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Cockermouth is a market town in Cumbria, lying where the River Cocker meets the River Derwent. Cockermouth is one of the larger towns in the area and is just a couple of miles from the western edges of the Lake District National Park.
The history of Cockermouth
At the mouth of the River Cocker, it’s easy to figure out from where the town gets its name. The town was originally settled here most likely because it is the lowest point at which the two nearby rivers could be safely crossed. The Romans created a fort where the adjoining village of Papcastle now sits, in order to protect the river crossing used by troops heading towards Hadrian's Wall.
The main town developed under the Normans. Market charters were granted in 1221 and 1227 by King Henry III, though a market is believed to have existed in the town before then. The town’s pubs were allowed to open for extended hours on market days, and as a result Cockermouth has been a popular tourist destination for many centuries.
Cockermouth claims John Dalton as one of its famous sons, though the famous chemist and physicist who developed the atomic theory of matter was actually born in the nearby hamlet of Eaglesfield.
Things to see in Cockermouth
The design of this old medieval town is one of its most excellent features. It retains the ancient design of a broad main street of burgesses’ houses, each with a burgage plot stretching to a back lane. This layout is considered worthy of special care in preservation and development by the British Council for Archaeology.
The 13th century market place has been renovated in recent years and is now pedestrian-friendly, with stone paving and roadways, underground lighting and brightly coloured seating. Pavement art and stonework commemorate historical events, such as John Dalton's atomic theory and the terrible flooding that occurred in the town in 2009.
Cockermouth is a focus point for the many artistic groups in the area. The Kirkgate Centre is the town's major cultural focus and offers regular historical displays by the Cockermouth Museum Group in addition to holding major cultural events including theatre, international music and world cinema, including critically acclaimed and art-house movies on Monday evenings.
Cockermouth Castle is a point of interest for tourists, though it is only occasionally open so you should check before you visit. Whether or not you can get inside it is worth admiring the 12th century remains, originally built in 1134 – that the castle survived its pivotal role in the 15th century Wars of the Roses in any way intact is a testament to the exceptional work of its builders.
Food and drink in Cockermouth
There are plenty of pubs and restaurants in the town, though a couple merit special mention.
The Castle Bar sits in a beautiful 16th century building that has been renovated to reveal medieval stonework and 16th and 18th century features; it has become one of Cockermouth's finest establishments, with dining set over three floors overlooking the heart of the old town.
The Bush Inn meanwhile is more of an ale-drinkers’ paradise, with low-beamed ceilings and log fires complementing the beers of the Jennings Brewery, which is now based in Cockermouth (and is itself open for tours and tasting sessions).