Potted Guide To Hawkshead

Visit the beautiful village of Hawkshead, between Windermere and Coniston.

The village began in earnest when Norse settlers began to arrive in the area from Ireland. One in particular leant his name to settlement an individual called Haukr who started farming in the area making use of waterside pastures known as Saetr. The first known recording of the village occurs in the 13th century referring to it as Houksete – which is closer to its modern name.

It is clear there is a heavy Norse influence round and about, for example the Beatrix Potter’s beloved village of Sawrey, has the dubious honour of gaining its name from the Norse for ‘the muddy place’, nearby Grizedale from the Norse for ‘the valley of the pigs’, whilst Esthwaite Water, of Jeremy Fisher fame, means ‘the lake by the eastern clearing’.

As the years progressed much of the land in the Hawkshead area came under the stewardship of the church and in particular nearby Furness Abbey, who administered the land, planting crops and farming sheep for wool, which led to a period of increased prosperity and growth for the village.

Later with the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century local farmers were able to trade with whomever they liked, which in its turn saw another period of increased wealth and expansion. In 1608 the town was awarded a market charter by James I. By this time Hawkshead had become the centre for wool trade for North Lancashire, seeing nearly 20 packhorses making the weekly journey to Kendal.

This increased wealth can be seen in the establishment of a Quaker Meeting House in the nearby hamlet of Colthouse in 1688 and the establishment of the World’s oldest Methodist Chapel in Berkley Square, Hawkshead in 1862.

In addition to farming, many other trades flourished, with weavers, leather workers and tanners, builders, carpenters and cobblers, all making a living in and around the village centre – whose street and alley names reflect many of these trades such as Rag, Putty and Leather Street.

The village has associations with several famous people including William Wordsworth who was educated in the Grammer School. More recently noted children’s author Beatrix Potter settled in nearby Sawrey before marrying ed a local solicitor, William Heelis, and the National Trust Beatrix Potter Gallery is now housed in his largely unchanged offices in the centre of Hawkshead. Many of her original illustrations are on view in the gallery.

Some of Beatrix Potter’s most famous books were based in and around Hawkshead and at her home of Hill Top in Near Sawrey. Beatrix Potter is one of the best-loved children’s authors and her stories are timeless, appealing to all ages and nationalities. A visit to Hawkshead of would not be complete without a visit to Beatrix Potter’s home or the gallery.

Nearly every building in Hawkshead has a story to tell or a piece of history to reveal…

The Hawkshead Lakeland Trails 10k and 17k fell races take place in April, with runners battling it out along routes that take the panoramas of the surrounding Coniston and Langdale Fells as well as infamous killer climbs like the ‘Coffin Trail’.

The annual Hawkshead Show is held every August, at Hawkshead Hall Farm, situated half a mile north of the quaint village. There is plenty to keep people entertained, including carriage driving, jumping, and judging of horse classes from the miniatures to the heavy horses. There are also numerous sheep and cattle judging classes as well as a variety of working dog classes as well as hound trailing courses. The farming theme continues with numerous horticultural judging classes, including home produce, cut flowers, fruit and vegetables.