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The Strangest Things You Can Find in Cumbria and the Meaning Behind Them

From the tiny bridge house in Ambleside to the gristly black hog above a coffee shop in Kendal were looking at some of the strangest things that can be found around Cumbria and the stories behind these odd objects.

The One-Handed clock, Keswick

Moot Hall in Keswick town centre photo credit:

At the heart of Keswick town centre lies The Moot Hall and if you’ve ever looked up at the clock, you’ll notice for some strange reason the absence of the minute hand. However, upon closer inspection you will see that the minute hand has been painting the same colour black as the clock wheel.

It’s speculated that the clock itself, bell and its parts were removed from nearby Lord’s Island on Derwentwater and was re-assembled at Moot Hall.

Many believe that when the clock was constructed in the 16th century, time keeping wasn’t a necessity because of the pace of life during this time.

Lord's Island on Derwentwater photo credit: Mark Hewitt

The Pipe-Smoking Turk, Kendal

The colour pipe smoking Turk on Lowther street photo credit:

Situated just off the high street, down Lowther Street, on one of Kendal’s many lanes is an effigy of a pipe-smoking Turk.

According to Robert Woodhouse’s book, Cumbrian Curiosities this carving is a replica of one which was displayed on the street from 1870 and represents a typical snuff house trading sign.

It’s thought the inspiration for this piece was copied from the Turks Head coffee house in London.

In the early 18th century Kendal had a thriving tobacco industry thanks to being situated close to one of the biggest trading ports, Whitehaven.

They still use the old 18th-century machines to manufacture tobacco at their site near Canal Head in Kendal to this day.

The plaque that accompanies this Turk ‘Gawith, Hoggarth & Co’ is dedicated to the snuff factory makers who have operated since 1792 photo credit:

Grizedale Forest Sculpture, between Lake Coniston and Windermere

Lady of the Water, 1995, by sculptor Alannah Robins which you can still see today photo credit: Alannah Robins

By far one of the biggest highlights of Cumbria’s biggest forest must be Grizedale forest sculptures, with over 50 sculptures spread over the near 25 square km area. The main question is how did they get here and why?

The Sculpture Project was started by Bill Grant OBE who was described as one of the leading lights in Cumbria’s visual and performing arts world in a local newspaper's obituary.

In 1977 Grant formed the Grizedale society and The Sculpture Project was set up to provide a working environment for sculptors to create projects which responds to the forest environment.

The Grizedale Stag, 1986 by sculptor Sophie Ryder. Unfortunately this sculptor which has since been removed photo credit: Bill Grant

There is a wide range of sculptures made from natural materials dotted in and around the walking trails. Many of the sculptures are of animals native to Cumbria including deer, sheep and birds.

The most notable recent addition is ‘Home of the Rose’ by Sadie Clayton which if you look at the sculptor from the bottom resembles a Lancashire red rose.

The oldest standing sculpture ‘Cliff Structure’ was created by Richard Harris in 1978 and can still be found on the Millwood trail to this day.

Grizedale Forest Sculpture Archive

Tiny Bridge House, Ambleside

The Tiny Bridge house over Stock Beck photo credit:

Is it a house? Is it a bridge? No, it’s a tiny Bridge House! If you’ve ever found yourself strolling around Ambleside village you will have surely come across this strange piece of architecture and there is much speculation as to how this bridge came about.

One story suggests that it was built by a Scottish family who wanted to avoid paying ground rent.

It’s unknown when the Bridge House was built however it’s thought to have been built by the Braithwaite family in the 17th century who lived nearby at Ambleside Hall.

The Beck the bridge was built under (Stock Beck) was stopping the Braithwaite family from reaching their property on the far side of the water.

The Braithwaite’s then built the bridge and added the house on top of the bridge to store apples.

Tourist going into the Tiny Bridge house photo credit:

Since its construction the Bridge House has been used as a weavers, cobblers and antique shop and at one point became a tearoom.

In the 1920s the Bridge House was set to be demolished but a local group including Beatrix Potter’s husband William Heelis raised money to buy the bridge house and donated it to the National Trust.

The bridge house is said to be one of the most photographed buildings in the Lake District.

The Tiny Bridge entrance photo credit:

The Black Hog, Kendal

The Bristly Hog looking over Stricklandgate photo credit: Flickr

Growing up in Kendal I have always wondered what the craic was with this black hog!

Located on Stricklandgate at the heart of Kendal’s town centre is an almost life size statue of a hog but why on earth is it here?

Well, many years ago at the turn of the 19th century a lot of the country’s population couldn’t read unless they had a high class ranking and so in place of words they would use objects to designate what kind of business there was.

One of the most popular examples of this is barber shops candy cane poles.

Black Hall, the building that the hog is attached to, was once a brush factory in 1869 and they would typically use hogs bristle to make all types of brushes.

The black hog is now situated above a coffee shop possibly inspired by the story aptly named the Bristly Hog Coffee House.

The coffee shop that’s name is inspired by the bristly hog in Kendal photo credit: The Bristly Hog Coffeeshop facebook page

Did you know the backstories to these strange things?

Is there a strange thing from Cumbria we missed on this list? Let us know about it in the comments below!


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