How much do you know about Kirkby Lonsdale’s history?

Posted on August 8, 2017 | News

Kirkby Lonsdale is steeped in history but how much do you know about the secrets of this quaint South Lakes market town?

When you live in a town like Kirkby Lonsdale, it’s easy to become blasé about local history. Fact is, you can’t take a stroll down the high street or potter through the churchyard without passing a building or monument of historical significance. There’s been a settlement here since Roman times and parts of St Mary’s Church are more than 900 years old but much of the town’s infrastructure dates from the 18th century, including the handsome Georgian market square.

Here are 7 facts you may not know about this jewel in the crown of the South Lakes:

1. It’s thought that Devil’s Bridge may date back to the 13th century, though it takes its name from a local legend. It’s claimed that the Devil himself built the bridge in answer to a plea from a local woman who couldn’t coax her livestock across the river. In exchange, the Devil asked for the soul of the first body to cross it. But once the bridge was built, the wily old woman threw a bun across it, whereupon her small dog raced to retrieve it, so depriving the Devil of his payment. If you look closely, you can still see the Devil’s ‘handprint’ on one of the top stones.

2. The artist JMW Turner (1775-1851) painted the River Lune a number of times but perhaps most famously from a spot at the north end of the churchyard know as ‘Ruskin’s View’. Renowned art critic, social theorist, painter and poet John Ruskin was an aficionado of Turner’s work, and was so impressed by the vista that he claimed: “I do not know in all my own country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine”. The view is little changed today.

3. Kirkby Lonsdale gained its market charter in 1227, along with the right to hold an annual fair every September. The areas where horses and pigs were traded can be traced to the town’s Horsemarket and Swinemarket street names. The busy weekly market created a bustling town with numerous inns and ale houses springing up to cater for this trade.

4. The town’s original market square was at the other end of Market Street, close to the church. By the early 19th century, it was becoming too congested, so a new marketplace was built in 1822.

5. Mill Brow is a steep lane that runs from Market Street to the River Lune. Although it’s hard to imagine, this narrow thoroughfare was once the industrial heart of Kirkby Lonsdale, with a number of mills along its length that were powered by a water course. Bobbins, wool and snuff were all produced here and most of the town’s traffic passed this way.

6. The Royal Hotel which dominates the town square was originally a large house called Jackson Hall. It became the Rose and Crown after the inn next door of the same name burnt to the ground in 1820, whereupon the hall’s extensive gardens subsequently became the new marketplace. After a visit by Queen Adelaide in 1847, it was renamed The Royal Hotel.

7. A recent BBC dramatisation of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Jamaica Inn’ was partly filmed in Kirkby Lonsdale which stood in for Launceston in Cornwall. Scenes were shot in the Market Square, outside the church and at the Rectory.