Keswick, Cumbria

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Coordinates: 54°36′00″N 3°07′45″W / 54.5999°N 3.1293°W / 54.5999; -3.1293

Moot Hall, Keswick.jpg
The Moot hall in central Keswick
Keswick is located in Cumbria
 Keswick shown within Cumbria
Population 4,984 (2001)
OS grid reference NY270233
Civil parish Keswick
District Allerdale
Shire county Cumbria
Region North West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town KESWICK
Postcode district CA12
Dialling code 017687
Police Cumbria
Fire Cumbria
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK Parliament Copeland
List of places

Keswick (/ˈkɛzɨk/ KEZ-ik) is a market town and civil parish within the Borough of Allerdale in Cumbria, England. Historically in Cumberland, it had a population of 4,984, according to the 2001 census,[1] and is situated just north of Derwent Water, and a short distance from Bassenthwaite Lake, both in the Lake District National Park. Keswick is on the A66 road linking Workington and Penrith, as well as the A591 road, linking it to Windermere, Kendal and to Carlisle (via the A595 road).



The town is recorded in the 13th century as 'Kesewic', meaning 'farm where cheese is made'. The name is from the Old English 'cēse' (cheese) with a Scandinavian initial 'k' and 'wīc' (special place or dwelling).[2]

'Keswick' is "the same name as the London 'Chiswick', but here with 'K-' due to Scandinavian influence".[3]

Middle Ages[edit]

The Moot Hall lies in the centre of Keswick and acts as the focal point for the Saturday Market on the Market Square.

Keswick was granted a charter for a market in 1276 [4] by Edward I. The market is held every Thursday and Saturday in the pedestrianised main street in the middle of the town. The marketplace features the Moot Hall which once acted as the town hall but is now a local tourist information office.

During the 16th century, small scale mining took place in Keswick, and it was the source of the world's first graphite pencils.[5] The pencil industry continued in the town until 2008, when the company moved to Workington on the Irish Sea coast.

Recent history[edit]

During the Second World War students from Roedean School were evacuated to Keswick.


The town is administered by Keswick Town Council and Allerdale Borough Council. Previous to 1974 the town had been an urban district in its own right and was entirely surrounded by Cockermouth Rural District.

Present day[edit]

Today, the majority of Keswick's businesses are tourism related, providing accommodation and facilities for the tens of thousands of people visiting the area each year. The Keswick Tourism Association publishes an annual guide to the area, including details of annually inspected and approved visitor accommodation.

The Keswick Convention is a Christian convention that has met annually in the town since 1875. It typically attracts 12,000+ visitors per year and is usually held in the second and third weeks of July, although it has recently changed to the last two weeks of July and the first full week of August. Notable speakers at the convention have included Billy Graham, John Stott, George Verwer, Peter Maiden, Alistair Begg, Jonathan Lamb, Steve Brady, Vinoth Ramachandra, David Coffey, Joseph Stowell and Anne Graham Lotz. The main Convention Centre is located on Skiddaw Street.

Many visitors to Keswick come for the town's annual film festival that in 2006 attracted almost 3,000 paying customers.[citation needed] Keswick is also host to an annual beer festival which takes place on Keswick Rugby Union Club field and an annual jazz festival. The Beer Festival is held the first weekend in June, run jointly by Keswick Rugby Club & Keswick Lions. Over 5,000 people attend and can sample 200 real ales plus many ciders, lagers and bottle beers. Live bands play throughout the festival.

A half marathon is held each May; the 13.1-mile (21.1 km) course starts in Keswick, loops through Borrowdale and circles Derwent Water before finishing at Keswick Rugby Club. In May the town hosts the annual Keswick Mountain Festival.

On 11 January 2005, Keswick was granted Fairtrade Town status.

A panoramic view of Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding fells, as viewed from Latrigg north of the town

Places of interest[edit]

The pier on Derwent Water near Keswick

Keswick is the home of the modern Theatre by the Lake which is the permanent home for repertoire and festivals. It carries on the tradition of summer season productions first started by Century Theatre in the 'Blue Box'. This was originally a mobile theatre that subsequently found a static home at Keswick for many years and is currently situated at Snibston Discovery Park in Leicestershire.

