Penrith is a market town in the county of Cumbria, England.
It is in
the Eden Valley, just north of the River Eamont, and lies less than outside the boundaries of the
local rivers bounding the town are the River Lowther and the River Petteril.
A partially man-made watercourse, known as
, flowing through the centre of
the town, connects the Rivers Petteril and Eamont. For many
centuries, the Beck provided the town with its main water
Historically a part of Cumberland, the local authority
is Eden District
Council, which is based in the town.
Penrith was formerly
the seat of both Penrith Urban
District Councils. Penrith has
no town council
of its own, and is an
Penrith Castle in 1772.
The name Penrith is Cumbric
, the British
language spoken in Cumbria and
Lancashire until about the 11th century. However, there is a great
deal of debate over the meaning of the name Penrith. There are two
main strands of opinion. One is that the name comes from the word
for "chief ford"; the other is that it means "red hill". It is much
more likely that the second theory is the correct one. The main
problem with the "chief ford" theory is twofold; first, the nearest
ford is located more than a mile away from the original settlement
heart of Penrith. Second, the name does not match known Celtic
syntax. Celtic languages
always used "reversed word order" in place names. That is, the
generic term precedes the specific identifier. For Penrith to mean
"chief ford" would require the Cumbrians to have abandoned this
naming strategy as the place name elements "pen" and "rhyd" are in
the order one would see them in English.
The second theory of "red hill" is much more likely. First, it
respects the syntax - "hill red". Second, it respects the first
principle of toponymy. That is, it identifies what is there at the
site (the red sandstone
Hill) and not a location some distance away. The name "red hill"
also gains support from other evidence. The modern Welsh
name for Penrith is Penrhudd. This also
means "red hill" and is pronounced almost the same, albeit with the
voiced eth sound
. There is a village near to Penrith named Penruddock which is
accepted to be a Cumbric name and to mean "little red hill" (pen +
rhudd + og), Furthermore, there is an area between Penrith and
Penruddock that is still named Redhills.
General view of Roman road looking
Excavation of a section of the Roman road
from Manchester to
Carlisle in advance of an extension to Penrith Cemetery showed that
the road survived better at the edges of the field. The cobble and
gravel surfaces appeared to have been entirely ploughed out at the
centre. The road was constructed by excavating a wide, shallow
trench below the level of subsoil Large cobbles were probably
obtained from nearby, as they did not appear frequently within the
subsoil in the excavated area. The cobbles were added to the
excavated subsoil and this was dumped back into the cut to form a
stable foundation, which was raised in the centre of the road to
form a camber. A spread of cobbles visible in plan outside the cut
along the northern edge, may have been the remnant of a kerb. A
cobble and sandstone surface was laid across the top of the road,
and gravel had been spread over this to form a metalled surface. A
ditch cut at right angles across it may have been intended to
Penrith Urban District Council was the local authority for the town
between 1894 and 1974 when it was replaced by Eden District
The authority's area was coterminous with the civil parish
of Penrith although when the
council was abolished Penrith became an unparished area.
The area had previously been an urban
presided over by the Local Board of
As well as the town of itself the district also contained the
hamlets of Carleton (now a suburb of Penrith), Bowscar, Plumpton
Head and part of the village of Eamont Bridge.
The district was divided into 4 wards
namely: North, South, East and West
whose boundaries remained the basis of local government divisions
in the town until the 1990s.
From 1906 the council was based at Penrith Town Hall which had
previously been 2 houses believed to have been designed by Robert Adam
Castle came into the possession of the council.
turned the grounds into a fine public park and also built the
Castle Hill or Tyne Close Housing Estate nearby. Further pre-war
was built at Fair
Hill and Castletown and after World War
at Scaws, Townhead and Pategill.
district was surrounded on 3 sides by the Penrith Rural
District, the fourth boundary was with Westmorland marked by the River Eamont.
Local government divisions
For the purposes of electing councilors
to Eden District Council the unparished area of Penrith is divided
into 6 ward
which includes Castletown and parts
of the town centre and Townhead.
: part of the town centre, the New
Streets, most of Townhead and the outlying settlements of
Roundthorn, Bowscar and Plumpton Head.
Penrith South: Wetheriggs,
Castle Hill, a small part of the town centre, part of Eamont Bridge and part of the Bridge Lane/Victoria Road
: part of the town centre, Scaws,
Carleton Park and Barco
(formerly part of Penrith East):
Carleton Village, High Carleton, Carleton Heights, Carleton Hall
Penrith Pategill (also
formerly part of Penrith East): Pategill, Carleton Drive/Place,
Tynefield Drive/Court and part of Eamont Bridge.
