Historian Arthur R. Nicholls describes the origin of some ‘animals’ to be found in Kendal
THE centre of Kendal would once have echoed daily to the sounds of animals, wild and domestic.
Every year the circus parade from the railway station excited children with its lumbering elephants and cages of fierce lions.
Sheep would be seen meandering through the street to the auction mart. Carts would be drawn by horses of every kind.
All that has gone and a horse is seldom, if ever, seen. Even Santas’s sleigh must not be drawn by reindeer these days!
But not all is lost. We just have to look upwards.
Leading off Stricklandgate is Elephant Yard, at the entrance to which is the tall sign surmounted by a metal elephant.
If you look along Library Road (with the wind in the right direction) you can see on a housetop a weather-vane depicting a mother elephant and her child.
The yard is named after the Elephant Inn, which replaced Thomas Sandes’ 1651 town house there in the 1830s. His Sandes Hospital building is still to be seen in Highgate.
The busy yard was typical of Kendal Yards, full of cottages, workshops and business premises. It was long and dark with intriguing corners and crannies, middens and outside toilets. It was a close-knit community of inter-related families.
On Highgate is the HSBC Bank, originally The Bank of Westmorland, designed by George Webster and opened in 1833. On the entablature above the Doric pillars at the front of the building is the life-sized lion, mounted there in 1840. He lies there couchant, telling the customers that their money is safe under his care.
No, he is not bronze but is made of Coade stone, an artificial material in London to a secret formula. It is far more hard-wearing than bronze, preserves fine moulding, and was used all over the country.
You can see a huge Coade stone lion close up at the end of Westminster Bridge in London. It came from the archway above the Lion Brewery and was taken down when the Festival of Britain was set up on the South Bank in 1951.
Back in Stricklandgate, up on the wall of the Black Hall building, stands the famous bristling hog. The bristles standing up along his back give the clue to his purpose. He was a trade sign for the brush maker who occupied the building.
Being made of wood, the original deteriorated due to weather and a replacement was made. The original is in the Abbot Hall Museum. Black Hall was the Wilson Family’s Elizabethan Town house. It was modernised about 1810 but still sports the massive Westmorland round, stone chimneys designed for burning peat.
Henry Wilson was named in the Elizabethan Charter of 1575 as the town’s first Alderman. He goes down into history as a man who succumbed to temptation and was stripped of his privileges. Does the hog contemplate this as he stands guard over the house?