The town is also the site of the Cumberland Pencil Museum. This details the manufacturing history of pencils and shows how pencils have been used through the ages.[6] One of the exhibits is what is claimed to be the world's largest coloured pencil.

Castlerigg stone circle, a well preserved prehistoric monument, is 2 miles (3.2 km) away.

Hodgson How is a natural hill located west of Keswick. Hodgson How may have been a place of assembly or Viking Thing. How is from the Old Norse word haugr meaning mound.[7]

Fitz Park, located on the bank of the River Greta, is home to the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, a Victorian museum which features, among other exhibits, the Musical Stones of Skiddaw. In 2001 the park was voted the "Loveliest Cricket Ground in England" by Wisden Cricket Monthly.[8]

Ormathwaite Hall is Grade II listed Georgian mansion house near Keswick. It belonged to the Brownrigg family from 1677 to 1800. The doctor and scientist William Brownrigg hosted a visit by Benjamin Franklin in 1772.[9]


The town used to be linked to Cockermouth and Penrith via the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway which closed in 1972. There is a project to reopen the railway.[10]

The town is served by a range of bus services providing connections with nearby towns such as Cockermouth, Penrith, Windermere and Kendal. However, the majority of visitors arrive by car, and are catered for by a number of town centre car parks.

Notable people[edit]

Sir John Bankes, Attorney General and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, was born in Castlerigg near Keswick in 1589. A bust in his memory can be found in upper Fitz Park in Keswick.

Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge moved to Keswick with his family in 1800 and visited and collaborated with William Wordsworth in nearby Grasmere, frequently walking back and forth between the towns. Robert Southey and his wife came to stay with Coleridge at Greta Hall in 1803 and ended up residing there until his death in 1843. Coleridge left Greta Hall in 1804 leaving his family in the care of Southey. Due to their residence in the district, the three poets are collectively known as the 'Lake Poets'. Southey is buried in the churchyard of Crosthwaite Church and there is a memorial to him inside the church.

The classical scholar, essayist, poet and founder of Society for Psychical Research, Frederic William Henry Myers, was born in Keswick.

Novelist Sir Hugh Walpole lived nearby, at Brackenburn on the shores of Derwent Water.

Animal rights advocate Donald Watson, who founded the Vegan Society, lived in Keswick for most of his life.[11]

Children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter passed a summer holiday at nearby Fawe Park and used its gardens as background for The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.

Pioneer mountaineers and photographers George and Ashley Abraham lived and worked in Keswick.

Ian Taylor[disambiguation needed], founder of the breadmaker Kingsmill was born in the town.[citation needed]


The Keswick dialect is a variant of the Cumbrian dialect spoken around the Keswick and Cockermouth area.


  1. ^ Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : Allerdale Retrieved 2009-11-21
  2. ^ A.D.Mills, "Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names" 2003. ISBN 978-0-19-852758-9. ISBN 0-19-852758-6
  3. ^ Whaley, Diana (2006). A dictionary of Lake District place-names. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society. pp. lx,423 p.195. ISBN 0904889726. 
  4. ^ "Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales To 1516". Retrieved 14 August 2012 citing Calendar of Charter Rolls (1226-1516) 6 vols. (London, 1903-27), which in turn records a "Grant to Thomas de Derwentewatere, and his heirs, of a weekly market on Saturday at Kesewik in Derewentfelles, co. Cumberland, and of a yearly fair there on the vigil, the feast and the morrow of St. Mary Magdalene, and the two days following.". 
  5. ^ A Brief History of Pencil Making in Cumbria over the Last 400 Years (leaflet from the Cumberland Pencil Museum)
  6. ^ Cumberland Pencil Museum
  7. ^ A Survey of the History of English Placenames by Dame Cateline de la Mor la souriete
  8. ^ "Fitz Park", Parks in Keswick website accessed 2010-05-09
  9. ^ Ormathwaite Hall
  10. ^ Keswick to Penrith Railway Re-opening
  11. ^ "News & Star, 2 December 2005; Obituary: Mr Donald Watson, of Keswick". Retrieved 11 February 2014. 

External links[edit]