The river Kent begins above the reservoir in the heights of Bleathwaite Crag. It collects beneath Kentmere Common in the reservoir which was built in 1848 to control the flow of water to the lower pastures. Lingmell Gill also feeds into the reservoir. Beside the reservoir sits a disused quarry and a cottage formerly used for maintenance of the river. The river opens out into a transitory lake called Kentmere Tarn just south of the confluence with Hall Gill. The lake has at times in the past completely disappeared into marshland and in 1840 it was purposely drained to provide reclaimed farm land, but in the past 100 years the "mere" has reappeared again. It is currently 1 mile in length. An archaeological excavation there uncovered an 'extended' log boat dated to c.1300 AD (D.M.Wilson, A Medieval Boat from Kentmere, Westmorland, in Medieval Archaeology (1966) 10. 81-88). Other tributaries within the valley include Ullstone Gill, Nunnery beck, Nuttera beck, Park beck, and Hall beck. A waterfall known as Force Jump is situated just north of the village, and there are two bridges at the Staveley end of the valley. The first is called Barley Bridge and includes a dramatic weir. The second straddles the Kent further up the valley and is known as Scroggs Bridge.
A little further down the valley is the village of Kentmere, which includes Kentmere Hall and the church of St Cuthbert's. The parish of Kentmere is divided into four quarters:
Near Kentmere Hall stands the "Brock Stone" or Badger Rock, a large free-standing rhyolite boulder. It is one of many challenges popular with climbers in the area. It is said that: "Kentmere valley has the greatest number of recorded [climbing] problems in the Lake District (over 125)" 1
The main rocks and minerals to be found in the valley are green slate and granite. There has been some record of opal being found too. 2 though it has never been mined. Much of the local stone has been used since pre-history as the raw material for field boundaries using a local technique known as dry stone walling. Just below the reservoir is a Geological Conservation Review site known as Jumb quarry 3 The site is significant due to its volcanic rock which displays "bird‘s-eye tuffs", which contain lapilli (fragments of lava that erupted from a volcanic centre and probably fell into standing bodies of water). The lapilli are believed to have been spherical originally, but were squashed into elliptical shapes as a result of intense pressure during the formation of the Caledonian Mountains.
The valley has evidence of habitation going back to roughly 4000 BC, when the valley and surrounding hillsides were almost entirely covered with forest. A major archaeological research project conducted in the valley by a local archaeology group between 1983 and 1999 surveyed and recorded hundreds of archaeological features, as well as excavating two sites - a (radiocarbon dated) pre-Viking and Viking period upland settlement at Bryant's Gill, south of Rainsborrow Crag,(on private land, not publicly accessible), and part of a medieval platform site and farmstead near Kentmere Hall (Dickinson, S., Bryant's Gill, Kentmere: Another 'Viking-Period' Ribblehead?, in J.R.Baldwin and I.D.Whyte (eds.) The Scandinavians in Cumbria, The Scottish Society for Northern Studies (1985), 83-88.) The results of this survey and excavation project are to be made publicly available via a new Lake District and Cumbrian archaeology website in 2009.
The valley's rich archaeological heritage also includes the remains of at least five large prehistoric compound or curvilinear sites incorporating the remains of round huts and small stockyards. One of these sites is on a public footpath at Tongue House in the northern part of the valley (see photograph).
Kentmere Hall is famous for its tower house; a fortification built for status in the 13th - early 14th centuries AD - ostensibly to guard against raiding parties from Scotland. Similar towers occur elsewhere in Cumbria and other northern English and southern Scottish counties. Kentmere Hall's tower has five-foot thick walls, tunnel-vaulted ceilings, a crenellated roof with turrets and a spiral staircase; all built out of local stone. The farmstead to the east of it shows signs of many building phases and changes, in common with many other significant Lake District valley bottom medieval and post-medieval buildings such as Dalegarth Hall in Eskdale.
The manor, having been handed down to the eldest son, the rest of the valley was divided between the younger sons of the Gilpins for generations. What remains of the original estate is now a farm in possession of a private owner. Other important parts of the manor include Green Quarter on the eastern slopes of the valley where there is a Bed and Breakfast house, called Maggs Howe, that once was home to a branch of the Gilpin family.
The present church, dedicated to St Cuthbert, was built to the east of Kentmere Hall. As is often the case with Medieval churches, there is an ancient Yew tree situated nearby which has been estimated to date back to the time of William I; indicating that worship had been taking place there at an early stage in the village's history. Written records of the chapel don't begin until 1692 making earlier history difficult to establish. A graveyard for the church was dedicated in 1701, and the Lord of the Manor paid the curate "a rate of 2s. levied for every 13s. 4d. paid to the lord of the manor". In 1757 this was supplemented with money paid out of Queen Anne's Bounty roughly £400-800. The chapel was remodelled in the 19th century and again in the 1950s. The roof remains of 16th century date.
