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The Market Square
Penrith shown within Cumbria
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||North West England|
|UK Parliament||Penrith and The Border|
Penrith is a market town and civil parish in the county of Cumbria, England. Penrith lies less than 3 miles (5 km) outside the boundaries of the Lake District National Park. Historically a part of Cumberland, Penrith's local authority is currently Eden District Council, which is based in the town. Penrith was formerly the seat of both Penrith Urban and Rural District Councils. From 1974 to 2015, Penrith had no town council of its own, and was an unparished area. Penrith Town Council was formed in 2015 and the first elections to the Town Council Civil parish took place on May 7, 2015.
- 1 Toponymy
- 2 History
- 3 Governance
- 4 Geography
- 5 Climate
- 6 Landmarks
- 7 Transport
- 8 Notable people
- 9 Nightlife
- 10 Penrith dialect
- 11 Media
- 12 Education
- 13 Churches
- 14 Economy
- 15 Sport
- 16 Twin town
- 17 Mayday Carnival
- 18 See also
- 19 References
- 20 Further reading
- 21 External links
The exact etymology of the name has been debated. Several toponymists favour a derivation from the Cumbric or Welsh pen 'head, chief, end' (both noun and adjective) + Cumbric 'rid', Welsh rhyd 'ford'. On this basis, the name would mean 'chief ford', 'hill ford', 'ford end' or Whaley's suggestion: 'the head of the ford' or 'headland by the ford'.
Penrith, however, lies around 1 mile from the nearest crossing point on the River Eamont at Eamont Bridge. An alternative has been suggested consisting of the same pen element meaning 'head, end, top' + the equivalent of Welsh rhudd 'crimson'. The name 'red hill' may refer to the large Beacon Hill to the north east of the current town. There is also a place called 'Redhills' to the south west near the M6 motorway.
The Roman road from Manchester to Carlisle ran through the area. Excavations in advance of an extension to Penrith Cemetery showed that the road survived better at the edges of the field. The cobble and gravel surfaces appeared to have been entirely ploughed out at the centre. The road was constructed by excavating a wide, shallow trench below the level of subsoil. Large cobbles were probably obtained from nearby, as they did not appear frequently within the subsoil in the excavated area. The cobbles were added to the excavated subsoil and this was dumped back into the cut to form a stable foundation, which was raised in the centre of the road to form a camber.
|Penrith Urban District|
|• Succeeded by||Eden District|
|• HQ||Penrith Town Hall|
Penrith was an urban district between 1894 and 1974, when it was merged into Eden District. The authority's area was coterminous with the civil parish of Penrith although when the council was abolished Penrith became an unparished area. The area had previously been a urban sanitary district presided over by the Local Board of Health. As well as the town of itself the district also contained the hamlets of Carleton (now a suburb of Penrith), Bowscar, Plumpton Head and part of the village of Eamont Bridge. The district was divided into 4 wards: North, South, East and West, which remained the basis of local government divisions in the town until the 1990s. From 1906 the council was based at Penrith Town Hall which had previously been two houses believed to have been designed by Robert Adam.
20th Century development
In the 1920s Penrith Castle came into the possession of the council. The grounds were turned into a public park, and Castle Hill or Tyne Close Housing Estate was built nearby. Further pre-war council housing was built at Fair Hill and Castletown and after World War II at Scaws, Townhead and Pategill The district was surrounded on three sides by the Penrith Rural District; the southern boundary, marked by the River Eamont, was with Westmorland.
In 2014 a referendum was held open to all registered voters in the unparished area of Penrith to see if the people wanted a parish council for Penrith and the result was in favour of a new town council the first elections to this council were held on 7 May 2015.
Local government divisions
Penrith West which includes Castletown and parts of the town centre and Townhead.
Penrith North: part of the town centre, the New Streets, most of Townhead and the outlying settlements of Roundthorn, Bowscar and Plumpton Head.
Penrith South: Wetheriggs, Castle Hill, a small part of the town centre, part of Eamont Bridge and part of the Bridge Lane/Victoria Road area.