Penrith West and South wards make up the Penrith West Electoral
Division of Cumbria County Council whereas East, Carleton and
Pategill combine in the Penrith East division and Penrith North
along with the rural Lazonby ward make up the Penrith North
Divisions and suburbs
is the area to the west of the railway line and includes the Gilwilly Industrial Estate and part of the Penrith or
Myers Industrial Estate.
The area - which was originally
built to house workers on the railway line - mostly consists of
late 19th and early 20th century housing (mainly terraced
) including some council housing
but in recent years modern housing developments such as Greystoke
Park, Castletown Drive and Castle Park have sprung up.
There is one pub in the suburb, The Castle Inn and in previous
years there was a sub-postoffice, Co-op store
and other shops all
now closed. Until the 1970s Castletown had its own church
, St Saviour's in Brougham Street
which acted as a chapel of ease
Penrith's parish church
The suburb has a community centre
on the recreation ground
Gilwilly and did until recently hold an annual gala day and parade
throughout Penrith. At one time in the mid 20th century elections
were held amongst regulars at the Castle pub to find a Mayor of
. There is a long standing rivalry between the
Castletown and Townhead districts.
Townhead is the general name for the northern area of the town
which also includes the Fair Hill district and the Voreda Park or
Anchor housing estate
The main part of area is built along both sides of the A6 road
heading up the hill in the
direction of Carlisle. The road is streetnamed as Stricklandgate
and Scotland Road but on maps dating before the mid nineteenth
century was just marked as Town Head.
Town Head was one of the 8 townships
that the ancient
parish of Penrith was divided into the others were Middlegate,
Burrowgate, Sandgate, Dockray and Netherend within the town proper
and Plumpton Head and Carleton outside the town.
There are various small businesses in the area including a carpet
showroom, pet shop, a fish and chip shop, an Indian restaurant and
two petrol filling stations one formerly incorporating a
sub-postoffice. (Post Office closed on the 1st August 2008 as part
of the nationwide closure program)
The New Streets is a name for the area between Townhead and Scaws
on the side of the Beacon Hill (or Fell
consists of steep streets of some terraced housing but mainly large
detached and semi detached houses mostly laid out in the late 19th
century going up the hill. The streets are - from north to south -
Graham Street, Wordsworth Street, Lowther Street, and Arthur
Street. The term is sometimes extended to include
Fell Lane (which is actually the ancient east road from Penrith
town centre leading to Langwathby), and Croft Avenue and Croft Terrace (dating from
However, the late date of the development of the
latter streets place them outwith the traditional definition of the
term. At the foot of the streets is Drovers Lane which is
sub-divided along its entire length into Wordsworth Terrace,
Lowther Terrace, Bath Terrace, Arthur Terrace, Lonsdale Terrace and
finally Meeting House Lane. Running along the top of the streets is
Beacon Edge from which spectacular views can be seen over the town
and towards the Lake District. Until about the turn of the
twentieth century, Beacon Edge was known as Beacon Road. As well as
the streets going up the fellside there are some that connect the
streets such as Beacon Street and smaller housing developments in
the gaps between the individual streets. The fellside is known to
have been used as a burial ground for victims of the many attacks
of plague which struck Penrith down the centuries, and there are
also areas which still bear the names of the farming which took
place in the area. For example, a now wooded enclosed area on Fell
Lane is still known as 'the Pinfold' (or Pinny) and was used to
house stray animals until their owner paid a fine to release them.
Also, a lane off Beacon Edge is still known as 'Intack Lane' (that
is, the lane to farmed land). Most of the land that formed the
"intack" itself was used to form Penrith Cemetery.
The Scaws Estate was first built by Penrith Urban District Council
almost immediately after World War II
on land previously known as The Flatt Field and Scaws Farm which
formed part of the Lowther Estates
Scaws Farm is now known as Coldsprings Farm. The name was changed
following a murder which took place at the farm.
In later years some private housing was built on the higher parts
of the estate.
Beaconside Infants and Junior Schools are located in the centre of
the estate and there were at one time 3 corner shops
and a launderette
in the area.
Adjoining Scaws are the privately owned Barcohill and Meadow Croft
Carleton, once a separate settlement, is the area of Penrith that
has seen the most growth of housing in the past 30 years.
Village itself is a small line of houses along one side of
the A686 road that forms part of the
boundary of the town's built up area; at the junction of the A686
and Carleton Road (formerly the A66 road) is a building that until
2004 was the Cross Keys Inn.
