kids encyclopedia robot

Penrith, Cumbria facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts

Quick facts for kids
Market Square, Penrith.jpg
The Market Square
Penrith town flag.svg
Penrith is located in Cumbria
Population 15,181 (2011)
OS grid reference NY515305
Civil parish
  • Penrith
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town PENRITH
Postcode district CA10, CA11
Dialling code 01768
Police Cumbria
Fire Cumbria
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK Parliament
  • Penrith and The Border
List of places
54°39′53″N 2°45′17″W / 54.6648°N 2.7548°W / 54.6648; -2.7548

Penrith ( pen-RITH , pen-RITH) is a market town and civil parish in the county of Cumbria, England, less than 3 miles (5 km) outside the Lake District National Park. It had a population of 15,181 at the 2011 Census. Historically in Cumberland, Penrith's local authority is currently Eden District Council, which is based in the town, as were the defunct Penrith Urban and Rural District councils. From 1974 to 2015, it was an unparished area with no local council. A civil parish was reintroduced as Penrith Town Council and first elected on 7 May 2015.

Penrith castle 18th-century
Penrith Castle in 1772.


The exact etymology of the name has been debated. Several toponymists favour a derivation from the Cumbric or Welsh pen 'head, chief, end' (both noun and adjective) + Cumbric 'rid', Welsh rhyd 'ford'. On this basis, the name would mean 'chief ford', 'hill ford', 'ford end' or Whaley's suggestion: 'the head of the ford' or 'headland by the ford'.

Penrith, however, lies around 1 mile (1.6 km) from the nearest crossing point on the River Eamont at Eamont Bridge. An alternative has been suggested consisting of the same pen element meaning 'head, end, top' + the equivalent of Welsh rhudd 'crimson'. The name 'red hill' may refer to the large Beacon Hill to the north east of the current town. There is also a place called 'Redhills' to the south west near the M6 motorway.



Roman road 428
General view of Roman road looking south

The Roman fort of Voreda occupied the site now known as Old Penrith, five miles north of the town.

The Roman road from Manchester to Carlisle ran through the area. Excavations in advance of an extension to Penrith Cemetery showed that the road survived better at the edges of the field. The cobble and gravel surfaces appeared to have been entirely ploughed out at the centre. The road was constructed by excavating a wide, shallow trench below the level of subsoil. Large cobbles were probably obtained from nearby, as they did not appear frequently within the subsoil in the excavated area. The cobbles were added to the excavated subsoil and this was dumped back into the cut to form a stable foundation, which was raised in the centre of the road to form a camber.

Local government

Penrith Urban District
Status Urban district
HQ Penrith Town Hall
Created 1894
Abolished 1974
Succeeded by Eden District

Penrith was an urban district between 1894 and 1974, when it was merged into Eden District. The authority's area was coterminous with the civil parish of Penrith although when the council was abolished Penrith became an unparished area. The area had previously been a urban sanitary district presided over by the Local Board of Health. As well as the town of itself the district also contained the hamlets of Carleton (now a suburb of Penrith), Bowscar, Plumpton Head and part of the village of Eamont Bridge. The district was divided into 4 wards: North, South, East and West, which remained the basis of local government divisions in the town until the 1990s. From 1906 the council was based at Penrith Town Hall which had previously been two houses believed to have been designed by Robert Adam.

20th Century development

In the 1920s Penrith Castle came into the possession of the council. The grounds were turned into a public park, and Castle Hill or Tyne Close Housing Estate was built nearby. Further pre-war council housing was built at Fair Hill and Castletown and after World War II at Scaws, Townhead and Pategill The district was surrounded on three sides by the Penrith Rural District; the southern boundary, marked by the River Eamont, was with Westmorland.



