Kendal Ring O’ Bells Public House
Location : Kendal
Grid Ref SD 516921
39 Kirkland, LA9 5AF. Tel: 01539 720326
It’s likely that there have been buildings on this site since at least the early 1600’s, as a famous map of Kendal from 1611 clearly shows a line of buildings on the South side of Kendal Parish church. The inn itself was probably built in 1741 on the instructions of Thomas Barker, the church sexton at the time. His intentions were that the inn should be used by the church wardens.
However… the Westmorland Gazette reports that the inn was built on the instructions of the Rev Thomas Symonds in 1746. It is also thought that the inn wasn’t named “the Ring O’Bells” until 1789, when John Fisher succeeded Thomas Barker as church sexton. There are obviously a few inconsistencies surrounding
the inn’s history.
The sign for the inn was painted by Jack Fothergill in 1814 when John Reid of Heversham took over ownership. The sing represented the church tower and bell ringers with a jug of ale between them. When John Reid died in 1830, the inn?s sign was sold to Obadiah Burrows of the Eagle and Child inn at Heversham. The sign was then discovered a few years later, being used as a draught screen. It was purchased by Thomas Jennings who restored it and returned it to the inn. The original inn sign is now situated in the North Aisle of the church in Kirkland, whilst a copy is mounted on the gable end of the inn.
There is a list of the names of the bell ringers depicted on the sign, taken from a drawing in 1828:
- Joshua Atkinson.
- Nicholas Wilson.
- Thomas Preston.
- Thomas Scott.
- Robert Braithwaite.
- Thomas Atkins.
- Robert Dennison.
- Thomas Best.
- James Tyson.
- John Chorley.
There are some interesting decorated windows in the inn. On one the following inscription is written:
“A happy new year to John Reid, and God bless him, January 1, 1824”
Another window inscription states:
“Edward Brooks interned in a grave opposite, the first funeral of 1824.” This window is signed by William Dixon, Thomas Richardson, Luke Fawcett and William Warriner.
Another window is inscribed simply “Sally Gass” possibly in memory of a relative of Emma Gass who was the landlady from 1879 to 1894.
Down the inn yard, the Kirkland Girls Sunday School met, and it was from the bursar of Trinity College in Cambridge that a letter was written in 1860, to the vicar of Kendal Parish Church, stating that the “eyesore and the inconvenience known as the Ring O’Bells public house should be purchased and the site cleared for the building of the school.”
Stabling was added to the inn’s services in 1893, when some of the rear ground floor area of the inn was converted. The double doors can still be seen today.
Some notable dates in the inn’s history:
- 1904, Whitwell, Mark and Company Ltd. Brewers take over the inn.
- 1946, VAUX and associated Breweries take over.
- 1923, John Conacher became tenant.
- 1958, Jack Nightingale took over. Still recorded as tenant in 1970.
It’s rumoured that Bonnie Prince Charlie used the inn when he passed through Kendal in 1745, obviously stopping for a pint before moving onto his lodgings at Charlie’s Café further on in town!! Another famous visitor was rumoured to be Charles Dickens, who apparently called in at the inn when he was visiting his friend and champion Cumberland wrestler Thomas Longmire.
Words and photos by Matthew Emmott.
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