Market town and tourist centre in Crosthwaite parish, Allerdale below Derwent ward, Cumberland. This entry covers area which became Keswick UD 1894, namely township of Keswick (including small extra-parochial area known as Briery Cottages) and part of Underskiddaw township, including Great Crosthwaite, south of railway line. Further boundary changes 1934 resulted in net gains from Castlerigg, St John’s & Wythburn CP.


Keswick township covered 728 acres [295 ha] and extra-parochial area of Briery Cottages (also known as Greta Mills) 46 acres [19 ha]. From 1894, having gained parts of Underskiddaw township, Keswick UD contained 1,166 acres [472 ha]. Common land at Town Cass and Chestnut Hill (c.70 acres [28ha]) enclosed 1849.


mostly in manor of Castlerigg and Derwentwater, held by Adam de Derwentwater 1216, subsequently passing to Radcliffes of Dilston (Northumb.) by marriage of Elizabeth de Derwentwater to Sir Nicholas Radcliffe c.1417. It descended in Radcliffe family until execution of Sir James Radcliffe, third earl of Derwentwater, 1716, for his part in 1715 Jacobite rebellion, when it was forfeited to Crown. Rents and profits from estate supported Royal Greenwich Hospital for Seamen from 1735. Manorial rights and Greenwich Hospital’s Keswick estate sold to Marshall family 1832.

Origins and growth of the town:

Market charter granted 1276; Keswick became small seigniorial borough. Thomas Denton described character of market in later 17th century thus: ‘the number of tanners and shoomakers, which dwell in and about the town, causeth the markets to abound with raw hides and leather’; little corn was sold but butter and cheese were plentiful; cattle fairs were held fortnightly across summer months. Town’s prosperity grew with expansion of non-ferrous mining in surrounding areas under Mines Royal from 1564 to Civil War. German miners made headquartered on Vicar’s Island, with water-powered ore processing and smelting works at Brigham on River Greta. Writing in 1675, Sir Daniel Fleming noted, ‘Heretofore this towne was rich getting much by the minerall-men, but those being dispersed upon the giveing over of the workes, it is become much poorer’. ‘Discovery’ of Lake District by tourists from 1750s led to Keswick becoming focal point for picturesque tourism from 1770s, facilitated by new turnpike roads. In 1780s attractions included annual regattas on Derwentwater and two competing museums run by Peter Crosthwaite and Thomas Hutton. Town’s population, calculated at 1,078 in 1787, grew rapidly across 19th century, doubling from 1,350 in 1801 to 2,618 by 1851. By 1852 tourist numbers during summer season estimated at 12,000 to 15,000. Keswick’s industrial base also expanded: leather production declined but woollen textile industry (carding, spinning, dyeing and weaving) grew in late 18th century, with water-powered mills along River Greta, both in town and at Greta Mills at Briery: two woollen mills, bobbin mill, brewery and pencil mill along river side by mid-19th century. Pencil manufacture expanded from late 18th century, becoming town’s largest industry with founding of Joseph Banks’ pencil factory at Greta Mill 1835. Arrival of Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway 1864 (with Keswick Hotel of 1869) stimulated further tourism. Population had grown to 3,760 in 1891 (population of Keswick UD stood at 4,451 in 1901) and town expanded north of River Greta and to east of old urban core. Across 20th century tourism came to dominate, as industrial base declined. Woollen mill at Briery Cottages had closed by 1900; bobbin mill there closed 1958. Pencil manufacturing remained important: Hogarth & Hayes, at Southey Hill, and Robert Wilson & Co. (Cumberland Pencil Co. from 1899) at Greta Bridge, had merged on Southey Hill site by 1916; works rebuilt 1937; closed 2006. Pencil Museum remains on site. Population fairly stable across 20th century, standing at 4,984 in 2001. By early 21st century, 60% of town’s employment was in tourism.

Places of worship:

Medieval parish church of St Kentigern in Great Crosthwaite (restored 1844-6 and 1889) served extensive ancient parish. Church of St John the Evangelist, Keswick, built 1836-8 (extended 1862, 1882 and 1889); assigned parochial district 1839. Independent nonconformist congregation established 1705 or before; chapel built in Lake Road 1803; rebuilt 1858-9; now Keswick Congregational Church. Quaker meeting house at High Hill, Crosthwaite, built 1715; closed c.1775. Wesleyan Methodist chapel built 1814; replaced by chapel in Southey Street, built 1863; extended 1909; still in use. High Street chapel (Bethesda Free Chapel) of Christian Brethren built 1851; closed. Annual Keswick Convention (evangelical Christian) started 1875 and continues. Gospel Hall, St John’s Street, still in use. Quaker meeting re-established when meeting house, Church Street, opened 1921; replaced by new meeting house at Greta Grove, Tithebarn Street, 1995. Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of the Lakes and St Charles built 1927-8; completed (including tower) 1962-4.


Free grammar school beside parish church at Crosthwaite founded by 1571. National School of Industry established beside River Greta 1820. Keswick township had twelve day schools 1833. St John’s school (infants and girls) opened 1840; boys’ school, located at Brigham, built 1851. Grammar school moved from Crosthwaite to new site on Keswick side of Greta Bridge, opening in 1898 as co-educational school; 1898 building became Rawnsley Hall in 1940, when new premises built behind it. Secondary modern school built at Lairthwaite 1951. Keswick School and Lairthwaite combined to form comprehensive secondary school 1980, initially on split site but merging during 1990s at Lairthwaite; now Keswick School. Primary schools at two St John’s sites replaced by Trinity School for juniors, on new site near Windebrowe housing estate, 1974, with adjacent St Kentigern’s School for infants and nursery built 1993. Trinity and St Kentigern combined to become St Herbert’s School 2005. Keswick School of Industrial Arts, founded by H. D. Rawnsley in parish hall 1883-4; moved to purpose-built premises 1894; closed 1984 (building became restaurant).

Other institutions:

Moot Hall, former manor court house, built 1695; rebuilt by Greenwich Hospital 1813, lower floor being used as market hall on Saturdays. Police station from 1857; replaced by police station, council offices and magistrates court in Bank Street 1902. Poor house, on site later occupied by Post Office, built following bequest from Sir John Banks (d. 1644); closed after 1862. Mary Hewitson Hospital opened 1891 and remains Keswick’s cottage hospital. Lending library in Sunday school attached to Crosthwaite church from 1827. Library with lecture hall opened in town 1849; Mechanics’ Institute, in Market Place, formed same year. Oddfellows’ Hall built 1850. Thomas Hutton’s museum opened c.1775; closed c.1840. Peter Crosthwaite’s museum established 1780; collections sold 1870. New Keswick museum, Station Road, built 1897, adjacent to Fitz Park, which had opened 1887. Theatre recorded c.1810; tradition of travelling theatre companies, notably seasonal Century Theatre (mid-20th century), accommodated from 1976 in fixed auditorium, the Blue Box, at Lakeside. Replaced by new purpose-built premises, the Theatre By The Lake, 1999. Alhambra cinema built c.1914; still in operation.