An exhibition delving into the long history of beer making in Penrith will open next Wednesday, 13 July, as part of the Eden Food and Farming Festival.
The display has been created by Penrith Partnership, the festival organiser, based on research by Janice Wrench from the Friends of Penrith and Eden Museum.
“I heard Janice tell the fascinating story of beer brewing and pubs in Penrith earlier this year when she gave a talk to a local group,” said Peter Ward, chair of Penrith Partnership. “One of the aims of the festival is to help people learn about where their food comes from and so turning the talk into an exhibition seemed like a fantastic way for festival-goers to find out about our food and drink heritage,” Peter said. “I think most people will be surprised by how many pubs and breweries we once had in Penrith and the integral role they had in the life of the town.”
Janice, a former librarian and a graduate of the University of Lancaster’s MA in Lake District Studies, began her research after chancing upon a file in the Penrith and Eden Museum.
“I was helping to organise some old files when I came across one with information about local breweries and I got very interested in it,” Janice said. It inspired her to find out more, delving into old records at the Carlisle Archive Centre and archive copies of the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald and Penrith Observer, as well as directories and other local history material in the library and online and research material published by the Brewery History Society.
“Brewing beer was originally a household activity that women took charge of, and they sold their excess beer in the market,” Janice said. “As beer consumption grew, the women began producing more and selling it from their homes, which became the first inns. They were known as ‘ale wives’ or ‘brewsters’.”
This tradition continued in Penrith with the role of women in brewery management and as innkeepers.
“Penrith has had a thriving market since the 13th century, becoming a focus for the buying and selling of the produce of field and fell,” Janice said. “Its location surrounded by farmland and its strategic position as a crossroads have been crucial elements in its development as a town. It’s possible that produce stalls were located even earlier in the area around St Andrew’s Church.”
From the 18th century, brewing became closely linked with Penrith’s growth as a market town. Janice’s research also charted the boom years for brewing in the town in the mid 1800s, spurred on by a change in government policy.
“In 1830 the government reduced the cost of a licence to sell beer, in an attempt to curb the amount of gin that people were drinking,” Janice said. “By the 1850s, Penrith had one pub for every 72 residents – a far higher proportion than in much larger towns at the time. One of the most interesting displays in the exhibition is a map of Penrith at that time, produced by Ron Dearden in the 1980s, showing all the pubs and breweries.”
Penrith’s modern-day pubs and retailers will be welcoming visitors next Saturday at the Penrith on a Plate food festival day in the town centre.
“Although none of the breweries that thrived in Penrith in the 1800s has survived today, we’re lucky in Eden and the wider area to have a diverse range of drinks producers, making craft beers, ciders, spirits, wines and juices,” Peter said.
The exhibition is hosted by Zolena’s Café in Penrith, and can be visited at any time during their normal opening hours from Wednesday 13 to Saturday 23 July. Local groups can also arrange to hear Janice’s talk by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Penrith on a Plate will serve up a bumper 50 stalls this year and features the town’s new Gifted Eden Artisan Market for the first time. The festival continues with a free tour at Askham Hall’s edible gardens and animal trails on Wednesday 20 July and places can be booked via our website. On Sundays 17 and 24 July, there’s a chance to enjoy a homemade Cumbrian farmer’s brunch at Maulds Meaburn Village Institute as part of the festival.
The festival is funded by Penrith Town Council, Eden District Council, Penrith Business Improvement District (BID), Pride in Penrith Lottery and Newton Rigg College, with support from DiscoverPenrith.co.uk, Burnetts Solicitors, Vista Veg, the Rotary Club of Penrith and Penrith Posters.
Grab your free place on our tour around the gardens at the award-winning Askham Hall restaurant, cafe and spa hotel.
You'll be treated to a tour of the edible gardens, with a chance to see the vegetable patches where produce is grown for the kitchens.
The Grade II listed gardens are full of stunning features, including colourful terraces, a 230ft long double herbaceous border, unusual species of plants, formal lawns, kitchen gardens, woodland, meadows and ponds. Take in the views down to the River Lowther and enjoy the secluded spots of the garden.
Get even closer to nature with the Askham animal trails. Along the family-friendly route there is the chance to see shorthorn cattle, rare-breed pigs, boer goats, ducks and chickens. For the eagle-eyed, the surrounding area is also a haven for red squirrels, rabbits, badgers and pheasants.
Wednesday 20 July, 2pm
It's first come first served and with just 25 places on offer, don't delay... book now!
