Week In Focus #38
This is #38 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.
- This week, I have three photographs for you to take a look at, of the lovely, historic town of Cockermouth.
Just outside the Lake District National Park, Cockermouth is located at the mouth of the River Cocker – hence its name. The town is prone to flooding and has experienced severe floods in 2005, 2009, and 2015.
The town is the birth-place of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and Fletcher Christian, who led the renowned mutiny on the Bounty. John Dalton, the noted scientist and father of the atomic theory, and Fearon Fallows, HM Astronomer Royal, were born in or near the town. It even nurtured the talents of New Zealand-born England all-round cricketer, and World Cup winner, Ben Stokes.
Cockermouth also lays claim to be the first town in Britain to have piloted electric lighting. In 1881 six powerful electric lamps were set up to light the town, together with gas oil lamps in the back streets. Service proved intermittent, and there was afterwards a return to gas lighting.
- The town is often included in compilations of ‘rude’ place names. A fact which is probably more to do with the minds of those carrying out the research, rather than the actual meaning of the name.
Much of the architectural core of the town remains unchanged since the basic medieval layout was filled in the 18th and 19th centuries. The regenerated market place is now a central historical focus within the town and reflects events during its 800-year history.
The main town developed under the Normans who, after occupying the former Roman fort, built Cockermouth Castle closer to the river crossing: little remains today of the castle thanks to the efforts of Robert the Bruce. The market town developed its distinctive medieval layout, of a broad main street of burgesses’ houses, each with a burgage plot stretching to a “back lane”: the Derwent bank on the north and Back Lane (now South Street), on the south. The layout is largely preserved, leading the British Council for Archaeology to say in 1965 that it was worthy of special care in preservation and development.
Although Carlisle was considered the county town of Cumberland, Cockermouth shared the county assizes with Carlisle, and prior to the Reform Act 1832 was the usual venue for electing knights of the shire as MPs for Cumberland. Cockermouth borough was also a parliamentary borough from 1641 to 1918, returning two MPs until 1868 and one thereafter.
The town market pre-dates 1221, when the market day was changed from Saturday to Monday. Market charters were granted in 1221 and 1227 by King Henry III, although this does not preclude the much earlier existence of a market in the town. In recent times, the trading farmers market now only occurs seasonally, replaced by weekend continental and craft markets.