A History of Kendal


This book looks at Kendal’s origins; its two castles; the river Kent and its important bridges; and how the borough was created and the way in which it functioned. The history of the built environment is covered in chapters on shops and businesses and on houses, while the range of industries and the transport network that grew up to serve it, form the background to further studies. The book also considers religious history, health and education, food and entertainment, and the cultural and artistic life of the town. Life was often harsh—so we investigate the ups and downs of fortune as the town experienced fire, flood and the actions of hostile armies.


Kendal’s fame is disproportionate to its modest size: consider Kendal Mint Cake, Kendal Green cloth or Kendal as gateway to the Lake District. Yet do not be fooled by the modern obsession with tourism. For centuries Kendal was actually a down-to-earth workaday community that got on with its business regardless of Lakes poets and visitors. The town’s motto, Pannus mihi panis (‘cloth is bread to me’) says it all. Other trades associated with Kendal included horn-working, brush-making, tobacco-processing (mainly for snuff), and limestone-working. Hosiery and boot-making also became important, followed by shoe-making which until the 1980s was one of Kendal’s principal trades. Kendal also had a very large rural hinterland, for which it was a service centre, and it accumulated a good range of doctors, lawyers and banks in the process, as such places do.

The town has a number of myths, handed down with unwarranted veneration by successive historians, such as that the Kendal yards were built as a defence against the Scots; that Queen Katherine Parr was born at Kendal Castle and spent her youth there; that the Kendal woollen industry was established by a Flemish émigré in 1331; and that there was a notorious character called Dicky Doodle who carried the town’s first charter, given by King Richard I. Each of these myths is debunked in its appropriate place.

The story of Kendal is a narrative of hard work and comparative peace. There have been exceptions to both, of course, and its position on one of the main roads to Scotland means that the town has had a few shocks in its time. The phrase, ‘a hive of industry’ is often misused, but in Kendal’s case the tradition of getting on with things in your own way seems to have a long history. This is that history.

Kendal: A History is lavishly illustrated with old and new photographs, maps and other images.

  • Author: Andrew White
  • Binding: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-85936-150-4
  • Published: 30th October 2013
  • Dimensions: 246 × 189 mm


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