Penrith East: part of the town centre, Scaws, Carleton Park and Barco
Penrith Carleton (formerly part of Penrith East): Carleton Village, High Carleton, Carleton Heights, Carleton Hall Gardens
Penrith Pategill (also formerly part of Penrith East): Pategill, Carleton Drive/Place, Tynefield Drive/Court and part of Eamont Bridge.
Penrith West and South wards make up the Penrith West Electoral Division of Cumbria County Council whereas East, Carleton and Pategill wards combine to form Penrith East division. Penrith North, along with the rural Lazonby ward, makes up Penrith North division.
Penrith is located in the Eden Valley, just north of the River Eamont. Other local rivers bounding the town are the River Lowther and the River Petteril. Thacka Beck flows through the centre of the town in a partially man-made watercourse, remaining mostly underground. It connects the River Petteril and the River Eamont. For many centuries, the Beck provided Penrith's main water supply. Thacka Beck Nature Reserve provides flood storage which protects homes and businesses in Penrith. Another stream, known as The Myers or Dog Beck, flows through and under the southwestern area of the town, joining Thacka Beck near Tynefield Court. The Dog Beck section has also been referred to as Scumscaw Beck or Tyne Syke. In 2014 the pub chain Wetherspoons opened a branch in Penrith, naming it after the Dog Beck.
Divisions and suburbs
Castletown is the area to the west of the West Coast Main Line railway line and includes the Gilwilly Industrial Estate and part of the Penrith or Myers Industrial Estate. The area - which was originally built to house workers on the railway line - mostly consists of late 19th and early 20th century (mainly terraced housing) including some council housing but in recent years modern housing developments such as Greystoke Park, Castletown Drive and Castle Park have sprung up.
There was until March 2010 a pub in the suburb, The Castle Inn and in previous years there was a sub-post office, a Co-op store and other shops all now closed. Until the 1970s Castletown had its own church, St Saviour's in Brougham Street which acted as a chapel of ease to Penrith's parish church of St Andrew.
The suburb has a community centre on the recreation ground at Gilwilly and did until recently hold an annual gala day and parade throughout Penrith. At one time in the mid-20th century elections were held amongst regulars at the Castle pub to find a Mayor of Castletown. There is a long-standing rivalry between the Castletown and Townhead districts.
Townhead is the general name for the northern area of the town, which also includes the Fair Hill district and the Voreda Park or Anchor housing estate. The main part of area is built along both sides of the A6 road heading up the hill in the direction of Carlisle. The road is streetnamed as Stricklandgate and Scotland Road but on maps dating before the mid-19th century was just marked as Town Head.
Town Head was one of the 7 townships or constablewicks that the ancient parish of Penrith was divided into the others were Middlegate, Burrowgate, Dockray and Netherend within the town proper and Plumpton Head and Carleton outside the town.
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The New Streets is a name for the area between Townhead and Scaws on the side of the Beacon Hill (or Fell) which consists of steep streets of some terraced housing but mainly large detached and semi detached houses mostly laid out in the late 19th century going up the hill. The streets are - from north to south - Graham Street, Wordsworth Street, Lowther Street, and Arthur Street. The term is sometimes extended to include Fell Lane (which is actually the ancient east road from Penrith town centre leading to Langwathby), and Croft Avenue and Croft Terrace (dating from c.1930). However, the late date of the development of the latter streets place them outwith the traditional definition of the term. At the foot of the streets is Drovers Lane formerly known as Back Lane which is sub-divided in parts into Drovers Terrace, Wordsworth Terrace, Lowther Terrace, Bath Terrace, Arthur Terrace, Lonsdale Terrace and finally Meeting House Lane. Running along the top of the streets is Beacon Edge from which spectacular views can be seen over the town and towards the Lake District. Until about the turn of the 20th century, Beacon Edge was known as Beacon Road. As well as the streets going up the fellside there are some that connect the streets such as Beacon Street and smaller housing developments in the gaps between the individual streets. The fellside is known to have been used as a burial ground for victims of the many attacks of plague which struck Penrith down the centuries, and there are also areas which still bear the names of the farming which took place in the area. For example, a now wooded enclosed area on Fell Lane is still known as 'the Pinfold' (or Pinny) and was used to house stray animals until their owner paid a fine to release them. Also, a lane off Beacon Edge is still known as 'Intack Lane' (that is, the lane to farmed land). Most of the land that formed the "intack" itself was used to form Penrith Cemetery.
