The Castle Dairy, Kendal
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The Castle Dairy

The Castle Dairy is a particularly interesting building in Wildman Street, Kendal. It is probably the oldest building in the town after the Castle and the Parish Church. It is certainly the oldest continuously inhabited building in the town. Back in the 16th Century it was owned by one Anthony Garnett who came in to possession of the house in 1553 after the Marquess of Northampton (the previous owner), was found guilty of treason and "had his civil rights removed". Garnett was responsible for a number of alterations and extensions to the house but it has remained pretty well unchanged since his time.

The building is known as The Castle Dairy, or sometimes The Dairy House and apparently in some quarters The Garnett House. (This web page exists as a result of an enquiry from one of Anthony Garnetts descendants who lives in Ontario, Canada)

There seems to be a great deal of doubt as to whether the building had anything to do with a dairy for the Castle and it may be that the name is a corruption of Dowery House or Castle Dowery. This appears on the following plaque placed on the building by Kendal Civic Society.

In response to the enquiry from Doug Garnett in Ontario I went to take the photographs which you see on this page and also to see what I could find out about the house. There is a short reference to it in Roger Bingham's book "Kendal- A Social History", published in 1995 by Cicerone Press of Milnthorpe, Cumbria, which incidentally is a great place to start reading about the history of the town. A visit to Kendal Library turned up information from two much older publications which you can read below.


From the book "Kirbie Kendal" by J.F.Curwen.

This book is basically a survey of the buildings in the town and was published in 1900 by Titus Wilson of 28 Highgate Kendal.

In his introduction John F. Curwen gives his address as Horncop Hall which by a small coincidence is just behind our house! Anyway, on to what he says about The Castle Dairy.

Perhaps the oldest house now existing in the town, and rich in antiquity, stands upon the north-west of Wildman Street- a tottering remnant, which but imperfectly sets forth a correct idea of its original shape. From the appellation given to it now, it would seem that it may have been used by the Barons as a dairy in connection with the farm; but it is well known that prior to the end of the 14th Century, such offices as these were always situated within the outer wall of the keep. Tradition also affirms that the laundry was situated here, and, further, that it became the residence of the steward or overseer.

On a stone outside the central window, and within a sunk panel, are the initials, "A.G.", with a cord of sundry knots entwined and the date 1564, for Anthony Garnett, the proprietor. On the splay of the western kitchen window-head can still be seen the incised motto:-

Qui Vadit Plane Vadit Sane and "A.G." in cypher.

This same idea is rendered into English on coeval glass in Worlingworth Church, Suffolk:-

"he yt walke plainly- walketh sanely".

At the south-east corner and on the upper floor is a bedroom that is said to have once been a chapel. One can hardly realise this, for if it were intended for the estate husbandman and servants, as well as for pilgrims passing on their perilous journey over the fells from Shap Abbey, it is scarcely likely that it would be placed in such an inaccessible corner. For undoubtedly the ancient doorways to the building are those which can still be seen, by going round to the back, at the north-west corner of the building, which are as far away removed from this room as a diagonal line must be. By the way, these ancient doorways, unseen by the public passing along the comparatively modern turnpike road, are worthy of a close inspection. But to return to the bedroom, whether it was the chapel or not, it is undoubtedly the most interesting room left untouched in the building. The ceiling is vaulted and spanned by three cross oaken ribs, at the crown of which there were three carved bosses. Of these only two now remain. The one nearest the window has a shield with four quarterings viz:

On the next boss there is another shield also of four quarterings, viz.:-

The foot of the rib nearest the window rests upon a richly-carved corbel on the western side only, which is made up of two gryphon's heads. The principal piece of furniture is a large oaken bedstead, upon the head board of which there are two rows of carved panels in bold relief. On the upper row we find first, a mask with horns, second, a shield bearing the initials A.G. conjoined with a fanciful knotted cord, with the inscription "omnia vanitas" cut upon a scroll; and third, a mask in cinque-cento style. On the lower row there are three lion's masks in as many panels.

Beside the bed there is a beautiful ambrey, on the cornice of which is inscribed the words-


and at the base there is the date, ANNO DNI 1562, with the initials A.G. on either side.

In the window there are four diamond panes of stained glass, viz:-

The kitchen is interesting by reason of the fine "clavey" or oak mantelshelf that extends the whole width of the house, and the two diamond panes of stained glass in the stone mullioned window, viz;

There is also a small oak cupboard decorated with a linen pattern panel. Within an old chest was discovered many years since a missal, and within a smaller box were a dozen beech roundels, some 5.25 inches in diameter, gilded and painted, six of one pattern and six of another. In the centre of each was a representation of an animal with a quatrain beneath. These roundels are supposed to be of the time of Henry VIII, the letters being half-printing, half-running hand, with red Lombardic initials at the beginning of each line. The verses are given at length in Nicholsons "Annals of Kendal" and the roundles themselves are preserved in the museum.

We fear that we must ascribe the rumoured subterranean passage to the Castle to no higher authority than that wild fancy which thus gilds to its own delight, antique and curious buildings in all parts of our country- that native spirit of poetry,

"One with our feelings and our powers

And rather part of us, than ours,"

without a sprinkling of which this world in all its teeming beauty might be too much of a dull reality.


In 1936 The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, England published "An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland", which has this to say about the Castle Dairy-

-house and tenement on the N.W. side of Wildman Street, 1,000 yards N.N.E. of the church, is of two storeys; the walls are of rubble and the roofs are slate covered. The main structure, with its one-storey hall and cross-wings, appears to be substantially of the 14th Century. Alterations were made in the hall early in the 16th Century and the house was reconditioned and the hall fireplace inserted by Anthony Garnett c. 1560.

