Historically Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket were mining, agricultural and small-scale industrial communities.
It is believed that the first settlement was in the 6th century AD when a hospice, a resting place for travellers, was built in what is now Friar Row, Caldbeck. The area was deep in Inglewood Forest, on the route to west Cumberland, and travellers needed protection from villains who preyed upon them.
Caldbeck church, dedicated to Saint Kentigern who visited here in the 6th century, was built in the 12th century.
The Northern Fells are rich in minerals. In the 16th Century, German miners contracted with Elizabeth I to mine copper and silver here for the production of coins. Lead, barium and tungsten were also mined. The barium (barytes) mines closed in the 1960s and the tungsten mine in the 1980s.
In the 19th Century small-scale, water-powered mills utilised the natural resources of water power and plentiful wood to produce, for example, bobbins for the wool and cotton mills in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
The Caldbeck Woollen Factory at Hodden Croft produced the cloth for John Peel’s ‘coat so grey’ immortalised in the famous hunting song ‘D’ye ken John Peel’. John Peel was born at Park End and is buried in Caldbeck churchyard. John Woodcock Graves wrote the song at Gate House, opposite the Oddfellows Arms where the song was first sung.
Mary Harrison (nee Robinson), the ‘Beauty (Maid) of Buttermere’, is also buried in the churchyard. She was an early tourist attraction in Buttermere. Her first husband was a bigamist who was hanged in Carlisle for forgery. Mary went on to marry Richard Harrison who farmed at Todcrofts, near Fellview School, Caldbeck.
There are no large estates. The farms are relatively small, mostly upland and mixed. Now they are, of course, much less labour intensive than they were in the past. Nevertheless farming families are still the backbone of the area, providing continuity from generation to generation.
The Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001 clearly exposed that farming and farmers were not only food producers, but that their stewardship of the countryside underpinned tourism. More than ever before, this is now a tourist area.
The area has become increasingly affluent as more and more people have retired here, moved here to commute to work or bought holiday homes. House prices are high yet the incomes of those who work locally remain low.
An interesting record about the parish is Miss Fanny Ashbridge’s 1953 booklet: The Book of Caldbeck Under Fell
The Caldbeck and District History Sociey have produced a record of the inscriptions on gravestones in St Kentigern’s Churchyard: Monumental Inscriptions in the Church and Churchyard of St. Kentigern’s Caldbeck Cumbria