Businesses in Penrith Towns and Villages of Cumbria


(See also Penrith Castle , Penrith Museum)

Penrith from the tower of St Andrews Church by woodytykePenrith is the chief northern town of the Vale of Eden, and, for many centuries, was a gateway north and south, east and west.

Theories for source of its name are that it may come from the Celtic “penn” and “rid” that mean “hill ford” or “chief ford”, or “under the red hill” or even “Pen Rith” meaning “red town”-there doesn't seem to be agreement on its meaning. But all theories fit: there were two fords at Eamont Bridge nearby and the local red sandstone is clearly evident in the countryside and the buildings.

Voreda Roman Fort courtesy Google MapsBronze Age man once roamed the area. The Romans built a fort, Voreda, four miles north of the town, as one of their staging posts north to Hadrian's Wall. The site of another Roman fort, Brocavum, lies two miles southeast. During the 9th and 10th centuries Penrith was allied with Scotland as part of Strathclyde and served as the capital of the kingdom of Cumbria until 1070. Sited on the main north-south road between England and Scotland, it saw plenty of action during the Scottish-English border raiding times. The Scots, attracted by its prosperity, attacked and burned the town in 1314, 1345, and 1382.

Penrith market square clock tower by Stephen McKayHenry III granted the town a market charter, and, by the 18th century, it was an important cattle market. Hiring fairs also took place in Penrith. A series of markets places: the Castle Mart, Dockray, Corn Market, Market Place, Sandgate, and Market Hall make up the centre of the town. Market Square contains a monument and clock tower built in 1861. The two oldest streets, Burrowgate and Sandgate, date from the 13th Century.

At one time Penrith was involved in the cotton trade and had upwards of 100 weavers making their living in the town.

In 1846 a railway was built through the town and headed north to Scotland. Today Penrith still thrives as a market town with many shops and services located along its mixture of narrow streets (purposely designed for protection and for herding cattle) and busy thoroughfares.

Penrith market square by Nicholas MuttonMany of the town's buildings are constructed from the area's dark red sandstone. The historic Gloucester Arms pub (not all of the original building remains) is thought to date to 1477, and is supposed to have been a home away from home for Richard III. There's a tale of a secret passag leading from the pub to Penrith Castle. The Two Lions was another old pub and still has some original features found in its kitchen and fireplace, dining room and hall (now bars). The George Hotel existed during the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who is said to have lodged here in 1745 while travelling south on his journey to attempt the seizure of the crown.

Penrith Robinsons school middlegate now TIC and museum by Paul FarmerThe 1671 Robinson's school now houses the Tourist Information Centre and Museum, where local history and culture are on display along with Roman artefacts. The school was originally founded as a charity and used until 1970 for educational pursuits. More interesting buildings are located in Friargate, one dating to the early 1700's. The Abbots Bank dates to 1820, and a 1750 grand mansion unfortunately now housing council offices. In the 1700's, a former pele tower was turned into a grand home, Hutton Hall.

Penrith castle by Don CloadThe ruined, red sandstone Penrith Castle (in the public park) also began as a pele tower. It was enlarged in the 14th century by Ralph Neville, and in 1471 became a royal fortress for the Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), guardian of the route to Scotland. The castle fell into ruin by the mid 1500's, and pieces were carted off by locals to build houses.

In 1598 the plague devastated the town, killing 2000 people. A reminder of this lies in the grounds of the Greengarth Elderly People's Home on Bridge Lane where a hollowed out rock was used to disinfect money during the plague.Penrith plague stone by Colin

The Wordsworths have Penrith connections. William and Dorothy and William's future wife, Mary, attended school here. The former school (now an eating spot), next to St Andrews Church dates from 1564 and was founded by Queen Elizabeth I. William's cousin, John, lived in one of two 1791 houses designed by Robert Adam (both were joined and turned into the town hall in the early 1900's). Other famous figures connected with Penrith were Mary Queen of Scots, who stayed here on her journey south, Oliver Cromwell, whose men occupied Penrith in 1654, and the writer Anthony Trollope.

Penrith St Andrews Church by woodytykeThe tower of the red sandstone St Andrews Church dates from the 13th-14th centuries and displays the badge of the Earl of Warwick. The rest of the church, including its three sided gallery, was rebuilt in the 1720's and is mostly Georgian. The pillars that support the gallery are each made from a single stone from a Cumbrian quarry. The chancel walls are adorned with 100-year-old paintings done by landscape painter Jacob Thompson, born in Penrith. Brass candelabra, hanging from the roof, were a present from the Duke of Cumberland, presented in 1745 as a reward for the town's loyalty during the Jacobite uprising. Stone figures, Tudor memorials and old fonts are some of the items of interest in the church.

Penrith St Andrews Church wheel crosses by Andrew BurgessIn the churchyard are two 11-foot high wheel crosses combining Christian and Viking carvings. They are separated by four 10th century hogback tombstones, known as the “Giant's Grave”, the legendary burial spot of Owen Caesarius, Celtic King of Cumbria.

Built in 1719, the square signal tower, Beacon Pike, on wooded Beacon Hill (937 feet high) sits where warning fires were lit in case of invasion or emergency. It was used in 1804 during the Napoleonic Wars. It is said the hill is inhabited by the ghost of a man who was hanged here. Penrith beacon by Uncle MilkoThere are panoramic views of the countryside from the top, or from Beacon Edge road. On the skyline Cross Fell, Murton Pike, and Blencathra add interest.

Penrith with its history, architecture, and shopping is a good base for exploring the Lake District and Eden Valley. It has a reputation for good fudge, Cumberland sausage, and gingerbread.

Photos courtesy of woodytyke , Google Maps , Stephen McKay , Nicholas Mutton , Paul Farmer , Don Cload , Colin , Andrew Burgess , Uncle Milko.

Penrith is 1 mile from the M6, Jct. 40.

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