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A History of Sedgwick

Sedgwick is a long established and picturesque village situated 4 miles south of Kendal in the South Lakeland district of Cumbria. It is bordered on the west by the river Kent.

The village comprises some 342 acres with a population of some 400 persons.

It is in the ecclesiastical parish of Crosscrake. Crosscrake Church, originally founded in 1190, is 0.5 mile from the village, and Crosscrake C. of E. Primary School accepts children from Sedgwick.

The village was possibly occupied by 7th & 9th century Anglian and Scandinavian settlers, the name Sedgwick perhaps derived from the Norse – Sigg(e) – meaning dairy farm. It had also been a fording place on the river Kent on the route from Ribchester in Lancashire, to Carlisle via the Roman Fort at Watercrook. The more recent history of the village stems from the establishment of gunpowder manufacture in 1764 by John Wakefield, a Kendal businessman.

The first gunpowder works used an existing corn mill on the east bank of the river Kent then as demand increased a second mill was opened in 1790 at Basinghyll below Force Bridge. The Company transferred some 3 miles to Gatebeck in 1852 although Basinghyll continued as an incorporating mill in conjunction with Gatebeck until 1935. A separate Company, latterly The New Sedgwick Gunpowder Works, opened in 1857 on the west side of the river. This also produced gunpowder until 1935. The land is now owned by the National Trust and is used as a caravan park.

Descendents of John Wakefield came to live in Sedgwick, latterly in Sedgwick House, built in 1869 for William Henry Wakefield. This was designed in Gothic style by Paley & Austin of Lancaster and is now a listed building. The whole village was very much part of the Wakefield estate, cottages being provided for their employees. Wellheads was the Home Farm, Carex Farm the Dairy Farm, Sedgwick Cottage the Estate Manager’s office, Overslade the Laundry and the buildings at Wakelyn the Mews and exercise yard. The school, reading room and village hall were also provided by the Wakefield family. The old ice house can still be seen in fields on the east side of the canal.

Mary Wakefield started her famous music festival with the first competitions taking place in the grounds of Sedgwick House in 1885. The festival continues to be held biennially in Kendal.

The family left Sedgwick House just before the Second World War. The house was used as a Special School owned by Lancashire County Council. This closed in 1987 and the building was sold for conversion into flats. The grounds of the house contain many fine specimen trees subject to the Tree Preservation Orders and a beautifully situated cricket ground.

The village is intersected by the Lancaster Canal, built in 1819 as part of a 75 mile stretch linking Kendal with Preston. It was designed by John Rennie and was re routed through the village to bring supplies to the gunpowder works. The aqueduct, built by John Fletcher, engineer, is a scheduled ancient monument. The canal closed to commercial traffic in 1947, was gradually drained of water and filled in for much of its length. The 3.2 acre stretch through the village was purchased by Sedgwick Parish Council as a village amenity in 1980.

The Millenium Field, adjacent to the village hall was also provided in 2000 for use by villagers.

Sedgwick has a thriving community with numerous societies and regular social events. Sedgwick Cricket Club plays in the Westmorland League and the Sedgwick Scarecrow Festival has become a popular attraction.

There are numerous attractive walks in and around Sedgwick. There are footpaths along the canal towpath and alongside the river Kent and Levens Hall and topiary gardens, Sizergh Castle, Low Sizergh Barn Farm Shop and Strickland Arms are all pleasant walks from the village. The area is also popular with cyclists; National Cycle Route 20 (Walney to Whitby) passes through the village and others close by.

A regular bus service between Kendal and Silverdale has bus stops near the aqueduct and junction of Crosscrake Road. Oxenholme Lake District railway station is two miles from the village and the M6 (junction 36) and Lake District National Park (A591) are easily accessed.


Paul Cheesbrough

September 2010




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