Thacka Beck
Thacka Beck emerging from its culvert behind the Tourist information centre

Penrith is located in the Eden Valley, just north of the River Eamont. Other local rivers bounding the town are the River Lowther and the River Petteril. Thacka Beck flows through the centre of the town in a partially man-made watercourse, remaining mostly underground. It connects the River Petteril and the River Eamont. For many centuries, the Beck provided Penrith's main water supply. Thacka Beck Nature Reserve provides flood storage which protects homes and businesses in Penrith. Another stream, known as The Myers or Dog Beck, flows through and under the southwestern area of the town, joining Thacka Beck near Tynefield Court. The Dog Beck section has also been referred to as Scumscaw Beck or Tyne Syke. In 2014 the pub chain Wetherspoons opened a branch in Penrith, naming it after the Dog Beck.

Divisions and suburbs


Castletown is the area to the west of the West Coast Main Line railway line and includes the Gilwilly Industrial Estate and part of the Penrith or Myers Industrial Estate. The area - which was originally built to house workers on the railway line - mostly consists of late 19th and early 20th century (mainly terraced housing) including some council housing but in recent years modern housing developments such as Greystoke Park, Castletown Drive and Castle Park have sprung up.

There was until March 2010 a pub in the suburb, The Castle Inn and in previous years there was a sub-post office, a Co-op store and other shops all now closed. Until the 1970s Castletown had its own church, St Saviour's in Brougham Street which acted as a chapel of ease to Penrith's parish church of St Andrew.

The suburb has a community centre on the recreation ground at Gilwilly and did until recently hold an annual gala day and parade throughout Penrith. At one time in the mid-20th century elections were held amongst regulars at the Castle pub to find a Mayor of Castletown. There is a long-standing rivalry between the Castletown and Townhead districts.


Townhead is the general name for the northern area of the town, which also includes the Fair Hill district and the Voreda Park or Anchor housing estate. The main part of area is built along both sides of the A6 road heading up the hill in the direction of Carlisle. The road is streetnamed as Stricklandgate and Scotland Road but on maps dating before the mid-19th century was just marked as Town Head.

Town Head was one of the 7 townships or constablewicks that the ancient parish of Penrith was divided into the others were Middlegate, Burrowgate, Dockray and Netherend within the town proper and Plumpton Head and Carleton outside the town.

New Streets

The New Streets is a name for the area between Townhead and Scaws on the side of the Beacon Hill (or Fell) which consists of steep streets of some terraced housing but mainly large detached and semi detached houses mostly laid out in the late 19th century going up the hill. The streets are - from north to south - Graham Street, Wordsworth Street, Lowther Street, and Arthur Street. The term is sometimes extended to include Fell Lane (which is actually the ancient east road from Penrith town centre leading to Langwathby), and Croft Avenue and Croft Terrace (dating from c.1930). However, the late date of the development of the latter streets place them outwith the traditional definition of the term. At the foot of the streets is Drovers Lane formerly known as Back Lane which is sub-divided in parts into Drovers Terrace, Wordsworth Terrace, Lowther Terrace, Bath Terrace, Arthur Terrace, Lonsdale Terrace and finally Meeting House Lane. Running along the top of the streets is Beacon Edge from which spectacular views can be seen over the town and towards the Lake District. Until about the turn of the 20th century, Beacon Edge was known as Beacon Road. As well as the streets going up the fellside there are some that connect the streets such as Beacon Street and smaller housing developments in the gaps between the individual streets. The fellside is known to have been used as a burial ground for victims of the many attacks of plague which struck Penrith down the centuries, and there are also areas which still bear the names of the farming which took place in the area. For example, a now wooded enclosed area on Fell Lane is still known as 'the Pinfold' (or Pinny) and was used to house stray animals until their owner paid a fine to release them. Also, a lane off Beacon Edge is still known as 'Intack Lane' (that is, the lane to farmed land). Most of the land that formed the "intack" itself was used to form Penrith Cemetery.


The Scaws Estate was first built by Penrith Urban District Council almost immediately after World War II on land previously known as The Flatt Field and Scaws Farm which formed part of the Lowther Estates. Scaws Farm is now known as Coldsprings Farm. The name was changed following a murder which took place at the farm. In later years some private housing was built on the higher parts of the estate. Beaconside Infants and Junior Schools are located in the centre of the estate and there were at one time 3 corner shops and a launderette in the area. Adjoining Scaws are the privately owned Barcohill and Meadow Croft housing estates.