The Scaws Estate was first built by Penrith Urban District Council almost immediately after World War II on land previously known as The Flatt Field and Scaws Farm which formed part of the Lowther Estates. Scaws Farm is now known as Coldsprings Farm. The name was changed following a murder which took place at the farm. In later years some private housing was built on the higher parts of the estate. Beaconside Infants and Junior Schools are located in the centre of the estate and there were at one time 3 corner shops and a launderette in the area. Adjoining Scaws are the privately owned Barcohill and Meadow Croft housing estates.
Carleton, once a separate settlement, is an area of Penrith. Carleton Village itself is a small line of houses along one side of the A686 road that forms part of the boundary of the town's built up area.Carleton Hall is the headquarters of the Cumbria Constabulary.
Adjoining Carleton is the Pategill Housing Estate which started as a council estate on land that once formed part of the Carleton Hall estate in the 1960s and is still mostly owned by housing associations. Two streets on the estate namely Prince Charles Close and Jubilee Close were opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1977. The centre of the estate is accessible by foot only and there was until 2012 a small convenience store here. Several properties are run as sheltered housing for the elderly.
The Wetheriggs, Skirsgill and Castle Hill or Tyne Close areas were first developed in the 1920s by the Penrith UDC on land formerly known as Scumscaw and the first private housing to be developed was Holme Riggs Avenue and Skirsgill Gardens just prior to World War II. Further development did not start until the 1960s and 1970s when land between Wetheriggs Lane and Ullswater Road was built on though it was not until the late 1980s that the two roads were connected after the building of the Clifford Road extension which saw the Skirsgill area developed. Within the area are three schools: Ullswater Community College. North Lakes Junior and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS). The Crescent on Clifford Road is a block of elderly sheltered accommodation. There was formerly a shop at the junction of Huntley Avenue and Clifford Road next to North Lakes School. The large North Lakes Hotel and Spa stands at the junction of Clifford and Ullswater Roads overlooking the Skirsgill Junction 40 Interchange of the M6 motorway, A66 and A592 roads.
Penrith New Squares
For the past few years plans were proposed to expand the town centre of Penrith southwards into the Southend Road area which was used as car park and sports fields including ones used by Penrith and Penrith United Football Clubs. The first stage of this development was achieved with the expansion of the swimming pool into a modern leisure centre complex.
The plans for the rest of the scheme were developed by the property company Lowther Mannelli and included a new Sainsbury's supermarket (though previously it was thought that it was going to be a branch of Tesco), new shopping streets, car parking and housing. The name of the scheme is Penrith New Squares as the new shops were going to be centred around two squares which would provide parking and places for public entertainment.
Work on the development was suspended in October 2008 due to a lack of funding during the financial crisis, but a new deal was agreed with Sainsbury's and work was resumed in 2011. This updated scheme includes less new housing and parts of the scheme were deferred for up to five years. Sainsburys opened in December 2011. In June 2013 the first shop in the squares opened together with the walk through from Sainsburys to the town centre.
As with the rest of the British Isles and North of England, Penrith experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. The nearest Met Office weather station is at Newton Rigg, about a mile outside of the town centre. Temperature extremes range from 31.1 °C (88.0 °F) during August 1990, down to −17.8 °C (0.0 °F) in February 1969, although this was nearly eclipsed by a temperature of −17.7 °C (0.1 °F) during December 2010. Newton Rigg also holds the record for the coldest April temperature reported in England −15.0 °C (5.0 °F) during April 1917.
|Climate data for Newton Rigg 169m asl, 1971-2000, Extremes 1960-|
|Record high °C (°F)||12.8
|Average high °C (°F)||5.7
|Average low °C (°F)||0.4
|Record low °C (°F)||−16.7
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||103.1
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||36.3||55.4||89.9||130.8||175.2||168.0||166.2||149.7||113.7||79.4||45.6||33.2||1,243.2|
|Source #1: Met Office
|Source #2: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute/KNMI
The main church is St. Andrew's, built from 1720 to 1722 in an imposing Grecian style, abutting an earlier 13th-century tower. The churchyard has some ancient crosses and hogback tombstones in it known now as "Giant's Grave", and "Giant's Thumb" which is the remains of a Norse cross dated to 920 AD.