The area has had a history of mining. This appears to have been predominantly for the green slate available in the valley.
The second is situated at Steelrigg near Staveley. Both produced green slate.
There were also at least 6 underground mines in the valley. And at the height of production in 1914 Steelrigg employed 5 men below ground and 9 above. The quarry fell out of use in 1923 and 1925 and employed only 4 men with no active mining listed between 1921 and 1926. Mining was resumed in 1927 and continued until at least 1938. 5
Jumb quarry was in continuous use throughout the same period, employing 10 men below ground and 5 above at its height in 1934. 6
The two quarries changed hands on a number of occasions, with three companies listed in the pre-war period; James Stevenson & Co., Kendal, Tilberthwaite Green Slate Co Ltd., Kendal, and Buttermere Green Slate Quarries Ltd., Station Buildings, Keswick. Throughout this time the agent for the quarries was local man J.J. Thomas.
By 1945 a company recorded as being the Kentmere Green Slate Co. Ltd. having its offices in the St. Georges Buildings, Blackhall, Kendal owned both sites.
For a valley of its size, Kentmere has produced more than its fair share of famous families. Most notably the Gilpin family who were the main land owners in the village. Secondly the family of Airy who are first officially recorded in the 14th century, although in 1692 a history of the Barony of Kendal recorded that the church of St. Cuthbert, which is known to be of Norman date or earlier, was "reported to have been built by one Airay of this dale" 7 but this may refer to the re-roofing in the mid-16th century. The Aireys still have descendants of the same name in the valley today, although many of them were driven out during the Civil War, when they removed to Lincolnshire. Their notable descendants include George Biddell Airy the Astronomer and Dr. Airey, who was born in the valley and became Provost of Queen's College, Oxford in 1560. He bequeathed 40 shillings a year to ensure a monthly sermon was held at St. Cuthberts. Postman Pat the cartoon character lived in Greendale which is claimed by his creator to be based on Kentmere and the neighbouring valley of Longsleddale.
Richard's achievement and his ancestry were immortalised by minstrels of the period in a song known as "the Minstrels of Winandermere" after Windermere which is less than 10 miles (15 km) from the valley.
Bernard Gilpin also known as the "Apostle of the North" was a youngest son of the Gilpins of Kentmere Hall during the 16th century, and grew up there. In his adulthood he stayed there on occasion, preaching at the church. Concerning Bernard Gilpin; Thomas Cox states:
Bernard's oldest brother was George Gilpin who was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I to form an alliance between the Dutch States and the English against the Spanish Armada. He was minister to the Hague during her reign. He carried with him an autographed letter written by the Queen stating:
Kentmere hall remained in the hands of the Gilpins for 12 generations. It was lost during the English Civil War when Cromwell's troops destroyed the hall leaving only the fortified tower standing. The head of the household at that time left the land in trust to a friend and fled the country. When returning the gentleman's heir was unable to lay hold of the official deeds to the estate and so possession was lost. In 1660 ownership of the Hall passed to the Philipson family.
The following lyrics were found by Reverend Charles Farish, whose mother was Elizabeth Gilpin (nee Washington). He claimed they dated to the 13th century.
(note; Charles Farish was a friend of William Wordsworth. In his book Poetical Works vol. 1 a footnote to Guilt and Sorrow; or, Incidents upon Salisbury Plain states that some of its lines were taken "From a short MS. poem read to me when an under-graduate, by my schoolfellow and friend Charles Farish, long since deceased. The verses were by a brother of his, a man of promising genius, who died young."—W. W. 1842 in a statement by the editor of the volume the footnote goes on to say that: "Charles Farish was the author of The Minstrels of Winandermere" as a result there is some debate as to authorship of the song commemorating Richard Gilpin's achievements).
Motto: Dictis Factisque Simplex (Latin; "Honest in Word and Deed").
Freestyle Photographic Supplies, Hollywood, Calif., and The Holga Manufacturing Co. of China announced the continuation of Freestyle as the exclusive U.S. distributor of Holga brand cameras and photographic equipment.(Industry notes)(Kentmere Photographic Ltd.)(Holga Manufacturing Co.)(Brief Article)
Jan 12, 2005; Freestyle Photographic Supplies, Hollywood, Calif., and The Holga Manufacturing Co. of China announced the continuation of...