OS Grid ref:- SD 352982
Hawkshead is a highly picturesque Cumbrian village which is fairly regarded as one of the show-piece villages of the Lake District National Park. The village possesses a timeless atmosphere and consists of a characterful warren of alleys, overhanging gables and a series of medieval squares.
The village is situated between Coniston and Ambleside , and lies in a highly attractive sheltered valley, at the head of Esthwaite Water. The wooded fells which surround Hakshead form part of the extensive Grizedale Forest.
Founded in the tenth century by a Norseman named 'Haakr', the land belonged to Furness Abbey up until the twelfth century. Hawkshead was granted its first market charter by the first Stuart king, James I, in 1608. The village gradually grew to become an important wool market in the seventeenth century and many of the buildings the visitor sees today date from that era.
Hawkshead is eloquently described in William Wordsworth's poem, 'the Prelude'. Wordsworth lodged at Anne Tyson's House during his stay in the village. The house, which dates to the sixteenth century and is a Grade II listed building, is not open to the public but is marked by a plaque outside.
Wordsworth and his brother Richard were educated, after the death of their mother in 1778, at Hawkshead Grammar School, The school was founded in 1585, by a local man, Edwin Sandys, later Archbishop of York, who spent time in prison, early in the reign of Mary I, for his support of Lady Jane Grey. It features unusual chimneys which resemble upturned tubs and a characterful old sundial mounted on the wall above the door.
The National Trust own many of the buildings in Hawkshead, it is due to their careful preservation that Hawkshead remains authentic and unspoiled. In attempt to preserve the character of the village, vehicles are excluded from the centre, but there is an ample car park just outside which also houses the village's Tourist Information Centre.
Hawkshead Parish Church
Hawkshead Parish Church of St. Michael and All Angels commands an elevated position with excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Wordsworth wrote of the church with obvious affection. Founded in Norman times, it was restored in the Elizabethan era and again in the reign of Charles I.
Hawkshead Parish Church of St. Michael and All Angels dates from the sixteenth century
A chapel in the church is dedicated to William and Margaret Sandys, the parents of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, who founded Hawkshead Grammar School
The church interior, restored in Elizabethan times
The church contains some interesting wall murals with biblical texts, some of which have only been revealed in recent times. Its stout rounded pillars and arches are decorated with coloured dog tooth patterns.
The village houses several pubs and cafes and a number of tourist and art shops. The Beatrix Potter Gallery in Main Street, is housed in rooms once used by the writer's husband, William Heelis, a local solicitor, whom she married in 1913. The building dates to the seventeenth century and contains many of Beatrix Potter's drawings, water colours, sketch books, letters and displays on her life along with various exhibitions. The gallery also reveals how her unique travels inspired her enchanting children's stories.
Hawkshead Old Courthouse
Hawkshead Old Courthouse is now all that remains of the medieval manorial farm, that formed part of the Cistercian grange, which once belonged to Furness Abbey, the building was acquired by the National Trust in 1932.
The hall was begun in Medieval times, but dates mainly from the seventeenth century and is built of roughcast stone with a slate roof.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537 use of the building as a courthouse continued whilst the lower floors were used as a farm building.