History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Kendal's prosperity came from the wool trade. Begun in the 13th century, the trade flourished in the 14th century when Flemish weavers came to the area. From this time through the 19th century there were many mills on the River Kent. The town's motto 'pannus mihi panis' (wool is my bread) relates to 'Kendal Green', a rough, hardwearing material worn by Kendal archers.
The 12th century stone ruins of Kendal Castle sit on a hill on the western edge of the town, offering views over the town and the surrounding hills. (An earlier motte castle-Castle Howe-was built in 1087 on the other side of town, but it was abandoned in the 13th century.) The castle was built by the de Lancaster family, barons of Kendal, and was originally of earth and timber construction. It was rebuilt in stone in the late 12th century by Gilbert FitzReinfred, who became the owner through marriage. The castle then passed through several owners, including the Crown. Richard II gave it to the well-known Parr family of which Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth wife, was a member-she married Henry in 1543. The castle was derelict by 1571.
The castle ruins do not show any evidence of a keep or a gatehouse. The remains of two towers and some walls still exist. Unfortunately the castle suffered the fate of many neglected buildings-much of its stone was carried away to be used by others for building. Improper partial restoration obliterated many of the original clues as to the nature of the building. However, it is clear that there was a large hall and kitchens on the left of the gatehouse, and the private apartments and ladies' quarters were on the right.
Kendal is probably most famous for its Kendal Mint Cake. According to legend, a Kendal confectioner, trying to make glacier mints, forgot to keep a close watch on the candy and discovered that the mixture in the pan turned cloudy and grainy. He poured it out anyway, and the rest is history-the famous Kendal Mint Cake. This 'mistake gone right' is credited to Joseph Wiper, who produced the cakes in his factory in 1869. His great nephew, Robert Wiper, supplied Kendal Mint Cakes as energy boosters to the 1914-17 Arctic Expedition under the command of Shackleton. Another company, Romney's was founded by Sam Clarke, who owned a wholesale confectioners in Kendal. In 1919 he bought an old Mint Cake recipe, and started a factory. In 1953 this company supplied Kendal Mint Cake to Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Mt. Everest. The high-glucose-content candy is extremely sweet.
Kendal, set beside the River Kent, has much to offer in the way of shopping and restaurants, but its historic buildings, galleries, and museums give depth and meaning to a visit to this bustling Cumbrian town.
©2000 by Barbara Ballard. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited.
More Cumbria villages
Address: Kendal, Lake District, Cumbria, England
Attraction Type: Town
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
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12th century (Time Period) - 13th century (Time Period) - 14th century (Time Period) - 15th century (Time Period) - 16th century (Time Period) - 18th century (Time Period) - 19th century (Time Period) - Arts and Crafts (Architecture) - castle (Architecture) - Edwardian (Historical Reference) - Georgian (Time Period) - Henry VIII (Person) - Medieval (Time Period) - Prehistoric (Time Period) - Restoration (Historical Reference) - Richard II (Person) - Victorian (Time Period) -
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Abbot Hall - 0.9 miles (Museum)
Castle Howe - 0.9 miles (Castle)
Kendal Castle - 1.1 miles (Castle)
Sizergh Castle - 2.1 miles (Historic House)
Levens Hall - 3.8 miles (Historic House)
Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House - 7.1 miles (Historic Building)
Sedbergh, St Gregory's Chapel - 7.7 miles (Historic Church)
Fell Foot Park - 8.3 miles (Countryside)
Nearest Accommodation to Kendal: