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

Keswick montage.jpg
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 an English market town and civil parish within the Borough of Allerdale in Cumbria, historically in Cumberland. It has a population of slightly below 5,000. The town is situated just north of Derwentwater, and 4 miles (6.4 km) from Bassenthwaite, both in the Lake District National Park.

There is considerable evidence of prehistoric occupation of the Keswick area, but the first recorded mention of the town dates from the 13th century, when Edward I of England granted a charter for Keswick's market, which has maintained a continuous 700-year existence. In Tudor times the town was an important mining area, and from the 18th century onwards it has increasingly been known as a holiday centre; tourism has been its principal industry for more than 150 years. Its features include The Moot Hall; a modern theatre, Theatre by the Lake; one of Britain's oldest surviving cinemas, the Alhambra; and the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery in the town's largest open space, Fitz Park. Among the town's annual events is the Keswick Convention, an Evangelical gathering attracting visitors from many countries.

Keswick became widely known for its association with the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey. Together with their fellow Lake Poet William Wordsworth, based at Grasmere, 12 miles (19 km) away, they made the scenic beauty of the area widely known to readers in Britain and beyond. In the late 19th century and into the 20th, Keswick was the focus of several important initiatives by the growing conservation movement often led by Hardwicke Rawnsley, vicar of the nearby Crosthwaite parish and co-founder of the National Trust, which has built up extensive holdings in the area.


The town is first recorded in Edward I's charter of the 13th century, as "Kesewik".[1] Scholars have generally considered the name to be from the Old English, meaning "farm where cheese is made", the word deriving from "cēse" (cheese) with a Scandinavian initial "k" and "wīc" (special place or dwelling), although not all academics agree. George Flom of the University of Illinois (1919) rejected that derivation on the grounds that a town in the heart of Viking-settled areas, as Keswick was, would not have been given a Saxon name; he proposed instead that the word is of Danish or Norse origin, and means "Kell's place at the bend of the river".[2] Among the later scholars supporting the "cheese farm" toponymy are Eilert Ekwall (1960) and A D Mills (2011), both for the Oxford University Press, and Diana Whaley (2006), for the English Place-Name Society.[3][4][n 1]


Stone circle at Castlerigg

There is clear evidence of the presence of prehistoric man in the area. The Castlerigg stone circle on the eastern fringe of the town has been dated to between 3000 and 2500 BC.[7] Neolithic-era stone tools were unearthed inside the circle and in the centre of Keswick during the 19th century. The antiquary W G Collingwood, commenting on finds in the area, wrote that they showed "Stone Age man was fairly at home in the Lake District".[8] There is little evidence of sustained settlement in the area during the Bronze Age, but from excavations of hill forts it is clear that there was some Iron Age occupation, circa 500 BC, although scholars are not agreed about how permanent it was.[9]

In Roman Britain Cumbria, as the site of the western part of Hadrian's Wall, was of strategic importance. The north of the county is rich in archaeological evidence from the period, but nothing is known that suggests any Roman habitation in the Keswick area, other than finds that point to the existence of one or more Roman highways passing the vicinity of the present-day town.[10] Such nearby settlements as can be traced from the era of the Romans and the years after their departure seem to have been predominantly Celtic. Many local place names from the period, including that of the River Derwent, are Celtic, some closely related to Welsh equivalents.[n 2]

The last major influences on the area before reliable historical records began were the Christian saints who preached the Gospel in the north of England in the late 6th and early 7th centuries AD. In Keswick and the surrounding area the most important figures were St Herbert of Derwentwater and his contemporary St Kentigern.[12] The former, the pupil and friend of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, lived as a hermit on an island in Derwentwater, now named after him.[12] Kentigern, who lived and preached in the area before moving on to Wales, is traditionally held to have founded Crosthwaite Church, which was the parish church of Keswick until the 19th century.[13]


Middle Ages[edit]

Keswick's market has an unbroken history of more than 700 years.

Keswick's recorded history starts in the Middle Ages. The area was part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde until about 1018, after which it was briefly absorbed by the Kingdom of Scotland until 1092.[14] In that year William II of England, son of William the Conqueror, marched north and established lasting Norman rule in Cumbria. So far as concerns the history of Keswick, William's most important act was establishing the great baronies of Allerdale-below-Derwent, Allerdale-above-Derwent, and Greystoke, the borders of which met at Keswick.[15] In 1181 Jocelyn of Furness wrote of a new church at Crosthwaite, Keswick, founded by Alice de Romilly, the Lady of Allerdale, a direct descendant of William II's original barons.[16] In 1189, Richard I granted the rectory of Crosthwaite to the Cistercian order of Fountains Abbey.[17]

During the 13th century, agricultural land around the town was acquired by Fountains and Furness Abbeys. The latter, already prosperous from the wool trade, wished to expand its sheep farming, and in 1208 bought large tracts of land from Alice de Romilly. She also negotiated with Fountains Abbey, to which she sold Derwent Island in Derwentwater, land at Watendlath, the mill at Crosthwaite and other land in Borrowdale. Keswick was at the hub of the monastic farms in the area, and Fountains based a steward in the town, where tenants paid their rents.[15] Furness also enjoyed profitable rights to the extraction of iron ore.[18]

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.