The ruins of Penrith Castle (14th-16th centuries) can be seen from the adjacent railway station. The castle is run as a visitor attraction by English Heritage. To the south-east of the town are the more substantial ruins of Brougham Castle, also under the protection of English Heritage. To the south of the town are the ancient henge sites known as Mayburgh Henge and King Arthur's Round Table. Both are under the protection of English Heritage.
In the centre of the town is the Clock Tower, erected in 1861 to commemorate Philip Musgrave of Edenhall. Hutton Hall, in Friargate preserves a 14th-century pele tower at the rear, attached to an 18th-century building. The Gloucester Arms public house, formerly known as Dockray Hall, is said to date from c1470 and may incorporate the remains of another pele tower.
Penrith has been noted for the number of wells in and around the town, and well-dressing ceremonies were commonplace on certain days in the month of May. Three miles south-east of the town, on the River Eamont are the "Giants' caves", where the well was dedicated to St. Ninian. The caves are enlarged out of Lower Permian sandstones and their associated breccias and purple shales.
Just to the north of the town is the wooded signal-beacon hill, naturally named Beacon Hill, but originally called Penrith Fell. It last use was probably in 1804 in the war against Napoleon. Traditionally, the Beacon Pike was used to warn of approaching danger from Scotland. Today, although surrounded by a commercial woodland owned by Lowther Estates, the hill still contains some natural woodlands and is a popular local and tourist attraction. On a clear day the majority of the Eden Valley, the local fells, Pennines and parts of the North Lakes can be seen. It is almost certain that the Beacon Hill gave Penrith its name - in Celtic - of "red hill".
Penrith is also a stop on the West Coast Main Line, with the town's station (dating from 1846) officially known as 'Penrith North Lakes'. Since the upgrade to the West Coast Main Line was completed in 2008, the number of trains stopping at Penrith was reduced and the town now has an irregular service of fast trains to/from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
National Express operate 2 long distance coach routes with stops in Penrith.
The National Cycle Network's major National Route 7 runs through the town, and National Route 71 stops just short of the southern edge of the town.
Penrith has a number of taxi firms operating in the town which are licensed by Eden District Council. The main taxi rank is on Sandgate in the middle of town and there is also one outside the Railway Station which is useful for commuters.
Richard III (1452-1485) lived at Penrith Castle for a time, and there are many notable links to him in the town. These include two fragments of medieval glass (traditionally said to represent the heads of Richard Plantagenet and Cecily Neville – Richard III's parents) in Saint Andrew's Church, and the Musgrave Coat of Arms on display in the town. It is also thought Richard III lived at the Gloucester Arms (when it was a large private house) and in the bar, there is panelling of different periods but behind the bar there is a screen of an early date, and the plant design carving is thought to be of broom or "Planta genista," the emblem of the Plantagenet kings.
Penrith was the home town of William Wordsworth's mother, and the poet spent some of his childhood in the town, attending the local school with Mary Hutchinson, his later wife.
The Scottish road-builder and engineer John Loudon Macadam the inventor of "Macadamized" roads (not Tarmacadam as that came later) lived for a while at Cockell House in Townhead. Close by Cockell House today are the streets Macadam Way and Macadam Gardens.
Oliver Turvey, racing driver, attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Penrith (QEGS) and lives locally.
Penrith is the birthplace of the footballer Stephen Hindmarch.
Lewis Brett Guy (born 22 August 1985 in Penrith, Cumbria) is an English footballer who plays as a forward. He is currently playing for Milton Keynes Dons.
Stuart Lancaster became Head Coach of the England national rugby union team in 2012.
Like other rural towns of its size, Penrith relies on public houses to form the basis of social entertainment, and was once famous for the sheer number of pubs in the town and at one time the town had five working breweries. There were once many more pubs in the town than there are now, and the trend of pub closure is still continuing. Despite this, there are still a considerable number of pubs in the town. These range from traditional, small pubs that have a loyal clientele to the bigger bars which form part of the "circuit". Penrith also has numerous dining places and restaurants.