On the other side of the road and to the west of Carleton Road is
the large High Carleton housing estate which was started in the
1960s and is still growing. The estate is subdivided into the
Frenchfield Way/Gardens area, the original High Carleton area,
Carleton Park or Parklands, Carleton Meadows and Carleton Heights
most of the streets in this area are named after trees or other
plants eg: Oak Road, Sycamore Drive, Juniper Way. A small stream
runs through the estate. Oak Road connects Carleton with Meadow
Croft and Scaws. These developments have earned the nickname
"Legoland", owing to the similarity between houses.
To the west of High Carleton is Winters Park where Penrith Rugby Union
Football Club has its ground and the
Carleton Hall Gardens estate.
Carleton Hall is the headquarters of the Cumbria Constabulary
Frenchfield just south of Carleton Village towards Brougham
Castle is the Hunter Hall Private Preparatory School and new Eden
District Council-owned sports pitches.
Adjoining Carleton is the Pategill Estate which started as a
council estate in the 1960s and is still mostly owned by housing associations
. Two streets on
the estate namely Prince Charles Close and Jubilee Close were
opened by HRH The Prince of
The centre of the estate is accessible by foot only and there is a
small convenience store
Several properties are run as sheltered accommodation
The Wetheriggs, Skirsgill and Castle Hill or Tyne Close areas were
first developed in the 1920s by the Penrith UDC on land formerly
known as Scumscaw and the first private housing to be developed was
Holme Riggs Avenue and Skirsgill Gardens just prior to World War
Further development did not start until the 1960s and 1970s when
land between Wetheriggs Lane and Ullswater Road was built on though
it was not until the late 1980s that the two roads were connected
after the building of the Clifford Road extension which saw the
Skirsgill area developed.
Within the area are 3 schools: Ullswater Community College. North
Lakes Junior and QEGS. The Crescent on Clifford Road is a block of
elderly sheltered accommodation. There was formerly a shop at the
junction of Huntley Avenue and Clifford Road next to North Lakes
The large North Lakes Hotel
and Spa stands at
the junction of Clifford and Ullswater Roads overlooking the
Skirsgill Junction 40 Interchange of the M6
, A66 and A592
The main church is St. Andrew
, built from
1720 to 1722 in an imposing Grecian
style, abutting an earlier 13th century tower. The church yard has
some ancient crosses and hogback tombstones in it known now as
"Giant's Grave", and "Giant's Thumb" which is the remains of a
Norse cross dated to 920 AD.
Castle (1300s-1500s) can be seen from the adjacent railway
The Giant's Grave in 1835.
The castle is run as a visitor attraction by
. To the south-east of
the town are the more substantial ruins of Brougham
Castle, also under the protection of English
To the south of the town are the ancient henge
sites known as " Mayburgh Henge
" and " King Arthur's Round Table"
. Both are under the
protection of English Heritage.
centre of the town is the Clock Tower, erected in 1861 to
commemorate Philip Musgrave of
has been noted for the number of wells in and
around the town, and well-dressing
ceremonies were commonplace on certain days in the month of
Three miles south-east of the town, on the River Eamont
are the "Giants' caves", where the well was dedicated to St. Ninian
. The caves are enlarged out of
Lower Permian sandstones
and their associated breccias and
Just to the north of the town is the wooded signal-beacon hill,
naturally named Beacon Hill
. It last use
was probably in 1804 in the war against Napoleon
. Traditionally, the Beacon Pike was used
to warn of approaching danger from Scotland. Today, although
surrounded by a commercial woodland owned by Lowther Estates, the
hill still contains some natural woodlands and is a popular local
and tourist attraction. On a clear day the majority of the Eden
Valley, the local fells, Pennines and parts of the North Lakes can
be seen. It is almost certain that the Beacon Hill gave Penrith its
name - in Celtic - of "red hill".
Situated just off Junction 40 of the M6
, the A66
and the A686
intersect in the town.
is also a stop on the West Coast Main Line, with the town's station (dating from 1846) officially known as 'Penrith
North Lakes'. Today it is served by regular express trains
from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
operate 2 long
distance coach routes with stops in Penrith.
The National Cycle Network
major National Route 7 runs through the town, and National Route 71
stops just short of the southern edge of the town.
