Thursday, 27 July 2017

new red sandstone #2

Last summer, I posted an account of some of the sandstone buildings in Penrith under the title New Red Sandstone. By no stretch of the imagination could this be considered a comprehensive account, as the following series of photographs illustrates. However, please refer to the earlier account for technical details of the geology.

The first photo is of the Station Hotel, the nearest public house to Penrith’s railway station. Sixty years ago, the left-hand section of this building—the section with double rather than triple windows—was a temperance hotel, but it has since been converted into residential accommodation. At the height of the Victorian temperance movement, there were no fewer than four such hotels on this street, which connects the station with the town centre.

Just across the road from the Station Hotel is the Agricultural Hotel (‘the Aggie’). The left-hand section of this building once housed the auction ring for a thriving livestock market (behind and to the left of the hotel, there used to be a large area of pens where animals could be held prior to being sold). However, increasing traffic after the section of the M6 that bypassed Penrith was opened in 1969 meant that this site was no longer a practical location for a livestock market, which subsequently moved to an out-of-town site.

Just to the left of the previous photo, there used to be a group of five warehouses. They had no particular architectural qualities, but given that they were demolished around the time that the livestock market closed to make way for a supermarket, and that I’ve just discovered the next image among my collection of old photographs, I thought that I’d include it here:

You will have noticed the name of James and John Graham on the side of the nearest warehouse, where they are identified as ‘agricultural merchants’, but these men also founded a grocery store in the town centre in 1793, and this is shown in the next photo (the date 1880 in this photograph probably refers to when the building depicted here was built).

Staying with the warehouse theme, the next photo shows what is now universally known as the ‘clint mill’, but when I was growing up, I thought of it as Pattinson and Winter’s warehouse. According to my research, it was originally built for this grocery firm, which once had a shop in Cornmarket but no longer has a presence in the town. The building has now been converted into offices.

A short walk from Graham’s shop brings you to the Penrith Building Society building in King Street:

…while an even shorter walk in the opposite direction brings you to the George Hotel:

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, otherwise known as the Young Pretender in a reference to his claim to the British throne, or as Bonnie Prince Charlie, is reputed to have stayed here overnight on his way south in 1745 in his ultimately futile attempt to claim the throne. His forces were engaged a few miles south of Penrith in the Battle of Clifton Moor, the last battle to be fought on English soil, although historians have subsequently downgraded this encounter to a mere skirmish.

The nearby parish church of St Andrew is flanked by churchyards. On one side are the church’s parish rooms, built in 1894:

…while on the other side, you will find the original Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, which was founded in 1564. Although the grammar school moved to a new location in 1917, this building was still in use as part of the school until 1958:

The final photograph shows Hutton Hall at the top end of Friargate. It was built in the eighteenth century, although I’ve been unable to come up with a more precise date. It was formerly the local lodge of the freemasons, but I don’t know anything about its current use. Note the partial balustrades just above the eaves. The inner ends of both balustrades appear to be new, leading me to suspect that there was once a continuous balustrade across the entire building, although this is a conjecture that I’ve so far been unable to confirm.


  1. Red sandstone certainly has a character of its own.

    1. You’re right! This stone is an essential part of the town’s character.

  2. Interesting collection Dennis. Just like to add that my great grandfather, who was a stonemason was involved in building the station hotel and the (I think) the parish rooms.

    1. Now there’s an interesting coincidence Dave! My great great grandfather, Alf Grisenthwaite, was a master builder who was responsible, inter alia, for the former Congregational church in Duke Street, Fernleigh at the bottom of Lowther Street and the houses on the left-hand side of York Street as you approach the wooden bridge. Grisenthwaite Yard on Meeting House Lane was named after him.


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