When: Open Monday – Saturday
Where: Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, Kendal, Cumbria
£: Adults 5 (giftaid your entry price and get free return visits for the year).
What is it?
Set in a pretty spot alongside the river in Kendal’s Abbot Hall is the compact yet perfectly formed Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry. Contrary Life decided to delve into the Lake District’s industrial past with a visit to the museum.
The museum is set over two floors and begins with a mock-up of a Victorian Street which sets the scene for our journey into the past life of the Lakes. There is a great little Chemists shop which you can step into and see the many remedies on offer to the Victorians. Do you know what ‘tenterhooks’ are? Find out by walking down this little street.
Once you get past the street scene you enter a much more Cumbrian centred history, beginning with the importance of farming and wool. The landscape of dry-stone walled fields and sheep is a familiar sight today but this section of the museum gives you an idea of how lives, customs and culture have been shaped by this connection to the landscape.
Now popular for its tranquil beauty, the Lakes were once busy with mining and manufacturing due to the abundance of natural resources. The museum paints a picture of this hive of activity within a small space, cramming in a reconstructed mine, displays of tools, pictures and historical machines. Discover the importance of the landscape from mining and quarrying for lead, graphite, haematite and more; to the use of wood in making bobbins for mills and charcoal for various uses including gunpowder. Kendal’s connection to the shoe-making industry is celebrated with displays of shoes, materials and tools, as well as an explanation to why this area was the perfect setting for this trade.
There is also a room dedicated to the arts and crafts movement with some examples of furniture including an art deco chair and a kist (something we’d never heard of until we visited the museum).
Despite never reading Swallows and Amazons, the small section of the museum dedicated to Arthur Ransome was quite interesting and the letter written to a young Swallows fan was a rather lovely addition. At the time we visited there was an exhibition, Boating on Windermere (on until 7th July 2013), which showed the early tourist industry along with the mythical creature Tizzie Whizie.
Amongst Contrary Life’s favourite parts of the museum are the Victorian bedroom, the Farmhouse Kitchen and the Parlour which gives a great feel to how life was in the north of England. The day we visited was rather windy and tucked inside the 19th century Parlour felt suitably cosy.
The gift shop stocks some locally made products including bags, coasters, cards and food as well as the usual trinkets, which makes a refreshing change. For the £5 entry fee, it is probably one of the best value attractions in the area and is certainly both interesting and informative. If you giftaid your entry cost you will be rewarded with a card entitling you to free entry to the museum for the rest of the year.
More info: www.lakelandmuseum.org.uk