TWO local historians have pieced together the story of Kendal’s once-bustling yards for the first time.
From Collin Croft to Windmill Yard, New Shambles to Golden Chair Yard, their intriguing names and the townsfolk who lived and worked in these crowded, noisy lanes have been carefully researched by Trevor Hughes and Arthur Nicholls, two stalwarts of Kendal Civic Society.
In their new book, The Yards of Kendal, they expand on detective work by the late Dr. John Satchell, society chairman, who was fascinated by these 120-or-so crofts and ginnels, and whose handwritten notes were passed on to Mr. Nicholls after his death.
“It’s the first time there’s ever been a book devoted entirely to the yards of Kendal,” said Mr. Hughes.
“It’s written in some history books that they were a defense against the Scotsmen,” he told the Gazette, “but that’s just a made-up story.”
Research shows the yards started life around the time of William the Conqueror as rented parcels of land, or burgage plots, between the main street and the River Kent, where cattle and sheep were kept. By the late 18th century, cottages and workshops were clustered into the cramped spaces, with dozens of neighbors living cheek-by-jowl. “Each became a little community,” said Mr. Hughes.
Sadly, many historic yards were bulldozed in the 1960s, but one of the best surviving examples is Collin Croft, off Beast Banks, where brewers, metal workers, masons, potters, coach builders, pawnbrokers, bobbin turners and slate merchants plied their trades. One cottage alone behind the Malt Shovel beer house was home to the landlord and his household of 11, including four young children, his 60-year-old mother and three lodgers.
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By trawling archives, census returns, old newspapers and maps, Mr. Hughes and Mr. Nicholls uncovered more than 250 different names for Kendal’s yards, which were numbered in 1868. Their account sheds light on the people, features and trades that live on through the yards’ names, such as:
– Dr. Manning’s Yard, named after a hospital surgeon, and previously called Braithwaite’s Yard after the Quaker dry-salter and six-time mayor who set up a soup kitchen for poor Kendalians
– Windmill Yard, which had a mill for grinding oak bark for tanneries
– Golden Chair Yard, recalling the gilded chair sign used by cabinet maker Joseph Railton
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– Jennings’ Yard, named after corn dealer, cheesemonger and preacher William Jennings, reputedly the stoutest man Kendal had ever seen
– Hogg’s Yard, once home to 96 people and the Hogg family’s bakehouse
Woll Pack Yard
– Sandes Hospital Yard, where cloth merchant Thomas Sandes founded a school and eight almshouses for poor widows of good repute
– and Angel Inn Yard, where legend has it an angel appeared before Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops in 1745.
Yard 119, Highgate
The Yards of Kendal is published on October 26.