Grant by Edward I, 18 July 1276[1]

Keswick was granted a charter for a market in 1276 by Edward I. This market has an uninterrupted history lasting for more than 700 years.[19] The pattern of buildings around the market square remained broadly the same from this period until at least the late 18th century, with houses – originally timber-framed – fronting the square, and sturdily-enclosed gardens or yards at the back. According to local tradition these stout walls and the narrow entrances to the yards were for defence against marauding Scots. In the event it appears that the town escaped such attacks, with Scottish raiders finding richer and more accessible targets at Carlisle and the fertile Eden Valley, well to the north of Keswick.[20]

16th and 17th centuries: agriculture and industry[edit]

German miners sorting ore, 16th century

With the dissolution of the monasteries, between 1536 and 1541, Furness and Fountains Abbeys were supplanted by new secular landlords for the farmers of Keswick and its neighbourhood. The buying and selling of sheep and wool was no longer centred on the great Abbeys, but was handled locally by the new landowners and tenants. This enhanced Keswick's importance as a market centre, though at first the town remained only modestly prosperous: in the 1530s John Leland wrote of it as "a lytle poore market town".[21] By the second half of the century copper mining had made Keswick richer: in 1586 William Camden wrote of "these copper works not only being sufficient for all England, but great quantities of the copper exported every year" with, at the centre, "Keswicke, a small market town, many years famous for the copper works as appears from a charter of king Edward IV, and at present inhabited by miners."[22]

Earlier copper mining had been small in scale, but Elizabeth I, concerned for the defence of her kingdom, required large quantities of copper for the manufacture of weapons and the strengthening of warships. There was the additional advantage for her that the Crown was entitled to royalties on metals extracted from English land.[23] The experts in copper mining were German, and Elizabeth secured the services of Daniel Hechstetter of Augsburg, to whom she granted a licence to "search, dig, try, roast and melt all manner of mines and ores of gold, silver, copper and quicksilver" in the Keswick area and elsewhere.[24]

Plaque on Keswick's Moot Hall detailing its history from the 16th century

As well as copper, a new substance was found, extracted and exploited: this was variously called wad, black lead, plumbago or black cauke, and is now known as graphite. Many uses were quickly discovered for the mineral: it reduced friction in machinery, made a heat-resistant glaze for crucibles, and when used to line moulds for cannonballs, resulted in rounder, smoother balls that could be fired further by English naval cannon.[25] Later it was used to make pencils, for which Keswick became famous, but evidently that use did not begin until the late 18th century.[25]

The copper mines prospered for about seventy years, but by the early 17th century the industry was in decline. Demand for copper fell and the cost of extracting it was high.[26] Graphite mining continued, and quarrying for slate began to grow in importance. Other small-scale industries grew up, such as tannery and weaving; although the boom of the mid-16th century had finished, the town's economy did not slide into ruin, and the population remained generally constant at a little under 1,000.[27]

18th and 19th centuries: beginnings of tourism[edit]

Coach at the foot of Skiddaw, by de Loutherbourg, 1787

The historian George Bott regards John Dalton (1709–63) and John Brown (1715–66) as the pioneers of tourism in the Lake District. Both wrote works praising the majesty of the scenery, and their enthusiasm prompted others to visit the area. The poet Thomas Gray published an account of a five-day stay in Keswick in 1769, in which he described the view of the town as "the vale of Elysium in all its verdure", and was lyrical about the beauties of the fells and the lake.[28] His journal was widely read, and was, in Bott's phrase, "an effective public relations job for Keswick."[29] Painters such as Thomas Smith of Derby and William Bellers also contributed to the influx of visitors; engravings of their paintings of Cumberland scenery sold in large numbers, further enhancing the fame of the area.[29] In 1800 the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, "It is no small advantage that for two thirds of the year we are in complete retirement – the other third is alive & swarms with Tourists of all shapes & sizes."[30] Coleridge had moved to Keswick in that year, and together with his fellow Lake Poets (see below) was possibly the strongest influence on the public esteem of Keswick and the Lake District.[31]

During the 18th century and into the 19th, Turnpike trusts were established and major roads in Cumberland were greatly improved. John McAdam supervised the construction of the roads from Keswick to Cockermouth in the west and Penrith in the east.[32] With the Lake District now accessible by coach the area attracted well-off visitors, particularly during war in mainland Europe which made the aristocratic Grand Tour impossible there.[33] Regular coach services were established in the 1760s, but they were expensive. The ten-hour journey from Whitehaven to Penrith via Keswick cost 12 shillings (60 pence in modern decimals), at a time when country labourers typically earned £24 a year or less, and the annual income of even the most prosperous tenant farmers was rarely more than £200.[34] Nonetheless, by the middle of the century the number of tourists visiting Keswick during each season was estimated at between 12,000 and 15,000.[35] Some of the Keswick inns that catered for the prosperous visitors remain as hotels, including the Queen's, where Gray stayed.[33]