Carleton, once a separate settlement, is an area of Penrith. Carleton Village itself is a small line of houses along one side of the A686 road that forms part of the boundary of the town's built up area.Carleton Hall is the headquarters of the Cumbria Constabulary.


Adjoining Carleton is the Pategill Housing Estate which started as a council estate on land that once formed part of the Carleton Hall estate in the 1960s and is still mostly owned by housing associations. Two streets on the estate namely Prince Charles Close and Jubilee Close were opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1977. The centre of the estate is accessible by foot only and there was until 2012 a small convenience store here. Several properties are run as sheltered housing for the elderly.


The Wetheriggs, Skirsgill and Castle Hill or Tyne Close areas were first developed in the 1920s by the Penrith UDC on land formerly known as Scumscaw and the first private housing to be developed was Holme Riggs Avenue and Skirsgill Gardens just prior to World War II. Further development did not start until the 1960s and 1970s when land between Wetheriggs Lane and Ullswater Road was built on though it was not until the late 1980s that the two roads were connected after the building of the Clifford Road extension which saw the Skirsgill area developed. Within the area are three schools: Ullswater Community College. North Lakes Junior and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS). The Crescent on Clifford Road is a block of elderly sheltered accommodation. There was formerly a shop at the junction of Huntley Avenue and Clifford Road next to North Lakes School. The large North Lakes Hotel and Spa stands at the junction of Clifford and Ullswater Roads overlooking the Skirsgill Junction 40 Interchange of the M6 motorway, A66 and A592 roads.

Penrith New Squares

For the past few years plans were proposed to expand the town centre of Penrith southwards into the Southend Road area which was used as car park and sports fields including ones used by Penrith and Penrith United Football Clubs. The first stage of this development was achieved with the expansion of the swimming pool into a modern leisure centre complex.

The plans for the rest of the scheme were developed by the property company Lowther Mannelli and included a new Sainsbury's supermarket (though previously it was thought that it was going to be a branch of Tesco), new shopping streets, car parking and housing. The name of the scheme is Penrith New Squares as the new shops were going to be centred around two squares which would provide parking and places for public entertainment.

Work on the development was suspended in October 2008 due to a lack of funding during the financial crisis, but a new deal was agreed with Sainsbury's and work was resumed in 2011. This updated scheme includes less new housing and parts of the scheme were deferred for up to five years. Sainsburys opened in December 2011. In June 2013 the first shop in the squares opened together with the walk through from Sainsburys to the town centre.


As with the rest of the British Isles and North of England, Penrith experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. The nearest Met Office weather station is at Newton Rigg, about a mile outside of the town centre. Temperature extremes range from 31.1 °C (88.0 °F) during August 1990, down to −17.8 °C (0.0 °F) in February 1969, although this was nearly eclipsed by a temperature of −17.7 °C (0.1 °F) during December 2010. Newton Rigg also holds the record for the coldest April temperature reported in England −15.0 °C (5.0 °F) during April 1917.

Climate data for Newton Rigg 169m asl, 1971-2000, Extremes 1960-
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 12.8
Average high °C (°F) 5.7
Average low °C (°F) 0.4
Record low °C (°F) -16.7
Precipitation mm (inches) 103.1
Sunshine hours 36.3 55.4 89.9 130.8 175.2 168.0 166.2 149.7 113.7 79.4 45.6 33.2 1,243.2
Source #1: Met Office

date=November 2011

Source #2: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute/KNMI

date=November 2011


The Giant's Grave in 1835.

The main church is St. Andrew's, built from 1720 to 1722 in an imposing Grecian style, abutting an earlier 13th-century tower. The churchyard has some ancient crosses and hogback tombstones in it known now as "Giant's Grave", and "Giant's Thumb" which is the remains of a Norse cross dated to 920 AD.

The ruins of Penrith Castle (14th-16th centuries) can be seen from the adjacent railway station. The castle is run as a visitor attraction by English Heritage. To the south-east of the town are the more substantial ruins of Brougham Castle, also under the protection of English Heritage. To the south of the town are the ancient henge sites known as Mayburgh Henge and King Arthur's Round Table. Both are under the protection of English Heritage.

