Situated between the huge bulk of Skiddaw and the gentle beauty of Derwentwater, Keswick has become the major centre for tourism in the north lakes. This pretty market town offer a wide range of attractions for visitors, from shops and restaurants to museums with a difference, and boating trips around lake Derwentwater. In 1276 Edward I granted the town its market charter, and the Saturday market continues to this day.
The original settlement was at Crosthwaite, on the Western side of the town. The first Church at Crosthwaite was built in 553 AD, and named St Kentigern. Canon Rawnsley, served the church as vicar from 1883-1917. He was one of the co-founders of the National Trust, which owns much land in the area.
The rural economy was transformed in the reign of Elizabeth I, when minerals, copper in particular, were discovered in Newlands and Borrowdale. The discovery of black lead at Seathwaite in the 16th century sparked off pencil making which is still the major industry in the town. The Pencil Museum tells the story of pencil making in Keswick.
In the centre of the Main Street is the Moot Hall, now home to the Tourist Information Centre.
Keswick is now one of the main centres of Outdoor Activities in the UK and an extensive selection of Adventure Activity companies, guides and instructors for all abilities are based around here. More details are found in our Activities Section.
Visitors arrived in increasing numbers from the 1700’s, many of them literary pilgrims attracted by Keswick’s close association with the Romantic poets – Southey, Coleridge and Wordsworth.
Between 1885, when she was 19, and 1907, Beatrix Potter spent summer holidays at Lingholm and Fawe Park, the two stately homes whose estates now occupy most of the north western side of Derwentwater. The two houses, their gardens and the surrounding landscape provided material for several of her books.
At Friars Crag is a memorial, unveiled in 1900, to John Ruskin, who had many associations with Keswick. He once said Keswick was a place almost too beautiful to live in. There is also a memorial to Canon Rawnsley.
The Theatre by the Lake between the lakeside car-park and Derwentwater is a purpose built theatre to replace the ‘Century Theatre’ – a chaotic collection of blue portacabins which used to occupy the site.
The Victorian church of St John was designed by Anthony Salvin for the founder, John Marshall, who lived on nearby Derwent Isle. In the grounds is the grave of the author Hugh Walpole, who lived at Brackenburn, Keswick, from 1924 until his death in 1941.
Keswick market is of good quality and brings many locals and visitors to the town. The general market stands every Saturday and Thursdays, except in high winds.
At the southern end of Derwentwater is the valley of Borrowdale, leading to the Honister Pass, and on to the smaller lakes of Buttermere, Crummock Water, and Loweswater.
The Keswick Convention, a Christian Bible teaching, worship and fellowship meeting, runs for 3 weeks starting in mid June and ending on the first Friday in August. Approximately 14,000 people attended over 3 weeks in 2012. The Convention has been based at Skiddaw Street since 1987, and acquired the old Keswick Grammar School site in 1997 to extend their programmes.
The late George Bott, a local historian, wrote the book ‘Keswick – The Story of a Lake District Town’ which has become a classic in its field. This is available online from a number of sources. He has also written the booklet ‘Keswick Town Trail’, which describes two walks around the town and highlights places of historical interest. This is available from the Moot Hall Information Office in Keswick.
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