Penrith, Cumbria

Penrith, Cumbria

infobox UK place
country = England
latitude= 54.6675
longitude= -2.7512
official_name= Penrith
population = 14,756
shire_district= Eden
shire_county = Cumbria
region= North West England
constituency_westminster= Penrith and The Border
post_town= PENRITH
postcode_district = CA11, CA10
postcode_area= CA
dial_code= 01768
os_grid_reference= NY515305

static_image_caption=The Market Square at Penrith

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 convert|5|km|mi|1 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 and was formerly the seat of both Penrith Urban and Rural District Councils. Penrith has no town council of its own, and is the second least populated unparished area, after Berwick-upon-Tweed.



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 nearly 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. (This is incorrect: many Welsh place names begin with "Pen" (chief, head, end), such as Pen-y-bont (Bridgend) and Penarth (head of the promontory). Therefore, "chief ford" in Welsh and other Brythonic languages would be "Penrhyd", although the second theory below is more likely to be correct.)

The second theory of "red hill" is much more likely. First, it respects the syntax - "hill red". Second, it respects the first principal of toponymy. That is, it identifies what is there at the site (the red sandstone of Beacon 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 harsh eth (ð) 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.


infobox historic subdivision
Name= Penrith Urban District
HQ= Penrith Town Hall
Status= Urban district
Start= 1894
End= 1974
Replace= Eden District Council

AreaFirstYear= 1894
AreaLastYear= 1974

Penrith Urban District Council was the local authority for the town between 1894 and 1974 when it was replaced by Eden District Council.

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 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.

In the 1920s the council came into the possession of Penrith Castle, the grounds of which it turned into a fine public park and also built the Castle Hill or Tyne Close Housing Estate 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 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 wards:

Penrith West which includes Castletown and parts of the town centre and Townhead.

Penrith North: 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 area.

Penrith East: part of the town centre, Scaws, Carleton Park and Barco

Penrith Carleton (formerly part of Penrith East): Carleton Village, High Carleton, Carleton Heights, Carleton Hall Gardens

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 division.


Divisions and suburbs


Castletown 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 to Penrith's parish church of St Andrew.

The suburb has a community centre on the recreation ground at 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 Castletown". 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 or constablewicks 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 one pub - The Grey Bull, a fish and chip shop, an Indian restaurant and two petrol filling stations one incorporating a sub-postoffice.(Post Office closed on the 1st August 2008 as part of the nationwide closure program)

New Streets

The New Streets is a name for the area between Townhead and Scaws on the side of the Beacon Hill (or Fell) which 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 c.1930). 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 housing estates.


Carleton, once a separate settlement, is the area of Penrith that has seen the most growth of housing in the past 30 years.

Carleton 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.

At 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 Wales in 1977.

The centre of the estate is accessible by foot only and there is a small convenience store here.

Several properties are run as sheltered accommodation for the elderly.


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 2.

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 School.

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, 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. [ [ Penrith - St Andrew's Church ] ] The ruins of Penrith Castle (1300s-1500s) 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 of Edenhall.

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. 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".


The town is on the M6 motorway, and also the junction of the A66, A6, and A686 roads.

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'. Today it is served by regular express trains from London, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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.

Notable people

Penrith was the home town of William Wordsworth's mother, and the poet spent some of his childhood in the town, attending the local school with Mary Hutchinson his later wife.

The MP and social reformer Samuel Plimsoll 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.

Mary, the wife of British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, lived in Penrith for part of her life whilst her father was minister at the Congregational Church in Duke Street.

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. The famous "Penrith Tea Rooms" scene was filmed in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes.

Charlie Hunnam, British actor, attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS) Penrith and lived locally in the area during his teenage years.

Angela Lonsdale was born in Penrith. She is 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.

The 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" and "Macadam Gardens".see,-2.756785&spn=0.004517,0.009978&om=1

Paul Nixon, Leicestershire wicket keeper and current England cricket international was born in Carlisle but grew up in the Penrith area.


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 4 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 Alhambra in Middlegate is a cinema with 2 screens, and is one of the last cinemas in the country to have ice creams served from trays in the auditorium and intervals during long films. The Alhambra also has an adjoining bingo hall.

Amateur dramatics and musicals are staged at the Penrith Players Theatre, Ullswater Community College and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School

Penrith Dialect

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


The local newspaper, the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, 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.

A separate edition of the Herald is published for the Keswick area, and is known as the Lake District Herald.

Penrith lies with the ITV Border region and the BBC's North East and Cumbria region.

There are two local radio stations serving the Penrith area, both based in Carlisle. These are BBC Radio Cumbria and the independent station CFM.


