A Summer Pasture
Ambleside historically sits within the county of Westmorland, it is situated at the head of Windermere, England’s largest water. The town is within the Lake District National Park. The town’s name is derived from the Old Norse which literally translates as “river – sandbank – summer pasture”.
In 1650 the town was granted a charter to hold a market. In the reign of James II, another charter was granted for the town to collect tolls. The town’s Market Place became the commercial centre for agriculture and the wool trade. The old packhorse trail between Ambleside and Grasmere was the main route between the two towns before the new turnpike road was completed in 1770. Smithy Brow at the end of the trail was where pack ponies were re-shod after their journey. With the coming of the turnpikes, the packhorse trains were superseded by horse-drawn stagecoaches, which regularly travelled between Keswick and Kendal via Ambleside.
William Wordsworth worked in Ambleside, as Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, from 1813, while living at Rydal Mount in the nearby village of Rydal. This government position induced Shelley to write a sonnet of mild reprimand, To Wordsworth, but it gave Wordsworth the financial security to pursue his poetry. In 1842, he became the Poet Laureate and resigned his office as Stamp Distributor.
The Armitt Library and Museum, which provides a source of local history with a collection which represents many local artists and writers, was opened in 1912 in memory of Sophia and Mary Louisa Armitt.
The German artist Kurt Schwitters lived in Ambleside for two years until his death in 1947. He had been interned in the Isle of Man during World War II after moving to England to escape the Nazis. The railway engineer Edward Bury and his wife Priscilla Susan Bury lived at Ambleside.