A brief history of Keswick

A brief history of Keswick

This part of the country has very old origins indeed. Most locals will have visited the beautiful stone circle at Castlerigg and felt the presence of their ancestors, mysterious as their intentions may have been. Three axe heads found in the circle are thought to be up to 4,000 years old.

Photo by Ian Grieg reproduced under creative commons licence.


Much of Keswick’s history since then has revolved around agriculture, with most people scraping a living through wool, leather and crop farming. The presence of our beloved Herdwick sheep is a result of Cistercian monks settling locally in the 12th Century.



Callum Black/Herdwick Sheep


Of course we know that Keswick hasn’t been untouched by industry. In Elizabethan times, large deposits of copper were discovered, and the demand for it was so strong that miners from Germany were shipped in to mine it out of the hills. How many of us have Teutonic ancestry as a result we wonder?


Later on Keswick became a dependable source of slate for roofing – the mine at Honister dates back to 1643 and only closed in 1986. 343 years of slate – it must have covered most of the country! While we are talking about the grey stuff, we can’t forget the other shade of grey Keswick is famous for – graphite.


Legend tells us that the concept of pencils hark from our fair fells, and of course includes our lovely sheep again. Apparently, a local shepherd used graphite to mark his herd and the rest as they say is history. Pencils are still made in Keswick today – you can even visit the Derwentwater Pencil Museum while you are staying at Burleigh Mead.


Keswick now is well known as a great tourist destination, and has been for many years with people being continually drawn to the Lakes in search of the inspiration that sparked the brilliant artists and wordsmiths of the 18th Century. Stepping in the footsteps of Wordsworth, Constable and Turner became even easier after the construction of the railway line to Penrith in 1860. It didn’t take long to transform little market town Keswick into the thriving and beautiful hot spot it is today!


Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 

Feature image credit: http://keswick-at-war.yolasite.com/