Kirkby Stephen

Kirkby Stephen

infobox UK place
country = England
latitude= 54.4716
longitude= -2.3479
official_name= Kirkby Stephen
population = 1,832
shire_district= Eden
shire_county = Cumbria
region= North West England
constituency_westminster= Penrith and The Border
postcode_district = CA17
postcode_area= CA
dial_code= 017683
os_grid_reference= NY774085

Kirkby Stephen is a small market town in Cumbria, in the north-west of England. It was originally in the county of Westmorland, (whose name is preserved by the neighbouring town, Appleby in Westmorland, 19 km/12 miles to the north-west). It is located on the A685, surrounded by sparsely populated hill country, and about 45 km/30 miles from the two nearest big towns, Kendal and Penrith. The River Eden rises 10 km/6 miles away in the peat bogs below Hugh Seat, and passes by, almost unobserved, on the eastern edge of the town.

Kirkby Stephen has its own Town Council, and also provides a centre for several smaller villages and parishes in the surrounding area, including Nateby, Ravenstonedale and Mallerstang.
A Community and Council Centre, on the premises of the Library, provides information and services on behalf of all the local Councils (County, District and Town), as well as general and local information and facilities.

There are two main websites: the official town website, [ [ Kirkby Stephen Official website: general information] ] and one giving news and events [ [ Kirkby Stephen Online: news/events] ]

Parish Church

The parish church of St Stephen is sometimes called the "Cathedral of the Dales" and, in Cumbria, only the church in Kendal is larger. There have been three churches on this spot. The first was built in Saxon times; it was followed in 1170 by a Norman church. This was replaced by the present building in 1240. But it has been considerably altered in the centuries since then, being partly rebuilt in 1847 and further restored in the 1870s. The church is approached from the market square, where it is almost hidden from view by the picturesque cloisters, built in 1810.

There are monuments to the Musgrave and Wharton families, but the most important of several other ancient monuments in the church is a relief of the Norse god Loki, who is shown bound and chained. [ [ "A Virtual Walk through Mallerstang"] ] Like the name of the town, this is a reminder of the Vikings, who were early settlers here around the end of the first millennium.
(Norse: "Kirk [kirkja] ", a church; " by", a settlement).

Kirkby Stephen Schools

There are primary schools in Kirkby Stephen itself and in the two neighbouring parishes of Brough and Ravenstonedale.

Secondary education for the town and surrounding area is provided by Kirkby Stephen Grammar School. This was founded in 1566 by Thomas Wharton, 1st Baron Wharton, under letters patent granted by Queen Elizabeth I. Although it has retained the old name "grammar school" its old buildings were replaced long ago, and it is now a comprehensive school (and Sports College), with approximately 410 students.

The Market

In 1530 Roger de Clifford, Baron of Westmorland, obtained a charter from King Edward III, for a market and two yearly fairs to be held in the town. This was reaffirmed by a charter granted in 1606 to George, Earl of Cumberland, by King James I, for: "one market on Monday and two fairs yearly; one on the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after Whitsuntide, and the other on the two days next before the feast of St. Luke".

The Monday market, with livestock sales at the Mart in Faraday Road, and stalls on the Market Square, is still an important event in the town and surrounding countryside. There were special celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Charter; but St Luke’s Fair, or “Charter Day”, is celebrated every year at the end of October, beginning with the Charter being read at the “Charter Stone” in the High Street. The special "Tup sales", very important in this sheep rearing area, still take place at around this time each year.

Facilities and Events

There is a good range of shops, also several antique shops, restaurants, cafés, pubs, and a Tourist Information Office [ [ Tourist Information Office website] ] ] . In recent years there has been an annual Music Festival, and the town has won several awards from Britain in Bloom.

Kirkby Stephen serves as a base for tourism in the Eden Valley area, and for walking tours of the Dales. It is on the line of the Coast to Coast Walk, devised by Alfred Wainwright, [A Wainwright, "Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk", Michael Joseph, 1987] Each June there is the " Mallerstang Horseshoe and Nine Standards Yomp" which takes a strenuous route along the high ground along both sides of the neighbouring dale of Mallerstang, including Wild Boar Fell, and the summit of nearby Nine Standards Rigg.

The quiet, beautiful surrounding countryside is a joy for walkers, but the Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue Team sometimes has to assist those who are not fully prepared for the occasionally harsh conditions on the fell tops.

The Faraday Connection

It is sometimes said that Faraday Road (parallel with the High Street and Market Street) is named in honour of the great scientist, Michael Faraday (1791-1867). But, in fact, it is named for his uncle, Richard Faraday, who was a respected local tradesman. Richard's younger brother, James, was for some time the Blacksmith in Outhgill, nearby - but his third child, Michael, was born soon after they had moved to London. The Faraday brothers had been prompted to move from Clapham, Yorkshire to the Kirkby Stephen area because the family were all staunch members of the Sandemanian sect, and at that time there was one of the few Sandemanian communities here, with a chapel which was in the courtyard behind what is now the HSBC Bank.

cenic Highlights

Stenkrith Park is south of the town on the B6259 road to Nateby. The river scenery here marks the change from the limestone of the head of the Eden valley in Mallerstang, to the red Sandstone which is characteristic further along the Eden valley. The main rock here (from which most of the houses in Kirkby Stephen are built), is brockram, composed of fragments of limestone in a cement of red sandstone. The river at Stenkrith has carved this rock into many fantastic shapes, collectively known as the Devil's Grinding Mill, or Devils Hole. This spectacular natural scenery has been supplemented, in recent years, by three (human) additions.
The ‘Poetry Path’ has 12 stones which were carved by the artist Pip Hall, with poems by Meg Peacock, depicting a year in the life of a hill farmer.
Eden Benchmarks: Beside the river there is a sculpture by Laura White, entitled ‘Passage’, one of the ten "Eden Benchmarks", a series of sculptures that have been placed at intervals along the River Eden from its source in Mallerstang to the Solway Firth.
The Millennium Bridge was opened in 2002, and provides pedestrian access from the park to a walk along the old South Durham Railway track.

Among many other scenic features in the surrounding area are: Nine Standards Rigg, to the north-east, Pendragon Castle, and Wild Boar Fell, to the south.

Unlike neighbouring Brough, there is no evidence of any Roman settlement here, but there are many traces of even more ancient settlements in the area, including the remains of a large Iron Age earthwork or hill-fort, "Croglam Castle", on the south-eastern edge of the town.


Kirkby Stephen railway station, on the Settle-Carlisle line is located over a mile to the south-west of the town. (This railway line kept to the high ground and avoided dropping down into the valleys wherever possible; so, for example, Dent station is over 6 km/4 miles from that village). Until the 1960s there was another, older, Kirkby Stephen East railway station, situated at the southern edge of the town; this was on the North Eastern Railway's Stainmore and Eden Valley lines. Work is in progress to restore parts of this defunct line by the Stainmore Railway Company, whose long term aims include connection to the preserved Eden Valley Railway.

Location Grid

External links & References

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