Penrith was the home town of William
's mother, and the poet spent some of his childhood
in the town, attending the local school with Mary Hutchinson
his later wife.
and social reformer
spent part of his
childhood living at Page Hall in Foster Street. The row of houses
at Townhead called Plimsoll Close is named after him.
wife of British Prime
Minister Harold Wilson
, lived in
Penrith for part of her life whilst her father was minister at the
feature film Withnail and I
features the real Penrith very briefly, but most of the filming
locations were actually in and around nearby Shap.
famous "Penrith Tea Rooms" scene was filmed in Stony
, British actor,
attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar
(QEGS) Penrith and lived locally in the area during his
was born in Penrith.
perhaps best known for playing policewoman Emma Taylor in Coronation
Street and is currently starring as DI Eva Moore in the
BBC soap, Doctors.
The Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope
's mother lived for a while
at a house called Carleton Hill (not be confused with Carleton
Hall) just outside the town on the Alston road.
Scottish road-builder and engineer John Loudon Macadam the inventor of
"Macadamized" roads (not Tarmacadam as that came later) lived for a while at
Cockell House in Townhead.
Close by Cockell House today are
the streets Macadam Way
keeper and current England cricket
international was born in Carlisle but grew up in the Penrith
George Leo Haydock
noted for his annotated edition of the Catholic Douay Bible
, served as pastor of the
Catholic Church here from 1839 until his death in 1849.
As it is a small town relying heavily on agriculture and associated
trades, the nightlife in Penrith is not especially notable. Like
other rural towns of its size, Penrith relies on public houses
to form the basis of social
entertainment, and was once famous for the sheer number of pubs in
the town and at one time the town had 5 working breweries
. There were once many more pubs in the
town than there are now, and the trend of pub closure is still
continuing. Despite this, there are still a considerable number of
pubs in the town. These range from traditional, small pubs that
have a loyal clientele to the bigger bars which form part of the
Penrith also has numerous dining places and restaurants.
The Lonsdale (formerly the Alhambra) in Middlegate is a cinema
with 2 screens built in 1910 by
Adjoining the cinema is a bingo
There was until the 1980s another cinema called the Regent on Old
dramatics and musicals are staged at the Penrith Players Theatre,
Community College and Queen
Elizabeth Grammar School
The Penrith dialect known as Penrithian, is a variant of the
spoken around the
Penrith and Eden district area.
The local newspaper, the Cumberland and Westmorland
, goes on sale every Saturday. Sections of the Herald are
updated every following Tuesday on their website. The Herald is
independently owned, with offices on King Street, but is printed at
the CN Group's printing works in Carlisle, where the weekly Cumberland News and daily evening paper the
News and Star which also cover news
items from Penrith are printed.
separate edition of the Herald is published for the Keswick area, and is known as the Lake District
Penrith lies with the ITV Border
region and the BBC's
North East and
There are two local radio stations serving the Penrith area, both
based in Carlisle. These are BBC Radio
and the independent
Penrith has the following educational establishments:
- Brunswick School (formerly County Infants), Brunswick Road
- Beaconside Primary, Eden Mount/Brent Road (until 2008 there
were separate Beaconside Infant and Junior schools)
FURTHER AND HIGHER
- North Lakes School (formerly Wetheriggs Junior; was at first a
girls only school) , Huntley Avenue - North Lakes is one of
the first Schools in England to be awarded a Sing Up Gold Award
(Dec 08) and their highest accolade a SING UP Platinum Award (Dec
Former schools in the town include:
- Ullswater Community College has a large further or adult
- Girls National School (building now housing school replaced by
Beaconside Juniors), Drovers Lane
- Boys National School or St Andrews School for Boys (building
now demolished school replaced by Beaconside Juniors), Benson
- National Infants School (now Penrith Playgroup Nursery School), Meeting House Lane
- Robinsons School - this was a
girls only school founded with 29 pupils which later became a mixed
(infant) school founded in 1670 by William Robinson, a local
merchant who made good in London. It now houses the town's museum
and tourist information centre, Middlegate, and has the following
inscription above the door: "Ex sumptibus DN Wil Robinson civis
Lond anno 1670 DN"
- County Girls School (building now part of Brunswick Infants the
school was replaced by Wetheriggs school), Brunswick Road
- County Boys School (the building now QEGS Sixth Form Centre, also was for a while an annexe
to Wetheriggs. School meged with Wetheriggs Girls to form
Wetheriggs Junior), Ullswater Road
- Ullswater Secondary Modern (boys only), Wetheriggs Lane
Ullswater & Tynefield schools and buildings merged to create
Ullswater High in 1980.
