Our hands were up, and we hope yours were too!
What you might not know about Ambleside, is its fascinating heritage. That’s why we thought we’d give you a little run through of what makes our town so unique and special. We discovered parts of this history of Ambleside thanks to the fantastic website that is Ambleside Online.
Ambleside’s history goes back at least to the Romans, and the name ‘Ambleside’ is derived from the Old Norse “Á-mel-s?tr” which literally translates as “river – sandbank – summer pasture”.
A popular misconception is that Ambleside has a solely rural past. It was in fact highly industrialised, involved heavily in the production of charcoal, used in smelting the iron ore of Furness and west Cumbria, then timber for the production of bobbins for the textile industry. It adopted water power at an early stage and later developed machine tool manufacture. Quarrying and mining were local industries, and quarrying continues to be, despite attempts to stop it.
In 1650, Ambleside was granted a charter to hold a market. In the reign of James II, another charter was granted for the town to collect tolls. The Market Place became the commercial centre for agriculture and the wool trade. The old packhorse trail between Ambleside and Grasmere was the main route between the two towns before the new turnpike road was completed in 1770. Smithy Brow at the end of the trail was where pack ponies were re-shod after their journey. With the coming of the turnpikes, the packhorse trains were superseded by horse-drawn stagecoaches, which regularly travelled between Keswick and Kendal via Ambleside.
William Wordsworth worked in Ambleside, as Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, from 1813, while living at Rydal Mount in the nearby village of Rydal. This government position induced Shelley to write a sonnet of mild reprimand, To Wordsworth, but it gave Wordsworth the financial security to pursue his poetry. In 1842, he became the Poet Laureate and resigned his office as Stamp Distributor.
The Ambleside Oral History Group has been recording interviews with local people since 1978, with memories of life as far back as 1885. The digital archive of interview transcripts is available and searchable online and a series of articles based on these, entitled ‘The Way We Were’ is also available.
If you fancy exploring Ambleside for yourself, we have accommodation to suit everyone – take a look.