Chapelry straddling boundary between parishes of Grasmere and Windermere, in Kendal Ward, Westmorland, consisting of two townships: Ambleside Above Stock, in Grasmere parish, and Ambleside Below Stock, in Windermere parish. Ambleside became UD 1894 and was subsumed into Lakes UD 1935.
4,371 acres [1,769 ha] including extensive fell commons in Scandale and Stock Ghyll valleys, 961 acres [389 ha] of which were enclosed 1865, though 270 acres [109 ha] on Wansfell survives as common land. Bird House common (12 acres [5 ha]), mainly open field, enclosed 1853.
part of manor of Windermere (q.v.). Prominent landowners included Braithwaite family in 16th and 17th centuries (seat at Ambleside Hall).
Origins and growth of the town:
Flat ground at head of Windermere chosen as site of Roman fort of GALAVA. Ambleside grew as focal point for local woollen industry in later middle ages. In 1650 it gained charter for weekly market on Wednesdays and cattle fairs at Whitsuntide and in October and was described in 1675 by Sir Daniel Fleming as ‘a market cheifly for wool and yarne’. Several fulling mills by 16th century and paper mill on Scandale Beck by 1681. Large mill for manufacture of woollen goods opened c.1797 but woollen trade had declined by 1807, when Ambleside was described as ‘a paltry little market town, with little trade’; wool market closed 1825. Fulling mills closed as textile industry declined, to be replaced by bobbin turning from mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. In 19th century Ambleside also had tannery, brewery and saw mill. Short-lived knitwear and toy factories in later 20th century after decline of traditional industries. Quarries outside town, both in Coniston limestone and green slate, the latter notably at Pets Quarry, Kirkstone, in 20th century. Ambleside’s position on main arterial route through Lake District linking Kendal and Cockermouth both fostered its market function and placed it on tourist route from later 18th century; tiny Bridge House (built 1723) became an iconic tourist site. Population, which stood at 538 in 1801, more than quadrupled across 19th century, rising to 1,592 in 1851 and to 2,360 in 1891. As tourism came to dominate economy, visitor accommodation expanded. Salutation Inn had been coaching inn since 18th century; Low Wood Hotel, on lake shore, served Lakes tourists by early 19th century. Hotels and guest houses proliferated from mid-19th century; restaurants and retailing in 20th. Several villas (including The Knoll, Wanlass Howe and Wansfell) were built in 1840s for wealthy incomers. Waterhead, on lake to south of town, developed in 1890s. Growth continued across 20th century as town became popular tourist resort: by 1991 Ambleside’s population was 4,414 (of whom nearly one quarter were recorded as visitors) and by 2001 it stood at 5,127.
Places of worship:
Chapel (later known as St Anne’s church) made parochial 1675 and rebuilt 1812 (converted to flats c.1984). Replaced by parish church of St Mary, on new site, built 1853-4. Wesleyan Methodist chapel, Rydal Road, by 1860 (closed; converted to flats); replaced by Methodist church, Millans Park, built 1898; closed 2005 and converted to housing. Roman Catholic chapel (‘Shap Cell’) opened 1893, as first wing of planned priory of Premonstratensian canons. Replaced by new church of Mater Amabilis, built 1933. Former police station in Rydal Road converted to Quaker meeting house 1964; closed c.2008. Baptist church in converted house in Compston Road.
Grammar school, free for boys, endowed by will of John Kelsick 1721, on site at Hill Top next to chapel. Moved to new premises (former Infectious Diseases Hospital) to east of town 1908; closed 1965. Also at Hill Top in 19th century a private academy for girls run by Miss Dowling (1814 to at least 1859). National school and a girls’ school opened in 19th century.
Courthouse (built 1858) and market hall (built 1863). Lecture room built 1872; enlarged 1879; contained library, reading room, school-room and bank. Charlotte Mason (1842-1923), the educationist, opened private teacher training college 1892; later known as Charlotte Mason College, it became part of Lancaster University 1992, passing to St Martin’s College (now University of Cumbria) 1996. Ambleside Book Club (founded 1828) and Ambleside Ruskin Library (founded 1882 by Canon Rawnsley) formed basis of Armitt Library and Museum (opened 1912; moved to purpose-built premises 1997). Infectious Diseases Hospital by 1897 (building later used for Kelsick Grammar School).