Gloucester Arms Pub - - 705105
Dockray Hall

In the centre of the town is the Clock Tower, erected in 1861 to commemorate Philip Musgrave of Edenhall. Hutton Hall, in Friargate preserves a 14th-century pele tower at the rear, attached to an 18th-century building. The Gloucester Arms public house, formerly known as Dockray Hall, is said to date from c1470 and may incorporate the remains of another pele tower.

Penrith has been noted for the number of wells in and around the town, and well-dressing ceremonies were commonplace on certain days in the month of May. Three miles south-east of the town, on the River Eamont are the "Giants' caves", where the well was dedicated to St. Ninian. The caves are enlarged out of Lower Permian sandstones and their associated breccias and purple shales.

Just to the north of the town is the wooded signal-beacon hill, naturally named Beacon Hill, but originally called Penrith Fell. It last use was probably in 1804 in the war against Napoleon. Traditionally, the Beacon Pike was used to warn of approaching danger from Scotland. Today, although surrounded by a commercial woodland owned by Lowther Estates, the hill still contains some natural woodlands and is a popular local and tourist attraction. On a clear day the majority of the Eden Valley, the local fells, Pennines and parts of the North Lakes can be seen. It is almost certain that the Beacon Hill gave Penrith its name - in Celtic - of "red hill".

A fibreglass 550 cm (18 ft)-tall statue of King Kong once stood in the Skirsgill Auction Mart.

Caldbeck Fells, West of Penrith, viewed from Culgaith
Blencathra and Caldbeck Fells, West of Penrith, viewed from B6412 Road at Culgaith.


Just off Junction 40 of the M6 motorway, the A66, A6 and A686 intersect in the town.

Penrith is a stop on the West Coast Main Line, with the station, dating from 1846, officially known as Penrith North Lakes. Since an upgrade to the West Coast Main Line was completed in 2008, fewer trains have stopped, leaving a less regular service to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

National Express operate two long-distance coach routes with stops in Penrith.

The National Cycle Network's major National Route 7 runs through the town, and National Route 71 stops just short of its southern edge.

Penrith has taxi firms licensed by Eden District Council. The main rank is in Sandgate in the middle of town, near the bus station. There is another outside the railway station.

Local buses are run mostly by Stagecoach in Cumbria, with links to Carlisle, Keswick and West Cumbria, Ullswater and less frequent ones to Windermere, Appleby-in-Westmorland and Kendal. There is also a 646 town service run by the local NBM Motors, serving most of the town once an hour. Fellrunner buses connect Penrith to villages in the Eden Valley. A daily service to Alston and Newcastle-upon-Tyne is run by Wright Brothers of Nenthead. The bus station is in the town centre off Sandgate. Many services also stop at the railway station.

Penrith dialect

The Penrith dialect known as Penrithian, is a variant of the Cumbrian dialect spoken around the Penrith and Eden district area.

Twin town

Since 1989 Penrith has had a twinning arrangement with the Australian city named after it in New South Wales.

Mayday Carnival

On every first Monday in May, Penrith holds its Mayday Carnival. The Carnival includes a parade, street dancers and fairground rides. The fairground rides are situated in the Great Dockray and Market Square car parks situated in the commercial area of Penrith. The parade includes over 30 floats, vintage cars, a marching band, various local celebrities and members of the Penrith Lions Club. The parade starts in the yard of Ullswater Community College and ends in the bus station car park. Many of the roads in the town centre are closed for this event. The carnival is held by the Penrith Lions Club.


Penrith Co-Op
The former Penrith Co-operative Society had a large department store and supermarket in the town centre - now closed.

As a market town relying heavily on the tourist trade, Penrith benefits from some high=street chain stores and local specialist shops. However, many shops have given way to businesses such as banks, building societies and travel agents.

Market days are traditionally Tuesday and Saturday. On Tuesdays there was a small outdoor market in Great Dockray and Cornmarket. This ceased in the early 21st century, since when a small farmers' market has been held in the Market Square once a month. On Saturdays, Cumbria's largest outdoor market takes place at the Auction Mart alongside the M6 motorway junction 40.

