Kendal – The Old Yards
The layout of Kendal town is characterised by the narrow yards and lanes branching from the main street.
There were once about 150 ‘yards’ in Kendal, often named after the owner of the main house which usually stood at the top of the yard.
A good example is Yard 83 – Dr Mannings’s Yard, on the right hand side as you walk up Highgate. The yards on this side of Highgate used to run in parallel lines down to the river, where there were factories, weaving shops, dying works, and even a windmill (Yard 65 is called Windmill Yard).
Yard 2 – now Smokehouse Yard
Smokehouse Yard – newly refurbished in 2007
Yard 10 – Redman’s Yard
Redman’s, or Redmayne’s Yard, is named after Alderman Redman, the owner of large parts of this yard. Alderman Christopher Redman owned a cabinet makers business in the yard, and his grandfather, Giles Redman, was mayor of Kendal in 1649.
The yard was cleared in the 1960’s, and during this time, George Romney’s studio was demolished to make way for a car park. The car park in turn then got swallowed up by the nearby shopping development. The plaque that was previously on the wall of George Romney’s studio, is now housed in Kendal museum.
The name of the yard is a little strange on two counts. Firstly, the spelling of Alderman Redman’s surname seems to have been misspelled over the years, and has become Redmayne, coincidentally the name of a gentleman’s tailor that at one time existed in the yard. Secondly, the more famous inhabitant of the yard was actually George Romney, the celebrated Kendal portrait painter. His studio, as mentioned above, was in this yard. It was here that Romney was apprenticed to Christopher Steele in 1755, in a small run down cottage.
Yard 17 – Hoggs Yard
Yard 17 – Hoggs Yard – takes its name from a family who kept a public bake-house here for many years in the 1800s. Ann Hogg, a baker, lived next to the yard entrance in the 1840s. In 1841 the yard had 52 residents whose occupations included labourers, weavers, and nail makers.
Many cottages had outside staircases to prevent flooding from the River Kent, with a workshop in the undercroft and the dwelling above. The cottages were demolished in the 1960s to make way for Peppercorn Lane Car Park. The yard was renovated in 2003 by the Kirkland Partnership.
Recently restored, the yard still gives a good impression of how it must have looked when it was a ‘working’ yard; with houses and shops on either side. There was a house in this yard that was used by some of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s men when they passed through the town.
At 25 Finkle St, by Yard 27, Arthur W Simpson (1857-1922) a Kendal Quaker and craftsman in wood, opened his first workshop in 1885, making church and domestic furniture.
He became an apprentice carver with Gillows of Lancaster and a journeyman with William Aumonier in London. He followed the aesthetic tradition of the Arts and Crafts Movement, simplicity being his guiding principle. Examples of his work may be seen in museums, schools, churches and private houses.
Yard 28 – now Wainwrights Yard
Wainwrights Yard – newly refurbished in 2006
Yard 39 – Tanners Yard
More pictures of Tanners Yard.
Yard 50 – Stramongate Court
Yard 52 is at the top of Branthwaite Brow between the Chocolate House and the Unitarian chapel. The yard is wood panelled on the left and right hand walls, with wood struts supporting a plastered ceiling. The panelling is 17th century, although it’s not known if this is its original location or if it’s been moved from somewhere else. The yard leads to a tailors.
Yard 56 – Woolpack Yard
The Woolpack Yard, yard 56, is now merely a thoroughfare to Booths and Marks and Spencers. The buildings behind the Woolpack Inn, and down the yard have all been demolished to make way for the Elephant Yard shopping centre.
Yard 83 – Dr Manning’s Yard
More pictures of Dr Manning’s Yard.
Yard 108 is attached to number 110 Stricklandgate. The building is 17th century, and was the Greyhound Frigate Inn until 1856, when it became the Ship Inn.
Yard 109 – Cross View Yard
The name, Cross View bears no significance to the house, but signifies that there was once a road side cross here, at which funerals would customarily pause briefly for a few prayers. Almost opposite the entrance to the yard, stands Cross Bank House, formerly known as Bank Cross House, yet another indication of the importance of this tiny stretch of Highgate. The cross was removed when the present Conservative Club was rebuilt in the 19th century. It is said that it was broken up and used in the making of a wall.
Yard 161 – Jennings Yard
Jennings Yard was one of the yards that went from the main street right down to the river side. Indeed, the yard used to link up with the Jennings Yard Footbridge over the Kent. This footbridge was eventually replaced with the modern footbridge we see today, after it was swept away in the floods of 1898.
At the head of the yard, William Jennings had a grocer’s shop, specialising in the sale of corn and cheeses. William Jennings was reputedly Kendal’s ‘stoutest’ man. When he died, his coffin had to be made twice the depth and twice the breadth. The windows in his house were too small for his coffin to pass through, and had to be removed to allow him to be taken to the Unitarian Chapel on Branthwaite Brow to be buried.
Words and photos by Matthew Emmott.
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