The Penrith dialect known as Penrithian, is a variant of the Cumbrian dialect spoken around the Penrith and Eden district area.
The local newspaper, the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, goes on sale every Saturday. Sections of the Herald are updated every following Tuesday on their website. The Herald is independently owned, with offices on King Street, but is printed at the CN Group's printing works in Carlisle, where the weekly Cumberland News and daily paper the News and Star which also cover some news items from Penrith are printed. A separate edition of the Herald is published for the Keswick area, and is known as the Lake District Herald.
Uniformed Youth Organisations
Penrith is home to two Community Cadet Forces units:
- Brunswick School (formerly County Infants), Brunswick Road
- Beaconside Primary, Eden Mount/Brent Road (until 2008 there were separate Beaconside Infant and Junior schools)
- North Lakes School (formerly Wetheriggs Junior; was at first a girls only school), Huntley Avenue - North Lakes is one of the first Schools in England to be awarded a Sing Up Gold Award (Dec 08) and their highest accolade a Sing Up] Platinum Award (Dec 08).
- St Catherines Roman Catholic Primary, Drovers Lane
- Hunter Hall (independent preparatory school), Frenchfield.
- Ullswater Community College (formerly Ullswater High School, and before that, two single sex secondary modern schools on the same site called Tynefield (girls) and Ullswater (boys)), Wetheriggs Lane.
- Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS) (selective), Ullswater Road.
- The Yorkshire agricultural college Askham Bryan College has a campus just outside the town at Newton Rigg. The University of Cumbria has a centre for Conservation, Forestry, Outdoor Studies and Policing; based on the same campus.
- Ullswater Community College had a large further or adult education centre
Former schools in the town include:
- Girls National School (building now housing school replaced by Beaconside Juniors), Drovers Lane
- Boys National School or St Andrews School for Boys (building now demolished school replaced by Beaconside Juniors), Benson Row
- National Infants School (now Penrith Playgroup Nursery School), Meeting House Lane
- Robinsons School - this was a girls only school founded with 29 pupils which later became a mixed (infant) school founded in 1670 by William Robinson, a local merchant who made good in London. It now houses the town's museum and tourist information centre, Middlegate, and has the following inscription above the door: "Ex sumptibus DN Wil Robinson civis Lond anno 1670 DN"
- County Girls School (building now part of Brunswick Infants the school was replaced by Wetheriggs school), Brunswick Road
- County Boys School (the building now QEGS Sixth Form Centre, also was for a while an annexe to Wetheriggs. The school merged with Wetheriggs Girls to form Wetheriggs Junior), Ullswater Road
- Tynefield Secondary Modern (originally co-educational but later girls only), Wetheriggs Lane
- Ullswater Secondary Modern (boys only), Wetheriggs Lane. Ullswater & Tynefield schools and buildings merged to create Ullswater High in 1980.
Church of England
- St Andrew's Church is the ancient parish church of Penrith Parish, situated in the centre of Penrith and is the largest church of the four parishes which make up the Penrith Team Ministry.
- Christ Church, Drovers Lane/Stricklandgate, open in 1850 and formerly a separate parish but from 1968 to 2008 was part of the United Parish of Penrith. It is now, once again, a separate parish church for the North-West half of the town, remaining within the Penrith Team Ministry.
Roman Catholic Church
- St Catherine's, Drovers Lane.
Methodist Church of Great Britain
- Penrith Methodist Church, Wordsworth Street.
- United Reformed Church, Lowther Street.
- Society of Friends, Quaker Meeting House, Meeting House Lane.
- Gospel Hall Evangelical Church, Albert Street/Queen Street.
- King's Church Eden - part of the Newfrontiers family of churches.