The main central shopping areas are Middlegate, Little Dockray, Devonshire Street/Market Square, Cornmarket, King Street, Angel Lane and the Devonshire Arcade and Angel Square precincts, with some shops in Burrowgate, Brunswick Road and Great Dockray.

Although the main industries are based around tourism and agriculture, some others are represented. For example, in 2011 Greggs opened a new bakery at Gilwilly, replacing two bakeries in the Friargate area that used to belong to the Penrith-based Birketts firm. Domino's Pizza had a dough manufacturing site at Gilwilly until 2019. The model firm Lilliput Lane (now part of Enesco) was founded in Penrith and until March 2009 had its main factory at Skirsgill Park. Also at Penrith Industrial Estate is the Penrith Door Company factory, formerly part of Magnet Joinery, now of the American-based JELD-WEN group.

Agriculture-based industries include BOCM Pauls, which has a large animal feed mill on the Penrith Industrial Estate. Until 2005 there was another feed mill at Gilwilly, originally belonging to Cumberland and Westmorland Farmers Ltd, but eventually becoming part of the Carrs Milling Industries group. Local butchers Cranstons have an expanding meat packing, pie and sandwich-manufacturing site alongside their shop and head office on Ullswater Road.

Penrith was known for its tanning industry and breweries. The tanneries were mainly in the Friargate/Old London Road area of the town. There were at one time five working breweries. Penrith in recent years has attracted many larger international haulage firms to open depots beside the M6.

Fylde Guitars is a manufacturer of hand-made fretted musical instruments, founded in Penrith in 1973 by luthier Roger Bucknall. Its instruments command high prices. All are hand-made using traditional techniques and have been developed in collaboration with professional players. Fylde Guitars is the only UK guitar maker to have been awarded the Acoustic Guitar Magazine "Gold Award", in 2000.


Penrith is home to Penrith Rugby Union Football Club, which currently plays in the RFU National League 3 North. Home games are played at Winters Park in Penrith.

Penrith A.F.C. plays in the Northern Football League.

Penrith also has a skate park area by the Penrith Leisure Centre. The skate park opened in 2007.

Penrith has a golf club and driving range. Penrith Castle Park houses the town's Bowling Club.

Penrith Swimming Club was founded in 1881 and was then based at Frenchfield in the River Eamont. Training sessions originally involved great variations of conditions that challenged the skills of any swimmer. Icy water, strong currents and obstacles like weed and the odd eel or two provided the ultimate test of stamina. It was all a far cry from conditions for today's training sessions, held at Penrith Leisure Centre.

Penrith Canoe Club, founded in 2012, trains at the local leisure centre. Its main activity is canoe polo, in which the club was represented at the World Championships in Syracuse, Italy 2016 by its under-21 women's squad, which finished a respectable fourth.

Penrith Tennis Club is located in the grounds of Penrith Rugby Club at Carleton Village.


Uniformed youth organisations

Penrith hosts two Community Cadet Forces units: 1247 Squadron of the Air Training Corps and Penrith Detachment of Cumbria Army Cadet Force.

Primary schools

  • Brunswick School (formerly County Infants), Brunswick Road
  • Beaconside Primary, Eden Mount/Brent Road. Until 2008 there were separate Beaconside Infant and Junior schools.
  • North Lakes School (formerly Wetheriggs Junior; was at first a girls-only school), Huntley Avenue – North Lakes was one of the first schools in England to be awarded a Sing Up Gold Award (in December 2008) and their highest accolade, a Sing Up Platinum Award (likewise in December 2008).
  • St Catherines Roman Catholic Primary, Drovers Lane
  • Hunter Hall (independent preparatory school), Frenchfield

Secondary schools

  • Ullswater Community College (formerly Ullswater High School, and before that, two single sex secondary modern schools on the same site called Tynefield (girls) and Ullswater (boys)), Wetheriggs Lane
  • Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS) (selective), Ullswater Road

Further education

  • The Yorkshire agricultural college Askham Bryan College has a campus just outside the town, formerly Newton Rigg College. The University of Cumbria has a centre for Conservation, Forestry, Outdoor Studies and Policing based on the same campus.
  • Ullswater Community College had a large further or adult education centre.

