Penrith

Street Map

Penrith is a market town and unparished area in the county of Cumbria, England. It is in the Eden Valley, just north of the River Eamont, and lies less than 3 miles (5 km) outside the boundaries of the Lake District National Park. Other local rivers bounding the town are the River Lowther and the River Petteril. A partially man-made watercourse, known as Thacka Beck, 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 supply.

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 and Rural District Councils. Penrith has no town council of its own, and is an unparished area.

It is generally accepted that the name Penrith is of Cumbric origin, though the exact etymology of the name has been debated.

Several toponymists, favour a derivation from the local equivalents to the Welsh pen ‘head, chief’ (both noun and adjective) + rhyd ‘ford’. On this basis the name would therefore mean ‘chief ford’ or ‘hill ford’.

Objections to this theory have been raised on the grounds that the present town of Penrith lies around 1 mile from the nearest crossing point on the River Eamont. An alternative has been suggested consisting of the same pen element meaning ‘hill’ + the equivalent of Welsh rhudd ‘red’. The name ‘red hill’ may refer to the large Beacon Hill to the north east of the current town. There is also a place called ‘Redhills’ to the south west near the M6 motorway.

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 provide drainage.

Penrith was an urban district between 1894 and 1974, when it was merged into 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 sanitary district presided over by the Local Board of Health.

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: North, South, East and West, which 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 two houses believed to have been designed by Robert Adam.

In the 1920s Penrith Castle came into the possession of the council. The grounds were turned into a public park, and Castle Hill or Tyne Close Housing Estate was built nearby. Further pre-war council housing was built at Fair Hill and Castletown and after World War II at Scaws, Townhead and Pategill.

The district was surrounded on three sides by the Penrith Rural District; the southern boundary, marked by the River Eamont, was with Westmorland.

For the purposes of electing councillors to Eden District Council the unparished area of Penrith is divided into six wards.

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 motorway, A66 and A592 roads.

The main church is St. Andrew’s, built from 1720 to 1722 in an imposing Grecian style, abutting an earlier 13th century tower. The churchyard 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.

The ruins of Penrith Castle (14th-16th centuries) can be seen from the adjacent railway station. The castle is run as a visitor attraction by English Heritage. To the south-east of the town are the more substantial ruins of Brougham Castle, also under the protection of English Heritage.

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.

In the centre of the town is the Clock Tower, erected in 1861 to commemorate Philip Musgrave[disambiguation needed ] of Edenhall. Hutton Hall, on Folly Lane, preserves a 14th century pele tower at the rear, attached to an 18th century building. The Gloucester Arms public house, formerly known as Dockray Hall, is said to date from c1470 and may incorporate the remains of another pele tower.[14]

Penrith 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 May. 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 purple shales.

Just to the north of the town is the wooded signal-beacon hill, naturally named Beacon Hill, but originally called Penrith Fell.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”.

A fibreglass 550 cm (18 ft)-tall statue of King Kongonce stood in the market, it is now at the market place on the outskirts of Penrith.

Situated just off Junction 40 of the M6 motorway, the A66, the A6 and the A686 intersect in the town.

Penrith is also a stop on the West Coast Main Line, with the town’s station (dating from 1846) officially known as ‘Penrith North Lakes’. Since the upgrade to the West Coast Main Line was completed in 2008, the number of trains stopping at Penrith was reduced and the town now has an irregular service of fast trains to/from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

National Express operate 2 long distance coach routes with stops in Penrith.

The National Cycle Network’s major National Route 7 runs through the town, and National Route 71 stops just short of the southern edge of the town.

Penrith has a number of taxi firms operating in the town which are licensed by Eden District Council. The main taxi rank is on Sandgate in the middle of town and there is also one outside the Railway Station which is useful for commuters.

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 the town once had five 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 “circuit”. Penrith also has numerous dining places and restaurants.

The Lonsdale (formerly the Alhambra) in Middlegate is a cinema with two screens built in 1910 by William Forrester.

The Penrith dialect known as Penrithian, is a variant of the Cumbrian dialect spoken around the Penrith and Eden district area.

Penrith was used as a setting in the 1940 book Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease, and the 1986 film Withnail and I by Bruce Robinson.

St Andrew’s is the ancient parish church of Penrith Parish, situated in the centre of Penrith and is the largest church of the four parishes which make up the Penrith Team Ministry. Christ Church, Drovers Lane/Stricklandgate, open in 1850 and formerly a separate parish but from the 1960s to 2010 was part of United Parish of Penrith but is now officially a separate parish church.

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, although – 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’ Market 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. Stagecoach North West operate a free bus service 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 Street.

Although the main industries in the area are based around tourism and agriculture there are some other industries reperesented within Penrith for example Greggs in 2011 opened a new bakery at Gilwilly replacing 2 bakeries in the Friargate area that used to belong to the Penrith based Birketts firm; Dominos Pizza have a dough manufacturing site at Gilwilly and the model firm Lilliput Lane (now part of Enesco) 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 group.

Agricultural based industries include BOCM Pauls 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 group. Local butchers 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 town. Penrith in recent years has attracted many large, international haulage firms to open depots beside the M6.

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 complex. The plans for the rest of the scheme have been developed by the property company Lowther Mannelli and include a new Sainsbury’s supermarket (which opened in December 2011), 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.

Penrith is twinned with the Australian city named after it.

On every first Monday in May, Penrith holds it’s Mayday Carnival. The Carnival includes a parade, street dancers and fairground rides. The fairground rides are situated in the Great Dockray and Market Square car parks situated in the commercial area of Penrith. The parade includes over 30 floats, vintage cars, a marching band, various local celebrities and members of the Penrith Lions Club. The parade starts in the yard of Ullswater Community College and ends in the bus station car park. Many of the roads in the town centre are closed for this event. The carnival is held by the Penrith Lions Club.

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