Kendal – Fleece Inn, The Old Shambles, and Fleece Inn Yard

 
Location Kendal
Grid Ref SD 515927

 

Fleece Inn – 14 Highgate, LA9 4SX. Tel 01539 720 163

 

Kendal - Fleece Inn

 

Generally accepted as Kendal’s oldest surviving inn, the Fleece was reputedly built in 1654. This date appears on a panel in the building to the left of the inn (now the Slot Casino arcade) which used to be part of the premises. The inn is one of Kendal’s few remaining timber framed buildings, and is the only building in the town centre that retains its original jetted first floor, supported by five pillars. The inn was originally called the Golden Fleece, a symbol adopted by woolcombers during the annual guild processions.
 
As well as the main building facing onto the street, the small building to the left of the inn, was also originally part of the premises, as were some of the buildings to the rear. These were used for storage of beer, coal and other goods
 
In 1772, the Fleece inn was the starting point for the county’s first stagecoach.
 
It was never regarded as one of Kendal’s main inns, as it only had six rooms for letting, but stabling for 28 horses.
 
In 1920, the inn was owned by a company called Westmorland Catering co. ltd. Rowland Hoggarth, who had previously been landlord at the Shakespeare, was the Fleece’s owner from 1925 until 1934. His wife, Martha, was landlady from 1925 to 1932. He eventually sold the inn for around £32000.
 
In the 1930’s, the inn was owned by North British Trust Hotels Ltd, and during this period, became extremely popular. To such an extent, that the owners struggled to find accommodation for the additional staff.
 
In 1956, the Fleece was owned by local brewers, Collin Croft Brewery Co Ltd of Kendal. However, the company soon sold the inn to Scottish Brewers Ltd, who became Scottish and Newcastle in later years.
 
The Old Shambles and the Fleece Inn yard are situated on Highgate, and are so close together that they are continuously confused with each other. It’s not possible to tell where the Fleece yard ends and the Old Shambles starts, they meld into one another.
 
The yard is fronted by the Fleece Inn, which is the closest Kendal has to an old Posting Inn. It’s dated 1656, is of timber frame construction and would have served the numerous travellers passing through Kendal over the past 400 years or so.
 
The Fleece Inn hasn’t always been an inn. Small hooks can still be seen projecting from the overhang of the upper floor, an indication that this was once a butchers.
 
Indeed, the large building at the head of the Old Shambles was once the Butcher’s arms before it became a dye works. The Fleece Inn still shows signs of the old gallery, which all or most of the properties along Highgate and Stricklandgate would have had. These would have been reached from the street by sets of stone steps, long since removed.
 
Moving through the Fleece Inn takes you through to the Old Shambles, built in 1779 to house the butchers shops in the town. It wouldn’t have been uncommon for animals to be butchered outside in the yard. Offal and blood from the butchering was meant to drain down the hill in a central gulley, but it seldom worked out that way.
 
As a result, the Old Shambles were closed, and the New Shambles were built in what was Watt’s Lane, supposedly purpose built to house the butchers.

 

Kendal - The Old Shambles

 

Kendal - The Old Shambles

 

Words and photos by Matthew Emmott.

 

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