The organising committee would like to thank Penrith Business Improvement District and the Pride of Penrith Lottery for committing to provide grants for this year's Penrith on a Plate.
Planning's well under way for this year's Penrith on a Plate event, and we're excited that the ever-popular Farm to Fork Roadshow is returning once again for 2016.
The mobile farm, complete with animals and real live farmers, always draws a crowd when it arrives in Penrith. Run by the Westmorland Agricultural Society, the roadshow gives people a chance to learn more about where our food comes from, and meet some of the animals that provide meat for our tables.
Keep an eye on our website for updates as we firm up some fantastic entertainment and activities for this year's Eden Food and Farming Festival, or sign up for email updates.
A week of events celebrating food and farming in Eden drew visitors from as far afield as Scotland and Southampton to sample the best that the district has to offer.
The Eden Food and Farming Festival offered food lovers the chance to go behind the scenes with farmers, vegetable growers and restaurateurs at a dozen events around the Eden area.
Anyone interested in growing fruit and vegetables was spoilt for choice at this year’s festival with four visits to growers, including the edible gardens at Askham Hall that supply the award-winning restaurant with vegetables, the Vista Veg polytunnel site at Crosby Ravensworth where produce is grown for their vegetable bag scheme, a private garden, allotment and polytunnel in Glassonby and the Appleby Edibles community polytunnel at Appleby Heritage Centre, where growers share space as well as tips.
Malcolm Carruthers from Penrith was among those who called at Vista Veg to pick up some tips from expert grower Lynn Barnes to boost his own vegetable production.
“I’ve been trying to grow beans this year, but have found that the flowers have been dropping off and I’ve also had problems with my lettuces turning mushy, so I thought I’d come and pick Lynn’s brains!” Malcolm said.
Vista Veg itself has flourished in the past year, with new growers coming on board to increase production. The cooperative now also offers lamb and eggs to scheme members.
“We’re always keen for people to come and see what we do and the festival is a great way to keep producers at the forefront of the local community,” Lynn said.
Opportunities to try Eden’s award-winning produce proved tempting during the week, with sell-out crowds enjoying the tastiest of tours around the Cranstons Cumbrian Food Hall and a pop-up restaurant event at Maulds Meaburn Village Institute.
Graham Pearce from Southampton came to the Cranstons tour and the launch of the new community wines at High Cup Winery, along with his parents and son.
“We discovered the festival while we were on holiday in Eden last year and we were delighted that it was on this summer again,” Graham said. “It’s been a brilliant part of our holiday!”
At Cranstons, managing director Philip Cranston gave an entertaining and engaging insight into the company’s journey from its roots in Kirkoswald in 1914 to an award-winning firm producing 200 different products, from sausages and bacon to pies, sold at their six Cranstons shops with 20,000 transactions a week.
Butchery manager Rob McManus demonstrated how to prepare lamb, pork and chicken, passing on his tips for cuts of meat to try, while sharing his experience of changing trends at the butchery counter, with new cuts for the barbeque on the up and big family roasts on the wane.
The group were then taken on a guided tour of the Food Hall, trying everything from fruit, sausages and oils to wine and cakes along the way.
A guided walk at the Deer n Dexter farm at Penruddock and an artful demonstration of sheepdog handling by trainer and breeder Katy Cropper brought out different aspects of farming in Eden, attracting young and old festival-goers keen to learn more about one of the area’s most important industries. Eden’s food historian Ivan Day captivated an audience at Lowther Castle with his tales of vittles in times of yore, and there was more family fun on offer at the Rheged Summer Fete and the ever-popular Penrith Show, which rounded off festival week with an extra helping of food and farming activities.
“In addition to our main course, Penrith on a Plate, we offered more events than ever before and it was great to see some of them being booked out well in advance,” said Peter Ward, chair of Penrith Partnership, which has led the organisation of the festival. “This year, we worked in partnership with the Penrith and Eden District Freegle group and Penrith Action for Community Transition (PACT) to expand the opportunities for people to meet local growers and we’re grateful to them for bringing some of the Freegle Visiting Edible Gardens (VEG) events into festival week.”
The VEG series continues throughout the summer, with full details at www.penrithact.org.uk/veg.
“We’re very grateful to all the organisations and individuals who hosted the events for us, and I’d also like to say a final word of thanks to our main festival funders: Eden District Council, Penrith Business Improvement District and Pride in Penrith Lottery, along with Discover Penrith.”