Keswick Main Street and Town Hall

the town hall having been erected in 1813 on the site of the old court house

fellsphoto home  > Lake District postcards >  Keswick Town Hall

(Note that the copyright status of many of these photographs is unknown other than that of the Abrahams' photographs for which copyright is jealously guarded by the Abrahams' estate.)



Keswick Town Hall c.1870 (oldest known photograph)

Main Street and the Town Hall before 1878

Local author Jeff Turner has this picture as cover illustration for his book 'Keswick : More Then Than Now' and describes it as 'the earliest known photograph of Keswick'

the building at far right is Sealby's Hare and Hounds Inn which was replaced by the Skiddaw Hotel in 1878

the next white building at right is the Kings Arms Hotel

the building at far left will later be replaced by the Queen's Hotel (date uncertain but, as the next card shows, before 1896)

beyond the town hall the shop sign '.... EALBY' refers to Isaac Sealby, ironmonger, son of Mary Sealby who ran the Hare and Hounds




detail showing that the steps and door have yet to be added


The Hall was owned by Lord Egremont and sold to the town council in 1896 who, wanting the building for other purposes, required Flintoff to move out.

Hence any photograph showing the Flintoff's sign dates the picture as being prior to 1896.



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Flintoff's Model of the Lake District in the Keswick Museum       framed poster for Flintoff's Model of the Lake District


Flintoff's Celebrated Model of the English Lake District was first exhibited in 1834, having taken 17 years to complete.

"W. Wordsworth, Esq., of Rydal Mount, has examined the Model and greatly approves of it." July 28th, 1840

After Flintoff's son James' death in 1878 it was auctioned and bought by the museum for £160.

(£12,700 compared to RPI but around £109,500 compared with 2013 average earnings)

This gallery in the Keswick Museum was especially designed to house the model.


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Keswick Main Street & Town Hall c.1900

Main Street and the Town Hall taken between 1878 and 1896

post-1878 because the Skiddaw Hotel with its 1st floor window box bays is now present

pre-1896 because the Flintoff's sign is on the Town Hall, which has yet to get its front steps and door


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Keswick Main Street & Town Hall pre-1896 (colour)

The same period (1878-96) as the previous photograph.


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Keswick Main Street & Town Hall, c.1903

It's now post-1896. The steps and door have been added and the new street light its central location with its tall lamp standard is now in place.


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Keswick Main Street & Town Hall - tall lamp and two women in black (posted 1903)

a rare card printed by Stengel & Co of London  - posted August 17th 1903 - taken after 1896 as the steps and door have been added

remarkable for showing a large number of women in front of all the shops


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Abraham's No.305  : Keswick Main Street & Town Hall, 1904


Abraham's Series No.305  -  (this copy dated 1907 but also seen on ebay with a 1904 postmark)

The familiar front steps and door are now present. Presumably added by the town council after it took possession in 1896. (confirmation needed)

At right we can see the Skiddaw Hotel (with the box bay windows) has replaced the Hare and Hounds seen in the first, earliest, photograph.

Selby's name has gone from the ironmonger's shop beyond the town hall.


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left: the Town Hall - postally dated 1907 - note how the photographer has used the rise & fall front of his camera to correct for convergence of verticals

right: the market place behind the town hall - undated, but probably taken around the same time



the Market Square today (taken from the Friars of Keswick webcam )


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my favourite picture of this scene

the women's dress at left suggests early 1900's, possibly earlier) 


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Keswick Moot Hall - the back with coaches loading


Abraham's Series No.417  ~  before 1907

coaches taking on passengers in the market square at the back of the Moot Hall

Postmarked 1907 so the  photograph would be taken previously. The women's dresses suggest 1904 or earlier.

the tall lamp posts are seen both here and in front of the building  - but, at far left edge of the picture, we see the addition of another

(other, later, pictures reveal that there are two, the other here hidden by the building)

below, now post-1920, we see the change of street lights - the tall centre one is gone, and the two we see appear to be the old lamp heads on new posts


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Keswick Market Square c.1905

Taken the same period as the previous picture. Probably c. 1905. Note the Union and American flags flying above the Queen's Hotel leaving no doubt as to which tourist trade they catered for.

The sign on the town hall says this is the Market Square rather than the Market Place.

Sign at right reads:  (unreadable) Co. High Class Ices & Confections, 45 Castlegate, Penrith

sign above Walker's Central Hotel reads 'Riggs Royal Mail Coach Stop'. On the wall, either side of the main door, are timetables for Riggs Coaches to Windermere


While restoring the photograph my eye was caught by the curious sight of a woman in the background apparently suspended at first floor level.

Keswick Market Square c. 1905 - detail of horse-drawn bus

Enlargement shows us that she's sitting on the top deck of a horse drawn bus with steps either side to its upper deck and owned by the 'Derwent (Park?) Hotel'.


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Keswick Main Street -  animated scene with crowd and boy running (Mayson's)

'Animated scene' early 1900's


Keswick Main Street (tinted : coaches : boys)

as with the previous photograph: undated, but clearly early 1900's


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Post-Great War and the age of the motor car


Valentines c.1920/25


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Keswick Main Street looking west


a rare view looking West, away from the Town Hall. Note (far left) the high porch to the Post Office building, now gone.

the distinctive semi-open topped car can be seen in the previous picture - a taxi, perhaps - possibly belonging to the Queen's Hotel?


