Kendal or originally Kirby Kendale was established as a centre for the woollen trade in the early fourteenth century after which the coarse cloth “Kendal green” became well known. In Shakespeare’s Henry IV , Part I, Falstaff describes attackers as “Three misbegotten knaves in Kendal green.” By the eighteenth century, the town was the largest in Westmorland, acting as a hub for road connections north to Carlisle, south to Lancaster and across the Pennines to West Yorkshire and west to the Furness Peninsula. Locally, by the 1770s there were turnpike roads linking the town to Kirkby Stephen, Sedbergh, Brough and Appleby. A reference to Kendal theatre at this time appears in Thomas Holcroft‘s memoirs when describing Stanton’s company: “They have a circuit or set of towns, to which they resort when the time comes round; so that there are but three or four in our company who are not well known in Kendal.” Much of the action of Holcroft’s first published novel Alwyn, the Gentleman Comedian takes place in Kendal. Samuel Butler‘s theatre company later regularly performed to full houses in the town until the end of the Napoleonic War after which the company’s star waned.
Image by F Hodgson, Kendal, date unknown