Pencil-making at Keswick, 1865

The construction of the railways in the mid-19th century made the Lake District in general and Keswick in particular more accessible to visitors of modest means. The original impetus for building the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway (CKP) line came from heavy industry: the new Bessemer process of steelmaking brought a great demand for the rich iron ore from west Cumberland and the coking coal from Durham on the east side of the country. The CKP was built to enable ore and coal to be brought together at steel foundries in both counties.[36] The line opened for goods traffic in 1864, and the following year it began to carry passengers.[37] Fares varied, but holidaymakers could buy tickets at bargain prices, such as six shillings for the 170-mile return journey from Preston to Keswick.[38]

In addition to its growing importance as a tourist centre, Keswick developed a reputation for its manufacture of pencils during the 19th century. It had begun on a modest scale in or about 1792, as a cottage industry, using graphite mined locally. This developed on more industrial lines in factories purpose-built by several companies.[39] Pencil making was the town's most important manufacturing industry by the mid-19th century, textiles and leather goods having declined.[39]

The Moot Hall was rebuilt in 1813, the lower floor being used as a market house on Saturdays. Coal gas was supplied by a gas works from 1846; the Keswick library opened in 1849;[40] a water works began operation in 1856; and the Keswick police station opened in 1857.[41] The local weekly newspaper, The Keswick Reminder was founded in 1896, and at 2014 continues to be published every Friday. In an article in The Observer in 1978, Christopher Brasher wrote that as long as the Reminder flourishes, "there will be one corner of these islands that is forever England."[42]

Canon Hardwick Rawnsley, cleric and conservationist

In 1883 Hardwicke Rawnsley was appointed vicar of Crosthwaite. In a study of Lake District towns in 1974, H A L Rice commented that to write about Keswick without mentioning Rawnsley would be the equivalent of writing about Stratford-upon-Avon without mentioning Shakespeare, so great was Rawnsley's impact on the town. He and his wife set up classes to teach metalwork and wood carving; these grew into the School of Industrial Art, which trained local craftsmen and -women from 1894 until it closed in 1986.[43] He revived the ancient May Day festival in the town, and was a leading figure in the establishment of Keswick School, Blencathra Sanatorium and the County Farm School.[43] As co-founder of the National Trust, Rawnsley contributed to Keswick's continued growth as a tourist centre, with the acquisition by the Trust of many acres of popular scenic land around Derwentwater, beginning with Brandelhow Wood in 1902.[44]

20th century and beyond[edit]

Keswick's history throughout the 20th century was one of increasing reliance on tourism, with the pencil industry as the second largest source of employment. The Cumberland Pencil Company, formed at the turn of the century, occupied a large factory near the River Greta on the road leading out of Keswick towards Cockermouth.[45] The conservation movement continued to develop; Rawnsley led successful campaigns to save the medieval Greta and Portinscale bridges from replacement with ferro-concrete structures;[46] and the National Trust continued to acquire land locally.[47] In common with other towns throughout the country, Keswick lost many of its young men in the First World War: the town's war memorial near Fitz Park commemorates 117 names.[48]

By the 1930s Keswick was firmly established as the main centre of tourism in Cumberland and Westmorland. An article in The Manchester Guardian in 1934 called it "the capital of the Lake District", and continued:

Keswick's chief industry is to promote the contentment and happiness of its visitors. Its pleasant position provides at the outset a tonic atmosphere … it is set in the most delightful part of a delightful district, described by Wordsworth as "the loveliest spot that ever man has found." There are numerous places of interest and fine shops, and good accommodation is offered to visitors at reasonable prices. Keswick is the best centre from which to visit Lakeland.[49]

During the Second World War students from St Katharine's College, Liverpool and Roedean School, Sussex were evacuated to Keswick when their own buildings were requisitioned for use as a hospital and a navy base respectively.[50] Students were also brought to the safety of Keswick from the Central Newcastle High School,[51] Hunmanby Hall School, Yorkshire,[52] and the Liverpool Orphanage.[53]

Any prospect of major expansion of the town was ruled out after the war by the creation of the Lake District National Park in 1951.[54] Keswick's population has remained stable at a little below 5,000 residents.[n 3] The town's reliance on tourism increased in 2006 when Cumberland Pencils moved production from Keswick to Lillyhall, Workington, with only the Cumberland Pencil Museum remaining at the old site.[56] At the beginning of the 21st century, more than 60 per cent of the population was employed in hotels, restaurants and distribution. A survey of retail premises in 2000 found that more than ten per cent were outdoor clothes shops, a similar proportion were cafés or restaurants, and more than eight per cent were gift shops.[57]

Geography and climate[edit]

