NOSTALGIA: Sounds and smells told Kendal's story

First published in News

Malcolm Wheatman, of Kendal, recalls the town’s sounds and smells in the 1940s


There were no portable tape recorders in the late 1940s, so it was impossible to record the characteristic Kendal street sounds for posterity.

The LMS Railway horse-drawn delivery wagons were familiar, clip-clopping between Kendal station and many town businesses.

Cycling past the K Shoe factory, commonly referred to as ‘Netherfield’, I well remember the shoemakers’ machinery noises – in particular the sharp, intermittent stamping from the upper floor.

The sounds carried a long way. The quarries on Kendal Fell periodically had to blast limestone from deep deposits and their explosions carried across the valley.

Another, less frequent noise was the Kendal time gun.

The clatter of the wire mill in Stramongate and the intermittent chuffing of its large gas engine, providing the power, carried into our adjacent schoolrooms.

The smells in Kendal were more numerous and varied, from the two breweries, Whitwell Mark’s in Highgate and Alexander’s in Sandes Avenue.

At school I once heard someone singing a parody of the brewers’ names to the tune of The British Grenadiers march: “Some talk of Alexander and some of Whitwell Mark”.

The tanneries also had their unique and faintly unpleasant smell. The ambience around the snuff factories of Gawith, Hogarth’s (beneath the colourful Saracen figure), Samuel Gawith’s (both still there), and Illingworths, was aromatic but not as far reaching as the roasting coffee smoke from Farrer’s shop’s ever-open upper window.

Peppermint can still be smelt near the main mint cake makers’ premises which also remain.

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