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History and Heritage of Penrith

Penrith grew up at the crossroads of several important routes. The castle and the narrow roads and yards were built as defences against raids from the north. With its central location, Penrith developed as a market town for the surrounding area. The town retains much of its medieval layout, the wide open spaces where animals and agricultural produce were sold, contrasting with small yards, often bearing the names of former inhabitants.

The Penrith and Eden Museum is housed in the old Robinson's School building, which was established in 1670 for the education of poor girls. The Museum features the archaeology, art, social, cultural and natural history of the district.

The Coronation Gardens were created as a community garden in 1938, to celebrate King George VI's Coronation. After being neglected and underused over the years, regeneration of the gardens is being carried out as a partnership between the Rotary Club of Penrith, (to celebrate the centenary of Rotary International), and Eden District Council with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Eden District Council.

Work to the gardens includes restoring some of the original features, creating raised beds, a sensory garden, sculptures, adding lighting and a time line of the history of Penrith. Phase One of the Coronation Gardens was completed at the end of 2012 with further work to complete the project ongoing. The garden incorporates a number of original features that relate directly to the heritage of Penrith. Its layout was designed to incorporate the shape of St Andrew's Cross, on which the town's coat of arms is based in recognition of Penrith's close links with Scotland.

Famous Connections

  • Did you see the TV programme Richard III: The King in the Car Park about the discovery of the remains of Richard III?

    Richard Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III, was granted the manor of Penrith. The future king lived at Penrith Castle for periods between 1471 and 1485 making many alterations to turn it into a suitable residence.

    The ruins of Penrith Castle are well worth a visit.

  • William Wordsworth, the poet, attended the school in the Tudor house near Saint Andrew's Church. A leaflet detailing Wordsworth's connections with the town is available at the Tourist Information Centre

  • Samuel Plimsoll spent 10 years of his childhood in Penrith. He was influential in the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876 and the painting of 'Plimsoll lines' on ships, to prevent overloading

  • Bonnie Prince Charlie lodged in part of the George Hotel, formerly the George and Dragon Inn, in November 1745 on his way south in an attempt to regain the throne for the Stuarts

  • Percy Toplis, 'The Monocled Mutineer', was shot dead by police north of Penrith and laid to rest in an unmarked grave in the cemetery. There is a display about him in the museum


Penrith has many historical landmarks, including St Andrew's Church, Penrith Castle, Beacon Pike or Tower and the Musgrave Monument.