Former schools in the town include:

  • Girls National School (building now housing school replaced by Beaconside Juniors), Drovers Lane
  • Boys National School or St Andrews School for Boys (building now demolished school replaced by Beaconside Juniors), Benson Row
  • National Infants School (now Penrith Playgroup Nursery School), Meeting House Lane
  • Robinsons School – this was a girls-only school founded with 29 pupils, which later became a mixed (infant) school founded in 1670 by William Robinson, a local merchant who made good in London. It now houses the town's museum and tourist information centre, Middlegate, and has the following inscription above the door: "Ex sumptibus DN Wil Robinson civis Lond anno 1670 DN"
  • County Girls School (building now part of Brunswick Infants, the school was replaced by Wetheriggs), Brunswick Road
  • County Boys School (the building now QEGS Sixth Form Centre, also for a while an annexe to Wetheriggs). The school merged with Wetheriggs Girls to form Wetheriggs Junior, Ullswater Road
  • Tynefield Secondary Modern (originally co-educational but later girls only), Wetheriggs Lane
  • Ullswater Secondary Modern (boys only), Wetheriggs Lane. Ullswater and Tynefield schools and buildings merged to create Ullswater High in 1980.

Notable people

In order of birth:

  • Richard III (1452–1485) lived at Penrith Castle for a time. The links to him in the town include two fragments of medieval glass. One in St Andrew's Church is taken to show the heads of Richard Plantagenet and Cecily Neville – Richard III's parents. The other, on display in the town, shows the Musgrave coat of arms. Richard III is thought to have stayed at the Gloucester Arms, then a large private house. The bar has panelling of various periods, behind which is an early screen carved with a design taken to be broom (Planta genista), an emblem of the Plantagenet kings.
  • The Scottish road-builder and engineer John Loudon Macadam (1756–1836), inventor of macadamized roads, lived for a while at Cockell House in Townhead. Close by are streets named Macadam Way and Macadam Gardens.
  • George Leo Haydock (1774–1849), noted for an annotated edition of the Catholic Douay Bible, served as Catholic priest here from 1839 until his death in 1849.
  • Penrith was the home town of the mother of the poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850). He spent some of his childhood there, attending school with Mary Hutchinson, his later wife.
  • The Victorian writer Frances Trollope (1779–1863), Anthony Trollope's mother, lived for a while at a house called Carleton Hill (not Carleton Hall) outside the town on the Alston road.
  • Samuel Plimsoll (1824–1898), MP and social reformer, spent some of his childhood at Page Hall in Foster Street. The houses at Townhead called Plimsoll Close are named after him.
  • Percy Toplis (1896–1920), the "monocled mutineer", was shot and killed on the run by police at Plumpton, near Penrith. He is buried in Penrith's Beacon Edge Cemetery in an unmarked grave. His monocle is on display in Penrith and Eden Museum.
  • Mary (1916–2018), wife of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, lived in Penrith whilst her father was minister at the Congregational Church in Duke Street.
  • Stuart Lancaster (born 1969) became head coach of the England national rugby union.
  • Paul Nixon (born 1970), Leicestershire wicket-keeper and England cricket international, was born in Carlisle, but grew up in the Penrith area. Nixon retired from professional sport in 2011.
  • Angela Lonsdale (born 1970 in Penrith), actress, is perhaps best known as policewoman Emma Taylor in Coronation Street and currently stars as DI Eva Moore in the BBC soap Doctors.
  • Charlie Hunnam (born 1980), the actor, attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Penrith (QEGS) and lived locally in his teenage years. He claimed it is "just about the worst place you could hope to live".
  • Lewis Brett Guy (born 1985 in Penrith) is an English football forward currently with Annan Athletic F.C.
  • Danny Grainger (born 1986), footballer, scored Heart of Midlothian's third goal in the 2012 Scottish Cup final against Hibernian.
  • Oliver Turvey (born 1987), racing driver, attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and lives locally.
  • Stephen Hindmarch (born 1989), a professional footballer, was born here.

Images for kids

kids search engine
Penrith, Cumbria Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.