There is a small 17th Century wing on the N.W. side and a later extension of the S.W. wing. The house has cross-wings at the N.E. and S.W. ends of the hall-block; the latter is of one storey only and has, on the S.E. front, the original doorway to the screens with hollow-chamfered jambs and a two-centred head; it has a 17th Century door with moulded fillets; further N.E. is an original window of three trefoiled lights in a square head; above it is a shield with the initials and date A.G. 1564. The two main chimney stacks have stepped offsets. The S.E. ends of the wings have each, on the lower floor, an altered window and on the upper floor an original window of two lights in a square head; the lights are trefoiled in one window and four centred in the other, this being probably a 16th Century alteration; above the lower window in the S.W. wing is the weathered inscription

"Qui vadit plane vadit sane A.G."

The back elevation has an original doorway similar to that in front and fitted with a battened door with moulded fillets; farther N.E. is a small rectangular window and a window of two trefoiled lights; in the end of the N.E. wing is an original window of two ogee-headed lights. Interior. The hall has a flat ceiling with two early 16th Century intersecting and moulded beams; at the N.E. or dais end is an early 16th Century embattled cornice with a ribbed cove above, finishing against a chamfered beam; across the fireplace recess is a mid 16th Century moulded and panelled beam, resting at one end on a post with the date 1560; above the beam and the adjoining doorway is a panelled partition; by the fireplace is a small cupboard with a linen-fold panel on the door. The former 'screens' are represented by the existing passage and at one end is an oak doorway apparently original but reset; it has a moulded ogee head with the added inscription

"Pax huic domui 1558";

the moulded beam above is of early 16th Century character. In the N.E. wing, the partition on the upper floor has exposed framing and an original king-post roof truss above; the S.E. room has an early 16th Century elliptical ceiling with moulded ribs dividing it in to panels; there are two foliated bosses each with a shield-of-arms

  • a) Deincourt quartering Strickland and
  • b) Parr quartering Fitzhugh, Roos and another coat;

on the S.W. cornice are carved scrolls and two grotesque monsters. In the same room are some quarries and panels of 16th Century painted glass-

  • (a) the initials and date A.G. 1565,
  • (b and c) eagle and child in a tree, the badge of Stanley,
  • (d and e) the initials and date A.G. 1567 and the mottos "Omnia Vanitas" and "Viendra le jour",
  • (f) crowned fleur-de-lis.

The S.W. wing retains the three king-post trusses of its original roof. The N.W. wing has exposed ceiling beams. The extension of the S.W. wing is of late 17th or early 18th Century date. The house contains some movable furniture belonging to the building, including a large bedstead with the initials A.G. and a sideboard with the same initials and date 1562.

Condition- Good

This book also includes a plan of the Dairy which I have attemted to reproduce below. This diagram also appears in Roger Bingham's book.

Wildman Street runs along the bottom of this plan and the front door of the house is at the right (North East) end of what the plan refers to as the HALL. The plaque with A.G.s initials on it is just above and to the left of the front door. It took me some time to spot it as it is very weathered now, not really surprising given that it is nearly 450 years old!



Back at home we have Arthur Nichols' book "Kendal Town Trail", published in 1986, which comprises 6 walks or explorations around the town. He includes this concerning the Dairy House-

The roads in Kendal called "Gates" all date from pre-Norman times and some are very ancient indeed. Wildman Street was once known as "Wildman Gate" and alternatively as "Wildman's Gate". Who Wildman might have been seems to be lost in history. The street has seen many changes, having been greatly rebuilt in 1819 and widened more than once.

On the right stands "Castle Dairy", Kendal's oldest occupied house. The house is known to have been in existence in the 14th Century and may have been contemporary with the Castle in its prime. It was refurbished by Anthony Garnet in 1564 and the outside has remained virtually unchanged ever since. It was probably associated with the leper hospital.

Its name may derive from "Castle Dowry" or "Dower House" as there is no evidence of farmland around it. (Not now there isn't although the Westmorland Gazette reported in 1819 that "a field of grass by Stramongate Bridge was cut last week." This field would have been pretty close to the Dairy. DR)
The inside is well worth viewing. The house is open from 2 to 4pm (in the evening, except Sunday and Monday, it serves as a licensed restaurant too).

Some things to look out for on the exterior are the ancient doorways at the back and the smallest window in Kendal at the front. Inside, the kitchen has an oak mantelshelf running the full width of the house. On the upper floor is a bedroom which contains a large oak bedstead with interesting carvings. The windows show four diamond panes of stained glass with a date, pictures and words to decipher. I should disregard tales of a tunnel connecting it with the Castle- that would be beyond belief and there is not a scrap of evidence for it anyway. intriguing things have turned up from tme to time and there is no certainty that more will not be discovered in the future. On one occasion an old oak chest gave up a set of counters, an old missal and a handwritten genealogy of some of the Saxon Kings of England. The counters were made of beechwood, each bearing a pictuire of an animal with a suitable rhyme about it. They had probably been used in a game of chance.

Yes, you really must set aside time to visit this fascinating old house.

At the time of writing, September 2000, the Castle Dairy is still occupied and is run as a restaurant open lunchtimes and evenings. I have not been for a meal (yet) so can not comment on the food but clearly it is still possible to see the inside of the building. I will try to visit and see if I can get some pictures. Meanwhile I hope you enjoy the pictures of the outside.
Finally, thanks to Doug Garnett for providing the inspiration for me to prepare this page.

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