Sunday, 16 September 2012


The Town Hall

We were in Kendal for a family party and had planned to walk in the wonderful country all around. However, the day dawned grey and wet, so we decided to do a town walk instead and use coffee bars and pubs to dodge the worst of the rain.

We walked down the pedestrianised Stricklandgate in steady rain, past the Market Place and stopped under a shop awning to take a look at the Town Hall. Its asymmetrical nature is immediately obvious, although the windows are well matched. It turns out that the right hand section was built as an assembly hall in 1825 (replacing an earlier Cloth Hall), while the left hand side was added in 1893.

We continued south into Highgate and were struck by Sandes Hospital on the right. A cloth merchant named Thomas Sandes founded a school and eight almshouses here in 1659. The interesting house you see was the master's house, the almshouses are at right angles to it the yard behind. They were rebuilt in 1852 and refurbished in the later 20th century. To be honest they are not the prettiest group I have ever seen and works in the road rather spoiled my photo of the front.

When I was roughing put a route this morning I saw on Google maps further almshouses marked in Romney Road right on the southern edge of the town. We plodded down there in the rain, only to be unsure which they were. In them end, we decided they had to be this handsome pair of semi-detached cottages, which stood out from the otherwise terraced houses. A little piece in the Westmorland Gazette reveals that they are the Watkins Memorial Almshouses and date from 1928. A Mrs Watkins, who died in 1908, provided for them in her will.

It was however no bad thing to have walked so far south, because when we began to retrace our steps, we had a great view of the river Kent and the Nether Bridge, the first of five road bridges over it. According to Visit Cumbria "Nether Bridge is the most attractive of the bridges ... It dates from the 17th century, and was originally quite narrow, having been twice widened ... the oldest part of the bridge is on the right hand side, dating from the 17th century. The middle section dates from 1772, and the left hand, upstream section dates from 1908"

After the bridge, we walked up Kirkland to see the handsome parish church with its famous five aisles, two either side of the nave. It dates from the 13th century, but was enlarged in the 15th and restored in the 19th. We couldn't really go in as wedding was in progress.

The view is even more impressive from the river side.

We continued along the riverside path and thrilled to find yet more almshouses - the best of the lot - on the other bank.  The Sleddall Victoria Jubilee Almshouses were built by John Sleddall in 1887. The chapel, on the right, was converted into two houses in 1986.

On our left was the Abbot Hall art gallery, which we believed to be closed. Mercifully however it was open and we spent a happy hour looking at an exhibition of modern painting from Lucien Freud to Paula Rego, as well as the permanent collection. It was built in 1759 on the site of a former monastic building.

By now we had had about enough rain, so we headed back to Highgate and had a quick look at the 18th century Dr Manning's yard, a good example of a distinctive Kendal feature. The layout of the town is characterised by the narrow yards and lanes branching from the main street. There were once about 150 yards, often named after the owner of the main house which usually stood at the top of the yard.

We warmed up with excellent fish and chips from Fish Express in Highgate.

Conditions: did I mention that it was raining.

Distance: about 4 miles in all.

Rating: four stars. A bit different.

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