Kendal was incorporated in the reign of Elizabeth, but it is no longer a borough. It gives, however, under the Act of 1885, a name to the south division of the county, which returns one member to Parliament.
The church is a fine and ancient one, restored in 1850.
It covers some acres, and is 140 feet by 103 feet - almost a square. The architecture is very mixed; the main arcades and part of the tower date from the twelfth or thirteenth century; the rest of the church was built in the fifteenth century.
The tower is seventy-two feet high, and contains a peal of ten bells.
The aisles are of extraordinary breadth, especially those of Parr and Bellingham, and they are divided by arches which spring from eight pillars. The side chapels have been incorporated with the church.
On each side of the altar are two oratories, one of which is still used as a burial-place by the Stricklands of Sizergh Hall; they have a rich marble monument; and there is a monument to Sir Roger Bellingham and his wife, date 1533; in one of the side chapels is the tomb of a Vicar of Kendal who wrote an absurd doggerel epitaph on himself.
The east and some of the other windows have stained glass in them; but it is modern.
In the north aisle is suspended the helmet belonging to Major Phillipson, commonly called Robin the Devil, the hero of a remarkable intrusion into Kendal Church, of which Sir Walter Scott has written an account to justify an incident in "Rokeby."
"Belle Isle, on Windermere, formerly belonged to the Phillipsons, a family of note in Westmoreland. During the civil wars an elder and a younger brother served the king. The former, who was proprietor of it, commanded a regiment; the latter was a major.
"The major, whose name was Robert, was a man of great spirit and enterprise; and for his many feats of personal bravery had obtained among the Oliverians of those parts the appellation of Robert the Devil.
"After the war had subsided, and the direful effects of public opposition had ceased, revenge and malice long kept alive the animosity of individuals. Colonel Briggs, a steady friend to usurpation, resided at this time at Kendal, and under the double character of a leading magistrate (for he was a justice of the peace) and an active commander, held the country in awe. This person, having heard that Major Phillipson was at his brother's house on the island in Windermere, resolved, if possible, to seize and punish a man who had made himself so particularly obnoxious. How it was conducted my authority does not inform us - whether he got together the navigation of the lake and blockaded the place by sea, or whether he landed and carried on his approaches in form. Neither do we learn the strength of the garrison within, nor of the works without. All we learn is, that Major Phillipson endured a siege of eight months with gallantry, till his brother, the colonel, raised a party and relieved him.
"It was now the major's turn to make reprisals. He put himself therefore at the head of a little troop, and rode to Kendal. Here being informed that Colonel Briggs was at prayers (for it was Sunday morning), he stationed his men properly in the avenues, and himself, armed, rode directly into the church." This scene is described in these lines of Rokeby:-
We do not know whether Robin the Devil meant to act in the same manner as Scott's Bertram, and shoot the Roundhead colonel; to carry him off seemed impossible, surrounded as he was with friends - but fortunately for both parties he was not in church.
"The congregation," continues Scott, as might be expected, was thrown into great confusion on seeing an armed man on horseback make his appearance among them; and the major, taking advantage of their astonishment, turned his horse round and rode quietly out. But having given an alarm he was presently assaulted as he left the assembly, and being seized, his girths were cut and he was unhorsed.
"At this instant his party made a furious attack on the assailants, and the major killed with his own hand the man who had seized him, clapped the saddle ungirthed as it was upon his horse, and vaulting into it, rode full speed through the streets of Kendal, calling his men to follow him; and with his whole party made a safe retreat to his asylum in the lake.
"The action marked the man. Many knew him, and they who did not, knew as well from the exploit that it could be nobody but Robin the Devil."
On the east bank of the river Kent are the ruins of the old castle of the barons of Kendal. It was anciently a strong fortress with lofty towers, two round and two square, erected soon after the Conquest. It has gone utterly to decay. In the front of the building remains of turrets and bastions are seen, and four dilapidated towers. The round tower is the most perfect. Under one of the towers is a dungeon. A moat encircles the whole.