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

Keswick lies in northwestern England, in the heart of part of Cumbria. By road, Keswick is located 31.4 miles (50.5 km) southwest of Carlisle, 22.1 miles (35.6 km) northwest of Windermere and 14.2 miles (22.9 km) southeast of Cockermouth, just east of the village of Portinscale.[58] The Derwentwater lake, to the southwest of the town, is approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) long by 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and is some 72 feet (22 m) deep. It contains several islands, including Derwent Isle, Lord's Island, Rampsholme Island and St. Herbert's Island, the largest. Derwent Isle is the only island on the lake which is inhabited, and it is run by the National Trust and open to visitors five days a year.[59] The land between Keswick and the lake consists mainly of fields and areas of woodland, including Isthmus Wood, Cockshot Wood, Castlehhead Wood and Horseclose and Great Wood, further to the south. The River Derwent flows through the northern part of the town, which flows into Bassenthwaite Lake to the northwest of Kendal, although there is a channel stemming from the river to the Derwentwater to the east of Portinscale.[58] River Greta, a tributary of the Derwent, also flows through the town. The source of the river is near Threlkeld, at the confluence of the River Glenderamackin and St. John's Beck.[60]

Keswick is in the lee of the Skiddaw group, the oldest group of rocks in the Lake District. These fells were formed during the Ordovician period, and form a triangle sheltering the town, reaching a maximum height of 931m on Skiddaw itself.[61] To the west of Portinscale, to the southwest of the village of Thornthwaite, is Whinlatter Forest Park and Grisedale Pike.[58]

Climatically, Keswick is in the North West sector of the UK, which is characterised by cool summers, mild winters, and high monthly rainfalls throughout the year. Surrounded, and to a considerable extent shielded by, the northern Lake District fells, the town is known for its own microclimate, and generally has less extreme weather than other areas of Cumbria.[62] The wettest months fall at the end of the year, with the peak average of 189.3 mm falling in October. Rain, sunshine and temperature figures are shown below.

Max temp
Min temp
Av daytime
temp (°C)
(daily hrs)
January 7.2 1.6 5 3 169.1
February 7.4 1.4 4 4 119.9
March 9.4 2.8 6 5 127.8
April 11.9 4.2 10 7 81.7
May 15.6 6.4 12 7 79.4
June 17.9 9.3 15 8 84.3
July 19.7 11.5 17 7 88.1
August 19.1 11.1 16 5 104.1
September 16.7 9.0 14 5 126.6
October 13.3 6.7 10 5 189.3
November 9.7 3.9 7 3 177.9
December 7.5 1.5 4 3 173.0

Sources: Met Office[63] and Holiday Weather.[64]

Ownership and governance[edit]

The ill-fated Lord Derwentwater

In medieval times the township was within the manor of Castlerigg and Derwentwater. The first known official record of the town is the charter of 1276 granted to the lord of the manor, Thomas de Derwentwater. The manor was granted by Alice de Romilly to Adam de Derwentwater before 1216, and subsequently passed to the Radclyffe family through marriage. The Derwentwater estate was forfeit to the Crown after the execution of James Radclyffe, third Earl of Derwentwater, in 1716 for his part in the Jacobite rebellion the previous year.[65] In 1735 the Crown granted the income from the estates to support the Greenwich Hospital, London. Land to the south and west were part of Greenwich Hospital's forestry and farming estates until the 19th century.[65] In 1925 the National Trust acquired 90 acres of land in this estate, including the foreshore woodland, the gift of Sir John Randles.[66]

Keswick became a Local Government District in 1853 and an urban district with three wards in 1894, reflecting its growth in the latter part of the 19th century. The new urban district's northern boundary was extended from the Greta to the railway, taking in Great Crosthwaite and part of Underskiddaw in 1899. In 1974 the urban district was abolished and since then the town has been administered by Keswick Town Council and Allerdale Borough Council.[67]


Cricket ground in Fitz Park
The Moot Hall

Keswick is the home of the Theatre by the Lake, opened in 1999.[68] The theatre serves a dual purpose as the permanent home of a professional repertory company and a venue for visiting performers and festivals.[69] The Alhambra cinema in St John Street, opened in 1913, is one of the oldest continuously-functioning cinemas in the country; it is equipped with digital technology and satellite receiving equipment to allow the live screening of plays, operas and ballet from the National Theatre, Royal Opera House and other venues.[70]

The town is the site of the Cumberland Pencil Museum, which displays the history of pencil-making and shows how pencils have been used through the ages. One of the exhibits is what is claimed to be the world's largest coloured pencil.[71]

Fitz Park, located on the bank of the River Greta, is home to the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, a Victorian museum which features the Musical Stones of Skiddaw, Southey manuscripts, and a collection of sculptures and paintings of regional and wider importance, including works by Epstein, John Opie, Richard Westall and others.[72] After extensive restoration and enlargement the museum reopened in 2014.[73] In 2001 the cricket ground in Fitz Park was named the most beautiful in England by Wisden Cricket Monthly.[74]

