PENRITH, Cumberland - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]
"PENRITH, (or Perith), a parish, post and market town, in the ward of Leath, county Cumberland, 17 miles S. by E. of Carlisle, and 283 N. by W. of London. It is a station on the Lancaster and Carlisle railway. It is situated in a fertile vale enclosed by hills of varied elevation, and is watered by three small rivers, the Eamont, the Lowther, and the Petteril, and at the junction of the main roads from London and Lancashire to Glasgow. The parish includes the hamlets of Carleton, Plumptree Head, and Eamont Bridge. Its name is supposed to be of British origin, signifying "the red hill or summit", descriptive of the red freestone with which the town is built. About 5 miles to the N.W. of the present town is Old Penrith, occupying the site of the Roman station Bremetenracum, on the line of the ancient Watling Street. At the time of the Norman conquest the honour of Penrith was a royal franchise, but it was subsequently ceded to Alexander III., King of Scotland, on condition of his surrendering his claim to the counties of Cumberland, Northumberland, and Westmoreland. Upon the defection of John Baliol it was seized by Edward I., and given to Anthony Beck, Bishop of Durham, to which see it remained attached for sometime. In the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II. it suffered severely from the ravages of the Scots, and in that of Elizabeth by the plague, which swept away upwards of 2,000 inhabitants of the town and parish. In 1696, having reverted to the crown, it was granted to William Bentinck, Earl of Portland, and was sold by his heirs in 1783 to the late Duke of Devonshire. The town, which is well built, paved, and lighted with gas, consisted formerly of one long street. Since the opening of the Lancaster and Carlisle railway, it has greatly increased in its population and in its trade; so much so as to be considered the most prosperous town in the northern counties. There is now also a railway to Keswick, and a junction of the Eden Valley railway with the Lancaster and Carlisle. It is under the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, and is a polling-place for the county elections. The houses are for the most part built of freestone, but covered with plaster and roofed with slate. In the town are two banks, a savings-bank, house of correction built in 1826, union poorhouse, mechanics' institute, baths and washhouses, an assembly room occasionally used as a theatre, newsrooms, and a subscription library. To the N. of the town is a racecourse with a grand stand. The staple trade of the town is in agricultural produce, which has become very important, while the manufacture of cotton has declined. Since the opening of the railway and the introduction of artificial manure, a great portion of the moorland has been converted into a high state of cultivation, realising excellent crops of potatoes, &c., which, by means of the railway, are exported in large quantities. There are also iron foundries, saw-mills, breweries, and quarries of red freestone, slate, and limestone. In the neighbourhood of the town are the ruins of Brougham Castle, which was built by the Nevilles and restored by Richard Duke of Gloucester; it was originally erected as a protection from the incursions of the Scots, and was once the seat of the Countess of Pembroke, but was dismantled at the close of the great Civil War, and part of the materials sold. About 2 miles from the town, and on the S. bank of the river Eamont, is a circular entrenchment, where King Arthur is said to have entertained his Knights of the Round Table; and on Beacon Hill is a square stone tower, erected in 1719, and commanding a view of the surrounding country. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Carlisle, value £200, in the patronage of the bishop. The church, dedicated to St. Andrew, was given by Henry I. to the see of Carlisle, then newly founded. It is a stone structure with its original tower, but the body of the church was rebuilt in 1723. It had a chantry founded by Bishop Strickland, by whose means water was first brought to the town. The chancel is adorned with appropriate paintings, and has portraits of Richard Plantagenet and his wife in stained glass. In the churchyard is the grave of Sir Ewain Cæsarius, an ancient hero, who is said to have vanquished the robbers who infested Inglewood Forest; the grave is 15 feet in length, with two pillar crosses, 11½ feet in height, and is called the "Giant's Grave". There is also another tomb with a cross 5½ feet in height, called the "Giant's Thumb". Besides the parish church, there is the district church of Christ Church, erected in 1850, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, value £200, in the patronage of the bishop. St. Catherine's Roman Catholic church, with a school-house and presbytery adjoining, was also erected in 1850. The parochial charities produce about £352 per annum, of which £166 goes to the vicar for reading prayers. There is a free grammar school, originally founded and endowed by Bishop Strickland in 1340, but refounded by Queen Elizabeth in 1564; also National, infant, and British and Foreign schools. The Independents, Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Quakers, and Baptists have each a place of worship. Penrith is the head of a Poor-law Union comprising thirty-seven parishes. The union poorhouse is situated in the Greystoke-road. The principal residences are Eden Hall, Brougham Hall, Dalemaine House, Graystoke Castle, and Carlton Hall. Market days are Tuesday and Saturday. Fairs are held on the 1st March, 24th and 25th April, and third Saturday in October for sheep, cattle, &c. Races are held in the first week in October." "CARLETON, a hamlet in the parish of Penrith, Leath ward, in the county of Cumberland, 1 mile from Penrith, which is a station on the Lancaster and Carlisle railway. This hamlet is seated on the river Eamont, and contains the old hall, which was the seat of the Carleton family from the 12th to the beginning of the 18th century." "DOCKWRAY, (or Dockray), a constablewick, in the parish of Penrith, in the county of Cumberland, 8 miles E. of Keswick. It is situated on the Airey Force Water, and commands a fine view of Ulleswater. Dockwray Hall was formerly the seat of the Docwra family" "EAMONT BRIDGE, a division of the parish of Penrith, county Cumberland, near Penrith. It is situated on the river Eamont, a branch of Eden." "INGLEWOOD FOREST, a district in the parish of Penrith, Leath ward, county Cumberland, 3 miles N. of Penrith. It is situated in a dreary tract of moorland, and was a forest before the reign of Henry VIII. Inglewood Cottage is the principal residence." "PLUMPTON-HEAD, a hamlet in the parish of Penrith, ward of Leath, county Cumberland, 3 miles N.W. of Penrith. It is situated on the line of the Carlisle railway, and near the small river Petterill."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]