Penrith has the following educational establishments:


*Brunswick Infants (formerly County Infants), Brunswick Road

*Beaconside Primary, Eden Mount/Brent Road (until 2008 there were separate Beaconside Infant and Junior schools)

*North Lakes Junior (formerly Wetheriggs Junior; was at first a girls only school) [] , Huntley Avenue

*St Catherines Roman Catholic Primary, Drovers Lane

*Hunter Hall (independent preparatory school), Frenchfield


*Ullswater Community College (formerly Ullswater High School), Wetheriggs Lane

*Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS) (selective), Ullswater Road


*The University of Cumbria has a campus just outside the town at Newton Rigg.

*Ullswater Community College has a large further or adult education centre

Former schools in the town include:

*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 Row

*National Infants School (now Penrith Playgroup Nursery School), Meeting House Lane

*Robinsons School - this was a girls' school (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

*Tynefield Secondary Modern (originally co-educational but later girls only), Wetheriggs Lane

*Ullswater Secondary Modern (boys only), Wetheriggs Lane

Ullswater & Tynefield schools and buildings merged to create Ullswater High in 1980.


Church of England (Diocese of Carlisle)

*St Andrew's parish church of the United Parish of Penrith, St Andrews Churchyard
*Christ Church (formerly a separate parish but now part of United Parish of Penrith), Drovers Lane/Stricklandgate

Roman Catholic Church (Diocese of Lancaster)

*St Catherine's, Drovers Lane

Methodist Church of Great Britain

*Penrith Methodist Church, Wordsworth Street


*United Reformed Church, Lowther Street
*Society of Friends, Quaker Meeting House, Meeting House Lane
*Gospel Hall Evangelical Church, Albert Street/Queen Street
* [ King's Church Eden] - part of the [ Newfrontiers] family of churches


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' 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. 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 Street.

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 Woolworths, Argos, Superdrug and Burtons. While Clinton Cards, Boots the Chemist, W H Smith and Dorothy Perkins are in Angel Square. There are 2 branches of Greggs the baker who also own a large bakery in the town.

The Penrith Co-operative Society has a large department store and supermarket in Burrowgate close to the bus station. Other supermarkets in the town are Morrisons (formerly Safeway), just outside the town centre on Brunswick Road, Aldi on Ullswater Road and Somerfield (formerly Kwik Save) in King Street; there is also a branch of Spar opposite the Co-op store.

Next to Aldi are branches of Halfords and Wickes. The town's branch of B&Q is on Bridge Lane opposite the hospital and health centre.

Past and present national or regional retailers who at one time had shops in Penrith include Fine Fare, Dewhursts, Gateway, Iceland, Presto Foodmarkets, Greenwoods Menswear, Fosters Menswear, Liptons, Norweb, British Gas, Walter Wilson, Freeman, Hardy and Willis and Currys.

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 expample Greggs have 2 bakeries in the Friargate area formerly belonging 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 still has its main factory at Skirsgill Park. Also at Penrith Industrial Estate is the Penrith Door Company factory formerly belonging to Magnet Joinery but 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 up until recently there was another Feed Mill at Gilwilly originally belonging to Cumberland and Westmorland Farmers Ltd but eventully becoming part of the Carrs Milling Industries group. Local butchers Cranstons have an expanding meat packing, pies and ready meals 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.

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 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 (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 [ [ Lowther Manelli] ] .


Penrith is home to Penrith Rugby Union Football Club. Penrith RUFC currently play in the Powergen North League 1. Home games are played at Winters Park in Penrith.

Penrith Town F.C. currently play in the Arngrove Northern League 2.

Penrith also has a newly developed skatepark recreational area by the Penrith Leisure Centre.

The [ Eden Valley Mountaineering Club] draws many of its members from Penrith.

Twin town

Since 1989 Penrith has had a friendly twinning arrangement with the Australian town named after it in New South Wales. [ [ Sister city arrangements for Penrith] ]


Further reading

* "Ewanion". "History of Penrith". Carlisle, 1993. ISBN 0-9519920-3-1.
* ECCP. " [ Country Walks Around Penrith] ".

External links

* [ Eden District Council]
* [ Illustrated Guide to Penrith]
* [ Area profile based on 2001 Census Details]
* [ Local Tourist Information]
* [ Penrith Partnership Website]
* [ Old Photos of Penrith] made by the photographer Francis Frith in 1893.

See also:
*Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway
*Penrith and The Border (UK Parliament constituency)
*Penrith Castle
*Penrith railway station
*Penrith Mountain Rescue Team

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