Keswicks History

Keswick is a market town in Cumbria, England. Historically in Cumberland, it had a population of 4,984, according to the 2001 census, and is situated just north of Derwent Water, and a short distance from Bassenthwaite Lake, both in the Lake District National Park.

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

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

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

Many Keswick visitors come for the town’s annual film festival. 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.

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.

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.

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. One of the exhibits is what is claimed to be the world’s largest 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.

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. In 2001 the park was voted the “Loveliest Cricket Ground in England” by Wisden Cricket Monthly.

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.

The benefits are huge when considering the thought of living in an urban area. The fact that virtually anything and everything is just moments away from your door step. Be it food or drink and mainly entertainment, you really are surrounded by everything you could possibly need with the added benefit of it all being accessed within minutes.

This would be the logic behind the masses of crowds that gather when a farmers market comes to town. So we know the benefits but nothing beats the rural image. We become dependent and accustomed to the town and city way of living with the hustle and bustle but we all need to get away from norm from time to time, and no better place than the Lake District, specifically Keswick.

The town is recorded in the 13th century as ‘Kesewic’, meaning ‘farm where cheese is made’.

‘Keswick’ is “the same name as the London ‘Chiswick’, but here with ‘K-‘ due to Scandinavian influence. 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.