Greta Hall or House (discussed later on), is one of the few Grade I listed buildings in Keswick. The home of Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1800–1803 and Robert Southey from 1803 until 1843, it is now part of Keswick Grammar School on Main Street. The three-storey house dates to the late 18th century and features a flush-panelled central double door with Gothic top panels and Venetian windows. A carved oak fireplace inside is dated to 1684.[75] The Moot Hall is a prominent Grade II* listed building situated at the southern end of Main Street. It was originally built in 1571 and rebuilt in 1695, and the current building dates to 1813. Built of lime-washed stone and slate walling, there is a square tower on the north end with a round-arched doorway and a double flight of steps inside.[76] At the top of the tower is what the Keswick Tourist Information Board describes as an "unusual one-handed clock". Formerly an assembly building,[77] Moot Hall contains a tourist information centre on the ground floor, with an art gallery on the floor above.[78]


St John's Church dating from 1838

Until 1838 Keswick had no church within the town boundaries and was part of the widespread parish of Crosthwaite. The Quakers had an early meeting house in the town, replaced in 1715 by one at Underskiddaw. Protestant dissenters met at a private house from 1705 or before, moving to the a chapel in Lake Road in the latter part of the 18th century.[79]

Keswick's Anglican church, St John's, was designed by Anthony Salvin and consecrated in 1838. A Wesleyan chapel had already been opened nearby in 1814, and a Congregational chapel was built in 1858–59.[79] St John's Church, geometrical in style, built with pink castle-head ashlar sandstone and a slate roof, was further extended in 1862, 1882 and 1889 by W. Marshall, and the chancel windows, designed by Henry Holiday, also date to that year. It became a Grade II* listed building in 1951.[80] Another parish church, the Church of St Kentigern on Church Lane, is also Grade II* listed. Dated to at least the 14th century, it is built mainly in the Tudor-Gothic style and was expanded in 1523 and later restored in 1844 by Sir George Gilbert Scott.[81]

Since 1928 Roman Catholics in Keswick have been served by Our Lady of the Lakes and St Charles in High Hill. A new Quaker meeting house opened in the town in 1994.[79] An Eastern Orthodox church was inaugurated in 2007, holding services in Keswick and the nearby village of Braithwaite.[82]

No other religions maintain dedicated buildings in Keswick; Muslim worship is accommodated on Fridays in a room at the local council building in Main Street.[83]

Public houses and hotels[edit]

Keswick has a number of listed buildings, mainly Grade II in designation.[84] George Hotel, stated to be the oldest inn in the town, dates to the 16th century, with the alterations made during the Georgian period still evident.[85] The King's Arms Hotel, situated on the main Market Square, dates to the early 19th century. It is built from stuccoed stone, with Victorian shop windows on the ground floor.[86] The Central Hotel of Keswick, situated on the Main Street, dates to the late 18th century and is built from pebbledashed stone.[87] The Bank Tavern on Main Street and The Dog and Gun Public House on Lake Road are both Grade II listed 18th century buildings.[88][89]


Regular events[edit]

The Theatre by the Lake, venue for the Words by the Water festival

Annual events in the town's calendar include the Keswick Film Festival (February–March). It features screenings of old and new films, interviews with directors, and the festival's Osprey Awards for short films by local filmmakers.[90] The ten-day Words by the Water literary festival is held in March every year, based at the Theatre by the Lake. Festival events have been presented by Melvyn Bragg, Louis de Bernières, Germaine Greer, Steve Jones, Penelope Lively, Princess Michael of Kent, Michael Rosen and Joanna Trollope.[91]

In May each year, Keswick is host to three contrasting events. The Keswick Half Marathon, in the early part of the month takes participants around Derwentwater with an additional loop into Newlands Valley.[92] In the second week of May there is the four-day Keswick Jazz Festival, with more than 100 jazz events at a dozen local venues. Participants include British and international exponents of mainstream and traditional jazz.[92] After the Jazz Festival is the four-day Keswick Mountain Festival in mid-May. In the words of the organisers, the festival "celebrates everything we all love about the outdoors".[92] It includes ghyll scrambling, mountain biking, guided walks, map reading, canoeing, climbing, a triathlon and other events.[92]

The main event of the town's calendar in June is the Keswick Beer Festival, a two-day event that attracts more than 5,000 participants each year. More than 250 barrels of beer, lager and cider are on offer, accompanied by music from live bands.[92] In July one of the town's best-known annual fixtures begins: the Keswick Convention, an international gathering of Evangelical Christians, described in 1925 as "the last stronghold of British Puritanism",[93] promoting biblical teaching and pious lifestyles.[94] Among those associated with the Convention have been Frank Buchman and Billy Graham.[95] The event has grown from a single week to three weeks, straddling the latter part of July and early August.[92]