Ivo de Taillebois came over with William the Norman, and won the hand and lands of the heiress of Turold, English lord of Spalding. As her dower, he obtained, with some land in Lancashire, that portion of Westmoreland called the Barony of Kendal. The property passed from his family to that of De Brus, of Skelton, by marriage of an heiress. Again it passed to the De Ros, Barons of Werke, and then to the Parrs, who held it for the greater part of two centuries and gave England a Queen Consort; for Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII., was born at Kendal Castle.
The first duke of Kendal was Prince Charles, an infant son of James, Duke of York, afterwards James II. Prince George of Denmark, Queen Anne's husband, was created Earl of Kendal, and George II. created his favourite, Madame Von Schulemberg, Duchess of Kendal. The title is now dormant.
Katherine Parr was four times married; first to Edward, Lord Burgh, secondly to John Neville, Lord Latimer, thirdly to Henry VIII., and fourthly to Lord Thomas Seymour. She was a beautiful and highly accomplished woman. She had adopted the principles of the Reformed Church, but succeeded by her prudence in avoiding the fate of those who opposed Henry VIII.'s Articles of Faith. Yet she narrowly escaped the stake. Her enemies accused her of heretical opinions to the king, and she confirmed their statements one day by arguing with Henry on the subject of religion. He consented to sign a warrant for her committal to the Tower, which was delivered to Wriothesley, the Lord Chancellor. Fortunately for Katherine he dropped it; it was taken up and carried to the queen, who read it, and then went at once to the king, who was ill in his room with a sore leg. Henry turned the conversation on religion, and questioned her on her belief. She answered "that she was but a woman, and would be guided by his Majesty, who was learned and judicious." "Not so, by St. Mary," said the king, "for you are a doctor, Kate, to instruct us, and not to be instructed by us, as often we have seen heretofore."
"Indeed, sir," she replied, "you have been mistaken; if, heretofore, I have held talk with you touching religion, it hath been to learn from your Majesty some point whereof I stood in doubt, and sometimes that with my talk I might make you forget your present infirmity." "And is it even so, sweetheart?" quoth the king; "then we are friends," and so, kissing her, gave her leave to depart. The king was in the garden with the queen on the very day when Katherine was to have been apprehended; and with the purpose of taking her to the Tower the Lord Chancellor appeared with his officers, but as soon as the king saw him he called him a knave and a fool, and bade him "avaunt from his presence." The queen interceded for the chancellor, and the king answered, "Ah, poor soul, thou little knowest what he came about; of my word, sweetheart, he has been to thee a very knave."
Thus Katherine escaped, and her future safety was ensured by the death of Henry, shortly afterwards. Her fourth marriage was not a happy one, and she survived her royal husband but a short time.
On the opposite side of the Kent is Castlebrow, or Castle Law Hill, an ancient earthwork. It consists of a circular mound with a ditch and rampart round its base, and a shallow ditch and breastwork surrounding its flat summit, on which is an obelisk cornmemorating the Revolution of 1688.
Kendal was made a market town by licence from Richard Coeur de Lion; and when, thanks to Edward III.'s queen, the wise Philippa, the Flemings settled here, it became the seat of a manufacture of woollen cloths which took from the town the name of Kendal. It was a sort of forestry green cloth. Our readers will remember Falstaff's "Three Misbegotten Knaves in Kendal Green." It was the dress of Robin Hood's merry men.
Thus we see when the fat knight wished to invent some bold robbers, he implies outlaws by "knaves in Kendal Green."
Sizergh Hall, three miles south of Kendal, is an old, once fortified
mansion; it has a centre body to the house, and two wings. The great tower
on the south east is sixty feet high, and remains entire. In the corners
of this tower are recesses for watchmen, with oblique openings in the wall,
so that no missile could enter these small rooms. The lower wing is very
ancient, but contains a modern breakfast-room and dining room, wainscoted
with ancient panels of oak. In the three upper stories of the great tower
are the chapel and the drawing-room; opposite, on the same floor, is the
state bedroom, which is hung with Gobelin tapestry, and is called the queen's
room, because Katherine Parr occupied it when the widow of Lord Burgh. A
counterpane and toilet-cover here are said to be her work.