museum. A reconstructed mining tunnel gives a taste of life underground in the early 1900's. Only a small amount of ore is still extracted.

Egremont is a little known but interesting mining and market town of Cumbria with a unique and entertaining September Crab Fair and Sports.

Photos courtesy of Graeme Dougal

Egremont is 6 miles (10 km) southeast of Whitehaven and lies about equal distance between Carlisle, Penrith, and Barrow.

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