In August, Keswick features the Derwentwater Regatta. It was inaugurated by the eccentric local landowner Joseph Pocklington in 1792,[96] and after a lapse of more than two centuries was revived in 2013.[97] Its organisers describe it as "A weekend of mayhem and madness afloat, with the chance to climb aboard in a variety of races on Derwentwater".[92] The Keswick Agricultural Show, founded in 1860, has traditionally been held on August Bank Holiday Monday at the western edge of the town on the Crossing Fields section of the open land known as the Howrahs.[n 4] The show features both commercial and charity stands, and attracts large numbers of competitors, exhibitors and spectators.[92] From 2014 the venue has changed to Pump Field, a few hundred yards further from the town centre towards Braithwaite.[99]

Lake Poets and other Keswick notables[edit]

Greta Hall, behind Greta Bridge

Coleridge and William Wordsworth were close friends and collaborators; when Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy took up residence in the Lake District in late 1799 it was, in Bott's word, inevitable that Coleridge would follow suit. Six months after the Wordsworths moved into Dove Cottage at Grasmere, Coleridge leased Greta Hall in Keswick, 12 miles (19 km) away.[100] In 1803 Robert Southey, Coleridge's brother-in-law, agreed to share the house with Coleridge and his family. Southey remained at Greta Hall after Coleridge left in 1804, and it remained Southey's family home until his death in 1843.[101] Many famous literary figures stayed at Greta Hall in these years, including the Wordsworths, Charles and Mary Lamb, Thomas de Quincey, William Hazlitt, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Sir Walter Scott.[31] Lamb, a Londoner devoted to his native city, remained doubtful of the attractions of the Lake District, but most of the visitors to Greta Hall wrote eloquently of the beauty of the scenery, and further enhanced the public regard for, and desire to visit, the area.[31] Southey was well regarded locally, but played little part in the life of the town.[31] He is buried in Crosthwaite churchyard and there is a memorial to him inside the church, with an inscription written by Wordsworth.[102]

Before the Lake Poets the best-known resident of Keswick was probably Sir John Bankes, a leading Royalist during the English Civil War. He was Charles I's Attorney General and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Bankes was born at Castlerigg near Keswick in 1589.[103] A bust in his memory is in upper Fitz Park close to the museum.[104]

Later residents of the area have included the classical scholar, essayist, poet and founder of the Society for Psychical Research, Frederic Myers, who was born in Keswick,[105] and the campaigner for animal welfare Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, who lived in Keswick after retiring from teaching.[106] The pioneer mountaineers and photographers George and Ashley Abraham lived and worked in Keswick.[107] Their photographic shop in Lake Road, built in 1887, was later taken over by the local mountaineer and outfitter George Fisher; the shop still contains memorabilia, including photographs, from the Abrahams' era.[108]

Of literary figures after the Lake Poets among those most closely associated with Keswick was the novelist Hugh Walpole. In 1924 Walpole moved into Brackenburn, a house between Keswick and Grange at the opposite end of Derwentwater.[109] Like the Lake Poets in the previous century, he wrote enthusiastically about the Lake District, and its scenery and atmosphere often found their way into his fiction. He wrote in 1939, "That I love Cumberland with all my heart and soul is another reason for my pleasure in writing these Herries books. That I wasn't born a Cumbrian isn't my fault: that Cumbrians, in spite of my 'foreignness', have been so kind to me, is my good fortune."[110]


The Crosthwaite Free Grammar School was built in 1566 and had up to 200 pupils, of both sexes; the building adjoined the Crosthwaite churchyard.[111] In 1819 the parish of Crosthwaite had five or six schools in the town and the outlying areas, with a total of 332 children. By 1833 Keswick had twelve daily schools, including a new National School at High Hill.[112] The new parish church of Keswick, St John's, started educational work in 1840 with a Sunday school which also educated infant boys, and later girls, on weekdays. A full-time boys' school opened in 1853.[113] For older pupils, Keswick School, the free grammar school previously in Underskiddaw, moved to a new site diagonally opposite Greta Bridge in 1898 as a co-educational school. In 1951 a new secondary modern school was built at Lairthwaithe in Underskiddaw.[113]

Since 2005 junior education has been provided by St Herbert's School, one of the largest primary schools in Cumbria.[114] At senior level, Keswick and Lairthwaite schools merged in 1980 as a single comprehensive secondary school, with the name Keswick School. It was included in The Daily Telegraph's list of the top thirty UK comprehensives in 2014.[115]


Keswick is on the A66 road linking Workington and Penrith, as well as the A591, linking the town to Windermere, Kendal and Carlisle (via the A595).[116]

There are no rail links to Keswick; the line built in the 1860s for the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway closed in 1972.[n 5] Since the 1990s a plan to rebuild it has been under discussion,[118] but as at 2014 the only public transport serving the towns and villages on the old railway route is a bus service operating at mostly hourly intervals. The bus journey from the main line station at Penrith to Keswick takes a scheduled 47 minutes.[119]

