The Market Square in Ulverston
Ulverston is an attractive market town located on the Furness peninsula, founded in the Saxon period. In 1280 Edward I granted Ulverston a market charter, an event remembered each year with the Charter Festival.

The town was for many years a hub of canal transportation between the River Leven and Morecambe Bay. The shortest, widest, and deepest canal on the world links the Bay to the River Leven. The opening of the canal in 1796 made Ulverston a centre for maritime trade, and ships carry local slate and linen across the globe.

Hoad Monument

On the top of Hoad Hill, northeast of Ulverston, is a striking 100 foot high memorial to Sir John Barrow. The monument, erected by public subscription in 1864, commemorates the life of Barrow, a native of Ulverston. Barrow was a founder member of the Royal Geographic Society before serving as Second Secretary to the Admiralty. The tower, built to resemble a lighthouse, is hollow inside, and visitors can climb 1112 steps to the top for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Laurel and Hardy statues (c) Peter Turner
Laurel and Hardy statues
(c) Peter Turner

Swarthmoor Hall

A few miles from Ulverston is this 16th-century manor house, built by George Fell in 1568. Fell's son Thomas married Margaret Askew, and as Margaret Fell she played a major role in founding the Society of Friends (the Quakers). George Fox visited the Fells at Swarthmoor in 1652 and preached from the first-floor balcony. Quakers met at the Hall until 1691 when a meeting house was built nearby. The Hall now belongs to the Society of Friends and is open to visitors.

Laurel and Hardy Museum

Comedian Stan Laurel was born in Ulverston in 1890. The world's only museum dedicated to Laurel and his comic partner, Oliver Hardy, stands on Brogden Street in Ulverston. The huge collection of memorabilia includes personal letters, items of furniture, photos, documents, and of course, films starring Laurel and Hardy.

St Mary's Church

The oldest building in Ulverston, St Mary's dates to the early 12th century. The medieval church was damaged when the tower fell down in the early 16th century. The present church was built from the ruins of the old, beginning in 1540. The 16th-century church was completely rebuilt in 1864, with only the Tudor tower preserved. Highlights include original medieval stained glass and a Norman doorway with traditional zigzag moulding. The oldest monument is to William Sandys, who died in 1559.

Conishead Priory and Gardens

Outside Ulverston is Conishead Priory, founded in 1160 as a hospital for the poor. The medieval priory was dissolved at the Reformation, and the site used to build a country house. That house was rebuilt in the 19th century as a Victorian Gothic mansion, featuring superb stained glass and a vaulted great hall. The Victorian house has been called one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic architecture in the north of England. The Priory is now a Buddhist study centre but is regularly open to visitors.