Nick Burton’s book Wainright’s Way is far more than a walking guide as he incorporates so much well researched biographical detail of AW. Already I’ve have covered his early life in Blackburn which included a look at the town where he lived from 1907 – 1941.
Now having reached Kendal, where AW lived from 1941 until his death in 1991, Nick takes a short tour of the town pointing out places AW was associated with and I found much of interest on my stroll around. Kendal Civic Society has placed green information plaques everywhere marking historic buildings, far too many for me to mention here, all I can say is that Kendal is worth a days visit. It was not a town I was particularly well acquainted with, in the past queuing through the main street on the way to and from the Lakes, now it is thankfully by-passed. Visits to the climbing wall in an old milk processing mill on the outskirts gave no time for exploring the town and anyhow the traffic is awful and parking difficult.
Today I start above Kendal Green, a lovely open space, at the end of a culdesac where AW had a house built in 1949. He lived here with his first wife, Ruth, and then with his second, Betty until his death. Being elevated he had good views to the Kentmere Fells. What a contrast to Audley Range in Blackburn.
AW would walk down past Kendal Green on his way to work, this is a large open space with mature trees. Halfway down is a plaque commemorating an oak planted in 1864 to celebrate Shakespeare’s 300th birthday. I wasn’t sure that oak was still standing but there is a further plaque for one planted in 1964, 400 years since his death. The link is explained in the first plaque.
To get here I passed the Library, Stricklandgate House, and ‘Wainwright’s Yard’ The latter a newly developed shopping arcade made more memorable by the present-day premises of Westmorland Gazette who published most of AW’s books.
The ‘yard’ is one of the dozens off the main street that at one time hosted small industries and shops, most have been altered over the years but all are numbered and can be located with a leaflet from the tourist information. One nearby is named Webster Yard after the architect who designed much of 19th-century Kendals’ prominent housing. Another is C17th Sandes Hospital built with wool money, it now encloses rebuilt almshouses designed by Webster’s firm. Apparently many of the properties AW would have known were demolished in the 1970s.
I wandered into the back yard/garden of The Brewery, formerly a Vaux brewery and now an arts centre and Yough Hostel, and was delighted to see the Leyland clock which I’ve discussed in a previous post about the A6 over Shap.
Further on are some ornate gates that lead to Holy Trinity Church. Built when Kendal was prosperous from the wool trade it is one of the widest churches in the country with five aisles. What an amazing church.
There is the Old Grammar School and Abbot Hall and I’m on the banks of the Kent for a riverside walk. A small park had a plaque referring to K Shoes, once one of Kendal’s largest industries. Howard Somervell of Everest fame, 1920, belonged to the family running K Shoes and naturally wore Kendal-made boots on the mountain. Nearby is a record of historic flood levels.
MIller Bridge, Webster designed, was built in 1818 as part of a complex of warehouses serving the terminal basin of the Lancaster Canal. Aynam Mills were originally for the wool trade but in AW’s time were the premises of a well-known tobacco and snuff manufacturer, Illingworth’s. I became a little lost in the maze of lanes amongst all these warehouses, many being put to good use.
My route took me along an elegant Georgian terrace the home of the all-encompassing Kendal architect George Webster. A little further was another terraced area with an open space where the residents dry their clothes to this day.
I passed another church and then Castle Dairy one of the oldest occupied houses in Kendal. Apparently, the Elizabethan interior is worth viewing as part of a meal in the restaurant now in the building.
Round the corner is the town’s Museum where AW was heavily involved for the time he was in Kendal. It was closed today so I was not able to view a collection of Wainwright memorabilia.
Over the busy Victoria Bridge with associated sympathetic warehouse accommodations alongside the Kent. Ahead back on Stricklandgate was the third of Kendal’s parish churches. On the next corner are the premises of Titus Wilson, printers since 1860, AW’s first publisher.
It was now a short walk back up the side of Kendal Green.
Kendal is certainly worthy of further exploration. I can appreciate it would be a good place to live and did I mention Kendal Mintcake?