The town is served by a range of other bus routes providing direct connections with Carlisle, Cockermouth, Kendal, Lancaster, Penrith, Windermere, Workington and other towns and villages in the north west.[120] The flow of traffic from Penrith to Cockermouth and beyond was eased after the A66 was diverted to a new bypass in 1974, a development that caused controversy because of a prominent new viaduct carrying the road across the Greta Gorge to the north of the town.[121]

The majority of visitors arrive by car and are catered for by three town centre car parks, another large one next to the Theatre by the Lake, and smaller ones elsewhere in the town.[122]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Other suggested derivations include "kesh" (water hemlock), "Ketelswick" (after a supposed Viking settler) and "kis" (a Norwegian term for iron pyrites).[5] Among those espousing the "cheese-farm" origin, Ekwall and Whaley equate the name of Keswick with that of the London area Chiswick; Whaley writes that the former's "K" is due to Scandinavian influence.[4][6]
  2. ^ "Derwent" derives from "dervā", meaning "river where oaks are common", which Ekwall compares with the Welsh "derw".[11]
  3. ^ The figures for the 1991, 2001 and 2011 censuses were respectively 4,836, 4,984 and 4,821.[55]
  4. ^ The name dates back to the 18th century; the historian J W Kaye links it to the landowner, Edward Stephenson, who retired to his native Keswick having been an important figure in the East India Company. Stephenson was based in Calcutta of which Howrah was a suburb.[98]
  5. ^ From 1923 to 1948 the line was part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway; from 1948 until its closure it was part of British Railways.[117]
  1. ^ a b Maxwell Lyte et al, p. 200
  2. ^ Flom, George T. "The Origin of the Place-Name 'Keswick'", The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Volume 18/2 (April 1919), pp. 221–225 (subscription required)
  3. ^ Ekwall, p. 273; and Mills, A D. "Keswick", A Dictionary of British Place Names, Oxford University Press, 2011; Oxford Reference. 2011; retrieved 23 June 2014 (subscription required)
  4. ^ a b Whaley, pp. lx, 195 and 423
  5. ^ Bott, p. 10
  6. ^ Ekwall, p. 106
  7. ^ Bott, p. 2
  8. ^ Collingwood, p. 6
  9. ^ Bott, p. 3
  10. ^ Rice, p. 92; and Bott, p. 4
  11. ^ Ekwall, p. 143
  12. ^ a b Bott, pp. 4–5
  13. ^ Wilson and Kaye, pp. 5–6
  14. ^ Haywood, p. 104
  15. ^ a b Bott, p. 11
  16. ^ Wilson and Kaye, p. 8
  17. ^ Rice, p. 103
  18. ^ Rice, p. 95
  19. ^ "Keswick" Visit Cumbria, retrieved 29 August 2014
  20. ^ Bott, pp. 12–13
  21. ^ Linton, p. 58
  22. ^ Camden, p. 170
  23. ^ Bott, p. 17
  24. ^ Collingwood, p. 123
  25. ^ a b Bott, pp. 22–23
  26. ^ Collingwood, p. 126
  27. ^ Bott, pp. 28–30
  28. ^ Gray, p. 325
  29. ^ a b Bott, p. 39
  30. ^ Lindopp p. 165
  31. ^ a b c d Bott, pp. 73–79
  32. ^ Bott, pp. 30–31
  33. ^ a b Bott, p. 43
  34. ^ Bott, p. 91; and Olsen, p. 124
  35. ^ "The Growth of Keswick, with particular reference to its inns", The Wordsworth Trust, retrieved 29 August 2014
  36. ^ Bott, p. 93
  37. ^ Gradon, p. 23
  38. ^ Bott, p. 96
  39. ^ a b "History" Derwent Pencils, retrieved 30 June 2014; and Bott, pp. 23–24
  40. ^ Bott, p. 122
  41. ^ Bott, pp. 88 and 122
  42. ^ Brasher, Christopher. "Secrets of a success story", The Guardian, 9 July 1978, p. 11
  43. ^ a b Winter, Chapter 2, unnumbered page
  44. ^ "The History of The National Trust in Cumbria", Visit Cumbria, retrieved 27 August 2014
  45. ^ Bott, p. 24
  46. ^ "The Care of Old Bridges", The Times, 30 October 1911, p. 9; and "Portinscale Bridge", The Manchester Guardian, 1 November 1911, p. 8
  47. ^ "Friar's Crag for the Nation: Memorial to Canon Rawnsley", The Manchester Guardian, 5 February 1921, p. 6
  48. ^ "War Memorials Elsewhere: Keswick, Cumbria", The Yorkshire Regiment, retrieved 28 August 2014
  49. ^ "Keswick and the Lake District", The Manchester Guardian, 24 March 1934, p. 17
  50. ^ Wilkinson, pp. 139 and 170–171; "Former St Katharine's College", English Heritage; and "History of Roedean", Roedean, both retrieved 30 June 2014
  51. ^ Wilkinson, pp. 74–75
  52. ^ Wilkinson, p. 123
  53. ^ Wilkinson, pp. 136–138
  54. ^ Robinson, Jeremy Rownan. "A sort of national property: managing the Lake District National Park – the first 60 years", Lake District National Park, retrieved 29 August 2014