- St Andrew's parish church of the
United Parish of Penrith, St
- Christ Church (formerly a separate parish but now part of
United Parish of Penrith), Drovers Lane/Stricklandgate
- Penrith Methodist Church, Wordsworth Street
As a small market town relying quite heavily on the tourist trade
Penrith benefits from a mix of some high street chain stores and
many small local specialist shops. Though as has happened with many
towns of a similar size a lot of shops have given way to business
such as banks
, building societies
and travel agents
Market days are Tuesday and Saturday. On Tuesdays there is a small
outdoor market in Great Dockray and Cornmarket, once a month this
is expanded to include a Farmers'
in the Market Square as well. On Saturdays at the
Auction Mart alongside the M6 motorway
Junction 40 takes place Cumbria's largest outdoor market. A free
bus service is provided between the Auction Mart and the town
centre on Saturdays.
The main shopping areas in the town centre are Middlegate, Little
Dockray, Devonshire Street/Market Square, Cornmarket, Angel Lane
and the Devonshire Arcade and Angel Square precincts with some
shops in Burrowgate, Brunswick Road, Great Dockray and King
Some of the more widely known of the small specialist shops are J
& J Graham Grocers and Delicatessen, Sportscraft, Arragons
Cycle Centre, Harpers Cycles & Toymaster, Arnisons Ladies and
Gents Outfitters, Confectioners The Toffee Shop, Greenweaver
Gallery, and Cranstons Butchers who have a shop in King Street and
also operate the Cumbrian Food Hall on Ullswater Road on the
outskirts of the town.
In Middlegate are branches of Argos
, Boots the Chemist
and Dorothy Perkins
in Angel Square. There are 2 branches of Greggs
the baker who also own a large bakery in the
had until December
2008 a large store in Middlegate but this closed after the collapse
of the Woolworths company and is now a branch of B&M
The Penrith Co-operative
has a large department
close to the bus station
supermarkets in the town are Morrisons
), just outside the
town centre on Brunswick Road, Aldi
Ullswater Road and Somerfield
(formerly Kwik Save
) in King Street; there is also a branch
opposite the Co-op store.
Next to Aldi are branches of Halfords
. The town's branch of B&Q
is on Bridge Lane opposite the hospital and
Past and present national or regional retailers who at one time had
shops in Penrith include Fine Fare
, Presto Foodmarkets
, Greenwoods Menswear
, Fosters Menswear
, Walter Wilson
, Freeman, Hardy and Willis
A branch of KFC
has recently been built next to
B&Q. However, the restaurant has received much criticism from
local people for its unattractive and generic design.
Although the main industries in the area are based around tourism
and agriculture there are some other industries reperesented within
Penrith for example Greggs
have 2 bakeries
in the Friargate area formerly belonging to
the Penrith based Birketts firm; Dominos
have a dough manufacturing site at Gilwilly and the model
firm Lilliput Lane
(now part of
) was founded in Penrith and until
March 2009 had its main factory at Skirsgill Park. Also at Penrith
Industrial Estate is the Penrith Door Company factory formerly
belonging to Magnet Joinery, now
part of the American based JELD-WEN
Agricultural based industries include BOCM
who have a large animal feed
mill on the Penrith Industrial Estate and until 2005 there was
another Feed Mill at Gilwilly originally belonging to Cumberland
and Westmorland Farmers Ltd but eventually becoming part of the
Carrs Milling Industries
Cranstons have an expanding meat
packing, pies and sandwich manufacturing site alongside their shop
and head office on Ullswater Road.
In the past Penrith was known for its tanning
industry and breweries. The tanning
factories were located mainly in the Friargate/Old London Road area
of the town. There were at one time five working breweries in the
Penrith New Squares
For the past few years controversial plans have been proposed to
expand the town centre of Penrith southwards into the Southend Road
area which is currently used as car park and sports fields
including ones used by Penrith and Penrith United Football Clubs.
The first stage of this development has been achieved with the
expansion of the swimming pool into a modern leisure centre
for the rest of the scheme have been developed by the property
company Lowther Mannelli and include a new Sainsbury's supermarket (though previously it was thought that
it was going to be a branch of Tesco), new
shopping streets, car parking and housing.
The name of the
scheme is Penrith New Squares
as the new shops
will be centred around two squares which will provide parking and
places for public entertainment.
Work on the development was suspended in October 2008 due to a lack
of funding during the financial crisis.
Penrith is home to Penrith Rugby Union Football Club. Penrith RUFC
currently play in the Powergen
1. Home games are played at Winters Park in
F.C. currently play in the Arngrove Northern League
Penrith Rangers FC have two teams who play in the Talbot Insurance
Penrith also has a newly developed skatepark
recreational area by the Penrith
The Eden Valley
draws many of its members from
1989 Penrith has had a friendly twinning
arrangement with the Australian city named after it in New South Wales.
Latitude/Longditude sourced from OpenStreetMap