Purpose built in 1897, Keswick Museum & Art Gallery was founded by the local Literary and Scientific Society. After an initial collection of random and local finds, the museum soon started acquiring important literary collections, entomological collections and various artefacts of local significance. The museum houses a good archaeological collection of local pre-historic stones and axes, including examples from the Langdale Axe Factory sites, and the Medieval ceramic collection from key local sites such as Lords Island, seat of the Earls of Derwentwater.
The museum is also home to a good industrial history collection. Keswick School of Industrial Arts taught local people the skills to produce high quality hand crafted objects for over 100 years. The school gained national recognition for its work and sold bronze, copper and silver to support costs. The school was founded by Canon Rawnsley, who was the vicar of Crosthwaite Church and a founder of the National Trust, and his wife Edith.
Inspired by John Ruskin, Canon Rawnsley rejected mass produced objects in favour of true hand crafted pieces of work. The school adopted the motto: “The Loving Eye And Skilful Hand, Shall Work With Joy And Bless The Land.” The school moved to a purpose built site near Greta Bridge in Keswick in 1894 where it continued until its closure in 1984 due to competition from cheaper goods from abroad.
The Keswick Museum Donations Box (above) proudly sits in the centre of the main exhibition space and was made by Richard Kennedy. The model was hand painted by Mary Kennedy at Ram Workshop in Kirklinton, Carlisle. The beautiful architectural model of the museum is exquisitely detailed.
A wonderful chair sits in the corner of the main exhibition room which was originally on display in Peter Crostwaite’s Museum, who opened the first museum in Keswick, in the 18th century. The well used chair is adorned with the arms of Sir John Ratcliffe, who was the Earl of Derwentwater, and died in 1527.
On display on the ground floor is a First World War memorial window (above). The window once adorned the Royal Oak Hotel which was the main pack horse and coaching Inn of the town for almost 300 years. The window was made by Abbott Brothers of Lancashire and is thought likely to have been erected in 1929. The memorial was dedicated: “In honour of the patrons of this hotel, who made the supreme sacrifice.”
The beautiful window has the dates 1914 and 1918 on the outer panels and has a central inscription which reads: “The shrine of honour. Who goes there? I have no name. I died for my country. Pass unknown warrior.” A plaque on the stairway (below) between the ground and first floor is inscribed with the names of local people who lost their lives in the Great War.