Keswick Main Street looking west passed the Post Office, Abrahams shop at left

a rare view looking west past the Post Office (r) - Abraham's shop can be seen at left

the coach dates it as probably taken prior to 1912


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woman in white coat cropped from previous picture                  woman in white coat cropped from previous picture

Don't you just want to know what's going on here that's got all their attention?


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The Market Square and Town Hall c.1925

The above being Abraham's 872 and the next 873 it's reasonable to assume that they were both taken in the same session on the day.

Note that, in these post-war photographs, 'Walker's Central Hotel' has become 'Boustead's Central Hotel' and, with the demise of horse-drawn coaches, the Riggs Coaches signage is gone. 





Abraham's No.873   ~   c.1925

The young man standing with his bike, in uniform with badge and shoulder pouch, is most likely a post office telegram delivery rider.

Cards seen on ebay postmarked 1930, '33 & '36. Hence the photograph must pre-date 1930.

However, the cloche hat and all the cars being mid-20's designs suggest the earlier date.

(This is the final picture in the book: "Capturing the Mountains: The Lake District Through the Lens of the Abraham Brothers")


At right: Jan 2014: just acquired this never-seen-before colour version of the same scene. Not a tinted version of 873, as I first thought, but a second negative. Unfortunately the postcard is not a real photographic so the picture quality is poor. A treasure, all the same.

In the time it takes to change the photographic plates (the Abrahams' used a 10"x8" plate camera) much has changed. Now there are four telegram boys at the lamp post; children on the pavement and two boys walking towards us; a basket on the van's mudguard and all the moving cars and the motorbike have now gone. However, the couple are still there, have seen the photographer and are looking up, watching him at work.




in the background a Bentley enters the square


Keswick Main Street c.1925 : couple standing with pushchair 


As is so often the case, women's clothing provides dating evidence. The cloche hat in particular.

(The chronology is disconcerting. The realisation that, chronologically speaking, these two could be my grandparents.)



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Definition in this real photograph postcard is exceptional. The cars and cloche hats suggest late 1920's'.

Here are some detail enlargements:


an ubiquitous Austin 7
disconcerting too that this man looks remarkably like my grandfather




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Keswick Main Street 1935

c. 1925-30

The line up of cars in the centre is identical as in the previous picture, so they must both have been taken shortly after one another in the same session.

We can see that, although Sealby's name has been gone since the beginning of the century, the shop is still an ironmonger's.


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As with the previous pictures : c. 1925-30 and what appears to be the same cars in the centre.

Note, at left, beneath the RAC sign on the wall, the RAC patrolman's motorbike and sidecar.


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A policeman guiding traffic at Royal Oak Corner.  Posted 1944, but the cars are late '20's/early '30's and the women's dress & hats are also late '20's

(note that the porch to the post office is no longer present)



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Keswick Main Street with market c.1935

The market c.1925/30.


                        market in Keswick Main Street - from Friars of Keswick webcam 28th Mar 2013

the market today (taken from  the Friars of Keswick webcam Thu 28th Mar 2013)


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Below: from now on (mid '30's?) we see that the lamp standard has changed again - this time possibly denoting the change from gas to electricity.


although most cars are 1920's models, the parked car upper right is mid 1930's

note the disconsolate motorist in foreground with his car's bonnet open!



The same lamp standards as the previous picture so presumed to be the same period.


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Judging by the cars this is probably late 1940's/early '50's. If the round booted car, 3rd-in, is an Austin A30, that was launched in 1951, so would confirm an early '50's date.

Note that the Borrowdale direction sign tells us more than in the previous picture and the nearer street lamp head has changed.

However, the blue 'P' for Parking sign confuses dating this picture. I've been unable to confirm its introduction, although I'd previously thought these were introduced with the 1964 Road Traffic Act.

Curiously, the 'P' sign is not seen in the late '50's/early 60's photo seen below.  Further research required.


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Keswick Main Street c.1958 : MGTF & bus


c.1960  ~  the woman & child's dress (right) is classic

discovering when the 'modern' lamp standard was erected would aid accurate dating

cars l.h.s. : a Jowett Javelin, MG TF and Ford Consul. A Vauxhall Wyvern coming towards us. The single decker bus from the '50's is iconic.

When I first saw this postcard I though it must be a painting. Only when I acquired one for myself did I realise it really is a photograph.

Everything and everybody appeared in too perfect a composition to be accidental, in particular the woman in the road and, most of all, the little girl skipping.


Keswick Main Street between 1963 (the BMC100) & 1968 (Timothy Whites)

Main Street between 1963 and 1968. Skirt lengths confirm!

The red car, a BMC 1100, dates this to being after 1963. Timothy Whites tells us before 1968. The District Bank had merged with the Nat West in '68 but kept its identity until 1971.


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2009 (from Google Earth Street View) - view east from the old Post Office up Main Street to the Town Hall

Main Street today, distance exaggerated by the camera's wide angle lens, taken from the same corner as seen in the Abraham's 873 photo with telegram boys

(note, at left, the old Post Office building with its high porch removed)

detail from 1920's view showing old post office porch and (circled) the lamppost against which the telegram boys are leaning in the Abraham's picture

detail from the 1920's view showing old post office porch and the lamp post (circled) against which the telegram boys are leaning in the Abraham's 872 picture



Main Street with saxophonist plalying under the tree Sept 2015

Main Street  September 2015 - now pedestrianised and with a tree where once a lamp post stood


(Note that the copyright status of many of these photographs is unknown other than that of the Abrahams' photographs for which copyright is jealously guarded by the Abrahams' estate.)


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this page launched 20th June 2011 : last modified 27th September 2015