As a small market town relying quite heavily on the tourist trade Penrith benefits from a mix of some high street chain stores and many small local specialist shops. Though as has happened with many towns of a similar size a lot of shops have given way to business such as banks, building societies and travel agents
Market days are Tuesday and Saturday. On Tuesdays there is a small outdoor market in Great Dockray and Cornmarket, once a month this is expanded to include a Farmers' Market in the Market Square as well. On Saturdays at the Auction Mart alongside the M6 motorway Junction 40 takes place Cumbria's largest outdoor market.
The main shopping areas in the town centre are Middlegate, Little Dockray, Devonshire Street/Market Square, Cornmarket, Angel Lane and the Devonshire Arcade and Angel Square precincts with some shops in Burrowgate, Brunswick Road, Great Dockray and King Street.
Although the main industries in the area are based around tourism and agriculture there are some other industries reperesented within Penrith for example Greggs in 2011 opened a new bakery at Gilwilly replacing 2 bakeries in the Friargate area that used to belong to the Penrith-based Birketts firm; Dominos Pizza have a dough manufacturing site at Gilwilly and the model firm Lilliput Lane (now part of Enesco) was founded in Penrith and until March 2009 had its main factory at Skirsgill Park. Also at Penrith Industrial Estate is the Penrith Door Company factory formerly belonging to Magnet Joinery, now part of the American based JELD-WEN group.
Agricultural based industries include BOCM Pauls who have a large animal feed mill on the Penrith Industrial Estate and until 2005 there was another Feed Mill at Gilwilly originally belonging to Cumberland and Westmorland Farmers Ltd but eventually becoming part of the Carrs Milling Industries group. Local butchers Cranstons have an expanding meat packing, pies and sandwich manufacturing site alongside their shop and head office on Ullswater Road.
In the past Penrith was known for its tanning industry and breweries. The tanning factories were located mainly in the Friargate/Old London Road area of the town. There were at one time five working breweries in the town. Penrith in recent years has attracted many large, international haulage firms to open depots beside the M6.
Penrith has a Golf Club and Driving Range. Penrith Castle Park houses the town's Bowling Club.
Penrith Swimming Club was founded in 1881 and was then based at Frenchfield in the River Eamont. Training sessions originally involved great variations of conditions that challenged the skills of any swimmer. Icy water, strong currents and obstacles like weed and the odd eel or two provided the ultimate test of stamina. It was all a far cry from conditions for today’s training sessions, held at Penrith Leisure Centre.
Penrith Canoe Club, founded in 2012, trains at the local leisure centre. It's main discipline is Canoe Polo and the club was represented at the World Championships in Syracuse, Italy 2016 in the u21 Women's squad who finished a respectable 4th.
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On every first Monday in May, Penrith holds its Mayday Carnival. The Carnival includes a parade, street dancers and fairground rides. The fairground rides are situated in the Great Dockray and Market Square car parks situated in the commercial area of Penrith. The parade includes over 30 floats, vintage cars, a marching band, various local celebrities and members of the Penrith Lions Club. The parade starts in the yard of Ullswater Community College and ends in the bus station car park. Many of the roads in the town centre are closed for this event. The carnival is held by the Penrith Lions Club.
- Listed buildings in Penrith, Cumbria
- Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway
- Penrith and The Border (UK Parliament constituency)
- Penrith Mountain Rescue Team
- Penrith Hoard
- Withnail and I
Latitude/Longitude sourced from OpenStreetMap
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- Cumbria SMR no. 11055: Site of Roman road.
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- It is part of ALFA (Adaptive Land Use for Flood Alleviation). Eden, ALFA
- "Thacka Beck".
- "New Homes in Penrith - Living at Penrith New Squares".
- Cumberland News 10 Oct 2008
- Eden District Council Press Releases
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- "2010 temperature". UKMO.
- "1917 temperature". UKMO.
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- "PENRITH, Cumberland-Church history". GENUK. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
- Historic England. "Dockray Hall (12326)". PastScape. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
- "King Kong sculpture soon to tower over Cumbrian Saturday market". Cumberland News. 2011-01-28. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- "Penrith Skate Park". Retrieved 24 March 2015.
- "Penrith Swimming Club". penrithswimmingclub.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-02-19.
- Sister city arrangements for Penrith
- "Ewanion". History of Penrith. Carlisle, 1993. ISBN 0-9519920-3-1.
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