Economic Development 1846-2012:From a figure of 7387 in 1851 the population rose steadily to 14756 in 2001. The most significant event at the start of this period was the opening in 1846 of the Lancaster and Carlisle railway, followed by the Eden Valley railway in 1862, and the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith railway in 1865. Straight after the opening of the Lancaster and Carlisle railway in 1846 ‘a rage for improvement was manifest in Penrith’. In 1850 a Penrith Building Society was formed with the purpose of acquiring land for new streets on the slopes of Beacon Fell to the north-east of the core of the medieval town; these streets are still known in 2012 as the ‘New Streets’. The society was dissolved in 1878, replaced in 1877 by the present Penrith Building Society.
In 1851 the Public Health Act was applied and as a result in 1854 major water works were erected, later to become property of the Urban District Council. The railway was of crucial importance to the transportation of farm produce. In 1870 an Agricultural Hall was built enabling stock sales to be conducted under cover. In 1922 Penrith Farmers & Kidd auction company was formed. It moved to new premises in Skirsgill in 1987. A Saturday general market is still held there. In 1878 Clint Mill was built for millers and local seed merchants. It was converted into offices in the 1990s. The Penrith Co-operative Society was created in 1890, although there had been a previous cooperative store operating between 1878 and 1889.
In the early 20th century Penrith still boasted a brewery, foundry, agricultural implement makers, and some basket making. Altham’s Iron Works date from the early 19th century. Richardson’s timber works, still in existence in 2012, date from 1850 - as does Arnison’s the drapers, only in recent years losing family ownership. In 1903 the Penrith Chamber of Trade and Commerce was founded. BOCM Paul, an animal feed mill, and Alba Proteins, processing animal by-products for industrial use, operate in the town’s Industrial Estate. Not a major tourist centre in itself, the railway and the town’s position on a major crossroads (the M6 Junction 40 opened in 1970) have contributed to Penrith’s importance as a gateway to the North Lakes. The town continues to provide a meeting point for people from the surrounding villages, priding itself on its individual specialist shops. The ‘New Squares’ project is being developed ‘to revitalise Penrith as Eden District’s leading market town.’