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  58. ^ a b c Google Inc. "Keswick, Cumbria". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc.,+Cumbria,+UK/%2754.59990,-3.129300%27/@54.6343779,-3.3882362,30095m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m11!4m10!1m5!1m1!1s0x487ccfb83a9d9873:0xf80c0507efabfbb9!2m2!1d-3.367985!2d54.663261!1m3!2m2!1d-3.1293!2d54.5999?hl=en. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
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  60. ^ Harper, p. 151
  61. ^ "Geology factsheet", Lake District National Park Authority, Education Service, retrieved 10 July 2014
  62. ^ "Weather and climate", Derwentwater, retrieved 10 July 2012
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  66. ^ Sir John Randles's Gift", The Times, 24 August 1925, p. 11
  67. ^ "Local Government Act 1972: borough status; Allerdale, Cumbria", The National Archives, retrieved 29 August 2014
  68. ^ "Timeline", Theatre by the Lake, retrieved 28 August 2014
  69. ^ "What's On", Theatre by the Lake, retrieved 28 August 2014
  70. ^ "Home", Alhambra Cinema, retrieved 28 August 2014
  71. ^ "Home", Pencil Museum, retrieved 28 August 2014
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  73. ^ "Home", Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, retrieved 28 August 2014
  74. ^ " Keswick wins beauty parade", BBC, 11 October 2001, retrieved 31 August 2014
  75. ^ Greta House, Keswick,, retrieved 31 August 2014
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  77. ^ Dalton, p.624
  78. ^ Keswick Tourist Information Centre,, retrieved 31 August 2014
  79. ^ a b c Bott, pp. 130–133
  80. ^ Church of St John, Keswick,, retrieved 31 August 2014
  81. ^ Church of St Kentigern, Keswick,, retrieved 31 August 2014
  82. ^ "The North Lakes", The Orthodox Church in Cumbria, retrieved 30 June 2014
  83. ^ Keswick Tourist Information, Moot Hall; and "Allerdale Mosque", Muslims in Britain, retrieved 27 August 2014
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  85. ^ George Hotel, Keswick,, retrieved 31 August 2014
  86. ^ King's Arms Hotel, Keswick,, retrieved 31 August 2014
  87. ^ Central Hotel, Keswick,, retrieved 31 August 2014
  88. ^ The Bank Tavern, Keswick,, retrieved 31 August 2014
  89. ^ The Dog and Gun Public House, Keswick,, retrieved 31 August 2014
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  93. ^ "Keswick Convention Growing: Puritanism's 'Last Stronghold'", The Manchester Guardian, 21 July 1925, p. 18
  94. ^ "Who We Are", Keswick Ministries, retrieved 27 August 2014
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  96. ^ Holroyd, James Edward. "Pocklington's Island", The Guardian, 23 April 1962, p. 5
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  98. ^ Kaye, p. 345
  99. ^ "Keswick Show's flying start at its new home", The Keswick Reminder, 29 August 2014, p. 1
  100. ^ Bott, p. 69
  101. ^ Bott, pp. 73 and 78
  102. ^ Hyde and Pevsner, p. 315
  103. ^ Brooks, Christopher W, "Bankes, Sir John (1589–1644)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, January 2008, retrieved 28 August 2014 (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  104. ^ "Sir John Bankes - Keswick, Cumbria, UK", Waymarking, retrieved 28 August 2014
  105. ^ Gauld, Alan, "Myers, Frederic William Henry (1843–1901)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, January 2008, retrieved 28 August 2014 (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  106. ^ Elliot, Rose. "Obituary: Donald Watson", The Guardian, 14 January 2006
  107. ^ McConnell, Anita. "Abraham, George Dixon (1871–1965)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, retrieved 28 August 2014 (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  108. ^ "About us", George Fisher, retrieved 28 August 2014
  109. ^ Hart-Davis, p. 249
  110. ^ Walpole, p. vii
  111. ^ Winter, Ch 3, unnumbered page
  112. ^ Bott, p. 144
  113. ^ a b Bott, pp. 145–146
  114. ^ "St Herbert's School", Keswick St John, retrieved 29 August 2014
  115. ^ "A-level results 2014", The Daily Telegraph, 15 August 2014
  116. ^ "Map of Cumbria", Autoatlas England, retrieved 28 August 2014
  117. ^ Western, pp. 143, 157, and 187
  118. ^ Western, pp. 187–190
  119. ^ "Penrith, Keswick, Cockermouth, Workington", Stagecoach, retrieved 28 August 2014
  120. ^ "Central Lakes", Stagecoach, retrieved 28 August 2014
  121. ^ "Lakes proposals 'roused very strong emotions'", The Times, 18 March 1972, p. 3
  122. ^ "Car park list", Allerdale Borough Council, retrieved 28 August 2014


External links[edit]