For most visitors to the Lake District, Kendal is the gateway to the National Park, it being the first major town to be met on entering the area from Junction 36 of the M6 Motorway.
The Market Place and Branthwaite Brow, Kendal
A prosperous and attractive town of 24,00 people, large by Lake District standards, it is situated on the River Kent, and has had a turbulent history which is evident in the structure and layout of the town. In the 14th century it became England’s principal wool town, from whence its early prosperity came. Kendal Castle was the birthplace of Katherine Parr in 1512 – she was to become the last of King Henry VIII’s six wives.
The castle dominates, standing on a green hill above the town, in perpetual evidence of its defensive role in more troubled times. This and the town’s many narrow alleys and enclosed courtyards were so constructed as to maximise defensiveness against the frequent cross-border raids of Scottish and Pictish tribes Kendal’s old grey limestone buildings with their grey slate roofs are architypically Lakeland in character.
There are many fine buildings – the parish church of The Holy Trinity dates back to the 13th century. Some of the town’s other older buildings are found around the Market Place and in Branthwaite Brow. Pleasant walks may be found at the riverside at Gooseholme and in Abbott Hall Park. Many Town Trails also exist and there are guides to these available at the Tourist Information Centre at the Town Hall in Hillgate. The Town Hall is also notable, apart from its fine architecture, for the collection of paintings by the British artist, George Romney, who was born in Kendal in 1734. Romney’s work can be found in many British Galleries such as the Tate Gallery and National Gallery in London, as well as in major galleries abroad. Worth visiting is the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry at Abbott Hall, Kirkland. It has exhibitions and presentations depicting Lakeland life from the 17th century to the present day, including local crafts, farming, costume and furnishing. There are also exhibits of clogs, clocks, bobbins, and the work of local blacksmiths. The Museum of Natural History and Archaeology in Station Road was recently given the Museum of the Year Award for its outstanding displays of local and international wildlife, its Wainwright display and a Nature Trail of Lakeland Life. Much praised by the famous English botanist, David Bellamy. There is also a Golf Driving Range at Oxenholme Road (Tel: 01539-733933) which is covered for all weathers and floodlit for night practice, and a major Leisure Centre in Burton Road (Tel: 01539-729777), which has a large multi-pupose sports hall, 2 swimming pools, sauna, solarium, hard outdoor play area, fitness rooms, squash courts and fully licenced bar facilities.
Contemporary industries in Kendal include shoe-making, where the famous Kay’s Shoes are made, the production of the local candy Kendal Mint Cake, snuff making, light engineering, ceramics, and carpet weaving. Visits to the K Village Factory Shop may be made at Netherfield in Kendal, which includes purchasing facilities and demonstrations of the shoe-making process. Open daily, all year round – admission free.
KENDAL TOURIST INFORMATION Town Hall, Highgate, Kendal LA9 4DL. Tel: 01539 725758. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.