Windermere and Bowness

Resort towns in Windermere parish, Kendal Ward, Westmorland. Windermere and Bowness became separate UDs 1894, merging to become Windermere UD 1905. This entry covers former townships of Applethwaite and Undermillbeck, out of which UDs were carved.


Applethwaite township covered 9,122 acres [3,692 ha], of which c.3,000 acres [c.1,200 ha] comprised lake bed of Windermere; Undermillbeck township covered 4,183 acres [1,693 ha] and included chapelry of Winster (in Kendal parish). Most of Applethwaite became Windermere UD (4,345 acres [1,758 ha]) 1894; Bowness-on-Windermere UD (983 acres [398 ha]) was carved out of Undermillbeck; remaining parts of Undermillbeck CP were absorbed into Bowness and Crook CPs 1935. Common land in Undermillbeck (2,000 acres [810 ha]) enclosed 1822; Applethwaite commons enclosed 1842.


Manor of Windermere, which included both townships, together with Troutbeck and Ambleside, was head of Richmond Fee of barony of Kendal (q.v.); manor house was on Long Holme (now Belle Isle). Winster was held by Philipson family of Calgarth until sold to tenants 1717.

Origins and growth of the towns:

Origins of towns were quite distinct: Bowness was long-established village, clustering around late-medieval parish church; Windermere a new settlement which grew up around rail terminus from 1847. Since 19th century, economy of both towns has been based on tourism. Before arrival of railway, main sources of wealth lay in cattle and sheep farming but stone quarrying, woodland industries and fishing had developed by early modern period. Informal market grew up around church at Bowness in 17th century, at first under a yew tree in churchyard on Sundays. Thomas Machell described Bowness 1692 as ‘a small country village, with a schoolhouse and with nine or ten other houses about it, where there is a sort of market or meeting place lately begun’. Public ferry across lake has existed for over 500 years. Early water-powered industry included fulling and paper mills at Troutbeck Bridge. By end of 18th century, ‘discovery’ of Lake District led to growth of tourism. Arrival of railway brought significant change. Terminus of branch line from Oxenholme and Kendal opened 1847 at Birthwaite (in Applethwaite township), leading to development of resort town at rail head: Windermere Hotel built by 1849; newsroom, library and picture gallery by 1855. Windermere quickly became magnet for day trippers from industrial towns of Lancashire: by 1885 it had two hotels and 45 lodging and boarding houses. Bowness also grew rapidly into town and resort, with pleasure boats and other leisure attractions, to become one of major tourist resorts in Lake District by later 19th century. Villas overlooking lake proliferated around both towns. Population grew rapidly: Applethwaite township contained 343 inhabitants in 1801, rising to 436 by 1841; growth of Windermere saw its population rise to 1,285 by 1861 and 1,926 by 1891. Undermillbeck’s population stood at 500 in 1801 and had doubled to 1,033 by 1841, growing to 2,361 by 1891. Industrial growth also took place: former paper mill at Troutbeck Bridge converted to bobbin manufacture by 1820s, with another bobbin mill at Thickholme by mid-19th century. Hydro-electric power generation at Troutbeck Bridge bobbin mill, supplying Windermere from 1893; still in operation 1948. Bridge iron works at Troutbeck Bridge in late 19th and early 20th century. Slate quarrying on Applethwaite Common expanded in later 19th century. Short-lived lead mine at Winster, opened 1848. During Second World War flying boat factory, building Sunderland flying boats, established at Calgarth, opening 1941 with extensive temporary housing estate for workforce; site became White Cross Bay caravan park 1954. Population continued to grow across 20th century, though census figures often inflated by presence of visitors. Bowness grew from 2,682 in 1901 to 4,099 by 1971. By 2001 combined population of Windermere and Bowness stood at 8,245.

Places of worship:

Parish church of St Martin in Bowness, originally chapel of ease in Kendal parish, acquired parochial status 1348; present building dates largely from c.1483; restored 1870. Ancient chapel of St Catherine, near Browhead in Applethwaite, had been converted to house by mid-18th century. Additional Anglican churches built as towns grew: St Mary’s in Applethwaite (i.e. Windermere), built as private chapel 1847-8; bought by town 1855; enlarged in several stages 1857-82. St John’s, Lake Road, built 1886; closed 1995 and converted to flats. Mission room beside Windermere Hotel built by 1897. Quaker meeting house at Mislet in Applethwaite township, built 1701; closed 1822. Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Bowness built 1859; rebuilt 1882; closed after 1991; now Lakes Christian Centre (independent church). Wesleyan Methodist chapel, College Street, Windermere, built 1867; still in use. Christian Brethren chapel at Bowness built c.1839. Congregational chapel at Troutbeck Bridge opened 1858; closed late 20th century. Carver Memorial chapel (now United Reformed Church) built 1879-80 in memory of William Carver (d. 1875) of The Priory, a Mancunian. Roman Catholic church, Lake Road, opened 1884; replaced by church of Our Lady of Windermere and St Herbert on adjacent site, built 1962-3. Christian Science church, Birthwaite Road, opened 1978. Winster: chapel, possibly medieval in origin, granted burial rights 1722; rebuilt as church of Holy Trinity, 1874-5.


Free grammar school in Bowness established c.1637; rebuilt on new site at Brantfell 1836; replaced by new building on Princes Road 1885; became one of first comprehensive boys’ schools 1945; closed after The Lakes School, Troutbeck Bridge (purpose-built comprehensive school) opened 1965. College of St Mary, Windermere, opened 1850s for sons of clergymen, survived as independent boys’ school until 1938; buildings taken over as Old College Secondary Modern School for girls 1950; closed 1965 on opening of The Lakes School. National school, Windermere, endowed 1856; replaced by new primary school on new site at Princes Road 1960s; now St Martin’s & St Mary’s CE Primary School. St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary school (opened 1954). Goodly Dale Community Primary School opened 1975. Windermere School (independent boarding school) originated as St Anne’s school, which moved to the town from St Annes, Lancashire, 1924. Winster: schoolmaster licensed 1691; school by chapel built 1849; closed c.1958.

Other institutions:

‘Circulating library and gentlemen’s newsroom’ established at Bowness c.1823. Institute ‘for the working classes’ built at Windermere c.1873; had closed by 1885. Working Men’s Institute, Bowness, opened 1875. Hydropathic establishment opened at Thornburrow House by 1858; Hydro Hotel opened 1881. Community centres at Ladyholme Centre, Lakes Road, and Marchesi Centre, Holly Road (built as Windermere Old People’s Community Centre 1969-71). Steamboat Museum opened at Windermere 1977. Private villas converted to other uses: Holehird became Leonard Cheshire Foundation home 1961; Blackwell opened as Arts & Crafts House 2001.